blog tour, books, instagram, reviews

Blog Tour: Love and Other Sins – Emilia Ares

Over on Instagram today I’m reviewing Love and Other Sins by Emilia Ares, but as getting lots of info onto a tiny square is tricky, I’m posting more about the book here. Read on for a Q&A with the author and check out the link above for my thoughts.

Oliver and Mina develop a strong bond as the threads of their old lives begin to unravel and they are forced to reckon with family history that violently refuses to remain in the past. Love and Other Sins is a moving story about what it means to be young and vulnerable in today’s society.

“I wanted to tell the story of a first-generation Russian immigrant girl and a street-wise foster care system boy who find love,” Ares, known as an actress for roles in American Horror Story and Bosch. “Love and Other Sins discusses the nuanced experience of growing up in America with immigrant parents as well as the critical flaws of the foster care system.”Readers who fell for Looking for Alaska and Thirteen Reasons Why will devour Love and Other Sins.

Emilia Ares is an American film and television actress. Love and Other Sins is her debut novel. She graduated UCLA with a BA in Economics, and a minor in Russian. Literature and storytelling have always been her true passion.

Connect with Ares at EmiliaAres.com, and on Instagram and TikTok @EmiliaAres.

Q&A with Love and Other Sin author Emilia Ares


1) You’ve been a working actress for many years, how has writing fit into your life or how did you transition to writing?

Funny enough, I began writing while on one of my sets. I was doing a film and sometimes we have to wait for hours in between takes. In those situations, it’s best to do something to take your mind off the scene in order to keep the acting fresh and the reactions surprising. Reading is a great go-to but there had been this story and these characters–Oliver and Mina, who were living in my head and nagging at my brain. I just had to get them on paper, so-to-speak. I wrote a chapter of their story into my notes on my iPhone and I also jotted down what else would probably happen later on in the story. When I got back to town, I wanted to show it to my younger sister, Sofia, who was reading a lot of YA at the time–she ended up becoming an English major. She’s the one who encouraged me to keep writing and turn it into a book. She said she loved it and couldn’t wait for more. I don’t think Love and Other Sins would have existed without her encouragement.


2) What have you learned about storytelling from TV projects you’ve acted in like American Horror Story and Bosch?

I’ve learned a ton about storytelling from the TV and film projects I’ve acted in, especially the importance of a strong emotional connection with my characters. Creating a backstory for my characters on and off the screen was vital. More times than not, my character’s backstory was not provided to me either because the project was high profile and the full script was kept under-wraps or because I was playing a guest-star whose history was not explicitly discussed or mentioned in the script itself. So, I’d have to invent the backstory.

That process is very similar to writing characters in a book. I used my knowledge of how the character was described in the breakdown that was provided during the casting process including any traits, qualities, strengths, weaknesses, quirks. I would then make an educated guess about what this person ultimately wants/needs from life, taking into consideration the character arc in the scene/overall story to create a reasonable history for them. In the case of American Horror Story, I would ask myself where does Princess Anastasia Romanova come from? What makes her tick? What life events shaped her? Empowered her? Scarred her? What are her secrets? And how do those things effect how she walks, talks, speaks, ect. The backstory is usually never discussed but always exists in the thoughts of these characters which ultimately informs their actions. The more specific the backstory, the richer–what actor’s call–“the life” of the character is.

This was great practice for when it came time to create Oliver and Mina’s backstories. I would just pretend they were characters I was going to play. I entered their minds the way I would when I played my characters on set. This might be a different approach than most traditional writers and it’s most likely why I wrote in first person. I was documenting the moments as if they were happening to me in real time. Later, I rewrote the novel into past tense to give the story­telling and pacing more flexability.


3) Why was it important for you to write young people who are independent and self-reliant on parental support to go after their goals?

I honestly didn’t set out with the goal to write independent and self-reliant characters. I just wanted them to be interesting and as it turns out, self-reliant people must interest me. But I’m glad Oliver

and Mina developed into the people they became because there are plenty of teenagers out there who are on their own and could use someone like Oliver to identify with.

