Update Your Kindle… or else!

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This may be of interest to others like me who have an older device… I haven’t yet had any notice from Amazon that I need to update my ereader, but I shall definitely be checking up to see if I need to!

The eBook Evangelist

Kindle 1If you have a older, pre-2012 Kindle that you haven’t updated recently, Amazon is letting customers know that it’s time to do something about that.

This morning, I received an email from Amazon reminding me that I have devices that need to be updated.  Now I am being told that unless I update them, I will no longer be able to “continue downloading e-books and using Kindle services.”

According to the email,

If you do not update the devices’ software by March 22, 2016, you will no longer be able to access Kindle services or get the update via Wi-Fi or a wireless connection. To resume access, you will need to manually update the software on each of your Kindle devices.

Note that you WILL still be able to update your Kindle after that date. You will just need to manually download and install the update.

The frustrating thing about the email is that it…

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* The Tiger and the Wolf – Echoes of the Fall: Book 1 by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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I have met Adrian at a number of Fantasycons and as well as being a gifted and intelligent writer, he is also a really nice man. He is also on something of a roll – 2015 saw the publication of his acclaimed magic and musket standalone book, Guns of the Dawn, which is right at the top of this year’s TBR list, as well as his awesome science fiction trendsetter Children of Time – see my review here.

thetigerandthewolfI was also privileged to hear Adrian read an extract of The Tiger and the Wolf at last year’s Fantasycon and loved it. Would the book fulfil its promise?

In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming. Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She can’t disown half her soul, so escapes – with the killer, Broken Axe, in pursuit.

This epic fantasy is set in a wonderful world, where humans are shapeshifters according to the tribe they’ve been born into. But Maniye’s father had captured and raped her Tiger Queen mother and after Maniye was born, had her murdered by Broken Axe. Maniye has spent her childhood shunned by the other children in the Wolf clan, who sense the Tiger within her. While she has been constantly harried and beaten by the clan Elders for her difference.

When matters finally come to head as Maniye’s father puts in place the next part of his long-term plan, using his half-cast daughter as a pawn in bringing the remnants of the Tiger clan under the rule of the Wolves, she flees. And this action-packed coming-of-age adventure is all about what befalls Maniye as she desperately tries to work out her own destiny within the Crown-of-the-World – the sprawling northern wilderness intersected by a network of rivers, marshlands and forests, all divided within the various clan tribes.

As with his Shadow of the Apt fantasy, Tchaikovsky has woven a richly textured world, brimming with difference and complexity. I love Maniye’s dogged determination and the entirely plausible way in which her desperate rebellion against her father’s wishes acts as a catalyst. As she flees, she sets in motion a chain of events that undermines the current political structure, while she also encounters a rich cast of characters that also bounce off the page with their vividness. My personal favourites are the old Serpent priest, Hesprec and the grumpy slave, Venater, who is an unwilling visitor to this cold northern land as he accompanies his master on a vital mission from the south.

Another outstanding character is Broken Axe, the cold-blooded killing hand of Maniye’s ambitious father. It always raises the stakes when an antagonist is fully realised as a driven, clever character with his own agenda, other than to be ‘evil’. For no one is the baddie within his own lifestory, which is a concept Tchaikovsky thoroughly understands. I also love his trick of producing unintended consequences – it’s the narrative engine of his generational ship adventure, Children of Time – and while there are other major themes interweaving throughout this epic fantasy, Maniye’s story is a classic example of a plan gone awry. As for the climax – it’s a doozy. I stayed in bed far longer than I planned to find out what happened.

You may have gathered that I love this story and you’d be right. It soaked into my imagination such that I dreamt of the world and Maniye’s adventures, which doesn’t happen all that often. If your taste runs to well constructed, character-led epic fantasy, then track this one down. It’s worth it. My advance copy of the book came from Netgalley in return for an honest review.
10/10

Teaser Tuesday – 9th February 2016

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This is weekly meme, set upTeaserTuesdays-ADailyRhythm3-300x203 by Jenn over at A Daily Rhythm.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The City’s Son – Book 1 of the Skyscraper Throne by Tom Pollock
P. 3 The sun sits low over Battersea, its rays streaking the brickwork like warpaint as I pad through the railway tunnels. My prey can’t be far ahead now: there’s a bitter, burnt stench in the air, and every few yeards I find another chared bundle that used to be a rat.

thecity'ssonBLURB: Hidden under the surface of everyday London is a city of monsters and miracles, where wild train spririts stampede over the tracks and glass-skinned dancers with glowing veins light the streets. When a devastating betrayal drives her from her home, graffiti artist Beth Bradley stumbles into the secret city, where she finds Filius Viae, London’s ragged crown prince, just when he needs someone most. An ancient enemy has returned to the darkness under St Paul’s Cathedral, bent on reigniting a centuries-old war, and Beth and Fil find themselves in a desperate race through a bizarre urban wonderland, searching for a way to save the city they both love.

