Sunday 31 July 2011

Poison Diaries Event at Alnwick Castle - 27th & 28th July 2011

I have been lucky enough to be invited to attend some amazing events since I started blogging but I don't think I've ever received an email as exciting as the one I had a few weeks ago inviting me to the Poison Diaries event at Alnwick Castle.  I actually had to read the email about 4 times and get a friend to read it for me before I could believe what I was reading, then once the truth had sunk in I'll admit to a very loud squeal of delight and excitement!  I got even more excited when I realised how many of my favourite bloggers were going to be there and that we'd get to spend the night inside the castle - I never in a million years would have thought I'd get to spend the night in the castle they used to film Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films!

On the day of the event Kirsty and I were both ridiculously excited, I think I must have woken up about 4 times in the night because I was so worried about sleeping in and missing our train!  We set off at about 8:20am and had to make several train changes before finally arriving at Alnmouth station just after 3pm.  I can tell you there were some very smiley, happy bloggers standing on that platform when our train left the station.  We were taken in mini buses to Alnwick Castle but had a chance to stop and take pictures along the way (I'm going to apologise in advance for the number of pictures in this post, I got a bit carried away with my camera and took just under 600 photos during the event!  Don't worry though, I've narrowed them down for you & they've been split into slide shows so you don't have to look through all of them lol).

This first slide show includes some of our first views of Alnwick, see if you recognise any of it from the earlier Harry Potter films!

We had just enough time to put our bags into our rooms before it was time to set off on a tour of Hulne Abbey which is where Jessamine and her father live in the Poison Diaries book.  We were really lucky to be taken along a route beside the river to get to the Abbey, the Duchess wanted us to be able to see the route that Jessamine would have walked to get from her home to Alnwick and very kindly arranged for us to be taken through the private land to get there which is something that most people don't usually get to see.  The views of the surrounding countryside on the journey were beautiful and the Abbey itself was just how I'd pictured it when reading the book.  The Abbey is such a peaceful place and really is a beautiful setting for the story.

Here are some of the pictures I took at Hulne Abbey:

When we got back to Alnwick it was time for Afternoon Tea with the Duchess in the State Dining Room, we were told that we were the first group of people that have ever been allowed to have a meal in there and I can't even begin to describe how amazing the setting was.  We were all shocked when we first walked in and saw the beautifully set table piled high with plates of sandwiches and cakes and decorated with flowers and candles.  I don't think I've ever eaten such delicious cakes before, they were tiny pieces of heaven and it was very hard to resist eating them - everything from chocolate eclairs, tiny cheesecakes, mini cupcakes, millionaires shortcake, lavender biscuits and scones!  It was hard to know where to start and if I'd had pockets I would have been very tempted to take some away with me for later lol. 

After tea we got to visit the library which I have to say was amazing, I can only dream of having a library like that one day!  As book bloggers we were all in heaven and I think we could have happily stayed in there for hours.  The Duchess read the first chapter of Nightshade for us and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was left desperate to carry on reading the rest of the book. 

Warning, this slide show contains pictures of cakes that will make you drool and of a library that you will soon be coveting!

After our tour of the library we were taken on a guided tour of the Postern Tower and Gun Terrace, the grounds around the Castle are beautiful and I'd love to go back and spend more time exploring them

Then we had a little bit of free time to get changed for dinner.  I know I wasn't the only one who was really excited about the idea of eating in The Treehouse restaurant but it surpassed all of my expectations.  The restaurant was fabulous and beautifully decorated with fairy lights.  It was like stepping into a fairytale cottage and if I didn't have pictures to prove I was there I'd swear I'd imagined it.  When we arrived we were offered a choice of a poison cocktail (which contained vodka and fruit juice and was delicious) or the cure (a non-alcoholic cocktail) and then shown to our tables.  I sat with Kirsty, Vicki & Susan and we ate the most delicious food.  The starter was salmon and mushrooms followed by a main course of chicken and vegetables followed by a divine chocolate dessert.

