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31 August 2021

Book Review: Love on Location by Lynne Shelby *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of Love on Location by Lynne Shelby ahead of the blog tour.

Grab a glass of wine and order a pizza, then settle in for one of the best heart-warming romances of the year.

Love on Location by Lynne Shelby book cover

Can movie magic lead to a real-life romance?

When Laurel Martin is hired to rewrite the script for a new timeslip blockbuster, she expects the historical advisor hired by the studio to be an elderly academic who won't interfere too much with her writing. But when she meets Professor Jason Harding, a young and unexpectedly handsome archaeologist who has some ideas of his own about the script, she realises the job isn't going to be as simple as she first thought.

As their work takes them from arguing over historical details in a cramped London office to discovering the hidden beauties of a Greek island, Laurel and Jason's relationship starts to echo the romance of their script.

But with Laurel's actor ex-boyfriend making trouble at home, and constant issues with the volatile director, will Laurel and Jason ever be able to write the happy ending for their own story?

Add Love on Location by Lynne Shelby to Goodreads

Source: Purchase | Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Work, history, creativity, paradise, romance.

Can I go to a Greek Island and explore please? I want the history and the warmth and the romance. Love on Location transported me there in my head and now I need it for real. Take me to paradise.

There was something about this book that just filled my heart with warmth, and I'm going to place that solely on the characters. As much as they clash, they also build each other up and have the most amazing chemistry. It was almost giddy-making read.

Laurel and Jason butt heads in the best of ways, the back and forth builds and builds. They are so different and yet it works amazingly. They're perfect together, even if you wouldn't think it at first. And they're messy too - they have complicated lives away from each other; difficult family, found family, friends.

I loved the snippets of history, how it was Jason's passion and Laurel couldn't care less. Laurel's passion is storytelling and I loved how it came across from her perspective. I also loved the glimpses of the film industry, with all of it's nepotism and competition and vanity.

And Laurel? Can she be my friend please? I want to have a film night with her, scoffing pizza and drinking wine. She's an excellent person and I loved the care she had for her friends.

This book has some kind of irresistible lure that keeps you stuck in the pages. I couldn't put it down and read it in just one day. It could only have been more perfect if I'd been reading outside in the sun instead of wrapped up in a blanket with the heating on.

I had never read anything by Lynne Shelby, but now the rest of their books are on my wishlist. And I can't wait.
Love on Location by Lynne Shelby blog  tour banner

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women's fiction/romance. Her debut novel, 'French Kissing' won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition. She has done a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor's chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

30 August 2021

Book Review: The Spellworker by Victoria Lamb *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of The Spellworker by Victoria Lamb ahead of the blog tour.

I have to admit to one thing straight away - I freaking love Victoria Lamb. Her Tudor Witch series is one of my favourites, so I was very excited to see a new YA fantasy release.

The Spellworker by Victoria Lamb book cover

Book One in a rich and suspenseful YA fantasy adventure series, from the author of the award-winning WITCHSTRUCK. Perfect for fans of Holly Black, Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo.

Princess Fiamma is the girl with the serpent tattoos, born to guard the Book of Tongues, a magical text nobody living knows how to read.

Raised in royal privilege, it’s a shock when the Citadel comes under attack and Fiamma is forced to flee in disguise with the Book of Tongues. Her only companion is Hurth, a handsome but surly soldier who doesn’t bother to hide his contempt for a ‘spoilt princess’.

A time when reading is forbidden, and books are dangerous

Fiamma may be spoilt but she knows her duty. She must not allow the Book to fall into the evil hands of the Spellworker, whose powerful magic can kill with a single word.

A perilous journey through occupied territories

Together, she and Hurth must search for a mysterious place where the Book has always been taken in times of danger. But worse than Hurth’s disdain and the hardships of the journey are her own deepest fears about the Book, which has started whispering to her in the night, teaching her how to read it...

Is the Book turning her into a Spellworker too?

As she faces her destiny, and learns the true meaning of the serpent tattoos she bears, Fiamma has to decide how far she'll go to protect the Book's secrets.

A compelling tale of Good versus Evil in a world where what you see is definitely not what you get.

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Duty, responsibility, danger, magic, secrets.

Oh Victoria Lamb, how I have missed you.

This YA fantasy was exactly what I needed.

The setting is vaguely historical, in the sense that you couldn't pin it down to any certain period that we would know. As a fantasy world I loved the depth, the differences between the settlers in the citadel that Fiamma was used to and the more nomadic people she came across.

The writing is alive with detail - by the end of the first chapters, my own muscles and feet ached, I could feel the hunger and exhaustion of the main characters. Warning: this book will make you hungry. Whether it's Fiamma and Hurth sharing bread or a tribe of nomads sharing spiced meats and sweets, you will be drooling. 

