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24 December 2013

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan

When I picked up Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan I discovered not only a new favourite book, but a new favourite world. I loved the blend love, family, and remote locations, and Snow Crystal sounds like heaven.

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan coverAdd to Goodreads button
Once upon a time, Christmas was Kayla Green's favorite time of year. Now all the workaholic wants for Christmas is for it to be over - as fast as possible! So when duty calls her to snowy Vermont to close a deal with a new client, Kayla is grateful for an excuse to avoid the holidays for another year. 

Jackson O'Neil left a thriving business behind to return home and salvage his family's resort - it's in his blood, and he can't let it fail. Now that he's got marketing whiz Kayla Green working with him to put Snow Crystal on the map, success is on the horizon. The fact they strike enough sparks off each other to power all the Christmas lights in Vermont is just an added bonus. 

Kayla might be an expert at her job, but she's out of her depth with Jackson - he makes her crave the happy-ever-after she once dreamed of, and it's terrifying. As the snowflakes continue to swirl, will the woman who doesn't believe in the magic of Christmas finally fall under its spell?

Source: Review Copy | Purchase

5 Words: Family, friendship, Christmas, holiday, work.

This was a wonderful read, it really was. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and the ending put a great big smile on my face.

The romance grows in a believable way - sometimes love at first sight does exist. It just has to be done right. And Sarah Morgan does it right in this book.

I want so badly to be in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with a hot tub on the deck. I don't care about the location or whether there's snow, but take me now! I want to sit in that hot tub and stare at the night sky... Bliss.

These holiday romances are going to cost me a lot of money. After each one I've spent hours browsing such cabins.

I will definitely read on in this series, the start was wonderful. Don't let the fact that it's a festive themed read - books aren't just for Christmas!

14 November 2013

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

I first read this book in May and I still can't stop thinking about it. It's the type of book that gets into your head and stays with you.

I still want to drink cocktails and smoke cigarettes in long holders and wear gorgeous clothes and live in an opulent hotel. Heck, I even want to work as a civilian in the police force (seriously).

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell coverAdd to Goodreads button
A haunting debut novel set against the background of New York City in the 1920s…

Confessions are Rose Baker’s job. A typist for the New York City Police Department, she sits in judgment like a high priestess. Criminals come before her to admit their transgressions, and, with a few strokes of the keys before her, she seals their fate. But while she may hear about shootings, knifings, and crimes of passion, as soon as she leaves the room, she reverts to a dignified and proper lady. Until Odalie joins the typing pool.

As Rose quickly falls under the stylish, coquettish Odalie’s spell, she is lured into a sparkling underworld of speakeasies and jazz. And what starts as simple fascination turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.

Source: Giveaway

5 Words: Friendship, betrayal, mystery, unreliable, speakeasy.

I don't know how I can properly review this book. My head is still reeling from that ending.

All through the book you think one thing, then near the end another and then the last page, the last words, just completely smash your theory to smithereens.

This book is a delicious mix of 1920s crime, punishment and mystery. Just who are Rose and Odalie, really? I still don't know. Which one is Ginevra?

I am a sucker for a poisonous relationship in a book and all that it can bring, and this one is TOXIC. Odalie is mesmerising to everyone, even the reader who should be able to see through her. She is like an enchantress, weaving the actions and words of everyone and everything to her benefit.

I loved the lavish lifestyle of Rose and Odalie as described in this book. It makes me want to bob my long hair and loose a lot of weight so I can pull of the gorgeous outfits, and move into a sumptuous suite in a hotel.

I think you'll appreciate this book about prohibition New York best with a gin and tonic or a champagne cocktail. I know it made me want one!

04 October 2013

Book Revew: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

This. Book. When I finished The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud I instantly set about looking for the next book and cursed the wait I had in store. This is a wonderful book, full of deadly ghosts and hot tea and budding friendships.

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud coverAdd to Goodreads button

When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in...

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again...

Source: Review Copy | Purchase

5 Words: Ghosts, danger, chilling, horror, friendship.

Don't let the fact that Lockwood & Co is a Middle Grade series put you off - this book is ridiculously well written, reading with the flair and complexity of only the best books (ever) and I freaking loved it.

This book is creepy and a little bit scary, set in a terrifying alternate world where ghosts have taken over the night and have the power to kill. When only the young can help to fight this threat, you can kiss goodbye to being a child. Children grow up too fast, too young, and risk their lives to protect everyone else.

The characters are marvellous. Each of them is individually strong, but as a team they are totally kick-ass.

Lucy is a refreshingly strong female lead who can stand on her own two feet. Despite her flaws she's no damsel in distress. And she's not a Mary Sue. She even saves the boys!

