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Spotlight: The Benefits of Reading for Pleasure with Sophia McDougall

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Book Angel Booktopia is delighted to welcome Sophia McDougall today to share how reading for pleasure helped shape her childhood and inspired her career.

Image from Author Website

Image from Author Website

Author Sophia McDougall tells us how reading shaped her childhood and helped inspire her to write her exciting space-set, action-adventures Mars Evacuees and Space Hostages.

When I told people about the book I was writing – kids on Mars! A robot goldfish! Invisible aliens! – they would say: “Ooh, that sounds like a series.” “Shut up it does not,” I would reply, politely. I was pretty burned out after writing a trilogy of long books for adults. “If I ever show any signs of writing a series again – well, don’t shoot me, that would be going too far – but tie me to a chair and throw buckets of cold water over me.”

I really should have done that ice bucket challenge last year.

Mars Evacuees had been a long time in the works. I remember crouching beside the enormous slab of a hifi in my parents’ bedroom, aged nine, and preparing to compose the first draft as an audiobook. I’d already been making up stories for years – mostly about wizards and dragons and princesses – but this was going to be different. Using something that ran on electricity to tell a story seemed intriguingly modern, and this was going to be a story about the future.

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Google Images

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that as a child I lived for stories. When I read The Neverending Story and Bastian was seduced by the promise contained in the title alone, I shuddered with recognition. I would read almost anything repeatedly, and similarly, listen even to audiobooks I didn’t particularly like (such as What Katy Did) over and over again. Letting other worlds, other lives wash over me was enough. If they were good, if they took me to a world of dark woods and strange creatures and were spoken in a thrilling voice (I can still hear Ronald Pickup’s nerve-tingling delivery of the line ‘“Dawn take you all and be stone to you!‘ from The Hobbit) that was just a bonus.  At school, we’d been reading Goodnight Mr Tom, in which an abused young boy, Willy, is evacuated from blitz-torn London and blossoms under the care of a gruff old country widower. Rereading as an adult, it seems surprisingly harrowing for such young readers, but – are there any children that don’t? – I liked stories that took it for granted I could handle the tough stuff.  I’d enjoyed it so much I’d read it ahead of the class (and spoiled the death of a major character to everyone else) and gone on to read Back Home, also by Michelle Magorian, in which a young girl returned to England after five years as an evacuee in America.

I was fascinated by evacuees. I lived in the countryside myself, but I’d moved there from London at five years old – seeing everything through Willy’s eyes, but with a shadow of danger lying over everything, was strange and new. And the idea of being sent away to America was impossibly exotic to me – frightening, to be parted from your family, or to come home to find them barely recognisable. But also so exciting!   What if there was another war? I thought. An even bigger one? Where would you send children next?

I knew the answer from a beautiful, glossy book about the planets, full of captivating illustrations both of real objects and of the space stations and ships that might exist in the future. I’d learned that the planet Saturn’s density was so low that it would float in water, (I’d grieved for the fact that this would never actually happen), that Venus’s clouds could melt lead, and that the most similar planet to Earth was Mars.

My heroine was going to get bombed out of her house by a fighter plane of the future and she would be evacuated to Mars.

Unfortunately, I had no idea what would happened next and when I listened back to my work, I was  so put off by the quackiness of my own voice that I promptly gave up.

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

After writing those three books of adults I knew certain things about myself as a writer. I enjoy working on a large canvas – I like to have a whole world (or several) to play with, I like the stakes to be life or death and I like there to be Angst. I still wanted all those things, but I wanted something different too. Comedy, for one. And, after loving Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, I wanted to write in the first person.  And I wanted to do something for the kid I’d once been, crouched beside the hifi – the book she’d wanted all along.  There are many profound and emotional things I would say to my former self if I could – stuff about how it’s okay to be weird and that things will get better and that a lot of people actually already like her and that she should make a concerted effort to get onto the housing ladder on 2005, but on this issue, I would have to add, “Great idea, kid, but why have you left out the aliens and the jokes?”

As I wrote, I came to accept that everyone I told about it was right. This was a series. Mars Evacuees leaves the characters: Alice, Carl, Noel and Josephine, on the threshold of not one but thousands of new worlds. They’ve gone from a handful of scared victims to a team of child-adventurers – a kind of proto-version of the crew of the Enterprise: a pilot, a “space archaeologist”, a doctor, and a zoologist – and an occasionally petulant but well-meaning alien. What lies beyond Mars?  They wanted to know. I couldn’t let them down.