As you can see, I’ve only just started reading this one, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and am looking forward to getting stuck in!

* NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen – Book 16 of the Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

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I had resigned myself to no longer looking forward to reading yet another slice of this delightful world, so was thrilled when Himself announced last year that a new book was in the offing . So was all that anticipation worth the wait?

Three years after her famous husband’s death, Cordelia Vorkosigan, widowed Vicereine of Sergyar, stands ready to turn her life in a new direction. Oliver Jole, Admiral, Sergyar Fleet, finds himself caught up in up in her plans in ways he’d never imagined, bringing him to an unexpected crossroads in his career. Miles Vorkosigan, one of Emperor Gregor’s key investigators, this time despatches himself on a mission of inquiry into a mystery he never anticipated – his own mother.

Layout 1First of all, a bit of a rant… For reasons I’m unable to fathom, no publisher this side of the Atlantic handles Bujold’s work, so Brit fans have to acquire her print books from the US. As Himself always insists on getting the hardcover copy of Bujold’s books, we naturally pre-order them – but this time, we were let down. The book didn’t arrive until nearly a week after the day of publication, by which time, he went and bought the Kindle version, no longer able to bear the thought of a Bujold book out in the universe that he was unable to read. Why someone of Bujold’s stature is not published in this country other than on ebook, I’m unsure – but it is a pain.

So was the book worth the wait – and the extra expense? Oh yes… However, for those readers who have dipped in and out of this long-running series, I would add a note of caution. The Vorkosigan series is ground-breaking on all sorts of levels – and one of them is the way it slides across a variety of sub-genres. The books charting Miles’ adventures as a youngster are mostly space opera, action-packed adventures with a dollop of social commentary thrown in amongst the shooting and mayhem. However, there are several straight whodunits, such as Cryoburn and yet several more books in the series are far more about the social and political aspects of this complex, multi-layered world, with nothing much in the way of hardcore action. This book drops squarely into the last classification.

However, that didn’t stop me reading waaay later than I should have, to discover what happens next. I have always enjoyed Cordelia’s character – she is something of a personal heroine as she has led a fraught existence, first as Aral’s wife and then mother to Miles. This is the first book since Shards of Honor where Cordelia emerges from her roles as wife and mother and rebuilds her life, again.

This is also a book where we are brought up to date on how the newly colonised planet, Sergyer, is emerging from its dark past, with all the challenges that poses. One of Bujold’s most famous gismos, the uterine replicator once more takes centre stage as one of the main characters is considering whether, after a lifetime of military service, to produce a family as a retirement project. It turns out, a steady trickle of ex-military personnel of all three genders, decide that raising a family is a suitable pastime for their retirement.

I also enjoyed the fact this book isn’t all about teenagers or young twenty-somethings, but about characters who are much older with a lifetime of adventure and life events, both good and bad, behind them. The emotional tenor of this book reflects that maturity. I appreciated characters who bring to bear a wealth of experience to the events that unfold around them, often with a certain wry detachment that runs through this book. While there isn’t the hilarious farcical humour of A Civil Campaign and Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, I found myself grinning and having a quiet laugh at this comedy of manners.

This book also gives us another view of Miles, and not necessarily a completely flattering one. But that is okay with me – Bujold has never shrunk from showing us Miles’ flaws, along with his amazing fortitude, courage and desperate desire to do the right thing, no matter what. All in all, this book, one more, reminds me of why Bujold is regarded as one of the most interesting and nuanced writers of speculative fiction alive today – and if you like your science fiction to be about more than space battles and robots, then track down this thoughtful, intelligent addition to the canon.
10/10

10 Interesting Facts about Libraries and Librarians

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10 Interesting Facts about Libraries and Librarians

Once more a gem of an article from About Interesting Literature – this time on libraries – yay! I’d love to hear about your favourite library, and why…

Interesting Literature

Great facts about famous libraries and librarians around the world

We thought it was about time we saluted that noble institution, the library, with some of our favourite interesting bits of trivia about libraries and librarians.

