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28 February 2020

Book Beginnings: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

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 Wilder Girls by Rory Power.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power cover

Something. Way out in the white-dark. Between the trees, moving where this thickets swarm.
The wonderful Aoife at Pretty Purple Polkadots sent me Wilder Girls by Rory Power from my Amazon Wishlist!

First off, the cover is stunning. Aykut AydoÄźdu's artwork is honestly breathtaking and I can't stop staring at it. I love the colours.

I have heard so many mixed things about Wilder Girls, and from people I trust, so I'm not sure what to expect. I know that in theory it's right up my street - it's queer and dystopian. I do know that I love this beginning.
The Tox took who they were, took everything except how to hold a knife.
This is still relatively near the beginning, on page 56 of the UK paperback.

Oft, this line. Isn't it excellent? I think it's really good at underlining how bleak the world in Wilder Girls is, making their reality more real.


What are you reading this week?

24 February 2020

Unboxing Wildest Dreams - Retellings January 2020

The Wildest Dreams book box starts at  just £16.66 a month, and it's a little box of self care containing a newly released YA book, a bath/body/home product, and a bookish tea. There's always a little extra surprise in there too, which is a fantastic personal touch.

I have been getting this box since the very start, and I couldn't recommend it more.


In The Box

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin
The Surface Breaks inspired Loose Leaf Tea Tea from Rosie Lea Tea
Deathless Girls inspired Bath Bomb from Shimmer & Luxe
Priory of the Orange Tree inspired Bracelet from Lucas Bracelets
Cinder inspired Art Print from Lia Lost in Ink
Throne of Swans Bookmark
A Heart So Fierce and Broken Bookmark

My Thoughts

This box was incredible.

My favourite thing was the Deathless Girls inspired Bath Bomb from Shimmer & Luxe. Shimmer & Luxe are fast becoming a favourite bathbomb company and I'm so glad that this book box introduced me to them. This bathbomb was gorgeous, it fizzed away on the surface for a good ten minutes, smelled amazing, and left my skin super soft. 10/10 would use again.

Almost as soon as I opened the box, I picked up Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin. It's an excellent book and was right up my street. I have to admit that I was surprised by the choice of book in this book - I honestly thought it's be Throne of Swans! Foul is Fair was an excellent choice though, a violent Macbeth inspired story that took me by surprise. And it meant that I didn't end up with multiple copies of Thorne of Swans.

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

The Surface Breaks inspired Loose Leaf Tea Tea from Rosie Lea Tea came just in time, as I have been working through my tea collection from previous boxes and I'm almost done. It tasted amazing, and it was great to have something from a book with a smaller fandom. It was very refreshing to drink and in summer would work great as an iced tea. Although it definitely won't last that long as I can't resist it.

I love Lia's take on Cinder, with the Cinder inspired Art Print from Lia Lost in Ink. So much so that I sought her out to let her know. cinder looks exactly as I imagined, and I love all of the little intricacies on this design, and the expression on her face.

Although I have only just finished reading the book, I love the Priory of the Orange Tree inspired Bracelet from Lucas Bracelets. It's pretty and delicate and subtle enough for day-to-day wear. The charm itself is small yet substantial, and I love the orange shade used.

Last up are the two promotional bookmarks, for Throne of Swans and A Heart So Fierce and Broken. I loved Throne of Swans when I read it last year, it's absolutely gorgeous. And A Curse So Dark and Lonely was one of my favourite books from last year, so I'm excited to read the sequel.

This Retellings box hit the mark, and I really enjoyed everything in it.

Do you get any subscription boxes?




21 February 2020

Blog Tour: Book Review: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

I received a copy of Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin in January's Wildest Dreams box, and I read it and loved it and was about to post my review when I jumped on the blog tour. A digital review copy was made available to me, but I did not use it. As I'd already read it. And loved it. Woooo.

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin US CoverAdd to Goodreads button
Elle and her friends Mads, Jenny, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Elle’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Elle as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Elle transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.


