Thursday, 29 January 2015

Beneath the Stain by Amy Lane - review and random thoughts



This review contains lots of swearing, randomness and may not make much sense. Read at your own risk.


Beneath the Stain fucking wrecked me. 
I know, I know, it's my own damn fault. I was wishing for a WOW book so hard for the past few months and I got it, and dear Lord, I'm a mess.
I love Amy Lane. I've read a lot of her books - not every single one of them yet, because, man, her backlist is massive - but a lot of them. Definitely the more famous ones. Keeping Promises Rock is one of my favourite series ever, although it didn't make me sob like this damn book. 
Anyway, what I want to say before I say anything else is that Amy Lane can write EPIC stories. Like, stories spanning over years and including many characters, and when you're done you feel like you've just stepped out of their world, and you know them. Like, know KNOW them. Like they're real people that you know-know. 
Which leads to the second important thing I need to say - everyone says Amy Lane is the queen of angst. But her angst is different. It's not angst created to sell books, to raise ratings or to make books more emotional. It's not angst that's added to a story to make people sympathise with the characters  and make them feel like dicks when they say they don't like the book. How can you not? The poor bastard's dad abused him, his girlfriend dumped him and he lost his right arm. How can you say you didn't like it??
No, I fucking didn't. Too much FORCED angst and drama just make me roll my eyes, give it 3 stars and move on, not remembering a single thing about the book in a couple of da...errr weeks. 
Amy Lane's angst is REAL. Yeah, I know. How can it be real when it's MADE UP and in a book? Well, it can. It feels like she's been walking behind the characters with a notebook and writing down what happens to them. It doesn't feel like she's been sitting in her writing chair creating evil plans for those people. You get me?
Nobody's life is JUST miserable. Nobody has ONLY bad things happening to them. There's also sweet moments and laughter and sometimes plain boring lazy weekends.
OK, back to the book.
Beneath the Stain made me cry. (I. Do. Not. Cry. At. Books. Well, I can count the times I've cried because of a book on one hand.) But it also made me laugh. And made me lose sleep for 2 days until I finished it. And made me think. Man, I don't like that. Not because I'm shallow or anything (although a few people may disagree), but because if I start thinking about stuff I can't change, I overthink it and blow it out of proportion and get lost in the feeling of doom in my head.
Beneath the Stain wasn't focused on Mackey and Trav, not entirely. There were lots of other people, each with their own problems, and I like that. Never did I feel like there were too many secondary storylines and too many characters - like I said, Amy Lane can do that to a book.
The book also made me angry. I HATE people like Grant. When I meet someone like him, I just wanna shake them and bang their head against the wall until they see sense. I wanna shout: "You can't live your life for anybody else, you stupid fucker. There's only one life you get and you can't put your own happiness, your own LIFE, second to everyone else's. It's not selfless, it's stupid. It's not honourable, it's fucking STUPID."
Grant made me see red. I do not understand his choices and I wanted to hate him so much, but how could I? He was the one that suffered most because of his stupid selfless ways.
*sigh*
*deep breaths*
What more can I say? It's my favourite book of Amy Lane's. It's brilliantly written, emotional, beautiful, funny, sexy, sad and infuriating all at the same time. I loved everything about it even when I hated it. And that my friends is true love.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Events and appearances

In 2015 I'll try to go to as many book events as possible. Here's a list with the events I've already booked and planned for:

If you're somewhere around these events, drop by to say hello. I'd love to meet you!

I'm also planning on going to GRL in San Diego, 14-18 October, but I haven't confirmed it yet. It's a huge decision since it's the furthest away and travel expenses will be way out of budget, but I'll do everything possible to attend this event.

Also, there's the fabulous event my friend Marc is organising in Munich, Germany, which coincides with the Dublin signing - 10-12 July. I'd already accepted the invitation to do the Dublin signing so I can't go to Munich, but it'll be fantastic and I'm urging everyone to go. Here's the website for more info on attending authors, speakers and entertainment all through the weekend: Euro Pride Con.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Queen and Adam Lambert LIVE - one of the best nights of my life!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to witness a musical phenomenon, and probably a once in a lifetime opportunity - Queen live in concert. And it was incredible!
Two hours of pure musical bliss. The sound was so clear, electrifying and hypnotising that the almost two and a half hours flew by as if mere two minutes.