After dinner we were taken on a candlelit tour of the Poison Garden by Jessamine's father Thomas Luxton.  I have to admit to finding him a really creepy character, it didn't help that he was dragging a couple of dead rabbits behind him as we followed him to the garden!  The man taking the tour did a really good job of acting like I imagined Luxton though and the candlelit gardens really added to the atmosphere.  After the tour we were all given glow sticks to light the way back to the castle.  I tell you if you ever want to bring out the inner geek in a bunch of bloggers just take them on a walk in the dark with glow sticks - there were a lot of light saber fights going on lol.  When we made it back to the castle a group of us ended up sitting outside in the courtyard until about midnight chatting.  You really should chat to Amanda about the submissions she has been reading for Angry Robot - she had us in tears of laughter with some of the stories she told us.

By the time we made it to bed I was too tired to do much reading but I was determined to read at least a few pages of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone before bed.  I've been wanting to re-read the series for ages now and I'll never have a better excuse to start than spending the night at Hogwarts!

The next morning we had an early start for breakfast, followed by a tour of the underground passages through the castle that Jessamine and Weed walk through on their visit to Alnwick in the first book.  It was really dark and creepy down there and I was half expecting someone to jump out on us while we were down there but I found it really interesting finding out about the water powered lifts they had installed to take food from the kitchens to the dining room.

We just had time for a little shopping in the gift shop before we headed back to the Poison Garden to see the plants by daylight.  It was nice to get to see the plants properly and they have quite an impressive collection of dangerous plants in there!

Before it was time to leave we were able to get our books signed by the Duchess of Northumberland, I'd taken my copy of Poison Diaries with me and we had been given a goodie bag with Nightshade in it (I finished reading it yesterday and really enjoyed it so watch out for my review coming soon).  I also bought a beautiful illustrated hardback that features a story about Weed that I'm really looking forward to reading.

We really did have an amazing time at the castle and I was sad to have to leave.  I'd like to say a massive thank you to everyone at Kdot for all their effort organising the event and an even bigger thank you to the Duchess of Northumberland for letting us visit and spending so much time with us.  It really was an event I'll never forget and I'm definitely planning on visiting the castle again in the future!

Who was there:
Kirsty - Novelicious
Susan - Susan K Mann

Saturday 30 July 2011

Review: In the Sea there are Crocodiles - Fabio Geda

Adult Cover / YA Cover

If you hold a wish up high, any wish, just in front of your forehead, then life will always be worth living.

One night before putting him to bed, Enaiatollah's mother tells him three things: don't use drugs, don't use weapons, and don't steal.  The next day, the ten-year-old Afghan boy wakes up to find she has gone.  He is on the border of Pakistan, and he is all alone.

In this remarkable true story, Italian novelist Fabio Geda describes Enaiatollah's five-year journey from Afghanistan to Italy.  His ordeal takes him through Iran, Turkey and Greece, enduring unimaginable hardships and challenges.  Enaiatollah's engaging voice is brilliantly captured by Geda, and his dramatic search for a place to call home is a universal story of courage in the face of fear.

Visit Fabio Geda's website (the website is in Italian, for an English translation click here) for more information

In the Sea there are Crocodiles is the true story of a young boy from Afghanistan and his journey through Iran, Turkey and Greece before he requests asylum in Italy.  This is truly an extraordinary tale and one that you need to read with a box of tissues close to hand because I defy you to get through it without shedding at least a few tears.  Enaiatollah is just 10 years old when his mother takes him to a town on the Pakistan border, when he wakes up in the morning his mother has gone.  Alone in the world Enaiatollah has to do the worst kind of jobs just to earn enough to feed himself, all the while searching for a place where he can belong, a place to call home.

