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10 July 2020

Book Beginnings: The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading this week?

08 July 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: NetGalley, Review Copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

06 July 2020

What's in my Grab and Go Bag?

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

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

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

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

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

What's in my Grab and Go Bag?

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

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

Always On Me

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

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

Grab and Go Hospital Bag

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

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

In The Bag

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

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

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

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

Grab and Go Adventure Bag

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

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

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

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

In The Bag

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

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

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

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

Do you have a Grab and Go Bag?

22 June 2020

Book Review: Marrying His Runaway Heiress by Therese Beharrie

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

I was not disappointed.

Marrying His Runaway Heiress by Therese Beharrie coverAdd to Goodreads button

A diamond isn’t forever…

… Until it’s from the right man!

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

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

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

His proposal? A convenient counteroffer!

Source: Purchase

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where would you go on a romantic holiday?

17 June 2020

Book Review: Blood & Sand by CV Wyk

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

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

Blood & Sand by CV Wyk coverAdd to Goodreads button

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

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

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

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

Source: Purchase, Illumicrate

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

Content warning: Gore, violence, slavery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's your favourite historical retelling?

15 June 2020

Book Review: To Win His Highland Wife by Elisabeth Hobbes

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe, he can find a wife by other means…

Source: Free

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's your favourite historical time period?

10 June 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Purchase, Wildest Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's your favourite anthology?

08 June 2020

Book Review: Wedding His Takeover Target by Emilie Rose

Back in March I was pretty ill, just out of hospital, and feeling very sorry for myself. While I was browsing the Mills and Boon website I stumbled across the Dynasties bind ups, and I couldn't resist the sound of them. So I put the first one, The Jarrods, in my basket.

Wedding His Takeover Target – Emilie Rose was an excellent accidental-pregnancy romance. I will admit it's a trope I don't often go for, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I think it has a lot to do with how much I love The Jarrods.

Dynasties: The Jarrods: Wedding His Takeover Target by Emilie Rose cover
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When Gavin Jarrod is forced to wed Sabrina Taylor to secure a lucrative business deal, he’s up to the challenge.

Especially as Sabrina is perfect in and out of the bedroom!

But now she’s pregnant with his child and she wants a real father for her baby or this deal is off!

Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Family, responsibility, business, love, belonging.

You know when you pick up a book and it's exactly what you need? This was exactly what I needed.

I've been reading the stories in this bind-up back to back, and it's been such a fantastic experience. I love the setting so much, and Wedding His Takeover Target added a whole new layer. I liked seeing a different side of Aspen.

Gavin is very sure of himself and thinks he's got it all figured out, and I loved how Sabrina put a spanner in the works. She's not playing any of his games and the chemistry between them was incredible because of it. I loved the hesitant moments, and how they both care so much and don't quite want to show it.

This story is pretty picturesque. The setting moves away from the Jarrod Ridge resort and into the surrounding wilderness and town. It explores secret spaces and nostalgic moments. I can't put in to words how truly lovely it was.

Each book in the series, and the anthology, can absolutely be read as a standalone even as it follows the family.

This is the sweetest story from The Jarrods, and it made me all giddy. It's filled with soft, romantic moments and was so lovely to read.

What's your favourite soft romance?

03 June 2020

Q&A with Kate Mallinder

Today I am lucky enough to be doing a Q&A with Kate Mallinder as part of the blog tour for Asking For A Friend, the author's second book. I think it's fascinating to see how authors write and how they got their inspiration.

Asking For A Friend comes out tomorrow, and I am very excited - it sounds excellent.

Q&A with Kate Mallinder

Q&A with Kate Mallinder

Can you describe Asking For A Friend in five words?

Heart-warming, satisfying, holiday, feel-good, friendship

What inspired you to write the Asking For A Friend?

A variety of things collided. Firefly were interested in me writing something ‘the same but different’ which makes sense as it builds on people’s enjoyment of my debut. I tried to distil what it was that made Summer of No Regrets what it was and which bits should be the same and which bits different. I got tangled in that for quite a while. At the same time I was doing a part-time MA in Writing for Young People and a writing prompt helped me to write what is now the opening chapter and it introduced me to Agnes and Hattie. It’s changed a lot but those two characters are essentially the same as when I first wrote them. I wrote three or four versions of the first six or so chapters with synopsis permutations until I found the story both I and Firefly liked. I think second books are written with more of an eye on the market but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Which of your characters would you most like to sit down and have a cuppa with?

Oh that is HARD! I think as soon as I put myself into those relationships then all the dynamics change, and while my focus is on the individual characters, I’m endlessly fascinated by how people act and react in different groups. Having said that, I would love to tell Jake that it will all be okay, to tell Hattie she already has the strength, she just has to find it and to tell Agnes she is awesome and to carry on being true to herself.

Where would you most like to go on a 'study break'?

Wow, this is extra-specially loaded at the moment when we can’t go anywhere! I’ve been daydreaming about going to loads of different places. I think if I was actually intending to study I’d like to go to the Bodleian Library in Oxford or the Tianjin Binhai Library in China or go back in time to the amazing old public library of Cincinnati. But if I was planning to ‘study’ then somewhere warm, sunny and interesting. I went to Lanzarote a few months ago, not expecting to be fascinated by the landscape. I brought home a pebble of volcanic rock and have it on my desk and it makes me smile just seeing it.

Are you a planner or a pantser?

I used to be a pantser but now I plot a lot more, mainly through necessity and a desire not to waste time. I know you’re not supposed to think of it as wasting time. I like to think of it as trying to streamline the process, though it’s still a messy, tangled jumble. I usually write multiple drafts of the opening chapters, then write the whole thing, then edit. There is crying and chocolate.

What is your favourite thing about writing?

You know when you read, you can have ‘meh’ sessions when you don’t fully engage with the story, and then sometimes you immerse in what you’re reading so completely that you don’t notice time passing and you forget to eat or sleep and it feels the best and you buzz with the story? Well writing is very like that. A lot of the time it’s turning up, doing your best and putting in the work, but every now and then your story completely devours you, and it feels more real than life. That feeling is awesome. I’ve heard Chris Vick talk about that feeling. He describes it as crack cocaine. It feels like you’re flying.

Finally, what are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the future?

There are several stories at different stages: some ideas, some finished and one new and shiny one that I’m writing for my MA. I’m aware that just because I’ve had books published in the past, doesn’t guarantee anything in the future and that along with publishers pushing back titles and the shops being closed, the possibility decreases. Let’s say I’m hopeful but pragmatic.

Asking for a Friend by Kate Mallinder cover

Will you be reading Asking for a Friend by Kate Mallinder?

01 June 2020

Book Review: Falling for His Proper Mistress by Tessa Radley

Back in March I was pretty ill, just out of hospital, and feeling very sorry for myself. While I was browsing the Mills and Boon website I stumbled across the Dynasties bind ups, and I couldn't resist the sound of them. So I put the first one, The Jarrods, in my basket.

Falling for His Proper Mistress by Tessa Radley is a fantastic look at jumping to conclusions and the green flash of jealousy when your feelings are threatened, and I loved it.

Dynasties: The Jarrods: Falling for His Proper Mistress by Tessa Radley cover
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Guy Jarrod believed the rumours of Avery Lancaster’s gold-digging ways. But he still desires her like no other.

So nights of passion will sate his desire and then he’ll send her on her way… 

But what if the rumours were false?

Had he made a mistress out of the woman who should have been his wife?

Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Family, responsibility, jealousy, wine, love.

You know when you pick up a book and it's exactly what you need? This was exactly what I needed.

Reading Falling for His Proper Mistress, especially so soon after Claiming Her Billion-Dollar Birthright, made me fall even more in love with Jarrod Ridge. Honestly, this place is paradise and I love feeling like I am there in the luxury resort or in the wilds near Aspen, even if I'm really just sat in my garden. These books and their setting are pure escapism.

