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10 July 2020

Book Beginnings: The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

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 Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis.
The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
It was easier, she'd been told, if you kept a tune in your head.
I bought this book back in April as a bit of a "cheer up" present to myself. Although it's not actually very cheery, it's just a book I know I'll love.

I love this first line. It captures the author's gorgeous writing style and immediately gets you wondering: what's easier?

The cover for this book is stunning, the foiling is exquisite and I could stare at it all day.

He sat heavily on the bed, muttered a low curse, and fell back. Aster hurried to his side. His eyes were half open but unseeing, his words faint and incomprehensible. If he wasn't already asleep, he would be soon.
This is from page 56 in my finished paperback copy.

I just... The story has me gripped. I am so invested in what's happening to the girls, what's going to happen, how everything will play out.

This is a very dark book and content warnings so far include sex trafficking, sex slavery, attempted rape, and sustance abuse. It is definitely not an easy read.

What are you reading this week?

08 July 2020

Book Review: Dark Blue Rising by Teri Terry *AD Gifted

Hodder Children's Books sent me a free electronic review copy of Dark Blue Rising by Teri Terry via NetGalley.

Dark Blue Rising is the first book in The Circle Trilogy and it is everything I could have hoped for. It's fast paced and a bit of a wild read, and it's very cleverly written. I absolutely loved it and can't wait for more.

Dark Blue Rising by Teri Terry cover
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Tabby lives a transient life with her mum Cate, never sticking in one place long enough to make friends.

Until one day, an accident changes everything. Cate is arrested and Tabby realises her life has been a lie: Cate is not her mother.

As she adjusts to her new life, Tabby finds herself drawn to the ocean - the only place she feels happy - and enrolls at a swimming summer school to help her heal.

But all is not as it seems. She and her new friends are cut off from the outside world and she's plagued by a repeating symbol of interlocking circles that follows her everywhere.

As Tabby begins to learn the truth about what the circles mean, and uncovers the terrible lies she's been told about her past, a final twist awaits her - a secret hidden in her DNA...

Source: NetGalley, Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, belonging, power, secrets, responsibility.

When I saw that there was a new Teri Terry I did a bit of a scream and ran to tell Charlotte so she could request it too. Then I picked it for her TBR and she read it before me, so when I did finally manage to read it she was subjected to all of my thoughts and swears. There were a lot.

Dark Blue Rising is dark and twisting and just when you think you've got things figured out BAM CURVEBALL. It's a truly exhilarating read that had me longing for the seaside. It's fast paced and full of action, but I loved that there were also softer scenes of thoughts and feelings - emotions are definitely not set aside to maintain the pace.

I loved the settings in Dark Blue Rising. The contrast of Tabby's transient life and that of her new/old home was brilliant and I think it helped portray her confusion and alienation more. Then we have the school, which was a whole  new layer of sinister.

This make you really think about the ethics of technological progression. It is one of my absolute favourite themes in Teri Terry's books, the way such issues and the darker side of them are explored. The fact that what happens in these books seems so real, that it could actually happen in a matter of years, makes it all the more sinister.

If you have read any Teri Terry books before, then know that there is a cat in this book. And if you've read her books before, especially the Slated or Contagion series, then you will know that cats mean something.

I loved that despite the dark themes and settings and happenings, Dark Blue Rising still has some hope in the story.

I utterly adored this book, and I can't wait for my pre-order to arrive so I can read it again and see that beautiful cover in person.

06 July 2020

What's in my Grab and Go Bag?

Stripes Books sent me a review copy of The Rules by Tracy Darnton.

I raced through The Rules, reading it in a single day. It's the Prepper Thriller that I never knew I needed in my life. I loved Amber's story and I loved how she has all of her reasoning behind what she has prepared at all times, but also has a little spark of defiance against her upbringing with impractical non-essentials.

What's in my Grab and Go Bag? The Rules Tracy Darnton

Inspired by The Rules, I'm sharing my own grab and go bags, with a little twist. I have a chronic illness so I always have a hospital bag ready to go just in case. I also utterly adore being outside and exploring and often on a Friday after work I would just up and away on an adventure.

