23 May 2019

My Favourite Sci-Fi Tropes and Themes *AD Gifted

Usborne Publishing sent me a free review copy of Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans.

Get yourself a cuppa, because this is a long one all about my love of sci-fi, inspired by Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans. Which is excellent.

It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I realised I loved sci-fi. Up until I started book blogging, I'd usually say something like "I never read sci-fi!" or "I don't like sci-fi!" or "isn't sci-fi the worst?". And I was wrong. Because I was actually reading a lot of sci-fi, I was loving a lot of sci-fi, and actually, sci-fi is the best, isn't it? The sheer scope of sci-fi, the infinite possibilities, mean that pretty much everything can be explored. I love the daring, how it challenges perceptions, how it explores lesser heard voices.

I think one of my favourite things about sci-fi is how it explores inequality and injustice. In Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans, I loved how class and poverty and wealth were picked apart. I loved the contrast between Laura and Shem, how different their lives were. I loved the extra layer added by Laura's memories from before she woke up, how vulnerable it made her to be thrust into the limelight and world of celebrity and privilege, because she had known differently.

Beauty Sleep takes a long hard look at beauty standards and fashion trends and vanity. It rips in to greed and privilege and our fascination with celebrities. It even delves into medical ethics in a pretty shocking way.

Sci-fi often feels almost normal at times, and then BAM there's a subtle undercurrent of suspicion and unease - you know that something isn't right and you can't stop reading until you find out what it is.

Near-future sci-fi is a particular favourite because of how extra-real it all feels. It's feels like this could happen. This could be it. This could be the future. There's an extra urgency to it. And Beauty Sleep accomplishes this marvellously. The word is so achingly familiar that at times I forgot I was reading something that wasn't set in the here and now. The technological advancements felt so natural and inevitable.

Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans 

Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans coverAdd to Goodreads button

What would you give for the chance to live again?

Laura was dying. There was no cure for her illness. So her family decided to grasp a desperate last hope - Laura was frozen until she could be cured.

But what happens when you wake up one day and the world has moved on forty years? Your best friend is middle-aged, your parents presumed dead. Could you find a new place to belong? Could you build a new life - while solving the mystery of what happened to the old one?

Dark secrets lurk in the future of the girl from the past…

What are your favourite sci-fi tropes and themes?

14 May 2019

How My Own Past Life Regressions Inspired The Path Keeper

When NJ Simmonds got in touch and asked me to join the blog tour for The Path Keeper I was excited - there has been so much buzz about this book! When she offered to write a guest post I was even more excited. Read on to find out how NJ Simmond's' own past life regressions inspired The Path Keeper. It is fascinating.

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How My Own Past Life Regressions
Inspired The Path Keeper

