The Dark Days Pact Blog Tour- Guest Post + Giveaway

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I fell head over heels last year for Alison Goodman’s The Dark Days Club. This book swept me away and I fell so in love with the characters I couldn’t wait for the sequel, The Dark Days Pact. The moment this landed on my doorstep (after flailing) I picked it up and became 100% immersed again in this vivid world and characters (read my review here). I am beyond honored to have the author here on my blog today talking about the historical research involved with writing these books.

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Guest Post

Feel like a swim at Brighton beach in 1812? For a lady, it wasn’t a straightforward business. First you had to purchase a swimming chemise made of flannel with lead weights sewn into the hem. Heaven forbid that your gown should rise in the water and expose your nethers! It was true that the lead would most likely weigh you down in the water, but it didn’t really matter because you would not actually be swimming. Instead, you would book a session with a dipper; a burly local woman who would hold on to you tight and plunge you in and out of the water, rather like a teabag.

Of course, getting into the water was not just a matter of walking through the waves. It involved a wooden bathing box on wheels and a small, salt encrusted pony. The bathing box had a door at either end. You would enter at the beach-end and the little pony would haul the box into the sea, then it would be unhitched and taken around to the other side to be hitched in readiness to drag the box and you out again. Meanwhile, you would open the seaward door and descend the bathing box steps into the strong arms of your dipper.

One two three, plunge, One two three plunge. There, you have taken your ‘swim’. .

The Lady Helen series is historically accurate (give or take a few thousand nasty demons), and so when I read about this method of sea bathing in Regency Brighton, I knew I had to include a scene in The Dark Days Pact where my protagonist, Lady Helen, is ‘dipped’ by one of these fabulous local women.  In fact, I wanted Helen to be dipped by the most famous dipper of all time:  Martha Gunn. Martha was so famous that songs were written about her and her image appeared on souvenir crockery. She was also a favorite of the Prince Regent who liked her so much that he allowed her free access to the royal kitchens at Brighton Pavilion for her entire life. In the summer of 1812, when The Dark Days Pact is set, Martha would have been in her eighties and she was still dipping people in the sea!

To research something like the bathing box scene, I always start by reading widely on the subject. I found articles about Martha and her life, and books about Brighton that described the boxes and how they were used. I also hunted out descriptions of sea bathing in letters and diaries from the time, and my most valued find was a travel guide to All the Water and Sea-Bathing Places in England  from 1813 that included a chapter on Brighton. I was also fortunate enough to visit Brighton and its museum, which had a fabulous little section on sea bathing throughout history.

I then turned to visual prompts, which help me imagine the historical scene. I found a drawing of sea bathing at Regency Brighton on the internet (see picture). It is a caricature – a mode of illustration that became very popular in the Regency – and although it is drawn for laughs, I was able to pick up a lot of incidental information about bathing boxes and the process of dipping. I double-checked everthing, of course – that is part of the research process too.

Finally, once I had all the facts I needed in hand, I wrote the scene and layered in the sensory detail from my own experience. I live near the sea in Australia so, of course, I have a lot of sensory information about sea bathing. I used that to create the sensations that Helen feels as she steps out of the bathing box. The shock of cold water against her skin, the weight of waves slapping against her body, the low roar of the surf cut by the shrill screech of gulls, and the taste of salt on her lips. And above all, the safe arms of Martha Gunn:

Martha viewed an incoming wave with narrowed eyes. ‘Hold tight,’ she advised, then jumped, pulling Helen above its crest with practised ease.

Hold Tight. Sage advice for anyone about to step into the dangerous, demon hunting world of The Dark Days Pact.

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Mermaids at Brighton by William Heath 1829

About the Book

thedarkdayspactThe Dark Days Pact (Lady Helen #2)
By Alison Goodman
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Summary:
June 1812. Just weeks after her catastrophic coming-out ball, Lady Helen Wrexhall—now disowned by her uncle—is a full member of the demon-hunting Dark Days Club. Her mentor, Lord Carlston, has arranged for Helen to spend the summer season in Brighton so that he can train her new Reclaimer powers. However, the long-term effects of Carlston’s Reclaimer work have taken hold, and his sanity is beginning to slip. At the same time, Carlston’s Dark Days Club colleague and nemesis will stop at nothing to bring Helen over to his side—and the Duke of Selburn is determined to marry her. The stakes are even higher for Helen as she struggles to become the warrior that everyone expects her to be.

Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win either one (1) grand prize set of Lady Helen books, including a paperback of The Dark Days Club and a hardcover of The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman (ARV: $28.98), or to be one of five (5) second prize winners to receive paperback copies of The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (ARV: $10.99).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on January 23, 2017 and 12:00 AM on February 13, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about February 14, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.
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Blog Tour Stops

Week One:
1/23 – A Page With a View – Like/Try/Why
1/24 – Tales of a Ravenous Reader – Interview
1/25 – Twinning for Books – Review + Mood Board
1/26 – My Friends Are Fiction – Guest Post
1/27 – In Wonderland – Review
Week Two:
1/30 – Alexa Loves Books – Bookish Style File
1/31 – The Reading Nook Reviews – Interview
2/1 – Xpresso Reads – Playlist
2/2 – The YA Book Traveler – They Did What?!
2/3 – Icey Books – Guest Post
Week Three:
2/6 – YA Book Central – Excerpt
2/7 – Fiction Fare – Guest Post
2/8 – Forever Young Adult – Coming-Out Ball Mishaps
2/9 – Dark Faerie Tales – Interview
2/10 – Adventures of a Book Junkie – Reasons to Read

Review of How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Math_9780553539479_jkt_all_r1.inddHow to Hang a Witch
By: Adriana Mather
Release Date: July 26th 2016
Publisher: Knopf/Random House
Format: Print ARC
Source: Convention

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials.

Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history is about to repeat itself.

My Thoughts:
I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I started reading this book. I didn’t notice at first the author’s last name and that she shared it with her main character. Upon realizing that I had to flip to the back and make sure there was an author’s note (which there was). Knowing that the author was a Mather herself really added credibility to the story for me.

This story takes place in Salem present day but the main character has ties to the past- and not in a very popular way. I was really impressed with how the author handled Sam’s disconnect to those around her and the progression of bullying she faced in the town and school. It was hard to read at times but really tied together the past with present and the importance of not standing by while others are mistreated. I found the message to be very powerful and enjoyed that aspect of the book a good amount.

The town of Salem as well as the history of the Witch Trials was really interesting. I loved the little historical tid-bits and found the descriptions to be very vivid and clear. The author obviously knows this time period and history well and she incorporated it very well into her storyline.

Where things went a bit off for me was the romance in the novel. I never really felt anything towards the two and yes…there’s a slight triangle. I’m really not sure if everyone would consider it that but the main character does sort of feel things for two different people View Spoiler » I felt that the main romantic element was rushed and I didn’t feel the chemistry between the characters.

Another thing that fell a bit flat to me was the big reveal. I felt it was pretty easy to predict and though it was dramatic I never really felt the tension I’d expect. I wasn’t all that invested in the secondary cast so I didn’t have the emotional attachment I’d have liked.

Final Thoughts:
Regardless of the issues I had with How to Hang a Witch I did find it to be an enjoyable read and well worth the time. I thought the author did an excellent job adding in historical details. I loved that the author has an actual past with her story and used that to help develop and write this book. I think that aspect really added to the book.

Review of Ghostly Echoes by Will Ritter

GhostlyEchoesGhostly Echoes
By: Will Ritter
Release Date: August 23rd 2016
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Format: Print ARC
Source: Convention

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Jenny Cavanaugh, the ghostly lady of 926 Augur Lane, has enlisted the investigative services of her fellow residents to solve a decade-old murder—her own. Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer, Detective R. F. Jackaby, dive into the cold case, starting with a search for Jenny’s fiancé, who went missing the night she died. But when a new, gruesome murder closely mirrors the events of ten years prior, Abigail and Jackaby realize that Jenny’s case isn’t so cold after all, and her killer may be far more dangerous than they suspected.

Fantasy and folklore mix with mad science as Abigail’s race to unravel the mystery leads her across the cold cobblestones of nineteenth-century New England, down to the mythical underworld, and deep into her colleagues’ grim histories to battle the most deadly foe she has ever faced.

My Thoughts:
I’ve been so excited about Ghostly Echoes because I’ve adored both the prior books in the series, Jackaby and Beastly Bones. Each book focuses on a character and the backstory and mystery surrounding them. In Ghostly Echoes the focus was on Jenny, the ghost that cohabitates with Jackaby at 926 Augur Lane.

