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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
Add to Goodreads button
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?

09 May 2020

Medieval-A-Thon TBR

Medieval-a-thon is a month long readathon hosted by Holly Hearts Books.

The aim of the readathon is to increase your nobility with every book you read, and outfit yourself with clothes, weapons, and even animal companions. You start as a prisoner with nothing, and then build yourself up with each new read. It started on May 1st, but I was late to the party so I'm starting now.

I got very over excited and carried away and extra a little bit enthusiastic about this readathon and commissioned some artwork of my character from Franki, so now I'm extra accountable to my TBR.

Medieval-A-Thon TBR


First off, for every book you read your rank increases. 

Books Rank 
 0 Prisoner
1 Peasant 
2 Squire 
3 Knight 
4 Noble 
5 Prince/Princess 
6 King/Queen 
7 Emperor/Empress

Medieval-A-Thon rank

The Prompts

I think that the prompts are excellent, there is truly something for everyone. The prompts are fairly open to interpretation and I'm excited to see how far I get on my journey.

Choose Your Wardrobe!

  • A book that has yellowed over time
  • A PRISTINE book
  • A shiny book
  • A book with your favourite colour on the spine
  • Under 300 Pages
  • Green on the dust jacket
  • Dragon on the cover

Medieval-A-Thon Prompts - Choose Your Wardrobe

Choose Your Weapons!

  • Something pointy on the cover
  • Start of finish a duology
  • A romance
  • A heavy book
  • A book you have HIGH expectations for

Medieval-A-Thon Prompts - Choose Your Weapons

Choose Your Pet Companion!

  • A scary book
  • A book high on your bookshelf
  • Buddy read with a friend
  • A book title that begins with a "C"
  • A tall hardcover
  • Orange on the dustcover

Medieval-A-Thon Prompts - Choose Your Pet Companion


So that's the prompts. But what will I be reading?

Medieval-A-Thon TBR

Like everyone else, I am starting out as a prisoner, with nothing to my name. I'm hoping to get to at least noble rank, and anything past that is a bonus. So which prompts will I be tackling, and what's on my TBR?

  • A book with your favoruite colour on the spine
    • The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
      Red is my favourite colour, but it took me a ling time of staring at my shelves to decide what to read for this one! It was a birthday gift from Donna at The Untitled Book Blog.
  • Start or finish a duology
    • Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury
      This book has been on my TBR for far too long, especially considering how much I loved State of Sorrow. Perfect excuse!
  • A romance
    • A Runaway Bride For The Highlander by Elisabeth Hobbes
      I just happened to see the tweet that sparked my interest in this readathon as I was about to pick this book up, so it seems just right that I read it for this prompt. Also in RPGs I pew-pew, of course I was going to get the bow.
  • Orange on the dust jacket
    • Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies by Hayley Nolan
      This book has a fanastic bright orange font, and I'm eager to read it! It seems pretty timely as the anniversary of Anne Boleyn's execution is in May. It was a birthday gift from Kelly at This Northern Gal.

There we have it! I may pick myself up an additional animal companion or outfit or set of weapons, but this is what I'm aiming for. Wish me luck! Check back at the end of the month to see how I did and what's happened to my character.


What's on your TBR for May?


27 April 2020

How I Got Out Of My Most Recent Reading Slump

When you're a big reader, and especially when you're a book blogger, there is one thing you dread: a reading slump. I'm generally quite lucky and manage to avoid prolonged slumps, I think that my longest was a week. Until this last month. I decided that I'd join in the OWLs Readathon and then life decided to majorly conspire against me and in the entire month of April I've managed to read only three books. And two of them were books that I'd ordinarily read in a single evening.

I'm the type of person who escapes into books. They're my lifeline, the stories I read are what keeps me going. When I can't read I can feel myself getting more tense and stressed and anxious, and when a slump hits that is quadrupled and quite frankly I feel like crap.

The trigger of my most recent slump was health issues, hospital stays, and a another chronic illness to add to my list of conditions. And all I wanted to do the whole time was escape. Except I couldn't. I'd pick up a book and I'd read a couple chapters and nothing was staying. My attention and retention was shot, I was exhausted and fatigued and I couldn't even handle audiobooks.

