‘How a book I wrote as a kid turned into the Sentinel Trilogy’ – a guest post by @joshwinning! #blogtour

Splinter cover

Title: Splinter 
Author: Joshua Winning
Series: Sentinel Trilogy #3

Today I am pleased to have Joshua Winning on the blog, as part of the blog tour for his new novel, Splinter. He will be talking about the novel’s influence, which started out way back when he was just 15 years old! Read on to find out more…


[How a book I wrote as a kid turned into the Sentinel Trilogy]

I still have an early version of Sentinel hidden away in a box under my bed, like some sort of gremlin. I wrote it when I was 15. It was called Crystals Of Destiny (I can’t remember why) and it’s an adorable mess with a hand-drawn front cover, pencil illustrations, and a second half set in an alternate dimension.

Looking back at it now, it amazes me that something so very not-good eventually turned into this YA saga I’m so proud of. Writing the Sentinel Trilogy has been one of the toughest, most rewarding and exciting things I’ve ever done. It has allowed me to find my voice as a writer, and I’ve had great fun playing around with the things I love – talking cats, maniacal villains, queer heroes.

When book one, Sentinel, was published in 2014, I had worked for Total Film for six years, so I wasn’t new to writing – but I was new to the world of YA. I had no real idea what I was doing trying to write a book, other than having a burning need to tell this story about an underground society of demon hunters. I took a ‘suck it and see’ approach to writing, learning through trial and error. I felt my way through the dark, one chapter at a time, cutting and adding and moving around. And – yes – at times even throwing my writing toys out of the pram.

What’s funny is that some of the elements that really work in Sentinel were also in Crystals Of Destiny. The Crystals prologue involved a séance, and chapter one revolved around a train crash. Malika was also present, albeit in a less scary form.

Not that I’m not saying 15-year-old me was a genius, particularly when it came to Sam Wilkins, the lovable rifle-brandishing pensioner. He was originally meant to die around chapter nine (having safely delivered Nicholas to Jessica, he would be confronted and killed by the demon Diltraa). It’s a scene I never wrote, though, because the more I wrote Sam, the more I loved him. I imagined him as a sort of creaky Indiana Jones (hence the fedora) and I realised that killing him would destroy a really important part of the story. Sam is very much the heart of the Sentinel Trilogy.

In the end, it took me four years to complete the trilogy. Writing a book series is a Big Deal, and there were times I wondered what mad path I had stumbled down. Writers like Robin Jarvis, Jen Williams and Trudi Canavan deserve serious kudos for consistently delivering trilogies and making it look 1,000 times easier than it actually is.

Looking back over my trilogy now, I can see its strengths and weakness. For the most part I’m hugely proud of it. In particular, I’m glad it’s made up of three very distinct stories, each with their own unique texture. Sentinel is a body horror about grief; Ruins is a blockbuster about secrets; and Splinter is a post-apocalyptic drama about choice. Hopefully that makes for an fun ride.

Sometimes, I go through the box under my bed and take another look at Crystals Of Destiny, remembering the joy of writing as a kid. Now that I’m working on my sixth book(!), I try to picture young me in my bedroom, scribbling down the images in my head and excitedly figuring out the next plot twist. I’m reminded to write from a place of joy rather than frustration, and whenever I have a silly idea like throwing a talking cat into the mix, I do it. You never know what might come of it.

Sentinel and Ruins, the first two books in The Sentinel Trilogy, are currently just 99p on Kindle [buy here]. Splinter is out now [buy here].

Discover-banner1KINDLE


[Synopsis]

‘All who stand against us shall perish’

The critically acclaimed Sentinel Trilogy comes to a thrilling conclusion in this final instalment of the dark fantasy series.

The world is falling apart around Nicholas Hallow. Amid rumours that the Dark Prophets have returned, a deathly gloom pollutes England, unleashing a savage hoard of nightmare creatures. Fighting the tide of evil, Nicholas returns home to Cambridge, where an old ally helps him seek out the mysterious Skurkwife, who could help Nicholas stop Malika and the Prophets for good.

Meanwhile, Sam Wilkins unites the Sentinels against the forces of darkness, but with Jessica’s sanity slipping, and Isabel suspicious of her shadowy past, it’s a battle that could cost the Sentinels everything.