Mina is actually very reliant on her mother for moral support when we first meet her. However, this novel begins during the part of her life when she starts to break free from that support and she ventures off to discover who she is and what she wants. She will have many hardships ahead. We get to follow her down that tumultuous road and witness her slay the dragons or succumb. Oliver, on the other hand, built himself up from the most terrible circumstances and found his own silver-lining. He doesn’t have any family. He’s alone, therefore he’s independent out of necessity, not choice. I hope his story is inspirational to the youth that feel hopeless.


4) How did your own young adulthood prepare you to write this book?

My time as a teenager was as dramatic and angsty as anyone else’s. Everyday there was drama, rumors, gossip, bullying. No matter how hard I tried to keep my head down it felt as though it was inescapable. When I talk to my adult friends about their high-school experiences, I come to understand that we all felt that way. You know, it’s funny…as trivial as everything seems now, in the grand scheme of things, some of those moments really did matter and did shape me into who I am today. The most painful moments became the biggest life lessons. I knew what I had to do to never feel that way again. I learned who I had to stay away from and who I had to gravitate toward. It wasn’t all bad though, I had some great friends to get me through the tough parts. Those were the parts that were most similar to my life. Nyah was written based on a combination of a few of my friends and my sister. Lily was inspired by my mom.


5) What books and authors inspired you along the way?

The Stranger by Albert Camus because it challenged everything I ever knew or thought I knew about the hero of a story and made me feel so uncomfortable reading it.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky not only for the revelation this novel brought to literature but also for the story behind writing it. Dostoevsky didn’t write it because he wanted to, he wrote it out of necessity. He wrote what he knew, the conditions and ramifications of a sick, drunk, impoverished Russia.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because by the time 2008 rolled around, so much had already been written and said about a potential post-apocalyptic nation but somehow, Collins was able to put forth a fresh take on dystopia. I admire that very much. There is always more room for your voice, your perspective, your story.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe because, again, it was very critically controversial. People didn’t know how to feel about it. On the one hand, Achebe ended up writing it in English, the language of colonialism which caused disagreement amongst many African critics in regards to the ultimate message of the novel. On the other hand, this was a novel that went against most of what was written about African culture at the time. It showed European colonialism from a different perspective portraying Igbo life from the point of view of an African man, a rich and sophisticated culture with a deep history, language, and beliefs.

But some of the first books and authors who inspired my love for storytelling were, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, instagram

Tandem Readalong Round Up: The Madness of Crowds – Louise Penny

Recently I took part in Tandem Collective‘s readalong for Louise Penny’s The Madness of Crowds. This was over on Instagram, where as you might have noticed I rarely post, mostly because things like reels and stories are beyond me – I just can’t seem to get them to work for me! I thought it might be fun to do a little round up here and on Instagram, so you can learn a bit more about the book.

Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache returns to Three Pines in #1 New York Times bestseller Louise Penny’s latest spellbinding novel, The Madness of Crowds.

You’re a coward.

Time and again, as the New Year approaches, that charge is leveled against Armand Gamache.

It starts innocently enough.

While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, to drink hot chocolate in the bistro and share meals together, the Chief Inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request.

He’s asked to provide security for what promises to be a non-event. A visiting Professor of Statistics will be giving a lecture at the nearby university.

While he is perplexed as to why the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec would be assigned this task, it sounds easy enough. That is until Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture.

They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson’s views start seeping into conversations. Spreading and infecting. So that truth and fact, reality and delusion are so confused it’s near impossible to tell them apart.

Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.

Abigail Robinson promises that, if they follow her, ça va bien aller. All will be well. But not, Gamache and his team know, for everyone.

When a murder is committed it falls to Armand Gamache, his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and their team to investigate the crime as well as this extraordinary popular delusion.

And the madness of crowds.

I think he’ll open a serious investigation, it could have gone horribly wrong and people could have died.

I’m not sure, much like the agents, I can’t quite figure it all out. Armand is also thinking a few steps ahead of his team and seems to be planning to get a confession.

I thought this was a really interesting theory and can see how it applies to people getting swept up into Abigail’s rhetoric and also how her theory could lead to truly terrible things – like genocide, what one country does, others may follow.