Throughout his journey Enaiatollah faces hardships we can't even begin to imagine, he works long hours for little pay, he lives in squalid conditions and he puts his life in the hands of people traffickers every time he tries to move on.  It is horrific to think of the things he went through and even worse to think of the thousands of children around the world who are currently in a similar situation but who probably won't all survive to see a happy ending.  Enaiatollah had a long and difficult journey but in a lot of ways he was lucky (I know that sounds like the most stupid thing to say but if you read the book you'll understand what I mean!) and he always managed to maintain a sense of hope.  There are a lot of times when he is given a helping hand from a friend or even a stranger and without that there is no doubt he wouldn't have made it as far as he did.

I cried tears of sadness as I was reading the book but I was sobbing with happiness by the end.  The kindness shown to Enaiatollah by others was heartwarming to read about and gives you hope for the future.  In the Sea there are Crocodiles is a beautiful story.  Written in a simple style, mainly in Enaiatollah's own words, it isn't a literary masterpiece but it is an incredibly powerful and compelling read.  This is definitely a story that will make you appreciate the little things in life and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Source: Received from RHCB in exchange for an honest review

Other reviews of this book:
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Friday 29 July 2011

Review: Falling, Freestyle - Vivian Arend

Dara’s past four incredible years have been lived to the fullest. Along with her best friends, Kane and Jack, she’s left no local wilderness unexplored, no ski slope unchallenged. Yet lately she wonders why they’ve never seen her as more than a buddy with breasts. When—or if—either man will cross that unspoken line.

It’s a line Kane eyes harder every day. Since high school, he and Jack have shared everything. A condo, vacations—and their best girl. Kane’s ready to get serious about his wilderness school and outfitter business, and that includes putting down roots. Preferably with Dara.

Wary of the men who’ve recently been sniffing around Dara, Jack has a growing sense that he or Kane better make a move soon, or they’re going to lose out on their perfect match. Question is, who does she prefer…and who’s going to bring their easygoing trio to an end?

Overhearing the boys arguing over her, Dara’s floored—and torn. Choose between them? No way. Drastic measures are called for, a plan for their annual holiday getaway that will clarify her feelings once and for all—or lose everything in a sexual storm of whiteout proportions.

Warning: Old friends turned lovers can get into the most trouble—exhibitionism, bondage, spanking. Anal sex, oral sex, unauthorized use of ski safety harnesses, icicles in the hot tub…the author apologizes in advance for any melted monitors.

Xtreme Adventures Series:
Falling, Freestyle
Rising, Freestyle

Visit Vivian Arend's website for more information

Dana, Jack and Kane have been inseparable since Dana moved into their building years ago, they spend all their free time together but Dara has started to get fed up of them seeing her as one of the boys.  Jack and Kane are as different as night and day but Dara has developed strong feelings for both of them, she'd love to move things forward but who should she pick?  Can their friendship survive if she chooses one over the other?

I always enjoy Vivian Arend's paranormal romances so I thought it was about time I gave one of her contemporaries a try and Falling, Freestyle didn't disappoint.  As a novella this is a fast read but it is full of heat and just about melted my kindle!  Dara is definitely a gutsy lady - she knows what she wants and she's going to do whatever it takes to get it.  As soon as they arrive at the ski resort for their annual holiday she sets her plan in motion and it doesn't take long before she's fulfilling her wildest fantasies.

Although it's a fairly short story Vivian Arend managed to show how deep the friendship goes between all three main characters.  They are all worried about the effect that introducing sex will have on their friendship, especially as the menage is a weekend only thing and Dara is planning on using it as a way to see which of the two guys she is most compatible with.  Jack is Dara's rock, he is always there when she needs him and she can't imagine her life without him.  He is also the more dominant of the two and his tastes definitely fall on the more kinky side.  Kane on the other hand is a practical joker who brings fun to the friendship, he's also an exhibitionist who likes nothing more than the idea of being caught.  Between Jack and Kane Dara gets more than she'd bargained for both in and out of the bedroom but it doesn't make her decision any easier.

