11 December 2018

My Ten Favourite Posts This Year

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 
Favourite Blog Posts
I decided that this week I'd look back and reflect on my own favourite blog posts this year - and it has been A YEAR where I've pushed myself and opened up a lot more than in the past.

    What's your favourite blog post you've written this year?

    09 December 2018

    Five Things I Need To Do Before The End Of The Year

    We're almost half way through the final month of the year and there are still some things on my TBR... Eeek! Is it time to panic?

    I'm pretty sure I can get most of these ticked off, but wish me luck anyway as life has a tendency of getting in the way.

    Five Things I Need To Do Before The End Of The Year, to do list
    1. Finish Christmas Shopping
      I guess this is actually a pretty big one, but I need to actually finish my Christmas shopping! Oops. Usually I'm pretty much done by now, but this year I'm on a go slow.
    2. Go for a Winter Walk
      I just want to wrap up warm, grab a flask, and be out in Nature. I'm thinking Cragside or Wallington Hall to get some use out of my National Trust Membership, and I know I'll really feel the benefit mentally from being outside.
    3. Set My 2019 Reading Journal
      I got an absolutely gorgeous Rainbow Reading Journal and Planner from Stella Bookish Art and I can't wait to use it. It has a space for your favourite books from the year before and I need to fill it in.
    4. Visit The Laing Art Gallery
      One of my favourite things to do in those last days before Christmas is to visit the Laing Art Gallery. With the festive rush outside it's like a quiet slice of heaven, some peace in the crush of shoppers. My favourite piece is no longer on display (boo) but I still like to have a wander around.
    5. Finish my Currently Reading
      I love to start each new year with a clean slate, so I try to finish all of the books on my Currently Reading shelf on Goodreads before midnight. I've managed it the past five years so fingers crossed I do it again.
    What do you still need to do before the end of the year?

    08 December 2018

    Fantasy Christmas Shopping at Waterstones

    I'm skint, but I can still dream, yes?

    Waterstones logo

    This is my fantasy Christmas Shopping list if I was set loose at Waterstones with unlimited funds. To be honest a lot of this is cheap enough that I could probably save up and get it myself, but also I have Priorities (boo).

    And yes, it's all stuff I'd buy myself.

    And yes, I am sending this to relatives as a massive hint. Hi, mum!
    1. Moon Light
    2. Jellycat Merryday Giraffe
    3. Paint A Tea Set
    4. The Secret Garden
    5. Paperblanks Azure Midi Lined Notebook
    6. Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle Boardgame
    7. Feminists Don't Wear Pink (and other lies) by Scarlett Curtis
    8. Dinosaur Bingo
    9. Celestial One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book
    10. The Mystery Mansion: Storytelling Card Game
    What would you buy yourself?

    07 December 2018

    Five Fantastic Festive Films

    I love a good festive film binge, and here are five fantastic films I've watched this year that I'd recommend to anyone looking for cheesy festive goodness.

    A Christmas Prince

    I was so excited for this film last year for two reasons. 1. The trailer was so cheesy 2. Rose McIver. I loved how A Christmas Prince seemed like it had a tiny budget, for some reason it really tickles me to see the lavish setting and then all the obviously costume jewellery.

    A Wish For Christmas

    Uhm, excuse me, it's got Lacey Chabert in so OF COURSE it's awesome. I really enjoy the feel good factor of this one, the message that you can be brave if you try. It encouraged me to speak up for myself a little more, so that's always a bonus.

    The Princess Switch

    I never knew that I needed this film in my life until I watched it. Three times. In a row. It's just so blooming sweet and fun and it doesn't take itself seriously. It's definitely one to make you smile.

    The Holiday Calendar

    I didn't know about this one until the banner came up on Netflix and then I was all over it. It's such a lovely film about family and friendship and love, and I loved the touch of whimsy with the calendar itself.

    The Sweetest Christmas

    This film makes me SO HUNGRY like give me all the food now, so when I watch it I scoff gingerbread and popcorn and mice pies. Also it's super sweet and heart warming and cheesy.


    What's your favourite festive film?


    06 December 2018

    The Christmas Cracker Book Tag

    I couldn't help but pick another tag! I loved the look of The Christmas Cracker Book Tag when I saw it on Golden Books Girl and couldn't resist giving it a go myself.

    The Christmas Cracker Book Tag

    Pick A Book With A Wintry Cover

    Below Zero by Dan Smith isn't just a wintry cover, it's one that gives me chills because that book is scary. Literal chills *shivers*
    Below Zero by Dan Smith cover

    Pick A Book You’re Likely To Buy As A Present

    Basically any MinaLima edition! They're so pretty. I've bought them in the past as gifts and they've always been well received.

    Pick A Festive Themed Book

    I'll Be Home For Christmas from Stripes - it's a fantastic anthology and there is honestly something for everyone in there, and for every copy bought a donation is made to Crisis.