Armand obviously has skin in the game, as it were, in the form of Idola, but Myrna is a scientist and isn’t thinking about it in an emotional sense – more the theoretical sense.

I don’t think she can be involved, too many coincidences would need to align to involve her. But she does represent an interesting addition to the debate raging throughout the book. Suspect-wise, I’m curious about Abigail, who has so many secrets and the chancellor – she knows more than she’s saying.

I’m at a loss, too many theories. Too many possibilities – lots of potential red herrings on offer here.

Gamache definitely has something but I think he needs to flesh it out a bit more if he wants to make an arrest and get a conviction.

I thought it was possibly the chancellor, protecting Abigail once again – but she had something to lose if she went to prison – her husband wouldn’t cope without her. I’ve read a few of the books before and have some on my kindle to go back to.

Armand – maybe Jean Reno, Isabelle, I thought perhaps Carole Bianic who played a French cop in Hudson & Rex (yes of course I watch a TV show where one of the detectives is a lovely, clever good boy), Jean-Guy I would maybe cast Roger Cross, who is Jamaican-Canadian and has played cops before and I like as an actor.

Jean Reno
Carole Bianic
Roger Cross

I couldn’t do the reel as my phone and I had a massive fight and I may have thrown it on the floor and shouted “technology is stupid”, I mean I like books and the concept of the printed word isn’t exactly new. That is basically my level of tech prowess.

As for flatlays, I am apparently not allowed to go and get a hunk of wood (the murder weapon) or some disabled people (Abigail’s theory) and photograph them on my floor so please enjoy the photo I took of the book instead.

I really enjoyed this book and having to think about different points in the book in more detail than maybe I would otherwise. Having read a few of the books in this series before I felt like I knew a bit about the characters but since this is set in the village Gamache lives in I learnt more about his family and friends which was interesting. The ethical debate at the heart of the plot is one I know that divides and upsets lots of people. Assisted suicide is legal in Canada, unlike the UK, and Abigail has taken it to a logical, if morally lacking, extreme conclusion with her statistical research. It’s deliberately shocking and the different viewpoints that the characters put forward were thought provoking and engaging. A really clever and enjoyable book.

Have you read any of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache books? If so, what did you think? What did you like or not like? Talk to me!

blog tour, books, instagram, reviews

Blog Tour: The Short Knife – Elen Caldwell*

Today I’m hosting a Bookstagram tour stop for The Short Knife – follow along on #TheShortKnife and #DarkroomTours

It is the year 454AD. The Roman Empire has withdrawn from Britain, throwing it into the chaos of the Dark Ages. Mai has been kept safe by her father and her sister, Haf. But when Saxon warriors arrive at their farm, the family is forced to flee to the hills where British warlords lie in wait. Can Mai survive in a dangerous world where speaking her mother tongue might be deadly, and where even the people she loves the most can’t be trusted?

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Elen Caldecott graduated with an MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University and was highly commended in the PFD Prize for Most Promising Writer for Young People. Before becoming a writer, she was an archaeologist, a nurse, a theatre usher and a museum security guard. Elen’s debut novel, How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant, was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Prize and longlisted for the 2010 Carnegie Medal.

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My thoughts:

This short and clever piece of historical fiction takes you to post Roman Britain and the struggle to stay alive in the face of invading Saxons and increased isolation. Gripping and moving, with a strong sense of time and place.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, instagram, reviews

Blog Tour: The Falling in Love Montage – Ciara Smyth*

Find this tour on Instagram today – follow #TheFallingInLoveMontage and #DarkroomTours for all the posts.

Seventeen-year-old Saoirse has finished with exams and is facing a long hot summer before uni. She plans to party, get drunk, watch horror movies and forget all her troubles by kissing girls. Ever since the breakupocalypse with her ex Hannah, she’s been alone and angry, dealing with the hole left in her family by her sick mother’s absence. Worse, Dad drops a bombshell: he’s remarrying at the end of the summer. Enter the scene: Ruby, who might just be the prettiest girl Saoirse’s ever seen. A romcom fan and a believer in true love, Ruby challenges cynical Saoirse to try a summer romance with the serious parts left out, just like in the movies. But what happens when the falling in love montage ends?

