Guest Post: How my past has influenced what I write – Bronwyn Eley

Hi guys! I’m very excited today because I have a very special guest post to share with you, from the briliant Relic author, Bronwyn Eley. In this post, Bronwyn will be talking about how her past has influenced what she writes. So, thank you so much Bronwyn and, without further ado, here’s her post!


How my past has influenced what I write, by Bronwyn Eley.

Like everyone, my past will always have an influence on what and why I write. My race, gender, socioeconomic status, schooling, religion and general life experiences all weave their way into my writing – whether consciously or subconsciously done.

Now that I’m reflecting a little bit, I can see how some of my past has subconsciously woven its way into my writing. In my novel Relic, I deal with many issues and one of those issues is surrounding abusive relationships. Not just abusive romantic relationships, but abuse in all relationships and in all its forms – physical, mental and emotional. The terror inflicting the abuse is, of course, Lord Rennard. He is, in a sense, a bully. Discontent, angry and afraid, Rennard takes his rage out on those closest to him, those who have been most loyal. Those he trusts.

This aspect of my novel wasn’t intentionally plotted; rather it came out naturally as something I clearly wanted to address. I have never experienced the physical abuse I address in my novel but it is something that has always resonated with me, as it does with most women. The fear of their partner turning cruel and physically (if not mentally and emotionally) abusing them. Not just the fear – but the questions: would I let it happen? Would I do nothing to stop it? Would I let him hurt me?

I have always been the type to boldly announce that I would never allow myself to be physically abused by a partner but I know it is a lot more complicated than it seems from the outside. In a very real sense, I am Kaylan in this regard: on the outside watching the horror and not understanding why someone would just ‘let’ themselves be abused; why they wouldn’t just walk away or fight back – only to realise that things are not at all that straightforward.

Then there are the things I consciously wove into my story.

Elias is an interesting and delicately constructed character. His alcoholism isn’t just in there for the sake of drama, it’s in there because I wanted a safe space to explore my feelings around it. I have known many alcoholics and heavy drinkers in my life and I have seen how it tears people apart, how it tears families apart and how it can take away more than you ever imagined.

Being Kaylan’s brother, Elias is an integral part of the story. I purposefully chose him to carry this burden because I needed Kaylan to learn lessons as my protagonist and she is going to learn a few of them through him. More to come on that in later books!

I also wanted to include something of my military life. My time in the Air Force was the best time of my life. It is the gift that keeps on giving. I emerged from my time there a hundred times more confident, more ambitious and more inclined to challenge myself. It was the hardest year of my life – yet the most rewarding. I have both good and bad memories. I laughed and I cried. I made lifelong friends – not just with the people in my course but with all military members. It’s like anything that is exclusive – a little ‘club’, if you will. Anytime I see someone in military uniform, I feel instantly nostalgic and connected with that person. I didn’t include much of my military life in the book but there is a line I put in there that Thorn says to Kaylan.

‘There’s a saying among the guards,’ Thorn mused. ‘One in, all in. If one person in the squadron makes a mistake, everyone suffers the consequences. It’s how they learn unity.’

This is a real saying we had in the military. One in, all in. And it was as Thorn said it – if one person made a mistake, the whole team suffered the consequences. At times it was a really hard concept to wrap my head around but it did teach us unity. In fact, it is one of my most treasured memories from that time. Even though a lot of difficult things happened as a result, we learnt valuable lessons and, in the end, it did bring us together.

Kaylan is a strong woman. Her interests and the way she deals with her emotions is very reflective on me. Novels always include aspects of the author and the main character often reflects traits that the author either has or wishes they had (at least, in my experience).

I’ve always said that I was born in the wrong era. That, despite all its hardships, the past calls to me. I say that if I got sent back in time, and I could do anything or be anywhere, I would want to be in Middle Ages/Medieval Europe or England, working as a blacksmith. So when it came time to choose a profession for Kaylan, it was easy! I chose the thing that I would want, something I could write passionately about. Something I would love to research and learn more of. I did a weekend blacksmith course and it was unbelievably fun. This time around, I created the experiences I needed to influence my writing and I can see a lot more of that happening in the future.

When you pick up Relic, I won’t be a stranger to you anymore. You will know a bit about me – what I like, dislike, believe, hope for, fear, desire. Writing is a vanity project with the added benefit of entertaining other people. As I said earlier, it’s a safe space for me to explore and have adventures and learn. My biggest hope is that readers will not only love the story but will come away thinking about the things I address in my novel and perhaps find something that they can relate to.