by NJ Simmonds
The first sentence of this guest blog is going to be a strange one, so brace yourselves… 
The first time I got a glimpse of one of my past lives I was sleeping beside the engine room of a pearling ship heading for Darwin. 
Fifteen years ago, following a messy break up from the guy I thought was ‘The One’, I found myself saying goodbye to London and heading for the other side of the world having left behind a job I loved, a house that was half mine and a man that had broken my heart. My backpack was heavy, but not as cumbersome as the emotional baggage I long-hauled all the way to Oz. I told my parents I’d be visiting a friend in Perth and I’d be back in six to eight weeks’ time. I didn’t return to the UK until fourteen months later. 
Aged twenty-five, I was one of the oldest backpackers among the many trudging their way across the giant island. It’s cliché to say I went in search of myself, but whether I set out to discover who I truly was or not – I found a lot more than I bargained for. I set in motion a life that has since been tinged with magic. 
During those long months of cross-country coach trips, I read avidly on all manner of mystical beliefs. I learned astrology, became a reiki healer, joined a coven of women who met every week to meditate with crystals, and befriended a woman who spoke with angels. A few months into my trip, one blistering hot day as I meditated on the base of Uluru, I realised my previously career-driven London life had been nothing but a dark veil smothering a world of energy and light I never knew existed. It was like cleaning dirt off a window and watching the sun shine through. 
So… Back to my past lives. 
After three months of selling pearls in Broome, a town in Western Australia so secluded it’s actually closer to towns in other continents than its own country, I was offered a lift north, five days on board a pearling boat which I shared with six questionable sailors and their cook. In the day I sunbathed, and at night we drank rum, played cards and laid on deck staring at the stars. One night I was very seasick and was told to sleep as far below deck as I could find to reduce the affect of the swell. Finding myself on a narrow mattress beside the incessant rumbling hum of the engine room, the stench of diesel and oyster shells clinging to every inch of my body, I decided to meditate - reasoning that a past life regression meditation might be an effective way to distract the churn of my stomach and the tides swirling around in my head. 
At this point I held no firm beliefs about the afterlife and didn’t expect anything to happen. Brought up a Catholic, I knew all about God and Heaven and angels. But I’d also been a member of the London school of Psychic Studies. I’d had the odd ghostly experience in my childhood, and I’d seen a lot of stuff I couldn’t explain – so I was open minded, although unconvinced anything would come of it. 
I can’t logically explain what happened next. 
I saw myself as a teen girl in ancient Rome. Barefoot and simply dressed, I was stirring something in a clay pot over an open fire atop the crest of a hill. I kept looking over to what appeared to be Florence (in real life I’d been to Florence a couple of years earlier and inexplicably knew my way around, I’d even remarked at the time how familiar the city felt). As a poor Roman girl I waited, anticipation and excitement churning in my guts as my mother and baby brother busied themselves in our small holding behind me. I knew soldiers were on their way, and with them came the opportunity to feel important. Every few months, as they marched through our village, the locals would tend to them, help them regain their strength, and then they would leave. Every time it filled with me purpose yet left me bereft, over and over again. In that fleeting glimpse of another life (and I’m no historian, so the things I saw were totally new to me) I also recognised that two people from my current life had been there as well, instantly understanding what their role had been then and now.
That night I couldn’t sleep. As I lay on a sweaty mattress in the belly of a pearling boat that rolled through the waters like a drunken whale, I wondered what my vision had meant. Was it an allegory or visual representation of my real-life issues? Was it a dream? An overactive imagination? Or a load of old nonsense? 
I never considered it again until I went on to have two more visions (one through meditation and one through a healer). When the idea of The Path Keeper came to me seven years later in 2012, it made sense to me that an eternal love would involve past lives – and that’s how a handful of different stories began to intertwine and merge into a three-book series. In the sequel Son of Secrets, we see Ella’s past life in 5BC Tuscany, inspired by that tiny snapshot of a lonely Roman girl. That’s when I began to research this possible place and era – and things got weirder. 
I Googled and found the same village I’d imagined myself in, the view of Florence exactly as I’d seen it. The town is called Fiesole and was in fact one of the biggest Roman footholds in Tuscany back then. I’d never heard of it before I’d seen it in my vision and then online. The pots and cooking utensils, the clothing I wore and even the house all matched my memory. Coincidence? A latent memory from something I’d learned at school? Luck? Regardless whether I have ever lived before, it sparked one of my favourite parts of the series and became the backdrop of how Ella and Zac first met. 
Regardless of your beliefs, as a writer, ideas will reach you in the strangest of ways. The Path Keeper may be an urban fantasy romance set in London, with plenty of city grime and contemporary scenes, but it also has an esoteric theme that will have you questioning religion, angels, past lives, fate, the power of crystals and soul mates. And as the series continues, there’s more on the history of witches (another past life memory set in 1613) and the concept of the devil. 
Yes, these are big and contentious subjects to discuss in a fictional novel, especially when writing older YA, but the series isn’t a reflection of my beliefs or a didactic message. It’s just a story of mostly made up stuff I thought was interesting and fun to throw together. Accused of being ‘ambitious’ and ‘brave’ in various reviews –it’s also rubbed plenty of people up the wrong way. I don’t mind, books are meant to make you feel strongly one way or another. 
I’ve always dreamed of seeing my book in a bookstore window, but I never imagined fifteen years ago, as I ran away to the other side of the world with nothing to my name but a dusty backpack and a head full of questions, that I was setting off down a path that would lead me to now. During those sun-drenched wanderlust days, the seeds of my first book were planted, and that tree hasn’t stopped growing. I saw a different world that night on the pearling boat, and I have since created many more worlds of my own. 
Maybe we’ve all lived before, maybe we haven’t – but it’s been a hell of a lot of fun writing about it.