Both of the boys are complex too, with flaws of their own. Lockwood is infuriatingly mysterious and secretive - no one knows his background. But saying that, we don't know much about George either.

There is so much to learn, so much that I want to know, that I can't wait to read the next one.

This book is wonderfully written, set in a spine-tinglingly chilling world with a cast of crazy-marvellous, strong characters. It made me want to curl up in a nest of pillows and cushions and blankets and drink hot tea and eat jam sandwiches.

Simply? This book is marvellous. Read it.

28 July 2013

Book Review: Unmasking the Spy by Janet Kent

Even after finishing Unmasking the Spy by Janet Kent, I wasn't sure what to think. On the one hand it was a passionate story set in one of my favourite periods of history. On the other, it fell a tiny bit flat.

 Unmasking the Spy by Janet Kent coverAdd to Goodreads button
Alicia Kinsey is the only child of an antiquities-collecting baron living in trendy London. She tends her live-in aunt and dreams of making a love match. But while her father plots to marry her off to a social-climbing wretch, a masked gentleman emerges from the shadows to steal a kiss... and her heart. 

Ian Morrissey, an ex-government spy, is stuck in London against his will as a favor for a friend. All he wants is to return to his country home and live a low-profile life of bachelor solitude. Instead he finds himself on the hunt for a thief... And in bed with the thief's daughter! 

Source: NetGalley

5 Words: Romance, attraction, subterfuge, secrets, new-adult.

This was a good enough read, which did entertain me. A few years ago it's exactly what I would have loved to read, in fact I went through a whole Regency romance period where that's all I would read.

There were some things that bugged me, like "honey" and too-tight pantaloons, but the capers of Alicia and Ian kind of made up for that. I loved reading about Alicia's balls and soirées and the passion between "Elizabeth" and "Rouge" was excellent, if a little steamy. I did feel like screaming at Alicia and Ian to just be bloody honest with each other though. I mean, seriously? HOW could they not know who was who, regardless of how dark it was?

But boy does Unmasking the Spy have some thrills. Although I'd pretty much guessed the who-dunnit, the twist at the end was marvellous any brought the rating up a little. But the ending itself was a bit of a let down. SHE HAD A CONCUSSION!

The worst part of this book is that Ian even said himself that he couldn't control himself. Things like that make me feel sick and bring out the angry feminist inside of me.

I'd probably call this a Young-New-Adult Regency Romance if I had to try to categorise it.

01 May 2013

Natural Causes by James Oswald

I think I found a new favourite series to help fill the Rebus shaped hole in my reading life. Natural Causes by James Oswald is one heck of a debut.

Natural Causes by James Oswald coverAdd to Goodreads button

A young girl's mutilated body is discovered in a sealed room. Her remains are carefully arranged, in what seems to have been a cruel and macabre ritual, which appears to have taken place over 60 years ago.

For newly appointed Edinburgh Detective Inspector Tony McLean this baffling cold case ought to be a low priority - but he is haunted by the young victim and her grisly death.

Meanwhile, the city is horrified by a series of bloody killings. Deaths for which there appears to be neither rhyme nor reason, and which leave Edinburgh's police at a loss.

McLean is convinced that these deaths are somehow connected to the terrible ceremonial killing of the girl, all those years ago. It is an irrational, almost supernatural theory.

And one which will lead McLean closer to the heart of a terrifying and ancient evil...

Source: Giveaway

5 Words: Crime, mystery, brutality, power, dark.

Content Warning : Suicide.

You can't talk about this book in any way without first mentioning the opening chapter. My toes curled, my hands were in fists, and my throat hurt. I had to suppress the urge to throw up. The first chapter of this book is powerful - the imagery is horrifying and stops just short of being too much. It is terrifying that it could even be conceivable, grotesque that it could possibly happen. But it works. This chapter serves its purpose and serves it well. If you ever forget it then you're lucky - and you will not forget it before you finish the book.

All I wanted to know for much of this book was who that poor young woman was, the girl who suffered such a fate and who did it. That you are reminded of this first, terrible act throughout the book only makes the reader more keen to finish this riveting read and solve the mystery with McLean.

The tone is not all horrifying gore. The characters bring a well needed injection of humour and mystery and a sense of realness. The reader is slowly fed information about McLean, his past does not overshadow the story at all.

This is a well rounded crime novel, with just enough of everything to make it perfect. James Oswald surely knew that to write about a Detective Inspector in Edinburgh would invite comparisons to Ian Rankin's Rebus and seemingly makes a nod to this near the very end, with a Police Constable reading one of Rankin's books.