So here we go, this is a peek inside my grab and go bags and a little bit about why I've included some of the items.

What's in my Grab and Go Bag?

What's in my Grab and Go Bag? The Rules Tracy Darnton

There are some things that I keep on a table next to my bag or in my handbag at all times - the things I feel are absolutely essential. This includes my lovely dragon skin medicine bag, which also houses a letter about my existing conditions and a toothbrush. I also have a compact first aid kit that lives in the car.

Always On Me

  • Medicine Bag
  • Portable Charger and Cables
  • Ear Phones
  • Scrunchie
  • Roll-On Perfume
  • Lip Balm
  • Misting Fan

I usually use a hair stick for my hair, but that's not really suitable in some situations so I switch it out for a scrunchie. That way I'm not jabbing myself in the back of the head or accidentally piercing an inflatable sleeping mat.

Grab and Go Hospital Bag

What's in my Grab and Go Bag? Hospital Bag

This is probably my most important piece of preparedness, and I was beyond thankful in March and April this year when I was in and out of hospital. Having this bag ready at all times means that if the worst happens and I end up in hospital, if I can't get the bag myself then it's easy for someone to bring it to me.

In The Bag

  • Slippers
  • Nice Pyjamas
  • Metal Free Comfy Bra
  • A Good Book
  • Notebook and Pen
  • Hand Cream
  • Roll On Deodorant
  • Soothing/Moisturising Face Spray
  • Mints
  • Tissues
  • Spare Undies (not pictured)

I very specifically pack my nicest pyjamas in my hospital bag - I always feel very judged by my nightwear on a ward, and it helps that they're 100% cotton so I can stay cool. I tend to end up needing MRIs and CT Scans so my metal free bra has had me about weeping with joy in the past. When you're in hospital it can be pretty terrifying but the extra layer makes me feel so much better. Also, it has dinosaurs on. Rawr. 

The air in hospitals and the constant washing of hands really dries my skin out, so I have hand cream that I apply regularly and some soothing mist that I can spray on my face to refresh myself with.

I pretty much always have a book on my person any way, or my kindle, but I make sure that the one in my hospital bag is something I'll be totally gripped by, because I need that distraction. Then I have a notebook and pen because I have a few cognitive and executive function issues and it helps to write everything down, especially if I've been given painkillers. 

Grab and Go Adventure Bag

What's in my Grab and Go Bag? Adventure Bag

This bag just has the essentials that I really need if I'm running off last minute because I found an excellent deal at lunch time on a Friday.

I like to keep things light for my adventure bag and keep spare space in my bag as I'm a bit of a magpie and if it's a break to a city like Edinburgh I'll come back with all sorts of souvenirs. Also I pick up snacks at the station, because who doesn't love a makeshift train picnic.

I'm quite sad that I haven't been able to use this bag for a while, and I can't wait to be able to grab it again in the future when I head out on an adventure.

In The Bag

  • Outdoor Trousers
  • Walking Socks
  • T-Shirt
  • Notebook and Pen
  • Torch
  • Factor 50 Sun Cream
  • 96 Hour Deodorant
  • Antibacterial Wipes
  • Tissues
  • Spare Undies (not pictured)

The Outdoor Trousers are one of my absolute favourite things to wear any time because they have so any pockets, but they're also showerproof and light-weight enough that I can comfortably wear them even during the summer. The walking socks mean I can rock a bit of a cottagecore vibe while not getting blisters, and the t-shirt is mostly because I always need a spare.

I have very rarely gone without a shower, as even the most basic camp sites tend to have one, but on those rare occasions that I have the super-long-lasting deodorant was a godsend. The anti-bacterial wipes are a just in case thing, I think I've used one in an entire year. I have quite fair skin and burn easily so although I apply factor 50 daily anyway I keep this one tucked away for when I'm away from home.

I have a special little notebook where I list my adventures and my plans and little moments I'm especially grateful for. It's holding up remarkably well considering how often it's rained on.

Do you have a Grab and Go Bag?