When we arrived, the O2 Arena was already filling up to the brim. To our surprise, there was no supporting act and Queen went on stage at a little after 8pm.



At the sound of the first accords coming from Brian May's guitar, the nearly 20 000 people at the Arena erupted in one of the loudest cheers I've ever heard. When Adam Lambert's voice filled the huge hall, the crowd went ballistic.


And, man, can Adam sing! His voice is absolutely phenomenal! I knew he was good - I was a fan even before he started touring with Queen - but hearing him sing live was a whole other experience. I can't think of a better man to stand in for Freddie - Adam owns the stage with his voice, presence and charm, just like Freddie once did.




Adam's voice, along with his numerous costume changes, stole the show for me. Don't get me wrong - the music was flawless, and Roger Taylor's drums duel with his son was fantastic, but the moment Adam stepped off stage, you could feel it.



The show was quite emotional and I could see a few people tear up when the big screens projected Freddie's image, and he sang a few songs with the guys, as if he was actually there. Only he wasn't, and everyone knew it. Everyone was reminded of the genius, the showman Freddie Mercury was, and last night was all about celebrating that, even with a few tears in our eyes.




I'd like to say a huge thank you to the incredible musicians for the unforgettable evening they gave us, and wish them the best of luck with the rest of the tour. I'm sure they'll surpass everyone's expectations wherever they are in the world.
Oh, and Adam? I liked you before but now you've got a fan for life, mate.






Plans for 2015

I like making plans.
But at the same time, I realise they're PLANS. Which means, anything can happen and the plan may fall through.
Still, I need that reassurance that I'm not just drifting aimlessly through time, but I have some kind of a goal.
So, my plans for 2015 are:


  • Write 6 books. (Ambitions, right? LOL I agree! But I'm dead set on making this happen!)
  • Publish 4 books. (See previous bracketed comment)
  • Blog 2-3 times a week. Every week.
  • Go to as many book cons / author signings / book fairs as I can.
  • Read less, write more. (*sigh* I hate this! But, alas, I love reading so much that if I don't limit the time I'm spending reading, my writing time suffers)
  • Produce at least 2 more audio books. (Dance is such a success as an audio book that I decided to go ahead and make some more :D Mask is already in production)
  • I'll also try to sell foreign rights to some of my other books. In a Heartbeat is about to be released in Brazil any time now, and if I'm happy with sales figures, I'll try to get some of my other books translated and published in other countries.
That's pretty much it on a professional level. On a more personal level, I'm planning on being a YES person. You know, like the YES Man with Jim Carrey? I like spending time alone, and I don't really need anybody else, and that scares me sometimes. I spend way too much time in my own head and I need to get out of there once in a while before I go crazy.
So, I've decided to do stuff, go out even without a reason, meet people, TALK to people, and take every opportunity to widen my horizons - watch movies, read a wide variety of books, see art exhibitions, and so on. 
I'm planning to reinvent myself this year, stretching my comfort zone as much as I can and taking chances.
It's scary but it's also exciting, and I can't wait to see where 2015 will take me.

Friday, 16 January 2015

New book announcement

Cue the drum roll!

***drum roll****

My new book is called Piece by Piece and is about Sonnie and Riley who had a little cameo in Mask. It's a stand-alone novel - you don't have to read Dance or Mask to enjoy this book.
I'm aiming for late March 2015 release, but I'll announce more details as I have them.
For now, here's the beautiful cover, and a little snippet that inspired the title:


"You do realise he's broken, right?" Penn said as he folded his arms across his chest. "Damaged beyond repair." 
"I can put him back together," Sonnie replied. 
"Yeah? And how the hell are you going to do that when nobody succeeded in the past 10 years?" 
"Piece by piece."


Click on the cover to add it on Goodreads!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