I love Fiamma - I think she was brilliantly complex and I especially loved how she was unafraid of pushing herself. The back and forth between her and Hurth was excellent, and it filled my heart with glee every time she exceeded his expectations. She was definitely a lot tougher than everyone else though, and sassy with it too.

This book has it all - magic, adventure, danger, and a tantalising slow burn that will have you rooting for the main characters. It is perfectly woven together and feels almost epic in scale.

I have to say that as much as I raced through this book, and it's around 350 pages, it felt much longer. There is so much packed into the story, so much going on, that it was easy to get lost alongside the characters. Their journey is epic and dangerous and the pace is almost breakneck. I'm almost exhausted, but in the best of ways.

And after that ending? I'm going to need more, thanks.

I couldn't deny it; my life had changed out of all recognition since Hurth and I had left the citadel.

 The Spellworker by Victoria Lamb blog tour banner

Historical and YA paranormal author of the RNA award-winning novel WITCHSTRUCK, Victoria Lamb is addicted to the supernatural, and on dark nights has been known to sneak out and howl at the moon. She also writes thrillers as Jane Holland, and other fiction as Betty Walker, Elizabeth Moss and Beth Good, among others. Victoria's most recent novel is THE SPELLWORKER, first in a fab new YA epic fantasy series called THE BOOK OF TONGUES.

27 August 2021

Book Beginnings: Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis *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.

Has anyone else's week felt like it has lasted forever?

I am exhausted and yet I still feel like I've accomplished nothing except for somehow watching 38 episodes of Empresses in the Palace on YouTube, all dubiously fan-subbed by different creators.

I am currently reading Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis (AD - gifted).

Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis book cover Vesuvian Books

Tall stalks whipped against Lindsey's legs as she ran.

I was sent a free finished copy of Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis.

Well this is a tense beginning, isn't it?

I love the sense of urgency portrayed by just this one short sentence, and the rest of the first paragraph only adds to it. It has been a while since I've read a mystery or thriller, and Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis promises a bit of both. I like the writing style, and I can see this book keeping me up into the early hours, not wanting to put it down.

I love the cover, how it's dark and doesn't give much away, adding to the mystery. I think the typography is very clever too, and I love how the smears and splatters seem to hint at the story to come. I like the tag line too, it seems very fitting for the story ahead and it makes me even more excited to pick this up.

This author has written quite a few books, but this will be my first.

I can't wait to read on.

Aubrey's stomach burned, and the bitter taste of bile rose in her mouth. "That's blackmail."

This is from page 56 in my finished copy.

Well, this is in the same vein as the first line, in that it's short and tense and immediately sets the tone. This line from page 56 holds no punches. It's in the middle of a tense scene.

Going forward, I was right - I do not want to put this book down. I have a feeling that after work I will just sit and read it until I get to the end. Someone else can worry about dinner, because I need to know what is going to happen next. Have You Seen Me? by Alexandrea Weis has me gripped.

About the Book

Lindsey Gillett is missing.

And she’s not the first girl at Waverly High to vanish without a trace.

To help cope with the tragedy, new history teacher Aubrey LaRoux organizes a student investigation team. But when the project’s key members start turning up dead across campus, Aubrey suspects there’s more going on than anyone is willing to admit.

The murdered students all had something in common with Lindsey. They shared a secret. And what they uncovered could threaten the future of the historic school.

At Waverly High, someone wants to keep the past buried—and you don’t want to get in their way.

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What are you reading this week?

22 August 2021

Book Review: A Midwinter Match by Jane Lovering *AD - gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of A Midwinter Match by Jane Lovering ahead of the blog tour.

When I see a Jane Lovering book, I jump on it. They're an auto-buy author for me, and I swear every book just gets better. I read Home on Folly Farm by Jane Lovering earlier this year, so A Midwinter Match makes for a second five star read.

A Midwinter Match by Jane Lovering book cover Boldwood Books

Ruby Oldbridge needs to learn to take her own advice. 

A brilliant counsellor at work in York, she is however floundering in her own life. Her romantic track record is woeful, her finances are in a pickle, and she’s back in a house-share after splitting up with her useless ex.

But one thing Ruby is brilliant at, is helping other people find a way through their problems, and she excels at the job she loves, doing just that. 

Happy-go-lucky, Mr Positivity, Zac Drewe also loves his job – the trouble is, it’s the same as Ruby’s, and the management have decided to ‘rationalise’ their department. There’s only room for one of them.

As the snow and winter close in on York, Ruby and Zac have everything to lose, and Ruby starts to wonder if the happy face Zac shows the world, might be disguising a sadder secret. 