[About the Author]

Joshua Winning is an author and film journalist who writes for TOTAL FILM, SFX, GAY TIMES and RADIO TIMES. He has been on set with Kermit the Frog, devoured breakfast with zombies on The Walking Dead, and sat on the Iron Throne while visiting the Game Of Thrones set in Dublin. Jeff Goldblum once told him he looks a bit like Paul Bettany.

In 2018, Joshua’s YA thriller VICIOUS RUMER was published by Unbound. His dark fantasy series THE SENTINEL TRILOGY was published by Peridot Press, and he also co-wrote ’80s teen horror CAMP CARNAGE. In 2015, Joshua’s short story DEAD AIR appeared in SPEAK MY LANGUAGE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF GAY FICTION.


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You Were Made for This [review]

You Were Made For This

Title: You Were Made for This
Author: Michelle Sacks
Publisher: HQ

[Synopsis]

A bold, sharp, gripping debut about a couple whose perfect life in the Swedish countryside is not what it seems…

In an idyllic house in a Swedish wood, Merry and her husband are building their new dream life with their young baby, far away from events that overshadowed their old life in New York. And they’re happy, aren’t they? Blissfully, blissfully happy.

When Merry’s childhood friend Frances comes to stay, Frances barely recognises her old friend Merry, pureeing baby food, baking, living the Swedish dream. But little by little, cracks begin to show in her carefully constructed fairy tale. And Frances starts to see things others might miss. Dark and treacherous things.

And then a terrible tragedy unfolds…

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[My Review]

You Were Made For This has all the elements of a domestic thriller, which I often enjoy reading, and though it was slower-paced than I expected, I still found it an interesting read.

There are various disturbing, dark parts to this story and I found that for most of the novel I was in a state of rage with certain characters. I don’t want to give too much away but it very effectively highlights how ‘subtle’ pyschological abuse and control can be – it’s not always full on fights and slaps. Merry and Sam’s relationship is put under the microscope by Frances – supposedly Merry’s best friend – coming to stay, and you realise that here we have another very questionable character! No one in this novel is hugely likeable, but this adds to the allure of the story because you really feel like you’re delving into a world of dark thoughts and feelings – there are some twisted things going on, both in the characters’ minds and in reality.

The setting in Sweden was a bit of a welcome change from US and UK-based novels (not that there’s anything wrong with them, but it’s nice to read about somewhere completely different) and I really liked that there was an element of mystery, too – I won’t say what happens but I definitely swung between characters when trying to work out who was responsible. It made me doubt people and then restore my faith in them – and then doubt them again!

I really liked Michelle Sacks’s writing, though I felt some parts could have been shortened a little and the complete lack of speech marks sometimes made it harder to follow (though this also made the novel stand out more). However, I would still recommend this to anyone looking for a well-written domestic thriller.

[Rating: 3.5/5]

Many thanks to HQ for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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WWW Wednesday [18 July 2018]

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words.

Visit her blog to take a look, and get involved too if you can, even if you don’t have a blog yourself – as she says, you can leave your answers in the post comments. I’d love to see your answers too!

The three W’s are:

    1. What have you finished reading?
    2. What are you currently reading?
    3. What will you read next?

What have you finished reading? 

You Were Made for This – Michelle Sacks
The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang
Believe Me – JP Delaney

What are you currently reading? 

Death in Dulwich

Death in Dulwich – Alice Castle

What will you read next?

In The Dark

In The Dark – Cara Hunter


What have you been reading recently? Any exciting books you’re looking forward to reading next?

If you do your own version of this tag please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your answers too!


DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

 

Believe Me by JP Delaney [review]

Believe Me - JP Delaney

Title: Believe Me
Author: JP Delaney
Publisher: Quercus

[Synopsis]

A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.

Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions. The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.

Then the game changes.

When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.

Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap? But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?

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[My Review]

This struck me as very a very different novel to what I’d expected it to be. I thought it would be more of a formulaic thriller that fits right into the typical tropes of this genre, but it was quite a surprise when I started it, both in terms of the plot and the way it’s written.