    Pick A Book You Can Curl Up With By The Fireplace

    Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo has such a fairytale quality that it's perfect for picking up on a long evening and snuggling up with.

    Pick A Book You Want To Read Over The Festive Period

    Winter Without You by Beth Good is next up on my TBR and I am SO EXCITED because I love everything this author does, whether it's historical YA, crime thrillers, contemporary romance, or bodice rippers.

    Pick A Book That’s So Good It Gives You Chills

    Clean by Juno Dawson is absolutely incredible. I don't think I've ever simultaneously loved and hated a single character so much.

    Pick A Book Going On Your Christmas Wishlist

    I really want the MinaLima edition of The Secret Garden, it looks absolutely gorgeous and it's one of my favourites.


    What would you answers be?


    05 December 2018

    Olga's Egg by Sophie Law

    When I was invited to the 12 Days of Clink Street blog tour I knew immediately which book I would pick - because I had already heard wonderful things about Olga's Egg by Sophie Law (and also the cover is beautiful).

    Olga's Egg by Sophie Law coverAdd to Goodreads button
    When Fabergé specialist Assia Wynfield learns of the discovery of a long-lost Fabergé egg made for the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, she appears to be the only person with misgivings.

    On travelling to St. Petersburg to see the egg, Assia moves among Russia’s new rich but finds herself pulled back into a family past she would rather forget. With news that a friend is missing, Assia starts to dig deeper. But does she really want the answers to the questions she is asking?

    Set in today’s glamorous world of Russian art with glimpses into the lives of the last Romanovs as their empire crumbled in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Olga’s Egg is an enthralling tale of love, family secrets and the artistic treasures that conceal them.


    Source: Review Copy

    5 Words: History, danger, glamour, family, power.

    An incredible amount of research must have gone in to the story, because it is so rich and vivid and intricate that you feel like you're there. It was like I was walking around St. Petersburg myself, exploring.

    I have to admit that I didn't really like Assia - but that's not a bad thing. It did mean it was difficult to connect to her, but I really empathised with her and loved reading about her tumultuous family and strained relationships.

    My favourite thing about this book was definitely the settings. There are wonderfully written and so lavish and rich.

    Olga's Egg is a beautiful story combining historical and contemporary narratives in a thrilling and beautiful journey.

    Now, I'm off to watch Anastasia, because after reading this book it's a Mood.

    12 Days of Clink Street #12DaysofClinkStreet

    #12DaysofClinkStreet

    04 December 2018

    Ten Cosy Reads for Winter

    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 
    Cosy Reads for Winter
    I woke up this morning and it was cold and bright, the ground white with frost and my cheeks turning bright red in a light breeze that felt like an icy slap in the face. It's definitely time for some cosy reads this winter.

      What's your favourite cosy read?

      03 December 2018

      The Bookish Naughty or Nice Tag

      I was tagged by the lovely Amy at Golden Books Girl to do the  Bookish Naughty or Nice Tag which was created by Jenn.

      The Bookish Naughty or Nice Tag

      Received an ARC and not reviewed it

      Naughty - I try to review everything I'm sent, and I always review anything I've requested, but unsolicited copies can sometimes slip under the radar. I do love surprise books, but sometimes I just don't have the time.

      Have less than 60% feedback rating on Netgalley

      Nice - My feedback rating is 62% so I *just* make this one! It used to be less, but I've been getting audiobooks out of the library and boosting my ratio by getting through the older books on my list. Plus it can only go up as I can't really read ebooks anymore.

      Rated a book on Goodreads and promised a full review was to come on your blog (and never did)

      Naughty - Gosh, I am terrible for this! Then at the end of the year I try to write a small review for all of them an inevitably fail and a few remain "Review to come" forever.

      Folded down the page of a book

      Naughty - I do this mostly with the books that I already write in if there's something I want to doubly emphasise or be able to pull up quickly. Usually my favourite scenes in my favourite books.

      Accidentally spilled on a book

      Naughty - Tea, chocolate, biscuits, tears... You name it I've probably somehow spilled it on a book haha.

      DNF a book this year

      Naughty - I DNF pretty freely, and although I try to pick up only books I'll like, I'm sometimes so disappointed that I have to DNF.

      Bought a book purely because it was pretty with no intention of reading it

      Nice - I only buy books when I'm convinced I'm going to read them, although my towering TBR of owned books suggests otherwise. I am very cover-led however and I'm more likely to pick up a pretty cover.

      Read whilst you were meant to be doing something else (like homework)

      Naughty - All the time. Like, always. Sometimes I even sneakily read under the desk at work when it's quiet.

      Skim read a book

      Naughty - This is basically how I got through Lord of the Rings - I skimmed every battle scene! It made for a pretty quick reading experience. 

