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31 January 2019

F/F February Reads

I am so excited for FFFebruaryReads to start tomorrow. It is hosted by Imi Reviews Books and faerieontheshelf so head over to take a peek.

So what will I be reading?

My FF February Reads TBR

A Hidden Hope by Laura Ambrose
Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
In The Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard
Pulp by Robin Talley
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker (audiobook)
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (audiobook)
The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

I already have some prior commitments of non FF books I have to read, but otherwise I'll be sticking to the above TBR! I'm a mood reader so I'm not setting it in stone and won't be reading them in order, and I've included two audiobooks for my walks to and from work.. I've also only put down seven books, as I still have to decide what my reread will be. I'm thinking maybe Romancing The Inventor by Gail Carriger, as I'm in a definite Romance mood.

F/F February Reads bingo card

I'm also going to join in with the photo challenge, I like how it's not every day so I have some room and space to think, and I'll probably be stalking the hashtag looking for recommendations

F/F February Reads photo challenge

What's your favourite FF Read?

28 January 2019

I Listened to the Grisha Trilogy

In the run up to the publication of King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, the publishers BKMRK hosted a readalong of the full Grisha trilogy, one book a month from November to January. Now my copies are currently packed away, and I knew I wouldn't be able to dig them out and read them in time, so I decided to splash my Audible credits and hit up the audiobooks.

The audiobooks are narrated by Lauren Fortgang and she does the most amazing job. To me, the story felt slightly different when she was reading compared to when I first read it myself. I loved the way she brought iconic lines and scenes to life.

I listened to the books pretty much one after the other. I'd already read all three of them years ago when Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J Maas visited Seven Stories for the Summoners and Assassins talk, but coming back to the story - knowing how it was going to end - meant that I picked up on lots of little things I'd missed at first. And if anything, my anticipation was even higher.


I'd definitely recommend these audiobooks as an introduction to the Grishaverse. They come first chronologically in the larger world, and they lay down the magic rules of the world. If anything, I thought the series was even better the second time around, and it's only really once the final book ends that the full impact of everything that's happened hits.

I think my favourite was Seige & Storm, then Ruin & Rising, and then Shadow & Bone, because as much as I enjoyed the first book, the second was my favourite. I'm not entirely sure why. Oh, hello Nikolai.

I'm going to listen to the Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom audiobooks next. And gosh, I'm excited for King of Scars tomorrow!

The Darkling slumped back in his chair.“Fine,” he said with a weary shrug. “Make me your villain."

Do you listen to audiobooks? What's your favourite audiobook? 

24 January 2019

Q&A With Michelle Kenney

When Mich Kenney reached out to me over Christmas, I was excited and jumped at the chance to host a Q&A. I'm a very nosy person and love finding out how authors work, what inspires them, and challenging them to describe their own books.

Book of Fire has been on my radar since it was released as an ebook back in 2017. Now City of Dust has just released in ebook and paperback and I'm itching for Book of Fire to come available in print so I can read it. The amazing Charlotte Somewhere has already reviewed Book of Fire so I'll direct you there if you want to find out what she thought.

Q&A with Michelle Kenney

Can you describe the Book of Fire trilogy in five words?
Oooh, this is so hard! So, readers have described the books in a variety of ways including:

The Bone Season meets Percy Jackson (6 words)
New fusion of history, dystopia & mythology (7 words)
Hunger Games, Mythology & Avatar (5)
The Fire Sermon meets Gladiator (5)

but I think my favourite has to be:
An adrenaline-fuelled dystopian dream (5)

What inspired you to write the world the way you did, with the mix of dystopian and historical?
I’m fascinated with our perception of time, with the idea that we are always moving forward, when modern physics suggests time-space theory is less linear. In Book of Fire, Octavia (Isca Pantheon's dictator) looks back for a successful civilisation to emulate as part of her Biotechnical Program to establish a genetically modified (Roman-inspired) civilisation. I wanted to convey the idea that great success can often be a glossy veneer, and in this case, hide systematic brutality, slavery and corruption. It was also about acknowledging that while the future can offer up great opportunity, choices need to be made sensitively and intelligently, with reference to global responsibilities. Decisions made within a privileged micro-climate can have ramifications well beyond immediate walls - no matter how impenetrable!

