24 April 2018

Top Ten Tuesday #121

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Tuesday
This week is Top Ten 
Frequently Used Words In Titles
But yeah I didn't fancy it. All I could think of were lists that had already been done (girl/queen/prince/fire/ice/insert-here). I'm just not feeling it. But my own..?
Top Ten 
Subscription Box Items
Because I've been thinking about my subby boxes lately and and more and more I'm a little disappointed or underwhelmed by what's inside. So below are five things I'd love to see (more of) and five things I'm sick of seeing.

I'd like to see more:

  1. Enamel Mugs
    Honestly these are so useful. They're perfect for summer when you want to drink outside but still be bookish, and don't want to risk smashing your 20+ ceramic mugs from subby boxes. Plus, picnics.
  2. Tarot Cards
    Like, just imagine a Grishaverse tarot deck AHHH. And even people with no interest in tarot would probably use them artistically.
  3. Reading Light
    I love reading in bed. But it tends to be night time and it's dark and I guess you see my problem? A wee book light would solve this!
  4. Travel Mug
    Why yes, I would like to show my book-geekiness around everywhere I go. Also it's goo for the environment to reuse rather than grab something disposable. Points if it's bamboo.
  5. Notebooks
    I love a good notebook. I think everyone does, really. Ooh and imagine if you got a pen too? Heck, why just stop at notebooks, how about reading diaries or dream journals?

I'd like to see less:

  1. SJM Merch
    I mean, yay for her that she's still doing so well, but her books are pretty damn problematic, and even if I love how feminine Celaena/Aelin/TheSpecial can be I'm just pretty bored of it all.
  2. Tiny Candles
    How disappointing is it when you can only burn a candle once? Like, I'd rather a couple tealights than a single tiny jar. And also when I'm paying so much for a box I expect a candle to last more then two hours burn time.
  3. Glittery Bath Products
    Yeah, I don't want to be clawing at my skin for three days because the bath product is filled with skin-irritating glitter and shimmer. I like shiny things as much as the next person but not in my bath.
  4. Funkos
    Unless they're bookish, no ta. Every Funko I've got in a box has been a naff one I wouldn't pick for myself, the ones that come up at the top of Amazon if you sort price by Low to High.
  5. Hot Chocolate
    The only hot chocolate I've had from a sub box has been yuk. Seriously yuk. I kind of have it figured now that you have to use expensive gold top milk and add some sugar to make it taste OK, but I'd honestly rather tea than vegan-free-from-everything hot chocolate powder

What would you like in a box if you could curate your own?

23 April 2018

Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

THIS BOOK MAN. Red Sister is incredible and gets all of the stars from me. Since I first picked it up I haven't stopped raving about it and recommending it. It is the first in the Book of the Ancestor series and will absolutely blow you away.

Red Sister by Mark LawrenceAdd to Goodreads
I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

Stolen from the shadow of the noose, Nona is sought by powerful enemies, and for good reason. Despite the security and isolation of the convent her secret and violent past will find her out. Beneath a dying sun that shines upon a crumbling empire, Nona Grey must come to terms with her demons and learn to become a deadly assassin if she is to survive…


Source: Review Request

5 Words: Friendship, belief, stabby, power, fantasy.

I think I may have a new favourite character.

This book is one powerful line after another. Each chapter opens with a punch to the face, a line that grabs you. The writing is dramatic and epic and I absolutely loved it.

Nona is not just a Female Assassin. She is loyal and fierce and twisted and secretive. I loved how she kept secrets not only from everyone around her but from herself. This secretive side to Nona makes her a pretty unreliable narrator, and her past is one story after another and you're never quite sure what to believe. The journey her character takes as the book progresses is amazing.

Red Sister is brutal. It's gory and harsh and hard. It's bloody and painful.

Some people might say that the middle of the book is slow - but it was packed with so much character development that I absolutely loved it. And it made the contrast between the action at the beginning and end have a much bigger impact.

And also, can we have a shout out for the gal pals? I loved that they just all shared beds and nobody batted an eyelid, that it was normal. THANK YOU. And they were just girls being girls, no slut shaming HURRAH!

This was my first Mark Lawrence book but now I can't wait to get my hands on Grey Sister and get started on the Red Queen's War books. Nona is the stabby Hufflepuff fantasy deserves.

19 April 2018

A Playlist for Clean by Juno Dawson

When I was reading Clean by Juno Dawson I was desperate for a soundtrack. There's something about the story, especially the scenes when Lexi is in London, that just begs for a beat behind it. I've been listening to music more as I read, so I teamed up with Aoife at Pretty Purple Polka Dots to create a playlist.

In the past we've teamed up to do a fan cast of Candy by Kevin Brooks and we'd planned to do a fan cast of Clean, but the rights were snapped up before it was even published so we're crossing our fingers and leaving the casting to the professionals.

The struggle to not just have it all CHVRCHES and Halsey for my contributions was unreal.

The Tracklist

Gasoline
Halsey

I Miss You
Clean Bandit

Never Ending Circle
CHVRCHES

Pedestrian at Best
Courtney Barnett

Liability
Lorde

Hurt
Johnny Cash

The A Team
Birdy

Follow Me
Uncle Cracker



Do you listen to music while you read?
Have you read Clean?