RELIC, Bronwyn Eley’s debut fantasy novel, is slated for release September 12.

About the author

Bronwyn joined the military right out of high school, where she learnt (among other things) to disassemble and reassemble a rifle blindfolded. After that she spent a lot of her time travelling around the world. Her favourite places (so far) are Scotland, Mongolia, Iceland and Ireland.

Bronwyn finally found her natural habitat when she landed her first job in the publishing industry. While she has always been a writer, it was only when surrounding herself with books that she realised her life’s dream was to become an author. Relic is her first novel.

Bronwyn lives in Sydney and spends her time eating chocolate, reading and practising her martial arts.


46218744._SY475_In the city of Edriast, there is no deadlier duty than to serve as the Shadow.

As the personal servant of the powerful Lord Rennard, the Shadow’s life is all but forfeit. Rennard possesses one of five rare and dangerous Relics – a jewel that protects his bloodline, but slowly poisons everyone else in its proximity. When the current Shadow succumbs to its magic, nineteen-year-old blacksmith Kaylan is summoned to take his place.

It’s an appointment that will kill her. 

As the time Kaylan has left ebbs away, hope begins to fade… That is, until she discovers a plot to destroy all five bloodlines in possession of the Relics.

A rebel force plans to put an end to Rennard’s rule and Kaylan suddenly finds herself embroiled in a cause that might just be worth fighting for. But no cause is without its costs…

As her life hangs in the balance and rebellion bears down on Edriast, Kaylan must decide where her loyalties lie – and how she’ll leave her mark on the world.

Relic is the absorbing first novel in The Relic Trilogy, a thrillingly dark YA fantasy series.

Amazon

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Top Ten Books of 2018

So that’s the end of 2018! It’s been a great year for books: I read 75 this year which I have whittled down into my top ten, plus a few special mentions. Links to my full reviews can be found by clicking the book titles.


The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

34068470An instant classic. This should be the new go-to book for Greek mythology.

In this fresh, authoritative version—the first English translation of The Odyssey by a woman—this stirring tale of shipwrecks, monsters, and magic comes alive in an entirely new way. Written in iambic pentameter verse and a vivid, contemporary idiom, this engrossing translation matches the number of lines in the Greek original, thus striding at Homer’s sprightly pace and singing with a voice that echoes Homer’s music.

A fascinating introduction provides an informative overview of the Bronze Age milieu that produced the epic, the major themes of the poem, the controversies about its origins, and the unparalleled scope of its impact and influence. Maps drawn especially for this volume, a pronunciation glossary, and extensive notes and summaries of each book make this an Odyssey that will be treasured by a new generation of scholars, students, and general readers alike.


The Fifth to Die by J. D. Barker

35683027One of the best detective/crime novels I’ve ever read.

In the midst of one of the worst winters Chicago has seen in years, the body of missing teenager Ella Reynolds is discovered under the surface of a frozen lake. She’s been missing for three weeks…the lake froze over three months ago. 

Detective Sam Porter and his team are brought in to investigate but it’s not long before another girl goes missing. The press believes the serial killer, Anson Bishop, has struck again but Porter knows differently. The deaths are too different, there’s a new killer on the loose. 

Porter, however, is distracted. He’s still haunted by Bishop and his victims, even after the FBI have removed him from the case. His only leads: a picture of a female prisoner and a note from Bishop: “Help me find my mother. I think it’s time she and I talked.”

As more girls go missing and Porter’s team race to stop the body count rising, Porter disappears to track down Bishop’s mother and discover that the only place scarier than the mind of a serial killer is the mind of the mother from which he came.


Blackwing & Ravencry by Ed McDonald

36402955Books #1 and #2 in the best epic fantasy series I’ve read for a long time. Action-packed and emotional.

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the wastelands seek to destroy them, but if they cannot solve the ancient wizard’s paradox, the Deep Kings will walk the earth again, and all will be lost.