      Completely missed your Goodreads goal

      Nice - I'm good at beating my Goodreads goal, and this year I even had to raise it twice.

      Borrowed a book and not returned it

      Naughty - Sorry, Steph! Although I will return them, one day, once I've read them.

      Broke a book buying ban

      Naughty - I suck at book buying bans haha, although I think I have got my outrageous habit under control and I don't buy often any more. And when I do buy it's from a physical bookshop.

      Started a review, left it for ages then forgot what the book was about

      Nice - Even if it takes me a year to finally get around to my review, I'm pretty good at remembering what it was about. I review based on my feelings too, rather than rehashing the storyline.

      Wrote in a book you were reading

      Naughty - I love to do this! Especially with favourites. I have annotated copies of I Capture The Castle, the Dark Gifts series, and Lucas.

      Finished a book and not added it to your Goodreads

      Naughty - I accidentally do this all of the time! Especially with audiobooks or books I read in one sitting. There are probably about five Mills & Boon books I've read this year that I didn't add to Goodreads yet, but that's because I read them so quickly!

      I tag Steph and Aoife.

      I think I'm definitely on the Naughty List, I have a lot of bad bookish habits!


      Which list would you be on?


      02 December 2018

      Film Review: A Christmas Prince

      Last year A Christmas Prince popped up on my Netflix, a great big banner at the top of the screen, and I squealed. Because I absolutely love Christmas films, they are such cheesy joy. I watched the trailer, squealed some more, then added it to My List to watch when it came out.

      Since then it has become one of my happy films, something I put on when I need to be cheered up and feel my heart warm.

      So this year I grabbed some shortbread and a ginerbread latte, and snuggled up with a blanket to watch it again.

      A Christmas Prince Netflix poster

      And it was still just as excellent this year.

      Now I have a great love for Rose McIver, she's just so freaking adorable that I can't help but love everything she's in. And A Christmas Prince is no exception and I now look forward to it every year and (not gonna lie) I watch it multiple times.

      I think my absolute favourite scene in the film in the snow ball scene - it's so joyous and pure and I always end up with a huge grin on my face when I've seen it, no matter my mood.

      I just love the drama of it all, the secrets and scheming, the misunderstandings, the way everything comes together. But especially the drama, the cheer cheesy drama.

      And the ending? Well lets just say I have a goofy smile on my face then too. And I can't wait to watch the sequel. I love it when the "bad guys" get their comeuppance.

      Have you seen A Christmas Prince?


      01 December 2018

      Blog Tour: Book Review: The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan

      I fell under the spell of The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan it is a perfect Christmas read and one I'd recommend for everyone.

      Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan coverAdd to Goodreads button
      It's not what's under the Christmas tree, but who's around it that matters most.

      All Suzanne McBride wants for Christmas is her three daughters happy and at home. But when sisters Posy, Hannah and Beth return to their family home in the Scottish Highlands, old tensions and buried secrets start bubbling to the surface.

      Suzanne is determined to create the perfect family Christmas, but the McBrides must all face the past and address some home truths before they can celebrate together...


      Source: Blog Tour | Purchase

      5 Words: Christmas, family, secrets, forgiveness, acceptance.

      In the past, Sarah Morgan has been one of my go-to seasonal romance authors and especially Sleigh Bells in the Snow has me coming back year after year. The Christmas sisters is quite different in that the focus is fully on family from the start, and any romance is incidental. And I actually loved it.

      The narrative jumps between different characters so that you get to see multiple perspectives. I connected with pretty much all of the characters, which is such a feat when there are so many. I loved exploring the familial relationships, seeing all of the tensions and resentment between the sisters. Their relationship felt so real.

      And the setting? Set in the middle of nowhere in Scotland, in winter, it's pretty perfect. Sarah Morgan excels in writing out of the way places, and I honestly felt like I was there.

      The Christmas Sisters was a joy to read, and a fantastic way to kick off the festive season in the run up to Christmas.

      She loved living here, in this land of mist and mountains, of lochs and legend.

      Welcome to Blogmas!

      Whenever I've tried Blogmas in the past, I've never quite managed it because life is honestly a pain and just gets in the way.

      But this year, after the success of Blogtober, I am determined to see it through.

      What is Blogmas?

      There are a few different ways that people do Blogmas. Some do 12 Days of Blogmas in the run up to Christmas, posting 12 times in the month. Some do 24 days, posting every day in December until (sometimes including) Christmas. And then some post every day in December, a little bit like Blogtober.

      So what am I doing?

      Posting every day of course!

      I have a bit of a mix of things planned, and I'm also doing a few guestposts around the book blogging community, so check back daily for new posts including book reviews, film reviews, recipes, gift guides, and some general fun.#

      Are you joining in Blogmas?

      Leave your links below!