Clean by Juno DawsonAdd to Goodreads
A razor-sharp, adrenaline rush of a novel from award-winning author Juno Dawson, Clean is Gossip Girl meets Girl, Interrupted.

'I can feel it swimming through my veins like glitter ... it's liquid gold.'

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she's hit rock bottom.

She's wrong. Rock bottom is when she's forced into an exclusive rehab facility.

From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady.

As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all ... 

It's a dirty business getting clean ...

Addiction and redemption, love and despair. Clean will have you hooked from the first page.

17 April 2018

Top Ten Tuesday #120

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Tuesday
This week is Top Ten 
FREEBIE
So yeah, I have to pick my own list. And how could I not pick some kick-ass female characters? So read on below to find some of my faves.
  1. Izzy O’Neill from The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
    I mean, it's Izzy. She's incredible. She goes through so much shit but is still standing and still fighting at the end of it.
  2. Xifeng from Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
    She is ruthless. She is an anti-hero. And I bloody love her for it.She is unashamedly dark and will take anyone who opposes her down.
  3. Minerva from Pirates! by Celia Rees
    Minerva has A Time Of It but Damn She's Amazing. She's smart and canny and unbelievably good as a person, all while swinging a cutlass and a pistol.
  4. Margot from Margot & Me by Juno Dawson
    As much as the book is about Fliss, it's was Margot who I loved to read the most. She was smart, sassy and ahead of her time.
  5. Vivian Carter from Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
    Viv made my heart cry happy tears with her revolutionary take over of her school, standing up for what's right and bringing everyone together. 
  6. Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
    This is someone I struggled putting on here, because there are so many things that go wrong as the series progresses, but I love how Celaena is a deadly assassin who still likes to look pretty, eat sweets, and curl up in a ball when she has cramps
  7. Garai from Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff
    I just love Garai, okay? All of the female characters in Naondel are amazing in their own way but Garai holds my heart.
  8. Sammy Jo from Gypsy Girl by Kathryn James
    A tough fighter who gets shit done. She has so much up against her but she does everything in her power to care for everyone around her and stand up to prejudice and bigotry.
  9. Amari from Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
    Amari is my queen, thanks. She takes a tough journey from Princess to saving magic and finding justice.
  10. Nona Grey from Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
    Nona is the stabby Hufflepuff I need in my life. She is more than just your standard Female Assassin, she's is a deeply layered character who is loyal AF.

What's your favourite kick-ass female character?

16 April 2018

The Reading Habits Book Tag

I was tagged by the lovely Amy at Golden Books Girl to do the Reading Habits Book Tag, and it's quite a fun one! So read on to have a nosy.

1. Bookmarks or random pieces of paper?
I can use practically anything as a bookmark! I have even been known to shove my kindle in a book in a pinch. I used to be able to just put a book down and pick it up at the right place again, but now I need something to mark my spot.

2. Stop reading randomly or after a chapter/certain amount of pages?
I try to read in chunks of five chapters, so try to push to the end of chapter 5/10/15/65 but if I'm reading on a bus or something I'm fine to just stop at the end of a sentence.

3. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
I read in bed a lot, even though it's difficult to get comfortable. We do have a fantastic big reclining chair that's super comfy but it's in the living room so there are a lot of distractions around.

4. Do you eat or drink whilst reading?
I'm pretty much always drinking tea, and I love my grub, so I do eat and drink a lot whilst reading. When I was reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix I ate an iceberg lettuce like an apple because I fancied salad but was too engrossed to stop reading and make one.

5. Multitasking: music or TV when reading?
Definitely music over TV. I love soundtracks and ambient noise, so have several playlists on Spotify with everything from rain sounds to the Outlander soundtrack. I also love it when authors create soundtracks for their books.

6. One book at a time or several?
Several! I have a super short attention span and flit between books like a hummingbird. They tend to be a mix of genres though.

7. Reading at home or everywhere?
Everywhere! My favourite place to read is actually in a coffee shop with a cup of tea. The light chatter all around makes it easier to get lost in a book.

8. Reading out loud or silently?
Mostly silently, but then some books just beg to be read out loud. Anything particularly lyrical (and especially poetry like Wild Embers) and I will go find somewhere quiet and read it out to myself.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?
I am a breaker of spines, annotator of pages, and just a general love-them-to-death book lover. My books end up looking trashed but I love them so much.

11. Do you write in your books?
Yes! I underline and circle and jot down notes. I don't do it in every book, it tends to be the ones I read again and again. I use highlights and notes on my Kindle too.

12. Who do you tag?

Have you done this tag? Send me the link and I'll come visit!

06 April 2018

Book Beginnings #60

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 Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton.
The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

It begins when a wizard cleaves an island from the mainland, because the king destroyed her temple.
This book is Serious Fantasy, something which is made clear right from the start with everything from the writing style to the language used. I like the style but I think it'll take a while for me to get used to it.
Even as Regan skimmed her sister's writing, she could hear through the open window a change in the rhythm of the wind and noise of the Keep. A distant shout of greeting flared hot and died in an echo. The warm breeze sighed against her neck
I'm only 2% into this monster of a book, and I'm enjoying it. But I have NO IDEA what is going to happen as I am not a Reader of Blurbs. I quite like this writing style though, and I'm excited for how it continues.

This extract makes me quite eager to read faster and find out what is actually going on.

