Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton

If you are looking for a fresh, fantastically feminist voice in fantasy, look no further than Bree Barton.

The story unfolds as Mia Rose prepares for her wedding to the prince of the kingdom, it should be all she’s ever dreamed of, all she could wish for. But not Mia. She’s a hunter, she cannot stand the confines of the palace and she wants out. Her mother was killed by a Gwyrach, a hideous deformity of women, demons that walk amongst them, able to stop someone’s breath in their lungs with one touch. Mia has been honing her skills, learning all she can about human anatomy and she wishes to escape and hunt the creature who killed her mother.

What follows is a sweeping tale of love and betrayal as Mia discovers the many secrets that were hidden in plain site all along.

What I loved most about this book was the attention to detail, the careful way the author describes human anatomy and weaves it into the plot. The reveals were also excellently executed, I found myself racing through the final third of the book to uncover all the hidden secrets alongside Mia.

But this book also holds a pretty powerful message, by examining the effects of a heavily oppressive setting, it explores how women cope. How they survive. And ultimately, how they fight back.

Thank you to Harper Collins for this gorgeous book proof and if you would like to read it yourself, it’s just been released and you can find it here

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Notes on Revising

Revising.

Everyone approaches it differently, everyone struggles with it to varying degrees. Recently I completed a revision pass on a manuscript and after madly googling revision planning, scouring author websites for all their tips and tricks, sending out emails to writer contacts and chatting it over with my critique partners, I came up with a plan.

First, I started by pulling apart the revision notes I had received. What were they looking for? Why did they ask for that? How much did I need to change – small twists or huge chunks?

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Having a plan made it pretty fun, I knew I was making the manuscript better! So I poured the coffee, set up my spreadsheet and got cracking.

I worked out where I needed to add scenes to give the manuscript the depth it needed. I opened up a new word document and created page markers with short descriptions of scenes and sequences that I felt needed adding.

After that, I worked my way through the manuscript, page by page to see where I could add or take away text to streamline and focus the scenes. There was a danger of losing the pacing, so I kept an eye on that whilst I pulled it to bits.

If you’re a writer, you’ll have had this feeling during the revision process. The point at which you don’t know if you’ve made it better…or broken it completely. When I hit that wall, I panicked a bit, took a deep breath (drank more coffee) then plowed on.

Eventually, I had a manuscript that was longer, yet had more of the detail and information it lacked before. The characters felt more real, the descriptions were more true to my voice than before.

So I did a final line edit, checking for little mistakes, errors and anything that didn’t flow quite right.

And after that….I checked it again.

I would probably still be checking it and rechecking it again now if I hadn’t asked my lovely critique partners for feedback, then tweaked and changed from their comments.

Then edited it again to get it how I wanted it.

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So this is what I’ve learnt from the process…

It’s worth taking your time over. No need to rush! If you give yourself little pauses during the process, it will give your brain time to catch up.

You’ll probably hate it at some point. Then love it! Then want to chuck it out of the window. This is normal. Pour more coffee.

If you have to delete a whole section? It’s ok. You’ll rewrite it much better tomorrow.

And never be afraid to hit ‘The End’ and really mean it. Have courage.

Hope you’re all enjoying your writing journey!

Rachel x

A Camping Trip Island Style

You might have seen all my happy posts on Instagram about our first family camping trip this weekend and I can definitely, DEFINITELY recommend it.

We got a boat over to Bryher, it took just ten minutes from our island to that one and a few short steps up the hill from the quay to Bryher Campsite.

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This is the view from the campsite, not bad right? It’s divided up into fields, gently sloping up the hill and edged by hedges to give a little privacy. There’s a shower block with a laundry room, freezers and a charging station and wow, it is all so, so clean! Jo keeps it really spick and span and it does make such a difference. There’s even a little farm stall with an honesty box to buy fresh local veggies and eggs, hand delivered each morning from Hillside Farm. We also borrowed a tent, air mattresses and a little gas cooker and it made our stay super comfortable.

Have you ever seen an island sunset? Here’s a peek at one…

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Swoony…

The next day we went for a wander, bought some homemade tattie cake and croissants from Bryher Shop then had lunch at Hell Bay. I’ll find any excuse to go there, the food is delicious and it’s so relaxed, even with children!

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After that we had a look in Bryher Gallery, got a few bits and pieces from the honesty stalls dotted around the island and headed back home.

Not a bad staycation, and all the fresh air was so refreshing.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Rachel x

 

 

The Gift of Silence by Kankyo Tannier

How many of us take a moment of silence during our day? With work, family life, house renovations, reading, blogging, social media, shopping, cooking, eating…life can sometimes run away with us and become a series of moments.

So what if you stopped?

In The Gift of Silence, French buddhist nun Kankyo asks us to take a breath, pause and find the gaps in the silence. She encourages everyone to take a small space in our day for ourselves in a world full of noise.

In this guide, Kankyo talks about her own life as a 21st century nun, she writes, she blogs and she travels. Her voice is like fresh air, it’s a warm smile and welcome break to read a few chapters and soak up her calmness. She invites her readers to silence the noise around them, feel at peace with quiet then reconnect with the external world in a more meaningful way.

With her extensive knowledge and experience, she’s ideally placed to write this book, it makes me want to book on one of these spiritual retreats in the French countryside! Just holding the book in my hands made me calmer, more relaxed, as I focused on her stories and ideas for meditation and silence.

If you feel inspired to read a work of non-fiction and take some time out for yourself, pick up this book! You won’t be disappointed.

Thank you to Yellow Kite books and bookbridgr for this lovely book, it’s become a firm favourite already.

You can find it on Amazon UK here

What’s your fave non-fiction read?