The war with the Eastern Empire ended in stalemate some eighty years ago, thanks to Nall’s ‘Engine’, a wizard-crafted weapon so powerful even the Deep Kings feared it. The strike of the Engine created the Misery – a wasteland full of ghosts and corrupted magic that now forms a No Mans Land along the frontier. But when Galharrow investigates a frontier fortress, he discovers complacency bordering on treason: then the walls are stormed, and the Engine fails to launch. Galharrow only escapes because of the preternatural magical power of the noblewoman he was supposed to be protecting. Together, they race to the capital to unmask the traitors and restore the republic’s defences. Far across the Misery a vast army is on the move, as the Empire prepares to call the republic’s bluff.

36666672.jpgFour years have passed since Nall’s Engine drove the Deep Kings back across the Misery, but as they hurl fire from the sky, darker forces plots against the republic.

A new power is rising: a ghost in the light known only as the Bright Lady manifests in visions across the city, and the cult that worship her grasp for power even as the city burns around them.

When Crowfoot’s arcane vault is breached, an object of terrible power is stolen, and Galharrow and his Blackwings must once find out which of Valengrad’s enemies is responsible before they have a chance to use it.

To save Valengrad, Galharrow, Nenn and Tnota must venture to a darker, more twisted and more dangerous place than any they’ve walked before: the very heart of the Misery.


Home by Amanda Berriman

38457392I have never been more emotionally invested in a story.

Meet Jesika, aged four and a half. The most extraordinary narrator of 2018.

She lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn’t draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby.

She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world.


The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

39866035A fantastic re-telling of The Illiad, based on the experience of women in the Greek camp outside Troy.

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman: Helen. In the Greek camp, another woman watches and waits for the war’s outcome: Briseis. She was queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms until Achilles, Greece’s greatest warrior, sacked her city and murdered her husband and brothers. Briseis becomes Achilles’s concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army. 

When Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks. Achilles refuses to fight in protest, and the Greeks begin to lose ground to their Trojan opponents. Keenly observant and coolly unflinching about the daily horrors of war, Briseis finds herself in an unprecedented position to observe the two men driving the Greek forces in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate, not only of Briseis’s people, but also of the ancient world at large.


The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius

30153285A truly delightful book with beautiful illustrations.

Sally Jones is an extraordinary gorilla and a brilliant ship’s engineer who sails the high seas on The Hudson Queen with her loyal friend the Chief. One day the shipmates are offered a mysterious job that promises to pay big bucks, but then disaster strikes, the job goes wrong and the Chief is falsely convicted of murder.

For Sally Jones this is the start of a grand adventure and a desperate quest to clear her friend’s name. By freighter, steam train and bi-plane the intrepid ape journeys from Lisbon to Bombay and beyond in search of the truth. But powerful forces are working against her, and they will do anything to protect their own secrets…


The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

34731459Met my very high expectations after The Bird and the Nightingale.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.


The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

40803091A fantastic science-fiction novel, combining time travel with mystery, mental illness and characters filled with personality.

In 1967, four female scientists worked together to build the world’s first time machine. But just as they are about to debut their creation, one of them suffers a breakdown, putting the whole project—and future of time travel—in jeopardy. To protect their invention, one member is exiled from the team—erasing her contributions from history.

Fifty years later, time travel is a big business. Twenty-something Ruby Rebello knows her beloved grandmother, Granny Bee, was one of the pioneers, though no one will tell her more. But when Bee receives a mysterious newspaper clipping from the future reporting the murder of an unidentified woman, Ruby becomes obsessed: could it be Bee? Who would want her dead? And most importantly of all: can her murder be stopped?


A Keeper by Graham Norton

39287253A deeply absorbing story.

The mystery of Elizabeth Keane’s father is one that has never been solved by the people of Buncarragh – not for lack of speculation.

Her mother Patricia had been assumed a spinster, until she began dating a mysterious man from out of town, and within months had left Buncarragh and had married. Less than two years later, Patricia was back, with a new baby in her arms, but no new husband by her side and unbendingly silent about her recent past. A secret she would take with her to her grave.

Now, as Elizabeth returns to the village after her mother’s funeral, bringing with her her own regrets and wounds, she finds a thin pile of ribbon-bound letters at the back of a wardrobe that may at last hold the key to her past.


The Narrows by Travis M. Riddle

42348486A very original horror story with themes of friendship and loss.

Oliver and his friends have returned to their hometown of Shumard, Texas for the funeral of their close friend Noah. They each grapple with the loss in their own ways, trying to understand the strange circumstances of their friend’s unexpected death.