Every blog tour in the blog has a letter. Collect them all to spell out the answer to this competition question: What does Zac get in the sequel SON OF SECRETS that's very out of character? Prize info and entry details will be posted in The Glass House Glass magazine on release day 28 May 2019. Check out today's letter and competition graphic below. 

10 May 2019

Book Beginnings #68

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 Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans.

Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans cover

I understood. I really did. This was a chance. Our only chance. It was this or die.
Yeah so I am hooked, right from this first line.

I love the way that already, right from the start, tension is building. It's amazing. There's something subtly sinister right from the start.
Safe? What was I thinking? Bert had warned me: people like us were never safe.

This is a switch in narrators, and I really like how it's done in this book. At this point, both narrators are super unreliable, and I don't know what to trust and I haven't figured out what's going on. What I can say is that it is so sinister and eerie, and I love it.

What are you reading this week?

08 May 2019

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto *AD Gifted

Ink Road Books sent me a free review copy of Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto.

First I fell in love with the stunning cover, then I fell in love with the incredible story. I absolutely loved Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto and you should add it straight to your TBR. It is slow to start, but stick with it and you will be blown away.

Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto coverAdd to Goodreads button
I had a sister, once…

In a world ruled by fierce warrior queens, a grand empire was built upon the backs of Phoenix Riders - legendary heroes who soared through the sky on wings of fire - until a war between two sisters ripped it all apart.

I promised her the throne would not come between us.

Sixteen years later, Veronyka is a war orphan who dreams of becoming a Phoenix Rider from the stories of old. After a shocking betrayal from her controlling sister, Veronyka strikes out alone to find the Riders - even if that means disguising herself as a boy to join their ranks.

But it is a fact of life that one must kill or be killed. Rule or be ruled.

Just as Veronyka finally feels like she belongs, her sister turns up and reveals a tangled web of lies between them that will change everything. And meanwhile, the new empire has learned of the Riders’ return and intends to destroy them once and for all.

Sometimes the title of queen is given. Sometimes it must be taken. 

Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, secrets, adventure, strength, phoenix.

Where there is will, there is possibility.

07 April 2019

Sleep by CL Taylor *AD Gifted

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

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

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

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

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

Seven strangers. Seven secrets. One deadly lie.

Someone’s going to sleep and never wake up…

Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

03 April 2019

The Boy Who Steals Houses by CG Drews

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

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

The Boy Who Steals Houses by CG Drews cover

5 Key Inspirations For The Boy Who Steals Houses

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

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

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

1. Goldilocks retelling.

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

2. I wanted a story with siblings.

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

3. A little bit of thieving…

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

4. Food counts as inspiration, right?!

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

5. Finding your place in the world.

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

02 April 2019

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke *AD Gifted

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

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

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Destiny doesn't happen by accident . . .

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

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

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

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

Source: Review Copy

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

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

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

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

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

31 March 2019

A Date With A Book *AD Gifted

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

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

My plan? To date the book.

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

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

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

Step One: Introduce Yourself

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

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

Step Two: Get to Know Them

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

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

Step Three: Figure It Out

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

Step Four: Get Lost

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

Step Five: Reflect

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

Time to completely unwind with a bath...

Relaxing Bath Soak

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

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

Aaaand... Relax.

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29 March 2019

Book Beginnings #66

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading this week?

26 March 2019

Book Review: Meat Market by Juno Dawson *AD Gifted

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: NetGalley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 March 2019

An Italian Affair by Caroline Montague

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

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

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

Love. War. Family. Betrayal.

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

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

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

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

Source: Review copy.

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

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

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

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

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

21 March 2019

Release Day Book Review: His Convenient Highland Wedding by Janice Preston *AD Gifted

Mills & Boon provided me with a free review copy of His Convenient Highland Wedding by Janice Preston through their Mills & Boon Insiders program.