Rachel xIMG_0351.JPG

Weekenders in Cornwall

I recently hopped over to Cornwall for a long weekend and visited Crantock, danced at the Great Estate Festival and stayed at the gorgeous Artists Residence Hotel in Penzance.

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Crantock was breathtakingly beautiful, so vast and the sand was so soft to walk on. We went for a wander, picked up some beach treasure then ate lunch at the C- Bay Cafe which overlooks Crantock Beach. The food was delicious, loads of choice and there are tables inside and out to sit and chill after a morning on the beach.

Take a look at it here

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I’m not usually a festival person but Great Estate Festival was worlds apart from mud and dodgy toilets! It’s described as a ‘rambunctious garden fete’ and it definitely lived up to the tagline! We put on sparkly makeup, ate at several pop-up foodie places and enjoyed a few drinkies at the secret gin garden! The music was great, the atmosphere was easy-going and there was plenty to do and look around at, or just relax and soak up the sun!

The tickets do sell out, and they’re already being snapped up for next year, so get in quick! You can take a look at the festival here

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Ah, the Artist Residence Hotel…I am in love! The one in Penzance is in a townhouse just set back from the quay by a couple of streets. It’s really easy to find and ideal for popping down to catch the Scillonian to the Isles of Scilly.

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We stayed in a cosy double with a wall mural stretching across half the room, quirky accessories and lovely toiletries. There’s also a coffee machine (big thumbs up from me) and a selection of tea.

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Breakfasts are served in the restaurant which looks out over the front of the townhouse and there’s a brilliant menu to choose from. I went for fresh orange juice and smashed avo with poached egg on toast, very scrummy.

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You can book a stay here at any of their 5 (yes 5!!) delightful hotels…highly recommended!

What are your favourite things to do on a weekend break?

RACHEL x

A New Blog!

Thanks for joining me! I decided to migrate to a new blog name. I realised that my content wasn’t just about reading, it was about so much more!

I’ll still be chatting all things bookish, including reviewing proofs for select publishers, gushing about my faves and all the brilliant new releases, but I’ll also be talking a bit about my own writing journey.

I love, love, love shopping, food and holidays, so I want to talk a bit about some of the places I go, the things I get to do, the things I get to eat and drink and all the lovely hauls!!

So take a look around, leave a comment and thanks for stopping by!

Rachel x

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The Best of April

This blog was looking a little sad and neglected during April, but I have been soooo busy!! I completed my WIP all about spies and sirens, revised it, revised it again, felt like chucking the whole damn thing off a cliff…then decided it was as ready as it ever would be.

So after weeks of wrangling with my laptop, trying to get ALL the words down and done, I’ve finally been able to get reading again. My pile of book proofs, debuts and new releases were giving me serious side eye, so I started to binge.

Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton

Has anyone read this? I felt like I had landed smack bang in the middle of England, the rural lanes, intermittent bus service, land lines and mobile phones was a breath of fresh air. I instantly clicked with the narrative, the characters could have been from my home town. The main character, Lily wakes up one Sunday morning on the side of the road. She’s not sure how she got there, she’s not sure why her bag, one purple converse and all her stuff is strewn around her. It’s a heartbreaking opening and so deftly explored from the POV of the protagonist because here’s the thing…she’s dead.

Lily doesn’t know what to do next. She finds herself tethered to her family, watching their agony play out before her eyes. But then she’s given a ‘once in a death-time opportunity…and has to make a decision.

What stood out for me about this book, aside from the characters seeming so real, the situation something that could be reported in any rural newspaper, in any given week, is that you know who dunnit. Pretty early on. How interesting is that?

Thank you to Hot Key books for the book proof, it’s out now and you can purchase it on amazon UK here

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The Electrical Venus by Julie Mayhew

Another gorgeous book proof from Hot Key books (thanks guys!) and the surreal opening instantly swept me into the storyline. Mim was sold off to the circus, a travelling band with a ramble of acts that tours the countryside, duping people out of their money and generally scraping by as they move from place to place. The tone perfectly matches the plot, Mim’s life is far from ordinary. Set in the eighteenth century, you can feel the struggle, the hardship and yet her beaming personality cuts through all the grime, sparkling on the page.

Mim realises her days may be numbered, she needs a new act, and fast. She enlists Alex’s help and together they work on something new, something daring. The chemistry between them is so very sweet, endearing and thoughtful. But then Dr Fox comes along and transforms Mim into the star act…all with an electric kiss.

This is such a fun, magical little read all with the slightly sinister undercurrent of what true poverty was in Georgian England. It’s available on Amazon UK here

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas

By now, I’m pretty invested in these characters. I want to know more about Azriel, I want to see what Mor is truly capable of. I want Nesta and Cassian to hook up (come on Nesta, get over yourself!) and for Elain to kick her ‘true mate’ to the curb and pick whoever she damn well pleases. Or no one, it’s her choice, isn’t it?

So when I saw this book was coming out, Maas describes it as a ‘novelette’ I wanted to read it before the next book came out. And it delivered what was promised…a sort of bridge between one trilogy and the next. It reads a bit like a fan fic, an exploration of the characters and what they get up to when they’re not fighting in a war.

It was an easy read, lots of dialogue to sink into but it definitely assumes that you’ve read the trilogy. So if you want to pick up a book by Maas, or if you’ve read ToG and want to explore this world, start at the beginning, read ACOTAR, ACOMAF and ACOWAR and you won’t be frowning and confused!

So yep, I haven’t read an awful lot. I have got addicted to The 100 though, and now I’d love to see a YA version of the first series. Can someone write this please??

Thanks again to Hot Key Books for the proofs!

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