While visiting the site where the body was found, Oliver stumbles across a chilling discovery that he knows must be related to what happened to Noah. Wanting to protect his friends from these newfound horrors, Oliver takes it upon himself to venture into the grotesque otherworld known as the Narrows to learn what happened to his friend and find a way to bring him back.

Entering the Narrows is one thing, but will whatever he finds there allow him to leave?


Finally, the books that very nearly made my top ten deserve a special mention:

No Good Brother by Tyler Keevil; Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders; Hunted by G. X. Todd; Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi; Everless by Sara Holland.

Literary Book Gifts

Book lovers!

I have a very special treat for you today: Melissa, the artistic genius behind literarybookgifts.com, has very kindly agreed to offer a 20% discount through my blog.

http://www.literarybookgifts.com

Melissa puts together all the designs and products herself, and they are beautiful. Here are a few of my favourites:

So, if you’d like 20% off any of the stunning bookish items at Literary Book Gifts, simply add the promo code THESTORYCOLLECTOR20 at the checkout for 20% off!

THESTORYCOLLECTOR20

My Top Ten Books of 2017

Hi Guys! As the year ends, it’s time to look back and choose my Top Ten Books of the year! This was super difficult this year (my list originally contained 20 books, and whittling it down was hard). So here we go, the best ten books I read in 2017 (which I believe were actually all published this year too):


Gather The Daughters by Jennie Melamed
35066549Gather The Daughters tells the story of an end-of-the-world cult founded years ago when ten men colonised an island. It’s a society in which men reign supreme, breeding is controlled, and knowledge of the outside world is kept to a minimum. Girls are wives-in-training: at the first sign of puberty, they must marry and have children. But until that point, every summer, island tradition dictates that the children live wildly: running free, making camps, sleeping on the beach. And it is at the end of one such summer that one of the youngest girls sees something so horrifying that life on the island can never be the same again.

 


The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
25489134At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
34200289Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully time-tabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

Then everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living–and it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.


Frostblood by Elly Blake
32618150Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.


Defender by G X Todd
29758033In a world where long drinks are in short supply, a stranger listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.

The moment locks them together.

Here and now it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice. Those who do, keep it quiet.

These voices have purpose.

And when Pilgrim meets Lacey, there is a reason. He just doesn’t know it yet.


One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
32887579Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.


See You in the Cosmos, Carl Sagan by Jack Cheng
2594057711-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like.

But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.


Wondrous by Travis M. Riddle
wondrousMiles went to sleep tucked tightly in bed in his Austin apartment and woke up in the middle of a damp, dark forest in the kingdom of Rompu, a land being torn apart by a civil war between its king and queen.

Miles has few companions in this kingdom, which is filled with fantastical creatures yet sprinkled with familiar items like digital clocks and vinyl records. As he searches for a way to return home, he discovers that certain memories trigger magical abilities. But as he struggles to make sense of this new world, his thoughts are punctuated by painful memories of his sick grandmother, quarrelling parents, and an icy school therapist.

When Miles learns that a monstrous entity flying through the countryside and killing for sport was summoned from a portal to another realm, he believes this creature is the key to learning how to open another rift and return home. Tracking down this beast and mastering his newfound magical abilities may be the only way for Miles to help save Rompu and get back to his family in Texas.


Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
26198476Graham Cavanaugh’s second wife, Audra, is everything his first wife was not. She considers herself privileged to live in the age of the hair towel, talks non-stop through her epidural, labour and delivery, invites the doorman to move in and the eccentric members of their son’s Origami Club to Thanksgiving. She is charming and spontaneous and fun but life with her can be exhausting.

In the midst of the day-to-day difficulties and delights of marriage and raising a child with Asperger’s, his first wife, Elspeth, reenters Graham’s life. Former spouses are hard to categorize – are they friends, enemies, old flames, or just people who know you really, really well? Graham starts to wonder: How can anyone love two such different women? Did he make the right choice? Is there a right choice?


The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
untitledWhen Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure–a silent companion–that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition–that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.

 


Because I had such a tough time choosing the best this year, here’s a special mention of those that almost but didn’t quite reach the Top Ten:

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli; The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker; Final Girls by Riley Sager; The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown; and The Cows by Dawn O’Porter.