What are you reading this week?

05 April 2018

Guestpost: Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. by Malcolm Duffy

Reading a book in the dialect that surrounds me day to day was such a pleasure. Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. by Malcolm Duffy is heartbreaking and tackles some difficult topics, but it manages to stay accessible and engaging. I am excited to welcome Malcolm Duffy to my blog with a rather important guest post relating to one of the themes of the book.

Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. by Malcolm DuffyAdd to Goodreads
Humorous and heartbreaking debut novel with the fresh, funny, honest voice of a 14-year-old Geordie lad recounting the trials and tribulations of family life and finding first love.

Danny’s mam has a new boyfriend. Initially, all is good – Callum seems nice enough, and Danny can’t deny he’s got a cool set up; big house, fast car, massive TV, and Mam seems to really like him.

But cracks begin to show, and they’re not the sort that can be easily repaired. As Danny witnesses Mam suffer and Callum spiral out of control he goes in search of his dad.
The Dad he’s never met.

Set in Newcastle and Edinburgh, this supremely readable coming-of-age drama tackles domestic violence head on, but finds humour and hope in the most unlikely of­ places.

The Curse of Silence

I’ve always written. It’s what I do. It’s what I love doing. I was lucky enough to have a long career as an advertising copywriter, writing ads for dozens of different clients. I couldn’t believe that I actually got paid to do this. I’d have done the job for free. But while advertising was a lot of fun, it didn’t satisfy that yearning to create something longer, more meaningful. I was always on the look-out for a story to tell. That opportunity came when I was at Comic Relief, working as Creative Director. I visited a project in the West Country that helped women and children who’d suffered as a result of domestic violence. Here I met a young boy, who’d been traumatised by the events at home. I realised that there was a story to tell here. Domestic violence as seen through the eyes of a 14 year old boy. Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. was born.
But I knew that the story couldn’t just be about domestic violence. It needed to go much deeper than that. I began to think about the tales I’d heard about domestic violence. There was a common thread through all of them. Silence. Each person who had suffered kept things bottled up. Not forever. But for a length of time. Sometimes way too long.
Why would someone who had been beaten or verbally abused stay silent? There are many reasons for this. Shame, fear, financial restraints, even love. It’s a common trait of domestic violence for the victims not to speak out. They perhaps. put up with it hoping that things will get better, that the perpetrator will change, that it’s a one off. The problem is that it doesn’t. It has the opposite effect. It emboldens the perpetrator to do it again. It lets them off the hook. There is a terrible statistic in the book, that victims of domestic abuse will be beaten over thirty times before they go to the police. The victims suffer in silence, because of their silence. 
But it’s not just Danny’s mam who stays silent in this story. The three main characters, Danny, his mam, and his dad, all stay silent, and suffer the consequences. His mam stays silent about the abuse she’s suffering. Danny stays silent about what he’s seen and heard. His dad stays silent about the fact that he’s had a son. Each character should have spoken to someone. But they don’t, and they all suffer as a result. 
I didn’t want to write a preachy book, but I hope that there is a lesson here, that staying silent is rarely the best option. Keeping problems bottled up doesn’t solve them. It keeps them hidden, but not resolved. We’ve all done it. It’s human nature to not want to talk about the bad things we’ve done or that have happened to us. But sometimes it’s the only way out. To tell people what’s happened. There may be consequences for revealing the truth. But the consequences will often be far less than those which are born out of silence. 
In the book, Danny finally tells his mam what he’s done. It’s a terrible moment both for him and for her. As Danny himself says- ‘our silence had come back to punish us.’ 
Silence can do that. It can take a problem and magnify it, making it grow far bigger than anyone would wish for. Danny himself learns this harsh lesson. But he also learns something else, that there is a solution. 
It’s called talking.

03 April 2018

Blog Tour: Guest Post: Summer Theatre By The Sea by Tracy Corbett

This book is the perfect summer read for when the sun is shining, and as spring (and hopefully summer) creep closer it helps brighten those sunny days even more. It's uplifting and hopeful and pretty much summer sunshine in book form.

Summer Theatre By The Sea by Tracy CorbettAdd to Goodreads
A summer to remember…
Charlotte Saunders has always loved the buzz of city life. So, when she finds herself abruptly fired, dumped and forced to leave London to move in with her sister Lauren in Cornwall, she thinks the world is ending.

To keep herself busy in the quiet coastal town, Charlotte agrees to help the local drama group. Designing the set for their performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, just for the summer, while she figures out her next career move. But could days at the beach, new friends and a dashingly handsome doctor, change Charlotte’s mind? Suddenly Cornwall doesn’t look so boring after all…

