The Path Keeper: Q & A with N. J. Simmonds

The Path Keeper: Q & A with N. J. Simmonds

Today, I am bringing you a post that has never been done on the blog before so I am very excited to finally be able to do this. Welcome to my very first blog tour with N. J. Simmonds!

N. J. Simmonds is the writer of debut novel, The Path Keeper (releasing on the 28th May). It’s a tale of love and fate and features themes of reincarnation. Read the synopsis below to find out more about it, with links to pre-order it at the end of this post.

What if our lives were mapped out before birth? Does anyone have the power to change their destiny?

Ella hates London. She misses her old life in Spain and is struggling to get over her past—until she meets Zac. He’s always loved her but isn’t meant to be part of her story. Not this time. Not ever. Little does she know that his secret is the one thing that will tear them apart and force her to live in a world that no longer makes sense. A world full of danger, lies and magic.

The Path Keeper is a passionate tale of first loves, second chances and the invisible threads that bind us. Can love ever be stronger than fate?

As part of the blog tour, every post features a letter that spells out an answer. Stay tuned until the end of this post to get the letter!

So with that, let’s get onto the blog tour questions!

First of all, I wanted to ask what inspired you to write The Path Keeper?

What got me into writing a full book, and where the ideas came from, are two very different things. I started writing this series in 2012 (I always knew it would be a trilogy) when my children were 1 and 3. I was really sleep-deprived to the point of being seriously, mentally ill. Between them they had me up every hour or two for years and I was losing my mind. After a while I made the conscious decision to use that time to my advantage and began ‘writing’ a book in my head. While I fed the baby, or was up at 5am with Tellytubbies blaring in the background, or during the work commute, I escaped in my head until the entire book was formed. Then I took the leap of faith and began to write it down.

The concepts (the book has MANY themes) came from various experiences. Backpacking solo around Australia and dabbling in crystals, past life regressions and mediation influenced me. As did my teen years in London, going to a Catholic school and questioning my own beliefs, as well as looking at the many decisions I have taken in life and where they have led me.

The book has a lot of focus on time, fate and our paths already being laid out for us. Do you believe in fate and us all having a path set?

Yes, to some extent.

I’ve had a lot of shocked readers surprised by the ‘there’s no God’ element of the book, so to clarify I was brought up Catholic and this story isn’t 100% what I believe in – it just made more sense, when dealing with this story, past lives and fate, to take God out of the equation. But I have been heavily influenced by Buddhist countries I’ve visited, as well as practicing yoga and a few very strange things happening to me, that have made the idea of fate and destiny easier to believe.

One example is the fact I met my husband while in Australia. He missed two buses, the third one he got was the one I was on. We were both from the UK (London and Southampton) yet met on the other side of the world. Turned out his best friend was friends with my sister and I was in the same year at school as his uni roommate’s sister… even though we met in Australia we were already linked. THEN two years later my sister went traveling, met a British guy on a beach in Thailand, and they’re now married – this guy is friends with my husband’s friends. What are the chances of finding our husband’s on the other side of the world, yet all our paths had crossed previously?

Lots of things like this have happened to me, so yes – I think certain aspects of our lives are planned.

The Path Keeper mostly follows the characters Ella and Zac but we do see flashbacks of times before these characters. How did you find writing those scenes?

When I first started writing The Path Keeper I was very focused on the romance between the two main characters. Then, out of nowhere, Evie and Dolly popped up and I couldn’t let them go. I’d read about the Bank bombing during the Blitz and I wanted to link a WW2 romance with present day and show how our pasts and our futures all overlap. I absolutely loved writing their story and I became very maternal towards them, crying buckets through certain scenes.

I have no idea why I started writing in their voice, but it paid off as some readers say those characters are their favourite (although some American readers struggled with the old Cockney vernacular). Writing a story set in the past is easier in some ways, because you already have your frames of reference – but at the same time it’s harder as you have to get your facts straight. I spent weeks researching what taking shelter down in the Tube was like and the limitations older teens had back then.

As mentioned, we meet a couple of different characters throughout this book. Which character was your favourite to write?

Obviously Zac and Ella are close to my heart, but I do want to shake them both at times and tell them to get a grip! Strangely Margaret Montgomery-White was a great character to write as she’s so damaged and intriguing.

But my very favourite character of all is Luci – although you won’t meet her until books 2 and 3 (Son of Secrets is out May 2020). She’s a dangerous, passionate, seething jumble of maternal obsessive rage and wantonness that I’m yet to see in a book. People are either going to love or hate her, but then opinions of my books have always been very polarized!

The Path Keeper ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. Are you able to tell us what we can expect from the next book?