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My thoughts:

Like a rom com in book form, this follows Saoirse (Seer-sha) and Ruby as they date in movie montage moments and learn that life isn’t like the movies.

Sweet, funny, clever and heartfelt, this was a delightful read that made me smile.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, instagram

Cover Reveal: Nutmeg Street – Sherrill Joseph

Something different today, a cover reveal and sneak peek of a book due to be published next year.

World-famous Egyptologist Dr. Winston Thornsley died suddenly two months ago in disgrace. His widow, Ida Thornsley, remains convinced her husband was falsely accused of stealing an ancient burial urn he discovered in Egypt last summer, but local and federal law enforcement officers are stumped.

Mrs. Thornsley, desperate for answers, calls in her thirteen-year-old neighbors, the Botanic Hill Detectives—twins Lanny and Lexi Wyatt, Moki Kalani, and Rani Kumar. Their exciting mission? To find the urn and its real thief, bring the criminal to justice, and exonerate Dr. Thornsley so his spotless reputation can be restored.

A roomful of venomous snakes, the poisoned Egyptian pond, and Dragon Pit Man are just a few of the tests awaiting the four tech-savvy teenagers. As the detectives begin to unravel the sinister plot, the mystery takes a dangerous turn. Answers are at their fingertips—if they can only convince their parents to let them solve the case.

Goodreads due to be published February 1st, 2020

Sherrill Joseph’s debut novel, Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets, had been inside her head for decades. The mystery genre took hold of her as a fifth grader when she discovered Nancy Drew and Phyllis A. Whitney mysteries. Years later, it still hasn’t let go.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s in education, Sherrill spent the next thirty-five years as a K-12 literacy teacher. When she retired from teaching in 2013, the Botanic Hill Detectives and their mysteries finally sprang to life.

Forever inspired by her beautiful students in the San Diego public schools, the author has peopled and themed the Botanic Hill Detectives mysteries with children of various abilities, cultures, and interests. She strongly believes that embracing diversity is the key to a better world.

Sherrill is a native San Diegan where she lives in a ninety-year-old house in a historic neighborhood with her bichon frisé-poodle mix, Jimmy Lambchop. In addition to her dog, the city of San Diego, reading and writing, the author loves her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. She must also include dark chocolate, popcorn, old movies, staircases, the color purple, and daisies. She is a member of SCBWI and the Authors’ Guild and promises many more adventures with the squad to come.

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Sneak Peek

“Here we go again. An aftershock! I’ve been afraid this would happen,” said Dr. Kurtz. She rapidly surveyed the room full of terrariums. “And one of my assistants just called to say he’s found a somewhat hidden but large crack from this morning’s tremor on one of our venomous snake enclosure’s glass panes. It’s a major emergency. Come out with me quickly boys—now! I have to attend to this immediately,” she shouted behind her, as she grabbed her tool bag, yanked open the heavy door, and fled outside and down the breezeway to the enclosure.

Unfortunately, Moki and Lanny weren’t as fast as Dr. Kurtz. The door banged shut in their surprised faces and locked. They were trapped in a windowless room.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the power failed simultaneously, and the room went pitch black. Both boys froze, helplessly surrounded by three walls of venomous snakes they could still hear but no longer see.

Cover reveal organised by R&R Book Tours.

blog tour, books, instagram, reviews

Bookstagram Tour: War Girls – Tochi Onyebuchi*

Something a bit different today, I’m taking part in a Bookstagram tour so come join me on Instagram. Below is some info on the book but for my thoughts head over to see some photos I took and check out the rest of the tour too!

Two sisters are torn apart by war and must fight their way back to each other in a futuristic, Black Panther-inspired Nigeria.

The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.

In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.

Goodreads

Amazon

Tochi Onyebuchi is a writer based in Connecticut. He holds a BA from Yale, an MFA in screenwriting from Tisch, and a JD from Columbia Law School. Tochi is the author of Beasts Made of Night and Crown of Thunder.