How I Got Out Of My Most Recent Reading Slump


So here we go, what I did to help myself get out of my mega month-long slump. A lot of it has to do with generally feeling better physically, but I know that if I hadn't done something I'd still be staring at the ceiling. These are my top reading slump tips to help get you reading again.

Rereading

This is pretty much my fail safe, my go to for when I'm in a slump, but this time it did't quite work. I picked up an abridged audio version of my all time favourite, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It was only about 4 hours, so because I listen at 2-3x speed it was quick to get through. It made me smile and remember why I love reading, and it hits up all the highlights of the story.

Take a Break

I just... Stopped. I stopped trying to make myself read. I binge watched trash telly (Has anyone else watched Too Hot to Handle on Netflix? It's a trash fire but wow) and I started playing The Elder Scrolls Online (I run around and pick flowers and fish and cook, mostly). I tried to take the reading pressure off, and although it felt good to do other things I still desperately wanted to read because I was still filled with anxiety.

Indulgence

I got myself some Mills & Boon and I just indulged in the romance and the fantasy and got lost in a luxury resort. I embraced the cheese and the comfort and the familiar storyline. It was such a lovely thing to do, to just kick back and read a book that I picked solely because it would give me the warm fuzzies. It's romance, so I knew I'd get a happy ending.

Something Different

I picked up a novel in verse, Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew (review copy). It's very much outside of my comfort zone, a format that I tend not to read. It pushed me a little, but being in verse it was quite easy to read, especially with how the writing flowed. I was able to finish something, and it was different, a bit of a challenge, and it was a review copy. I felt very much fulfilled.

Podcasts

I tried taking in stories in a different medium. I love Real Life Ghost Stories, the hosts have excellent chemistry and Emma is incredible at storytelling. They're pretty short episodes, there's a bit of chat between the stories and discussing theories and experiences, and it was a bit of a treat if I'm honest.

Bookstagram

My inspiration was pretty much nil, but I balanced a book on a branch in the tree in the garden and snapped away. I posted a picture, asked a question in the caption, and chatted away. Making myself produce something vaguely artistic, even when I didn't feel it, felt good. It proved to myself that I still can, and it meant I could talk about books and self-care.

Book Club

I joined a couple of book clubs, and just talking about books helped a lot. I haven't finished a single one of the book club picks, but I have enjoyed discussing what I have read and talking about the next picks. It's nice to connect with other bookish people too.



So, I'm extending my OWLs dues to extenuating circumstances. I'm sorry Hufflepuff that my points won't count, but I was there in spirit!


How do you get out of slumps?


22 April 2020

Book Review: Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew * AD - Gifted

Walker Books sent me a free electronic review copy of Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew via NetGalley.

Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew coverAdd to Goodreads button
A timely feminist YA novel in verse about periods, sex, shame and going viral for all the wrong reasons.


BLOOD MOON is a YA novel about the viral shaming of a teenage girl. During her seminal sexual experience with the quiet and lovely Benjamin, physics-lover and astronomy fan Frankie gets her period – but the next day a gruesome meme goes viral, turning an innocent, intimate afternoon into something sordid, mortifying and damaging.


Amazon UK | Amazon US


Source: NetGalley, Review Copy

5 Word Review: Friendship, first-love, shame, hope, periods.


Content Warnings: Slut shaming, bullying.

I very rarely read novels in verse. They're not something I commonly stumble across, and when I do find one I tend to be a little apprehensive about picking it up. I couldn't tell you why - every one I've read has been good. I think perhaps it's because it is very much different in style.

I can't say that I enjoyed Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew. It's not that I disliked it, it was excellent in fact, it's just that it's a bit of a tough read and if I'm honest with myself, I wasn't in the right head-space when I picked it up. It is funny, so funny, but it also made me despair with the world and the cruelty levelled at teenage girls. And that's not what I needed at the time.

I loved Frankie. I loved her intelligence and passion and drive and resilience. She felt so real, she came off the page. I could almost see her gazing at the stars.

The exploration of relationships in Blood Moon is truly magnificent. I never knew that inter-character relationships could be so well developed in this medium, but here we are. Things are messy and complicated and deep.

