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Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015: My year in review

As always, 2015 will have been a wildly different year for every one of us. And as with every year, it will have brought a variety of things, some good, some bad, and some you're not quite sure about just yet.

It's impossible to forget some of the terrible things that have happened over the last year. But when things like these happen, it's important to remember the good as well as the bad.


Even if you have had a bad year, there must have been glimmers of good in there too. That's why I think it's important to remember all the good things that have happened over the past year. Whether it's big things like getting married or having a baby, or something as small as someone giving up their seat for you on the train, they're all important.

This year I've been fortunate to have had a good year. 2015 brought a lot of changes for me, but on the whole it's been pretty good.

These are just a few of the highlights from my year:

  • I graduated from university. Three years of hard work finally paid off!
  • I stopped putting it off and finally started driving lessons.
  • I saw my favourite band live, twice.
  • I completed my dissertation, and got a grade I was proud of for it.
  • I took part in my 3rd gishwhes.
  • I passed my driving theory test.
  • I went on holiday with my boyfriend for the first time.
  • I got an internship in the industry I hope to work in.
  • I became deputy editor of Kettle Magazine.
  • I was lucky enough to go to numerous gigs, shows and events.
  • I started my first 'real' job.
  • I completed (and surpassed) my goal of reading 50 books during the year.
  • I took on my first paid client as a professional editor.
  • I went to my first NFL American football game.
A photo posted by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on


As you can see, 2015 has been pretty good to me, and I hope you can say the same. Here's to 2016 - happy new year!

If you're reading this, take a moment to remember some of the best bits of your year. Then, why not share them in the comments below? I'd love to hear them! 

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Book Review: Traces Of Me by Tracy Kiss

Last Updated: 30 May 2021

Traces of Me by Tracy Kiss book cover

AD* | As April approaches her thirtieth birthday she finally meets the love of her life but it comes at a cost. Traces Of Me is an artisanal and honest open-hearted tongue-in-cheek account of finding true love in a world now overruled by beauty, social media and selfies.

From ugly duckling to elegant swan, infused with orgasms, arguments and endearment, this is a journey to captivate and consume men and women alike. Stir your soul and hold on tight for a modern day Bridget Jones meets Fifty Shades rendition that is not for the faint-hearted.

A tale to both bless and haunt you forever.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Book Review: Beyond The Rest Of Us by Andrew Man

Last Updated: 30 May 2021

Beyond the Rest of Us by Andrew Man book cover

AD* | Beyond The Rest Of Us is a thrilling journey of the contemporary human heart, intimate, magical, and subtly architected. A retired Swiss banker is kidnapped at a Geneva hotel for crimes he doesn't understand. An Italian cruise ship crashes into rocks in the Tyrrhenian Sea. A respected American scientist disappears into thin air. And a British secret agent follows a trail of corrupt power in this gripping third book featuring Andrew Man's ageing male protagonist James Pollack.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

10 tips to pass your driving theory test

driving-theory-test



















Learning to drive is a massive step towards becoming independent, so understandably it can be a stressful time, no matter how old you are when you take the test. The theory test is the first hurdle for learners so it can be a very nerve-wracking experience. But having been there and experienced it first-hand for myself, I thought I'd share some of my acquired knowledge with you. My driving theory test tips might just help you to overcome the hurdle you are facing and get you out on the road. Here are my top 10 tips to pass your theory test!
  1. Don't panic. Nerves are understandable, but getting worked up and being too nervous or anxious will only do you more harm than good. Being nervous can cause you to make stupid mistakes and forget even the most simple things you've spent days learning. Take deep breaths and focus on what you know. If you're in the right mindset you're guaranteed to give yourself a much bigger chance of success.
  2. Don't leave it until the last minute. If you leave it to the last minute and try to cram everything the night before, you won't remember anything. Plus you'll be overtired and you'll start to panic. See tip 1.
  3. Don't compare yourself to others. Who cares if your brother/sister/cousin/best friend passed with flying colours? Trying to live up to precedents set by other people only puts more pressure on you. It's not worth it.
  4. Check out where your chosen test centre is in advance, especially if you have to travel or it's in an area you're unfamiliar with. Make sure you know exactly where it is and how to get there. That way, you won't be late on the day and you won't get stressed trying to find the building 5 minutes before your test is due to start. 
  5. Ask your driving instructor any questions or things you're not sure about in advance. Don't be scared of asking seemingly obvious questions - it's their job to help you pass, after all!
  6. Make sure you know all the stats and numbers. Even if they seem boring or irrelevant, you still need to know them. Don't neglect the stopping distances!
  7. Use all the resources available to you. Study the highway code, use apps, websites and any special tools you can get access to. Do plenty of practice tests too. A few free sites I found useful were Top Tests theory and Theory Test Online.
  8. Get family members or friends to ask you questions and test your knowledge. Learning in different ways can help to reinforce what you know in your head. It will also prepare you for the test, as some of the questions are likely to be worded in a slightly ambiguous way to really test you.
  9. Don't neglect the hazard perception test. Don't be fooled into thinking it's easy; at the end of the day it still makes up half of your result. You'll really struggle to pass without practising the hazard perception side at all.
  10. Remember it's not the end of the world if you fail. You can always try again, and no-one will think any the worse of you if it comes to that. Good luck!
Have you passed your theory test? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Book Review & Giveaway (CLOSED): An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo

Last Updated: 28 May 2021

An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo book cover

AD* | The powerful new novel from the master storyteller - inspired by the true story of one man who might have stopped World War II.

1940. The train is under attacks from German fighters. In the darkness, sheltering in a railway tunnel, the stranger in the carriage with Barney and his mother tells them a story to pass the time.

And what a story. The story of a young man, a young soldier in the trenches of World War I who, on the spur of the moment, had done what he thought was the right thing.

It turned out to have been the worst mistake he ever could have made – a mistake he must put right before it is too late...

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Interview: Mia Hoddell

This week I'm participating in the blog tour for Not Enough by Mia Hoddell. As part of the tour, I've had the opportunity to interview the author. You can also read my review of the book here.

Mia Hoddell is the Amazon #1 bestselling author of books including The Seasons of Change series, False Finder, the Chequered Flag series (coming next year from Limitless Publishing) and now Not Enough. She lives in the UK with her family and two cats, and writes mainly YA and NA romance.

How did you first become interesting in writing?