As with both books before I felt the pacing was even and as always I loved the characters. I didn’t feel as connected to this story because Jenny hasn’t ever been the main focus for me. I’m eager to hear Jackaby’s story (we did get tid-bits and with the way this ended I think we’ll learn much more in the next and final novel). I think we all have been curious though to find out what exactly had happened to poor Jenny to leave her in her ghost-like way. Many questions are answered and we get to see much more of Jenny and her past.

In this book I felt that Abigail was able to really stand on her own and she took matter’s into her own hands. There were many instances where she had to go forward on her own and without the aid of anyone. She continued to grow and as always her brave and loyal attitude made her very likeable.

In this book we see so little of Charlie- he does enter the fray about midway or so but his presence was very minimum and there was very little in the way of romance or interactions between him and Abigail.

I really liked how Ritter incorporated ancient myth into this story and tied together plot points throughout this novel and the series as a whole. I found the mystery to be intriguing and not obvious. Of course, the supernatural bits are so much fun and really add to the historical feel of the books. Jackaby remained my favorite character and perhaps that was why this was so far my least favorite of the series. His role didn’t feel nearly as strong and his character felt a tad glossed over. We did get a little glimpse into his childhood but I wanted much more (as I said above).

Final Thoughts:
I found Ghostly Echoes to be a quick and entertaining read though out of the series I connected less with this one than the others. I did enjoy finding out more back-story about Jenny and like where things are leading for the next book.

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Review of Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto

RevengeandtheWildRevenge and the Wild
By: Michelle Modesto
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
The two-bit town of Rogue City is a lawless place, full of dark magic and saloon brawls, monsters and six-shooters. But it’s perfect for seventeen-year-old Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler.

Westie was only a child when she lost her arm and her family to cannibals on the wagon trail. Nine years later, Westie may seem fearsome with her foul-mouthed tough exterior and the powerful mechanical arm built for her by Nigel, but the memory of her past still haunts her. She’s determined to make the killers pay for their crimes—and there’s nothing to stop her except her own reckless ways.

But Westie’s search ceases when a wealthy family comes to town looking to invest in Nigel’s latest invention, a machine that can harvest magic from gold—which Rogue City desperately needs as the magic wards that surround the city start to fail. There’s only one problem: the investors look exactly like the family who murdered Westie’s kin. With the help of Nigel’s handsome but scarred young assistant, Alistair, Westie sets out to prove their guilt. But if she’s not careful, her desire for revenge could cost her the family she has now.

My Thoughts:
I really had no clue what to expect from Revenge and the Wild. I assumed with “wild” in the title I’d get some wild west but I did not expect all the fantasy and paranormal elements. It was a really wonderful inclusion and so unique. Modesto was able to weave together a wild west setting with vampires, cannibals, magic with a dash of steam punk. How was this even possible?

Had I known that all these elements would collide in one story I think I’d have been pretty hesitant because wow….that’s just so much to throw into one setting and story. But Modesto somehow succeeded in having me believe that her world was plausible and that all these characters could all be inhabitants. Rogue City was actually pretty easy to visualize and imagine.

I really loved Westie, the main character. She was so incredibly flawed and yet so heartfelt. She struggled with addiction and insecurity and these elements made her more intriguing to me. I found it easy to love her and hurt for her past and the pain she dealt with presently. This poor girl really had it rough. As a child she lost her family to cannibals and barely made it out alive. Yes. Cannibals. And somehow it all works. I’m not entirely sure how!

The secondary characters were beautifully executed for the most part. I found the vampire, Costin, to be a particular favorite as well as Westie’s adopted family- Nigel and Alley. Each character had depth and I could easily understand their point of view and motivations. The interactions between the characters and dialog were great and each character had their own voice. And there was chemistry! I fully shipped Westie with two folks in this book. That might lead to the question- was there a love triangle? Hmm, I guess technically yes but it worked for me. I think Westie’s emotions were explained well and completely understandable.

Where the novel sort of dipped for me was in the development of the bad guys. I felt the majority of them (yes more than one bad guy) were flat and though a motivation was given I didn’t exactly feel it.

