Blog Tour: G.X. Todd, Defender

January 18, 2017 in Blog Tours, Bookish Posts, Guest Posts

If you follow me on Twitter, it will come as no surprise to you to hear that I’m VERY EXCITED about today’s post! Back in November, I posted my thoughts on Defender by G.X. Todd and I am not exaggerating when I say that I am still thinking about this book! I can’t wait for the second book in the series.

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So, I am hugely excited to welcome G.X. Todd to the blog today, on the final day of her Defender Blog Tour. Make sure to check out all of her other guest posts this week!

Over to Gemma! 😀

G X Todd Blog Tour

Ten books I read as a kid that turned me into a book devouring monster

I want to do something slightly different here and not just list a bunch of books. With that in mind, I’m going to hunt out some old copies I read as a kid and discuss why Young Me might have picked them. You’ll see I had quite a diverse taste in reading material for a 12-year-old girl…


The Hobbit



Look at the state of this! I’ve given it a right battering. I was very lucky in Junior school in that my English teacher at the time read The Hobbit to my class. We were all around eight or nine. I think being exposed to Tolkien’s imagination set me up for life (I primarily read Fantasy and Sci-fi for most of my teenage years). I really like Smaug on this cover, too. Look how majestic he is!





Space Trap

What a beaut Space Trap is. I had a massive author crush on Monica Hughes. I read everything the library had to offer but this is where it all started. Even the title is bold and exciting. And it looks like that robot is kidnapping those kids! Space shenanigans!


“There was blackness with no space and time, no breath and no heartbeat…her throat had shrunk into a hard knot the way it does during a nightmare.”


This woman knew how to write, and she certainly knew which artist to pick to do her cover art.


FutureTrack 5



Come on, that helmet is a blatant Storm Trooper rip-off. Young Me must have lapped it up. It has motorbikes, too. I bet I snatched it off the shelf and ran all the way home with it. Didn’t hear a peep out of me until tea-time.

It’s actually a fantastic book, one I’ve read a bunch of times. Westall’s Urn Burial is also ace. It has a space cat in it, and that’s all I’m saying.



Lotus Caves


“Beneath the arid crust of the moon there grew an alien being – one both beautiful and terrifying!” reads the back cover. And take note of that exclamation mark. They’re not messing around. Spaceman Benny looks happy with my choice, too. Probably because there’s a spaceship involved.


I remember this being much darker than I was expecting. I think it played on my mind for quite a while, but that’s good for a kid. It makes us realise not everything in this world is rosy.



Mountain Survival



Talking about children’s books that weren’t afraid to go to those dark places, do you remember these? I was given my first Choose Your Own Adventure at Asda in Wolverhampton. We must have bought something to make us qualify for a freebie, but I have no idea what. A grizzly bear alarm? Climbing apparatus? I mean, there’s a dead person on the front cover, for goodness sake. Still, I loved it. I read an awful lot of books that were derivatives of this, including Steve Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy series.



For an idea of just how harsh some of the endings you could choose in these stories, have a read of this:



George's MM



A Roald Dahl double-whammy. These covers bring back so many fond memories, and the illustrations haven’t dated at all. Testament to the talent of Mr Blake. My copies aren’t too shabby, either. This must have been during my “can’t crack the spine” phase, which lasted about ten years. Pocket money was so precious that when I spent it on books, I wanted to keep my purchases immaculate.








Look at this craggy-faced geezer! Why did I pick this up? He’s old and has unfashionably long hair for a guy (even for back when I was thirteen). Do you have any idea who he is or what book he’s from? Nope?





I read the whole Earthsea Trilogy (including Tehanu) and remember being completely enthralled by Sparrowhawk’s adventures (if not by his long flowing locks). I’ve not re-read the stories since and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the fear of ruining my childhood memories of it, the same way I refuse to re-watch episodes of Marshall BraveStarr. This period really was a golden age of reading for me. I was transported to magical, faraway worlds every time I cracked open a book. And it only cost me 10p.




The last two books I’m sharing are purely because they have awesome covers (I found them on my bookshelves while searching for this blog post).