I found that I read Blood Moon quickly. The verse flows easily, it was difficult to put it down even when I was a little over-whelmed. The humour in the story helps to lift it a lot. And I loved that it's about periods - for something so many experience it's something I rarely find in books.

This is definitely an empowering read, it has so much hope in the pages, and the end is pretty uplifting. It's one I will absolutely read again when I'm in the right place, as I know I will appreciate it a lot more.

Blood Moon by Lucy Cuthew mood board

27 March 2020

Q&A with VV James

Today I have the joy and privilege of interviewing one of my all time favourite authors, the marvellous VV James. I'm lucky to be kicking off the blog tour celebrating the paperback release of Sanctuary. 


Can you describe Sanctuary in five words?
Great way to spend quarantine.


What inspired you to write Sanctuary?
Two things: my amazing editor, Rachel Winterbottom, who said how much she wanted to read a ‘Big Little Lies with witches’ book and who was key to SANCTUARY’s creation, and my experience filming in the US during the Women’s Marches and the start of the #MeToo movement. I’d been in America filming a doc about the first days of the Trump presidency, and saw first hand the anger of women nationwide – this was after the ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ tape had surfaced while I was covering the election campaign itself. And when Lana del Rey issued a cryptic tweet seemingly calling the witches of America to hex the new president, well, it was impossible not to wonder ‘What if they really could…?’ 


Which of your characters would you most like to sit down and have a cuppa with?
Right now, in the middle of Covid-19, Bridget – calm, comforting Bridget. Keeping metres apart, of course! In happier times, Rowan, the magical investigator. They’ve got such great stories to tell, like that of the cow-hexing Kentucky triplets. Or Maggie and Chester, who could be relied upon to bring a box of excellent doughnuts. 


What was the most difficult thing about writing Sanctuary?
There were lots of challenges. Writing in first person for the first time. Making sure the three principal voices – all adult women – were clear and distinct. As a Brit, making sure my depiction of America didn’t strike any false notes. Ensuring that my depiction of characters with marginalised identities was accurate and respectful. Likewise with my representation of witchcraft, which although fictionalised I wanted to be recognisable, and which therefore draws on elements recognisable to practicing Wiccans and pagans today. Lots of things it was vital to get right. But that’s what keeps things interesting. 


How do you think you would cope if you were dropped into the story?
Badly! I’m a logical person, always asking questions, insisting on evidence. It’s one of the things that makes me (I hope!) a good journalist. I get stressed by situations where there’s no data or clarity, and frustrated when the irrational takes over – as it does in an entire community in SANCTUARY.


Are you a planner or a pantser?
Usually somewhere in between, as I suspect most writers are. But SANCTUARY was very tightly plotted, so for this one I had a long and detailed outline before I even started.


What is your favourite thing about writing?
That it totally legitimises having imaginary friends! Also, the dress code (ie. slippers and my snuggliest cardigan…)


Finally, what are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the future?
Right now, I’m working on two historical novels – both plotty and twisty and with a large cast, just as I love to write. And while SANCTUARY was always conceived as a standalone, there’s obviously a lot more ahead for these characters, should readers want to know. So I have a sequel all plotted out and ready to go, if this book finds plenty of readers or the TV series currently in development gets the green light. Keeping everything crossed!



So there we have it! Have you read Sanctuary? 

20 March 2020

Book Beginnings: Get Even by Gretchen McNeil *AD - Gifted

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 Get Even by Gretchen McNeil (gifted copy).
Get Even by Gretchen McNeil cover
Bree sat back against the chain-link fence, bouncing her tennis racket lightly against the toe of her black Converse. "Why do we still have physical education in school?"
I was sent a free review copy of Get Even by Gretchen McNeil.

This first line is a total mood. I hated Physical Education in school so I feel like I have a bond with Bree already.

I am literally just starting this book as I type, and I'm excited to see how it will go. I think I'm going to enjoy it!

Olivia kept her distance as she followed Margot through pockets of lunching underclassmen, past the science building, to the courtyard outside the boys' locker room. It was completely deserted except for one person.
This is from page 56 in my finished copy.

This is the first lines of chapter nine, so not too far in to the story. Luckily I didn't see any spoilers as I flicked through to the Friday 56 haha.