Source: Purchase | Review Copy

5 Words Review: Revenge, friendship, manipulation, family, misogyny.

Content warning: Off page sexual assault, misogyny, rape culture, abusive relationships, bullying, transphobia, suicide, substance abuse, violence, gore.

I think that Foul is Fair is one of those marmite books - you'll either love it or hate it. And from the very first page, I loved it.

Foul is Fair is exactly my type of book. It needs those content warnings, and the author has a detailed breakdown on their own website. It is dark, so very dark, and it is full of vengeance. It's brutal and packs a punch, it doesn't hold back. It's theatrical and fast paced, and I loved how the Shakespearean influence came through and really complimented the story. Jade is understandably a very angry narrator - and she has a lot to be angry about.

One thing I particularly liked about this story was the way friendship was explored. Jade is A Lot, and this was shown particularly in how she interacted with both her actual friends (her coven) and the group she was inserting herself in to.

After reading Foul is Fair I will definitely be checking out the author's other book. I just loved their writing style so much.

One small thing I want to throw out there is that I think I prefer the UK cover - it's sharp and subtle and has such impact. It reminds me of some of the RSC posters I've seen in the past too, particularly the font. Don't get me wrong, both covers are absolutely gorgeous, but in a bookshop it's the UK one I'd grab. What do you think?

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin UK cover

19 February 2020

Unboxing Shimmer & Luxe - Valentines Gift Set

I decided to treat myself for Valentines Day by getting  myself a Shimmer & Luxe Valentines Gift Set. I was introduced to Shimmer & Luxe through Wildest Dreams book box, where their bath and home goodies are often included in the items, and I quickly fell in love.

Unboxing Shimmer & Luxe - Valentines Gift Set

Contents

This box was packed with goodies, they were really crammed in there! It smelled beautiful when I opened it, it even made my mouth water. There was a handwritten thank you note, which I thought was a lovely touch.

Shimmer & Luxe - Valentines Gift Set
  • Smitten Soap 
  • Velvet & Oud Bath Bomb
  • Sweetheart Bubble Bar
  • Champagne & Diamonds Bubbling Bath Truffle
  • Strawberry Kisses Bath Bomb
  • Verrry Vanilla Massage Melt 
  • Be Mine Bubble Scoop 
Shimmer & Luxe - Champagne & Diamonds Bubbling Bath Truffle

The first thing I used was the Champagne & Diamonds Bubbling Bath Truffle. And it was heavenly. It smelled amazing and lightly fizzed away for around fifteen minutes. It left my skin feeling so soft and I can't wait to buy more bath truffles - they're definitely a treat.

Next up was the Verrry Vanilla Massage Melt. I used it after shaving my legs and oh my gosh, I was in heaven. It melts slowly, it's not greasy at all, it soaked in really well, and it left my skin feeling so luxurious. It was an almost decadent addition to my self-care routine and made the chore of shaving my legs worth it.

I've been using the Smitten Soap generally when I'm washing my hands. It smells gorgeous and doesn't dry out my skin - and a bonus, it's lasting for ages!

Last night I used the Velvet & Oud Bath Bomb. It was another slow fizzer, although quicker to disappear than the bath truffle, and it bubbled away for almost ten minutes. It left the water a pale violet colour and today my skin is super soft. Best of all, it fizzed on the surface of the water, it was very pretty to watch.

Shimmer & Luxe - Velvet & Oud Bath Bomb

I have sensitive skin, and I have had no reaction to any of the products so far. The shimmer in them is light enough that it doesn't set me off itching like products from Lush do, and I don't need to vigourously hose myself down after a long relaxing soak.

Next up for me will be the Strawberry Kisses Bath Bomb. Even through the packaging it smells wonderful, but I want to save it for a sunny day.

I decided one cold, rainy evening to use my Be Mine Bubble Scoop. And I was seriously impressed by it. The scoop dissolved quickly and smelled amazing and then... The bubbles. There were so many bubbles! They were thick and fragrant and luxurious, and piled high on top of the water - they even reached the bottom of my bath tray.

I am very excited to use my Sweetheart Bubble Bar - it's the last thing left!