The plot had more atmosphere and perhaps less ‘action’ than you’d normally expect from the thriller/ mystery genre, and it developed the characters more, with an added focus on the world of the honeytrapper mixed with police investigations and undercover work, which I found really interesting! There’s definitely slightly sexy overtones at times, just due to main character Claire’s work, but it doesn’t stray too far that way, always coming back to the predicament Claire is in. There are definitely twists and turns which kept me completely engrossed. Sure, there were a few parts which were less believable, but you’re here to be entertained, right?

Whether you love or hate Claire (or are somewhere in the middle, like me!), she’s certainly an interesting character and someone that makes you want to read more about her. I wanted to find out whether she is what she makes out to be, or whether she’s hiding more than we first thought – and I was pleased to see this explored throughout the book.

The format of the story is also a bit of a change from the usual read; some parts are written as if you’re reading a play, whilst others revert back to a slightly more standard ‘speak directly to the reader’ format, and I liked this mix – it gave the novel a fresher, unique feel.

I don’t want to give too much away about this novel but I will say that it has some dark themes and a good few twists along the way. Definitely give this a go if you fancy a slightly different, slick pyschological thriller.

[Rating: 4.5/5]

Many thanks to Quercus for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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The Dead Ex [review]

The Dead Ex

Title: The Dead Ex
Author: Jane Corry
Publisher: Penguin

[Synopsis]

‘I wish he’d just DIE.’

Vicki’s husband David once promised to love her in sickness and in health. But after a brutal attack left her suffering with epilepsy, he ran away with his mistress.

So when Vicki gets a call one day to say that he’s missing, her first thought is ‘good riddance’. But then the police find evidence suggesting that David is dead. And they think Vicki had something to do with it.

What really happened on the night of David’s disappearance?
And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself?

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[My Review]

I really enjoyed Blood Sisters and My Husband’s Wife, both also by Jane Corry, so I was excited to read her newest releases, The Dead Ex. I wasn’t disappointed – this is another gripping read which kept me guessing and had plenty of twists and turns along the way.

The story switches from person to person a lot and sometimes I was unsure who was talking, but I do love stories that move away from just one perspective and show you the thoughts and feelings of additional characters; though I felt that at times it could have been bit clearer as to who is speaking, overally I still felt that this novel employed this technique really well, and it allowed me to really feel like I was getting into the heads of some of the characters,

Vicki is definitely an interesting character, shall we say – I personally loved her but there are definitely elements to her character which don’t seem quite ‘normal’ (or what most people would deem as normal, anyway). In fact, there are a wide range of characters which were great fun to read about.

There are some shocking parts to this novel, and some parts which are quite hard to read (and made me feel pretty angry) which added to the heightened sense of tension throughout. I loved that Jane Corry really plays with your mind, making you feel sure of one thing before suddenly changing it all up. This novel was also less of a thriller than I expected, with far more character development meaning it was a bit more of a slower read than I anticipated, but I personally really enjoyed this. I don’t want to give too much away but I definitely enjoyed The Dead Ex and feel it makes a welcome, if different, addition to Jane Corry’s selection of addictive novels.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Penguin for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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The Life Lucy Knew [review]

The Life Lucy Knew

Title: The Life Lucy Knew
Author: Karma Brown
Publisher: HQ Digital

[Synopsis]

Lucy is about to discover everything she believes to be true about her life…isn’t.

After hitting her head, Lucy Sparks awakens in the hospital to a shocking revelation: the man she’s known and loved for years—the man she recently married—is not actually her husband. In fact, they broke up four years earlier and haven’t spoken since.
The happily-ever-after she remembers in vivid detail is what her doctors call a false memory: recollections Lucy’s mind made up to fill in the blanks from the coma.

Now she has no idea which memories she can trust and she must make a difficult choice about which life she wants to lead, and who she really is.

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[My Review]

The Life Lucy Knew is an interesting read which centers around a topic I always find really interesting: amnesia. Main protagonist Lucy wakes up from an accident believing her life to be very different to how it was when she had the accident, and we follow her as she tries to make sense of it all and coax her memory back.

I liked that this novel was fairly believable, as I wasn’t sure when I started it if we’d suddnely find out someone had done something awful to ‘trick’ her etc (like some other novels I’ve read on this kind of subject) bu, actually, the characters were pretty convincing and three-dimensional, and Lucy herself was likable (though at times her actions could be really frustrating… I suppose she is suffering with a head injury though so I can kind of let her off most of it!)