I have been in SUCH a highland romance mood recently, so when His Convenient Highland Wedding by Janice Preston popped up in my Mills & Boon Insiders email I jumped at it, not even reading the description. I loved this book so much, it was a delight to read even if the slow burn was rather frustrating.

His Convenient Highland Wedding by Janice Preston coverAdd to Goodreads button
Bought by her husband…

Bound by secrets of their past!

The start of The Lochmore Legacy – A Scottish castle through the ages! Earl’s daughter Flora McCrieff brought shame on her family once, now she discovers she must wed impossibly rich but low born Lachlan McNeill. He’s undeniably handsome, but a man of few words. Despite the attraction that burns between them, can she reach beyond his impeccable clothing to find the emotions he’s locked away for so long..? 

Source: Review copy.

5 Word Review: Family, trust, secrets, business, love.

Holy slow-burn, Batman!

This book takes time to get going, and I don't think I was in the mood to be so patient. I did enjoy the steady build of Flora and Lachlan's relationship, but I didn't enjoy being stuck for the long haul. It felt like the book was almost over by the time it had properly ignited and I would have liked to have read more about them just generally being in love.

I really liked Flora's tenacity and drive, and how her confidence blossomed as the story progressed. She's headstrong and knows her own mind, and she's also generous with it. She's smart and savvy and innovative, and I loved how she challenged everyone around her, especially Lachlan.

As with every romance, a lot of the issues between the characters could have been solved by them talking to each other, but I do love the way I know that misunderstandings are going to happen.

There was a wonderful exploration of family and expectations in the story, and it introduced us to some fantastic characters - in particular proud Anna.

I really enjoyed His Convenient Highland Wedding, even if the slow-burn felt excruciatingly slow at times. I'll absolutely read on with the Lochmore Legacy as I want to see what's next, especially for Anna.

18 March 2019

The Northern YA Literary Festival was Awesome

To put it simply, I had the best time.

I loved how stress-free the event felt. There was plenty of time between panels for signings, there was delicious (and super cheap?!) food available on site, there were fantastic stalls. I didn't feel rushed or panicked at the event (that was saved for the chaos of the delayed train on the return journey), and I event felt comfortable enough to lie down on a couch at the end and rest (which was much needed after being on the go since before 6am).

I am so glad I managed to pick up an ARC of The Harm Tree by Rose Edwards because I have heard excellent things about it from Charlotte and I'm excited to start it, especially after the Feminist Fantasy. I also nabbed an ARC of Fated by Teri Terry and I am full of excite at the prospect of rereading it without a migraine.

Northern YA Literary Festival

But instead of a full wrap up, I'm going to share some of my favourite quotes from the authors on the panels, because some of them hit me right in the feels and really resonated with me. And also I'm trying to be a better blogger and took a lot of Notes for one, go me.

I would have loved to include Samantha Shannon's full Strong Female Character speech (which was as epic and long as Priory of the Orange Tree) but I was too busy gleefully listening to actually write notes on it.

YA Thrillers

I feel like a fraud being on this panel, I just wanted to write something that people would want to keep reading
Will Hill

When I'm writing, I usually know where it's going, I know what's going to happen, but I let the characters guide how.
MA Bennett

Feminist Fantasy Panel

Being morally outstanding does not mean that someone is a good human being.
Laure Eve

The intimacy of friendship, especially as a teen girl, is so intense.
Rose Edwards

The break up of a friendship is devastating.
Samantha Shannon

As a society, in the media we consume we allow women to be strong only after they have been hurt.
Melinda Salisbury

Inclusiveness in YA Panel

We need to reset the notion of normal
AJ Hartley

I do it because it needs to be done, in twenty years things haven't changed.
Bali Rai

You can tell a very complicated story with simple language.
Non Pratt

Shame-Less Panel

The Exact Opposite of Okay wasn't a story about Izzy finding her voice, it was about using it.
Laura Steven

Shame is so different from guilt, it cuts a lot deeper and attaches to who you are as a person.
Tamsin Winter