I wasn't sure about the slight fantasy element, but it worked well with the story and resolved itself by the end. I've never read such a real crime story so well-woven with a hint of fantasy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I am eager to read the next book. Very eager.

What's your favourite crime series?

28 April 2013

Book Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

The mark of a good series is being able to pick it up at any point and jump in. And luckily The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa is a good series. This is a fantastic series in that respect.

The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa coverAdd to Goodreads button
In Allison Sekemoto's world, there is one rule left: Blood calls to blood 

She has done the unthinkable: died so that she might continue to live. Cast out of Eden and separated from the boy she dared to love, Allie will follow the call of blood to save her creator, Kanin, from the psychotic vampire Sarren. But when the trail leads to Allie's birthplace in New Covington, what Allie finds there will change the world forever-and possibly end human and vampire existence. 

There's a new plague on the rise, a strain of the Red Lung virus that wiped out most of humanity generations ago-and this strain is deadly to humans and vampires alike. The only hope for a cure lies in the secrets Kanin carries, if Allie can get to him in time. 

Allison thought that immortality was forever. But now, with eternity itself hanging in the balance, the lines between human and monster will blur even further, and Allie must face another choice she could never have imagined having to make.

Source: Giveaway

5 Words: Survival, vampires, humanity, dystopia, fear.

I will confess now to having never read The Immortal Rules. When I won this copy of The Eternity Cure, I didn't even know it was part of a series. But I still enjoyed this book and understood what was happening well enough to not give up read the first book, well, first. It has made me want to read the first book, but I feel that doing so can only enhance my enjoyment of this series and help me better understand the emotions and motives of the characters.

This book was up-and-down for me. Some parts felt sluggish and unnecessary, and then others were so intense that I wasn't sure what had happened. It felt for long periods that nothing was happening and then BAM something would happen that just about blew my mind.

The best part of this book was the ending, and not because it was the end - far from it. I cannot wait to read the next book, Julie Kagawa you'd better be writing it now! That was a fantastic twist at the end, one I hadn't truly anticipated. And I so badly need to know if what I think has happened is right. 

If I have one complaint to make about this book, it's Allie's constant, constant mentions of her humanity. I'm all for a vampire holding on to some shred of their humanity - it can make them a very complex character. But Allie seemed to hark on about it every other page. For this reason I much preferred Jackal and his I'm-an-evil-monster-vampire attitude despite the hints that there's still a hint there, deep down inside even if he won't admit it. Allie's humanity, and her seeming obsession with it, made her seem like a bit of a sissy vampire, and goodness knows there are too many of them in the realm of young adult fantasy.

So, read away. It's a great book in many respects. Just ignore Allie and her humanity.

What's your favourite vampire story?

20 April 2013

Book Review: And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

Although it felt that nothing happened for long stretches of this novel, when things did happen they were executed perfectly. You may think this would lead to a boring read, but And When She Was Good is far from boring.

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman coverAdd to Goodreads button
In the comfortable suburb where she lives, Heloise is just a mom, the youngish widow with a forgettable job who somehow never misses her son's soccer games or school plays.

But in discrete hotel rooms throughout the area, she's the woman of your dreams - if you can afford her hourly fee.

For more than a decade, Heloise has believed her unorthodox life to be a safe one; rigidly compartmentalized, maintaining no real friendships and trusting very few people. But now this secret life is under siege. Her once oblivious accountant is asking loaded questions about her business. Her longtime protector is hinting at new, mysterious dangers. Her employees can no longer be trusted. Her ex, the one who doesn't know he's the father of her son, is appealing his life sentence. And, one county over, another so-called 'suburban madam' has been found dead in her car, an apparent suicide...

Can Heloise stay alive long enough to remake her life again, and save her son? Can she really expect to leave everything else behind?

Amazon UK | Amazon US

Source: NetGalley

5 Words: Secrets, lies, trust, survival, deception.

The main character, Helen/Heloise (Hel?) seems so sure of herself for the majority of this book, and I would be lying if I didn't admit that the ending was the best part - but that's because Hel stopped being so superior and aloof and putting everyone down. It took her being out-smarted - seriously out-smarted - to seemingly get a grip.

When it comes to other characters, they seem a little like an afterthought. Hel's father made my blood boil and I guess that's why she is how she is. He is a nasty and selfish man who quickly engendered feelings of hatred from me, as I am sure he was meant to. Hel's mother seemed quite timid and unsure - she was so in love, but with that monster? It didn't seem to fit that she could be that naive for her whole life.