Tracy Corbett on
The Setting for
The Summer Theatre by the Sea

The setting for The Summer Theatre by the Sea is the beautiful county of Cornwall. My partner’s mother lives there, so it’s a place I visit frequently and never tire of going to. My story is set in the fictional town of Penmullion, but it’s based on a few key places. The town itself is based on Looe, with its sloping hills, winding narrow lanes and stunning views overlooking the English Channel. Looe is essentially a fishing port, and the harbour is the main focus of the town. There’s a great mix of quirky shops and restaurants, and it’s lovely to wander around window shopping and enjoying the art shops. New Year is a particularly fun time to visit. Every year they host a massive street party, with locals and visitors dressing up in the most bizarre costumes. And boy, do they take fancy dress to a whole new level! I’ve seen everything from Noah and his Ark (animals in tow), to a group of lads dressed as Crayola crayons (wearing only trunks, their bodies spray-painted – in winter!) A rival group of lads were dressed as Smurfs, spray-painted blue, but with the addition of white hats. Add in Star Wars characters, Harry Potter, Thunderbirds and Batman & Robin, and it’s quite a sight! It all culminates with a massive firework display on the beach at midnight, followed by a sea swim next morning by a few brave souls. 
Penmullion beach is based on the cove at Seaton. It’s a very pretty beach with sand dunes and a craggy rock face. It’s popular with families looking for a sandy beach and dog walkers alike. Stunning on a summer’s day, but harsh when the weather’s bad, as it’s so exposed. There’s a wooden café that I’ve used in the book, which is a lovely place to stop off and have a warm drink or a spot of lunch. They have bench-seats outside, so you can enjoy the scenery and people-watch – my favourite pastime. Unfortunately, due to the bad storms a couple of years ago, it was destroyed. But the owners have rebuilt it, and it was great to visit again last summer and see the business thriving. 
It’s probably no surprise that The Corineus Theatre is based on The Minack in Penzance. What a stunning venue. The stage is cut into the rock face, looking almost as if its suspended in thin air. With the waves crashing behind and the wind swirling around the stone walls, it’s quite a spectacle. I hadn’t realised until visiting the theatre to watch a production of Amadeus that the cast are all amateurs. Each summer season various amateur groups from around the country travel down to Cornwall to put on a show. The quality of the shows are brilliant, and it’s quite an honour to be chosen to perform there. Naturally, as someone who loves amateur dramatics, I was captivated, my creative juices began to flow and the idea to write a story was born.

Summer Theatre by the Sea Blog Tour

01 April 2018

YA Shot 2018: Sufiya Ahmed

Sufiya Ahmed is an award winning author and public speaker on girls’ rights. Her debut,  Secrets of the Henna Girl, is fantastic and heart-wrenching in equal measure. I read it first a few years ago when it was shortlisted for the North East Teenage Book Award.

Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiya AhmedAdd to Goodreads
Life as Zeba knows it could be over for good...

Zeba Khan is like any other sixteen-year-old girl: enjoying herself, waiting for exam results... and dreaming of the day she'll meet her one true love. Except her parents have other plans. In Pakistan for the summer, Zeba's world is shattered. Her future is threatened by an unthinkable - and forced - duty to protect her father's honour.


Five reasons to read Secrets of the Henna Girl:
  1. It's UKYA and it's a well known fact that all UKYA is awesome.
  2. It teaches the differences between arranged marriages and forced marriages and treads gently while it does so
  3. Zeba's story is hard hitting while being sensitively handled.
  4. It will break your heart. If you need a good cry you will get one so get the tissues ready.
  5. The author's passion for girls' rights comes through in the writing and it is excellent.

You can see Sufiya Ahmed at YA Shot 2018 on Saturday 14th April! She'll be chairing a panel about how relationships shape women’s lives, something about which she is intensely passionate.

31 March 2018

Blog Tour: Extract: The Fear by CL Taylor

The Fear is absolutely excellent, a twisting thriller which is quiet different (in the best of ways) from what I have come to expect from the author. I could not put it down and read it in a single sitting.

The Fear by CL TaylorAdd to Goodreads
Lou Smith is used to being headline news as, aged seventeen, she ran away with her 37-year-old teacher, Mike, during a short-lived affair.

Now 32, Lou’s life is in tatters – and she resolves to return home to confront Mike for the damage he has caused. But she soon finds that Mike is unchanged, and is now grooming a young 15-year-old girl called Chloe.

Determined to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself, Lou decides to take matters into her own hands. But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as she tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that Lou could once again become his prey…

The million copy Sunday Times bestseller returns with a taut, compelling psychological thriller that will have you glued to the edge of your seat.


I'm thrilled to be able to share an extract from The Fear by CL Taylor. This is from pretty early on in the book and gives a glimpse into the character of Wendy.

Wendy stiffens as two young men glance her way as they walk into the café. Her preferred table, a single-seater in the window, was occupied when she came in and she had no choice but to take a four-seater in the corner. It’s a quarter past one and the café is filling up. Sooner or later someone’s going to ask if they can share her table. What if Louise Wandsworth herself took one of the seats opposite her? Wendy’s stomach clenches with a mixture of fear and excitement.
But there’s no sign of her. When Lou came into the café yesterday just after one, she went straight up to the counter and ordered a black coffee, a chicken roll and a tub of fruit salad. Wendy watched discreetly from behind her paperwork as Lou frowned over her mobile phone and picked at her food. 
It was the first time she’d seen Lou up close and she was dumbstruck. It reminded her of the evening she’d been having drinks in the Royal Malvern hotel with Angela when Michael Ball had walked in. Wendy had raised a hand, waved and flashed him a smile. Michael Ball didn’t even acknowledge her. Instead his gaze swivelled across the room, to a large, raucous group of lovies by the bar. Wendy was mortified. Angela told her that she wasn’t the first person to mistake a celebrity for a friend but Wendy insisted they leave immediately. It had been the same when she’d first seen Lou – the surprise and the hollowing in her stomach – only that time she’d managed to grip the table rather than thrusting her arm into the air.