Jacob Grimm, Philip Larkin, Casanova, David Hume, Jorge Luis Borges, and Lewis Carroll all worked as librarians.

Another word for a librarian is ‘bibliothecar’.

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20 16 Discovery Challenge – January

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After reading Joanne Hall’s post here, I decided to also take part in the Discovery Challenge – that of reading and reviewing at least two female authors new to me every month. So how did the year start?

The answer is – extremely well. Unsustainably well, if the truth be known… During January I read and reviewed FOUR books by women authors I hadn’t previously encountered…

The Puppet Boy of Warsaw by Eva Weaver
This book was buried near the bottom of my teetering TBR pile for longer than I care to think – but I’m trying to clear the books I know I still want to read and review from… way back when.

thepuppetboyWhen his grandfather dies, Mika inherits his great coat – and its treasure trove of secrets. In one hidden pocket, he discovers the puppet prince. Soon, Mika is performing puppet shows in even the darkest, most cramped corners of the ghetto, bringing cheer to those who have lost their families, those who are ill and those who are afraid for their future – until he is stopped by a German soldier and forced into a double life of danger and secrecy.

This is an interesting read – for me, the standout aspect was that unlike so many tales set in WWII, the story continues after the war, charting the devastating effects of what happened on the protagonists, which gave it a more realistic feel for me. Read my full review here.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Himself picked this up in Waterstones with some of his Christmas money, after reading the cover blurb – and I was very glad he did…

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his Truthwitchruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home. Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

This is fun. It starts with a bang as the two girls become entangled in a harebrained scheme of Safi’s that goes wrong – there’s nothing new in that, apparently. What is unusual is the scope of the disaster, which eventually has the girls on the run from their lives just as they were planning to strike out together. This is full-on adventure and the key relationship that powers the narrative drive in this story is the bond between the two girls, rather than the romantic entanglement – a pleasant change. This YA paranormal coming-of-age adventure is action-packed fun – see my review here.

Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
This much-anticipated debut novel is from a writer who got a lot of attention for her short story collection Battleborn, published in 2012.

GoldfamecitrusDesert sands have laid waste to the south-west of America. Las Vegas is buried. California – and anyone still there – is stranded. Any way out is severely restricted. But Luz and Ray are not leaving. They survive on water rations, black market fruit and each other’s need. Luz needs Ray, and Ray must be needed. But then they cross paths with a mysterious child, and the thirst for a better future begins. It’s said there’s a man on the edge of the Dune Sea. He leads a camp of believers. He can find water. Venturing into this dry heart of darkness, Luz thinks she has found their saviour. For the will to survive taps hidden powers; and the needed, and the needy, will exploit it.

This literary apocalyptic, near-future scenario is of a broken, desiccated California and two people struggling to fit into the tatters of civilisation. In places the writing is brilliant and extraordinary – but it is also uneven with erratic pacing and jarring viewpoint switches that leach a lot of the power and tension from the prose. See my full review here.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Book 1 from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
I picked up this book after blogging buddy and fellow writer Sara Letourneau particularly recommended it to me during one of our many chats about books. And when I saw the fabulous cover I was instantly smitten.daughterofsmokeandbone

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. One the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; one the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’. She has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

This coming-of-age fantasy offering puts an original spin on the angel-versus-demon conflict that I really enjoyed – to the extent that I’m in the process of tracking down the other two books in the trilogy. See my full review here.

All these authors are powerful, effective writers who have crafted engrossing, readable novels and I’m very glad that I have become aware of their work. Have you come across any female authors you hadn’t previously encountered, recently?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of the KINDLE Ebook Driven – An Otherworld Stories novella by Kelley Armstrong

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With this very popular werewolf series finally completed, Armstrong has been persuaded to offer those of us suffering from Clay and Elena withdrawal symptoms this novella to ease the pain…

DrivenCains are known for being big, brutish and not-too-bright. The mutt clan embodies all the supernatural world’s worst stereotypes about werewolves. But when young Davis Cain comes to the Pack for help, Alpha Elena Michaels can’t refuse him. However, Elena is also dealing with the Pack’s homegrown monster—Malcolm Danvers, onetime enforcer, full-time psycho, who suddenly appears and forces Elena to make one of the hardest decisions as Alpha. Will he be allowed back into the Pack, or has his past cruelty finally caught up with him?