Yes, sorry about that! The sequel, Son of Secrets, will answer all the questions you are left wondering about: why the jewellery is so important and where it came from, who Zac’s mother is, whether Lily and Leo end up together and what happened to Sebastian. The book also goes back to two other past lives, including 5BC Tuscany in the Roman times where Zac and Ella first met, and 1613 Roermond in the Netherlands, the site of one of Europe’s biggest witch hunts. Book two is very feminist, more blood and less lust, although unfortunately it will also leave you with yet another huge question which book 3, Children of Shadows, will answer for you. Unlike some series, the books do work alone but ultimately the three together are one long story, so you won’t gather all the parts of the jigsaw until the end. I’ve been told The Path Keeper is one of those books that’s a totally different experience when read a second time.

What did you enjoy the most when writing The Path Keeper?

The escape. Writing this series helped me through a really tough time. The mind is such a wonderful thing that by focusing on something that doesn’t really exist, you can make reality easier to cope with. I also loved twisting and playing with traditional tropes and fables. A bit like what Dan Brown did with Da Vinci, or Neil Gaiman did with the London Underground, I wanted to do with angels and past lives. Take what we think we know, change it, and make it make sense in a weird way.

To follow my previous question, what was the hardest thing about writing The Path Keeper?

Being my first book, it wasn’t hard to write as it took four years and I was in no rush. The hardest part of this book was signing with a UK publisher, the book coming out in 2017, then leaving the publisher and re-launching it with a new publisher two years later to both the UK and US. The first time around I was naive, it got very little press, and those who read it loved it as they were all friends of friends. This time it’s had a much bigger push, the audience is younger and not just British, and the feedback has been really extreme one way or another. Not only is it hard to release your baby twice, but I’ve written three more books since this one so I’m so desperate to show the world what else I’ve been working on. Writing and coming up with ideas, for me, is a slog but a fun one – the stuff that happens once you’re signed and your book is in other people’s hands is the tough part.

I’m so excited about the new book I’m writing as it’s totally unrelated to this world –  although it is still a mix of fantasy, history and romance. Here’s a little teaser aesthetic:

What tips do you have for aspiring authors?

Read, read, and read. Read everything, even genres you don’t enjoy normally, and really analyse how your favourite writers do it. How do they create suspense, how do they flesh out characters, how do they manage flow and pacing and grab hold of your attention?

Don’t overthink about who you are writing for, what an agent is looking for or what the market needs right now – just write what you love. Write the book you would love to read. Don’t worry about getting it wrong, just get it down on papers.

Never stop learning. It doesn’t matter if you have a Phd in Creative Writing or have published ten books or have read every How To book out there – keep learning. Make friends with other writers, share tips and woes, join a class or attend a writing retreat, read books on writing and keep evolving. I still have so much more to learn, and I’m writing my 5thnovel.

Grow a thick skin and learn to accept ‘no’. You’ll get a lot of rejection in this industry, so you need to roll with the punches and not get offended or upset about it. Easier said than done.

And finally, never ever give up. Keep going. There’s no entry level requirement or cut off point for being a writer!

Finally, I wanted to ask what your favourite book is?

You can’t ask a writer that! I have at least fifty favourites for different reasons. I’m going to list the three that I have gone back to read more than once, and probably influenced the kinds of books I write now.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – That obsessive, fated, non-linear love story really hooked me. Her loss for him at the end and the way the book jumped about obviously influenced me when writing Zac and Ella’s love story. I adore this book. The film is OK, but the book is perfection.

Killing Me Softly by Nicci French – The instant attraction between them, and the way she overlooks all the warning signs, really drew me in. The scene where he licks his finger…well, read it and you’ll know, was just so extreme and I wanted that edge and damaging passion in my work. Don’t watch the film though, it’s so badly cast.

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – A disturbing, raw and honest book about motherhood, following your gut instincts (even though it’s against societal norms) and inherent evil. Plus it’s written in the second person, which is genius. This book really shook me up, which I loved.

As a bonus, my favourite YA fantasy romance authors and their books (because that’s the category of my own series) are Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology and Laini Taylors Strange the Dreamer duology. I’m a huge fan of their worlds and writing. So beautiful and clever.

Ultimately, much like these books, I want my own work to leave readers a little shaken, to make them question themselves and what they feel. Yes, escapism is good, but ultimately I want people to put my book down and think ‘whoa, what the hell was that about’ and start reading from the beginning again.

Thank you so much to Natali for coming on to the blog and answering my questions. It’s been really interesting to learn a bit more about the book and about the processes behind the writing of it!

You can pre-order a copy of The Path Keeper from Amazon and Book Depository now.