If you're looking for a fun, erotic read you can't go far wrong with Falling, Freestyle.  I'm looking forward to the next book in the series!

Source: Purchased

Other reviews of this book:
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Thursday 28 July 2011

An Amazing Day At Alnwick Castle

So this is just a quick post to show you a few pics from our day at Alnwick Castle. I'll write up a proper post including lots of pics soon!

After a tour of the castle & Hulne Abbey where The Poison Diaries is set we had a fantastic afternoon tea with lots of delicious cakes

Then we listened to the Duchess of Northumberland read the first chapter of Nightshade in an amazing library that we all wanted to bring home with us

Followed by dinner in the Treehouse restaurant - trust me the food was fab & we may have enjoyed a cocktail or two along with a glass of wine!

I've taken hundreds of pics so I'll post again soon with more details. For now I'm getting into bed at Hogwarts with a rather appropriate book!!

Wednesday 27 July 2011

We're on our way to Alnwick!

Kirsty & I set off from Norfolk at about 8:20 this morning & are on route to Alnwick castle for the Poison Diaries event!

I thought I'd test posting from my phone & if it works I'll try doing some live blogging throughout the event. Watch this space...

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Review: The Poison Diaries - Maryrose Wood

Jessamine Luxton lives with her father, Thomas, an apothecary, in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle. Thomas’s pride and obsession is his locked garden full of dangerous plants, which Jessamine is forbidden to enter.

When a traveler brings an orphan to their cottage, he claims the boy has special gifts that Thomas might value. Jessamine is drawn to the strange but intriguing boy, called Weed. Soon their friendship deepens into love. Finally, Weed shares his secret: He can communicate with plants. For him they have distinct personalities—and some are even murderous. From the locked garden the poisonous plants call to Weed, luring him with promises of deadly power.

When Jessamine falls inexplicably ill, only Weed’s relationship with the Poisons can save her. But Thomas is determined to exploit Weed’s abilities, even if it risks Jessamine’s life—or drives Weed to the brink of madness.…

Poison Diaries Trilogy:
The Poison Diaries
No title is currently available for the third book in the trilogy

The Poison Diaries series is written by Maryrose Wood and based on an idea by the Duchess of Northumberland. Visit Maryrose Wood's website or The Poison Diaries website for more information

Jessamine and her father Thomas live a quiet life in the ruins of Hulne Abbey spending most of their time tending to their gardens.  There is one garden that it is forbidden for Jessamine to enter though - her father's poison garden where he keeps the dangerous plants he uses to make medicines.  Thomas is the local apothecary and is constantly searching for new uses for his plants.  One day a stranger arrives, bringing with him an orphan who is said to have an incredible knowledge of plants.  Thomas takes in the orphan hoping to learn from him but Weed is determined to keep his secrets.

It is so nice to come across a book that is so different to anything I've read before, The Poison Diaries is a beautifully descriptive tale full of mystery, love and deceit.  I really felt for Jessamine, her father is so wrapped up in his research that he often leaves her alone for days at a time.  She isn't allowed to talk to the other villagers in case she gives away some of his secrets so her life is a lonely one.  She spends her time taking care of the gardens, looking after the house and cooking for her father but although she longs for company she doesn't sit around feeling sorry for herself.  She is thrilled when her father allows Weed to live with them, finally she has someone to talk to and I enjoyed watching their friendship develop.

When Weed first arrives he is nervous and withdrawn, he has never had a family and is afraid to trust Jessamine and her father.  As Jessamine takes him under her wing he gradually comes out of himself and begins to trust her but is still scared to tell her his deepest secret.  I'm not going to tell you what that secret is because I don't want to spoil the story for you but it added a wonderful element to the book and I was completely hooked from the moment it was revealed.  The more we learn about Weed the more likable he becomes and I can't wait to get to know him better in the next installment.  What I loved most about Weed and Jessamine's relationship was that it wasn't another case of instant love, the two characters spend time together and their feelings develop slowly which made their relationship so much more believable.