Set against one another, they are unlikely friends. But perhaps, if they could take the time to understand each other, they might discover that rather than rivals, they could be the best thing that ever happened to one another… 

Add A Midwinter Match by Jane Lovering to Goodreads

Source: Purchase | Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Work, friendship, family, belonging, winter.

This book? Read it. From the very first chapter there was the usual Jane Lovering dry humour that I love so much, and honestly it was exactly what I needed. Her books never fail to make me chuckle even as they break my heart and put it back together.

One of my favourite things about this book was Jane Lovering writing about York. It's something they do so well, they truly bring the city to life and their love for it is evident in the way their characters interact with the setting. A Midwinter Match brought Vampire State of Mind right back to the front of my thoughts, even if the books couldn't be more different. It's a bit like a love letter to York hidden away behind the story.

Ruby could be one of my all time favourite characters - I just freaking loved her. She has such a good heart and she is so generous and understanding with her clients, yet short with those she may consider enemies. She's very much a stark contrast to Zac, who is short with his clients and sunny with everyone else.

The build of the relationship between Ruby and Zac was excellent. They were definitely enemies, pushed together in the most unfair and cruel way. Seeing that melt into a tentative friendship was lovely.

I have to say that the portrayal of anxiety in this book was outstanding. It was so realistic that I as much as I wanted to rush through the story, I had to step away and do my own grounding.

I loved the exploration of different family dynamics - families are messy, and found families can be even messier. It was beautiful to read.

I will absolutely be reading A Midwinter Match by Jane Lovering again this year, closer to Christmas. Whether it was the cold of the North or the crowded festive pubs, I loved being immersed in winter in this story. I fell in love with the characters and with York.

I listened to a bit of the audiobook (because yep, I already had it pre-ordered) and Rose Robinson again does a wonderful voice voicing Jane Lovering's characters.
A Midwinter Match by Jane Lovering blog tour full banner

Jane Lovering is the bestselling and award-winning romantic comedy writer who won the RNA Novel of the Year Award in 2012 with Please Don’t Stop the Music. She lives in Yorkshire and has a cat and a bonkers terrier, as well as five children who have now left home. Her first title for Boldwood will be published in September 2020.

16 August 2021

Book Review: Stolen to Wear His Crown by Marcella Bell

I picked up the The Queen's Impossible Boss / Stolen To Wear His Crown bind-up almost a year ago when Mills & Boon has a discount code in their newsletter.

For ~reasons~ it has taken me until now to actually read the Stolen to Wear His Crown, despite me loving The Queen's Impossible Boss by Natalie Anderson. So, what did I think?

The Queen's Impossible Boss by Natalie Anderson cover Mills & Boon romance

From unworldly scientist…

…to his fearless Queen!

Mina has finally achieved her dream of becoming chief scientific advisor of Cyrano when she’s stolen from the interview room! She’s taken directly to the palace chapel where the terms of a secret betrothal mean she must marry the King – immediately.

Powerful King Zayn knows all too well monarchs can’t afford dangerous distractions like love. Yet still, he’s appalled to be wed to a complete stranger! Mina is altogether too sensitive, too scholarly, too unpolished to be Queen. But that can’t stop the desire that flares each time she looks his way…

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Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Family, expectation, responsibility, friendship, love.

I have to be honest and admit - when I first picked up this book I put it down after one chapter. I didn't like the vibes, I hated the kidnapping scene and the immediate aftermath.

It wasn't until I read His Stolen Innocent's Vow that I decided to give this book another chance, and oh boy did I warm to it. By the end I absolutely loved Stolen to Wear His Crown, and I regret not pushing past the first chapter when I first picked it up. Because that first chapter is absolutely essential to the rest of the story, yet completely different all at once.

Mina is a fantastic romantic heroine. She's so sure and accomplished, while at the same time remaining vulnerable. She's haunted by grief, forcing herself into an "academic" mould that has her hiding away in too-big and shapeless clothes. She really grows into herself and flourishes as the story unfolds.

Zayn is... Well he needs a shake and to use his words. At the beginning I utterly detested him, but I did very quickly fall as much in love with him as Mina. He is very cleverly written, with more depth than you'd imagine at first glance.

For all that their marriage is pretty much immediate, the romance between Mina and Zayn feels like a slow burn. I loved the slow thawing of their feelings for each other, how resentment turned to respect. 

There were so many sweet scenes between them in the build up to them finally admitting their feelings, and it left me with a huge smile on my face. There's a scene where they're alone in a remote cabin and she cooks for him, and he's thrilled by the idea that she's cooking for him not because that's what he has to do. It added layers of humanity and normalcy to what they are going through. And lets face it, a king and his kidnapped commoner queen is anything other than normal.

