Monday, December 22, 2014

Interview with Mary Balogh

Today I'm delighted to welcome New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh to Darkest Sins!



Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous books, including the acclaimed Slightly and Simply novels, the Mistress trilogy, and the five titles in her Huxtable series: First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Seduction, At Last Comes Love, Seducing an Angel, and A Secret Affair. A former teacher, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.


INTERVIEW WITH MARY BALOGH

• It is a pleasure to get to interview an author of your calibre, Mary. Would you tell the readers how your writing career has started?

I always wanted to be a writer. As a child I used to write long stories. As an adult I started writing (longhand at the kitchen table) back in the 1980s, when I was still teaching English and my children had grown past the stage of needing constant attention during the evenings. I sold my first Regency romance (A MASKED DECEPTION) to NAL in New York and was offered a two-book contract. Since then I have never been without a multi-book contract. I have been well blessed.

• I know you have a thing for Welsh music. What is it that makes it so magical and special?

That's a hard one to answer. Because I grew up in Wales, music was always a part of me. I never questioned why that was so or why I found it magical. Perhaps it was that everyone was expected to make music, with a musical instrument if possible but always with the voice. And one was expected to sing with other people and in four-part harmony. Singing in unison always seemed boring. The Welsh harp is hauntingly beautiful, as is the Welsh language. And Wales is known for its male voice choirs, which may have originated with coalminers but certainly was made famous (and poignant) by them. Listening to a male voice choir sing smites me straight to the heart.  The Welsh make music from the heart. It is full of the passion of love of country and culture.

• I must say, you know how to enchant the reader with beautiful descriptions of some wonderful lands and backgrounds. How much of your imagination you put into those, and how research influences your imaginary in the end?

I know the British countryside, and I have seen many stately homes. For a number of years in a row I spent a few days in Bath. It is about my favourite place in the world. But apart from real places, like London and Bath, my homes and landscapes are imaginary. The same is true of my characters. Certain basic research is necessary if an historical novel is to seem authentic, but as a writer of fiction I consider my imagination by far my most important asset.

• Each and every couple in The Survivors’ Club series is emotionally involving, but which story would you say is the one that personally got you involved the most so far?

Well, you see, they are equal. When I am writing any book, I have to be totally immersed in the characters and their story. I have to be passionately involved in the development of their love story. I could not allow myself to write any other way. I could take any of the six Survivors whose stories I have told so far (they have not all been published yet) and tell you why I was personally involved in them, but I could not say that one sucked me in more than the others.

• Have you ever had a character give you a hard time while writing?

Let me see. I have written about a hundred novels and novellas. That means there are about one hundred heroes and one hundred heroines who have given me a hard time while writing. They all do! And I would not have it any other way. I have to know my characters soul deep if I am to write convincing love stories for them. It is not easy to know anyone that well. They do not give up their secrets easily. Many times I don't know a key fact about a character until I am almost at the end of the book. Then I have to go back through, making all the necessary adjustments. Actually, that is what I am constantly doing with every book.

• You have planned seven books in The Survivors’ Club series and the fourth, Only Enchanting, has been recently released. Did you know it was going to be that way from the beginning?

Not really. Hugo went first because he was the hero I wanted for Gwen, Lady Muir, a leftover character from previous books (ONE NIGHT FOR LOVE, A SUMMER TO REMEMBER, and a few others). I knew that the Duke of Stanbrook would have to go last because he is the leader of the group, the one who held them all together when they were recovering from their war wounds. And because Imogen is the only woman in the group, I knew she would come next to last. But the other four—Vincent, Ben, Flavian, and Ralph) sort of decided among themselves in what order they would go.

• What is the best memory you cherish of your career?

Early in 1984 I was home sick from my teaching job. I had a bad migraine headache and had staggered out of bed to make a drink. After drinking it, I was staggering back to bed when the phone rang. It was an editor from NAL in New York. She told me she had read my book, liked it, and wanted to offer me a two-book contract. That was better medicine than Tylenol any day!

• Any tips you feel like giving to those who are about to embark on their writing journey?