Shimmer & Luxe - Valentines Gift Set Bath Bomb

At only £20 I feel like this was an excellent deal, and I've loved everything I've used so far. It was beautifully packed, with personal touches, and it smelled delightful. I would definitely purchase it again.

17 February 2020

Q&A with Nina de Pass

At the beginning of last year I read a book that blew me away. The Year After You by Nina de Pass broke my heart and lifted my soul. It's a firm favourite and I've read it four five six seven times.

Q&A with Nina de Pass

Q&A with Nina de Pass


Can you describe The Year After You in five words?
It’s a book about guilt, grief, forgiveness & second chances – doused in snow.


What inspired you to write the The Year After You?
When I was seventeen, there was a terrible car accident at a nearby school – one that has stayed with me ever since. A girl of my age died; a girl of my age – the driver – survived. I didn’t know those involved personally, yet I have thought about them for over a decade – about what happened, about everything that came after. The Year After You is not about that accident – that’s not my story to tell – but the events in the novel are underpinned by a car crash. For years I had been thinking about the aftermath of such a tragedy and the complex relationship between guilt and grief – how do you reconcile yourself to a life without someone you love, when you feel responsible for their death?

In terms of creating the setting, when designing the school that my main character Cara is sent to in the book, I was inspired by the image of Wes Andersen’s iconic The Grand Budapest Hotel, the snowy landscape from snippets of old James Bond films and the winter scenes from The Night Manager BBC TV series. Winter is my favourite season, and the image in the opening scene of the book – a perilous journey up winding, icy roads to Cara’s new school – became stuck in my head.


Which of your characters would you most like to sit down and have a cuppa with?
Oh, that’s easy: Hector. I loved writing him – to me, he’s bright and engaging, and not totally straight-forward. I’m not sure it would be the most relaxing cuppa, but it certainly wouldn’t be boring!


How do you think you would cope if you were dropped into Cara's story?
That’s an interesting question. I would hope that I, like Cara, would find it within me to open up to the new people I met at Hope Hall. If I found friends like Ren, Hector and Fred, I hope I’d find a way through to the other side like Cara does.


Are you a planner or a pantser?
Hmm… A bit of both, I think. A huge part of the joy of writing for me is seeing where things go and being creative and imaginative as I write. I used to hate planning essays at school – I just wanted to get on with it! – and I feel the same about writing novels. That said, I don’t usually start writing if I don’t know in what direction the story is going. I have markers throughout – I know where I have to get to, or what has to happen, and then I just write as I go.


What is your favourite thing about writing?
I love stories; I love creating new characters. Sitting down and writing the first draft of a novel is always my favourite part. The page is a blank canvas and the possibilities are endless


Finally, what are you working on now? What can we expect from you in the future?
The Year After You is coming out in the US and Canada at the end of March, so that’s my big focus at the moment and something I am very over-excited about. I am also working on a couple of new projects and have lots of ideas spinning around my head – that’s all I can say for now!


    


   
So there we have it, my Q&A with the wonderful Nina de Pass. And both gorgeous covers, for the UK and US editions. Check out my Five Favourite Quotes from The Year After You by Nina de Pass and read my fan-girling book review. It's an incredible book, and I hope you pick it up.


Have you read The Year After You by Nina de Pass?



14 February 2020

Book Beginnings: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

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 Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon cover
The stranger came out of the sea like a water ghost, barefoot and wearing the scars of his journey.
I have been putting this book off for a while. A long while. I've had it since it came out. I'm taking part in the Series Crackdown 9.0 Readathon for the next week-ish and this is my first read and team read. It'll also tick off three prompts on the bingo board, yay.

First off I love the cover. It's stunning and vibrant and so intricate. There are small illustrations on chapter pages too, and some gorgeous maps. Everything I love in fantasy!

I mean... Wow. That's a first line. So much mystery already, and I love the writing style. I am excited.
When she has bene banished, Kalyba had fled to a part of the forest she had names the Bower of Enternity. It was said that she had put an enchantment on it that tricked the eyes.
This is from roughly 56% through the books. As it's a mammoth 800+ pages this is fairly far. Having just started this book today I am nowhere near this far through.