Avery and Guy have an excellent back-and-forth and the chemistry is incredible. One thing I didn't like, weirdly, was Guy himself. He's quick to judge (and usually wrong), very arrogant, and has a bad habit of Not-Like-Other-Girls-ing Avery. It's one of my pet hates when someone has to put someone else down in order to raise someone up. That's not how compliments work, Guy. There were a lot of red flags with him if I'm honest, and it meant that this story was probably my least favourite in the collection.

That said, it is fantastically written and super steamy. I loved the passion and the build up of the romance, the way the characters slowly fell for each other.

And yet again we got a glimpse at the Jarrod family, and I have to say that I'm addicted. Even if it weren't for the glorious setting at Jarrod Ridge, the family itself and the complicated dynamics would keep me reading.

Each book in the series, and the anthology, can absolutely be read as a standalone even as it follows the family.

This story wasn't my favourite of The Jarrods, but it was entertaining, and I loved the back and forth between Avery and Guy.

What's your least favourite romance trope?

31 May 2020

Make Your Myth-Taker TBR

Make Your Myth-Taker is a VERY complicated looking readathon that I can't wait to join in with.

It took me about two weeks to decide which path I wanted to go down, and after a quick Twitter poll which I ended up doing the opposite of anyway, I think I finally have it figured out.

I have decided that I am going to go down the Warrior track, specifically aiming for Mercenary. It's the options that got me the most excited, and I knew just glancing at the prompts what I wanted to read for them. I do have the option of crossing over to the Sorcerer/Witch path for the final book, but I don't think I'm going to.

Make Your Myth-Taker TBR

I'm planning to take it easy with this readathon and only read four books, because it's summer and my symptoms get worse in the heat so I can't read as much, and I don't want to put a huge amount of pressure on myself.

You have to read the books in order of the prompts for this readathon, which does have me a little apprehensive - I am a massive mood reader. So by sticking to 4, I can dip in and out of the readathon and read other things around it. Phew.



  • Anticipated Read
    • A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell
      I got this in my April Wildest Dreams box (and it's signed!) and I'm very excited to read it. I love anthologies and this one promises to be breathtaking.
  • Read a Book with a Weapon on the Cover
    • Blood and Sand by CV Wyk
      I am a little shamed by how long this book has been on my TBR, I got it in an Illumicrate box years ago, but it has a sword on that shiny cover and it sounds incredible.
  • Featuring a magic battle
    • Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
      I utterly adored Children of Blood and Bone and I can't wait to get stuck in to the follow up. Huge thank you to Tsam who sent me it for my birthday, I can't wait to read more about my queen Amari.
  • Inspired by History
    • Pirates! by Celia Rees
      Yes I have read this book many times before, but sometimes your soul needs something familiar and comforting. This book is inspired somewhat by Mary Read and Anne Bonny, and who doesn't love pirates?

Are you taking part in Make Your Myth-Taker?
What's on your TBR for June?

30 May 2020

Medieval-A-Thon Wrap Up

I have finally fought my way to the end of Medieval-a-thon. I got out of prison, equipped myself with weapons and animal companions, and eventually clothes, and I worked my way up from Prisoner to Princess. And I think I did really well, considering I started nine days late and read a fair few books that I couldn't shoe-horn into the prompts.

Check out a full list of prompts and my original Medieval-A-Thon TBR.

Medieval-A-Thon Wrap Up

Wrap Up

I think I did OK with this readathon. I probably could have made it to Empress if I didn't get distracted by so many romances that I couldn't make fit the prompts, but right now I really need romance in my life. And I did have a bit of a mishap with one of the books I was most eager to read. But life happens, and I had fun regardless.