Yes, two things:
(1) Don't listen to advice. All writers are different. No one is an expert. Do your own thing.
(2) Write. Don't dream of writing, don't talk about writing, don't plan to write, don't say you will write when…..(fill in the blank). Just WRITE.

• You are quite a voracious reader…Which book would you particularly suggest from the past and which one from the present?

Oh, good heavens! Impossible! I'm sorry, but really, it is….impossible.

• 2015 is going to be a pretty full year for you with new publications and also a few re-publications of your older books. What are we to expect exactly? 

Well, two of my older books will be out in trade paperback editions in February and March—BEYOND THE SUNRISE and LONGING (my favourite Welsh book). These two may be available only in North America. I am not quite sure about that. My next new book, ONLY A PROMISE (Ralph's story) will be out in June. In July and August there will be two more trade paperback republications—HEARTLESS and SILENT MELODY. The next new book, ONLY A KISS (Imogen's story) will be out in September (I think!) or possibly in November. And four of my oldest books will be out some time in 2015 as e-books available worldwide, though I don't have a definite date yet. The four books are LADY WITH A BLACK UMBRELLA, AN UNLIKELY DUCHESS, A CERTAIN MAGIC, and RED ROSE.

Thank you so much for your time, Mary. All the best with any of your projects, and Happy Holidays! —Silvia

Friday, December 19, 2014

Life of a Blogger: Before 2014 ends...

Life of a Blogger is a weekly feature hosted by Jessi @ Novel Heartbeat.
Every week we talk about a non-bookish topic, so that we get to know each other on a more personal level.

This week's topic: BEFORE 2014 ENDS...

Oh boy, it's just a mere two weeks before we say goodbye to 2014... What should I do?

Well, for starters, I'm going to finish a blog makeover, then I think I will be reading as much as possible! Not that I haven't read much during the year, I even exceeded my Goodreads challenge (WOOT!), but I do have a few books I put aside right for the holidays. You know, sometimes we claim want peace, quiet and nothing to think about but the story we're reading. So, I definitely think my biggest plan before 2014 comes to an end is to read and also catch up with reviews because, let's face it, us reviewers never stop, do we? Anyway, I'm going to read at least a couple of books just for the pleasure of reading them. Yes, we need this, too!

Anything more that I can accomplish will be a surprise. And I do LOVE surprises!! ;)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Breaking Through" by A.M. Hartnett



BREAKING THROUGH BY A.M. HARTNETT

SERIES: Carried Away #3
PUBLISHER: Mischief
GENRE: Contemporary/Erotic Romance
SOURCE: Review copy received from the publisher via Netgalley

SUMMARY
Simon Reeve is charming, sly, and a man who can make things happen. But a foray into the dirty world of politics has left him with a tarnished reputation. Sharing the responsibility for her orphaned nephew with a feckless sister and putting her own ambitions on hold, Miranda is barely keeping her head above water. She's never taken a man home before, but there's something about Simon's haunted eyes and easy smile that's irresistible, and once in bed he opens her up to heart-pounding heights she never imagined she'd experience. As they grow closer, two people who thought they knew who they were and where they were going learn to see themselves in each other. For Simon, it means becoming the man Miranda needs him to be. For Miranda, it means realizing she's more woman than her crushing little world has allowed her to be. 

MY REVIEW

This is the third and final book in the Carried Away series and, although you can read the books as stand-alones, I'd personally suggest not to pick this one until you read the previous instalments. Simon is a recurring character in the series and it doesn't matter how much he stays in the scene, he does leave an impression on the reader. Plus, his role is connected to the general storyline, so...

If you're under the impression I liked Simon from the beginning, you got it right! He totally intrigued me from the first moment and, I must say, his own book didn't disappoint me. He's charming, sexy, funny but also messed up, and that makes his story one to really want to listen to. That's also why I've really appreciated to be able to read his POV, not just Miranda's. Indeed, there's a double POV that works well and keeps things even more interesting. Perhaps I'd have a complaint about an event that, as I see it, should have provoked a fight of some sorts. Then, I'm not Miranda and we see things differently as much as we have completely different lives, so I think I can't really judge her.