I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been writing. I had my first poem published at the age of fourteen and after that I started to take things more seriously. I published my first novel at sixteen and since then I haven’t stopped. It was something I fell into and I realised quickly I loved it.

How do you get inspiration for your books?

I ask a lot of questions or I’m always observing things and thinking ‘what if’. There’s no exact way I get inspiration, it can come from anywhere, but the biggest thing I draw on is life. Sometimes themes hook me and I build on those, or a dream conjures an idea… anywhere something intrigues me there’s potential for ideas.

What draws you to writing romance?

I think it’s the escapism. Although there are struggles in most romantic novels, I like writing about people falling in love and getting their HEA. However, I will write in any genre as long as the idea intrigues me enough.

Tell me about Not Enough

Not Enough is a full-length standalone contemporary romance aimed at the Upper YA and NA markets. It’s an emotional novel about an introverted girl searching to find peace with who she is in a family of extroverts. The book deals with themes such as conflicting personalities, the consequences that come from society’s pressure to conform, and learning that it’s not worth changing who you are to please others.


What inspired you to write Not Enough?

I wanted to write a book introverts could relate to. Personality conflicts and not being afraid to be the real you are things I’ve always been interested in, and after speaking to many people in the book industry I found a lot of us shared similar experiences and thoughts. There's a common view in society that being an introvert is a bad thing and introverts should become more out-going. I wanted to challenge that view since not compromising who you are for the sake of others is something I strongly believe in.

What’s your writing process?

It really depends on what stage of the process I’m at. I write full-time so I tend to pick it up whenever the mood strikes me rather than have a structured day. Normally, I spend a few weeks planning and then once I’m writing I do a minimum of 3000 words a day until I’ve finished. That usually takes me a month and after that I start on edits and it goes to my betas, editors, etc.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Each book brings its own challenges so the hardest parts are always different. Sometimes they're emotional hurdles I need to get over, such as with Not Enough because I had to go to dark places to get inside Neve’s head. Other times they're research or character based challenges.

Which authors inspire you?

I look up to and admire all authors who started out as indies and have gone on to become traditionally published. That doesn’t mean I don’t admire others, these have just started off like me and made it work. To name a few: J.A Redmerski, Jennifer L Armentrout, Rachel Van Dyken, Colleen Hoover.


Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Don’t think things are going to happen overnight. Writing is a slow process and so is publishing. Take the time to develop your craft, learn about the industry, and get involved in the community. Most of all I’d say enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy what you’re writing it’ll be infinitely harder.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Dragonfly by Julia Golding. Her books were the ones that got me hooked on reading at the age of 14, and Dragonfly is one I find myself returning to constantly. It has a little bit of everything in it.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

It changes with the seasons. In the summer I love writing outside, but in the winter I have to be curled up somewhere warm and bright.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing? 

I’d like to do something creative. I also design book covers on the side so that’s probably what I’d do. I’m only 20 so I have plenty of time to change my mind.

What are you currently working on?

Back in September I signed my third contract with Limitless Publishing LLC for a new romance series called Chequered Flag. The books will be interconnected standalones that follow a group of racing drivers as they fight for love and the first book, Chameleon Soul, is releasing February 2nd 2016. I have also finished the first draft of the second book.

As well as that, on December 1st, I have a short story included in a mafia anthology titled Men of Mayhem. This is a prequel to another full-length novel I will be working on next year that will be a dark contemporary romance. It could be read as a standalone story, though.

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?

I prefer traditional books. Nothing can beat a paperback in my opinion. I love being able to hold, bend, and see the cover and pages. However, because I also review the majority of books I read are in ebook format. My bank account also prefers ebooks.

Having used both, do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing? 

They both have their benefits. I’m a bit of a control freak with work so self-publishing gives me full creative control. However, I’m slowly getting used to handing control over to my publisher and it’s nice to be able to just focus on writing my books while they do all of the bits I don’t like e.g formatting. Limitless have been great at including my ideas so far so that we get a product both of us are happy with.

What are you reading at the moment? 

I finish a book nearly every other day so by the time you read this I’ll have moved by quite a few books. However, at the moment I’m reading Rip by Rachel Van Dyken.

To find out more about Mia and her work, you can visit her blog, find her on Goodreads, or like her on Facebook

Have you read any of Mia's books? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Book Review & Giveaway (CLOSED): Not Enough by Mia Hoddell

Last Updated: 28 May 2021

Not Enough by Mia Hoddell book cover

AD* | Neve Colvin isn’t good enough. As an introvert, her life is a never-ending list of labels and criticism. Pressures to change come from everyone - including the one person she thought would love her unconditionally... her mother. All Neve wants is acceptance, but surrounded by extroverts it’s a wish that’s nearly impossible to fulfil.

For Neve there’s only one solution: anyone disapproving must go. Even if it means only one person will remain.

That person is her lifelong friend Blake Reynolds. He’s seen the fights with her mum, the breakdowns caused by attacks on her personality, and the battles for acceptance. Each time she is left shattered and questioning who she is, he’s the one to collect the pieces of her broken heart. Shielding her from the cruelty is his only concern. But how can he protect her when Neve is concealing a secret so dark?

Blake thinks he knows everything about her, and with their relationship developing, he assumes Neve trusts him fully. However, there is one memory Neve is too ashamed of to share. Revealing it will test Blake’s loyalty beyond what she could ever ask, and Blake is the only friend she can’t afford to lose. He’s the one person capable of dragging her from the darkness plaguing her, but with pressures to conform increasing, even Blake may not be enough to pull her back this time.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Book Review & Giveaway (CLOSED): The Person Controller by David Baddiel

Last Updated: 28 May 2021

The Person Controller by David Baddiel book cover

AD* | Fred and Ellie are twins. But not identical (because that's impossible for a boy and a girl). They do like all the same things, though. Especially video games. Which they are very good at. They aren't that good, however, at much else - like, for example, football, or dealing with the school bullies.

Then, they meet the Mystery Man, who sends them a video game controller, which doesn't look like any other controller they've ever seen. And it doesn't control any of their usual games. When the twins find out what it does control, though, it seems like the answer to all their problems. And the key to all their wildest dreams. At least it seems like that...

Monday, 9 November 2015

Gig Review: Imagine Dragons at The O2

When American rock band Imagine Dragons first announced details of their 2015 Smoke & Mirrors tour, I was gutted to miss out on tickets to one of the dates on the UK leg of the world tour. Luckily for me, as the first London show sold out, they added another date on the 4th November. Even luckier for me, I was right in there to grab tickets as soon as they went on sale.