Medieval-A-Thon start

So these are the prompts I complete and the books I read, in the order that I read them:
  • A Romance
  • Orange on the Dust Jacket
  • A Book High on Your Shelf
  • Start or Finish a Duology 
    • I was supposed to be reading Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury but the pages started falling as I was reading so I had to switch. Luckily I had Grace & Fury on my bookshelf, which I got from a Fairyloot box years ago.
  • A Book with You Favourite Colour on the Spine
    • I was supposed to read The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite for this prompt, but by the end of the month I needed something sweet and funny and uplifting, and I know that the Waiting for Callback books would do that. Plus, it's red.

I honestly had such excellent fun, and I really enjoyed the sense of community on Twitter with everyone taking part. It was wonderful and I will absolutely join in again next year! I know that I deviated quite a bit from my initial TBR, but it was worth it.

And just look at my character! Franki did an amazing job and I love her so much.

Medievalathon wrap up character

What did you read in May?

27 May 2020

Book Review: Grace & Fury by Tracy Banghart

I got Grace & Fury by Tracy Banghart in a Fairyloot box years ago, and for Reasons (yeah, idk either) I didn't pick it up. Even though it sounds right up my street and I've recommended it to people.

When my original read for Medievalathon's duology prompt fell through, Grace & Fury is what I turned to. And wow. It blew me away.

Grace & Fury by Tracy Banghart coverAdd to Goodreads button
In a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace - someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir's eye, it's Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

Amazon UK | Amazon US

Source: Purchase, Fairyloot

5 Word Review: Family, loyalty, survival, manipulation, rebellion.

Content warnings: Gore, violence, threat of sexual assault.

I have no idea why I waited so long to pick up Grace & Fury, but now I'm pretty furious at myself. Because it was absolutely excellent. And I can't believe it took Medievalathon for me to pick up.

From the very first lines, I was addicted to this book. I couldn't put it down. I sat and read all day, I needed to know what was going to happen.

When it comes to the characters, I am very much team Serina. She is an EXCELLENT example of how strength is not always physical. She is smart, and calculating, and although she has been trained her whole life to submit to men and authority and the perfect Grace, she had a backbone of steel. She was absolutely my favourite character, and it hurt to see her life shattered.

Nomi? Well. She's selfish and dangerous. She doesn't think about the wider picture, or what the consequences of her actions would be. She is so frustrating. And even at the end, when she starts to wake up properly to reality, I'm still not a fan. For all that Serina thinks that Nomi is smart and tough, she really isn't. That award goes to Serina, who thinks so little of herself.

I loved the exploration of society through fashion and customs. It was subtle, but it helped build the world so well. I loved the descriptions of clothing, from gowns to rags. Everything felt so much more real.

There is some excellent court intrigue and all sorts of plotting. I loved the hope in the story, how Serina and Nomi kept fighting because of that shred of hope, a distant what if.

I just... This book. It's amazing and I loved it, even if I didn't like all of the characters. If anything, I loved it more for that.

What was the last fantasy you read?

25 May 2020

Book Review: Claiming Her Billion-Dollar Birthright by Maureen Child

Back in March I was pretty ill, just out of hospital, and feeling very sorry for myself. While I was browsing the Mills and Boon website I stumbled across the Dynasties bind ups, and I couldn't resist the sound of them. So I put the first one, The Jarrods, in my basket.

Claiming Her Billion-Dollar Birthright by Maureen Child is a gorgeous read with one of my all time favourite romance tropes. It's a young women finding herself and falling in love in a gorgeous, remote, luxury resort. Pure escapism.

Dynasties: The Jarrods: Claiming Her Billion-Dollar Birthright by Maureen Child cover
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The revelation turned Erica Prentice's world upside down - by birth, she belonged to a wealthy Colorado dynasty and her real father had left her a fortune. And the Jarrod family attorney, Christian Hanford, was there to show her the ropes.

As Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome escorted her around Aspen, Erica was in for a second shock - her fiery attraction to the strictly off-limits attorney.

Fraternizing with the Jarrod heiress could get Christian fired.

Which would she choose: duty to her family dynasty... Or desire for a dynamic bachelor?

Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Family, responsibility, honesty, passion, love.