That is an edited version of the rather chatty blurb in one of a series of novellas and short stories that Armstrong has written between the main novels of the series, designed for fans who want to see the character progression and some of the backstory that doesn’t make it into the main books. While I’m not a huge fan of short stories and short novellas, preferring the longer story arc and deeper characterisation that comes with novels, in this case, with 232 pages, I didn’t find it a problem. An important consideration is that I already know the main characters so well already, that some of the time normally taken to bond with protagonists and learn their strengths and weaknesses is not necessary. And I will stress, again, that Driven is designed for fans of the Otherworld series and not for readers who haven’t yet encountered any of the novels.

Himself ordered the Kindle ebook on its release in December, but the print copy that has only just been released comes with a series of illustrations which look fabulous. So… does the story deliver the goods? Oh yes – I loved this slice of Otherworld goodness. This is Armstrong back to her best, featuring Elena and Clay, the couple that – along with Paige – were always my favourites, anyway. And while this wrinkle isn’t wildly original, I like the way we see progression within the characters we have watched suffer through a thicket of adventures – and the emergence of a major antagonist who loomed over the series in his absence through exploring the damage he’d already inflicted on a number of protagonists.

All in all, this is a slick, enjoyable read and if you are a fan who’d appreciate revisiting the The Pack, then it is recommended. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure and you enjoy urban fantasy at its pacy best in a wide-ranging series whose popularity is well deserved – then track down Bitten, the first book in the series.
8/10

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Historical Settings I love!

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Another awesome offering by Lizzie Baldwin – her top 10 favourite historical settings… What are yours?

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Hellllllo readers, hope you’re well! I’ve been reallllly loving writing these posts for you and sharing all of my bookish-loves, and today’s really works for me because historical fiction is my favourite genre of fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I love most genre’s but this one, there’s something about it that I can’t help being drawn to. Today’s list is Top Ten Historical Settings You Love and I am so excited to share these with you – without delay let’s delve into history.

THE VICTORIAN ERA

Couldn’t really miss this one out could I? I tend to love alllllll books written around this time, ie Pre WW1. There’s something about this period that just speaks to me, tales of the Suffragette movement, the mass Labour movement, new unionism it all fascinates me.

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Fiction Set During World War One

As you can imagine if I love pre-war fiction pretty sure I love…

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Shoot for the Moon 2016 Challenge – January Roundup

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Mhairi Simpson, and I have set ourselves some crazy writing-related goals over the last several moonyears with variable results. But I have found the experience so very helpful in keeping my focus throughout the year, it was a no-brainer as to what I’d be doing as 2015 sputtered to a close in a flurry of fireworks. So what goals have I set for 2016?

• Publish the Sunblinded trilogy
As some of you know, I was all set to go with this target, having planned to release Running Out of Space in time for Fantasycon 2015 at the end of October – and fell at the last hurdle because I had major problems formatting the book to a suitable standard. And then was ill throughout November with a dreadful cold that would not lift – chiefly due to exhaustion.

However, my clever son has sorted out the formatting issues for me, so I’m hoping to have both Running Out of Space and Dying for Space released together in the first half of 2016, followed by the final book in the trilogy, Breathing Space, in the autumn. I have learnt my lesson, though. No spreading the word about release dates until I have everything set up and ready to go!
It was huge breakthrough to understand what went so wrong and why – not something I’m going to bore you with, seeing as it’s an arcane techie niggle. But it means I should not run into the same problems again!

• Write the first draft of Bloodless, my space opera crime novel, featuring Jezell Campo, my protagonist who features in The Sunblinded Trilogy
I have the plot outline sorted out and I’m going to have a go at writing this one, while editing Dying for Space and Breathing Space. It may not work as I’m the ultimate monotasker, but I won’t know until I try, will I?

• Complete Chaos in New Cluster
This is the novel my writing pal, Michael Griffiths, and I started in 2014. We still haven’t managed to finish it, but perhaps this will be the year when we can get it completed. It’s not a priority as we both have plenty else to be getting on with.

• Complete Picky Eaters
This is the novella that mushroomed from my short story, published at Every Day Fiction longer ago than I care to think. Another story that wouldn’t rest in my head until I completed the whole tale… While reading it to the grandchildren over the Christmas holidays, I realised there were another couple of plotpoints that needed tidying up, so I have it pencilled into my editing schedule during the summer when I’m not teaching, to have a go at getting it to a publishable standard. All being well, I intend to see if I can self-publish it at the start of December.