Imagine Dragons are a band still riding on the success of their debut album. Night Visions, first released in 2012, propelled the boys to international fame. Since its release, the album has sold more than 2.5 million copies in the US alone, earning double platinum status. Their second album, Smoke & Mirrors, debuted at number one in both the UK and US, despite receiving somewhat less acclaim than Night Visions.


Smoke & Mirrors is more experimental than Night Visions, which was a lot more pop-rock focused. Experimental albums have a tendency to be loved by the artist and the critics, but hated by fans. Luckily for us, Smoke & Mirrors maintained enough of the sound that we love to make it a worthy follow-up album.

So, of course, along with many other fans, I was very interested to see how they transferred two massive albums into 90 minutes of live show.

Considering Imagine Dragons are primarily a rock band, you expect a loud gig. Lots of drums and guitars and headbanging fans are par for the course. Now, I'm usually more of a pop kind of girl, so without a doubt this was the loudest gig I've been to yet (if you don't count the ear-splittingly shrill screams of teenage girls at a boyband's show). Most of the crowd were standing, so it was quite nice to be in the seated section - still near the stage, but with a seat, room to breathe, and probably a better view.


The opening act were fellow rock band Sunset Sons. For a support slot they played quite a long set, which really helped get the crowd going. Although they resembled a bunch of long-haired Aussie surfers, I liked a couple of their songs. However, I don't think the backstage team had got the sound mixes right as lead singer Rory's voice was distorted and quite hard to distinguish. Still, I'm sure this wouldn't be a problem on the studio versions.

After a short wait, it was time for the main event. For once a band actually came on stage at the time they were meant to - so kudos to them for that!


Exploding onto the stage, which predictably was decked out with mirrors and smoke machines a-plenty, the band launched straight into their set. They played a mix of the biggest hits from Night Visions alongside, surprisingly, some of the lesser known tracks from Smoke & Mirrors. Some of the songs were performed as stripped-back versions which was nice to hear, yet others included the full sound you expect from Imagine Dragons.

Lead singer Dan Reynolds also did a quick solo cover of an excerpt from Alphaville's 'Forever Young' in-between songs. However, the song everyone wanted to hear was 'Radioactive', which is their biggest single over here in the UK. The band kept us in suspense, leaving it to the very end to play... though it was definitely worth it when they did. Full of solos, additional drums, and sing-along's from the crowd, it was an undeniable highlight.


I was a little bemused by Dan's wardrobe choices - he was wearing a cropped shirt that was probably a fashion statement but I just thought it looked weird! He also gave a rather long-winded speech about the current migrant crisis before performing their charity single 'I Was Me,' which I'm sure is all for a good cause but isn't exactly what you want to hear at a gig (hence the mass exodus for a trip to the toilets at that point!) However, I did think it was nice that he recognised two superfans in the audience and pulled them up to the stage to meet the rest of the band. It shows how grateful they are to their fans, a message that was repeated throughout the night.

Are you a fan of Imagine Dragons? Have you been to see them live? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Event Review: NFL International Series - Detroit Lions @ Kansas City Chiefs

As a British woman, I'm not exactly your typical NFL fan. But ever since my boyfriend got into the sport several years ago, I tried to show an interest (admittedly begrudgingly at first!) After some late night games and lots of one-sided football conversations, I finally figured out the basics of the game.

So when he asked me to go to one of the 2015 International Series games with him, I said yes. We selected the game we wanted, and after an extremely stressful morning back in early Spring trying to book tickets, we were in.


Fast forward nine months, and we're on our way to Wembley Stadium on 1st November. We must have looked a contradictory couple, him in all his Patriots gear and me in my Bears stuff (yes, I'm a Bears fan), but it seemed everywhere you looked in London there was a jersey-wearing fan. Aside from a mean glance from a Vikings fan on the tube (we were due to play them later that day) and being silently judged by a pack of Dolphins fans while waiting for my train, everyone was sharing in the game day atmosphere, regardless of what team they were supporting.


That's the thing about the International Series games. Fans of all 32 teams come along just to watch the sport and share in their love of the game. That's why even frankly mediocre teams are managing to sell out the International Series games - and it bodes well for the future of international football.

But that's a whole other story.

We arrived early to Wembley, which was just as well as it was already starting to get busy. In fact, after a detour to the frankly disappointing on-site shop and a long search for a seemingly non-existent  rubbish bin, we were sitting in our seats almost 2 hours before the game was due to start.

Seats which were, incidentally, far better than I was expecting. We were in the top tier of the stadium's three tiers, but we weren't too far back, giving us a perfect bird's eye view of the action. This was made even better by the fact that we were almost perfectly aligned with the centre of the sideline.

A photo posted by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on

Because we were so early, we watched the players warming up down on the field below. As we got closer and closer to kick-off and the stadium filled up, the atmosphere just got better and better.

We were treated to pre-game entertainment in the form of classic English band Madness. They only played a handful of songs, yet managed to squeeze in their biggest hits 'Baggy Trousers' and 'Our House' nonetheless. Followed by a performance from the Chiefs cheerleaders (much to the delight of all the male fans in the crowd), by this point the 83,624 strong audience were more than ready for some football.

On paper, this looked to be a pretty evenly-matched game. Going into week 8, the Lions were 1-6 and the Chiefs were 2-5. Neither team have been having a particularly great season. So as we kicked-off, it's fair to say it was anyone's game.

However, football is an unpredictable sport, and this game really proved that. Detroit were off to a good start with a field goal resulting in the first points of the game. Unfortunately, things could only go downhill from there. Kansas rallied, and by half-time the score was 24 to the Lions' lonely 3.

By this point the crowd were starting to get restless. Football games can last a long time when the play isn't great. But we stuck with it - after all, teams have come back from worse.


Unfortunately, the game continued in the same fashion during the third quarter. A further Chiefs touchdown added 7 more points to Detroit's misery. At the end of the third quarter, the Lions were getting desperate and the crowd were getting fed-up. Even further performances from the KC cheerleaders weren't helping. A lot of people started to leave.

Then, in the fourth quarter, just as everyone had given up, the Lions managed to score a touchdown at last. Even Chiefs fans cheered because everyone just felt sorry for them. Unfortunately, another couple of Kansas touchdowns meant their last hurrah was in vain. The final score was 45-10. Ouch.