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*I was kindly gifted a copy of the book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

instagram, life, mental health

#10YearChallenge or Not

You may have seen all the 2009 vs 2019 photos on social media, you may have even posted your own photo comparison, and for the most part they’re great fun, seeing the changes 10 years have wrought. However there is a darker side to this trend.

Dr Melissa Fabello,who writes abour such interesting things as the intersection of sexuality and eating disorders, posted on her stories why she wouldn’t be sharing her 2009 photos. In 2009 she was struggling with an eating disorder herself and in a dark place. Comparing her self was not a funny topic, but a painful one.

I understand that all too well. In 2009 I was struggling with my own demons. A year before I had graduated from university with a solid 2:1 into a financial collapse. Suddenly all the great graduate jobs were gone, companies were not hiring and the industries I was interested in had closed their doors (some would not survive this).

I was pretty miserable, the depression I have struggled with pretty much all my life was reading its ugly head and I was at a loose end. I still worked intermittently for the local council’s Children & Young People’s team; but that too would end as budgets were cut.

My mum, who may actually know me better than I know myself, seeing how lost I was told me to apply for a course. I studied to become a TEFL teacher – something I’ve not exactly made use of. It was an incredibly tough, emotionally draining course. But it had me using my brain, had me reading and writing essays. I really enjoyed it.

I have an analytical mind that also has an anxiety disorder. This is not a good mix – I know this now. 2009 was a year I had to get through. 2010 was better. I got a job I would have for the next 5 years, met one of my best friends and the man who is now my husband.

I won’t be sharing my 2009 vs 2019 photos (mostly because there aren’t any) because who I was then and who I am now aren’t hugely different but they’re different enough that the comparison isn’t worth making.

beauty, beauty boxes, instagram, lifestyle boxes, make up, perfume, skincare

Advent Calendar Opening

Hello lovely blog readers,

Today is December 1st, aka the first day of Advent. You may now put up your tree and hang your stockings.

This year I bought a beauty advent calendar as opposed to the chocolate ones I seem to have every year!

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I went with L’Occitane’s rather sweet one as I love their products and thought a mini treat from them every day would brighten up a cold, damp December.

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So, let’s see what’s behind door number one!

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Ultra rich face cream!

I will most likely be posting these on Instagram so come follow me there, as well as all sorts of Christmas fun and games as we head further into the festive season.

ramblingmads

beauty, books, instagram, make up

Who do you get your beauty advice from?

I don’t really buy magazines, I resent spending my money on adverts and pictures of hungry women in over-priced, ugly clothes.

I do buy Glamour, which in the UK often covers issues that affect women, like politics and women in sports, not just celebrities and clothes I would never be able to afford.

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Via @GlamourUK on Twitter

And I do read Sali Hughes’ beauty column in The Guardian’s Weekend magazine on Saturdays. I like Sali, she’s no-nonsense, writes about products that she’s tried and that work from a variety of brands and prices.

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Via @salihughes on twitter

Last year she published a book Pretty Honest, which expanded on her columns and explored issues around the cosmetics industry and skincare.

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Via google

Her website features fun interviews with women like Caitlin Moran and Marian Keyes, who I admire as writers and women. I follow Sali on Twitter and Instagram too, where she talks about more than just make up.

In fact it’s one of the two books hanging out in my wardrobe/lady space/hoard. The other is The Goddess Guide, which is purely aspirational.

I also quite like the weekly free magazine The Stylist, and in terms of their beauty advice – the column Trend on Trial is probably the most interesting. Three of their beauty staffers test out the new catwalk make up trends to see how wearable they are in real life. Often to hilarious effect. Worth reading online if you don’t live in the UK (or if you do but don’t see the vendors on your travels).

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I also stalk nail trends on instagram, as well as people I admire and want to copy their style. There’s also twitter, pinterest, tumblr and facebook, and I do spend a bit of time ogling pretty things when I should be doing more active or important stuff.

So where do you get your inspiration from? Is there a blogger, instagram account or beauty writer you refer to?

ramblingmads