      29 November 2018

      Guest Post: Victor Dixen's Writing Tips

      I fell in love with the world Victor Dixen created in the first Phobos novel, as you can probably tell by my review of Ascension. By the time I excitedly picked up Distortion I was pretty much addicted to the cut-throat creation.

      If I had to describe the series so far in five words I'd go for: friendship, secrets, betrayal, hope, surviving.

      So onward to this fantastic guest post from the author himself, where he talks about his own writing journey and routine, and shares some writing tips.

      Distortion by Victor Dixen, Phobos series

      What Brought Me to Writing

      Each writer’s path is unique.

      I always had a huge appetite for stories. Even before I could read, I kept asking adults to tell me stories over and over again, and I was especially fond of fairy tales. Later, I spent most of my childhood years buried in books. Around age 10, I began to write short stories of my own. But the real “start” came a bit later, and is linked to a condition that I once considered bothersome.

      You see, I’m a very light sleeper and when I was younger I was subjected to sleepwalking and waking up very early at night. I spent several nights in “sleep laboratories”, special units in hospitals specialized in sleep disturbances. With time and therapy, sleepwalking eventually disappeared, but not insomnia. Then, in my twenties, I decided to stop fighting against it, and rather use it as a gift: extra time to write.

      This change of perspective actually changed everything, and prompted me to write my first novel, The Strange Case of Jack Spark: the story of a teenage boy subjected to mysterious, unexplained insomnia…

      The Strange Case of Jack Spark by Victor Dixen cover
      Cover for the first edition of The Strange Case of Jack Spark

      My Writing Routine

      I do most of my writing at night, when I wake up long before dawn, at my large desk in front of a window through which I can see the sky and stars (and also, these days, the New York skyline).

      Not only does the night give me the time I need to write, but it also offers me inspiration. Night time is dream time for the ones who fall asleep. Night time is imagination time for the ones who stay awake - whether they read in their bed, or write at their desk. I believe that night shadows are not empty: they are full of things strange and beautiful, that books can reveal.

      Rosco and Billie, cats and night companions
      My cats and night companions, Rasco and Billie, both born in Singapore, where I used to live.

      Where I Write

      Most of the times, I write at my desk – it has travelled with me in the different places where I have lived: Denver (Colorado), Dublin, Paris, Singapore and now New York.

      As I still travel quite a lot, specifically for book festivals, I often write when I’m on planes, trains or boats.

      I think that the most unexpected place where I spent some time writing is a remote wooden cabin in Patagonia surrounded by immense lakes, but close second is another equally remote wooden cabin in Tasmania, surrounded by kangaroos!

      There was also one time when I needed to be away from everything to finish a manuscript. I rented a lighthouse on the Western Irish coast, no too far from Galway.

      This was a retreat in the most isolated conditions, in the heart of winter, surrounded by a mist so thick I could not see through more than 3 meters in front of me. All and all, a wonderful, magical experience, that helped me finish my novel!

      Loop End Lighthouse
      This is Loop End, the lighthouse I rented… Without the mist!

      Writing Tip #1

      Fairy Tales for Inspiration

      As I told you, when I was a child I was very fond of fairy tales – and I still am! 
      I think that fairy tales are the matrix of all stories. They resonate in each of us individually, and more generally in our common human psyche. They often seem very simple on the surface, but in reality they hide huge depths of wisdom, meaning and emotion. I can always re-read them and find new treasures – and also new inspiration. 
      Among my favorites are Charles Perrault’s and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales.

      Writing Tip #2

      Creating Lifelike Characters

      There are some literary forms like poetry or some kind of short stories where characters are not necessarily the most important ingredient. But when it comes to a novel, I am convinced that characters are at the very core. This is true whatever the genre: thriller, science-fiction, fantasy or literary novel. Characters are the medium through which readers will get interested in the story… Or not. 
      In my opinion, the most important aspect here is psychological consistency. As in life, there is no consequence without a cause; the way a character thinks and acts must reflect his or her intimate psychological logic, the prism through which he or she sees the world. This is the most important rule to follow, that will result in a character who feels real. 
      In a way, I think that “lifelike” characters are never boring, because we can relate to them, observe the world through their eyes and share their desires and aspirations. As a writer, I know it works when my characters start making their own decisions, different from the plot I had in mind while drafting my story. Decisions that I had not planned before, taking me to unexpected paths. This sensation of discovery is really exhilarating!

       Giveaway

      Thanks to Hot Key Books and their generosity I'm giving away a copy of Distortion by Victor Dixen over on Twitter. Just retweet my pinned post to enter! The giveaway is for my UK/Ireland followers only due to postage.



      What's your top writing tip?