The biggest problem was Detroit's complete lack of an offensive line. We joked that they might as well have had a bunch of cardboard cut-outs surrounding the QB, because they would have done the same job. I also heard one of the commentators was saying Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was Jay Cutler in disguise for Halloween...

The Chiefs, on the other hand, did a great job. Alex Smith proved his worth as a mobile quarterback, and rookie RB Charcandrick West did brilliantly stepping in for the injured Jamaal Charles.

Despite the fact it turned out to be a very one-sided game in the end, it was a fantastic experience. With the announcement of the extension of the International Series, we'll be sure to be back next year!

Are you an NFL fan? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Book Review: Magnus Chase & The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Last Updated: 28 May 2021

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan book cover

AD* | Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met - a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die...

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Book Review: The Keeper by David Baldacci

Last Updated: 28 May 2021

The Keeper by David Baldacci book cover

AD* | Vega Jane was always told no one could leave the town of Wormwood. She was told there was nothing outside but the Quag, a wilderness filled with danger and death. And she believed it - until the night she stumbled across a secret that proved that everything she knew was a lie. 

Now just one thing stands between Vega Jane and freedom - the Quag. In order to leave Wormwood and discover the truth about her world, Vega and her best friend Delph must find a way to make it across a terrifying land of bloodthirsty creatures and sinister magic. But the Quag is worse than Vega Jane's darkest imagining. It's a living, breathing prison designed to keep enemies out and the villagers of Wormwood in.

The Quag will throw everything at Vega Jane. It will try to break her. It will try to kill her. And survival might come at a price not even Vega Jane is willing to pay.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Book Review: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

Last Updated: 21 May 2021

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld book cover

AD* | Don’t call them heroes.

But these six Californian teens have powers that set them apart. They can do stuff ordinary people can’t.

Take Ethan, a.k.a. Scam. He’s got a voice inside him that’ll say whatever you want to hear, whether it’s true or not. Which is handy, except when it isn’t—like when the voice starts gabbing in the middle of a bank robbery. The only people who can help are the other Zeroes, who aren’t exactly best friends these days.

Enter Nate, a.k.a. Bellwether, the group’s “glorious leader.” After Scam’s SOS, he pulls the scattered Zeroes back together. But when the rescue blows up in their faces, the Zeroes find themselves propelled into whirlwind encounters with ever more dangerous criminals. And at the heart of the chaos they find Kelsie, who can take a crowd in the palm of her hand and tame it or let it loose as she pleases.

Filled with high-stakes action and drama, Zeroes unites three powerhouse authors for the opening instalment of a thrilling new series.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Gig Review: Rae Morris at Cambridge Junction

* First published on Kettle Mag here.


AD* | Over the past year, Rae Morris has been slowly but surely making a name for herself in the music industry.

The 23 year old songstress released her debut album, Unguarded, back in January of this year. The album peaked at number 9 in the UK chart, and brought Rae to the public’s attention. Unguarded was very strong for a debut album. It features 12 tracks of Rae’s distinctive piano-led pop, some including a twist of folk, others much more pop-oriented. You can find my original review of Unguarded here.

And now Rae is off on her own headline tour, riding on the success of Unguarded.In her own words, she’s only ever dreamed of a tour as big as this, so to make it become reality is a massive accomplishment for her. And it really shows – it’s clear to see how much it means to Rae, which makes the tour only more special.


Cambridge Junction is a fairly intimate music venue, allowing fans to get up close and personal with artists. It’s the perfect contrast to the glut of massive arena tours dominating the music industry at the moment. It also showcases talent like Rae’s perfectly.

Support came in the form of Dan Owen, followed by Roo Panes. Singer-songwriter Dan Owens got the night off to a brilliant start. His last song was especially memorable as he transformed into a one-man band, playing the guitar, bass drum and harmonica as well as singing all at once. The second support act, Roo Panes, kept on building the atmosphere. Singer/guitarist Roo Panes was joined by a cellist, forming an intriguing duo to play songs from their classic folk-pop repertoire.


By the time Rae Morris came on, the crowd were more than ready to see the main act of the night. Rae came on stage to plenty of applause, launching straight into her track ‘Skin’. Clad in a bold, patterned jumpsuit and with her trademark curls set free, she was every inch the picture of a folk-pop songstress at the top of her game.

The show continued with hit after hit from Unguarded, plus a rendition of ‘Up Again’, the track she wrote for electronic group Clean Bandit. The more upbeat numbers seemed to be the biggest hits with the audience, with songs like ‘Under The Shadows’ getting people moving and dancing along to the music. However, a personal highlight of mine was Rae’s moving performance of the emotional track ‘Don’t Go’, which has recently been re-released for the breast cancer charity ‘CoppaFeel!’.


My only criticism is that the set was quite short, especially when compared to the extensive sets of some other artists. Perhaps this was due to the high level of organisation – everything started and finished on time, and there was no messing about on the production front. To be honest it was a nice change to attend a gig where everything did run smoothly for once! It could also be down to the fact that Rae (as she admits herself) isn’t much of a talker between songs. Either way, it was still an enjoyable show and a great evening.

* I received tickets to this show in exchange for an honest review

Are you a fan of Rae Morris? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Gig Review: James Bay at O2 Academy Brixton

AD* | 2015 has really been James Bay’s year. At the start of the year virtually no-one had heard of him. Now, nine months later, everything has changed for the 25-year-old from Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

Over the course of one short year Bay has had a number one album, Chaos and the Calm, received the Critics’ Choice Award at the 2015 Brit Awards, and it has just been announced that Chaos and the Calm has become the biggest album of 2015.

Riding on the success of Chaos and the Calm, his debut studio album, which I also reviewed for Kettle earlier in the year, James Bay is out on tour again. Last week saw him complete a sold-out three-night residency at Brixton’s O2 Academy, before continuing on his world tour, which culminates with another three-night London residency at the Eventim Apollo in March 2016.


Now, for someone who’s currently at the top of the UK music industry, I surely wouldn’t be wrong for expecting a polished, slick performance from a James Bay show. It started off well on Wednesday night, but I was left with the distinct feeling that things weren’t quite going as planned on the technical side. In between every act crew members were scurrying around the stage, trailing wires, fiddling and testing equipment and instruments. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to enough gigs to expect a bit of this. But surely that’s what a soundcheck is for - making sure all the problems are ironed out so everything runs smoothly on the night?