I'm very happy to have given this series a go, and I would recommend it to you if you're looking for some mysterious, engaging, cocky alpha males, quite the hot moments, and a pleasurable escaping read.

RATING: 4/5

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Blitz: Shinigami Eyes by Cheree & Adam Smith!

Today I'm happy to be part of Shinigami Eyes Book Blitz, organized by Dark World Books!
(Click on the banner above to see the schedule.)



SHINIGAMI EYES
(Shinigami Eyes #1)

Most children hope to grow out of their imaginary friends.
17-year-old Rin Waters’ only hope is that hers doesn’t kill someone, especially when said imaginary friend puts a boy in a coma. Finding herself shipped half-way around the world—to Japan, of all places—she is forced to live with grandparents she hasn’t seen for ten years and a cousin she can’t even remember.
Rin would rather just forget about the one night that ruined her life and pretend her imaginary friend doesn’t exist—if it was only that easy. When manga-obsessed otaku, Matt, won’t stop pestering her about a manga that sees the future and the tragic accident she’ll be involved in if she doesn’t listen to him, pretending becomes quite a challenge.
Suddenly mysterious accidents begin to happen to students in her school, and Rin has to wonder what length Matt is willing to go to prove his manga is real. Is it all a sham or is there really something that wants to see Rin and her new friends dead?
SHINIGAMI EYES EXCERPTS
USED WITH PERMISSION, COPYRIGHT CHEREE & ADAM SMITH