The setting of the story is almost a character in it's own right.  It was easy to picture the ruins of Hulne Abbey and the surrounding gardens that Thomas has created and I felt like I was walking alongside Jessamine and Weed as they explored the area.  From the first time they step foot in the poison garden you feel a real sense of foreboding and this only increases as you discover more about Weed's special abilities.  When Jessamine falls ill Weed has no choice but to face his fears if he wants to save her but it isn't going to be easy for him.  I did have a fairly good guess at part of the ending but there were quite a few twists that took me by surprise and I can't wait to see where the rest of the series takes us.  If you're looking for a magical tale that is a little different from the usual paranormal stories then I would definitely recommend checking out The Poison Diaries.

Source: Purchased

Other reviews of this book:
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Monday 25 July 2011

The Week Ahead: Road trip to Norfolk & a very exciting book launch!

Me & Kirsty (pic taken at the RHCB Blogger's Brunch)

Tomorrow I'm heading to Norfolk to stay with the lovely Kirsty (from The Overflowing Library) for a week.  I'm so excited about spending time with such a good friend and I'm looking forward to being able to natter about books and do some exploring around where Kirsty lives.  We have lots of fun things planned so I'll be sure to tell you all about it when I get home.

When I first started blogging I thought it would be something solitary, it was purely a way of keeping track of the books I was reading, so it's been an unexpected pleasure that I've met so many wonderful bloggers and made some great new friends.  Without a doubt it's the best thing about blogging (yes, even better than getting free books although that's been a lovely bonus too lol).

On Wednesday & Thursday Kirsty and I will be attending a very exciting launch event for Nightshade by Maryrose Wood.  This is the second book in the Poison Diaries trilogy (check back tomorrow to read my review of book 1 The Poison Diaries) and the stories are based on an idea by the Duchess of Northumberland.  The story is set in and around Alnwick Castle (the castle used as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films!) & nearby Hulne Abbey and the event is actually being held at the castle.  I can't tell you how excited I am about the event, I believe there will be time for us to do some live blogging throughout the event so make sure you check back to see what we get up to.  I still can't quite believe we'll be spending the night at Hogwarts!!

Alnwick Castle (pic found on the Alnwick Castle website)

I hope you all have a lovely week, I do have some blog posts going up while we're gone but I'm not sure how much time I'll have to spend on Twitter or responding to blog comments so it will probably be a bit quieter than usual around here.  I'll catch up with everything as soon as I get home though :o)

Sunday 24 July 2011

Review: Prisoner of the Inquisition - Theresa Breslin

The flames began to rise around her . . .

Zarita, only daughter of the town magistrate, lives a life of wealth and privilege.

Saulo, son of a beggar, witness to his father wrongfully arrested and brutally dealt with.  Hauled off to be a slave at sea, he swears vengeance on the magistrate and his family.

The cruel agents of the Inquisition arrive in Zarita's town bringing suspicion, terror and death.  Then, amid the intrigues of the royal court, Zarita and Saulo meet once more, to face final acts of betrayal and revenge.

Visit Theresa Breslin's website for more information

Set in 1490 Prisoner of the Inquisition tells the story of Zarita, the daughter of a rich magistrate and Saulo, the son of a beggar.  Set in a time where anyone who opposes the Catholic Church (and even some who don't) will be tried for heresy and could end up burnt at the stake author Theresa Breslin has done a fantastic job of capturing the fear and confusion of the people who live in Zarita's home town.  This is a story full of betrayal, hate and revenge but also of love and survival and I was captivated from the first page.