I have no idea of the context for this, but I am excited to reach it. Dramatic.

What are you reading this week?

12 February 2020

Series Crackdown 9.0 Readathon

Series Crackdown is a 10-day long readathon where you attempt to read those unread series on your bookshelf, between Friday 14th – Sunday 23rd February 2020.

I'm going to be using this readathon to try and tackle the books on my shelves that I already own and have not read yet, so I'll be joining the Beasts team lead by Jemima Osborne and reading the team book The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon because it's been sat on my TBR since it came out.

As for the other books, I've no idea. I guess I'll just scan my shelves and pick based on my mood, and ask people on Twitter for recommendations.

Series Crackdown 9.0 Readathon

The Prompts

One book can tick off up to three prompts, and I'll be using the Team Read The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon to fulfill three of them. Because fantasy, has gorgeous maps in it, and is first in a series.
  • First Book in a Series
  • Sequel
  • Gathering dust on your shelf
  • Includes a Map
  • Recommended by a friend
  • Fantasy
  • Read with a warm drink
  • 5-Star Author
Check out Mel at The Book Moo's blog for all of the details.

Will you be taking part?

10 February 2020

BlogTour: Book Review: The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo *AD - Gifted

St. Martin's sent me a review copy of The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo ahead of the blog tour. 

The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo coverAdd to Goodreads button
During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired.

Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.

As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare's lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets, and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition.

Alyssa Palombo's captivating new novel, The Borgia Confessions, is a story of passion, politics, and class, set against the rise and fall of one of Italy's most infamous families--the Borgias.


Source: Digital review copy

5 Word Review: Family, secrets, ambition, obligation, power.


I am a bit conflicted about this book. On the one hand, I loved the story. On the other, I hated the characters. But I think that I enjoyed the story itself so thoroughly that I could look past the characters.

With the characters, I generally liked Cesare and Maddalena to being with. It was once they met that I started to dislike the two of them. I didn't have much love for the secondary and supporting characters either. What I loved about Maddalena, her devotion and naivety, seemed to be pretty quickly tossed aside, and I thought that was such a shame. And I definitely wasn't expecting the steamier scenes in the book!

The story though? It's glorious. There is plotting and intrigue and secrets and lies and power plays. I loved the descriptions of the places and the clothing, the historical setting really came alive for me. I loved all of the little details, the intricate strategies and dramas.

Overall I loved the story, but my dislike of the characters was definitely a personal preference thing. I'd recommend this to anyone who's a fan of political intrigue and steamy romance.

08 February 2020

Blog Tour: Book Review: Witness X by SE Moorhead *AD - Gifted

Trapeze sent me a review copy of Witness X by SE Moorhead ahead of the blog tour. 

Witness X by SE Moorhead coverAdd to Goodreads button
From one of the most original new voices in fiction comes a startling vision of a world where hero Kyra must fight the past to save our future. A genre-bending thriller for the Netflix generation, for fans of Altered Carbon, Dark and Mindhunter.

She's the only one who can access the truth...

Fourteen years ago, the police caged a notorious serial killer who abducted and butchered two victims every February. He was safe behind bars. Wasn't he?

But then another body is discovered, and soon enough, the race is on to catch the real killer. Neuropsychologist Kyra Sullivan fights to use a new technology that accesses the minds of the witnesses, working with the police to uncover the truth. Will Kyra discover the person behind the murders, and if so, at what cost? And how far will she go to ensure justice is served?

An addictive futuristic thriller, perfect for fans of Stranger Things.


Source: Review copy | Blog Tour

5 Words Review: Crime, truth, deception, morality, justice.


When I heard this book as being described as Silence of the Lambs meet Blade Runner, I was intrigued. I requested it straight away. And I was not disappointed by the comparison.

Witness X is tense and chilling and shocking. It's a compelling and thrilling read, and I could not stop turning the pages to find out what would happen next. And more than that, it's something that feels very possible and real. This book ticked all of the boxes for me when it came to both sci-fi ad crime, and I loved it. There was the grittiness and mystery of crime, the possibilities of the future, and the way they came together was great.