Now I am very much looking forward to Pregnant After One Forbidden Night, the third book in the The Queen's Guard series/collection.

11 August 2021

Book Review: Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth *AD gifted

Andersen Press sent me a free e-copy of Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth via NetGalley.

I'm mad as hell at myself for not picking up Not My Problem sooner - it's the disaster lesbian coming-of-age story that I never knew I needed. It had me cackling with laughter and sobbing into a cushion. It really is a wild ride and one I will definitely read again. Think Derry Girls but now, with fewer nuns and with more wee lesbians.

I was approved for a copy of Not My Problem on NetGalley about a week before my kindle paperwhite broke so it ended up on the backburner for a while, and urgh I wish it hadn't been. I really needed this book back then. This book review has taken a lot out of my if I'm honest, a bit like the book. I definitely have a book hangover after Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth.

Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth book cover. A  girl with brown hair stand in front of  school benches and a chainlink fence. She is holding exercise books. The title had "Not" in yellow script and "My Problem" in a bold white across the bottom third of the cover.

When Aideen agrees to help ambitious class swot Maebh Kowalska deal with her crazy workload, she doesn’t expect to end up reluctantly pushing Maebh down the stairs.

With this, Aideen becomes the school ‘fixer’: any problem a student has, Aideen will sort it out, from stealing confiscated mobiles to breaking into parties. All she asks for is a favour in return.

But Aideen’s own life is a mess – her mam’s drinking again, her BFF Holly is avoiding her and she’s skipping school. Spending more time with the uptight (but annoyingly cute) Maebh and chatterbox Kavi, Aideen starts to wonder: can every problem be solved?

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Source: NetGalley | Review Copy 

5 Word Review: Family, friendship, belonging, school, messy-relationships.

Oh no, I accidentally wrote an essay instead of a book review for Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth.

Not My Problem is so messy and I am here for it. It's the coming-of-age story of a lesbian who was out before people we accepting and suffered for - Aideen gets to see everyone else welcomed with open arms and acceptance, when she was sneered at years before. She is justifiably annoyed by her past ostracisation from her classmates, and bitter about how she never had the support everyone else is afforded. And I absolutely get that, and it feeds into her character and sets the tone of the story.

I highlighted over one hindered quotes on my kindle, which gives you an idea of what I thought of the writing. It left me gasping.

I didn't expect Not My Problem to tackle so many issues. But oh my gosh, get the tissues ready. Whether it's messy families, homophobia or substance abuse, it is all tackled with the greatest of care. The exploration of Aideen's life, the poverty she has no choice but to grow up in, really hit hard. It's difficult when you see yourself so clearly in a character, but it meant that I emphasised so much with her and I understood when others thought something had gone wrong.

Aideen is a disaster, but she can't help it. And I love her so much for it. She's hilarious, and whip smart, even if her teachers see her as failing. I love how she finds a role for herself in becoming a fixer for the other students, and how she sets up boundaries to protect herself. Her family life is pretty awful - her father is a narcissist and an all round dick, and her mum has her own problems and dependence. 

Her voice is snarky, always. She's always got a quip or some dry banter at the ready. Her attitude is very much her defence from the world.

I think that Aideen is a bit of a marmite character - the things that I love about her, her bolshie bravado and bitter witticisms, are definitely things that other people will not like. But give her a chance, she deserves it. Aideen's PE excuses had me in stitches. If I'd been reading in public I would have got weird look and people would have moved away from me as I snorted and struggled to catch my breath.

Holly is supposedly Aideen's best friend - and it as a very weird dynamic between them. At times the friendship was so pure and lovely and true, and they had the other's back. And then there were times I'd twist my face at whatever Holly was doing next. At the beginning, it was obvious that Holly held the power, and I was never really sure whether it was the power that Holly relished, or the friendship for what it was. There were touching scenes, like Holly waiting for Aideen at the bus stop with a travel cup of hot tea when she'd had a horrendous day. And then there were the times Holly just sacked her off.

Meabh is A Complication in Aideen's life, someone who ends up thoroughly embroiled more out of panic than anything else. I felt so sorry for her, and at the same time had a baseline of annoyance very much inspired by Aideen's own feelings. Meabh is always switched on, and she surprisingly has some excellent banter. The back and forth between them was excellent. Their bickering was as amusing as it was tension building.

Not My Problem was just... It was incredible. It was filled with emotion and heartbreak and love of all kinds. It was easy to get lost in. There was the smallest thread of a budding romance that filled my heart with joy.

I am not off to check out Ciara Smyth's other book, The Falling In Love Montage, which I'm sure will find a place in my heart too.

Every now and then I had to believe karma was real.