You’ve come to the end of this post and with that, you have earned your letter!

Make sure to check out the previous posts on this tour so far. You can find all of the posts at the blogs below.

 

 

 

WWW Wednesday || 22/5

WWW Wednesday || 22/5

WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted Taking on a World of Words that I thought would be fun to get involved with. It involves answering three WWW questions about recent reads.

I’ve passed on WWW Wednesday for a few weeks as I hadn’t finished a book since the Easter bank holiday weekend because I shamefully didn’t finish one book. Since then, I have finished 3 books, so I thought it was about time I brought this little feature back!


What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia and I am really enjoying it! I’m hoping to have it finished in the next day or two. That’s pretty realistic as I’m getting through it quite quickly!

What did you recently finish reading?

In the last two weeks, I’ve finished Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, the Penguins Classic Suffragettes book and Finale by Stephanie Garber. Both GoPaF and Finale have been great reads and Suffragettes was informative and interesting.

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently on holiday so I’ve brought a few books with me including my current read. I did a poll on twitter asking which of the three books I brought with me should I read first. Eliza and her Monsters just about won it with Romanov coming second and The Exact Opposite of Okay coming last. I’ll be picking up Romanov next, thanks to my poll!

What are you reading this week?

Behind the Blog: Ruby at Ruby’s Book Blog

Behind the Blog: Ruby at Ruby’s Book Blog

Behind the Blog is a regular feature where you and I can get to know the person behind the blog a little better!

This months blogger is Ruby from Rubys Books Blog! I’m super happy to have Ruby on the blog as she’s so lovely. Fun fact: me and Ruby actually live in the same city! We met at a Samantha Shannon signing back in 2017 and afterwards, we were chatting on Twitter and we ended up figuring out that we were both heading home to the same city. Since then, we’ve attended several book signings and meet ups together!

Hi! Introduce yourself – what’s your name? Where are you from?

Hi! My name is Ruby, as you can probably tell from my blog name. I was born and still live in the Midlands in England! I’m currently doing my A levels at college and I study English Literature, Classical Civilisation and Psychology.

Give us one fun fact about you!

This year, I start at a university in America! This is probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever done and I’m very nervous but also so excited. I’ll miss my bookshelves, but I’ll also have a Barnes and Noble on campus, which is pretty great!

When did you become a reader?

I’ve been a reader all my life. Before I could read myself, my parents read to me often as they’re also into reading. At primary school I used to look forward to reading time at school. It was at high school when I developed an even deeper love of reading when I started reading a lot of YA.

What made you decide to start a blog and stick with it?

I’ve had a bookstagram (@ruby.books) since 2015 which I loved running. However, I really wanted a place to post full reviews of everything I read without having to search on Goodreads. I also really liked the idea of book tags and just having somewhere to talk about whatever I wanted!

How would you describe your blog in 4 words?

Fantasy, Reviews, Books, LGBT.

Which of your posts are you most proud of or one that you wish had gotten a little more love?

I really loved making my Mythological Books Recommendations post! It’s a genre of books I love to read but I don’t see much about so I had lots of fun thinking about what would be best to include.

What tips would you give to someone looking to start a book blog?

I would just say to go for it! It might take you a little while to figure out what sort of posts you like to do, so just experiment. I started out primarily reviews, and I realised I enjoy writing TBRs and wrap ups but that isn’t for everyone.

What’s your favourite book/series?

This is such a difficult question! But I’d have to go classic and say The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. I love all of the Shadowhunters books, but TID is so nostalgic for me, I love the characters and it’s set in Victorian London!

Give us a book recommendation based on what you’ve read recently.

I recently read Radio Silence by Alice Oseman, which I loved! It follows Frances at the time in her life when she is thinking about university and figuring out what she wants to do in life. It was a really quick read and I related to it so much!

Outside of reading and blogging, what do you do in your spare time?

I love to write! I’m currently writing my second novel, and one day I hope to be a published author. I also enjoying watching Netflix and listening to music.

Are there any blogs that you’d recommend?

How can I choose? I would say Kate @ readingthroughinfinity.com, Connie @ conniereadsblog.wordpress.com and Judith @ chaininteraction.wordpress.com

 

 

 

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

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Title: The Devouring Gray

Author: Christine Lynn Herman

Pages: 389

Publisher: Titan Books

Published: 2019

Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review – Thanks, Titan Books!

Rating: ★★★.5


Branches and stones, daggers and bones,
They locked the Beast away.

After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.

Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray—a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.

Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.

The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities—before the Gray devours them all.