The story starts with Zarita visiting a church to pray for her mother who is going through a difficult child birth.  When she is approached by a beggar she calls for help and the circumstances lead to the beggar being hanged by her father the magistrate.  Saulo is the son of that beggar and when he tries to help his father he ends up being sent away to live on a slave ship, he blames Zarita's father for everything and is determined that one day he will return and take his revenge.  While Saulo is learning to survive on the slave ship and plotting his return life isn't easy for Zarita.  As the Spanish Inquisition sweeps through the town it brings terror in it's wake.  People are so scared of being called a heretic that they will do anything to stay above suspicion, even reporting others for their supposed guilt creating an atmosphere full of distrust and torn loyalties.

The story is told in alternating chapters by Zarita and Saulo and I loved reading about both of their journeys.  Both characters are well developed and go on a voyage of self discovery as they mature, they have each made mistakes along the way and have to find a way to deal with their guilt and grief.  Alongside the character's emotional journeys the story gives a fascinating insight into life during the Spanish Inquisition.  The torture of the accused is horrific to read about and gave me chills but I also enjoyed the more light hearted tale of Christopher Columbus as he tries to raise funds for his expedition across the ocean.

The Prisoner of the Inquisition is a beautifully written, wonderfully descriptive story and one I would highly recommend.  It's the first book I've read by Theresa Breslin but it won't be the last and I'm looking forward to discovering her back list.

Source: Received from RHCB in exchange for an honest review

Other reviews of this book:
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Saturday 23 July 2011

Review: Iron Crowned - Richelle Mead

An embattled realm mystically entwined with her own, the Otherworld is at the mercy of one woman . . .

Shaman-for-hire Eugenie Markham is the best at banishing entities trespassing in the mortal realm.  But as the Thorn Land's queen, she's fast running out of ways to end the brutal war devastating her kingdom.  Her only hope: the Iron Crown, a legendary object even the most powerful fear . . .

But who can she trust to help her?  Fairy king Dorian has his own agenda.  And Kiyo, her shape-shifter ex-boyfriend, has every reason to betray her.  To control the Crown's all-consuming powers, Eugenie must confront an unimaginable temptation - one which puts her soul and the fate of two worlds in mortal danger . . .

Dark Swan Series:
Storm Born
Thorn Queen
Iron Crowned
Shadow Heir

Visit Richelle Mead's website for more information

I really enjoyed the first two installments of the Dark Swan series but I found myself getting really frustrated as I was reading Iron Crowned.  Eugenie makes some seriously bad decisions and there were times I was about ready to strangle her!  I'm getting really annoyed that she refuses to accept her role as queen of the Thorn Land, her people are suffering because she won't step up to her responsibilities and it's about time she grew up and did the right thing.

I've also had enough of the love triangle and starting to wonder just how many times Eugenie will jump back and forth between Dorian and Kiyo.  Dorian behaves badly in Iron Crowned and while I don't blame her for being angry I didn't like the fact that she goes running straight back to Kiyo before even talking to him to get his side of the story.  I've gone from really loving Kiyo in the first book to completely despising him now, his actions in Iron Crowned made me want to punch him!  I don't think Dorian is much better though so at the moment I'm not routing for either one of them.  I'd rather see Eugenie on her own and learning to become a decent queen.

I am curious to see if Eugenie can redeem herself in the next installment though and although I saw the twist at the end coming it should make things interesting as the series progresses.  Unfortunately this wasn't my favourite book in the series but I'm hoping things will improve again from here onwards.

Source: Library

Other Reviews:
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Friday 22 July 2011

Review: Evermore - Alyson Noel

Sometimes love is eternal.
For good . . . For evil . . . Forever

Sixteen-year-old Ever Bloom is the sole survivor of a car accident that killed her family.  Exiled to sunny California, Ever is haunted by her little sister and by the ability to see people's auras, hear their thoughts and know their entire life story by touching them.  She wants to hide from the world, but when a stunningly handsome new guy arrives at school, she can't seem to keep away.  Falling in love with Damen is dangerous - he's not what he seems.  But if Damen is her destiny, how can Ever walk away?