22 June 2020

Book Review: Marrying His Runaway Heiress by Therese Beharrie

I was browsing the True Love latest releases on the Mills & Boon website when I came across Marrying His Runaway Heiress by Therese Beharrie. I was looking for something heartwarming and passionate, and this sounded like it fit the bill.

I was not disappointed.

Marrying His Runaway Heiress by Therese Beharrie coverAdd to Goodreads button

A diamond isn’t forever…

… Until it’s from the right man!

For journalist and heiress Elena John, heading to Italy on assignment is her chance to avoid her impending arranged marriage.

But Micah Williams, the star of her article, is nothing like the uptight tycoon she’s been told to expect, and alone in Italy she falls under his charming spell.

Their time’s almost over, but Micah’s not ready to let her walk away…

His proposal? A convenient counteroffer!

Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Honesty, family, wealth, expectation, Italy.

I flew through this. It was exactly what I needed to cheer myself up.

Although there is instant attraction between the characters, the build-up of their relationship takes a little more time. The lust is there, the distraction, the physical attraction. The trust builds a lot more slowly and I really felt like we got to know the characters.

It is a bit of a whirlwind romance, things happen so quickly. I was almost out of breath just reading about the travels that Elena and Micah undertake in a single week.

Something I really enjoyed was the fashion in this book. Elena uses her clothes and accessories as an extension of herself and it's a really powerful bit of characterisation. I loved her unconventional wedding outfit, it sounded incredible.

Marrying His Runaway Heiress has such a satisfying ending, that honestly I didn't see coming. I know that romances have happy endings, but I really liked the way this one came about and it threw me a bit in the best of ways.

Where would you go on a romantic holiday?

17 June 2020

Book Review: Blood & Sand by CV Wyk

I got Blood & Sand by CV Wyk in an Illumicrate box a couple of years ago. It immediately caught my interest but ended up being pushed down my TBR for Reasons. Now I'm a little gutted, as I could have experienced it earlier!

This fantastic re-imagined Spartacus is fulfilling my second prompt from my Make Your Myth-Taker ReadathonTBR, read a book with a weapon on the cover.

Blood & Sand by CV Wyk coverAdd to Goodreads button

Forged in battle, from the dust of the arena, a legend will rise...

Roma Victrix. The Republic of Rome is on a relentless march to create an empire―an empire built on the backs of the conquered, brought back to Rome as slaves.

Attia was once destined to rule as the queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, the greatest warrior kingdom the world had seen since Sparta. Now she is a slave, given to Xanthus, the Champion of Rome, as a sign of his master’s favor. Enslaved as a child, Xanthus is the preeminent gladiator of his generation.

Against all odds, Attia and Xanthus form a tentative bond. A bond that will spark a rebellion. A rebellion that threatens to bring the Roman Republic to its end ― and gives rise to the legend of Spartacus... 

Source: Purchase, Illumicrate

5 Word Review: Power, strength, survival, attraction, freedom, rebellion.

Content warning: Gore, violence, slavery.

If you know anything about the legend of Spartacus, then you'll vaguely know where this is going. If you have seen the TV series based on the legend, then you'll have an idea of how bloody this book is.

Blood & Sand is bloody and brutal and violent. And it's absolutely excellent.

I wasn't sure how a gender-switched Spartacus would work when I first heard of this book, but it did make me excited. And if anything it exceeded my expectations.

Now, I'm not a fan of gore and violence. I usually shy away from it, go for something softer. But the pace in this book was so relentless that I couldn't help but read (and even enjoy?!) the fight scenes. As much as my toes were curling, I was caught up in the action. And the small soft romance hiding in the story was beautiful to read, especially against the backdrop of such violence.

Attia is a fantastically complex character. She's strong in mind and body, she's a fighter in every sense of the word, and she's whip smart, She was a joy to read.

Also the hardback cover is gorgeous shiny foil, almost like fire. It is so pretty.

My only wish is that I had read this sooner so that I could have raved about it back then. It is absolutely outstanding and I recommend it to everyone. If you enjoyed Grace & Fury then you will enjoy this.

What's your favourite historical retelling?