      27 November 2018

      My Favourite Non-Romantic Relationships In Books

      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 
      Platonic Relationships In Books
      As much as I love romance (and I bloody love romance) sometimes it's the non-romantic relationships that really make a book. And here are some of my favourites.
      • Elektra and her family in Waiting for Callback by Honor and Perdita Cargill
        Gosh guys, this family? They're amazing. Supportive and caring and hilarious, and reading about them is a bit like getting a hug.
      • The Avery family in Secrets and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
        Basically I just love this book and wanted to mention it. I love the changing family dynamics and how the sisters try to deal with everything that's happening.
      • Lucy and George in Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud
        This one is a grower, but I love the back and forth between Lucy and George, the mutual disdain and (lets be honest) dislike that eventually turns to respect.
      • Renée and Flo in Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter
        I think this book has my most favourite portrayal of friendship EVER. It starts small and grows until it consumes them like friendships do when you're a teen.
      • Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong from Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
        The friendship between these two is so special and pure and strong and just thinking about it kind of makes me want to cry.
      • Frances and Aled from Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
        It's just so beautiful and precious and I feel a reread coming on. I love how nerdy they are together. And then you have Frances' mum oh man, she reminded me of my mum.
      • Evie, Amber and Lottie from Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
        The Spinster Club are one of my favourite friendship groups and I love how they support each other and truly care.
      • Fliss and Margo from Margot & Me by Juno Dawson
        OK so this one starts off ROUGH but also Margo is *amazing* and needed to be on this list and I couldn't remember the names of her wartime friends.
      • The Fallen Children in The Fallen Children by David Owen
        Basically it's a group of girls who go through something awful and heart-wrenching and terrifying and horrifying, and yet they still kind of support each other and protect each other.
      • Milly, Elyse and Leonie from One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton
        I don't think a book has ever hit me quite as hard as this one - and a huge part of that is because the sisterly relationship between these three is so real. It's like me when I'm with my sisters.

        Which non-romantic relationship is your favourite?

        26 November 2018

        Book Review: Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

        Remember how a long time ago I got to do a Q&A with Matt Killeen? Well I've been working on the review of Orphan Monster Spy since then, because it's that kind of book that gives you lots of Thoughts and Feels, and it's taken me this long to get them into order. Ish. It's also been shortlisted for Costa Children’s Book Award so I guess this is pretty timely.

        Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen coverAdd to Goodreads button
        A Jewish girl-turned-spy must infiltrate an elite Nazi boarding school in this highly commercial, relentlessly nail-biting World War II drama!

        After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah--blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish--finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead.

        Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He's a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can't attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe.

        With years of training from her actress mother in the art of impersonation, Sarah thinks she's ready. But nothing prepares her for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she'd ever imagined. 

        Amazon UK | Amazon US
        Waterstones

        Source: Review Copy

        5 Words: War, power, monster, school, violence.

        Content warnings: graphic violence, child abuse, antisemitism.

        Sarah is FIERCE.

        This book is incredibly fast paced. It starts off at a run and doesn't let up. It's brutal and violent and at times almost a bit much, but it is so realistic and engaging a portrayal that I could not put it down. The story is addictive and this book packs a punch.

        The narrative isn't linear, it jumps around a little between different times in Sarah's life, and I loved how this slowly disclosed her past. It showed why she was so resourceful and skilled already, and sometimes it made my heart ache.

        I really like the changing relationship between Sarah and The Captain. It is a testament to the story telling how much they grew between the pages. I honestly think that if The Captain had had to send Sarah in a later time in the story he wouldn't have, because it was almost like a father/daughter relationship. I did find it surprising at first, but it was an excellent way to ground the story and show the stakes.

        I loved how this story explores the concept of monsters, what it means to be one, how you can go about creating one, and what defines a monster. The school is like a nightmare.

        The story is gripping, full of twists and turns and brutality. It doesn't shy away from the ugliness. It is obviously thoroughly researched, with complex characters and a killer storyline.

        22 November 2018

        Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

        I went in to Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan with Expectations and I was not disappointed.  The author has created a fantastic, layered world and doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of power struggles and desperation. This Asian sapphic lesbian fantasy really got to me. So I am going to try and do this glorious book justice with a spoiler-free review. And then link to my spoiler filled thoughts.

        Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan cover fairyloot
        Add to Goodreads button
        Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It's the highest honour they could hope for... And the most demeaning.

        Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class in Ikhara. Ten years ago, her mother was snatched by the royal guards, and her fate remains unknown. Now, the guards are back, and this time it's Lei they're after — the girl whose golden eyes, whose rumoured beauty has piqued the king's interest.

        Over weeks of training in the opulent but stifling palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit being a king's consort. There, Lei does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life and Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she's willing to go for justice and revenge.

        Amazon UK | Amazon US
        Waterstones

        Source: Subscription Box

        5 Words: Family, friendship, power, abuse, love.

        Content Warning: Sexual assault, graphic animal death, torture, slavery.

        Starting this book, I had expectations. I had heard so many amazing things from the author and people I follow on Twitter, and plenty of warnings about the content so I was prepared beforehand and made sure I was in a good place before picking it up.