Which of your characters would you most like to sit down and have a cuppa with?
This is so hard...I love Aelia's feisty intelligence. She’s a Prolet-born Doctor, General of the Prolet Freedom Fighters and is full of secrets. She’s also mouthy, a natural feminist, and incredibly gutsy, noble and kind. It’s impossible not to have a soft spot for her. But I find Lake (City of Dust) really interesting too - no spoilers but I think her multi-genus heritage would make her a pretty fascinating coffee companion. Then again, there’s August, a modified Equite knight with real Roman DNA…arrgh... I’m rubbish at this!  

Do you think that you would be able to survive in the world of your book?
Yes, absolutely (one of the worlds is based on my personal idea of an Eden following a near-fatal experience), but I can’t say exactly which because that would give away whether I'm an outsider or insider at heart! Suffice to say my home county of Devon may have influenced this particular world a little ;)

Are you a planner or a pantser?
I’m a plantser. I draw out 10,000 word ‘stages’ which establish my key plot points & character arcs (these have been especially important within the Book of Fire trilogy to ensure I don’t leave gaping plot holes or smaller characters out in the cold) and then allow loads of room within these individual stages for the story to grow naturally - a little seat of my pants style.

What is your favourite thing about writing?
The unpredictability. Every day is different and, as I try to count time rather than word count, my productivity varies too. Some days are clear idea and writing days, while others lend themselves to editing/more research-based tasks. I enjoy them all.

Finally, what are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the future?
Book of Fire Three - the final feral chapter in Talia's Book of Fire adventure which is due out late 2019! I tend to be an all-consuming writer so I put everything into my current project, but I have lots of ideas about what to write next. My writing heart is very happy in fantasy just now, it was my first love and I find its complete freedom addictive - but I love all types of books and I’m not ruling out contemporary or general fiction at some point in the future. 

I think you could safely say I’m hoping to stick around.

Click on the covers below to add the books to Goodreads.

Book of Fire by Michelle Kenney cover   City of Dust by Michelle Kenney cover

18 January 2019

Staying In with Mills & Boon *AD Gifted

Mills & Boon sent me a review copy of From Duke Till Dawn by Eva Leigh and Counting on A Countess by Eva Leigh.

One of my favourite things to do is pick up a Mills & Boon and just chill. Romance gets a lot of sneers, but 200 million Mills & Boon books are sold every year so they're doing something right. and I love them.

I love that I can read them quickly, get caught up in the romance and the passion, and lose myself completely. I love the joy of a happy ending.

So how does a night with Mills & Boon go?

Staying In with Mills & Boon

Step One: Pick the Book
I have a few "go to" collections when it comes to Mills & Boon, depending on my mood. I'm a sucker for Regency like The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare, I love the heartwarming Cherish books like Christmas With Her Millionaire Boss by Barbara Wallace, and who could resist a heart-racing Dare book like A Week To Be Wild by JC Harroway?

I'm trying to mend my broken heart right now, so Regency it is - I just love the comfort of the past, the pushing of boundaries, and the subversion of societal expectations. I decided to pick up From Duke Till Dawn by Eva Leigh and I fell in love, but a particular side character intrigued me so much that as soon as I finished I picked up the next in the Scandalous Ladies of London series, Counting on a Countess.

Tip: The Cherish books are the best for sheer feel-good happiness.

Step Two: Pour the Wine
Or the gin. Or the tea. Anything really. I just something to sip at while I read and it very much depends on what mood I'm in as to what I'm drinking. Recently I have been either drinking rosé wine by the bottle or water by the pint, there seems to be no in between! 

Tip: Fill your sink with cold water and place the bottle in it to keep your wine cool.

Step Three: Run the Bath
Bubbles, oils, and bathbombs are optional. I usually put something like Spotify's Peaceful Piano playlist on nice and low in the background, get a scented candle lit, and smear on a face mask while I wait for the tub to fill.

Tip: Have a handtowel near to hand so you can dry your hands and face after your facemask

Step 4: Read and Relax
Yeah, this is my favourite bit. Lying back and relaxing, getting lost in the book I'm reading. It's not an unusual occurrence for me to stay in there until the water is cold and finish the book in a single sitting.

Tip: Forget about the world around you. Bliss.

So what did I think of the books?

I thought that both of the Scandalous Ladies of London books were excellent, filled with electric chemistry and simmering attraction. From Duke Till Dawn had a VERY surprising scene in the Orchid Club (wow) and it was the introduction to Counting on A Countess's Kit Ellington, who I loved from the first moment I saw him. The books can absolutely be read separately, but I loved reading them both together.

From Duke Till Dawn by Eva Leigh in 5 Words:
Duplicity, scheming, lust, understanding, survival.