How can you resist being overly critical of yourself when on social media you're essentially a public performance?
Laura Steven

Mental Health Panel

Oh My Gods was always meant to be funny and light, but in order to have light you need dark.
Alexandra Sheppard

If you're not being honest with yourself you cannot set boundaries.
Akemi Dawn Bowman

As a teen I felt like I was a different person every three months, I had to get to know myself again and again. There were so many expectations to confront, and that's a common experience.
Alice Broadway

14 March 2019

Northern YA Literary Festival 2019

University of Central Lancashire, in association with their BA in Publishing, are hosting The Northern Young Adult Literature Festival on Saturday 16th March 2018 at the Greenbank Building in Preston. Doors open at 9.45am, with the events staggered throughout the day.

There will be panels, talks, a pop-up book shop, signings, publisher stands, a book exchange, bookish face painting, and jewellery and gift stalls. I even hear that Literary Galaxy will be there with her gorgeous lanyards (10/10 would recommend) and if you hurry and let her know in advance she'll even be lovely enough to print you out an ID card for you.

Best of all? This event is FREE. All you have to do is reserve a free ticket for the events you want to go to and turn up on the day. How excellent?

I'm so excited for this event and I was lucky enough to be able to do a Q&A with Bali Rai ahead of the event.

There are various workshops and agent talks throughout the day, but I'm more interested in the panels themselves. See the panel line up below and guess which one I'm most excited about (Spoiler: all of them. I'm excited for all of them).

The Panel Line Up
Chaired by The Bookseller's Caroline Carpenter, M.A. Bennett & Will Hill discuss what it takes to write a thriller, and why we love them so much.
Join bestselling YA authors Samantha Shannon, Laure Eve. Melinda Salisbury and debut author Rose Edwards as they discuss the world of Feminist Fantasy.
oin Co-Founder of Knights Of, Aimée Felone, as she chairs this stellar panel. Aimée along with Non Pratt, Bali Rai, A.J. Hartley & debut author, Mel Darbon discuss inclusiveness in YA, and the importance of seeing the world though different eyes.
Katherine Webber will be joined by the God Father of YA, Melvin Burgess, Tamsin Winter, Laura Steven & debut author Mel Darbon.
Join Lisa Williamson as she chairs this special panel looking at the importance of reflecting mental health in YA. Fellow panellists include Sara Barnard, Akemi Dawn Bowman, Alice Broadway & debut Alexandra Sheppard.

Getting There
The Greenbank Building is just a 15 minute-ish walk from Preston train station.

Preston has some fab national rail links and train tickets were a lot cheaper than I expected. If you have to change, split your tickets and it cuts the price further.


Books I'm Bringing
I'm very lucky in that I already have most of my books signed (yay!) so I won't have to take too many down to Preston with me. I don't think I'll manage to make the MA Bennett signing between the Thriller and Fantasy panel either, so I'm going to skip it and pray that she's at YALC in the summer.

Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury
Rani & Sukh by Bali Rai
(Un)arranged Marraieg by Bali Rai
Monsters in the Mirror by AJ Hartley
A Girl Called Shameless by Laura Steven

Look how good I'm being, only taking five books! Doubtless I'll also end up buying a fair few when I'm there anyway.

I was really tempted to bring my copy of The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh but I ultimately decided not to as it's a YA event. And also my copy is read to death with falling out pages oops.

Will you be coming?
What books are you bringing?

06 March 2019

Izzy O'Neill's Updated iPod

Last year I got to share what was on Izzy O'Neill's iPod and it quickly became one my favourite playlists. To celebrate the release of A Girl Called Shameless, Laura has added to the tracklist and now you can bop around to even more of Izzy's favourite tunes.

I can't for this book to release tomorrow so I can read it, as it has been too long since I had some Izzy in my life. Read my review of The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven.