The Immortals Series:
Blue Moon
Dark Flame
Night Star

Visit Alyson Noel's website for more information

I bought my copy of Evermore before I started blogging and like so many other books it has sat on my bookshelves just waiting for me to read it.  When I was invited to an event with Alyson Noel I thought it was about time I picked it up and I'm so glad I did.  I'm a big fan of paranormal stories so it's probably no surprise that I enjoyed it but what I was really impressed with is that it wasn't what I was expecting.  I found Ever's psychic abilities fascinating and I loved the fact that Damen isn't your standard vampire that has become so common in YA urban fantasy stories.

Ever is an easy character to relate to, she lost her parents and her younger sister Riley in a horrible accident and ever since then she has struggled to deal with her guilt and her grief.  You can't help but feel for her as she tries to make sense of being the only person in her family to survive and my heart really went out to her.  Since the accident Ever has gained some new abilities, she can see ghosts, hear people's thoughts, see their auras and if she touches someone she will know their life history.  She is still trying to learn to cope with these abilities and it isn't easy for her constantly being bombarded with information she doesn't want to know and learning everyone's deepest, darkest secrets.  I'm looking forward to seeing how Ever grows into her abilities as the series progresses.

It took me a while to decide what to make of Damen, yes he's hot but there is still an air of mystery about him and I hope we get to learn more in future installments.  At times I was convinced that he was out to harm Ever but then he'd do something that would completely change my mind about him again.  I liked the fact that although Ever felt drawn to him because he seemed to lessen her psychic abilities she didn't immediately fall head over heels for him.  She remains wary of him and shows good sense that is often lacking in YA paranormal stories.  I have to say that one of my favourite characters was Riley, she had me laughing out loud so many times with her crazy ghostly antics and I'm so excited that she gets her own spin off series.  That is definitely going on my wish list. 

Overall I though Evermore was a promising start to a series and I'm looking forward to reading more.  The story was a page turner and I flew through reading it, there were a few things I would have liked to have seen expanded on, especially towards the end, but if you're like me and late to the Immortals party I'd definitely recommend giving it a try.

Source: Purchased

Other Reviews:
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Thursday 21 July 2011

Eddie Savage Title Bout - Which is your favourite?

Have you ever wanted to get your say in what the title should be for a new book?  Well now's your chance, Walker are looking for your vote to decide the title for the second book in the Eddie Savage series written by Peter Cocks.  You can find all the details and make your choice on Walker's Undercover blog here

I've chosen my favourite but I want to know which name you'd pick?  Choose from:
  1. Body Blow
  2. Killer Punch
  3. Sucker Punch
The first book in the series is Long Reach and was a book I really loved (read my review here) so I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on the next installment!  If you haven't read Long Reach check out the trailer below & let me know what you think, it really is a fab YA thriller.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Winners: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

With the help of I am happy to announce the winners of Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott:

First up we have the UK winner who will receive a finished copy of Shadows on the Moon directly from Walker (you will need to give permission for me to forward your address to my contact at Walker in order to receive your prize):

Books for Company (email address starting booksforcompany@...)

Then we have the international winner who will receive an ARC copy of Shadows on the Moon (I will be posting out this prize directly to the winner):

Catherine Jaworski (email address starting bambii.j96@...)

Congratulations to you both!  You should both have already received an email from me asking for your addresses so please make sure you look out for it.  If I don't hear back from you within 48 hours then new winners will be chosen.  I'd like to say a massive thank you to Walker for allowing me to host this giveaway for them.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Review: Crushed Seraphim - Debra Anastasia

How does a foul-mouthed angel end up as the last hope for all of Heaven and Earth?

When Seraph Emma is maimed and tossed from Heaven by a rogue angel who’s taken charge, she fears she’ll never be allowed to return. Tasked with the impossible job of showing the self-loathing (and not even human!) Jason his worth, Emma is sure she’s doomed to fail.