30 March 2018

Bank Holiday Book Tag

I thought I'd have some fun this super long bank holiday weekend and do a book tag. Feel free to grab it if you're not tagged, just link back to Tea Party Princess. Huge thanks to Aoife at Pretty Purple Polka Dots who helped me iron out the kinks ❤


So what is a typical bank holiday like? Read on.

Have a lie in. Which book could you lounge in bed with all morning?
Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett is so decadent and filled with lush descriptions that I could definitely lounge about all morning reading it.

Oh my goodness, it's actually sunny outside! A book that makes you feel optimistic.
This Beats Perfect by Rebecca Denton. It just feels so uplifting, especially with Amelie's contagious passion.

Spend some time outdoors. A book that reminds you of nature.
Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young has a big focus on the nature that surrounds the characters and it's so vividly described that I was there and I picture the turning season perfectly.

Make some punch. A book that you find difficult to classify into one genre.
Waiting for Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill is so much more than just a funny contemporary YA. It easily holds a piece of my heart but I have it on about ten different shelves on Goodreads.

Pass some food around. A book you want to share with everyone.
Pirates by Celia Rees, because it's kick-ass girl power pirates that isn't afraid of the grim reality of piratical life.

Light the BBQ. A book that took a while to get going.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C Dao did take a wee while to get going, but once I was about 15% in I was hooked and no way was I putting it down.

Failed BBQ. A book that ultimately disappointed you.
To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo. I was expecting so much, but the vague and confusing descriptions really let me down.

It's raining. Of course. A book to curl up with when it's raining outside.
Clean by Juno Dawson. It's just... Wow. WOW. Perfect for curling up with and seeing the world through someone else's eyes.

Let's just eat the chocolate. A book that's super sweet.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is just so freaking sweet at heart. It fills me with warm fuzzies.

28 March 2018

Review: Clean by Juno Dawson

It took a while to finalise my book review for Clean by Juno Dawson. At the end of last year I read a sample and fell in love with it. Then I was lucky enough to be granted access on NetGalley to the full title. And wow. Clean is A Book, it's Special. And it blew my mind.

Clean by Juno DawsonAdd to Goodreads
A razor-sharp, adrenaline rush of a novel from award-winning author Juno Dawson, Clean is Gossip Girl meets Girl, Interrupted.

'I can feel it swimming through my veins like glitter ... it's liquid gold.'

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she's hit rock bottom.

She's wrong. Rock bottom is when she's forced into an exclusive rehab facility.

From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady.

As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all ... 

It's a dirty business getting clean ...

Addiction and redemption, love and despair. Clean will have you hooked from the first page.


Source: NetGalley Request

A note before my review
This book requires so many trigger warnings that a list of them would be longer than my review. And I'm not just saying that. Think carefully before picking up Clean, don't be afraid to put it down and take some time, leave it altogether if you need to. It's about a myriad of addicts and their issues and their treatment.

5 Words: Privilege, family, friendship, life, change.

5 More Words: Clean, addiction, strength, abuse, toxicity.

Clean is dirty privilege and a messed up cast, an ugly story brought to life with beautiful writing. Clean is glorious.

I knew from the very beginning that I would like this book. It is as challenging to read as it is compelling. It hits so many hard topics right at the core, but works through them, exploring the good and the bad. I could not put it down.

Lexi is a fantastic protagonist. She changes and grows, and her journey is incredible. She is no-nonsense and sharp, and I think I regarded her with more than a little awe by the end. She is entangled in so many toxic relationships (my catnip) and bad situations. I love her determination; not to change, to change. I love her conviction in herself; not having a problem, having a problem. Once she is sure, she is sure, and it takes a heck of a lot to challenge that.

This book is luxurious. Lexi lives a life of privilege, Clarity is an expensive and exclusive treatment facility. It's like Gossip Girl meets Skins meets Junk, complete with fashion, pop culture, drama, and basic bitches.

The story is split into the recovery steps from the Clarity program, and they very cleverly add to the story and make it all the more powerful.

As I read the final pages, all at once I wanted more and I wanted it to end. The story circles back in on itself as you read in the most wonderful ways, and I loved the choppy narrative and the slow reveal of past events.

"How stylishly broken we all are."


27 March 2018

Top Ten Tuesday #119

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Tuesday
This week is Top Ten 
Books That Take Place In Another Country
I read a lot of UKYA so most of the books I read are set in the UK unless they're fantasy. So honestly? This was far harder than I thought it'd be. And oh, would you look at that. They're mostly historical and fantasy. Whoopsy.
  1. Below Zero by Dan Smith - Antarctic
  2. Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton - Cuba
  3. Fir by Sharon Gosling - Sweden
  4. The Prophecy by Lily Blake - France
  5. The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín - Ireland
  6. One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton - Italy
  7. The Venetian Contract by Marina Fiorato - Italy
  8. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - Czech Republic
  9. Almost Grace by Rosie Rowell - South Africa
  10. The Glass Demon by Helen Grant - Germany
And I think a special mention has to go to Terry Pratchett's Discworld, because I think it's more real that the world I actually inhabit.

Where have you traveled in the pages of a book?