I'm excited to watch the TV show after I've read the book too, it's all on iPlayer.

What are you reading this week?

17 March 2020

Book Review: Cursed: An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales edited by Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane *AD Gifted

Titan sent me a review copy of Cursed: An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales edited by Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane ahead of the blog tour. 

Cursed: An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales edited by Marie O'Regan and Paul Kane coverAdd to Goodreads button
Twenty curses, old and new, from bestselling fantasy authors such as Neil Gaiman, Christina Henry, M.R. Carey and Charlie Jane Anders.

ALL THE BETTER TO READ YOU WITH

It's a prick of blood, the bite of an apple, the evil eye, a wedding ring or a pair of red shoes. Curses come in all shapes and sizes, and they can happen to anyone, not just those of us with unpopular stepparents...

Here you'll find unique twists on curses, from fairy tale classics to brand-new hexes of the modern world - expect new monsters and mythologies as well as twists on well-loved fables. Stories to shock and stories of warning, stories of monsters and stories of magic. 

Amazon UK | Amazon US

Source: Review copy

5 Word Review: Something beautifully haunting for everyone.


I loved this anthology so much. I generally have a great love for anthologies because of the scope - there tends to be something for everyone and there are a wide range of styles. They are a great way to discover new authors or find something different from an author you love.

When I saw that Christina Henry was contributing to this anthology of dark fairy tales, I was sold, because she is a master at twisting fairy tales and making them Dark. The second story in the anthology, I have to admit that As Red As Blood, As White As Snow was my favourite of the bunch.

Weirdly for an antholgy, there wasn't a single piece that I didn't like. They're all awesome. I loved the styles, the darkness, the humour. I thought it was fantastically curated and loved the order of the stories. I liked that it wasn't just retellings too - there are plenty of brand new fables to get stuck in to. 

Collectively, this anothology is beautiful and haunting. Individually the stories are gruesome and dark and twisted and horrific. It's truly excellent.

This is collection to give you goosebumps and a thrill. It's perfect for fans of fairy tales and fantasy and horror.

16 March 2020

Book Review: The Prized Girl by Amy K Green *AD Gifted

HQ sent me a review copy of The Prized Girl by Amy K Green ahead of the blog tour.


The Prized Girl by Amy K Green cover
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From debut author Amy K. Green comes a devastating tale of psychological suspense: a teen pageant queen is found murdered in a small New England town, and her sister’s search for answers unearths more than she bargained for.

Days after a young teenager named Jenny is found murdered, her small town grieves the loss alongside her picture-perfect parents. At first glance, Jenny’s tragic death appears clear-cut for investigators. In the murder of a former pageant queen from a safe and loving family, the most obvious suspect is a fan who got too close for comfort. But Jenny’s sarcastic, older half-sister Virginia isn’t so sure of his guilt and takes matters into her own hands to find the killer.

But for Jenny’s case and and Virginia’s investigation, there’s more to the story. Virginia, still living in town and haunted by her own troubled teenage years, suspects that a similar darkness lay beneath the sparkling veneer of Jenny’s life. Alternating between Jenny’s final days and Virginia’s determined search for the truth, the sisters’ dual narratives follow a harrowing trail of suspects, with surprising turns that race toward a shocking finale.

Amazon UK | Amazon US

Source: Review copy

5 Word Review: Family, community, beauty, pride, mystery.



There is something very unsettling about the story and the writing, and what is more unsettling is that I can't put my finger on what it was! I thought that it was very cleverly written, a thrilling read, and a perfect page turner.

It felt like this was quite a short read, but it's not. It's fast paced and I couldn't stop turning the pages, I raced through it. It's a fantastic debut.

The first character we meet is Virginia, and I really liked how unlikeable she was. She's abrupt and sick of this shit, and I enjoyed her narrative voice and parts of the story the most.

I did struggle a little to connect with the characters in general, but that's a Me problem, and nothing to do with the writing. I enjoyed the dual narrative and the way that the mystery was slowly revealed. 

The Prized Girl is a pretty dark story, with lots of twists that I didn't see coming - definitely a thrilling read.