T5W: Favourite Bromances

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Thoughts on Tomes. (You can find the Goodreads group for it here) This week’s topic is Favourite Bromances! A bromance = platonic relationship between two characters who identify as male. So here are some of my faves…

  1. Frodo and Sam, The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein – Their friendship was truly put to the test on their journey to Mount Doom, but Sam stuck by Frodo all the way and they came out still friends. sam the lord of the rings frodo fellowship of the ring elise GIF
  2. Merry and Pippin, also The Lord of the Rings – These two are adorable and I love them. Their friendship really is more like brothers. the lord of the rings gandalf merry return of the king pippin GIF
  3. Jean-Luc and Vic in London Belongs to Us by Sara Manning – These two are so alike that everyone thinks they’re twins (they’re actually cousins) and they’re hilarious and sweet and bounce off each other brilliantly.26177619.jpg
  4. Back to The Lord of the Rings with Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn – This is the ultimate bro-triangle. No arguments. gandalf aragorn elise legolas gimli GIF
  5. Jace and Alec in The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare – Although Jace actually lets Alec down over and over again, prioritising girls and his confusing parental relationships over his parabatai, Alec never lets go of his connection to Jace. And that’s some serious commitment. shadowhunters isabelle lightwood clary fray alec lightwood jace wayland GIF

    What are your favourite book bromances? Let me know!

T5W – Books From Before You Joined The Online Book Community

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Thoughts on Tomes. (You can find the Goodreads group for it here) This week’s topic is Favourite Books From Before You Joined The Online Book Community. For me, this means my favourite books from before starting my blog and joining Goodreads. Here we go!

  1. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – I gush about this book every time anyone asks me about my favourites, so I won’t say too much now. It’s a work of absolute genius. Just read it.good-omens-2
  2. The Call of the Wild by Jack London – I’ve loved this book since I was (quite) little. I think it might be the only book I’ve ever enjoyed written from the point-of-view of an animal, and Buck is still one of my favourite book-animals. This book has so much depth as well as drama and excitement.call-wild-jack-london-paperback-cover-art
  3. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – I was attracted to this book for obvious reasons (in case you hadn’t realised, my name is Ella) and I do usually enjoy almost any fairytale retelling. This one was particularly good. Do not let the film put you off – I hated it. Anne Hathaway was a terrible casting choice and they changed the story so much! The book is well worth a read.858361
  4. Angelfall by Susan Ee – My favourite paranormal YA book ever. I loved Twilight, The Mortal Instruments and The Hunger Games, but Angelfall takes the crown in my opinion. The heroine is sassy and loveable, the hero isn’t abusive and the side characters are a delight, but because it’s never been made into a film it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.15863832.jpg
  5. The Woodcutter by Kate Danley – This is a blend of fairytales, told from the point-of-view of a minor but integral character: the woodcutter. It’s complicated but well thought out, and one of the best works of imagination I’ve read.16128504

A few of these are childhood favourites and, to be honest, since joining the online book community my favourites haven’t changed very much. What are your favourite books (from before or since finding your way onto WordPress)?

Liebster Award

I’ve been very kindly nominated for this award by the lovely Darque Dreamer Reads – her blog is beautiful so go check it out.

This is a fun award because we all get to learn some new things about each other and spread the blogger-love.

liebsteraward.png

The Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Give 11 random facts about you.
  3. Answer the 11 questions they gave you.
  4. Nominate 11 blogs.
  5. Give them 11 questions to answer.

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I have never broken a bone.
  2. If I could, I would eat pizza and garlic bread every single day.
  3. I love the idea of physical books, and having them on my shelves, but I actually find reading easier on my kindle.
  4. I reallyreallyreally want to work in publishing.
  5. I’m slowly collecting and playing the Lego video games, but I only have a PS3 so options are limited.
  6. I have vitiligo.
  7. There are 36 physical books on my shelves that I haven’t read yet.
  8. I have a mild obsession with giraffes.
  9. I am in Gryffindor.
  10. My favourite colour is green.
  11. My favourite chore is doing the laundry.