I loved all the Douglas Hill books I read (most especially The Huntsman and Warriors of the Wasteland, which reminds me now of a kid’s version of the Aiel desert people from the Wheel of Time series). And all Hill’s books had these full wrap-around artwork on them. They’re like classic B-movie films. Hammy but great.





Anthony Masters’ Roadkill books are like a glimpse into the future of 2017.


“Massively powerful multinationals pacify and control the pampered few with brain implants and touch-screen instant-gratification television. The rest – mutants, renegades and worse – prowl the sickly polluted streets.”


From the front cover, I like to think I was exhibiting an early love for films like The Terminator and Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. They were so hardcore and anarchic. My parents were lucky I never asked to have my hair cut into a Mohawk.


Argh, thank you so much, Gemma, for this incredible blog post! I love the format you chose and yes, yes, I remember those Fighting Fantasy books. I have plans to raid the bookshelves at my parents’ house to find my old copies!

Defender, the debut novel by G.X. Todd is out now. You can actually still get your hands on a limited edition signed copy from Goldsboro Books (it’s a beauty). Also be sure to follow Gemma on Twitter (@GemTodd).

All photos in this post were taken by G.X. Todd who gave me permission to post them here.

Blog Tour: Kate Moretti, The Vanishing Year

September 27, 2016 in Blog Tours, Guest Posts

Yesterday I shared some spoiler-free thoughts on The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti which, by the way, is OUT TODAY! If you missed that post you can find it here. I’m very excited to welcome author Kate Moretti to the blog today (the first day of her blog tour) to share her answer to the question “what do you think makes a propulsive read?”


Over to Kate….

Character is at the Heart of All Good Novels (Even Suspense)!

Sometimes I’ll end up at an event or a book club and the subject of “page turner” will come up. Think of the last book you read, the one that gave you a book hangover, kept you up half the night, the one you couldn’t put down and later, couldn’t wait to talk about with someone. People will ask me “what do you think makes a propulsive read?” My answer, regardless of genre is always the same: character.

People will argue with me. They’ll say, oh well I’ve read lots of great novels and I didn’t even like the main character. To that, I say, so what? You have to read about them, not invite them to brunch.

You don’t have to like a character to be drawn into their lives. You do have to relate to them. The writer’s job is to take the main character, even if they are deplorable human beings, and give them an emotional need or want that we, as readers, can identify with.

With suspense, the main characters are often completely unlikeable. They have to fit the mood and tone of the book, often they are sullen, crabby, isolated, perpetually drunk, amnesiac, you name it. Sometimes, their basic universal need is to simply stay alive. They are in awful situations and if they did things 100% correctly, (simply called the police, half the time), the book would be twenty-five pages long and boring as all get out. And yet, we flip through these books faster than any other. Why?

The need to stay alive is universal. We all want that. We can see ourselves, flung into impossible situations, trying desperately to just live another day. To outrun the bad guy, to find the missing sister, keep the lie buried. We all relate to that desperation, that moment that upends your life and deeply threatens everything you hold dear. It doesn’t matter if what the main character holds dearest is her antique spoon collection. If the author does their job, we will care about that spoon collection as much as the character.

Did you ever read The Martian? Let me ask you, did you cry when the HAB blew up and he lost all his potatoes? Like. A. Baby. I mean, it’s potatoes, but God, did we care. My husband couldn’t understand and all I kept saying was he’s going to die without these potatoes. He’s going to starve to death, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

In suspense, the page turner is determined by the character, not the plot. If the writer does their job, we are sucked in, and the plot can twist and turn, and venture completely into the unbelievable. We are along for the ride because want the same things the protagonist wants. On the other hand, think of the last book you read fifty pages of and quit. I’m willing to bet it had loads of plot. You just didn’t care enough about what happened next.

When I’m preparing to start a new novel, like I am now, all of my pre-work goes into my main character. Who is she? Where does she come from? I dream up a life that will never make it into the main story. When it comes to writing the plot, I know the beginning, the middle and the end. The rest comes to me as I write.

But if I do my job, my hope is that the reader will come along for the ride, wherever it takes us.


Thank you so much Kate! Reading this, I kept smiling and nodding, thinking how true this is. I also kept thinking about Zoe and perfectly she fits this criteria!

Be sure to check out the rest of the stops on Kate’s blog tour, including tomorrow’s host SHOTSMAG Ezine!