Overall I thought it a good enough read. It's not one of my favourites and for being a mystery there isn't much mystery at all, but it was nevertheless enjoyable and interesting.

What's your favourite mystery?

17 April 2013

Book Review: Undertaking Love by Kat French

Undertaking Love by Kat French is a perfect chick-lit, a book that's perfect for summer and the beach. I thought it was going to be light and fluffy, but I was wrong and it was wonderfully surprising.

Undertaking Love by Kat French coverAdd to Goodreads button
The moment love-phobic Marla Jacobs discovers that the shop next to her Little White Wedding Chapel is to become a funeral parlour, she declares all-out war.

Marla’s chapel in the sleepy Shropshire countryside has become a nation-wide sensation, but the arrival of Funeral Director Gabriel Ryan threatens everything Marla has worked for. She can picture the scene: wedding limos fighting for space in the street with hearses; brides bumping into widows; bouquets being swapped for wreaths

Marla’s not going down without a fight. She enlists a motley crew of weird and wonderful local supporters, and the battle lines are drawn. But, as soon as Marla meets her nemesis, she realises just how much trouble she’s really in. His gypsy curls and Irish lilt make her stomach fizz – how is she supposed to concentrate on destroying him, when half the time she’s struggling not to rip the shirt off his back?

Source: NetGalley

5 Words: Sweet, passionate, love, unexpected, heart-warming.

This book is a perfect chick-lit read. In the best of ways.

It has all of the right ingredients and they're mixed together in a special way which makes it stand out from the crowd.

I was expecting light and fluffy, and instead I got a passionate and well paced story which made me laugh and chuckle and almost seethe with anger. This story follows a group of people, all with their own problems and passions, and this makes the story all the more beautiful.

The conversations between friends, and between couples, flows very naturally with an understandable humour.

This story is heart-breaking and heart-warming all at once, and it reminds you of what love really is, how love really feels and what love really means. There is real passion and conflict, this is not love at first sight.

I was gushing at everything between Dora and Ivan, and I shed more than one tear too.

This book makes me more glad than ever that I have found the rock that my lighthouse stands on. Have a glass of wine with this book. Or a bottle. It depends how much it makes you want to drown your sorrows. Because I sobbed my heart out.

She is more than just my guiding light. She is the rock that this lighthouse stands on.

14 April 2013

Book Review: The Liberation of Sundrian City by Ander Louis

The Liberation of Sundrian City by Ander Louiswas a great read. I didn't think it would be quite my cup of tea at first, but I really struggled to put it down and found myself thinking of it when I was supposed to be doing other things.

The Liberation of Sundrian City by Ander Louis coverAdd to Goodreads button
If ignorance were bliss, would you seek truth?

In a sheltered city that has locked itself away from the dangers of the outside world, a band of underground rebels, driven by this very question, plan to uncover the truth beyond their impenetrable wall.

Meanwhile, as he struggles to bring his own life together by solving the mysterious murder of his parents, thirteen-year-old Linus Smith will come to learn – the hard way – that he is a gifted war elephant rider, and find himself in the most unlikely place – at the crux of a liberation.

The Liberation of Sundrian City is the explosive new adventure novel by Ander Louis.

Join the Liberation!

Source: Giveaway

5 Words: Power, rebellion, attraction, control, love.

The Liberation of Sundrian City is a very fun read. It has everything you could ask for in a fantasy novel - unknown dangers, a renegade sorcerer, war elephants (fantastic!) and terrible justice.

I particularly loved the elephants, the way that almost everyone thought they could be completely controlled by a single master, that they had loyalty to specific people. The elephants added the perfect amount of spontaneity to the scenes containing them, you didn't know what was going to happen and it made for some fantastic suspense and shock.

Missy was my favourite character in this book, despite being an elephant - the personality of this crazy elephant was just wonderfully powerful.

I very much disliked Deimos and the majority of the other guards - they got their kicks out of bullying a thirteen year old boy, a child. What big, strong men they are.

The signs of the corrupt nature of Sundrian City and the deceit of all of the citizens is very subtle. The feeling of unease and corruption grows slowly, naturally.

The only part I didn't love (aside from the dick-ish guards) was the ending - it came far too soon! I could happily have read more of this story and if there is ever a sequel, I'll be happy to read it!

What's your favourite non-human character?

04 April 2013

Book Review: The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood

I bought The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood at The Alnwick Garden, where the gated Poison Garden really strikes you - even more so once you have read this book. Visiting the Poison Garden at Alnwick Gardens can only increase your enjoyment and understanding of this young adult historical tale. This is a fantastic quick read which will leave you impatient for the next installment.