Questions From Darque Dreamer Reads:

  1. Have you read a book with a perfect ending?
    I’m not sure perfect is the word in the sense that it was actually a very distressing ending, but the ending of The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell was perfectly horrifying.
  2. Does your favorite movie have a perfect ending?
    My favourite movie is Sucker Punch. The ending actually isn’t perfect in my opinion but does draw the story to a close effectively.
  3. Why did you start your blog?
    I just stumbled across some book blogs one day and thought they were a marvellous idea. If other people could do this, why shouldn’t I? (And I’m glad I did).
  4. Do you have a follower goal in mind?
    Ideally I’d love to have a huge following, but it’s not that important to me. I blog for myself and to review books – if people want to follow my blog that’s just a bonus.
  5. What advice would you give to your beginner blog self?
    Interact more with other bloggers! Make the time to go and read other people’s posts. How can you expect anyone to read your reviews if you don’t read theirs?
  6. Where is the best place you have visited?
    THIS IS SO HARD. I’ve been to some really amazing places: Italy, Paris, Costa Rica… but I also love places like London, and Disneyland is very special.
  7. Who is the most inspirational person in your life?
    Probably my mum.
  8. What is your favorite book or movie genre?
    Book = Fantasy. Movie = maybe Indie/Fantasy
  9. If you could write yourself in to a book or movie, which one would you be a character in?
    An obvious choice, but Harry Potter. Who wouldn’t want to go to Hogwarts?
  10. Do you like going to concerts?
    I like some concerts. I went to see McBusted most recently and that was absolutely fantastic, but I don’t really like crowds so it depends on the type of music and whether I think the performance would be worth seeing. Anything likely to have mosh pits is an absolute no.
  11. What is one food you absolutely hate?
    Mushrooms. Ughughugh nope I can’t.

My Questions:

  1. What was your first favourite book?
  2. Do you prefer series or standalones?
  3. What do you find hardest about blogging?
  4. If you could have any pet, what would you choose?
  5. What was the last movie you saw at the cinema? Did you enjoy it?
  6. What book should everyone read?
  7. Other than books, what is something you’re passionate about?
  8. Can you play any instruments?
  9. What’s your favourite book/movie quote?
  10. Best movie soundtrack?
  11. What is the best book you’ve read in 2017 so far?

I Nominate:

Always Trust in Books | Snazzy Books | Book Hooked Nook | The Wanderlust Reader | Boston Book Reader | That Book Gal | Linda’s Little Library

T5W – Characters’ Fitness Routines You Want

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Thoughts on Tomes. (You can find the Goodreads group for it here) This week’s topic is Characters’ Fitness Routines You Want. Fortunately, this is open to interpretation: it can be any kind of ‘fitness’. That means fit and healthy characters, or ones whose routines involve a decent amount of food. I suspect that my list will include more of the latter*…

*Update: It turns out characters who stuff their faces with cake and pizza at every opportunity are pretty rare in the books I read.

  1. All of the gods in Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – As gods, this bunch are blessed with beauty and grace, and are muscular and powerful (think Thor), and yet they have regular feasts and eat and drink an insane amount (again, Thor). I would like their fitness regime because they don’t really do a lot, but stay beautiful and healthy through god-power. Which would be ideal.30809689
  2. Mma Ramotswe in The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall-Smith – Mma Ramotswe has no fitness regime (other than drinking tea), and instead prides herself on her traditional build. I love this view that big is beautiful (although she does do a fair bit of skinny-shame which I don’t agree with). 816167.jpg
  3. The Shadowhunters in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – The Shadowhunters (i.e. Jace, Clary and the others) train every day. This keeps them in peak physical condition, but it’s more than just a work out. The exercise their minds as well and improve their skills, doing something they love with their friends which makes it fun rather than just hard work. 256683.jpg
  4. Lula in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich – Lula runs around all over the place helping Stephanie catch criminals, and then chows down on pizza, fried chicken and copious amounts of doughnuts. She’s proud of her figure and maintains her fitness as she wants, regardless of what anyone else might think.6853

Okay, try as I might, I can’t come up with a fifth character whose fitness routine I’d want. To be honest, it’s not something I take much notice of when I read. So there’s my Top 4 instead!

Are there any obvious ones I’ve missed out? What characters’ fitness routines would you want?

Fatal Masquerade by Vivian Conroy – COVER REVEAL

Today is a very exciting day, because it’s the big Cover Reveal day for Vivian Conroy’s latest Lady Alkmene Mystery book: Fatal Masquerade. I love the glitz and glamour of this detective series, and am thrilled to be able to show off the new cover, right here on The Story Collector!

Lady Alkmene and Jake Dubois are back in a gripping new adventure facing dangerous opponents at a masked ball in the countryside.