13 March 2020

Book Beginnings: The Prized Girl by Amy K Green *AD - Gifted

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 Prized Girl by Amy K Green (gifted copy).
The Prized Girl by Amy K Green cover
When my half sister, Jenny, was killed, it was all over the news - national news, not just the local paper that had to use an offensively large font to fill its pages. 
I was sent a free review copy of The Prized Girl by Amy K Green ahead of the blog tour.

I really like the cover for The Prized Girl - it's very striking with the vibrant pink and chilling blue tones.

I feel like this first line really gives you a good idea of Virginia's voice as a character. She's pretty cynical and sick of everyone's shit.
The door opened and there he stood. Just a man.
This is from page 56 in my review copy.

This is where I feel that you really get in to this story - it's fast paces and even by page 56 I was well invested and turning pages as quickly as I could.

What are you reading this week?

11 March 2020

Magical Readathon Recommendations for OWL Prompts 2020

Magical Readathon is back for a third year and I am excited! I'm still trying to figure out which career to pursue, but I thought I'd get a head start on figuring out my TBR. This year, some of the prompts are a little tricky, so I've put together a list of books I personally loved that fit the prompts to help you build your own TBR. A lot of them are less well known, but every one of them was a five star read for me.
Magical Readathon Recommendations for OWL Prompts 2020

Are you unsure about what books to read for your OWLs? Then look no further as I have one for every subject and prompt.

Ancient Runes

Heart rune: heart on the cover or in the title
This book is stunning and vivid and I thought it was beautifully written. The Hand, The Eye & The Heart by Zoë Marriott fits this prompt perfectly, and the cover and story are breathtaking.

Arithmancy

Magical qualities of number 2: balance/opposites - read something outside your favourite genre
I read across a lot of different genres and if this were for me I'd probably go for something totally outside of my comfort zone like a Mal Peet sports thriller. But my recommendation is Wild Embers by Nikita Gill. When was the last time you read a poetry collection?

Astronomy

Night classes: read majority of this book when it's dark outside
I was just going to straight up recommend the Charlotte Brontë classic, but I thought I'd mix it up a put Jane Eyre: A Retelling by Tanya Landman. You could read this in a single short sitting and still experience everything that is so haunting and beautiful about the well loved classic.

Care of Magical Creatures

Hippogriffs: creature with a beak on the cover
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson has a great big raven on the cover. Although I originally read this when I was not in a fae phase, it's still one I'd recommend, I loved all of the manipulation.

Charms

Lumos Maxima: white cover
My mind straight away jumped to Gilded Cage by Vic James. I first read this book when it was available only as an ebook, and since then I have literally read it to death. My first copy has fallen apart. And the UK edition has a stunning white cover, with gold foil details.

Defence Against the Dark Arts

Grindylows: book set at the sea/coast
I got The Beholder by Anna Bright in a Fairyloot box last year, and I instantly fell in love with it. It's set at sea, on a ship, for a fair portion of the story, and quite near to the coast for others. Also the cover is amazing and features a beautiful ship.

Divination

Third eye: assign numbers to your TBR and use a random number generator to pick your read
I did this with my 5-star reads to pick out a recommendation, and it popped out The Sharp Edge of a Snowflake by Sif Sigmarsdóttir, a fantastically dark Nordic Noir YA Thriller.

Herbology

Mimbulus mimbletonia: title starts with an M
My mind went straight to Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff for this prompt! It's a fantastically clever book set in a brilliant magical world, and I recommend it whenever I can.

History of Magic

Witch hunts: book featuring witches/wizards
How could I not recommend The Witch's Kiss by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr? It's a fantastic story about magic and family and fate.

Muggle Studies

Book from a perspective of a muggle (contemporary)
I almost hesitated to recommend this book because it's so hard hitting, but I'm recommending Meat Market by Juno Dawson. Jana's story is amazingly written, and although tough going at times really fills you with hope.

Potions

Shrinking Solutions: book under 150 pages
I could basically recommend any Barrington Stoke book here, but I'm specifically recommending Letting Go by Cat Clarke because I read it in December and still think about it almost daily. It's a little over 100 pages long and it's wonderfully crafted.

Transfiguration

Animagus lecture: book/series that includes shapeshifting
I ended up going for werewolves-ish for this prompt, mostly because shapeshifting is Not My Thing and the book I am recommending is amazing. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger is a bit of a boarding school caper, if that boarding school was actually a finishing school for students espionage and assassination on a dirigible floating in the sky.