You know when you pick up a book and it's exactly what you need? This was exactly what I needed.

I read this book in the garden, in the shade of a blossom tree, drinking sparkling grape juice from a champagne flute. Something about this book just called for relaxation and a touch of extravagance.

Reading Claiming Her Billion-Dollar Birthright, I wanted so badly to be at Jarrod Ridge. It sounds incredible, the descriptions of it pretty much took my breath away. The views, the resort itself, the food and drink. Urgh, can I go there please and thank you.

The Jarrod family very quickly worked their way in to my heart - I think my favourite of the family was Melissa, she's just so genuinely lovely and good and a decent human. Erica is very much out of place, and Melissa makes her feel so welcoming. Such wholesome.

I really liked the relationship between Erica and Christian. I liked the mutual respect and the back-and-forth and the build up of passion. I loved the little misunderstandings and the way they wanted to hold back but found it impossible. This is a fiery romance, and totally addictive.

Each book in the series, and the anthology, can absolutely be read as a standalone even as it follows the family.

I absolutely loved the first story in Dynasties: The Jarrods, and I will absolutely read on. I can't wait to find out what's in store for the rest of the family.

Dynasties: The Jarrods: Claiming Her Billion-Dollar Birthright by Maureen Child mood board

What's your favourite romance trope?

22 May 2020

Book Beginnings: Grace & Fury by Tracy Banghart

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 Grace & Fury by Tracy Banghart.
Grace & Fury by Tracy Banghart cover
Serina Tessaro stood on the steps of the fountain in Lano's central piazza flanked by nine other girls her age, all in their finest gowns.
I got this book in a Fairyloot box years ago, and even though it sounds right up my street I just haven't picked it up yet. This is standing in for Song of Sorrow for Medievalathon to fulfil the duology prompt.

I've only read the first chapter so far, but it's off to a strong start. I like the slow glimpses of the world as it builds around us, and it's got me pretty excited for what is to come. I love the writing style too.

I love the cover for Grace & Fury, the fiery tones of the figure, the delicate details. It's pretty stunning. My hardback is very pretty under the dust jacket too.

It took far less time to get dressed when there weren't corsets, endless rows of buttons, fragile lace, or high heels to contend with.
This is from page 56 in my finished hardback copy.

This line hits. Like, BAM.

I can't wait to get this far, although in picking out this quote I think I've spoiled it for myself a little. Regardless, I can't wait to see what takes Serina to this place.

What are you reading this week?

20 May 2020

I Listened to the Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief Audiobook

Earlier this month, the news broke that there would be a brand new Percy Jackson adaptation. And I am excited. I read the series as an older teen years ago and I really enjoyed them. They were exciting and friendly and exhilarating and addictive. I know I reread them in my early twenties too.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief coverAdd to Goodreads button
Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek God. I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. That's when things started really going wrong. Now I spend my time fighting with swords, battling monsters with my friends, and generally trying to stay alive.

This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky, thinks I've stolen his lightning bolt - and making Zeus angry is a very bad idea.

Can Percy find the lightning bolt before a fully-fledged war of the Gods erupts?

Source: Library | Purchase

5 Word Review: Power, secrets, bravery, friendship, family.

Content warnings: domestic abuse

I got rid of most of my books over the years, but I still have a copy of the first one because nostalgia. I decided that now was the perfect time to jump back in. I was having a bit of a bad time with my brain when it came to reading, so I hit up a digital library and got the audiobook out.

The audiobook is about ten hours long and is narrated by Jesse Bernstein. I think they did a wonderful job. I listened at 2x speed (it's a processing thing, any slower and I can't take it in) so it was a nice way to pass a couple of afternoons when I wasn't up to much else.

I think more than anything I enjoyed the nostalgia of my listen. It still holds up amazingly well, the story is pretty timeless. I love it when a book I loved when I was younger isn't dated by the details.

I love the exploration of family and friendship in this book. There is a lot of self discovery, and a lot of that revolves around the discovery that friendship isn't always what you think it is, and that things change. I love the themes of loyalty and sacrifice and support.