I *heart* audio books

Last year I discovered audio books and fell in love with them. I had tried to listen to audio books a few years ago, but back then all that was available were badly produced classics and the latest bestsellers. Not my cup of tea, I'm afraid. So, after a few unsuccessful attempts to get into listening something I'd probably never read, I gave up, and promptly forgot about audio books as an option.
In February last year I saw a post in one of the Facebook groups I follow about one of my favourite series Cut&Run. The post claimed the audio books of the series were amazing and they'd listened to them countless times. I was intrigued, and after listening to the samples I loved the narration and bought all the books in the series.
And that moment changed my reading habits. Or rather, added to them.
I can only read when I have free time, and during the day that's not a lot. So I usually read only at night, and by bedtime my eyes are so tired from staring at the computer screen all day that I can only manage half an hour of reading at best.
But with audio books, I can listen while driving, cleaning, cooking, working out or browsing Facebook. I was actually looking forward to cleaning the house when I had an audio book on stand-by.
Looking at my Goodreads log for last year, I can see that I've listened to 77 audio books in 10 months. Wow. I can't believe the number is so huge. Didn't feel that way at all.
Audio books are becoming more and more popular, and, in my opinion, better quality. Now anyone can find something to pique their interest at Audible. There's a huge variety of genres and books on offer, and people can actually listen to the books they would read if they had the time.
That's wonderful news, not just for busy people, but for visually impaired people as well. Soon, everyone will be able to have their favourite book come to life as an audio book.
My love for audio books prompted me to produce my very own audio book for Dance. Listening to the words I've written read out loud by someone else was an excruciating experience. I never even read my books once I'm done with them. But I managed to get through the whole book somehow, and I loved the narrator's performance. I feel so lucky to have met the perfect narrator for my book on the very first try.



I truly believe that the right narrator can breathe new life into the words written on age and make the book so much better. Listening to an audio book is a completely different experience than reading, and I can understand it's not for everyone, but at least now there's a huge choice of audio books available and I'm pretty sure anyone can find something they like.
So, come on, give it a try!
Here's a list with some of the books I loved and can highly recommend:














Friday, 9 January 2015

Most anticipated books of 2015

... or at least the first quarter of the year :D

First off, I was supposed to write this post a couple of weeks ago and I'm already reading one of my most anticipated books of the year - Down and Dirty by Rhys Ford (out January 2). It's the 5th book in the Cole McGinnis mysteries and it's all about Bobby and Ichiro. I'm already half through it, and loving it.


Next, we have the final instalment in the Red Dirt Heart series by N.R.Walker (out January 9). I adore this series and I'm both super excited to read the final book, and super sad it's the FINAL book.





Rise and Fall, the 4th book in the THIRDS series by Charlie Cochet comes out on February 2nd and I can't wait to get my hands on it! Especially after the way Rack and Ruin ended!


And last, but definitelly not least, in March 2015 the very last Cut and Run book will be out! We're going to see the end of Ty and Zane's story and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I love Ty and Zane, they're one of my very favourite couples in book history, ever, and I'll be so sad to see the series end. At the same time, I can't wait to see how it all finally ends! But then, I'm super scared of the book itself because Ball and Chain, the previous book in the series, wasn't at all what I expected and it broke my heart.
*sigh*
I'm a total wreck over this book.
I'd love to show you the cover but, alas, Riptide Publishing have decided to withhold cover, title, blurb - everything - until release day. To be honest, that decision pissed me off big time, but it didn't stop me from preordering the book, in paperback and ebook, the moment it was available for preorder. And that's exactly what the publisher was counting on.


That's my list for the first quarter of the year. I'm sure more exciting books will pop up later on, so stay tuned for more recommendations.

What are your most anticipated books for the next few months? 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Favourite books of 2014

Better late than never, right? In no particular order, here's my favourite books of 2014:





I listened to the audio book version and I can safely say that if it hadn't been for Chris Patton's amazing narration, I'd have bashed my Kindle against the wall and stopped reading somewhere around book 3.
Now, don't get me wrong. For me Josh Lanyon is an amazing author and there's nothing wrong with the books, story-wise. I just hated Jake so much! Dear Lord, I can't remember ever hating a character so much. And I loved Adrien but hated him at the same time when he allowed himself to be pulled under Jake's destructive charm. It was a viscous circle, a rollercoaster ride that I'll never forget.
My favourite books of the series were the last 2 - Death of a Pirate King and The Dark Tide, and I was pleasantly surprised at the pace shift in the very last book, The Dark Tide. There was a massive gear change and I loved it. What was more, after hating Jake with passion for 4 books, I found myself rooting for him in book 5. How is that possible? Mr Lanyon, you're a wicked, evil person. I still love you, though ;) So much that the best Christmas present I've ever received came in the shape of 2 signed books.