Counting on A Countess by Eva Leigh in 5 Words:
Convenience, attraction, scandal, survival, lust.

14 January 2019

Blog Tour: Book Review: The Girl King by Mimi Yu *AD Gifted

Orion Publishing sent me a review copy of The Girl King by Mimi Yu.

I was so excited when I picked up The Girl King by Mimi Yu, and I definitely had expectations going. On reading it, I was not disappointed! And isn't the cover gorgeous? See my Book Beginnings thoughts.

The Girl King by Mimi Yu coverAdd to Goodreads button
Sisters Lu and Min have always understood their places as princesses of the Empire. Lu knows she is destined to become the dynasty's first female ruler, while Min is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then their father declares their male cousin Set the heir instead - a betrayal that sends the sisters down two very different paths.

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes on the run. She needs an ally - and an army - if she is to succeed. Her quest leads her to Nokhai, the last surviving wolf shapeshifter. Nok wants to keep his identity secret, but finds himself forced into an uneasy alliance with the girl whose family killed everyone he ever loved...

Alone in the volatile court, Min's hidden power awakens - a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set's reign... or allow Min to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters' greatest enemy could turn out to be each other.

Source: Review copy

5 Word Review: Family, magic, power, manipulation, control. 

Content Warning: Attempted rape, manipulation, violence.

I loved The Girl King right from the start, it was a fast paced roller-coaster of a read, and I couldn't put it down.

I think my favourite character was definitely Min. She's very much a product of her upbringing in how she bears herself, but she still has a spark of something despite it. She's a pawn used by other characters, but it was like I could see a glimmer of something deeper there whenever she was on page. And I felt that I could often really relate to how she felt too. I feel like a lot of the other characters in the book really underestimated her, and I'd like to see how that develops in the next book.

I love the way the story was filled with twists and turns. I did absolutely see the first "twist" coming, but I was eager for it to get the story going. I was ready for it. My little cliché-loving heart jumped for joy when it happened. The Girl King was full of political intrigue, a huge journey of discovery, the pettiness and small dangers of court life, and the consequences of the actions you undertake.

I really enjoyed the magic of the world in The Girl King. There was something about the book as a whole that felt epic. I loved the politics of the story, the way toxic relationships were explored.

13 January 2019

The Bookish Joy of Bookish People

Today I am writing a letter all about bookish joy, as prompted by CHCC YA Fest for the Bookish Joy Blog Fest ahead of the YA Fest on 12th May.

CHCC Bookish Joy Blog Fest

Dear Bookish People,

You really are the best type of people.

I love the passion of the book community. I love the togetherness, the way that bookish people all have such passion and generosity.

I love librarians, those sorters of books, curators of shelves, recommenders of books. School librarians have a special place in my heart. They encourage exploration and ignite imagination. They create bookish people and nurture them. My high school librarian was The Best, she was the person who made me a reader rather than someone who occasionally picked up books.

I love booksellers, passionate pushers of books, hosters of author signings, servers of wine. I love that I can walk in and ask for a recommendation and when it's given it's given from the heart and full of enthusiasm. And I love that the staff at my local bookshop understand how often I lose my tickets (every time).

Bloggers are basically My People. Those people that love books so much that they have to shout about it, just like me. I love that there's always something to chat about. I love the questions: what are you reading now? What have you just finished? What's next?

When it comes down to it, I love you all. Very much.


PS. You can get 10% off tickets to Chadwell Heath Community Centre YA Fest with the code YAFEST10.

10 January 2019

Release Day Book Review: Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu *AD Gifted

Hachette Children's Group sent me a review copy of  Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu.

If you remember way back when I reviewed Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu then you'll know that I struggled to put my feelings into words as I was blown away. Devoted was no exception and I thought that it was absolutely excellent.

Devoted by Jennifer MathieuAdd to Goodreads button
Rachel Walker's family and community have turned away from the world.

Every part of Rachel's life is controlled, from what she reads to where she goes and what she wears. Her parents dictate how her life must be: marriage, modesty, children and obedience to her future husband. But when a former member of her community, a girl who escaped, moves back to her small Texas town, Rachel's world turns upside down.

She realises that her life is her own. But can she find the courage to fight for it?

Source: Review Copy

5 Word Review: Belief, family, control, friendship, living.

Devoted is a very emotional story, and I think it was written with a lot of care and consideration - there is nothing vilifying about region itself, it is more a commentary on some more extreme beliefs and how they can effect individuals, families, and communities.