        Something I really appreciated with this book is how there were not only printed content warnings at the beginning, but also a list of helplines and resources for anyone affected by the difficult topics explored within the story.

        I feel like Girls of Paper and Fire was a very angry story. And there is plenty to be angry about. It doesn't shy away from violence and brutality, it confronts prejudice and abuse head on.

        But there is also a much softer side - girls supporting and loving girls, delicious food (it made me so hungry), hope, love. I loved those parts of the story where it slowed right down and looked away from the action and into the hearts of the characters.

        Girls of Paper and Fire is excellently written, and there are so many gorgeous quotes that I could share. The world came alive on the page, I could practically see it and smell it and feel it. The writing is lavish and evocative and I want to read it forever. The characters are masterfully crafted, and even the smaller side characters have depth and secrets you cannot wait to explore.

        I'm definitely going to read on in this series and I can't wait for the second book after that ending. In the meantime I am absolutely going to pick up The Elites.

        I read this as part of the Fairyloot Readalong, and you can read my more in-depth (and rather spoilery) thoughts below on the Fairyloot Blog:


        Instead of disappearing, she makes me feel reappeared. Reimagined. Her touch shapes me, draws out the boldness that had been hiding in my core.

        19 November 2018

        Blog Tour: Book Review: Christmas at the Palace by Jeevani Charika

        I am a sucker for stories like Christmas at the Palace, where a regular person is swept up by royal life, wholly unexpectedly. I love the romance and how dazzling everything is, how perceptions change and characters grow. And this was no exception. It's light and funny and uplifting, but doesn't stray away from the darker side of life in the spotlight.

        Christmas at the Palace by Jeevani Charika coverAdd to Goodreads button
        Campaigner, feminist, doctor, humanitarian - all words that Kumari would use to describe herself. Potential princess? Not even in the vocabulary.

        But when Kumari's charity work catapults her into the limelight and brings her to the attention of Prince Benedict - playboy prince and sixth in line to the British throne - all bets are off.

        Royal party boy, charming rogue, England's most eligible bachelor - Prince Benedict is all those things. Or at least he was. These days he's taking life more seriously, following in his dear mother's footsteps and focusing on charitable causes.

        When he meets Kumari the attraction between them is instant. But, according to the press, Prince Benedict might just have found the most unsuitable bride.

        Will love win the day?


        Source: Review Copy | Blog Tour

        5 Words: Family, love, friendship, change, pressure.

        I absolutely loved this book, and I wouldn't be lying if I were to say that it hit all of my catnip tropes. Surprise royals? Uneven power dynamics? Fiercely feminist lead? SOFT PRECIOUS CHARACTERS? Basically this book was perfect for me, the perfect escape, and I already want to read it again.

        I loved Kumari. She's such an angel, and so full of kindness and generosity. I love how strong her convictions are, how GOOD she is, how she treats those around her. She's brave and fierce and a little bit fragile, and all the better for it. She's smart and savvy and sometimes scared, and I love how her story shows that it's is OK.

        The romance itself is sweet, and if it's a bit of a whirlwind to start, it still works perfectly. I loved the exploration of the pressure of the press and paparazzi, the judging from all sides, the way images can be twisted into narratives far removed from the truth.

        I wouldn't say that this book is necessarily super Christmas-y, but it was a lovely read and it did give me all of the heart-warming festive vibes I'm after. And I think you can probably read this at any time of year when you're looking to be cheered up. It's a story to make you smile.

        So yeah, go get this book and read it, and turn the last page with a heart full of love and joy.

        16 November 2018

        Book Beginnings #64

        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 Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan.
        Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan cover
        There is a tradition in our kingdom, one all castes of demon and human follow. We call it the Birth-blessing. It is such an old, deep-rooted custom that it's said even our gods themselves practiced it when they bore our race onto the earth.
        I am reading this for the Fairyloot Readalong, reading roughly 50 pages a day from the 15th to 21st November.

        I'm not going to lie, I have Expectations. I am so excited to be reading this book. I have heard so many amazing things.

        This book comes very sensibly with content warnings printed right at the front, and a list of numbers for if you are affected by any of the issues raised. I applaud the publisher for putting these in, as it's something than can help people so much.
        A wooden tub is brought to the room and filled with warm, fragranced water. While she bathes me, Lill quizzes me about my life before the palace, questions tumbling from her mouth so quickly I barely finish answering one when the next comes.
        This is exactly where I'm up to and... Wow. It's been intense so far. SO intense. Like, I had to take a break already and I'm only 56 pages in. I love the writing style, the story so far is shocking but engaging and I am quickly falling in love with Lei.


        What are you reading this week?