Support came in the form of singer-songwriter Samm Henshaw, followed by the slightly eccentric Elle King. I’ll be honest, by the time I got into the venue I only caught the last song of Samm Henshaw’s set. But Elle King, for all her issues, was a fitting support act for James Bay. Her songs can best be described as a kind of country/pop hybrid, complete with banjo playing and a big dose of shameless American honesty.


So after that, the crowd were well warmed up and ready for James Bay. He was due on stage at 9 o’clock, but it was almost half past by the time he finally came on. By this time the crowd were restless, people kept checking their phones and fidgeting, especially those limited to a tight schedule by trains needing to be caught.


Despite this though, the actual show was great. From the moment he came on stage, silhouetted against the curtain with his guitar and trademark hat, it was worth the wait. The setlist interspersed all the best-loved songs from Chaos and the Calm with new songs and songs not on the album. He also performed several covers, which was kind of a given when you only have one album’s worth of material to pull from.

James was still recovering from a cold on Wednesday, which had sparked thankfully-unnecessary fears about the potential cancellation of the show. But from the energy he showed and the way he was leaping about the stage, you wouldn’t have guessed it. The entire show was performed with high-energy that got the crowd going. Down in the stalls everyone was dancing and singing along, and up in the circle we all defied the ‘no standing’ rule to get up and show our appreciation.


When the encore arrived, James had one more trick up his sleeve. He announced he’d be playing one of his favourite songs, a Faces cover, then proceeded to bring out no other than the legendary guitarist Ronnie Wood to play it with him. Needless to say, this made the crowd go wild, and was the perfect way to top off the night.

If you can, I really recommend going along to see James Bay live. As good as he sounds on the album, he’s even better live. I get the feeling 2015 is only the beginning for the man in the hat.

You can see James' upcoming tour dates and buy tickets here.

* I received tickets to this show in exchange for an honest review

Are you a fan of James Bay? Let me know in the comments below! 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Interview: This Burning City

This Burning City are an alternative-hardcore band hailing from Gananoque, Ontario, Canada. I was lucky enough to catch up with the boys for a chat.

Hi! Would you like to introduce yourselves?

Hey there! We're This Burning City from Gananoque, Ontario. Our band name sucks and our music’s not much better! Hahaha just kidding.

How did you first become interested in music?

We all became interested in music at a pretty young age. I can't really vouch for everyone else but I know I personally can say that it's always been a part of my life. I think everyone kind of has dreams of being a rock star while listening to their favourite band… We just took that extra step and formed a band.

How did the band come about?

Most of us met in grade school way back in the day and found ourselves liking similar music. After going to a Dead and Divine show, we grabbed some instruments and started getting together to jam. Eventually we found our direction and started playing shows and events, eventually picking up Nick on bass much later in college. We didn't know what to expect back then, or the amount of commitment and time this would end up taking, but we love every minute of it.

Continue reading: http://www.kettlemag.co.uk/article/interview-burning-city

Are you a fan of This Burning City? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Book Review: Next Door To A Star by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Last Updated: 21 May 2021

Next Door to a Star by Krysten Lindsay Hager book cover

AD* | Hadley Daniels is tired of feeling invisible.

After Hadley’s best friend moves away and she gets on the bad side of some girls at school, she goes to spend the summer with her grandparents in the Lake Michigan resort town of Grand Haven. Her next-door neighbour is none other than teen TV star Simone Hendrickson, who is everything Hadley longs to be - pretty, popular, and famous - and she’s thrilled when Simone treats her like a friend.

Being popular is a lot harder than it looks.

It’s fun and flattering when Simone includes her in her circle, though Hadley is puzzled about why her new friend refuses to discuss her former Hollywood life. Caught up with Simone, Hadley finds herself ignoring her quiet, steadfast friend, Charlotte.

To make things even more complicated, along comes Nick Jenkins…

He’s sweet, good-looking, and Hadley can be herself around him without all the fake drama. However, the mean girls have other ideas and they fill Nick’s head with lies about Hadley, sending him running back to his ex-girlfriend and leaving Hadley heartbroken.

So when her parents decide to relocate to Grand Haven, Hadley hopes things will change when school starts…only to be disappointed once again.

Cliques. Back-stabbing. Love gone bad.

Is this really what it’s like to live… Next Door To A Star?

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Book Review: Sky's Fireworks by Cynthia Bruner

Last Updated: 21 May 2021

Sky's Fireworks by Cynthia Bruner book cover

AD* | Sky has one more chance to make her happily-ever-after happen, and the only thing that could stop her is the perfect man standing by her side.

Since she was a child Sky Fischer has known she’s destined to marry her next-door neighbour Kevin, but he hasn’t realised it - yet. This Fourth of July, Kevin’s back in town and Sky’s found a brilliant way to get his attention. She’s brought co-worker Boone along to act as her boyfriend. But Kevin is oblivious, her brothers are determined to chase away her suitors, and worst of all, Boone might be a little too perfect for his role. What if the future she’s been planning isn’t right for her?

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Review: Snapfish Photo Book

As you may remember, I worked with Snapfish earlier in the year and reviewed some of their products with a summer theme. If you missed it, you can catch it again here.

Now, I've been lucky enough to have been asked to work with them again.

This time the focus is memories and celebration - inspiring people to celebrate their memories through beautiful photo books, personalised gifts, and home décor. It's all about using photography to relive special moments, and simply telling a story.

The story my product tells is very simple. It's a life story. Family is one of the most important things in life, and what better way to celebrate it than through pictures remembering precious memories.



As luck would have it, this year marked my nan's 70th birthday. Therefore I decided to create a photo book featuring pictures from some of our moments together to make a truly memorable gift for a landmark birthday.

I chose photos from all 21 years of my life and sorted them into an (approximate) chronological order. This way the narrative of our life stands out and weaves the photos of the book together.

That was definitely the most labour intensive project I've done so far from Snapfish, as I had to sort through all our old family photos in order to find the best ones (and we have a lot of photos, so this took a long time!) I also had a bit of a struggle trying to find photos with both me and my nan in. Neither of us are particularly fond of the camera, so photos with the two of us in seem to be a lot rarer than I'd originally thought! When I had eventually selected enough appropriate photos, I then had to scan the older ones in to get them onto my computer so I could add them to the photo book. That sounds complicated, but it's nowhere near as hard as it sounded!