26 March 2018

Review: Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young is a book I was excited about before reading. It's still not out for another month but I couldn't wait any longer to share my thoughts and hopefully convince you to pre-order. If you pre-order you also get some Preoder Gifts so you can bet I was right on that. It has not been picked up by a UK publisher yet (boo!) but Book Depository ships for free.

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne YoungAdd to Goodreads
OND ELDR. BREATHE FIRE.

Raised to be a warrior, seventeen-year-old Eelyn fights alongside her Aska clansmen in an ancient rivalry against the Riki clan. Her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield - her brother, fighting with the enemy - the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother's betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki, in a village where every neighbor is an enemy, every battle scar possibly one she delivered. But when the Riki village is raided by a ruthless clan thought to be a legend, Eelyn is even more desperate to get back to her beloved family.

She is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend, who sees her as a threat. They must do the impossible: unite the clans to fight together, or risk being slaughtered one by one. Driven by a love for her clan and her growing love for Fiske, Eelyn must confront her own definition of loyalty and family while daring to put her faith in the people she’s spent her life hating.


Source: NetGalley | Pre-Order

5 Words: Honor, family, friendship, war, unite. 

This book was everything I never knew I needed. Actually, no. It was more than I thought I could ever dream of in a book.

Sky In The Deep was absolutely perfect for me. 

Normally I'm not a fan of action scenes or gore. When you're dealing with Viking-inspired warriors this is something you can't really escape. But this time? I was gripped by the fighting scenes, by the brutality and passion driving them forward. I even looked forward to reading them.

Eelyn is amazing. She is perhaps on of my most favourite fictional characters EVER. I loved how resolute and stubborn she was, her convictions come through on every page. She is a kick ass warrior, she knows herself, and she allows herself to change. I loved every second I spent by her side on the page.

This book gave me goosbumps. It hooked me right from the start, had me reading as I ate and walked to work, and even sneakily under the desk at work. I absolutely could not put it down. The writing is as breath-taking as the setting, as chilling as the encroaching winter. The details are exquisite. I could feel the cold wind, the snow on my feet, sticky blood drying on my skin. I could smell the food and the smoke and the iron tang of blood. My heart soared with Eelyn's, plummeted back down, raced with the adrenaline of battle. I could feel her pain (and boy did it hurt).

I loved the exploration of family, friendship, and tolerance. How the Aska and the Riki are the fiercest of enemies, yet so similar. It called to the Hufflepuff in me.

The ending tied everything up nicely, and it was so refreshing to know that it can be left as a standalone, despite how much I want to read more about Eelyn.

This book is perfect. Absolutely amazing. I have a finished copy pre-ordered, and I will likely read everything this author publishes in future because this was so incredible.

Will you be reading?



21 March 2018

Blog Tour: Sunshine & Secrets by Daisy James

Today I have invited author Daisy James to my blog to talk a little bit about Sunshine & Secrets and a lot about food. There's even a delicious and deceptively easy chilli chocolate brownie recipe to follow.

Sunshine & Secrets (The Paradise Cookery School #1) by Daisy JamesAdd to Goodreads
When newly heartbroken, michelin-starred chef Millie Harper is offered a job overseeing the setup of The Paradise Cookery School she jumps at the opportunity. Leaving London and her memories of heartbreak behind she hops on a plane to the hilltop cocoa plantation in St Lucia.

But this beautiful island break might be more work than she’d expected….  With only two weeks to have the kitchen installed, cocoa pods going missing from the plantation and the notoriously relaxed island workmen to contend with, she’s going to need some help. Gruff but charming estate manager Zach Baxter, is only too happy to offer his opinions. As the two clash heads can they remain focussed on the job in hand and get the cookery school finished in time?

Pack your bags and jump right into the sun and secrets of The Paradise Cookery School. Perfect for fans of Sarah Morgan, Jenny Oliver and Kat French.I am delighted to have


Daisy James, author of Sunshine & Secrets, to my blog today to talk a bit about her latest book, delicious food, and a tempting chocolatey recipe. Yum.

Caribbean Cuisine by Daisy James

The Paradise Cookery School - Sunshine & Secrets is set on the spectacular Caribbean island of St Lucia. The story centres on Millie Harper as she attempts to oversee the renovations of a dilapidated villa situated on a disused cocoa plantation, high on the hillside overlooking the town of Soufrière in the south of the island, before a group of discerning foodies descend for a week’s tutorial.

Not only is Millie in charge of making sure the laid-back builders install the kitchen sink in the right place and the precious Italian marble units don’t get cracked, she is also responsible, along with her friend and Caribbean chef Ella Johnson, for triple-testing every recipe that will feature on the course which turns out to be a massive undertaking.

In order to make sure the story was as authentic as possible, I did a great deal of research into the food of St Lucia. Caribbean cuisine is a blend of African, European, Indian, Arab and Chinese influences, a real melting pot of flavours, textures and aromas. For the savoury dishes there is a heavy emphasis on spicy jerk flavours and marinades using what is know as the Holy Trinity of Ingredients – Scotch Bonnet peppers, spring onions and fresh thyme. Desserts are varied; from myriad tropical fruits such as mangoes, passionfruit, guava, breadfruit and sapodilla, to baked goods such as Caribbean rum cake or truffle pie, not to mention chocolate and coconut cookies.