Are you taking part in Magical Readathon?
What's on your TBR?


09 March 2020

The Beauty and the Beast Book Tag

I saw this tag done by Steph at A Little But A Lot a few years ago, and Charlotte at Charlotte, Somewhere last week and I couldn't resist having a go myself!

The Beauty and the Beast Book Tag

The Beauty and the Beast Tag


“Tale A Old As Time” – a popular theme, trope, or setting you will never get bored of reading. 

Slow burn romances. Yes, please. I absolutely love a slow-burn. Something like A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer.


Belle – a book you bought for a beautiful cover, that’s just as beautiful inside. 

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. It's a book I had heard a lot of mixed things about, but I read it in a single day and absolutely loved it. The cover is stunning.


Beast – a book you didn’t expect much from but pleasantly surprised you. 

Weirdly, Skyward by Brandon Sanderson, which I absolutely loved! I am always apprehensive about space-sci-fi for Reasons (idk) and then I end up really enjoying them!


Gaston – a book everyone loves but you don’t.

Basically every Cassandra Clare book, I am just not a fan. And I have tried many times. I just cannot get in to them. Weirdly, I really like the The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones film with Lily Collins.


Lefou – a loyal sidekick you can’t help but love more than their counterpart. 

M-Bot from Skyward by Brandon Sanderson! The quirky, sassy ship was my favourite character in both books, even if he was a much smaller part of the second book.


Mrs Potts, Chip, Lumier, and Cogsworth – a book that helped you through a difficult time or that taught you something valuable. 

Suddenly Single by Carol Wyver really helped me when I ended up suddenly single myself. It was a fantastic book that helped me find myself again and gave me some hope.


“Something There” – a book or series that you weren’t into at first but picked up towards the end. 

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas. It's a series that definitely grew on me, and by the end I really enjoyed it a lot.


“Be Our Guest” – a fictional character you’d love to have over for dinner. 

Ead from The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. Basically because it's Ead, and if you've read Priory then I think you'll understand.


Have you done this tag? 
Which book helped you through a difficult time?


06 March 2020

Book Beginnings: Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran *AD - Gifted

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 Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran (gifted copy).
Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran book cover
The sheep were undeniably dead. 
I was sent a free review copy of Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran. I received it last year and read the first chapter and fell in love, so I promptly

The cover is so pretty, with gold foil and super shiny! I even painted my nails shiny gold to match because reasons. Shiny reasons.

This is a great start. Short and stark and shocking, it grabbed me straight away. It's the kind of start that you can't help but keep reading.
I had to prove how I responded to unfamiliar situations.
This is from page 56 in my review copy, so may not match up with ebooks and finished copies!

Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helem Corcoran is over 400 pages, so this is not very far in. But already we are steeped in court intrigue, and it is excellent.

The writing is addictive and I am so invested in the story and characters already. It's rare that I can say this so early into a book, but I am confident that this could be a new all time favourite. It is exceptional.

What are you reading this week?

04 March 2020

Q&A with Matt Killeen *AD - Gifted

I have read Orphan Monster Spy about three times, and it's a book I love. Sarah is so fierce and the book is so vicious. I was lucky enough to do a Q&A back when the first book was published so when I was offered the chance to do another I jumped at it! I love seeing how writing processes and expectations change, and I think it's fascinating to hear about the research process behind historical novels.

Devil Darling Spy is just as good as Orphan Monster Spy, it packs a punch and isn't afraid of being brutal in its execution.

Q&A with Matt Killeen

Q&A with Matt Killeen


Can you describe Devil Darling Spy in five words?
Thrilling. Gripping. Treacherous. Horrifying. Emotional


What was the biggest challenge of writing a sequel to Orphan Monster Spy?
Doing something the same, but different. These are opposing drives. Sarah has to grow but be as compelling a character as before. She has… fans, I guess. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. Then the story has to be more exciting, yet as emotionally authentic. Oh, and all in six months, when the last book took five years. I utterly failed to do the latter, by the way. Don’t get me wrong, these were all excellent and rewarding problems to have. But if you are in any way fragile, if you doubt yourself the tiniest amount, and I do, it seems like a mountain to climb.