Anyone who's ever talked books with me knows how much I love the In the Company of Shadows series. I read them last year and fell completely in love with the books. 
This year, the authors - Santino Hassel and Ais, decided to edit book 1 in the series, Evenfall, to a more manageable length, and publish some paperbacks. I was overjoyed! I'd give anything to have the whole series in paperback, and I guess Evenfall is a good place to start.
However, the awesome people that they are, Sonny and Ais decided to give the book a makeover, not just shorten it. There were added scenes, and re-worked scenes and a ton of bonus content. It was much shorter, though, but if that'll make more people read it I'm all for it. For those who aren't scared of the monster the first book is in its original form, I'd say go for it, and then read the DC. For me personally, Evenfall in its original form was fantastic. I've read it twice before I read the DC, and I grew protective over every single word in it. Seeing some of my favourite scenes cut in the DC version made my heart ache. I didn't love it any less, though. I was ecstatic to get more of this story in any shape or form.
(click on the cover to download all books for free)





This book is so incredible! It was such an intense, emotional journey and written so well that I went back and read all of Cara's other books - they're great as well, but Aftermath is definitely my favourite.




This book stole my heart from the very first page. I'm not usually into YA anymore, but I loved every second of this book. I didn't know there would be 2 more books in the series when I started - it doesn't end on a cliffhanger - and I was so happy when I found out I'd get more of the boys.
As an added bonus, I was lucky to meet Matthew at the UK Meet in Bristol and he's such a sweet guy! I definitely recommend reading this series, and not just because Matthew is cute ;)





I was a bit late to the party with this one. Hadn't read anything by JCP until that point, but when I found out she was going to be at the UK Meet in Bristol I decided I needed to get familiar with her work. After I finished the series, I started to wonder why I hadn't read them sooner. Yes, it's one of those books.
Loved everything about those books. I honestly can't think of anything bad to say. It's original, funny, addictive read and I'm positive any fans of the genre will love them, and, just like me, read anything else JCP has written.




OMG, these books!!! I adored them! So funny, and yet so action packed. The idea behind the story is very interesting, and trust me when I say this, you'll fall in love with the characters as soon as you start reading. I listened to the first 2 books - Hell&High Water and Blood&Thunder - as an audio books, and just finished reading book 3 Rack&Ruin. The audio books are fantastic, and I'm definitely buying Rack&Ruin on audio as soon as it's out.




Seems like in 2014 I discovered a lot of very popular authors. I must admit I don't usually go for the popular books. I get disappointed way too often and that's the reason I stopped reading in some particular genres. 
Let me just say that whatever book you pick by Rhys Ford you won't be disappointed. I also read the Sinners series by her and it was also great. But Cole and Jae.... The bastards made me love them even though I wasn't prepared to. 




Yep, another hugely popular author I discovered in 2014 all on my own. You'd think I live under a rock...
Anyway, Slide and Rare were amazing! I love books that don't have too much going on action-wise but manage to keep your interest throughout. These books are just like that, and I loved every sensual, tortured, intense word.




I've read several N.R.Walker books before RDH and loved every single one of them. But there's something about RDH that makes it so loveable you can't seem to be able to resist its pull. The setting was new to me - I've never read any book set in the Australian red dirt desert - and I enjoyed reading about a place I'd probably never visit. The charters seemed to real that by the end of book 3 I felt I knew them all. If you haven't read the series yet, you should! Especially when the last instalment comes out in 5 days!




This was my first book by Kim Fielding and I loved it. I wanted to read more by her and my head was spinning when I saw her huge back catalogue. Yes, another popular author I discovered in 2014. Seems to be the year for that.
Brute is a very unusual story. I loved it. Couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks. I read a lot and I'm not ashamed to say that just because I enjoy a book while I'm reading it, I usually forget all about it in a month or so. But there are certain books that I'll never forget, and Brute is definitely one of those books.



There are so many more books that I'd like to mention, but I'm afraid this post is way too long already. 2014 was great for me reading-wise and I read so many great books that it's been difficult enough to pick just a few. I'd like to mention The River Leith by Leta Blake, Complementary Colours by Adrienne Wilder, Dangerously Happy and Bad Things by Varian Krylov, the Better Than series by Lane Hayes, Return on Investment by Aleksandr Voinov and so, SO many more wonderful books I read last year. You can check out my Goodreads page for more recommendations.