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood coverAdd to Goodreads button
Jessamine Luxson lives with her father, Thomas, an apothecary, in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle. Thomas’s pride and obsession is his locked garden full of dangerous plants, which Jessamine is forbidden to enter.

When a traveler brings an orphan to their cottage, he claims the boy has special gifts that Thomas might value. Jessamine is drawn to the strange but intriguing boy, called Weed. Soon their friendship deepens into love. Finally, Weed shares his secret: He can communicate with plants. For him they have distinct personalities—and some are even murderous. From the locked garden the poisonous plants call to Weed, luring him with promises of deadly power.

When Jessamine falls inexplicably ill, only Weed’s relationship with the Poisons can save her. But Thomas is determined to exploit Weed’s abilities, even if it risks Jessamine’s life - or drives Weed to the brink of madness...

Source: Purchase

5 Words: Family, attraction, responsibility, , poison.

I liked Jessamine's spunk and nature, Weed's weirdness, and her father's evil plots. The characters are passionate to a flaw: Jessamine in her growing love for Weed and her need to impress her father; Jessamine's father in his obsession in knowing everything about plants, particularly those in his poison garden; and Weed with his love for Jessamine and his distrust of the poison garden. Oleander is a sly, poisonous character, which fits absolutely perfectly as that's what he is - poison.

I did get exasperated at some points, but I think that as a reader you were meant to - it added to the characters and plot.

The Poison Diaries is filled with passion and energy and a hint of the supernatural. The romance is subtle and builds slowly, the crucible in this intense story.

This book appeals to my love of all things local and tea. Especially tea. Jessamine makes her own teas and tissanes, and I smiled as I recognised the ingredients of my own mixtures. I have a pot of lavender by the front door and some lemon balm on the kitchen windowsill and I brewed up my own blend after reading.
I take my metal canister of tea off the shelf. It is my own mixture of dried lavender blossoms and lemon balm, harvested from my garden and hung in the storeroom to dry. Weed helped me hang these stalks, I think. His hands touched these tender leaves, just as they touch me.

01 April 2013

Book Review: The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh was surprisingly haunting, and had a subtle yet very much present conservation message behind the beautiful story. It's perfect reading for long sunny days.

The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh coverAdd to Goodreads button
Frances Irvine, left destitute in the wake of her father’s sudden death, has been forced to abandon her life of wealth and privilege in London and emigrate to the Southern Cape of Africa. 1880 South Africa is a country torn apart by greed. In this remote and inhospitable land she becomes entangled with two very different men—one driven by ambition, the other by his ideals. Only when the rumor of a smallpox epidemic takes her into the dark heart of the diamond mines does she see her path to happiness.

But this is a ruthless world of avarice and exploitation, where the spoils of the rich come at a terrible human cost and powerful men will go to any lengths to keep the mines in operation. Removed from civilization and disillusioned by her isolation, Frances must choose between passion and integrity, a decision that has devastating consequences.

Source: Giveaway

5 Words: Family, hope, change, deception, conservation.

The Fever Tree is a compelling portrait of colonial South Africa, its raw beauty and deprivation alive in equal measure. But above all it is a love story about how—just when we need it most—fear can blind us to the truth.

I wasn't sure what to think when I first started this book. Frances did not appeal to me at all and she is the main character.

A couple chapters in I was frustrated by her - she opted for paints and an easel over essentials she was told she'd need for her new life. She couldn't understand Edwin's frustration at her when she arrived with no material, no sewing machine.

The whole ship journey got to me too - because this is where we meet William. William is a foul character and I know Frances lived a sheltered and naive life but really? Did she really think he was god's gift to man? So his actions on the Cape finally jolted her a little, but she still longed for him even though on the ship... Well, you should read it, it may be a spoiler if I say.

I liked the conservation messages subtly strewn throughout the text - they highlight the dangers that Africa still faces today in terms of everything being wiped out.

I loved the imagery. I could feel my skin drying, blistering, burning. And the descriptions of small pox were quite horrific. I could taste the fetid water, smell the spilled blood, feel the dust coating everything. This is powerful writing with powerful messages.

"Were there ever lions here?"
"Reitz's father shot the last one thirty years ago..."

27 March 2013

Back to Blogging

It's been a while, about four years I think, since I last properly blogged. I have spent that time reading and writing and taking photographs, working full time, losing my job and getting a National Trust membership.

I've dabbled in volunteering and found that I love it, I've drank more tea than ever, and I've put on about a stone despite my best intentions.

And I have very much outgrown my old blog.

So here's to a new blog.

A blog full of books and tea and pretty things. Hopefully.