Then came the design. I chose a classic photo book with a hard cover, because I thought it would prove more durable than the soft cover one I designed for my last Snapfish review. I also liked the cut-out cover (above) because it allows you to personalise it in a classy way - perfect for a gift.


The layout was simple - photos in chronological order, interspersed pretty equally between several photos on a page in a grid pattern and single stand-out photos dominating an entire page. Again I elected not to include captions or quotes because I wanted to keep it simple and let the photos speak for themselves.


I'm really happy with the finished product. All the photos printed beautifully and were nice and sharp and clear, even the scanned ones look just as good as the later digital photos.


When I gave it to my nan she was really happy with it too. She said it brought back many memories from over the years, and she spent a long while looking at all the photos. The Snapfish photo book was a success all round!

Have you used Snapfish before? Will you be using them in the future? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 7 September 2015

Book Review: The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis

Last Updated: 21 May 2021

The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis book cover

AD* | Maggie Sanders might be blind, but she won't invite anyone to her pity party. Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie's rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal.

Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn't interested in rehabilitation, not when she's still mourning the loss of her professional soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory.

Then Maggie's whole world is turned upside down. Somehow, incredibly, she can see again. But only one person: Ben, a precocious ten-year-old unlike anyone she's ever met. Ben's life isn't easy, but he doesn't see limits, only possibilities. After awhile, Maggie starts to realize that losing her sight doesn't have to mean losing everything she dreamed of. Even if what she's currently dreaming of is Mason Milton, the infuriatingly attractive lead singer of Maggie's new favourite band, who just happens to be Ben's brother.

But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future... before she loses everything she has grown to love.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Book Review: Rising Tide by Susan Roebuck

Last Updated: 21 May 2021

Rising Tide by Susan Roebuck book cover

AD* | Time, and most of Portugal, has almost forgotten Luminosa, a small fishing community on the Alentejo coast. A cluster of white and blue cottages huddle under the cliffs overshadowed by the great manor of Herdade Albatroz whose family has ruled the village since the days of Napoleon. Far off the tourist route, nobody visits Luminosa by chance.

When a ruthless American racketeer turns up, the peaceful village's way of life could be ruined forever. But will other visitors - Piper Pines, seeking news of her long-dead Portuguese mother, and Leo Shine, bereft of a father and brother accused of terrible crimes - help or hinder his objective to drag Luminosa into the twenty-first century?

Monday, 31 August 2015

Book Review: Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason

Last Updated: 15 May 2021

Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason book cover

AD* | THE QUICK

A woman swims in a remote, milky-blue lagoon. Steam rises from the water and as it clears, a body is revealed in the ghostly light.

THE DEAD

Miles away, a vast aircraft hangar rises behind the perimeter fence of the US military base. A sickening thud is heard as a man’s body falls from a high platform.

THE FORGOTTEN

Many years before, a schoolgirl went missing. The world has forgotten her. But Erlendur has not.

THE SEARCHER

Erlendur Sveinsson is a newly promoted detective with a battered body, a rogue CIA operative and America’s troublesome presence in Iceland to contend with. In his spare time, he investigates a cold case. He is only starting out but he is already up to his neck.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Event Review: Prom 41 - Sherlock Holmes: A Musical Mind

AD* | Everyone knows Sherlock Holmes. After all, he is the most famous detective of all time. But do you know the music behind the mastermind? That’s what this year’s Prom 41 set out to uncover.

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The Prom advertised a solid mix of scores from the various TV and film adaptations over the years, alongside a wider variety of Holmesian music. And that mix was certainly delivered on the day. The scores, performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, were interspersed with other relevant musical performances. These included everything from 16th century Dutch church music to French operas, so it turned out to be a very varied programme!

In between the music, we were treated to brief narration on the performances and their relation to the great detective by BBC Radio 3’s Matthew Sweet and Mark Gatiss, the current incarnation of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft. While I’m sure this was all well-meaning (there was always going to be some exposition because it was billed as a ‘family’ Prom) I did think it started to detract from the music which, after all, was the whole point. Plus it was obvious Gatiss was only there as a celebrity to help draw crowds, which judging by the array of fans in deerstalkers and ‘I am Sherlocked’ T-shirts, clearly worked.

The crowd wasn’t all teenage fangirls though. Actually it was very varied, with people of all different nationalities and ages. This just proves how much of a global appeal the Sherlock brand has. Sure, a lot of younger people were there due to the current BBC incarnation. But there were also plenty of people who had come to celebrate past Sherlocks too. When Mark Gatiss was introduced I overheard one middle-aged woman whisper to her husband, “Who’s he supposed to be?”

The staging for this Prom was pretty simple, with the orchestra took centre stage and pride of place, as rightly they should. The backdrop was nothing more than old film posters and visual stills, nothing ostentatious to distract the audience.

Unsurprisingly, the music was of a very high standard. Mezzo-soprano Christine Rice came on to perform two songs, playing the part of Sherlock’s nemesis, Irene Adler. She sang ‘Una voce poco fa’ from The Barber of Seville followed by ‘Ah, Tanya, Tanya’ from Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, both to rapturous applause.

The other guest appearance was from violinist Jack Liebeck, who came on to perform several songs with the orchestra. One of the songs he performed was Paganini’s Violin Concerto 2 – ‘La campanella’ – which was easily one of the highlights of the night.

Another highlight was the penultimate performance of one of the most famous pieces of classical music, Wagner’s ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’. It was great to hear a classical piece that everyone knows performed by a full orchestra in something.

The Prom finished, predictably and much to the delight of the fangirl contingent, with a suite of music from the current BBC TV series Sherlock. Mostly upbeat, often off-kilter and instantly recognisable, it was the perfect end to the afternoon’s performance.

* I received tickets to this event in exchange for an honest review

Did you go to see Prom 41? Are you a fan of Sherlock? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Book Review: Love Defined by Leila Tualla

Last Updated: 15 May 2021

Love Defined by Leila Tualla book blog tour banner

AD* | In their final summer before graduating college, three childhood friends expect an uncomplicated transition to adulthood... but learn they all still have some growing up to do.

Alex Makapulo is facing a crisis of faith.