Cheree's favourite scene

“Hurry, Rin-chan, we’re going to be late,” Haruka yells, diving from the train before the doors have even finished opening.
I try and shove my way through the pack of harried commuters crowding the doorway before I lose sight of Haruka. One little train delay, and suddenly everyone is in a rush. It was only like three minutes tops. Maybe ten. Now it looks like we won’t even be stopping for food, in case we’re late for Juku. This sucks.
I watch Haruka tear off up platform, ducking and weaving between pedestrians like she’s trying out for the Olympics. I lose sight of her and suddenly she’s at the far end of the platform. I have to run or else she’ll leave me at the station. I don’t know the way to Juku on my own. Not that I want to go there, but still.
I stop at the top of the stairs, huffing and heaving. I’ve never done so much running in my life. Peering down the steep flight of stairs, I catch a brief fading glimpse of Haruka disappearing down the far end of the hallway like a white rabbit down the rabbit hole. I’m never going to catch her now.
“No. Stop. Wait.” Sucking in a breath, I mutter weakly.
Well, I tried. Maybe if I find a nice place to sit down, she’ll come back for me. Like a McDonalds or something.
A hard shove lands on my back, and I feel the ground fall out from under my feet. My foot catches on the edge of the step, and a sharp jolt race up my leg as I suddenly become airborne. Everything slows and my panicking brain struggles to comprehend my newfound ability to fly. Countless stairs drift by before my eyes as I watch the concrete floor creep up to greet me. Screaming, I squeeze my eyes shut and await the inevitable thud against the hard surface below.
 A firm hand grabs onto me, and I thud into something soft instead.
When I gather up enough courage to finally open my eyes I come face to face with the broad chest of the boy—young man—who caught me. His dark hair hangs casually over eyes brimming with concern.
“Are you okay?” he asks, carefully repositioning his grip on me. His black woollen jumper ripples against his lean, athletic body as he gently lowers me to the ground. The black jumper and faded jeans stretched across well-maintained muscles gives him a look I can only describe as roguish.
“I’m fi—” I start to say, but end up biting back a scream when I try to stand up.
“You are not.” He grasps my ankle.
I cringe as pain shoots up my leg when he moves the ankle back and forth.
“Here, lean on me until you can walk.” The guy pulls me into his arms and starts leading me away from the stairs.
I glance back and think I see a certain blond lurking at the top of the stairs, glancing everywhere and looking shifty, but when I look again he’s gone.
“Hiro~shi~, why’d you run off on me like that?” an incredibly whiny voice calls out as soon as we enter the station proper, and a girl with wavy copper-tone hair comes running over to meet us. The instant she sees me clinging to the guy, a look of pure murder enters her eyes. “Get your hands off of my boyfriend!”
Freaked by the sudden anger directed at me, I reflexively start trying to bury my face into the guy’s chest. This doesn’t seem to do anything to lessen the girl’s rage, for some reason.
“Ease off, Sakura. She fell down the stairs, and injured her ankle. I’m just helping her walk.” He gives her a crooked grin and the girl seems to calm down. “You’re lucky I’m fast on my feet or things could have ended up a lot worse.”
The girl, I belatedly recognise as Sakura, leader of the music club, the one who didn’t show up to club today, turns towards me, and I could swear a scowl tugs at her lips before it’s replaced by a warm smile. “Are you alright, Waters-san?”
“I’m fine.” I try to push myself to a standing position. Away from her boyfriend.
“Oh, so you two know each other then?” Hiroshi frowns at my wobbly distancing and grabs my shoulder to keep me upright.
“Yes, Waters-san joined the music club yesterday. She’s my newest kouhai,” Sakura adds in a sickly sweet voice, still unhappy about my proximity to Hiroshi beneath her friendly grin, but at least no longer looking for a knife to stab me with.
“Found her! She’s over there hugging that boy!” a sudden cheerful voice shouts loud enough to attract the attention of several passing commuters.
Sakura looks ready to snap, and I almost tumble back onto my ass trying to put as much distance between me and her as possible. Hiroshi just laughs and grabs my hand to keep me from falling as a distraught looking Haruka and a way too happy Miki come bounding over to us.
“Rin-chan, gomenne.” Haruka stops in front of me, taking in my awkward stance between Hiroshi and Sakura. “I-turned-around-and-you-weren’t-there. I-looked-everywhere. Where-did-you-go? Miki-chan’s-been-helping-me-look-for-you.”
I can only blink as her hyperspeed rundown washes over me while Miki bounces around beside her like a joyful dog expecting a treat. Sakura just stares at us like she’s planning a killing spree and is trying to work out who to start with.
“She had a bit of trouble on the stairs,” Hiroshi volunteers when it becomes clear no one’s going to talk.
“Stairs?” Haruka stares blankly like the entire concept is foreign.
“I fell down the stairs.”
“Oh my god, are you okay, Rin-chan?” My overly concerned cousin nearly barrels me over in her rush to comfort me.
“I’m fine,” I mutter. Really, I just want people to stop fussing over me.
“Takahashi-san, maybe you should take Waters-san to a hospital? She might need to get looked at.” Sakura is casual and friendly, but her eyes still glare at Hiroshi’s hand on my arm.
“I’m fine,” I assure them, my much-used catchphrase. Even if I did manage to break a leg, I’d probably still tell them I’m fine. I’d really like for my mother not to hear of this. “I just jarred it, that’s all. I’ll be right in no time.”
“Come on, we’ll skip Juku tonight, let’s get you home.” Haruka grabs me around the waist and Hiroshi finally let’s go, much to Sakura’s relief.
“I’ll help,” Miki pipes up as she grabs my arm, then in her usual energetic way begins bouncing on the spot. Each tug on my arm sends another jolt of pain across my wounded ankle. Oh, yay! Looks like I’ve got two babysitters, one of which is doing more harm than good, to make sure I get home safely. Super.
As I hobble away, well aware of everyone gawking at the scene I’ve caused, I can’t help but notice Sakura throwing herself into Hiroshi’s arms the moment we step away from them. I turn my gaze away from the lovely scene and that’s when my eyes catch on a certain blond kid standing near a cafĂ© on the other side of the station. He’s there watching me, usual manga held open in one hand and clutching something small in the other. He mouths something at me and I can’t help trembling as his warning comes floating back.
‘Be careful on the stairs’.