15 June 2020

Book Review: To Win His Highland Wife by Elisabeth Hobbes

Back in May I reviewed A Runaway Bride For The Highlander by Elisabeth Hobbes. It was a book I enjoyed immensely, so when I found To Win His Highland Wife By Elisabeth Hobbes as a free read on the Mills & Boon website you can bet that I was straight on it.

This is a short story, and absolutely worth the read. It's fun more than anything, with an excellent slow-building romance. I'd definitely recommend it! To read it, and a host of other free romance books, all you need to do is register for the Mills & Boon website.

To Win His Highland Wife by Elisabeth Hobbes cover
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As the future Laird of Lochmore, Hamish Lochmore needs a wife.

So he enters a competition to win the hand of a woman he doesn’t know, let alone love. Hamish is determined to win, especially if he can defeat his arch enemy, Malcolm McCrieff. Until he encounters Annis Gowen, on a mission of her own.

Dressed as a boy, Annis hopes to wreak revenge on Malcolm for betraying her, and only Hamish can protect her from Malcolm’s rage. Soon Hamish is in love and marriage to a stranger is losing its appeal.

Maybe, he can find a wife by other means…

Source: Free

5 Word Review: Family, responsibility, secrets, escape, pride.

For being a short story, only 20 chapters, To Win His Highland Wife is an excellent slow-burn and a bit of an adventure.

It's a very fun story. Annis is proud and brave trying to get revenge against her betrayer.  I loved her strong will and her determination, how steadfast she was. I also loved her moments of vulnerability and how Hamish was part of them.

I really enjoyed the chemistry between the characters. I loved Hamish's confusion as what he felt of Annis when she was disguised, it was really cute watching him trying to figure things out.

This is a passionate story with passionate characters, and I love the Lochmore stories. I will absolutely seek more of them out!

To Win His Highland Wife by Elisabeth Hobbes is a great short historical romance. It's fun and adventurous and a bit of a compulsive read. I almost wish it was longer, but it was pretty perfect as it is. And it was free. I love a free romance book.

What's your favourite historical time period?

10 June 2020

Book Review: A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell

I got A Phoenix First Must Burn in a Wildest Dreams book box the other month, and it's been calling to me ever since. I have a bit of a soft spot for anthologies, and as I've been in a bit of a slump it was the perfect way to get me back in to reading.

This book was first up on my Make Your Myth-Taker ReadathonTBR, fulfilling the Anticipated Read prompt.

A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell coverAdd to Goodreads button

Evoking Beyoncé's Lemonade for a YA audience, these authors have woven worlds to create stunning narratives that centre Black women and gender nonconforming individuals.

With fantasy, science fiction and magic at their core, the stories are sharp, atmospheric and visual explorations of histories, relationships and alternate universes that you can't help but to get lost in.

It will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, trauma and heroism, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A PHOENIX FIRST MUST BURN are unforgettable and shine brightly.

Source: Purchase, Wildest Dreams

5 Word Review: Hope, magic, power, survival, resistance.

There are sixteen stories in this anthology of Black Girl Magic, and I liked every single one of them. 

Something that surprised me a lot was that the first story in this anthology is my favourite. When Life Hands You A Lemon Fruitbomb by Amerie has a bit of a space opera feel to it that I adored, even though it features Orcs (which are one of my least favourite fantasy beings) and time travel (which my minds just struggles with full stop).It was just such a gorgeous story and had such scope despite the short length

Second favourite for me is The Actress by Danielle Page, it hit me right in the feels. I loved how it looked at the pressures on young people and especially the build up to a first kiss. I also loved the critical look at the media, the inequality evident on screen and off, the fact that we see the same "types" over and over on screen. And then there's the magic... I also really want to read the fictional book from the story.

And the rest? Honestly I couldn't pick, I enjoyed every one of them. Not a single story was merely good, they were all exceptional and this was an easy five stars for me. It's a quick read, and all of the stories worked well as a collection.

A Phoenix First Must Burn is an amazing anthology, absolutely worth picking up. It's easy to dip in and out of and perfect for if you feel a slump coming on. Every story is fantastically written and there really is something for everyone.

Also the cover is beautiful and I want it as a print for my wall.

What's your favourite anthology?