Raised a Catholic, Alex is considering becoming a member of her best friend Jack Page’s church - against her family’s wishes - but she can’t quite take the final step of baptism. Jack loves Alex and doesn’t understand her hesitation, and Alex wonders if Jack’s love is a blessing or a distraction to test her religious conviction.

Lori Hanson embarks on the trip of a lifetime.

For her twenty-second birthday, Lori’s grandfather presents her with a summer vacation in England. While preparing for her adventure, she meets British musician Colin Watson online and quickly falls for him. They plan to hook up when she lands in London, but her grandfather forbids it. Due to complicated family dynamics, Lori must regretfully comply with his wishes, though she vows never to forgive him.

Andy Taylor is looking for love in all the wrong places.

When Andy runs into an old crush, she decides she wants a more meaningful relationship with sexy Miles Webber. But when she confides in Alex, her friend warns her Miles only wants her for sex. Andy becomes angry and devises a reckless plan to distract Alex’s attention from her relationship. Things don’t go quite as she expected, though, and Andy is left facing a crushing moral dilemma.

As the summer unfolds, three young women learn that love and faith go hand in hand, not everything is black and white, and sometimes in a fast-paced world, you have to slow down, breathe a little, and find your own definition of love.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Book Review: Violet Chain by J. Kahele

Last Updated: 15 May 2021

Violet Chain by J. Kahele book blog tour graphic

AD* | After catching her fiancé with another woman at their engagement party, Violet Townsend's world is turned upside down. Desperate to numb the pain, she falls into the arms of charming, young entrepreneur Chain Alexander.

Chain, a notorious womaniser of Philadelphia, not looking for anything more than a night of pleasure with a woman, is drawn to Violet instantly. There is something about her that he needs and wants so desperately and it’s not just sex.

But Violet is resistant. Can she open her heart again after having it broken so brutally? And more importantly, should she?

Friday, 7 August 2015

Interview: J. Kahele

I recently got the chance to interview J. Kahele, author of Violet Chain, as part of the book's blog tour. If you missed my review, you can find it here!


Introduce yourself to us!

I’m a married mother of three. I was born in Hawaii - my mother is Hawaiian and my father is Italian.

How did you first become interesting in writing?

I always wrote short stories, but it wasn’t until my children became older and more independent that I began to write novels.

How do you get inspiration?

Everyday life gives me inspiration.

What draws you to writing romance?

I love writing about two people finding each other in most difficult situations.

Tell me about Violet Chain.

Violet Chain is about a woman whose life is turned upside after she catches her fiancé cheating on her. She falls into the arms of another man for comfort and soon begins to develop feelings for him, but she is hesitant to let herself fall in love again.

What inspired you to write Violet Chain?

The name actually. I created the name before even knowing what tale I was going to tell.

What’s your writing process?

I have no real process, I just kind of type and let the words tell the story. I don’t ever know what the plot is until I’m deep into the story.


What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Character development.

What do you love most about writing?

Watching my story develop into something wonderful.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Write with your heart and be proud of yourself. Try not to care what others think.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.


Where’s your favourite place to write?

At work. Shush, don’t tell anyone!

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

Taking a lot more vacations!

What are you reading at the moment?

Alex’s Angel by Natasha Blackthorne.

Are you a fan of J. Kahele? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Book Review & Giveaway (CLOSED): Finding Flynn by Alexandria Bishop

Last Updated: 15 May 2021

Finding Flynn by Alexandria Bishop book banner

AD* | Ashtyn Moretti is ready for the best summer of her life. But her parents have other plans when they drop the bomb that her perfect summer will be spent...

Away from home.

Away from friends.

Away from half her family.

Armed with her Summer from Hell playlist and a Kindle full of book boyfriends, Ashtyn prepares to face what she is sure will be the worst summer of her life. Or will it be?

Flynn James has one thing on his mind - the success of his band Marlowe. He’s focused and doesn’t have time for any distractions, and that includes facing his past. But then a petite brunette comes walking into the pub where he works.

Neither Ashtyn nor Flynn were looking for love but they can’t deny their obvious attraction. Ashtyn’s summer has been full of lies. The last thing she expects is for Flynn to be one of the liars too. Can she forgive his lies and turn her summer around? Can Flynn keep his secrets without losing everything? Or will this really be the Summer from Hell?

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Book Review: Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally

Last Updated: 15 May 2021

Jesses Girl by Miranda Kenneally book cover

AD* | Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart - and go solo?

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Film Review: Ant-Man

Ant-Man is the latest in the long line of blockbuster movies from Marvel Studios. Following hot on the heels of Avengers: Age of Ultron, people seemed to be in two minds over Ant-Man before the film's release.

The movie follows the story of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a thief just released from prison. Upon his release Scott is recruited by the mysterious Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who wants to use Scott's talents to stop his former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Armed with a suit that gives him superhero powers and trained by Hank and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Scott becomes Ant-Man. He must put his new skills to the test to prevent Cross from using the same technology for evil.

Compared to the usual action-packed blockbuster movies we've come to expect from Marvel, Ant-Man is more like a heist film. Scott, as the main character, isn't our typical Marvel hero either. Without the suit he's just a plain old criminal with a fierce love for his daughter. With the suit, he becomes the superhero. Yes, I know that sounds a lot like Iron Man, but the characters of Scott and Tony Stark are completely different. Stark is (in his own words) a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, and Scott is, well, just Scott.

The Ant-Man suit is pretty cool in it's own right, but compared to Cap's shield or 'Hulk Smash' or Mjolnir, it's a lot more subtle. After all, when it comes down to it, the ability to shrink isn't exactly the most exciting superpower a hero could have. That's why the action takes a backseat and allows the characters to take the lead. Don't get me wrong, the action scenes are impressive, and funny too at times. But the characters (with the exception of Cross, who is surely one of Marvel's finest cardboard cut-out villains) are what really make the movie.


Strangely, the fact that Scott has an army of ants as allies is actually kind of sweet and heart-warming. If nothing else, Ant-Man does a brilliant job of showing people with myrmecophobia that ants aren't all that bad after all. The CGI is clever and fun, with the differences in size and perspective allowing the world to shift and adapt around the characters, making for some interesting plays on scenes from different character's points of view.

At just under two hours, this is a fairly short and sweet movie that definitely doesn't outstay its welcome. It has a good pace building right to the end, and a continued focus on the characters and their development throughout. One thing I would say is that it is a bit science-heavy at certain points and a lot of the technical terms went right over my head, but that didn't detract from the movie as a whole.