        15 November 2018

        A Way Back Home by Alison Sherlock

        I am thrilled to be inviting Alison Sherlock on to the blog today to talk all about the inspiration behind their Willow Tree Hall series and to tease a little about the latest book, A Way Back Home. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone, so you can jump in to the story at any point (and I definitely recommend that you do) and have your heart warmed by the characters you find there. A Way Back Home is also perfect for reading in the run up to Christmas to get you in a festive mood.

        A  Way  Back  Home

        A  Way  Back  Home  is  the  third  book  in  my  Willow  Tree  Hall  series.  The  idea  for  Willow  Tree  Hall  actually  came  from  watching  Downton  Abbey!  I  watched  the  programme  and  wondered  what  it  would  be  like  to  live  in  a  grand  stately  home  in  the  present  day.  As  I  researched  the  subject,  I  realised  that  many  of  our  country  estates  had  fallen  into  disrepair  due  to  the  high  running  costs.  And  thus  became  the  ‘eureka’  moment  that  began  the  plot  for  Book  1  in  the  series,  A  House  To  Mend  A  Broken  Heart. 

        The  renovation  and  transformation  of  Willow  Tree  Hall  will  take  place  over  all  four  books,  although  you  don’t  need  to  read  them  in  any  particular  order  as  each  story  is  standalone.  I  was  a  tiny  bit  worried  about  writing  a  series  –  my  first  ever!  But  all  of  the  books  have  been  huge  fun  to  write  as  I  loved  having  the  chance  to  catch  up  with  my  characters  each  time.  Will  Harris  is  the  hero  in  A  Way  Back  Home  and  I’ve  been  desperate  to  write  his  particular  story  from  the  very  beginning!    He  is  the  younger  brother  to  Sam,  the  heir  to  Willow  Tree  Hall.  Will  has  always  felt  like  the  ‘spare’  and  surplus  to  requirements  over  the  past  few  years.  Instead  of  helping  with  the  renovations,  he  has  stayed  abroad,  building  up  his  playboy  image,  complete  with  an  Aston  Martin!  But  when  he  loses  his  job,  Will  is  finally  forced  to  come  home. 

        The  trouble  is,  the  rundown  lodge  he  calls  home  has  unexpectedly  received  a  new  co-owner,  a  stranger  called  Skye  Jackson.  Skye  is  as  surprised  by  the  inheritance  as  Will  is  and  both  of  them  want  the  matter  dealt  with  as  quickly  as  possible.  But,  as  always,  it’s  never  that  easy...

        The  book  was  great  fun  to  write  as  I  had  already  given  Will  a  wickedly  dry  sense  of  humour.  Therefore  it  was  only  right  that  the  heroine  of  the  story  would  be  free-spirited  Skye  who  is  his  total  opposite! 

        Do  they  find  common  ground  and  even  love  over  a  long,  cold  winter?  You’ll  have  to  read  A  Way  Back  Home  to  find  out!



        A Way Back Home by Alison Sherlock coverAdd to Goodreads button
        What  happens  when  two  lost  souls  find  themselves? 

        After  recent  heartbreak,  Skye  Jackson  finds  herself  homeless  and  on  the  road  with  only  a  classic  Airstream  trailer  to  her  name.  A  surprise  inheritance  of  a  rundown  little  lodge  in  the  grounds  of  beautiful  Willow  Tree  Hall  forces  her  to  change  her  plans.  However  there  is  a  problem... 

        The  lodge  is  co-owned  by  care-free,  playboy  Will  Harris,  who  finds  himself  unemployed  after  a  recent  tabloid  scandal.    

        Syke  desperately  wants  a  home  to  call  her  own  and  needs  to  move  on  as  quickly  as  possible.  Will  doesn't  want  to  stay  at  his  family  home  either  to  face  the  ghosts  of  his  past.  So  they  decide  to  put  aside  their  differences  and  renovate  the  cottage  together.

        But  when  a  storm  hits,  Skye  and  Will  are  forced  to  stay  on  to  ensure  that  an  important  wedding  goes  ahead.  Can  Skye  finally  find  a  home  of  her  own?  Can  Will  stop  running  from  his  past  and  help  out  his  family  when  they  need  him  the  most?

        The  magic  of  winter  at  Willow  Tree  Hall  is  about  to  change  everything...   