The Tracklist

I love It
Icona Pop, Charlie XCX

I Don't Care

Sit Still, Look Pretty

Tove Stryke

Kate Nash

Remember When


Dog Days Are Over
Florence + The Machine


Christina Aguilera

Destiny's Child

Don't Be So Hard On Yourself
Jess Glynne

Katy Perry

Natasha Bedingfield

David Guetta, Sia

Kelly Clarkson

Rather Be
Clean Bandit, Jess Glynne

Fight Song
Rachel Platten

Sara Bareilles

Girl On Fire
Alicia Keys

A Girl Called Shameless by Laura Steven coverAdd to Goodreads button

Funnier. Ruder. Angrier. Izzy O’Neill is back in the hilarious sequel to The Exact Opposite of Okay.

It’s been two months since a leaked explicit photo got Izzy involved in a political sex scandal – and the aftershock is far from over. The Bitches Bite Back movement is gathering momentum as a forum for teenage feminists, and when a girl at another school has a sex tape shared online, once again Izzy leads the charge against the slut-shamer. This time she wants to change the state law on revenge porn.

Izzy and her best friend Ajita are as hilarious as ever, using comedy to fight back against whatever the world throws at them, but Izzy is still reeling from her slut-shaming ordeal, feeling angry beyond belief and wondering – can they really make a change?


Do you listen to music when you read?

01 March 2019

February Bookish Wrap Up

Here I am, back with another wrap up! I'm really enjoying recording what I'm reading more, and I'm finding it easier to keep track of the books I'm buying and receiving too. This is definitely something I'm going to keep up over the year.

February Bookish Wrap Up

February Bookish Wrap Up

February was a bit of a weird month. After an excellent start to the year in January, I felt a little like I was starting to slump. As I managed to finish 13 books, this obviously wasn't true, but I felt like I spent a lot longer reading them. It was also a month that reminded me why I don't can't read ebooks, as A Hidden Hope by Laura Ambrose took pretty much the whole month to read despite being only 77 pages.

I also took part in a reading challenge, FF February Reads, and I did a wrap up just for the challenge too.

Books Read: 13
Pages Read: 4,436

Books I Read

Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
Apple of My Eye by Claire Allen (gifted)
The Conquest by Elizabeth Chadwick
Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters
Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee (gifted)
Mr One-Night Stand by Rachael Stewart (gifted)
A Hidden Hope by Laura Ambrose
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
All The Lonely People by David Owen
King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
One More Lie by Amy Lloyd (gifted)

Books I Added To My Shelf

Sleep by CL Taylor (gifted)
Don't Tell Teacher by Suzy K Quinn (gifted)
An Italian Affair by Caroline Montague (gifted)
The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby (gifted)
The Extinction Trials: Rebel by SM Wilson
Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale
A Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury (gifted)
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee (gifted)
Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (gifted)
The Wicked King by Holly Black
A Girl Called Shameless by Laura Steven
One More Lie by Amy Lloyd (gifted)
The Orphanage of Gods by Helena Coggan
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Books I'm Currently Reading

Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy (gifted)
Izzy & Tristan by Shannon Dunlap (gifted)
Viper by Bex Hogan (gifted)

Book Events I Attended

Vintage Books Showcase
The King & Queen Tour: Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

What did you read in February?
What are you reading now?

28 February 2019

The Wrap Up - F/F February Reads

I can't believe that FFFebruaryReads, hosted by Imi Reviews Books and faerieontheshelf, is already finished, and now what am I going to do with myself?

At the beginning of the month I mapped out my plans and set out a TBR, then I posted an update around half way through where I showed how clearly I had deviated from the TBR I'd set out (not sorry). I had so much fun with this reading challenge, and I wish I'd read more for it.

FF February Reads Finished

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker (audiobook)
Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (audiobook)
Romancing The Inventor by Gail Carriger (audiobook)
A Hidden Hope by Laura Ambrose
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (audiobook)

FF February Reads I Didn't Get To

In The Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard
Pulp by Robin Talley
The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

It took me a whole month to read an ebook novella, so there was no way I was ever going to manage In The Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard and The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown, so I'm a little sad.

If I count books more than once then I completed the entire bingo board, but if just count each book once I still managed to complete two lines so yay go me.

F/F February Reads Bingo board

I never did manage to catch up with the photo challenge (boo for being ill) but I loved seeing everyone's pictures and naturally my TBR grew considerably.

What's your next FF Read?