All in all, Ant-Man feels like a slightly different movie compared to the rest of the MCU films. It isn't their best, but it's still fun, enjoyable, and worth watching.

Have you seen Ant-Man? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Book Review: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Last Updated: 11 May 2021

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle book cover

AD* | It's the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara's life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara's family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items - but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Book Review: Shadow of Deception by Sophia L. Johnson

Last Updated: 11 May 2021

Shadow of Deception by Sophia L Johnson book blog tour banner

AD* | 2153, Toronto, United Nation of North America (UNNA)

A horrific plane crash kills all five hundred and forty-two passengers except one. Kazumi comes out of the wreckage physically unscathed but wiped of all memories. Her miraculous survival attracts the attention of the Sarcomeres, a secret society of genetically advanced humans. Their heightened physical abilities and high-tech gadgets are not the only things that fascinate Kazumi, Finnegan O'Riley, a fellow Sarc also gets her heart racing. When she discovers that she possesses the genetic potential to become a Sarcomere, she welcomes the chance to train with them in the hope that she would recover her memories.

Meanwhile, thirty years after the Great War that almost destroyed the world, a centuries-old nemesis of the Sarcomeres begins to stir in the dark. Just when Kazumi thinks she can help protect her newfound home, past memories surface to threaten her new identity. She soon realizes that layers of deception run deep and everyone has a secret agenda, including herself. Who can she trust when she can't even trust herself? One wrong decision could bring forth consequences worse than death. Is Kazumi ready to face her destiny?

Interview: Sophia L. Johnson

To kick start my stop on the blog tour for Shadow of Deception by Sophia L. Johnson, here's my interview with the author herself! The review is also up and can be seen here.


Firstly, tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Sophia. I'm a Chinese Canadian living in Toronto with my husband and daughter. I have a degree in International Business Management but after working in the corporate world for three years, I decided that's not the place I belong. So I packed my bags and went back to school for Massage Therapy and did some writing courses on the side. So now I'm a massage therapy instructor by day and a published author by night.

When did you first become interesting in writing?

Ever since high school I was always interested in writing. I had a failed attempt at writing a novel back when I was in grade nine, but high school and boys got in the way so nothing was accomplished, writing wise. Then life got even busier with university, my first job, wedding planning, first mortgage, and so on. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I finally had the chance and inspiration to buckle down and make this happen for real.

How do you get inspiration?

The first idea I had was Kazumi as a character. She popped into my head one night out of nowhere and I knew then that I had to write her down and give her a world where she'd be challenged. As I was writing the book, I also drew inspiration from my research. I couldn't be an expert in every aspect of the story, hence I had to do a lot of research ranging from weaponry, to fighting sequences, to how airplane engines work. I've actually learned a lot of random knowledge while writing this book.

What draws you to writing sci-fi?

I've always been a fan of sci-fi/fantasy settings. These are my go-to genres for books and movies. When reading, I like to be swept away to a foreign land that I could never otherwise visit. In writing, I love the fact that I'm creating a world that no-one knows about and I'm the director for everything that happens in that world.

Do you have any plans for the rest of the series yet?

Yes I have actually. The general story arc has been mapped out in the next two books. I'm currently working on book 2 where all the pivotal scenes are concocted - I just need to get them on a computer screen. Hopefully it won't take four years this time around!


I saw you’re donating all profits of the book to charity. What made you decide to do that?

I think it's important to give back to society. There's a lot of under-privileged people who need help and we should do whatever we can to give them a helping hand. When I finished the manuscript for Shadow of Deception, I knew then that I wanted to do something special with this book.

Why did you choose Covenant House?

The college campus I used to teach at was very close to one of their shelters. I got to witness their work in helping at-risk, abused, and homeless young people, and I was impressed by their tireless effort. Also in my teaching, I came across some under-privileged students who tried really hard to make something out of their lives despite the difficult circumstances they were in. I was touched and really wanted to help and encourage them. So when Shadow of Deception came to be, there was no doubt that Covenant House would be my charity of choice.

What’s your writing process?

Because I'm still relatively new at this, I don't think I have a set process that I follow religiously. Although one factor is certain, I need complete silence to write. I get distracted easily with noise. When I first started writing, I tried doing it at coffee shops and even book stores because I thought that's how writers do it. I wasn't a writer yet but I still wanted to look the part, you know. The result was a lot of eavesdropping on people's conversations and very little writing accomplished. So I learned quickly that I should stay as far away from people as possible if I want to write anything constructive.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Writer's block, hands down. I experience that from time to time and it is beyond annoying. Especially when an important scene is done and suddenly you don't know where to go from there. I once sat in front of my laptop for two hours with nothing on the page. Then I learned a trick from an experienced writer where I'd stop in the middle of a scene so the next time I came back to it, I already have something to build on. It works like a charm for me.

What do you love most about writing?

I love that I have the ability to bring characters to life. I began dreaming up characters and scenarios in my head at a very young age but now I realize that wasn't enough. They need a world where they can interact with other characters. They need challenges and obstacles to learn and grow from. They need love, hate, jealousy - a rainbow of human emotions to make them real and relatable.


Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

I want to tell them that I was in the same boat not too long ago. The publishing industry is evolving, especially with the help of self-publishing and e-books. If you have a good story to tell, don't hesitate because there are a lot of resources out there to help you. The biggest obstacle is yourself. Stop giving excuses. Sit down and start writing. Also don't jump the gun. Don't go looking for agents and publishers before your story's finished. Focus on making your story compelling and the rest will fall into place. One step at a time. You can do it!

What’s your all-time favourite book?

I have so many favourites. If I have to choose, I'd pick one particular series that I can't seem to forget. It's an older series called Incarnations of Immortality by Piers Anthony. His spin on our belief of what is Fate, Death, Mother Nature and so forth was brilliant and creative. It was such a fun series to read. 

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?

Definitely traditional books. I've never read an e-book. I much prefer the weight of a paperback and the action of flipping a physical page. It feels more substantial. Besides, I love to collect bookmarks. I wouldn't want them to go to waste.

What are you reading at the moment?

I'm reading an award-winning debut novel called The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It's a coming-of-age high fantasy. The writing is beautiful.

To find out more about Sophia and to keep up with her latest news, you can like the Shadow of Deception page on Facebook.

Are you a fan of Sophia L. Johnson? Let me know in the comments below!