• Edit Miranda’s Tempest
This is one of the successes of last year. This novel has been burning a hole in my brain for the best part of a year, after I made a couple of false starts. When teaching The Tempest, I always felt that Miranda sailing off to marry Prince Ferdinand was never going to work – she’s been running around an enchanted island in her father’s cutdown robes since she was a toddler, which simply will not prepare her for surviving life as a 15th century Italian princess. And I finally managed to complete it while I was ill during November, given that I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t seem to concentrate on reading. I now need to knock it into shape so I can send it out to some agents.
I am working through it right now, as it still won’t leave me alone. I’m more than halfway through the manuscript and so far have lost 8 pages as I’m tightening it up and ensuring the language is appropriate for the Shakespearean period. It’s a balancing act to keep the feel of the language without too many forsooths and I prithees cluttering up the narrative drive…

• Submit Miranda’s Tempest and Unearthly Things Above
While submitting my work still happens in fits and starts, rather than the smoothly rolling process I’d planned in theory, it hadn’t been completely discouraging. A number of agents requested to see the full manuscript of Mantivore Dreams and said nice things about my writing. Meanwhile Netted is under consideration by a publisher. I don’t want to say more at this stage, but I plan to send out Miranda’s Tempest and Unearthly Things Above as soon as they are suitably shiny and good to go.

• Write at least 100 reviews for my blog
As 2015 was the second year in a row that I nailed this challenge, I’ve decided to fine-tune it. While I don’t want to extend the number of books I read and review, I am going to apply for more Netgalley ARCs and read and review more new releases. There is a real buzz about doing this – and as reading is my main hobby, increasing the excitement and fun can only be a good thing. I’ve also already signed up to the Discovery Challenge, thanks to Joanne Hall’s thoughtful post – read it here – which is to read and review at least one female author I haven’t read before per month, then report back in a specific blog, which should keep me on the ball…
I wrote 12 reviews during January, which came to just over 10,915 words. Half the books I completed were by authors I hadn’t previously read and five were new releases. I don’t think for a second that I shall be able to sustain those shiny stats – the slew of new releases were affordable due to Amazon vouchers and book tokens as Christmas gifts. But I am hoping to be able to continue to read and review at least two female authors new to me every month.

• Propose and plan Creative Writing courses for the academic year 2016/17
I have next year’s courses sorted out, but during the second half of the term I will be submitting them for approval to Northbrook College. I really would like to have the course notes and plans written by the end of the summer holidays, and so long as I work hard, that should be doable.
So far this term is going well – although a number of students have gone down with various bugs and illnesses and I’ll be glad when they have all recovered!

• Work on the teaching syllabus for TW
Since taking on teaching my friend’s son, County have given the go-ahead for the current situation to prevail. So we are now getting organised to start teaching him the English GCSE syllabus and I will be taking responsibility for the planning and delivery of both the English Language and Literature. This is hugely challenging – but also extremely exciting as only a few years ago, no one would have thought he would be in a position to consider taking such qualifications due to his autism.
This is, obviously, going to take priority as it becomes necessary.

• Continue to improve my fitness
I suffered a major back injury back in early 2005, which left me with ongoing sciatica that meant I was a constant visitor to the Physio. Doubtless spending hours in front of the computer aggravated the situation, but I found I couldn’t go on long walks, swim or spend an undue amount of time gardening. Then last year, Mhairi suggested I get a TENS machine to see if it would improve the nerve pain during yet another flare-up that was making my life a misery. It worked! Last June, I spent the day at Kew Gardens for my birthday treat, walking up the stairs in the Palm House and around the grounds without so much as a twinge.
I’ve now been signed off by the Physio and am on my second course of Pilates – yay! Himself and I have also started hiking again, albeit gently. But it’s marvellous – I feel I’ve got my life back. My ambition is to resume my regular swims, which I used to enjoy and increase the distance I can walk. And in case you’re wondering how this impacts my writing – it’s huge. I used to battle through the nerve pain to write, and now I don’t have to, it is such a wonderful relief…

Those are my 2016 Shoot for the Moon Challenges. Wish me luck!

Teaser Tuesday – 2nd February

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This is a weekly meme set up by Jenn at A Daily Rhythm.TeaserTuesdays-ADailyRhythm3-300x203

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Days of Blood and Starlight – Book 2 of  the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor

P. 60 She didn’t know why this part of the process unsettled her so much; she supposed it was the image of two creatures going off into the scree and only one coming back. She hadn’t seen the pit, and she hoped she never would, but some days she could smell it: a fug of decay that gave reality to what was usually remote.

daysofbloodandstarlightBLURB: Once upon a time an angel and a devil feel in love and dared to imagin a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was alike a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.