I loved Kyra. I loved her strength of conviction, her stubbornness, her morality. She was so determined to do the right thing, always. She has a strong moral compass even if her business partner is a bit of a snake.

At times the story had me physically bouncing up and down, it was so bloody tense. If I still bit my nails my finger tips would have been bleeding. My partner watched my anxious reading, and when I was finished he started reading it himself.

I definitely want more of this story and this world. I really hope that this is the start of a series because it's something special.

07 February 2020

Book Beginnings: Wranglestone by Darren Charlton *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 Wranglestone by Darren Charlton (gifted copy).
Wranglestone by Darren Charlton cover

Peter was born into a world of unwelcome visitors. And winter on Lake Wranglestone sure as hell was one of them. 
I was sent a free finished copy of Wranglestone by Darren Charlton after I requested it from the publisher, and it released yesterday. I am very excited to start this queer zombie thriller.

The cover is gorgeous and isolated and cold, and I love the small flash of red, like a warning. There's a map of the layout of the islands on Wranglestone lake which is great for orientating myself.

I love these first lines - it introduces the setting as almost a character in itself and makes the feelings of the narrator very clear. I think it's an excellent start.
The bottom step hovered about five feet above the line of the water to stop wolves and lynx from getting up the watchtower when the lake was frozen.
This is from page 56 in my finished copy.

This isn't far into the book and I'm still getting the feel of it.I love how nature is very much at the forefront of the story. There is desperation on almost every page.

I am really enjoying Wranglestone by Darren Charlton, I feel like it's one I'll struggle to put down.

What are you reading this week?

05 February 2020

Five Favourite Quotes from The Beholder by Anna Bright

I was pretty excited when I picked up The Beholder by Anna Bright. I received it in May 2019's Unlikely Romances themed Fairyloot box and then read it the next month for the readalong and when I couldn't resist the cover any longer. I absolutely adored reading this book.

Today I'm sharing my five favourite quotes from this beautiful slow burn, and I'd like to see them plastered across all kinds of merch please.

The Beholder by Anna Bright cover

Today I'm sharing my five favourite quotes.

He'd left me burning brighter than the candles.
Now I just felt burned.
*
My heart was a burning star, singeing my lungs, setting fire to my nerves.
Was it my fault, really, that my chest couldn't hold it?
*
My heart was a lit candle, a forest fire, a burning star.
*
I think the powerful would love less the fruits of violence if they had to deal it out by hand.
*
I was straw in a breath of wind. I was glass shattered on stone. I was the soft red flesh of a heart, vulnerable to every sharp thing in its path.

Hopefully these quotes will convince you to read The Beholder by Anna Bright, but if you need another push then check out my spoiler free review.

03 February 2020

First Impressions: Crescent City - House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas

I was very excited to see a sampler for House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas on NetGalley, and I requested it straight away. I have a kind of love/hate thing with Sarah J Maas's books even though the author is one of the loveliest I've met, and I enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses a lot when I binged it last year. Like, a lot. Even though it's not my thing and hella problematic. It's complicated.

Because of this, I am very excited to see what I think of the first Crescent City book, House of Earth and Blood.
There was a wolf at the gallery door.

I liked the run down of the different houses at the start - not that I know truly what I meant when I read them. It did mean however that once the houses started being mentioned then I knew a bit about what was going on.

There is a map. Of course there's a map, it's fantasy. But it's a very pretty map, a round of applause for the cartographer!

As for the story, you are dumped right in. And I love it. I found myself quickly becoming submerged in the world, watching it come slowly to life in front of me. I loved the vibrancy, the colour and life in the characters.

I feel like Sarah J Mass's writing style has definitely evolved. It's much more mature and polished from what I remember of Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses. It's darker too, more gritty, yet with a wry humour. I'm impressed, I think.

This sampler is pretty sizable - five whole chapters that took me well over an hour to read through. It has made me very excited for House of Earth and Blood, because I need more! It's an excellent start.


Crescent City - House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas