First Chapter Feels: A Different Time by Michael K. Hill

 

 

 

Title: A Different Time

Author: Michael K. Hill

Pages: 197

Publisher: Tangent Press

Published: 2019

Source: Early Copy (Thanks to TheWriteReads)


Keith Nolan falls in love with a remarkable young woman from the past, talking to him on a home video she recorded in 1989. To keep their conversation going, he must find more of her tapes—while forces work against them both, and time is running out.


First Chapter Feels is something new to this blog that I thought I would introduce on the blog tour for A Different Time by Michael K. Hill, hosted by The Write Reads. I wanted to do something a little different for this blog tour and this post was what came to mind.

From the synopsis, this sounds like an interesting book that I believe would appeal to perhaps more adult audiences. It’s a short book so it can easily be read in a few hours.

The prologue and first chapter heavily revolve around comic books. The prologue establishes that our main character, Keith, has had a love of comic books from a young age. The first chapter shows that many years later, Keith is still into comic books, but has a more important reason to be completing a specific collection.

When we meet Keith later in this book, he has obviously grown older and is now at the age of 22. When we meet him again, he is on the look out for comics when he stumbles across an old video tape. At this point, we know nothing about the old video tape or what it might contain and Keith promptly forgets about it after making a considerable important purchase.

Both the prologue and first chapter are quite short, which is understandable, given that this book is just under 200 pages. As I said before, this book does sound quite interesting and after reading the first chapter, I am intrigued to find out more about what is on the tape.

Would I carry on with this book? Based on the first chapter, I think that this book definitely makes the reader interested in discovering more information about what this tape contains and what with it being so short, it would suggest that this book is relatively fast paced.

What do you think about First Chapter Feels? Do you believe that you can get an idea for how a book will be paced or how it may end from the first chapter? Or do you need to read a few chapters to settle in?

Make sure you check out all of the other blog posts on this ultimate blog tour hosted by The Write Reads, who you should definitely check out should you have a blog!

Review: The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Review: The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

 

Title: The Kingdom

Author: Jess Rothenberg

Pages: 352

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Published: 2019

Source: ARC (I received a copy from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review)

Rating: ★★★


The Kingdom is a place where technology helps dreams come to life. Formerly extinct species roam the park, and twelve beautiful ‘Fantasists’ – half-human, half-android princesses – entertain visitors and make wishes come true. But this fairytale ends in murder, and now Ana, one of the twelve Fantasists, is in the dock after finding herself experiencing emotions and romantic feelings against all her programming . . .
Told through court testimony, interrogation records, film footage, eye-witness accounts and fragmented flashbacks.

You may think you’ve heard of The Kingdom before, well you probably have but it’s wearing a different cover. The US edition and the UK edition do have different covers that are quite different to each other. The US edition looks fairly different, as you can see.

I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t have much of an idea of what The Kingdom was about prior to reading it other than what I got from the blurb. What intrigued me was the fact that the plot is told via various methods with court testimonies, interrogation records and flashbacks being the main methods used. I find books that are set out this way to be fairly quick but also that they keep you guessing!

Thoughts

In this book, we follow Princess Ana who is a Fantasist which means she is half-human, half-cyborg. It follows her mostly through the flashbacks that make up the majority of this book. As already mentioned, the book is also told via court testimonies and interrogation records as there has been a murder. Through these different ways of story telling, we find out a lot of information about The Kingdom itself and it’s Fantasists.

This book hasn’t had a big hype around it but I definitely feel like all the reviews I have seen of it have been really positive, so I was a little disappointed to find that I just didn’t love it the same. However, I do think that’s more me than the book itself. Sci-fi isn’t usually a genre that I read that much of, especially books that are set in Space or books set in a very technological future which is the section of Sci-fi I would definitely group this book into.

The writing of this book was interesting. As mentioned a few times now, it’s told via various different methods and that made it quite a quick read. I think my favourite parts of the book to read were the court testimonies and interrogation records. I did also like the flashback scenes because they offered more information but I did find some of them to read a little bit slow at times. The writing was quite easy to read though and the pacing was fairly consistent through most of the flashback scenes. Of course, the shorter interrogation records and court testimonies read much faster.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t really connect with the characters of this book. It’s odd because I felt like the characters weren’t really human at all, what with the fact that they definitely felt more programmable rather than capable of feeling things. Although, I did feel like the systems started to get overridden over the course of the book. I guess the thing is, I didn’t really care all that much for Ana, the main character. Throughout this book, she is learning new things about the world all the time, despite never having seen it. Some of her sisters are also the same, what with learning the truth about a world that they have never been able to see. It was interesting to see the characters learn about things, but at the same time, I did just feel like I didn’t really care about the characters all that much.

The world was quite easy to get to grips with. The Kingdom, to me, was a more futuristic version of Disney World, what with a Castle and the monorail, it was definitely giving me Disney vibes and so because of that, I found it quite easy to imagine the setting. Because I had his image in my head, I did like the world because I do like Disney World. The setting is quite important to the story because it is where the majority of the book takes place, save for the court and interrogation sessions.

The themes of this book are quite clearly technology and how it could advance, but also the uglier side to it and the humans that create it. This book does show both the good things that could come of it and the bad. It’s interesting in that respect because The Kingdom is something that could realistically become a reality in our ever-changing and ever-growing, technological world.

Final Thoughts

I’m still not sure The Kingdom was quite the book for me, but I know that lots of people have really enjoyed this book and so I know that the book isn’t really the issue, it’s just that it’s not really my kind of thing. I would recommend it if you are into Disney and books with futuristic vibes as this definitely has both of those.

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.