The second challenge was choosing to set a book in Central Africa, where the research is difficult to come by and in French. The risk of screwing it up in a really offensive way kept me up at night.


What was the most interesting thing that you found while you were researching book two?
I wasn’t much interested in the Fall of France, Dunkirk or the Battle of Britain, which were the big events of 1940. There were plenty of books and films about those things already and I didn’t think there was many new things to say. But at the same time I had just read The Kaiser's Holocaust by David Olusoga & Casper W Erichsen, which discusses the extermination of the Herero and Nama peoples by Imperial Germany at the start of the 20th century and knew I had to reflect it somehow. It wasn’t just the pre-echoes of the Holocaust that I saw in the book, but the reality of the whole Imperialist framework that just tutted about the atrocity, as it had the horrors of the Congo Free State before it.

I suddenly “got” empire and colonialism in a way I hadn’t before.

I would burst into rooms carrying the book, demanding everyone listen to me, the way Sarah does with Red Rubber in Devil Darling Spy. One of my intentions behind the books, and my school talks, is to try to make the moral complexity of the war obvious – and colonialism is inextricably linked to that. To who we think we are. And man, right now the UK needs to understand its part in both the war and the empire. Too many people think it’s something to be proud of, as opposed to the darkest stain on our nation’s character.


What was your favourite thing about writing a sequel to Orphan Monster Spy?
It was great to move Sarah’s story forward and to discover things that even I hadn’t realised yet. But in many ways she’s never out of my head so I knew most of the secrets. The best bit? Getting it done. I know that sounds awful – like asking my four year old what his favourite bit of school was – but I suffered a bit with this one and I felt like I was letting everyone down.

Pressing send on the first draft and getting a positive response from my editors was a major moment. I was having real imposter syndrome.

The more nice things people said about Orphan Monster Spy, the more impossible the task of following it seemed to be. I have at least followed it and not entirely embarrassed myself, to my satisfaction at least.


Are you a planner or a pantser? Has your planning/pantsing changed since Orphan Monster Spy?
I am a plotter-cusp-pantser… I have a beginning and an end and a few tentpole moments that I have to get to, but I then write the rest chronologically. This allows the characters to do things I wasn’t expecting, to say different things – I make no apologies for the fact that they’re in charge really – and for the opportunity to explore something that just occurs along the way. Inevitably I end up adding whole scenes and bits and pieces after the first draft, but I don’t like it!

I blitzed the chronological write of Devil Darling Spy in just 45 days, after spending far too long freaking out and doing research, but there were some super-vague issues to fix. In the end I was gratified that the whole Japanese embassy scene grew from a dog-walking spark – when something clarifies in the woods walking the doggie – and it wrote itself fairly quickly, with whole sections of Sarah’s back story coming to life.


What was the biggest surprise about your debut year?
There is zero preparation you can do for being published in this way. When the book was announced, veteran authors dropped me emails offering some good advice and a shoulder to cry on if necessary. It’s a whole set of new issues, challenges and opportunities. Plenty of traps for the depressed and doubtful.

At the same time there were lots of lovely things – the Costa shortlist was wonderful and meeting the young teenagers whose world you’ve changed by dumping your weird little story on them – but almost everything was a surprise.


Finally, what are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the future?
Sarah will return, but publishing being publishing, I don’t know exactly when yet. I’m kicking around some ideas and researching some stuff pretty hard.

I’ve been writing about Soviet combat medics on the eastern front in WW2 – usually young women who were considered combatants so were bandaging the wounded while being shot at – and working on an idea about the Nazi movement in the US before WW2 and their summer camp programmes. Yes, Nazi summer camp.

In many ways the biggest challenge is leaving Sarah behind for a bit. She’s pushy. She doesn’t like thoughts that don’t involve her.

Devil Darling Spy by Matt Killeen Blog Tour banner

And that wraps up my Q&A with the wonderful Matt Killeen! I hope you enjoyed it and are now even more excited to read Orphan Monster Spy and Devil Darling Spy. I promise you, they are amazing. And the covers are gorgeous shiny foil which looks amazing glittering away on your shelf.


Have you read Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen?