07 April 2019

Sleep by CL Taylor *AD Gifted

Avon Books sent me a free review copy of Sleep by C.L. Taylor.

Sleep by C.L. Taylor is one of those books that will keep you reading long past your bed time. I was quickly dragged in to the story and couldn't stop reading.

Sleep by CL Taylor coverAdd to Goodreads button
All Anna wants is to be able to sleep. But crushing insomnia, terrifying night terrors and memories of that terrible night are making it impossible. If only she didn’t feel so guilty…

To escape her past, Anna takes a job at a hotel on the remote Scottish island of Rum, but when seven guests join her, what started as a retreat from the world turns into a deadly nightmare.

Each of the guests have a secret but one of them is lying – about who they are and why they’re on the island. There’s a murderer staying in the Bay View hotel. And they’ve set their sights on Anna.

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Guilt, blame, isolation, recovery, mystery.

Sleep starts with a bang and a crash. It's a fast paced read that I couldn't put down, and I loved how invested in the story I was. I pretty much read it in a single sitting.

I loved the secrets in the story - it meant I was never entirely sure about who to trust and what to believe, and I kept wondering about all of the motives. The pressure of the setting was amazing - everything felt very insulated and heightened. I loved the atmosphere of the island and the hotel.

Anna was a fantastic character, I felt like I admired her quite a bit. I liked her resilience, her drive, the way she was always fighting and doing her best.

I really enjoyed the ending, how everything came to a head. I was correct with my guess, although I didn't quite imagine the why! I liked that I was challenged a bit and that it wasn't super-predictable.

No. It doesn't hurt there. It hurts here, in here, inside my head.

03 April 2019

The Boy Who Steals Houses by CG Drews

I am absolutely delighted to share a guest post from the amazing CG Drews, a blogger I greatly admire for their ridiculously funny posts and discussions, and an author who knows how to break my heart into a million tiny pieces.

The Boy Who Steals Houses is out tomorrow and trust me, you need it in your life. It's dark and complicated and so full of love, and it will probably break you a little so have tissues at the ready.

The Boy Who Steals Houses by CG Drews cover

5 Key Inspirations For The Boy Who Steals Houses

My stories always begin with a collection of wishes and schemes, of puzzle pieces that I need to sort through until they fit together. I don’t get hit with a full book idea at once. For me, it’s more like a being handed a collection of oddly shaped keys and shown a row of crooked, smudgy doors – and then I’m left cramming keys into locks until I get that magical click and my story begins to take shape.

It took me a few months to fit all the keys into their rightful locks before I was ready to write The Boy Who Steals Houses. Today I’m going to share five pieces of inspiration that sparked the story. (And, yes, you have to let me have this key metaphor because my protagonist, Sam, is a collector of keys…so it works ok. Let’s do this.)

“He puts his wishes into small metal keys and tucks them in his pocket to keep him breathing.” – The Boy Who Steals Houses

1. Goldilocks retelling.

I’m wildly fond of writing retellings, because you get a bare bone framework as a starting place, but you also have limitless possibilities on how to twist the classic tale into your own. I knew my version of Goldilocks would be genderbent + in a modern contemporary setting.

2. I wanted a story with siblings.

Sibling stories are pretty much my favourite things to read (and write). I have a large collection of siblings myself (five of them, to be exact) so writing the dynamics and shenanigans of big families comes naturally to me. When I started putting together The Boy Who Steals Houses, I wanted to have two brothers with a very intense but complicated relationship. Sam and Avery absolutely need each other…but they also fight. A lot. And just in case two starring brothers isn’t enough – let me introduce you to the De Lainey family, who end up absorbing Sam into their lives. They have seven kids and are loud and messy and catastrophically loveable.

3. A little bit of thieving…

Because the original Goldilocks was a bit of a thief. She just kind of walked into a house and ate all their food?! The audacity. With Sam, I made him into an apologetic thief – one who hates his life, but is powerless to stop the cycle that drives him to steal.

4. Food counts as inspiration, right?!

If you looked over my original outline you would see zero notes about writing lots of food into this book. And yet there are so many caramel brownies. Like…so so many. My true confession?! I was home alone for the weekend I was drafting and cooking is Not Fun when you’d rather be writing. I kind of existed on brownies. (Shh, no judgement. I am not sorry.) So, yes, I literally wrote about brownies because I was eating them. The imagination is, um, strong with this one?

5. Finding your place in the world.

A key (ha! I cannot stop using this word) theme I wanted to explore was: searching. Sam is searching for a place to fit in the world. He’s searching for a home, but more than that – he’s searching for a family. He loves his brother Avery so fiercely, but Sam is the one who props them up and keeps them going. He wants to collapse into someone else’s arms and be held up, just for a whisper of a moment, and this book is about if he can find that. And if he finds it, can he keep it, when he has left a trail of bloody sins in his wake?

02 April 2019

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke *AD Gifted

Bantam Press sent me a free review copy of Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke.

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke was such a fun read, I read pretty much the whole thing in a single sitting and didn't want to put it down. This book is super romantic, full of fun, and it feels slightly epic in scope.

Star Crossed by Minnie DarkeAdd to Goodreads button
Destiny doesn't happen by accident . . .

When Justine Carmichael (Sagittarius, aspiring journalist and sceptic) bumps into her teenage crush Nick Jordan (Aquarius, struggling actor and true believer) it could be by chance. Or it could be written in the stars.

Justine works at the Alexandria Park Star - and Nick, she now learns, relies on the magazine's astrology column to guide him in life.

Looking for a way to get Nick’s attention, Justine has the idea of making a few small alterations to the horoscope for Aquarius before it goes to print.

After all, it’s only the stars. What could possibly go wrong...?

Source: Review Copy

5 Word Review: Astrology, friendship, deception, connections, love.

I quite liked the way that the story played with astrology and lent so much sway to it. The story did have a bit of a written-in-the-stars feel, especially with the way so many smaller stories converged.

I loved Justine. Her character is so steadfast and hardworking, eagle-eyed and smart. I really loved her duplicity and the way that once she knew she wanted to get closer to Nick she started to engineer it. It didn't come across as manipulation in the story, which it so easily could have done.

The writing is gorgeous and full of description. I would say that it's almost overly flowery at times, but it suits the story so well that it doesn't seem fair. It's lyrical, vibrant, and rich. When I was reading Star-Crossed I felt more like I was watching something play out rather than reading it, and it meant that I finished it quite quickly.

Star-Crossed is deeply romantic, almost like a rom-com, so full of love and misunderstandings and unexpected yet fun consequences.

31 March 2019

A Date With A Book *AD Gifted

Walker Books sent me a free review copy of The Hand, The Eye & The Heart by Zoë Marriott.

Zoë Marriott is one of my auto-buy authors. She writes it, I buy it, I read it, I love it. The Hand, The Eye & The Heart has been on my TBR since it was announced, so when it came to reading it I had plans.

My plan? To date the book.

What does this entail? Me devoting myself to the book for a while.

And when it's as amazing as The Hand, The Eye & The Heart, that's an easy thing to do.

The Hand, The Eye & The Heart by Zoë Marriott cover

Step One: Introduce Yourself

This is it. It's happening. You're meeting for the first time.

Examine the cover, read the blurb, peek at the praise, let your imagination run wild with your expectations. Move the book from side to side so the gorgeous turquoise foil catches the light, because you're a book magpie and it's shiny.

Step Two: Get to Know Them

This is where you dive right in. Grab yourself a cuppa and a snack, get comfortable, because it's going to get intense. This is where you start your journey.

Sip your dragon pearl green tea and gasp at the intensity of the first chapter. Feel your heart racing and your mind whirring because this is the most awesome start and obviously the sign of good things to come.

Step Three: Figure It Out

Or try to. Because you're addicted to stories and the characters, this book in front of you. You mull over the story so far and what you want to happen next and what could happen. You start to maybe catch a feel, and you know you might get hurt. But it's exciting and new and you need to go on.

Step Four: Get Lost

Or, you know, get so caught up in the story that you forget everything else. Your tea goes cold, your snack is uneaten, you can't put the book down. But it's amazing, and you're so invested. You love the rich setting, the intricacies of the world, the visual writing. The characters feel almost like your friends, and you need to know what's going to happen to Zhi.

Step Five: Reflect

I don't know about you, but I had an excellent time. Definitely going to do that again. The whole date was a success and now I need to think, because this review will not write itself.

Time to completely unwind with a bath...

Relaxing Bath Soak

What you need:
  • A small gauze bag or disposable tea bag
  • 1 tablespoon oats
  • 1 tablespoon Himalayan pink salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender

Put it all of the ingredients in the bag, secure the top tightly. Draw a hot bath and drop the bag in, move it around every so often to help the salts dissolve and the oils in the lavender diffuse.

Aaaand... Relax.

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29 March 2019

Book Beginnings #66

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.

I am currently reading The Hand, the Eye and the Heart by Zoë Marriott.

The Hand, the Eye and the Heart by Zoë Marriott cover
I should have died when I was seven. Any ordinary child would have. But it was many years before I would realise how far from ordinary I truly was. You've heard the saying that no one is entirely what they seem, yes?
OK so I was hooked by this first paragraph. I couldn't put it down, I was sold. The first lines are definite intriguing and hint at the scope of the story to come. The first chapter is pretty intense, there's a lot of tension.

Also, isn't the cover absolutely stunning? I could stare at it all day. So freaking pretty. And all of those turquoise bits are shiny. Shiny.
Before he could finish the thought, I spun out of the shadows and came at him once more. Our blades clashed at the height of my waist, disengaged, clashed again before my face. The point of his sword slipped under my guard and grazed the shoulder of my armour, sending a handful of leather scales flying. I turned my movement against him and my elbow thudded solidly into his gut. I heard the hard cough of his breath and the soft wheeze beginning beneath it.
I'm actually about to finish it because I couldn't stop reading and wow. When I read these lines from page 56 I was full up excitement and anticipation.

Now I'm finished and all I can say is go and order this book. Now. It's a wowser.

What are you reading this week?

26 March 2019

Book Review: Meat Market by Juno Dawson *AD Gifted

Quercus Children's Books sent me a free electronic review copy of Meat Market by Juno Dawson via NetGalley.

Meat Market by Juno Dawson is a caustic take-down of misogyny and the treatment of girls in the fashion industry. It's dark and uplifting, haunting at times, and amazingly written. It is sublime.

Meat Market by Juno Dawson coverAdd to Goodreads button
Jana Novak's history sounds like a classic model cliché: tall and gangly, she's uncomfortable with her androgynous looks until she's unexpectedly scouted and catapulted to superstardom.

But the fashion industry is as grimy as it is glamorous. And there are unexpected predators at every turn.

Jana is an ordinary girl from a south London estate, lifted to unimaginable heights. But the further you rise, the more devastating your fall...

Honest and raw, this is a timely exposé of the dark underbelly of the fashion industry in an era of #TimesUp and #MeToo. It might just be Juno Dawson's most important book yet.

Source: NetGalley

5 Word Review: Fashion, pressure, family, friendship, #MeToo.

5 More Words: Strength, abuse, life, change, justice.

Content Warnings: eating disorders, transphobia, sexual assault, sexual harassment, body shaming, coercion, drug use.

When I read Clean last year I thought it was glorious. But when I read Meat Market this year I thought it was sublime. Holy shit, Juno Dawson has done it again. And dare I say it? Meat Market was even better than Clean (which was one of my top reads last year) and I am struggling with how to even begin to review it. So forgive the rambling ahead.