Ciara Smyth studied drama, teaching, and then social work at university. She thought she didn't know what she wanted to be when she grew up. She became a writer so she wouldn't have to grow up. She enjoys jigging (verb: to complete a jigsaw puzzle), playing the violin badly, and having serious conversations with her pets. Ciara has lived in Belfast for over ten years and still doesn't really know her way around. Visit her online at

09 August 2021

Book Review: Her Honourable Mercenary by Nicole Locke *AD gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of Her Honourable Mercenary by Nicole Locke ahead of the blog tour.

This is the story I've been wanting to read since I read The Maiden and the Mercenary last year.

Her Honourable Mercenary by Nicole Locke book cover mills & boon historical romance

An innocent maiden...

And a legendary warrior.

When captured and held prisoner in an enemy castle, Margery of Lyon is guarded by brooding mercenary Evrart, who’s been commanded to watch her - day and night.

Margery’s determination to escape brings her closer to Evrart and the kind heart hidden beneath his granite-hard body.

Now Margery is torn... Fleeing under the portcullis will mean leaving behind the man she’s falling for…

Amazon UK | Amazon US

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: Family, danger, love, understanding.

Nicole Locke writes the most beautiful, detailed filled historical romances, and Her Honourable Mercenary is no exception. It's a continuation of the Lovers and Legends miniseries, but each book can absolutely be read as a standalone. I do like that you get mentions of other characters though.

The Warstones are messy and scary and dangerous, and after reading The Maiden and the Mercenary last year I've been looking forward to seeing how Margery gets herself into such a situation.

And it wasn't how I thought. Part of me thought that perhaps Margery was using Ian as much as he was using her, but although Margery is a lot smarter than others give her credit for, she's not ruthless or conniving. She's trying her best, she's a bit scared, and I love her for it. Margery is the kind of character who is usually underestimated. She's seen as a silly girl when actually she's much more intelligent, and her passion and generosity were endearing.

I'd say Evrart is loyal almost to a fault - but he doesn't have much choice in the matter. I loved seeing him change from almost meek around Ian into someone much stronger, despite the danger.

There's a scene where Margery tries to show Evrart colours that he can't see, and I thought it was the most touching thing I've ever read. It was so heart-warming and perfectly showed Margery's kind heart. She's very much misunderstood. Rather like her sister Biedeluue, she's only trying her best - just in a very different way.

This is a slow burn fraught with danger. Ian's instability made everything quite tense and perilous, and it really amped up the tension between Margery and Evrart. I loved the forbidden aspect of their relationship, and it was excellent to see wariness turn to friendship turn to love.

I can't wait to read more of Nicole Locke's books! I'd recommend them to anyone who likes historical romance, and especially a slow burn.

Her Honourable Mercenary by Nicole Locke blog tour banner

Nicole is the author of Harlequin/Mills and Boon Lovers and Legends Historical series. If she isn't working on the next book, she can be reached at, Facebook, and Twitter!

08 August 2021

Book Review: Wonderland by Juno Dawson

I decided to review a book by a YALC author for each day of the event, and the final book is Wonderland by Juno Dawson. I can't wait to see her reveal and reading!

I have read Wonderland a few times - the whole London trilogy is incredible and if you haven't read it you need to. I'd also recommend the audiobook, narrated by the author herself.

Wonderland by Juno Dawson

Welcome to the party.

Alice lives in a world of stifling privilege and luxury - but none of it means anything when your own head plays tricks on your reality. When her troubled friend Bunny goes missing, Alice becomes obsessed with finding her. On the trail of her last movements, Alice discovers a mysterious invitation to 'Wonderland': the party to end all parties - three days of hedonistic excess to which only the elite are welcome.

Will she find Bunny there? Or is this really a case of finding herself? Because Alice has secrets of her own, and ruthless socialite queen Paisley Hart is determined to uncover them, whatever it takes.

Alice is all alone, miles from home and without her essential medication. She can trust no-one, least of all herself, and now she has a new enemy who wants her head...

A searing exploration of mental health, gender and privilege, from the most addictive YA novelist in the UK today. 

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Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Family, friendship, retelling, belonging, power.

5 More Words: Strength, life, change, debauchery, wealth.

I have put off reviewing Wonderland for the longest time, because I didn't want the London Trilogy to end. Clean and Meat Market are utterly magnificent, messy, masterful, and Wonderland joins them being marvellous. I loved how Lexi got a couple of mentions from characters too, it was like it all circled somewhat back around to the first book.

Wonderland takes the excess and the messiness of the previous books and takes it to new extremes. It truly displays the power of wealth, what you can get away with when you have the privilege of old money.

Alice is rich, but she's not rich. She can spend a grand with barely a bat of an eyelid and minimal guilt due to her mum's success, but she's still an odd one at school where most of the wealth is generational and unimaginable. The privilege is... It's something else. The excess is beyond what I can comprehend. Think Gossip Girl but very British and far messier.