Rachel is such a deep and complicated character, and I found it so easy to feel sympathy for her. I felt dread when she did, love when she did, relief when she did. And I was rooting for her all through the story.

I thought that Rachel and Mark were adorable. I loved their back and forth, their word games, the slow build of their relationship as they got to know each other and become comfortable being around someone from such a different world.

This is quite a fast paced contemporary for all that I can't really say anything super action-y takes place. But I could not put it down. The writing is engaging and I cared so much about Rachel that I didn't want her story to end.

Devoted is a marvellous book, a brave story, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary and fantastically written characters.

Have you read anything by Jennifer Mathieu?

06 January 2019

Walkies Time *AD GIFTED

I was sent a free coat and pair of boots by a PR company to review.

I find the best way to blow away the cobwebs after the holidays is a nice brisk walk, and to be honest I don't need much of an excuse to get out and about with the pups. And this time of year is when resolutions like getting fitter and being outside more are made.

One of the things I want to work towards is being more confident in myself, and part of that will be posting pictures of myself on the blog (shock, horror, ahhh) so here we go...

time to go walkies

For a walk, especially in winter, you need to dress sensibly and wrap up warm. I pretty much always have a thermal base layer as I can really feel the cold, and you'll likely find me wearing tights under my jeans too.

Petite Hooded Fit and Flare navy Trench Coat, JD Williams

When I'm thinking about Winter Coats and Jackets I'm mostly thinking about layering possibilities - the more I can layer the better - and how suitable it is for the weather. Is it shower proof? Is there a hood? The last thing I want to think about when I'm wrangling energetic puppies is trying to juggle an umbrella with the poo bags.

This one from JD Williams is petite, with a fit and flare shape, and I don't think I've ever owned a more gorgeous and well fitting coat. It hangs perfectly, there's enough space for my bust, I can nip the waist in with the belt. And there is a hood. And there are pockets. And it's so gorgeous and versatile that I've worn it almost every day since Christmas.

Florence Basic leopard print Chelsea Boot from JD Williams

When I was browsing for a new pair of Women's Boots on JD Williams I fell in love with these leopard print Chelsea Boots. It's only in the past year that I've started wearing ankle boots, as I was nervous about them making me look shorter, but after trying some I got over that quickly! Especially when I had animal prints dangled in front of me.

I love how these boots are super comfortable, but also really stylish. They're perfect for work, drinks, and general day-to-day, and they're my new favourites. Sorry Doc Martens.

Pebbles and Kara go walkies - dog walking

What are your winter walk essentials?

* I was gifted boots and a coat for review purposes, all thoughts are my own.

time to go walkies fashion review dog walk

05 January 2019

Book Review: Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan *AD Gifted

Stripes Books sent me a review copy of Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan.

I love the Red Eye horror series from Stripes, so I jumped at the chance to read this one. Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan was an extremely intense read and one that I raced through, so when it came to writing this book review I had to stop and think for a while. It was a bit of a whirlwind of a read.

Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan coverAdd to Goodreads button
She sat us all down and told us a story. About things that lived in the woods. Things that only came out at night.

For Charlie, a school ski trip is the perfect escape from his unhappy home life. Until a storm blows in and the resort town is cut off from the rest of the world. Trapped on the mountain, the students wait for the blizzards to pass, along with mysterious ski guide Hanna. 

But as night falls and the town’s long buried secrets begin to surface, the storm is the least of their problems...

A chilling RED EYE horror, perfect for fans of Dawn Kurtagich, Juno Dawson and Charlie Higson.

Source: Review Copy | Blog Tour

5 Word Review: Friendship, family, vampires, horror, isolation.

This book is bloody and intense. It's scary and chilling and one hell of a ride to read. Especially if it's snowing.

Charlie is the main character and a pretty complex character - but we also see a few other perspectives. As I mentioned in my Book Beginnings, I could relate to Tara quite a lot. She is definitely, absolutely a brat and a bitch, but I get it.

I loved the setting, it was already remote at the start but as events - and the storm - build it just increases, the atmosphere feeling heavier and heavier. The writing is rich with description that really brings the story to life, and I loved the contrasts of blood and snow. They were shocking to read at times.

And the ending? The ending of Whiteout by Gabrial Dylan was fantastic, and I loved how everything didn't quite wrap up as I expected.

Other Red Eye Book Reviews:

04 January 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 Girl King by Mimi Yu.
The Girl King by Mimi Yu cover
It was well before dawn when the Ana and Aba stirred the priestess from her bed. Had she been anyone else she might have been deep in slumber.
I have been very excited about this book for a while, so I'm glad I'm picking it up now. It comes out next week, but there are some early copies circling and the reviews I'm seeing are excellent.