Blog Tour: Rory Dunlop, What We Didn’t Say

August 5, 2016 in Blog Tours, Guest Posts

Earlier this week I shared my thoughts on What We Didn’t Say, if you missed it you can find it here, but basically I loved it. So I’m delighted to welcome the author Rory Dunlop to the blog today to share the inspiration behind his debut novel.

Rory Dunlop


The Inspiration Behind What We Didn’t Say

I’ve always loved unreliable narrator novels – Lolita; The Sea, The Sea; The Black Prince etc. It can be funny and satisfying, as a reader, to see things the narrator can’t. The first germ of an idea for my novel was to have a therapist as the narrator, writing unreliably about the unreliable things he was told by his patients. In my first draft Jack was a lot less sympathetic and more Nabokovian. I then realised (with a little help from those who read my first draft) that I couldn’t write like Nabokov. Without his incredible linguistic skill and wit, Humbert Humbert would be a monster no one would want to read about. Also, I realised I wouldn’t want to write another Lolita, even if I could. I love fiction, like Anna Karenina or The Wire, where the characters are likeable in spite of their flaws and where you can sympathise with each of them, even if they’re in conflict with one another. I couldn’t finish Mme Bovary, even though the prose was beautiful, because there was no one I was rooting for.

So when I came to write a second draft, I tried to make Jack more sympathetic and to focus less on Jack’s relationship with his patient and more on his relationship with Laura. This change of tack allowed me to develop Laura’s character and I had the idea of having two unreliable narrators telling the same story. I’ve often thought that most communication is miscommunication – that we seldom say what we mean or understand what the other person said. I’m a barrister and so my day job is all about communication. Lawyers are more precise with their words than most and yet it’s very common for judges to misunderstand what barristers are saying and vice versa. A story about a couple that love each other but break apart through miscommunication was the perfect way of exploring that idea.

Another theme that’s always intrigued me is jealousy. It’s an irrational and primitive emotion but all the more fascinating for it. If we think rationally, we shouldn’t be surprised if the person we love is attracted to other people. Human nature being what it is, those attractions will sometimes be acted upon. And yet, for many men, it’s unbearable to think that our wives or girlfriends might even want to sleep with someone else, let alone that they might actually do it. It makes sense on an evolutionary level but it’s interesting how that primitive instinct plays out in the modern world. It’s no coincidence, I think, that many of my favourite novels feature jealous men – Gatsby, who can’t accept that Daisy might have loved Tom when he was away; Swann, who falls in love with a courtesan precisely because she is sleeping with others and he can’t bear it; Charles Arrowby, who finds himself in his retirement (adorably if absurdly) skulking below the window of a married old woman he loved when they were both teenagers.

Thank you so much Rory for joining us and sharing your inspiration. I always love to hear the story of a novel and its progression.

Today is the last day of the blog tour, but if you missed the other days with more guest posts from Rory then don’t worry, you can find all of the stops below!


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Guest Post: Flynn Berry – Unreliable Narrators

July 26, 2016 in Blog Tours, Guest Posts

I’m delighted to welcome Flynn Berry to the blog today.

Under The Harrow Flynn Berry

Flynn’s debut novel, Under The Harrow, is available on Kindle in the UK now from Weidenfeld & Nicolson, with the paperback to follow in the coming months.

Under the Harrow blog tour Twitter graphic

Flynn is visiting four different blogs this week and sharing her favourite unreliable narrators. So, without further ado, welcome Flynn…

My novel, Under the Harrow, is about a woman, Nora, investigating her sister’s murder. As the police inquiry unravels, Nora becomes obsessive and reckless. Some of my favorite books have unreliable narrators, who are duplicitous, volatile, and thrilling.

a bad character

Idha in A Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor is restless. She lives in Delhi, which she says is “no place for a woman in the dark unless she has a man and a car or a car and a gun.” She’s twenty years old, and says, “I’ve been stared at a lot, of course; it’s what happens here, it’s what men do.” Idha could stay safely inside, but instead she drives at night past “radial roads and white cupolas shaded by tunnels of trees. Jasmine blossoms blow along the wind, the gulmohar glow like cinders.” She drives “through Lodhi Estate, where the rich and powerful crouch in their mansions, their guards poking guns from their nests at the street.”