Alice goes through a lot in Wonderland - she confronts her own feelings and behaviour, she is in physical danger, she has to get through transphobia and the fetishising of who she is. It's a difficult read at times.

I loved how the story and the mystery was slowly revealed, and how the personalities of everyone involved came to the surface. With the Wonderland event everything was heightened, and it was forced proximity with added drugs and entitlement. 

Wonderland is a ride. It's wild and scary and powerful. A fast paced, messy mystery. I almost couldn't keep up. I loved the way it played with the themes and aesthetics of Alice and Wonderland. Mystery, attempted murder, drugs, secrets... It's the best kind of mess.

What unit would we measure love in? Heartache? Memories? Daydreams?

07 August 2021

Book Review: Afterlove by Tanya Byrne

I decided to review a book by a YALC author for each day of the event, and the second book is Afterlove by Tanya Byrne. Check out the You Had Me at Hello.: Falling in Love for the First Time panel today.

I have been putting off picking up Afterlove on the off chance that my request for the audiobook on NetGalley would be granted - but alas, I was unlucky. No worries, it was on my TBR anyway because of the excellent reviews (and it's Tanya Byrne) so I bought a copy once it released.

Afterlove by Tanya Byrne book cover

Ash Persaud is about to become a reaper in the afterlife, but she is determined to see her first love Poppy Morgan again, the only thing that separates them is death.

Car headlights. The last thing Ash hears is the snap of breaking glass as the windscreen hits her and breaks into a million pieces like stars. But she made it, she's still here. Or is she?

This New Year's Eve, Ash gets an invitation from the afterlife she can't decline: to join a clan of fierce girl reapers who take the souls of the city's dead to await their fate.

But Ash can't forget her first love, Poppy, and she will do anything to see her again... even if it means they only get a few more days together. Dead or alive...

Not even death can tear them apart.

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Source: Purchase

5 Word Review: Love, family, friendship, tragedy, death.

Grab the tissues, you will need them. And a blanket to combat the chills that this love story will give you.

I am struggling to review this, because I loved it so much. Basically: Good book. Book booked good. Read book.

I listened to the audiobook of Afterlove, and I think Aysha Kala did a wonderful job bringing the story to life and filling it with even more emotion.

Ash and Poppy are just... They're my OTP now, the one ship I will go down with. I loved their love, the way that even though their situations in life are so different it doesn't matter to them. Their hearts are full of love. And when Ash becomes a reaper, I have to be honest - it broke me.

Afterlove doesn't shy away from difficult topics - whether its homophobia, or racism, or class disparity, or religious beliefs in the face of your family. It was empathetically done, carefully done, and wasn't afraid to be ugly when it had to be. 

This book gently plays with the paranormal, and if I'm honest I barely realised it for what it was. I loved the lore behind it, and I thought it was very clever in the way it was executed.

The story is split into before and after and I think that was a clever way to play with the concepts of the words. It's not just Ash's death, but herself and how she experiences the world, her new role.

That ending though? Excuse me, I need more. I loved the ending, but it left me gasping. It wraps up beautifully but I'm aching for more. Afterlove is the romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet want to be.

Afterlove is a gloriously beautiful story that will fill your heart to bursting and then break it into a million pieces. You will never be ready, and you will never get over it, but you need to read this book.

06 August 2021

Book Review: We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal

I decided to review a book by a YALC author for each day of the #AtHomeYALC event, and first up is We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal. Check out the We're Not in Kansas Anymore: Exploring Magical Worlds panels today.

This has been on my TBR for the longest time and I'm so so glad that I've finally picked it up. I switched between the ebook and the audiobook, and I really liked the performances. I freaking loved it and now I'm playing a waiting game waiting for the second book to come out on audiobook.

We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal book cover

People lived because she killed. People died because he lived. 

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya - but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds - and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

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5 Word Review: Family, magic, responsibility, danger, power.

If I'm honest, when I picked this up I didn't know what I was in for - I know that We Hunt The Flame was super hyped when it first came out, but for whatever reason I didn't get to it then. But I'm glad I have now, as the writing is so freaking beautiful I could read it forever.

I loved Zafira, and I'm so glad that as a main character we spent so much time with her and in her head. She's so sarcastic, and rightfully bitter at her lot in the world. I love how she pushed back against the world she was confined to.

Nasir is complicated, and I liked seeing the slow reveal of him after his initial push of bitterness.

The story is split between Zafira and Nasir, so we get to see everything from both sides. It endeared me to some of the side characters too, I loved Altair's snark and how they lightened the story. I loved how different their voices were, even if it was the same voice actor for both in the audiobook I'd have been able to tell the differences as the personalities of the characters shine through so well.