I like this start - it doesn't give much away at all but I'm still eager to read on.
The empress cocked her head slightly to one side - no easy feat given the weight of her hair, dripping with jeweled pins and topped with a gold diadem.
The imagery on this whole page! It's so vivid, so rich, and I can't wait to get to this part. I love the writing style.

What are you reading this week?
Book Beginnings, The Girl King by Mimi Yu

03 January 2019

Book Review: The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge *AD Gifted

Hot Key Books sent me a review copy of The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge.

From the gorgeous cover to the mesmerising writing, The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge was an absolute delight to read. It's dark and twisting and chilling, and perfect for a thrill when it's cold outside.

The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge coverAdd to Goodreads button
Part ghost story, part Nordic thriller - this is a twisty, tense and spooky YA debut, perfect for fans of Coraline and Michelle Paver.

Martha can tell things about a person just by touching their clothes, as if their emotions and memories have been absorbed into the material. It started the day she fell from the tree at her grandma's cabin and became blind in one eye.

Determined to understand her strange ability, Martha sets off to visit her grandmother, Mormor - only to discover Mormor is dead, a peculiar boy is in her cabin and a terrifying creature is on the loose.

Then the spinning wheel starts creaking, books move around and terror creeps in...

Set in the remote snows of contemporary Norway, The Twisted Tree is a ghost story that twists and turns - and never takes you quite where you'd expect.

Source: Review Copy

5 Word Review: Secrets, grief, family, mythology, acceptance.

Content warning: Grief, PTSD.

I had already read the first couple of chapters of this thanks to Readers First, and I was hooked from the start. But when I got further into the story it got very dark, very quickly. And I was blown away.

The Twisted Tree is dark and twisty and chilling and you will definitely need a blanket to hide under to keep yourself warm while you read. The writing is incredibly evocative, and I could see every scene play out as though I was watching it. I was blinded by the fog, by the swirling snow. I felt the elation of mucking around and throwing snow balls. But even thinking back to it now my fingers and toes are cold.

This book is honestly excellently written. I loved the style, I loved the imagery, I loved the Norse mythology woven in. I loved Martha and her insecurities, and I loved Stig and how mysterious he was. I didn't know who to trust and what was real or imagined, and I loved it. I really enjoyed how the setting, how being in such close quarters, accelerated the building relationship between Martha and Stig.

I would recommend this to anyone who loves Norse Mythology, a bit of a thrill, and beautiful writing. It was wonderful. The ebook is out now and the paperback is out on 10th January.

What's your favourite mythological inspired story?

01 January 2019

Things I Want To Work Towards in 2019

I'm not making resolutions as such, but I am setting out some things I'd like to work towards in the coming year.

Things I Want To Work Towards in 2019

Things I Want To Work Towards in 2019

Go More Places

I'd love to go more places and do more exploring and adventuring. I love the magic of going somewhere new and falling in love with a new place. I'm going to take full advantage of my National Trust membership as well and I'm aiming for one place a month. There aren't many properties I can get to, but it'll be nice to see them change through the seasons and find some new favourite haunts. Also: picnics. I love picnics at all times of year, you just need an extra flask and more layers when it's cold.

Read More Romance

I love reading romance, but I don't actually read it all that often, which I think is a shame. I'm going to try and read more Mills & Boon, because I love passion as love and all those tender feelings. And the lust. I'm going to try and read at least one romance novel every month for the warm fuzzies.

Read My Backlist

I really want to tackle the books I already own - because it's ridiculous. I have over 300 books on my shelves and over 200 of those are unread. It definitely has to change. I need to take control of my TBR.

Fight My Fears

I have a terrible fear of needles, it used to be a phobia to the point where I'd avoid going to the doctors just in case they suggested a blood test. Exposure to quarterly blood tests is helping - and I don't scream, cry, and plead anymore - but I'd love to get to the point where I don't almost pass out and I can go to the hospital on my own.

Read the Discworld Books

I can't remember the last time I picked up a Discworld book, so I'm setting a target of reading one per week for the year. I love most of the Discworld books anyway, it's just been a long while since I read one, and I'm going in with the City Watch arc and then I'll probably move on to the Industrial Revolution books, as I can't bring myself to even think about Rincewind.

What are you going to work towards in 2019?

Things I Want To Work Towards in 2019: goals and resolutions for 2019