As the Paradise Cookery School is situated on a cocoa plantation that the owner, Claudia Croft, hopes one day to bring back to life, many of the recipes featured in Sunshine & Secrets contain chocolate or cocoa. When I was researching the recipes for Millie and Ella to showcase to their students, I set about baking my own chocolate-inspired creations. My family were overjoyed. The kitchen became infused with delicious aromas of chocolate brownies – which to everyone’s surprise revealed a generous sprinkle of chilli which goes really well with chocolate. I baked chocolate cheesecakes, chocolate cookies, chocolate cupcakes, we even had grilled salmon in a chocolate and ginger sauce.

Here’s my recipes for chilli chocolate brownies. You can add as much or as little chilli as you like, depending on your preference, but we like them to have a bit of a kick.

The Paradise Cookery School’s Chilli Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients

125g butter
275g caster sugar
2 eggs
50g self-raising flour
25g plain flour
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
100g of plain chocolate
1 teaspoon of chilli powder
Half teaspoon of vanilla essence

Method

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water.

Put the butter, sugar, vanilla essence and chilli powder into another bowl and beat until fluffy.

Break the eggs into a small bowl, beat then add a little at a time to the buttery mixture.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and beat well, then add the melted chocolate.

Spoon the mixture into a lined tin (20cm square) and bake for 35 minues at 180C of Gas Mark 4. They are ready when a crust has formed on the top.

Cut into squares and dust with icing sugar.

Delicious!

Giveaway


Sunshine & Secrets by Daisy James Blog Tour Banner

20 March 2018

Top Ten Tuesday #118

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

Top Ten Tuesday
This week is Top Ten 
Books On My Spring TBR
I seriously suck at sticking to a TBR, but I figure I've got three months to make it happen so maybe this time I'll actually manage them. Ha.
  1. The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
  2. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
  3. Skylarks by Karen Gregory
  4. The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton
  5. Spark by Alice Broadway
  6. The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green
  7. State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury
  8. Blood and Sand by CV Wyck
  9. Savage Island by Bryony Pearce
  10. The Radical Element by Jessica Spotswood
What's on your Spring TBR?

19 March 2018

Q&A with Teri Terry

Teri Terry is one of my all time favourite authors so when I heard she was going to be taking part in University of Central Lancashire BA in Publishing's Northern Young Adult Literature Festival I squealed and practically begged to interview her. Then proceeded to have a fan-girl induced brain blank and take ages to come up with questions.

Interviewing your faves is HARD.

Q&A with Teri Terry

Can you describe the Dark Matter series in five words?
No.
Well, OK; I’ll try... Do hyphenated words count as one or two?

Chilling, disturbing, thought-provoking, ultimately hopeful

Your books always feature strong characters who break the mold - what inspires you to write them?
Characters with many layers interest me the most. No one is really all good or all evil; it’s the things the good ones do wrong and the bad ones do right that make them interesting.

Dark Matter takes us on a fraught tour around the North of the UK - where is your favorite place up North?
I did meet my husband-to-be in Sedburgh, so that’s got to be on the list. I also love York, and have good friends in Newcastle and near Lincoln. The Isle of Skye and Edinburgh and Stirling and the Lake of Menteith and SO MANY lochs in Scotland are on my list also. There’s nothing I like better than writing by water.

Which of your characters would you most like to sit down and have a cuppa with?
Xander. Can he really be all the things he is and people still find him so... Irresistible? I’m still curious about him.

Do you think that you would be able to survive the pandemic? Would you be immune or a survivor (or would you die)?
Odds are I’d die. On the other hand, I’ve always had an affinity for cats... (this will make more sense after you read Evolution, the third book in the trilogy)

Are you a planner or a pantser?
Hmmm... 82% pantser – 18% planner. Ish.

What is your favourite thing about writing?
Making things up in my pyjamas! With a cup of tea, under a blanket, with my puppy next to me occasionally attacking my laptop.

Finally, what are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the future?
I’d love to tell you, but it’s top secret! Let’s just say it’s got tragedy, political intrigue, and characters that you may want to shout at as you read...

Northern YA Lit Fest

Northern YA Literary Festival

University of Central Lancashire, in association with their new BA in Publishing, are hosting The Northern Young Adult Literature Festival on Saturday 24th March 2018 at 53 Degrees in Preston. Doors open at 10am, with the events staggered throughout the day. Best of all, it's free!

Terri Terry will be in the Getting into Publishing panel with Danny Weston and Anna Day, talking about how they got published, their inspirations and themes and issues in current publishing. These authors, and others, will be signing books after the panel.

16 March 2018

Book Beginnings #59

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 To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo.
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo.
I have a heart for every year I've been alive.
To Kill A Kingdom is a pretty dark re-imagining of The Little Mermaid - which, let's be honest, is dark AF to begin with. And it starts off pretty gruesomely, with Lira examining the hearts she has stolen. I love it.

Also can we take a look at that gorgeous cover? I've spent a ridiculous amount of time just staring at the cover instead of reading, gazing at the beautiful foiled typography.
My father told me to stop living inside fairy tales, but maybe that's exactly what I need to do.
This part of the book isn't about the character you'd expect.

I actually found this small part of the book a little frustrating, as the realisation the character came to had been pretty obvious to me since the beginning of the chapter but it took him until the end to work it out. Still, it didn't really detract from my enjoyment, and this is only page 56 so I still have a long way to go.