I could not put the book down, I was so caught up in Jana's story. And Jana. Oh, my precious Jana. I cared so bloody much for her. It hurt to read her cracking, breaking, shrinking. But goodness me, she is amazing. I felt like I cracked a little with her at times, I felt violated with her, I felt as invisible as she did despite the billboards, but I also felt the elation of doing something, the high of the catwalk. I felt like I was right there with Jana.

The writing is breathtaking. At times it was like reading poetry, there were so many lines where I just stopped and reread it again and again, read it aloud, listened to how it flowed. It's just so gorgeously crafted. I liked the mix of medias in the story, the references to a piece of trash journalist that had me cackling even as I rolled my eyes at the misogyny she spewed.

And yet, Meat Market is such an ugly story. It's so beautiful that it almost hurts to read, and the story itself is so ugly and harsh that at times I didn't want to read on. Meat Market hits right in the feels, it gets right into the heart of you. It's dark and gut-wrenching, but also uplifting and powerful. It made my heart sing, even as it filled me with dread and brought tears to my eyes.

Juno's caustic take-down of the fashion industry, and everything that is wrong with it, is amazing. It's gritty and raw and excruciatingly honest. But it's not just the bad bits cherry picked for drama - Meat Market also shows the good bits, the friendships and highs and the moments that sparkle.

And there was so much swearing and god, I loved it.
Swear Count:
Fuck 194
Shit 92
Bitch 36
Cunt 10

I really love what Juno has done with the ending of Meat Market. It could have been so different, but just like with Clean it circles back on itself a little and offers a bit of hope. A story that was so dark and scary still holds a glimmer of hope.

22 March 2019

An Italian Affair by Caroline Montague

Orion Books sent me a free review copy of An Italian Affair by Caroline Montague.

This book transported me for a while to sunny Tuscany, and I found it all too easy to get caught up in the story. An Italian Affiar by Caroline Montague was excellent, perfect for reading on a sunny day or by the pool.

An Italian Affair by Caroline Montague coverAdd to Goodreads button
A sweeping tale of love, betrayal and war, set against the glorious Tuscan countryside. Perfect for fans of Santa Montefiore and Dinah Jeffries 

Love. War. Family. Betrayal.

Italy, 1937. Alessandra Durante is grieving the loss of her husband when she discovers she has inherited her ancestral family seat, Villa Durante, deep in the Tuscan Hills. Longing for a new start, she moves from her home in London to Italy with her daughter Diana and sets about rebuilding her life.

Under the threat of war, Alessandra's house becomes first a home and then a shelter to all those who need it. Then Davide, a young man who is hiding the truth about who he is, arrives, and Diana starts to find her heart going where her head knows it must not.

Back home in Britain as war breaks out, Alessandra's son Robert, signs up to be a pilot, determined to play his part in freeing Italy from the grip of Fascism. His bravery marks him out as an asset to the Allies, and soon he is being sent deep undercover and further into danger than ever before.

As war rages, the Durante family will love and lose, but will they survive the war...?  

Source: Review copy.

5 Word Review: War, family, secrets, danger, love.

Gosh, this book. I hesitate to say it was lovely, because honestly the story isn't, but it was lovely to read. It was a wonderful experience, and I found myself carried along and caught up with the story. It was easy to invest my time and feelings in the characters and even as I turned the last page all I wanted to do was read on.

I loved the exploration of family, and familial loyalty and pain and hurt. I really felt for the characters, I found I could connect with them so much, and when certain things happen, it got me right in the feels. As in, put the book down and step away for a while and remember to breathe.

Alessandra was absolutely my favourite character. Her growth was incredible, especially as her character was pushed almost to her limits.

It's a gorgeous book, perfect for reading in the garden with a glass of wine. I will absolutely keep an eye out for this author's future books.