        13 November 2018

        Bookish Items/Merchandise I’d Like to Own

        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 
        Bookish Items/Merchandise I’d Like to Own
        I decided that this week I'd get creative and rather specific with my list, and think up all the bookish things I wish existed for me to own.
        • Sky In The Deep hair stick
          A double pronged hair stick with gorgeous Viking-esque carvings at the top. Maybe inlaid with metal to bring out the pattern. OR a hair stick shaped like an axe, the the handle as the prong.
        • Lockwood & Co insulated flask
          For tea, obviously. Need to keep my spirits (ha) up when it's chilly.
        • The Extinction Trials Milo plushie
          TBH I just want to hug Milo, but dinosaurs are kinda big and probably not so huggable, so a plushie will do.
        • Clean Lexi inspired candle
          Yes, it's a candle but ALSO it would  smell rather specifically of champagne and clean linen, with a hint of lavender, and have a little shimmer hidden away in the pure white wax, and a quote on the outside: "We aren't broken. We're just alive."
        • Queens of Geek autograph book
          Vibrant and brightly coloured and quirky, perfect for getting autographs at cons.
        • When the Beat Drops headphones
          A gorgeous pair of over-ear headphones, sound excluding and vibrant, for listening to music.
        • A Court of Thorns & Roses oracle deck
          I think that the characters in this series would translate excellently into an oracle deck, and also they'd be pretty.
        • Children of Blood and Bone Amari inspired tea
          I've kind of already blended up my own, but I'd love an official Amari tea as she is my queen.
        • Forest of a Thousand Lanterns quote bracelet
          Very specifically I'd like my favourite quote on a bracelet: "The beauty of this world is fading all too fast through the cruelty and thoughtlessness of men."
        • Gilded Cage quote blanket
          A big snuggly blanket with glittering gold thread and a quote: “History only appeared inevitable because it was written in a world where it had already happened.” 

          Which super-specific bookish merch do you wish you owned?

          11 November 2018

          Dreaming of Christmas by T.A. Williams

          Today I get to welcome TA Williams, talking about their latest Christmas-y read Dreaming of Christmas.

          Writing those magical words, The End, at the bottom of the final page of a book is a cathartic moment. It represents the culmination of weeks, months, even years of effort and it is, without doubt right up there alongside births and marriages as a perfect excuse to crack a bottle (or two) of something sparkling.

          The bad news, however, is that in many ways The End is just the beginning. Take Dreaming of Christmas for example. I had a meeting with my editor at publishers Canelo back in January this year. We talked about the idea of a “Christmas” book and discussed possible settings, ranging from the Highlands of Scotland, via deepest Cornwall, to the eventual choice; the Austrian Alps. I returned to my writing cave (well, really just a room in my house that I call my study) and sat down to write the book. By the end of March, I had completed the first draft and did, indeed, open a bottle of Tesco’s Finest Prosecco to celebrate.

          What happened next?

          First the biggest test of all. I gave it to my wife to read. She is my greatest critic (and hopefully fan) and I really value her ideas and input. She returned it to me with three or four pages of comments and I spent the best part of a week going through the manuscript, changing, adding and subtracting accordingly. I then put it to one side and did my best to forget about it for a couple of weeks, finally picking it up again in the middle of April. After re-reading it and making more changes, I sent it off to my editor and awaited his verdict anxiously (it doesn’t matter how many books you write, it’s always nerve-racking waiting to hear from your publisher).

          At the end of April he replied very positively, with a number of suggestions – nothing too major I’m glad to say, but definitely changes that improved the book. I spent a week making the changes and returned the manuscript to him in May. He replied shortly after to say he was happy with what I had done and informing me he was sending it out to a copy editor. It is the copy editor’s job to check the nuts and bolts of the book from spelling and punctuation to whether the party took place on the day before or after the sledge ride and so on. This was returned to me with “Track Changes” turned on (that means you see red or blue comments in the right hand margin) so I could see every change proposed by the copy editor. I then plugged through it, accepting or rejecting changes until it was all done. I then returned it to my editor and heaved a huge sigh of relief.

          By this time, Dreaming of St-Tropez had come out and I had made a start on Dreaming of Tuscany (the next book to come out after Dreaming of Christmas). I’m sure other authors must have the same problem, ducking in and out of different stories, often confusing characters, places and timelines. You become quite schizophrenic after a while. So you can imagine how pleased I was to be finally shot of the Christmas book.

          But of course I wasn’t. The book came out on 27th August and I found myself taking to social media to promote it. And then, of course, there were preparations to be made for this blog tour and I found myself writing blog posts about Dreaming of Christmas just after finishing Dreaming of Tuscany while beginning to think about Dreaming of Rome. The moving finger writes and, having writ, moves on. It certainly does for me.

          So if anybody thinks it’s just a matter of writing it and then seeing it published, think again. Like I say, The End really isn’t the end.

          It’s the dream Christmas: snow, mountains… and, er, an ex-boyfriend. But can Zoe still find love in the Alps?

          Dumped on Christmas Eve by her long-term boyfriend, it's been a rough year for Zoe Lumsley. But then she gets an invitation she can’t refuse: an all expenses paid skiing holiday with old university friends.

          The bad news: her ex, Grant, will be there with his new girlfriend. But so will her former flatmate Billy, the organiser, and in the meantime he’s done rather well for himself. As Christmas in the Alps approaches, it'll be great to see the old gang. Some more than others...

          Perfect for readers of Tilly Tenant, Holly Martin and Philippa Ashley, this is the perfect magical Christmas getaway from the bestselling T.A. Williams.