The Devouring Gray is a paranormal novel that follows four teens in a small town called Four Paths. The Beast is a dark legend in Four Paths and is starting to gain power, and fast. Mysterious things are happening in Four Paths and Violet, Harper, Isaac and Justin must figure out what is causing it.

I’ve been trying to write this review for a little while now and I’ve found that I’ve struggled with it. Why? I hear you ask. Well, it’s because I thought this book was just an ok read for me. I wasn’t blown away with it but I also didn’t not like it. I almost feel a little bit indifferent to it.

Thoughts

The Devouring Gray is a book that I was expecting to devour but that didn’t quite happen. As mentioned above, I felt that it was just an ok book. I did like reading it but that was it. The concept reminded me a little of The Raven Boys and Stranger Things, which I’m fairly sure it was compared to. Usually when books say ‘for fans of’, I don’t know how much to believe them but I can confirm that this one is definitely for fans of both of those things.

This book mainly follows the character of Violet who moves to Four Paths following the death of her older sister. Upon moving, she discovers the mysteries of Four Paths and that she comes from one of the four founding families.

The plot was quite easy to follow and whilst I wasn’t immediately gripped by it, I definitely did want to continue reading. I was intrigued by the monster in the Gray and the paranormal aspect of it. The Gray definitely reminded of the Upside Down in Stranger Things. It was definitely full of paranormal elements as well as superstition.

I think out of the four main characters, my favourite was probably Harper, closely followed by Isaac and Violet who I’d put at joint second. All of the characters are fighting their own battles within, as well as trying to protect Four Paths. These characters had flaws which is something I really liked about them because in this book, there is no ‘this person is our hero’. The characters are vulnerable but they’re also strong. I liked that Christine made her characters in that way so that they were more relatable.

I wasn’t a fan of any of the parents in this story. I found them frustrating and that they didn’t listen or value any of their children. Of course, that leads to scheming which was fairly vital to this story, but I thought it was worth mentioning that the parents in this book are fairly annoying. Other than the parents of the main characters and the main characters themselves, I didn’t really feel like there was much interaction with any other characters in this book. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but then the characters felt very contained within themselves and their group.

I liked Christine’s writing and felt that it suited the book quite well although I did think that the pacing of it was a little bit on the slow side. Although, it started to really pick up in the last 110 pages as things started to fall into place. I definitely think that those last 110 pages saved this book and made it more of a 3.5 star read for me rather than just a 3 star read.

Final Thoughts

I liked The Devouring Gray but after a month, I just feel a little indifferent to it. It was in no way bad as I did like it and the last 100 pages were a lot more fast paced but I just liked it. I didn’t love it and I definitely didn’t hate it, I just feel pretty ok about it. I feel guilty for writing such a short review, but I felt like there wasn’t that much for me to actually say about this book.

5 Reasons to Read the Caraval series

5 Reasons to Read the Caraval series

It’s absolutely no secret that the Caraval series by Stephanie Garber is one of my favourites to exist. I had been eagerly anticipating Caraval ever since I saw it being handed out at BEA 2016 (via twitter, of course I didn’t go). I waited patiently but when it arrived in the January 2017 Fairyloot, I basically devoured it and LOVED it, just as predicted. I was extremely lucky to receive an ARC of Legendary thanks to the team at Hodder and basically gulped it down. It was lovely to dive back into the series and be with all of the characters again. That’s just one of the many reasons I’m looking forward to reading Finale, despite it being the end.

To celebrate the release of the final book in the series, Finale, I decided that I would present to you 5 reasons to read the series in the hopes it’ll either give you the nudge to start these books or push you to read the next book in the series.

1. The Characters – The characters are one of the biggest draws for me to this series. I think every character is unique in this story and because of that, I find it difficult to pick a favourite character because I have different reasons for why I like them! I think the main characters, Scarlett and Tella are fairly realistic. They’re vulnerable and they do make mistakes but I like that about them.

2. The Magic – Of course, these books would have to feature magic because Caraval is magical! One of the first things I fell in love with when I read this series was the magic. It’s quite significant to these books as it’s always there. Caraval is surrounded by magic and I just love seeing it come to life in these books.

3. The Settings – I love the magical settings in these books as I think they really make the book come to life. All three books include a map which is so helpful as you can follow the characters and because it helps to imagine the settings more vividly. Caraval and Legendary are both set somewhere different but the game element of Caraval is key in both. I think the settings are part of what makes these books so magical.

4. The Mystery and Intrigue – The whole game of Caraval is a mystery up until the end. That’s what’s so intriguing about these books because you want to find out how the game will end. The magic and illusions of Caraval help to make this book so mysterious but you shouldn’t get too caught up in it, otherwise you may lose your head!