The pace is fairly steady and at times perhaps could have moved along at a bit quicker pace, but I liked Lucy’s attempts to try and rediscover the relationship between her and her husband (though she doesn’t remember them getting married) Matt.  The narrative jumps between present day and the time ‘before’ – though we’re sometimes unsure if these are memories Lucy remembers now, which therefore may not be very reliable anyway, or ‘true’ memories.

I don’t feel that this novel is anything hugely exciting or particularly different but it is a fun, quick read which would be ideal for the summer, or for when you fancy something enjoyable but relaxing.

[Rating: 3.5/5]

Many thanks to HQ Digital for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

 

WWW Wednesday [11 July 2018]

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words.

Visit her blog to take a look, and get involved too if you can, even if you don’t have a blog yourself – as she says, you can leave your answers in the post comments. I’d love to see your answers too!

The three W’s are:

    1. What have you finished reading?
    2. What are you currently reading?
    3. What will you read next?

What have you finished reading? 

The Life Lucy Knew – Karma Brown [review to follow soon]
The Dead Ex – Jane Corry [review to follow soon]
Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager [I was on the blog tour – here’s my review]

What are you currently reading? 

Believe Me - JP Delaney

Believe Me – JP Delaney

What will you read next?

You Were Made For This

Probably You Were Made For This – Michelle Sacks


What have you been reading recently? Any exciting books you’re looking forward to reading next?

If you do your own version of this tag please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your answers too!


DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Last Time I Lied [review]

Last Time I Lied

Today I’m so excited to be a part of the blog tour for Riley Sager’s new novel, Last Time I Lied. As someone who really enjoyed her previous novel, Final Girls, I jumped at the chance to be a part of the blog tour for this title… read on to find out what I thought!

Title: Last Time I Lied
Author: Riley Sager
Publisher: Ebury

[Synopsis]

Have you ever played two truths and a lie?

Emma has. Her first summer away from home, she learned how to play the game. And she learned how to lie.

Then three of her new friends went into the woods and never returned . . .

Now, years later, Emma has been asked to go back to the newly re-opened Camp Nightingale. She thinks she’s laying old ghosts to rest but really she’s returning to the scene of a crime.

Because Emma’s innocence might be the biggest lie of all…

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[My Review]

I want to start this review by saying that I really enjoyed Final Girls [read my review here] BUT that I think Last Time I Lied is even more of an intoxicating, atmospheric read. Riley Sager creates a suitably eerie setting for his new novel, based in an all-Girls camp called ‘Camp Nightingale’; it delves into the disappearance fifteen years ago of Emma’s room mates, and the present day narrative where she returns to the camp full of questions about what happened those years ago.

The way that the story switches between the two narratives really creates a sense of mystery and left me really wanting to find out what happened, and if anyone was to blame. Mystery engulfs the present-day narrative too, and I had a whole host of different theories worked out in my mind as the novel went on – although I sort of guessed one (very small) part right, I definitely didn’t have it all worked out correctly. Ultimately I was left feeling nicely satisfied by the ending (theres a small thing I might have wanted to turn out differently, but nothing that in any way ruins my enjoyment of the book).

It’s definitely dramatic at parts and there are some characters that make more of an impact than others. I loved main character Emma but she wants without her own faults, with I felt was more realistic than if she was the perfect protagonist. Sometimes I wanted to shout at both the teenage and adult versions of her, but intimately I did care what happened to her and that meant I was much more invested in the story than I otherwise would have been.

Sager’s writing is brilliant. Here he’s crafted a compelling and multi layered mystery that does exactly what I feel a novel in this genre should: thrill and intrigue, from first page to last. I’d definitely recommend this as a gripping summer read!

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.


[About the Author]

Riley Sager Author PictureRILEY SAGER is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.

Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, Final Girls, was a national and international bestseller that has been sold in 25 languages. A film version is being developed by Universal Pictures and Anonymous Content.

A native of Pennsylvania, he now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Follow Riley on twitter @riley_sager or visit www.rileysagerbooks.com.