In this atmosphere of menace and sexualized violence, Idha meets a man whom the police call “a bad character.” But it’s not only him: “It’s what they’ll say about me too, when they know what I’ve done.” This book is scorching. Whatever Idha had done, I wanted to be on the side of this heedless, brilliant woman.

Thank you so much Flynn! Be sure to check out the rest of Flynn’s blog tour this week. Her next stop is over at Little Bookness Lane  tomorrow. For more information about Flynn visit her website or follow her on Twitter (@flynnberry_).

Blog Tour: A Gathering of Shadows, V.E. Schwab + Giveaway

February 24, 2016 in Blog Tours, Bookish Posts, Closed Giveaways, Guest Posts

I am so excited about today’s post. I had to pinch myself to make sure this is actually real! Today Strupag is a stop on the V.E.Schwab’s UK Blog Tour for A Gathering Of Shadows, the second book in her A Darker Shade of Magic series.

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The book published yesterday and was one of my most anticipated releases of the year! So it’s fantastic to welcome Victoria to the blog today where she will be sharing 5 of her most anticipated 2016 releases, Waiting on Wednesday style. Oh and make sure you read right to the end of the post so you don’t miss out on the giveaway!




CROOKED KINGDOM by Leigh Bardugo 

It’s no secret I’m a huge Bardugo fan, going back to the early Grisha days (Darkling, mmmmm), but Six of Crows took me to a whole new level. I would read Bardugo’s shopping list, but there’s nothing I’m more excited about than the second book in the series, Crooked Kingdom, out this fall.



Similarly, I cannot wait to get my hands on the final book in the Young Elites series by Marie Lu! Anti-heroes! Superpowers! Venetian style! This whole series is filled with people to love, and people to love to hate, and I can’t even pick a favorite.



Ever since I finished Dreams of Gods and Monsters, I’ve been dying for another Laini Taylor fix. Her mysterious new book was just revealed, and not THAT much of it is known—a war between gods and men, a hero with blood on his hands, a young librarian–but I’m already salivating.


MORNING STAR by Pierce Brown

I first discovered Brown’s Red Rising on audio last year, and after listening to nothing else (seriously, it followed me around the house, walking the dogs, running errands, at the gym) I immediately downloaded the second audiobook. While I’m not enamored with a couple of the choices, the extraordinary world building and space battles make up for them. The third and final chapter finally hit my iTunes, and I can’t wait to dive in.


THE LAST MORTAL BOND by Brian Staveley

If you follow me at all online, you’ve probably heard me talking about my love for THE EMPEROR’S BLADES, Staveley’s first book in this series, about the three offspring of a slain emperor, one a diplomat, one a monk, and one an assassin. It only got better in PROVIDENCE OF FIRE, and the third book is on the top of my list. For those fantasy lovers out there, this is one you can’t miss.


 Thank you so much Victoria for sharing these with us!

Before we move into the giveaway, let’s have a synopsis for A Gathering Of Shadows and some more information about V.E. Schwab just in case you’ve been living under a rock.

Blog Tour: A Gathering of Shadows, V.E. Schwab + Giveaway Published by Titan Genres: Fantasy

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalises preparations for the Element Games - an extravagant international competition of magic,meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighbouring countries - a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has rise again.

About V.E.Schwab

V.E. Schwab is the bestselling author of A Darker Shade of Magic, which came second in the Goodreads Choice 2015 Book Awards, the forthcoming A Gathering of Shadows, and of Vicious, which was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2013, an Amazon Best Book of the Year (as well as Best Book of the month), a semi-finalist in the Goodreads Choice 2013 Book Awards, and the ALA top pick for Fantasy for their 2014 reading list. She is known for her stunning prose and swift plot, as well as characters who blur the line between hero and villain.

Sounds awesome right? Well the lovely folks over at Titan Books have given me TWO COPIES of A Gathering of Shadows to give away today. To enter, just use the rafflecopter entry form below. There are no mandatory entries, just do as many or as few as you want, however please note that we do verify entries. This giveaway is open to the UK only, apologies to international readers.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Make sure to check out the other stops on the blog tour for more exclusive content from V.E. Schwab and some more giveaways too!

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