Friday, 2 January 2015

2014 - Reflecting, Learning, Appreciating

Reflecting

2014 was... unpleasant. We got the devastating news that my father-in-law has last stage terminal brain tumour, and that news overshadowed everything else that happened last year. On a personal level, the year sucked. I'm not someone who likes to complain, and I rarely do it, and I always look for the silver lining, for that minuscule ray of hope to hang on to. But I found that especially hard to do last year. By the time December rolled around I was so done with 2014. I wanted it over, and I needed to kickstart a new stage in my life. I know the only difference between December 31 and January 1 is a day, an ordinary day, but physiologically I closed a chapter and began a new one.
On a professional level, 2014 was simply amazing. In January my muse took me to an entirely new adventure - I started writing in the MM Romance genre. It wasn't planned, but when inspiration strikes you need to follow it, especially if you've been blocked for the previous 6 months, unable to write a word.
In March 2014 I published my first MM romance book - Dance. I expected nothing. I wrote it simply because the story was screaming to get out. I was new to the genre, had no contacts or friends who read in it, and frankly thought the book will sell 100 copies and get kicked to the curb.



When exactly the opposite happened, I was shocked. Dance was selling so well that it managed to stay at the top of the Amazon charts for weeks. So many people read it, loved it, and made the effort to drop me a line and tell me how much they loved it. I was floating on cloud nine for weeks.
Things got a bit crazy after that - people urged me to write a book telling the story of Adam - a secondary character in Dance. So, despite not planning to write a series, I did. Mask was published in September and got a wonderful response from readers. Again. I felt incredibly lucky to have such loyal readers who tirelessly raved about my books, recommended them to their friends and supported me when I felt like I can't write another sentence. 



To say 'Thank You' to them the only way I knew how, I wrote a holiday novella about all four of my boys and published it in December in time for Christmas. That was a new first for me - I've always wanted to write a Christmas book and never managed. I wrote Dreaming of Snow only with the fans of Dance and Mask in mind. I knew what they wanted from my boys and I did my best to give it to them. It was very freeing to write about established, well-loved characters. I've never done it before - each of my books introduces a new couple and a whole set of new secondary characters and I'm always worried if people will connect with them. I had no such problems with Dreaming of Snow and I had so much fun writing it.



As a reader, I discovered the amazing world of audio books in 2014, and naturally, I wanted to turn one of my books into an audio book. I lucked out when the perfect narrator auditioned for the part and the Dance audio book project was well under way in the summer. Of course, like everything else last year, there were ups and downs, and then some more downs and less ups, but finally in December Dance audio book went live on Audible and iTunes just in time for the holidays. I'm absolutely in love with the book even though listening to my own writing being read by someone else was terrifying, and listening to the sex scenes was an excruciating experience. But I managed to finish listening to the whole book and thanked my luck for a thousandth time that it send the narrator Todd Smith my way.



Another great thing that happened to me as an author in 2014 was selling the foreign rights to my first series, Heartbeat, to a publisher in Brazil. It happened so out of the blue - they got in touch with me after reading my first book In a Heartbeat and loving it, and I've never even heard of Editora Charme before. Long story short, In a Heartbeat is scheduled for release in Portuguese in all big bookshops in Brazil in March 2015.



Learning

In 2014 I more than ever had to dig deep into my reserve of positivity and courage just to get by. What I learned is that life is short. Too short. We can't spend it worrying about the little things, or even the big things, and not fully live. Every single day can be our last and we need to make the most of it. It may sound corny but once you've faced the fragility of our existence first hand, you realise that corny crap is absolutely true.
I also learned that following you muse, your instinct and your heart eventually pays off. The road may be rocky and it's damn hard work, but when you do what your heart is screaming at you to do, you know you'll succeed, and what's more - you'll be content when you get there.

Appreciating

Last year it was hard for me to appreciate the things happening in my life. Sometimes it seemed like every good thing that happened was being buried under 10 bad things, and digging through all that pile of crap to get to the positive was tiring and got old very fast. But I needed something to hold on to, so I kept at it. I started appreciating the little things - a day out with my family, a hug from my kid, an unexpected compliment from a stranger, a good night's sleep. 
I also cut some toxic people out of my life. I'd rather spend time alone than be with someone who pretends to like me. And I'd rather be alone than be faced with negativity, shallow goals, backstabbing and irrational outlook on life.
I must say I thought it'd be much harder to do, but cutting loose someone who is bad for you is the best thing you can ever do.

Here's to a much better 2015! Cheers!