What are you reading this week?

15 March 2018

Q&A with Alwyn Hamilton

Alwyn Hamilton is the bestselling author of the Rebel of the Sands trilogy and an all round wonderful person (I know this from first hand experience). So when I heard she was going to be taking part in University of Central Lancashire BA in Publishing's Northern Young Adult Literature Festival I jumped at the opportunity to ask her some questions.

Q&A with Alwyn Hamilton

Can you describe the Rebel of the Sands series in five words?
Wild West Meets Arabian Nights.

What was your favourite book to write?
I loved writing TRAITOR TO THE THRONE. I had so many exciting ideas for it that had been brewing through the whole long process of writing REBEL so I was very glad to get those on the page. And also because it was my first time writing a book to deadline and I felt very accomplished doing it.

Which of your characters would you most like to sit down and have a cuppa with?
Shazad and Sam would definitely be my top picks.

Do you think you could survive in the world you created? Who would you want by your side?
One time, when I had the flu on tour, I struggled to walk across the airport. It was about 500 meters. So I definitely don't think I could survive walking across a whole desert like Amani did! But If I had to I would want Shazad by my side. She'd keep me going.  

Are you a planner or a pantser?
I'm a daydreamer. I daydream the pillars of the plot that I'd most like to write and then figure out how they should all link together, so it is all mostly in my head when I start writing. 

What is your favourite thing about writing?
The "click" moments. The moments when something that was evading your grasp, a character trait, a plot twist, whatever it might be, clicks into place, and suddenly everything is flowing. 

Finally, what are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the future?
I am working a new YA Fantasy Duology. And for now that's all I can say ;-)

Northern YA Lit Fest

Northern YA Literary Festival

University of Central Lancashire, in association with their new BA in Publishing, are hosting The Northern Young Adult Literature Festival on Saturday 24th March 2018 at 53 Degrees in Preston. Doors open at 10am, with the events staggered throughout the day. Best of all, it's free!

Alwyn Hamilton will be talking about the epic conclusion to her hugely popular Rebel of the Sands story: Hero at the Fall. She’ll be around before and after for signing sessions.

13 March 2018

Making Tea with Children of Blood and Bone

My Maji clan is Tider, which means I have the ability to manipulate water and ice. At first I was a little confused because I didn't think that water is an element I have much affinity with. Then I spent some time thinking about it and it made sense.
You’re a Tider, the maji of water. Tenacious, warm-hearted, and creative, you have the power to manipulate water in all of its forms.

As a Tider, you’re a natural born leader. Though you can be stubborn at times, your persistence allows you to achieve anything you put your mind to.
When life gives you water, make tea.

Custom Tea Blends for Children of Blood and Bone

If you haven't already read Children of Blood and Bone, get on it. It's incredible. And if you get the Waterstones Exclusive Edition it even comes with red sprayed edges which are exactly as gorgeous as you'd imagine.

I reviewed it in 5 Words: Power, magic, family, loyalty, faith.

But reading this book is truly a journey. Tomi Adeyemi's writing is such that I was drawn into the world. I was there. I could see and smell and feel. So I blended up some tea to match some of the most vivid locations.

Amari in the Royal Palace
A tea blend based on Amari from Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • First Flush Darjeeling
  • Pink Rose Petals
Three parts First Flush Darjeeling, one part Pink Rose Petals. 

Brewing Time: 2 - 4 minutes

This tea is subtle and light and expensive. I wanted to capture the luxury of the palace, the expensive tastes of the royal family. Use just under boiling water, and make sure not to leave it brewing for too long as first flush can turn bitter quite quickly.

At Home in Elorin
A tea blend based on Zélie from Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Second Flush Assam
  • Cocoa Nibs
Two parts Second Flush Assam, one part Cocoa Nibs. 

Brewing Time: 3 - 5 minutes

This tea feels like home. It's strong and smoky and slightly sweet to drink, and it smells like treacle. It's comforting and familiar, something that I had wanted to capture when I was blending it. It's malty and rich and the cocoa adds extra warmth.

This blend would lend itself well to a tea latte, just brew a little stronger and use an equal quantity of hot frothy milk.

In the Dreamscape
A tea blend based on Inan from Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
One part of each.

Brewing Time: 2 - 5 minutes

This tea is not subtle, but it is relaxing. The scent is super strong and hides the lightness of flavour, and I like how this reflects the turmoil of the characters in the dreamscape when they are trying to figure each other out and are projecting misleading personas.

This can be brewed multiple times, lengthen the brewing time by a minute each time. Use just under boiling water. Best of all it's caffeine free so actually pretty perfect for bedtime when you're headed into dreamland yourself.

The Temple at Chȃndomblé
A tea blend based on Chȃndomblé from Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  • Jasmine Dragon Pearl
One part of each.

Brewing Time: 2 - 3 minutes

I wanted something that was simple yet special for the temple. I hope this tea light, fresh tea reflects the place itself rather than the horrors that unfolded there, representing new beginnings rather than brutal endings.

Do not use boiling water, either stop it before it boils or let it rest for around 5 minutes before pouring. As expensive as dragon pearl is, it can be re-infused multiple times, and the flavour will change each time, becoming more floral as the green tea unfurls from around the jasmine blossom.



Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. 

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.