Adam’s favourite scene

Darkness surrounds me. I don’t know where I am. Not Haruka’s room, that’s for sure. It’s much smaller, I can feel the walls closed in around me, just out of reach. The wooden floor beneath me sends chills up my spine as a feeling of familiarity crashes into me. It feels as though I’ve been in this room before, but I have no idea when. I squeeze my fingers tightly around the small box I didn’t even realise I was holding. Matches. I desperately want to light one, but it’s not time yet. What?
Laughter sounds from outside my tiny universe, little girls laughing, as if they’re enjoying my panic. The familiarity of their voices washes over me, making me want to find a way out of this darkness as if I’m going to greet some long-lost friends.
A shiver rushes down my spine when the girls sop their giggling and start repeating a single phrase in singsong whispers, seemingly from everywhere at once, “Watashi ni hikari o misete, samonakuba yami no naka ni nokose.” Their whispers become repetitive chanting, growing louder and louder until they’re booming in my ear. I try to make sense of what they’re saying, but I can’t get past the feeling that I’ve heard this all before. Concentrating on the words, I translate: Give me the light or keep me in darkness.
All of a sudden the voices cut off, plunging my tiny room into silence once more, allowing me to hear the one last whispered warning from the girls. “Teokure ni naru mae ni hi o moyase.”
Light a match before it’s too late.
I yank a match from the box and start striking it. Sparks fly but no flame appears.
Icy hands grasp my shoulders and the match tumbles unlit from my trembling hands. I scramble for another match as I feel the icy claws dig into my flesh, turning me to face it. Pop! A faint golden light springs to life in my hands as I come face to face with ... nothing. An empty closet with creaky wooden boards. I giggle with relief.
A puff of air—as if someone is blowing out a candle—and my match goes out. Out of the darkness a pair of glowing red eyes erupt. I can’t see what creature’s attached to those eyes, and I’m sure I don’t want to know. I can only stare as it approaches. I can only stare as it—
“Rin!” Misa’s voice screams as tiny hands give my shoulders a furious shake, jerking me awake.
Sweat cascades down my back and my breathing comes out in short, ragged gasps. Pushing myself into a sitting position, the tangled sheets around me suck at me trying to drag me down to the floor. I look around the dark room, disoriented. I’m not in some dark forgotten closet. Everything’s the same as when I went to sleep. Haruka is still asleep in the bed beside me, not disturbed in the slightest. Everything’s normal. Everything’s fine.
“You were having a nightmare, Rin.” Misa’s nervous gaze never leaves my face.
“It felt so real,” I mumble as I lie back down and stare up at the ceiling. “Almost like it was really happening.”
“No. It was just a nightmare,” Misa says in a quick breath as she places her small hand against my forehead.
“Yeah.” I force my eyes closed, afraid that I’ll see those glowing red eyes again as soon as I do. My heart jackhammers as I briefly panic that I’ll have to spend my first day of life in Japan wandering around on zero sleep, but slowly I feel myself drifting off to sleep again. This time, thankfully, without dreams.


ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Cheree Smith lives in the coastal city of Newcastle in Australia where she is studying graphics design and photography. When she is not hard at study, she is busy writing paranormal, horror and dark stories for young adults. She enjoys listening to and learning about legends and myths, watching scary movies and dreaming up new worlds where monsters can come alive. When she is not in her writing cave she can be found listening to music, even dabbling in the occasional writing of music or reading.

Website - Blog - Twitter - Facebook - Goodreads



Adam Smith has always loved the Japanese culture, which began with his love of anime and manga. This helped him accomplish his goal of moving to Japan to become an ALT (assistant language teacher) in Iwate, Japan. When he’s not reading, writing or speaking Japanese, he is working on paranormal, horror and dark stories for young adults with his sister, Cheree.




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Friday, December 12, 2014

Life of a Blogger: Fun Fairs

Life of a Blogger is a weekly feature hosted by Jessi @ Novel Heartbeat.
Every week we talk about a non-bookish topic, so that we get to know each other on a more personal level.

This week's topic: FUN FAIRS

Every time I get the occasion, I go have fun at Fun Fairs. HA! There, I said it and no, I don't consider myself too 'old' for them. As a matter of fact, I think you're never too old to have fun and enjoy the colourful outside with a smile on your face trying to win some gorgeous prizes! Indeed, I play and I always win a little something :P

In UK, Fun Fairs are everywhere and they keep you busily happy quite often. Here's one of the very first I went to and I got to bring home a few (many) presents. If you've never tried, you should go and have a great time! :)


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