Then I saw Felix Baumgartner, the Australian skydiver, plunge to earth from the edge of space and I really, really wanted to do that to innocent children. Except that they wouldn’t have a parachute, just the overworked Goldfish, and they would be landing in a green alien sea full of floating red leaves and pink multi-legged wriggling things and then there would be a civilisation of aliens who were a bit like gibbons and a bit like fruitbats…
Mars Evacuees is starts with a kid who wants to go home, Space Hostages starts with a kid who wants to explore. If Mars Evacuees is about finding out who you want to be, Space Hostages is about the mistakes you make while working towards that, and it’s about what we owe to the worlds we grow into and the histories we inherit.

It’s also about bejewelled, imperialist, lobster romantic aliens, and what their sewage plants smell like.

And it features a weird bookish kid with messy hair and a collection of stones with holes in them who helps save the day.  I hope nine-year-old Sophia would have liked that.

Spotlight plus Give-Away: Wicked White by Michelle A Valentine

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Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: Wicked White
Author: Michelle A. Valentine
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Summary

After his mother dies, rock star Ace White—lead singer of the red-hot band Wicked White—is done with the celebrity game. The phony people, the meaningless one-night stands: he doesn’t want any of it anymore. Quitting in the middle of a sold-out tour, Ace sets out to find some place—any place—where he can be alone.

Aspiring singer Iris Easton’s life has never been easy. First, her mother walked out on her when she was a kid. Now she’s buried in debt, weeks after losing her beloved grandmother. When a mysterious and sexy new guy moves in next door, Iris can’t help but be drawn to his soulful gaze. She can tell there’s something from his past haunting him—something he’s not telling her.

Just as Ace starts falling for Iris, the media go on a worldwide hunt to find the missing rocker. Will true love conquer all, or will the truth be the very thing that tears the couple apart?

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Buy Link: Amazon

Wicked White Excerpt

Author Biography

Michelle A. Valentine is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Rock the Heart. Wicked White is the first novel in her Wicked White romance series. She attended college as a drafting and design major, but her love of people soon persuaded her to join the nursing field. It wasn’t until after the birth of her son that she began her love affair with romance novels, and she hasn’t looked back since. When she’s not writing, she feeds her music addiction, dabbles in party planning, and expresses herself by working with arts and crafts. She currently lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband, son, and two beloved dogs.

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Musical Moments: Song of the Month: July 2015: Chosen by Michelle A Valentine

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Book Angel Booktopias is delighted to welcome Michelle A Valentine today with this months Song of the Month to coincide with the publication of Wicked White.

Image from Author Website

Image from Author Website

ROOM TO BREATHE by You Me at Six

This song is on my WICKED WHITE playlist because the moment it blasted through my speakers I got goose bumps. It was like the main character of the story, Ace White, was singing to me, telling me about his story and how he felt so trapped by his fame. It hit so close to home that I could close my eyes and picture Ace with his long bronze hair, pouring his heart out on stage, singing this song to a sold-out crowd who didn’t understand this was his goodbye song to fame. It was like this song was made just for this book. Every time I hear this song, I immediately think of this book and how I felt when I was writing it.

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

After his mother dies, rock star Ace White—lead singer of the red-hot band Wicked White—is done with the celebrity game. The phony people, the meaningless one-night stands: he doesn’t want any of it anymore. Quitting in the middle of a sold-out tour, Ace sets out to find some place—any place—where he can be alone.

Aspiring singer Iris Easton’s life has never been easy. First, her mother walked out on her when she was a kid. Now she’s buried in debt, weeks after losing her beloved grandmother. When a mysterious and sexy new guy moves in next door, Iris can’t help but be drawn to his soulful gaze. She can tell there’s something from his past haunting him—something he’s not telling her.

Just as Ace starts falling for Iris, the media go on a worldwide hunt to find the missing rocker. Will true love conquer all, or will the truth be the very thing that tears the couple apart?

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Spotlight plus Give-Away: Searching for Always by Jennifer Probst

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Received from InkSlingerPR

Received from InkSlingerPR

SEARCHING FOR ALWAYS by Jennifer Probst
June 30th, 2015, Gallery Books
Adult Contemporary Romance

SEARCHING FOR ALWAYS Synopsis

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Jennifer Probst sparks a blissful mind-body connection as her “sexy, satisfying” (Kirkus Reviews) new series continues!

She’s an expert in helping others de-stress, but Arilyn Meadows is running on fumes. Along with her job counseling singles seeking soul mates at the Kinnections agency in Verily, New York, she’s a yoga teacher, animal shelter volunteer, anger management therapist, and helping hand to her beloved grandfather. No time to find Mr. Right—but after discovering her yogi boyfriend in a compromising asana, Arilyn would rather dog-sit for her honeymooning friend Kate than risk her heart on another downward dog. And when police officer Stone Petty—radiating masculinity and bad-boy attitude—is sent to her for mandatory lessons in cooling off when the job gets too hot, Arilyn vows to ignore his seductive glances and sexy grin. But there’s no halting their sizzling flirtation—a red-hot, high-speed chase that’s breaking all the limits.