The 1920s have never been more murderous

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Fatal Masquerade (A Lady Alkmene Cosy Mystery, #4)

Lady Alkmene Callender has always loved grand parties, but when she receives an invitation to a masked ball thrown by Franklin Hargrove – oil magnate, aviation enthusiast and father of her best friend, Denise – she’s never seen such luxury. The estate is lit up with Chinese lanterns in the gardens, boats operated by footmen float across the pond and the guest list features the distinguished, rich and powerful!

But below the glamour, evil is lurking. When a dead body is discovered, it forces Lady Alkmene to throw off her mask and attempt to find the true killer before Denise’s family are accused. If only her partner, Jake Dubois, weren’t hiding something from her…

This case might just be more dangerous than either of them could have imagined.

Goodreads | Amazon

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The How I Choose My Books Tag

I haven’t done a tag in a while, so thought I’d better get round to doing one I was tagged in recently. The How I Choose My Books Tag was created by The Bookish Underdog, and I was tagged by Darque Dreamer Reads. Both of these blogs are beautiful and definitely worth checking out.

1. Find a book on your shelves with a blue cover. What made you want to pick up this book?

Strange The Dreamer – Laini Taylor.

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This book was EVERYWHERE in the lead up to its publication. I’ve read some of Laini’s books before and adored them, and the pre-order version of this book came with a lovely shiny cover and blue sprayed edges. I just couldn’t resist.

2. Think of a book you didn’t expect to enjoy but did. Why did you read it in the first place?

The Evil Seed – Joanne Harris.

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I wasn’t sure about this book to begin with. I really wasn’t keen on the cover, but it’s about vampires so there was hope (I like vampires). I’d read some Joanne Harris before and really loved it (Runemarks and The Gospel of Loki – both based on Norse mythology so very different subject matter) and I needed to add a bunch of cheapish books to my kindle before I went on holiday. The Evil Seed was 99p at the time so I figured I’d just give it a go. Glad I did.

3. Stand in front of your bookshelf with your eyes closed and pick up a book at random. How did you discover this book?

Heartland – Lucy Houssom.

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I saw TorUK tweet about this book (coming soon), along with a new cover for the first in the series. I had never heard of it, but I really loved the look of the cover so I sent them a cheeky tweet and ended up being sent a copy of each! So I have Tor to thank for helping me to discover this.

4. Pick a book that someone personally recommended to you. What did you think of it?

American Gods – Neil Gaiman.

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After I enjoyed Good Omens so much, my dad recommended this one for me to try next. My parents got me the massive illustrated version for Christmas and I managed to get it read before the TV adaptation started. I. Loved. It. I thought it was meaningful, thought-provoking and (obviously, being Gaiman) brilliantly written.

5. Pick a book you discovered through book blogs. Did it live up to the hype?

This Is How It Always Is – Laurie Frankel.

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I saw a lot of reviews of this book before I managed to get my hands on a copy. When I did I had very mixed feelings. On one hand, I was thrilled because the proof copy I had was shiny, gold and pretty. On the other hand, I was a little sceptical because there was A LOT of hype. It did live up to it though.

6. Find a book on your shelves with a one word title. What drew you to this book?

Defender – G.X. Todd.

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I saw a giveaway for this book on Facebook and, after looking up the synopsis, decided it sounded really intriguing. It didn’t have a cover at the time, but the blurb was enough to gain my interest. I entered the giveaway and won a limited edition hardback!

7. What book did you discover through a film/TV adaptation?

The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien.

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This is the only book (that I can think of) that I’ve read after seeing the film of first. However, I have a couple more lined up because the films were or look fantastic: Before I fall by Noah Hawley, and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

8. Think of your all-time favourite books. When did you read these and why did you pick them up in the first place?

The Call of the Wild – Jack London.

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This has been my favourite book since childhood. My mum must have given me this to read because I read it very young and the copy I have was most definitely not new.

Now You See Me – Lesley Glaister.

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I picked up in a bookshop in my early teens when my dad took me in and told me I could have any one book I wanted. The title drew me in first, and then so did cover and blurb. The story is emotional and beautiful.

Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

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My family recommended this book to me and I absolutely loved it. I’ve re-read it a few times since, and I even persuaded my boyfriend to read it (he doesn’t read much).

I Tag…

City of Novels // Rustling Reads // Lots of Livres // Bibliophile Soprano // The Bookish Baker // That Book Gal // Serial Bibliophile // Reading with Lori // Between the Pages.