5. The Series is Over – While it does pain me to say that the series is over, it does mean that you now have the perfect reason to read them because all of the books are released. You know what that calls for? A READING MARATHONNNN!

Bonus reason: Not only is Stephanie a wonderful author but she’s also such a lovely person and she really deserves the support of the book community!

I hope you guys enjoyed this post. If you think of any extra reasons for why people should read this wonderful series, please leave them in the comments to encourage others to embark on the journey of Caraval!

Remember…it’s only a game.

April 2019 || Wrap Up

April 2019 || Wrap Up

April has been an interesting month. I started a new job on the 1st so have been fairly busy with that. The bonus to it is that I get an hour for my lunch break meaning that I get a bit of time to read in the day now! I also (very badly) hosted #ARCAttack and attended a book signing for Alice Oseman and Lauren James.I’ve also started running a bit more this month, so I’ve been busy with that. Special mention also goes to Taylor Swift who released her new song ME! which I got up super early for to see the video go live!

Other than general life things, I’ve had decent reading month. I’m heading closer an closer to my Goodreads goal of 30 books which I’m pretty happy about. Now that the YALC 2019 line up has been announced, I’m going to start planning which books I need to read for that. I don’t have as many authors to see as I expected so I’ll be making my way through that list in June and July.

Monthly reading total: 6 ||  Books this year: 19/30

Books Read:

  1. Paper Girls Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan
  2. The Devouring Grey by Christine Lynn Herman
  3. Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
  4. The Path Keeper by N. J. Simmonds
  5. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
  6. The Paper and Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

I had a fairly decent reading month in April, but still didn’t read as much as I was hoping for! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get a similar amount (or more) reading done in May seeing as we have two bank holidays and I’m also going on holiday for a week down South.

Reading Goals for Last Month:

My reading goals for April can be found at my #ARCAttack post here. I’ll be posting a more detailed post about how my TBR progress went soon.

April TBR:

  1. Finale by Stephanie Garber
  2. Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan – I’m part way through this so definitely want to get it finished.
  3. Romanov by Nadine Brandes
  4. The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
  5. Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

What was your favourite read this month? What books are on your TBR for May?

Organising my goodreads

With just under 250 books currently on my TBR, I am in definite need of organisation when it comes to my bookshelves.

I wrote a post not long after I started my blog in 2017 about how I organise my Goodreads and while a lot of it hasn’t changed, I wanted to give an updated post based on how I organise my books on Goodreads in case anyone is looking for ideas.

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So first off, I wanted to talk about my Currently Reading shelf. I always track my current reads on Goodreads. I just love seeing my progress through a book and I make sure to update whenever I’ve finished a reading session.

It’s a fairly self explanatory shelf. I try not to put too much on it as seeing too many books on this shelf starts to stress me out and that leads to a slump.

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 21.48.58Next up is the reading challenge. This is my fifth consecutive year of Goodreads challenges. I enjoy seeing how far ahead I am in my challenge. It does push me to finish more books, especially if I am ahead of schedule. 

 

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Here’s my first shelf. I like that Goodreads shows you the most recently added books to your Want to Read shelf. I feel like mine is always changing what with adding books to it and reading books from it.

This shelf only has the books that I own. I have a separate shelf for any books that I want to read but don’t own.

 

So these are my shelves. As you can see, I don’t have that many shelves and a couple of them are historic. I’ve personally found that I use Goodreads much more efficiently with less shelves. I used to have a lot more than this, but I just found my page so bogged down with shelves. I realised that I only really used four shelves so because of that, I significantly cut down and it has worked out well for me.

The shelves that I do use are:

  • Want to Read – As shown above.
  • Currently Reading – As shown above.
  • Read – This shelf is self explanatory, this is where the books that I have read are shelved (Just a side note, I am really happy that my Read shelf finally has more books on it than my Want to Read which means my TBR is getting shorter, yay).
  • Wishlist – This shelf includes all books that I don’t own but want to read. I find it much easier to manage the books on my TBR by having two separate shelves rather than having the books I want to read that I own and don’t own all on one shelf.

For 2019, I made a 2019 TBR. This is the first time I have ever made a TBR shelf for a year. I created this shelf so that I can look at it at the end of the year and see how many books off this shelf I have actually read. I added plenty of books to it (over my Goodreads goal for the year) to give myself options as I have a habit of not sticking to TBRs. I either need lots of books on it or 2-3 books so that I give myself lots of choice.

So that’s my Goodreads organisation. I hope that it’s been helpful post or just good to read if you wanted to have a nose at how I organise my shelves. I’d love to hear about how you all organise your Goodreads page or if you have any tips, it’d be great for you to share them here so others can benefit from them!