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 BUY LINKS: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Kobo/iTunes

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Received from InkSlingerPR

Jennifer Probst –  Bio

Jennifer Probst wrote her first book at twelve years old. She bound it in a folder, read it to her classmates, and hasn’t stopped writing since. She took a short hiatus to get married, get pregnant, buy a house, get pregnant again, pursue a master’s in English Literature, and rescue two shelter dogs. Now she is writing again.

She makes her home in Upstate New York with the whole crew. Her sons keep her active, stressed, joyous, and sad her house will never be truly clean.
She is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of sexy and erotic contemporary romance. She was thrilled her book, The Marriage Bargain, was ranked #6 on Amazon’s Best Books for 2012. She loves hearing from readers. Visit her website for updates on new releases and her street team at www.jenniferprobst.com.

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Help pet rescue shelters by posting a picture of your rescued pet, or sharing your favorite shelter, and using the hashtag #SEARCHINGFORRESCUES. 4 shelters will get a $50 prize (winners choice) and 1 a grand prize winner will also get a prize pack from Jennifer Probst.

Received from InkSlingerPR

Received from InkSlingerPR

Review: Diamonds and Deceit by Leila Rasheed

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: Diamonds and Deceit
Series: At Somerton #2
Author: Leila Rasheed
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: Jan 2014
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

The London Season of 1913 is in full swing, and Rose has never felt more out of place. She can’t help but feel like a servant dressed up in diamonds and silk. Then she meets Alexander Ross, a young Scottish duke. Rose has heard all sorts of gossip about Alexander, but he alone treats her as a friend. Rose should know better than to give her heart to a man with a reputation, but it may already be too late.

Meanwhile, Ada’s also feeling miserable. She should be happy – she’s engaged to a handsome man who shares her political passions and has promised to support her education. So why does she feel hollow inside? She knows that without this marriage, her family will be ruined, but it seems that in matters of love, the Averley’s can only follow their hearts…

REVIEW BY MALI 8:6

Diamonds and Deceit is based in the early 19th century and is about higher class families of England. The third person narrative helps you relate to each of the characters individually.

All the characters have some sort of connection with all the other families. Even though there are a range of characters, the two main characters are sisters, Rose and Ada. Each with a complicated story about love and tragedy. Rose starts her life as a maid but the big step of being adopted by an earl is a struggle for Rose. Her world is turned upside down and she is finding it harder and harder to fit in. Ada, on the other hand, who is the earl’s daughter, has the opposite feeling. She has everything she could ever want yet something is missing. Her character changes throughout the book as she goes from a strong respectful character to someone who is a bit scared and more wary than she started off being; her thoughts and feelings are exaggerated as the book goes on. Rose, however, has more simple emotions than most people can relate to. The two sisters go through similar things but both have different endings. That is one of the things that really intrigued me when reading Diamonds and Deceit.

As well as the two main characters there are many background characters that have an impact on the story lines. Each family/character has a different story which in the end join together providing an effective completion to the plot as a whole. I like how the story swaps from house to house, from the eyes of the rich to the eyes of the servants. However, even though this does make the storyline different to any I have read before, because you are often switching places, you can get confused about where you are and who is living here.

Although, that is only the first few chapters, once you get into the book you can start to understand where everything is and where they fit into the plot.

The descriptions of the settings in the book were very clever. At the beginning they give you an image of what the houses look like in the outside to an ordinary person walking down the street, but as the book goes alone it starts to show you what the things are like inside the beautiful Manor House. Very slowly the writer shows how lonely, dark and isolated the Manor can be which you wouldn’t be able to see from the outside. I think it is very clever how it is done and it really helps with the storyline build.

My favourite part of book has to be at the end were all the families come together, and how it all combines to make one big story, as I mentioned earlier, as well as how all the drama builds and is revealed at the end. The ending was, in parts, completely unpredictable. The unpredictability of the plot added to my enjoyment of Diamonds and Deceit overall.

My favourite characters were Georgiana and Rose because each one I could relate to. I really liked their storylines and how different they were to all the others. Even though Georgiana’s description wasn’t as in depth as the others, it meant that I could imagine her myself which I really liked. I couldn’t really do that to Rose’s character but I really liked her story and the outcome.

After reading Diamonds and Deceit I would love to read another one of Leila Rasheed’s books. However, to tell the truth, I would have liked to seen Georgiana’s story to end differently just because I think she deserved a better ending after everything she had been through. I would recommend this book to anybody over the age of 12 because anybody younger will understand the story or what the plot. I think I enjoyed Diamonds and Deceit because I enjoy history, so if someone likes history, I would definitely recommend this book.