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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?