[Follow the Tour]

Last Time I Lied BT Poster

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The Man Who Didn’t Call [review]

The Man Who Didn't Call

Title: The Man Who Didn’t Call
Author: Rosie Walsh
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

[Synopsis]

Imagine you meet a man, spend six glorious days together, and fall in love. And it’s mutual: you’ve never been so certain of anything.

So when he leaves for a long-booked holiday and promises to call from the airport, you have no cause to doubt him.
But he doesn’t call.

Your friends tell you to forget him, but you know they’re wrong: something must have happened; there must be a reason for his silence.

What do you do when you finally discover you’re right? That there is a reason — and that reason is the one thing you didn’t share with each other?

The truth.

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[My Review]

I didn’t expect this novel to be so emotional – I’d assumed it would be more of a light and fluffy read, perhaps partly due to the cover, but once I started reading I realised that this is a truly gripping, absorbing and really well crafted.

The characters are believable and convincing, with main protagonist Sarah coming across as a likable and someone who doesn’t fit into a typical ‘category’ of person. She isn’t someone who’d usually become so obsessed over a one-week ‘fling’, but as we hear it all from her point of view, we’re right there with her and we have the chance to understand why she feels the way she does about Eddie.

I read this book in almost one solid sitting, and really wanted to know why Eddie had suddenly disappeared from Sarah’s life. I swung from hating him to suddenly feeling confused, and though I guessed part of what had happened, this wasn’t at all the actual correct conslusion, which I felt really satisfied with.

There’s so much more to this story than just your average contemporary romance/ ‘chick-lit’-style read; it’s so much deeper than that. There are some truly emotional parts and some real surprises along the way.

Rosie Walsh has written a fantastic debut here, mixing elements of romance and relationships with modern-life dating and the many ways grief can take a hold of someones life. It’s punchy, emotional, and heartwrenching – an absorbing read!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Pan Macmillan for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

The Tall Man [review]

The Tall Man

Title: The Tall Man
Author: Phoebe Locke
Publisher: Headline

[Synopsis]

A SENSELESS MURDER. A TERRIFYING LEGEND. A FAMILY HAUNTED.

1990: In the darkest woods, three girls devote themselves to a sinister figure.

2000: A young mother disappears, leaving behind her husband and baby daughter.

2018: A teenage girl is charged with murder, and her trial will shock the world.

Three chilling events, connected by the shadow he casts.

He is the Tall Man. He can make you special…

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[My Review]

The Tall Man is a creepy, tense story of psychological suspense and impending horror. It’s gripping – I couldn’t put it down and read until the early hours, immersed in Phoebe Locke’s atmosphere and addictive writing. It’s hard to believe this is her debut, because the plot and characters are really well crafted.

Firstly, I thought the mix of the possible ‘supernatural’ with the story’s doubt around which characters are trust-worthy, made this novel have a satisfyingly jumpy feel. I was so intrigued as to whether this legend is all a figment of over-imaginative young minds, or whether there’s some truth in it… it’s the kind of eerie tale passed from generation to generation which should have you thinking twice about offering anything up to a mysterious man who can ‘make you special’…!

The various narratives, showing different timeframes as well as some characters at different points in their lives, provides some great surprises and things I didn’t see coming, and they had me excited to try and work out how they would link together – if at all. Why did Sadie abandon her daughter and go missing for all those years? Why was Amber on trial for murder – and did she really do whatever she was supposed to have done, despite getting off the charges? I love that feeling, when reading a book, of trying to second-guess how it all might fit together – and (for me) then usually getting it wrong, but I always enjoy the process anyway!

The modern-day story was strange in many ways, as it provides quite a different feel – you’re suddeny back with the documentary crew trying to make a film about Amber, and you see her as she’s grown up and wonder exactly what happened. This part of the story, because it focuses on people outside of the family and Sadie’s friends (ie. documentary maker Greta and the crew she works with), feels more ‘normal’ than the other parts, but there’s still that strong sense of mystery and the unknown. I also liked this narrative as it feels like the part where we as the reader is going to get the most answers!

I don’t want to give too much away about this novel so I’ll stop this review here, but if you’re looking for an original thriller/ mystery/ horror that is quite likely to leave your mind on edge, I’d definitely recommend this. Above all, it’s a really fun, well-crafted read that makes you want to keep turning those pages, whatever the time, right until the end!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Headline for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!