This book was fast paced and the writing easy to read and digest. I felt it was straight to the point and Westie’s voice, in particular, was beautifully done. I found the very ending of the book to be lacking some. With the crazy mixture of genres I expected an ending that would blow me away with how strange it was but instead it was rather cliché. It wasn’t overly predictable but at the same time it was a bit of a let down. I felt the novel was strong enough not to suffer too much with the lackluster ending though.

Final Thoughts:
I found Revenge and the Wild to be a riveting and incredibly unique book. I’ve yet to see all the elements Modesto threw together work in one book but somehow it did in this one. I loved the main character and felt that this was an immensely entertaining read.

Blog Tour- The Dark Days Club Character Playlist + Giveaway

DarkDaysBlogTourBannerI am so thrilled to be highlighting The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman today.  I recently reviewed this book and if you missed that- I’ll sum it up- I LOVED it. TDDC was an engrossing read with beautifully implemented historical bits along with some incredible paranormal aspects. I feel that everyone with a taste for Jane Austen style writing, period dramas, paranormal and a slow burn romance should read this book.

Character Playlist-Lady Helen from The Dark Days Club

This playlist is all about the main character in The Dark Days Club – Lady Helen Wrexhall. The novel is set in 1812, and in those times a young noblewoman’s life was severely restricted. The Dark Days Club follows Helen’s adventures as she discovers that her world has a dangerous and demonic underbelly, and her family has some very dark secrets that will change her life forever.

The Verve –– Bittersweet Symphony

Although The Dark Days Club is set in the Regency era, the lyrics of this song about modern life really resonates with me, and the anthemic music always gives me goosebumps. The video is brilliant too. For me, Bittersweet Symphony is about the desire for change and how difficult it can be to find a way to shift your own circumstances. Lady Helen finds herself in this predicament at the beginning of book.

No Doubt –– Just A Girl

As a young noblewoman living in the early 1800’s, the only life path for Helen is to marry, produce children and act as hostess for her husband. Until that time, she is “just a girl”. I like the irony in this song and it suits Helen’s personality: she has far more courage and integrity than most of the men in her family.

Jessie J –– Price Tag

Helen’s uncle wants to find her a suitable husband and get her married as quickly as possible—he’s not sure her fortune will overcome the taint of her infamous mother!

Queen –– I Want To Break Free (Official Video)

A more light-hearted song about finding a way out. I’ve been a Queen fan since I was a teenager, and this is one of my favourite songs. The official video is hilarious too.

4 Non Blondes ––What’s Up?

Another favorite song of mine, and one that echoes Helen’s growing uneasiness as she starts to ask her self: what’s going on?

My Demons – Starset

A hint of what is to come in Helen’s world. This song has a great driving beat and sense of dread.

Lady Gaga – Born This Way.

Helen does not know it yet, but she’s not who she thinks she is!

Nico & Vinz – Am I Wrong

Helen is beginning to realize that something is very wrong in her opulent world, and this song is about yearning for something more.

Jessie J – Who You Are

This could very well be Helen’s theme song for Book 1.

Britney Spears – I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman

Lady Helen is making her debut to polite society, a time when a Regency girl steps into “official” womanhood. Yet, curtseying to the Queen does not bring instant wisdom and maturity. That is a much longer and harder journey.

Kelly Clarkson –Breakaway (With Lyrics)

“Take a risk, take a chance, make a change and breakaway; a song for Helen as she takes her first step into a strange new world.

Rhianna––Umbrella

This is such a great song about friendship. Helen finds a great friend and confidante in her maid, Darby and their bond grows throughout the book.

Katy Perry––Wide Awake

When Helen discovers the truth, she’s finally wide-awake!

Mahalia Jackson ––Trouble Of The World

A beautiful song sung by one of the greats. Helen finds the truth about her world hard to bear.

Annie Lenox and David Bowie ––Under Pressure

Helen feels the pressure of the decisions that she must make. This version is a tribute to the late great Freddie Mercury and, now sadly, the brilliant David Bowie.

Des’ree -––You Gotta Be

Helen has to find her true strength, but will it be enough?

About the Book

DarkDaysClubThe Dark Days Club
By: Alison Goodman
Release Date: January 26th 2016
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Summary:
London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

Giveaway:

Entries are US only, there will be 5 winners, and it will run from Jan 18 – Feb 18
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