In terms of pace, this is at the slower end of what I'm used to with fantasy - but that means we spend longer properly exploring the world and the magic, and getting to know the characters. It also means that when we get to action scenes it's even more exhilerating. The world is complicated. I liked that this afforded for more banter and tension, and lead to an enemies to lovers slow burn. It's amazing how much a second of eye contact can have you rooting for some characters that may or may not kill each other.

The writing is so beautiful, from the settings that come to life in front of you to the emotions that fill your heart, to the food that has your mouth watering. Yum.

This was a gorgeous fantasy, with a touch of romance and a dash of lost magic. I can't wait to read on in the Sands of Arawiya, and experience the world and writing again. ANd find out what happens next.

05 August 2021

Book Beginnings: The Hand of the Sun King by JT Greathouse *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.

Today I'm posting a day early because I have some YALC-shaped plans for the weekend.

I am currently reading The Hand of the Sun King by JT Greathouse (AD - gifted).

The Hand of the Sun King by JT Greathouse book cover

Grandmother woke me in the dead of night and told me to keep silent.

I have been going through a bit of a fantasy kick right now, so when I was offered a review copy of The Hand of the Sun King by JT Greathouse, of course I said yes.

I have to be honest with the cover - at first I didn't like it, it was just not my style. But the more I look at it the more gorgeous details appear. I love the style and the imagery and how subtle it is, I love the intricacies.

This first line is pretty intense, and mysterious. I think it sets the scene excellently, and I love the uncertainty.

I think I'm going to really like this. Although I have no idea where it will go.

The tutor scowled down at the cat, who swished his tail in defiance...

This is from page 56 in my finished copy.

I have only just started this, and I'm only three chapters in so this is a wee bit further than I am. And I'm intrigued. I have so many questions and I can't wait for them to be answered as I read.

This line from page 56 is a change of pace from the first line. The pace of the story itself has slowed considerably, but I still have this feeling of uncertainty. Wen is learning as lot about his world (as am I) and it's fascinating.

The writing is very atmospheric, and addictive. I do not want to put this down.

About the Book

My name is Wen Alder. My name is Foolish Cur.

All my life, I have been torn between two legacies: that of my father, whose roots trace back to the right hand of the Emperor. That of my mother's family, who reject the oppressive Empire and embrace the resistance.

I can choose between them - between protecting my family, or protecting my people - or I can search out a better path . . . a magical path, filled with secrets, unbound by Empire or resistance, which could shake my world to its very foundation.

But my search for freedom will entangle me in a war between the gods themselves . . .

The first book in the Pact and Pattern series. Fans of Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn and R.F. Kuang's The Poppy War will love the magic running through every page.

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What are you reading this week?

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02 August 2021

Book Review: Her Previous Self by Anne Allen *AD Gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of Her Previous Self by Anne Allen ahead of the blog tour.

I can't believe I had never heard of this series before, because now they have all magically ended up on my kindle. Despite being book eight of The Guernsey Novels, Her Previous Self can absolutely easily be read on its own. And it's unputdownable, with an addictive mystery and gorgeous writing.

Her Previous Self by Anne Allen book cover

Two women, living two hundred years apart but closer than sisters.

Mary, miserable in her  marriage to Thomas Carre, a merchant and privateer and living in the newly-built family mansion in Georgian Guernsey.

Lucy, separated from her husband after a tragic loss and now acting as an unwilling sitter for her elderly grandfather, Gregory Carre, who has inherited the same mansion.

Lucy is haunted by Mary’s continued presence in the house and finds herself being pulled more and more back in time. How is it possible for her to live as Mary? To experience scenes from her tragic life? Lucy is forced to come to terms with Mary’s grief as well as her own. 

The more enmeshed she becomes the more anxious Lucy is to discover the truth. Why is Mary still restless? What caused her mysterious disappearance two hundred years ago? 

And can Lucy move on from her own loss to find happiness again?

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

Content warning: Infant death, death of a grandparent, grief.

5 Word Review: Family, grief, mystery, friendship, love.

I don't think any other book has had me craving a full English breakfast as much as Her Previous Self, with a massive cup of coffee to wash it down. Pick this book up on a Sunday with breakfast and spend the whole day with it, you won't regret it.

Although Her Previous Self is book eight in The Guernsey Novels series, it definitely does not feel like it. It can absolutely easily be read as a standalone and you won't be missing out. I'll definitely be checking out the other books to learn more about side characters and the community, but this book is whole on its own.

Lucy is torn apart by grief and anger, and trying to rebuild her life and find herself again. This is pretty much a story of her piecing herself back together, and I loved to see her come out of her shell.