I'm now super excited for the new adaptation, and I'm going to continue on my audiobook journey.

Have you read any of the Percy Jackson books?

18 May 2020

Book Review: A Runaway Bride For The Highlander by Elisabeth Hobbes

Back in March I was pretty ill, just out of hospital, and feeling very sorry for myself. I put out a shout on Twitter asking for historical romance recommendations from Mills & Boon and this was one that came up.

And I'm so glad it did, because A Runaway Bride For The Highlander by Elisabeth Hobbes was perfection. It honestly ticked all of my boxes and is one I will reread again and again.

A Runaway Bride For The Highlander by Elisabeth Hobbes coverAdd to Goodreads button
Lost in the Highlands... Found by the laird!

Far from her home in France, Marguerite Vallon escapes her arranged marriage to a man she despises. 

Stowing away in a stranger's cart, she finds herself headed deep into the Highlands with Ewan Lochmore, the new Earl of Glenarris! Ewan vows to protect her.

But maybe the freedom Marguerite has been searching for can be found with this rugged warrior...

Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Family, responsibility, honesty, passion, love.

Content Warning: Thread of sexual assault.

This was such an excellent slowburn historical romance. It took so long for them to even kiss and it was exquisite. Honestly a pretty perfect historical romance. The build up had me rooting for the characters and falling for them even as they fell for each other.

I loved the writing style itself, the lush descriptions of everything from gowns to mountains, castles to glens. Even the weather came alive as I was reading, and I felt cold and damp under a blanket. 

There are excellent villains too, in the rival McCrieff clan, which were very multifaceted. It's not just a bad man doing bad things, there's depth to the villainy. It was unexpected and very much appreciated.

There was a thread of mystery that wasn't resolved, and I did find that a bit frustrating. Not to give any spoilers, but I wanted to know the secret of why something happened, and it was never revealed. It just... Seemed forgotten about. I can forgive this however as the characters themselves were pretty frustrated at it too! It's not enough for me to knock stars off, and this was a five star historical romance.

I loved the epilogue at the end, seeing how things had progressed for the characters. Often epilogues in romances have me rolling my eyes, but this one had me smiling. I was so invested in Ewan and Maggie that I grinned like a Cheshire Cat reading it.

A Runaway Bride For The Highlander by Elisabeth Hobbes is a fantastic historical romance, I read it at exactly the right time for me, and it was a bit like a tonic. I felt better just for reading it, and I couldn't put it down.

What's your favourite historical romance?

Book and a bath, A Runaway Bride For The Highlander by Elisabeth Hobbes

15 May 2020

Book Beginnings: Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies by Hayley Nolan

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 Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies by Hayley Nolan.
Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies by Hayley Nolan cover
This is not a love story. I hate to be the one to break the news, but epic love stories don't end with one partner decapitating the other.
The wonderful Kelly at This Northern Gal sent me Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies by Hayley Nolan for my birthday. It was one of the books on my bookish wishlist that I was most excited about, so I used the Orange on the Dust Jacket prompt from Medievalathon as an excuse to start it first.

Straight off, I love it. I love the tone of the writing, I utterly adore historical deep dives, and especially if they're about women's history. I love the critical analysis of the bias of historical sources and the political agendas that drove them.

The cover is gorgeous and striking with the bright orange text over that famous 16th century portrait from the National Portrait Gallery.

Historians have delighted in casting Henry VIII as the ultimate one-dimensional Tudor villain almost as much as they have Anne Boleyn, simplistically explaining away his actions as those of a narcissistic pampered prince.
This is from page 56 in my finished copy.

There are the first lines of Chapter 3, so not far in at all.

I like that this isn't just wholly about Anne Boleyn and her portrayal, but of those around her too. I like the looks at contemporary and modern portrayals, and how they're picked apart.

I'm up to this part now, as I type, and I'm excited to read on.

What are you reading this week?