Mary is a romantic, and her story was heart-breaking from the very beginning. Definitely have some tissues to hand when you read her parts. I think seeing Mary's story helped Lucy a lot in coming to terms with what life had thrown at her.

I thought that the scenes where Lucy was pulled back into Mary's life were fascinating. I love the little details that brought the past to life, from the feel of silk stockings to the scent of lily of the valley perfume. It was obviously well researched and I liked the contrast between past and present.

I loved the blend of past and present, all tied together by one family and their house. I liked how it prompted Lucy's exploration of the family home, and strengthened her relationship with her grandfather. The link was fascinating, and how it was explored was done really well. I liked the slow unravelling of the mystery.

Her Previous Self is a story about grief and finding yourself, about heartache and love. For every scene that brings you to tears, there will be another that fills your heart with warmth and makes you smile.

I will absolutely be reading more of The Guernsey Novels, they seem like they'll be a mysterious balm for the soul.

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Anne Allen lives in Devon but originates from Rugby. Finding early on in life that she loved the sea she spent most of her adult years moving from one coast to another. Her happiest time was spent in Guernsey where she lived for nearly 14 years and her books are all set on that beautiful island. Until recently Anne was a psychotherapist but has now retired to write full time. So far she has published Dangerous Waters, Finding Mother, Guernsey Retreat, The Family Divided, Echoes of Time, The Betrayal, The Inheritance and Her Previous Self, forming the Guernsey Novels series. The books focus on love, mystery, drama and relationships. In her spare time she dabbles in art and very occasionally housework.

Giveaway to Win 1 x Paperback Copy of Her Previous Self (UK winner) or e-copy for an international winner

*Terms and Conditions – Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

01 August 2021

Book Review: Surprise Reunion with His Cinderella by Rachael Stewart *AD Gifted

I was provided with a free ebook of Surprise Reunion with His Cinderella by Rachael Stewart ahead of the blog tour.

It has been a while since I read a Rachael Stewart book that wasn't a Dare title, and Surprise Reunion with His Cinderella was a reminder that this author can do it all. And there's a giveaway that I wish I could enter, because the goodies look incredible.

Surprise Reunion with His Cinderella by Rachael Stewart book cover Mills & Boon true love

Can one week in paradise…

…heal ten years of heartache?

When the elite M dating agency sends wealthy Freddie Highgrove to the Seychelles for a weeklong “date,” the last person he’s expecting to be matched with is Jasmine Walker, his first love and ex-fiancĂ©e!

Ten years ago, his family’s expectations for a high-society marriage sent housekeeper’s daughter Jasmine running.

Can one week in paradise bring them back together?

Amazon UK | Amazon US

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Source: Blog Tour | Review Copy

5 Word Review: family, history, romance, luxury, love.

If you like the dates in Love Island and Too Hot To Handle you will love this - you'll be whisked away with the characters into some of the most gorgeous and romantic situations imaginable. A private island of romantic tableaus and perfect weather, with activities designed to bring you together.

Jas is really something. She's pulled herself up from poor beginnings in a bit of a Cinderella story - but her successes are down to herself and not prince charming. I loved her drive and her passion, and how she retained her humanity despite of her changes in circumstance. It could have been so easy for her to become aloof and distant, yet she was so down to earth.

Freddie is a bit resentful of a lot, and cynical to boot. I didn't like how he treated Jas at times, especially after the half way point. I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and give him a good shake. It's understandable why he feels the way he does, but it took him so long to see things from a different perspective.

I loved the past between Jas and Freddie - seeing them work through it all and confront their feelings and their shared past was excellent, and it was messy. I loved their ups and downs and hesitation, and the fierce passionate lust between them

I would love to read more about M, the exclusive dating agency. Their skills are unmatched, and the way they set the scene so romantically was perfect.. Plus, I want more of that opulence. The whole Billion-Dollar Matches series will be going straight on my TBR.

Billion-Dollar Matches
The Princess and the Rebel Billionaire by Sophie Pembroke
Surprise Reunion with His Cinderella by Rachael Stewart
Caribbean Nights with the Tycoon by Andrea Bolter
Indonesian Date with the Single Dad by Jessica Gilmore

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Giveaway to Win Prize Bundle of 2 Rachael Stewart Paperbacks Plus Assorted Goodies
(Open INT)

Prize Contains:
  • Paperback of Tempted by the Tycoon's Proposal
  • Paperback of Surprise Reunion with His Cinderella
  • Mills & Boon Notebook
  • Rose Gold Pen
  • Cute Placemat
  • Lip balm
  • Sweets
  • Heart post-its
  • Author Swag
Surprise Reunion with His Cinderella by Rachael Stewart giveaway prize

*Terms and Conditions – Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.