Meanwhile, having wormed his way into Heaven, the corrupt Everett has trapped God in Hell and has designs on unleashing evil everywhere. Fortunately, if there’s one thing Emma can’t do (in addition to minding her language), it’s give up. Determined to save Jason and get back to Heaven—even if it means going to Hell—Emma’s plan is simple yet impossible: trick the Devil to save God.

What she doesn’t count on is the devotion and, well, humanity she finds in Jason; the spirit, hidden compassion, and raw sex appeal within the Devil; and the vulnerability of her own heart. With the help of two unlikely allies, she’ll wage the battle for Heaven. But will Emma be sidetracked by a new sort of heaven along the way?

What’s truly more dangerous? Falling from Heaven, or falling in love?

Visit Debra Anastasia's website for more information

With God trapped in Hell and an angel gone bad taking charge in Heaven it is up to Emma to save the day.  She may be an angel but stripped of her powers and thrown down to earth her only way back is to save Jason's soul.  But unless she finds a way to free God from his prison it looks like there will soon be Hell on earth.

I have mixed feelings about Crushed Seraphim, in some ways I'm very interested in the world the author has created and the premise of the story but I had a hard time liking the main characters which makes it hard for me to enjoy a book.  Emma was the least angelic angel I've ever come across, she's foul mouthed, judgemental and surprisingly unsympathetic to Jason, the vampire she has been tasked with saving.  Before even meeting Jason she is convinced he can't be saved and she takes out out her frustration on him from the moment they meet.  I found myself feeling incredibly sorry for Jason, he may be a vampire but along with his brother and sister he tries hard to be a good person and he didn't deserve the treatment he receives from Emma.

I never really believed in the relationship that develops between Emma and Jason, it didn't feel like Emma had any feelings for him but I guess from later events in the book that I probably wasn't supposed to.  I don't mind love triangles in books but I hate it when it feels like one character is using another and I just felt so annoyed on Jason's behalf I didn't enjoy the interactions between Emma and the Devil.  Satan may be a delicious bad boy but I was irritated by the way he constantly called Emma "pretty child" and didn't find it at all sexy. 

The story ends on a killer cliffhanger but I'm not sure if I want to continue reading to find out what happens next.  I've seen a lot of positive reviews for this one but unfortunately it just wasn't for me.

Source: Received free from the author in exchange for an honest review

Other reviews of this book:
If you have reviewed this book on your blog please leave a link to your review in the comments & I'll add the link here.

Monday 18 July 2011

RHCB Blogger's Brunch - 9th July 2011

The lovely ladies from RHCB - Lauren, Lisa, Louise, Rosi, Nathalie, Clare, Emily & Lauren

I was so excited to be invited to the RHCB Blogger's Brunch last week, the RHCB staff are all so enthusiastic about their titles and always surprise us with the number of fantastic books they have coming out.  I had been looking forward to the event for weeks and was very excited about getting to meet up with everyone again, it is so nice to get time to chat with publicists you usually only "speak" to by email and of course I love getting to see the other bloggers too.

Honestly, every time I've been to one of the RHCB brunches I think to myself "there's no way they can top the last one" but every time they manage to do it.  I can't wait to start reading all the books they have coming out in the next few months & I'm sure when you've had a look at the descriptions below you'll agree with me!  No matter what your tastes there will definitely be at least one book you want to add to your wish list!


You Against Me - Jenny Downham
Release Date - 7th July 2011

If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge, right?  If your brother's accused of a terrible crime but says he didn't do it, you defend him, don't you?  When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her, and Ellie's brother is charged with the offence, their two worlds collide.

This is a brave and unflinching novel from the bestselling author of Before I Die.  It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it.  But above all it's a book about love.

You Against Me has just been released as a paperback and if you haven't read it yet I would highly recommend it (read my review here).  While we were talking about Jenny Downham we also had a chat about her debut novel Before I Die.  This is being made into a movie and the filming started a couple of weeks ago, the film will be called Now is Good and I'm really looking forward to seeing how this comes across on the big screen.  Jenny Downham is really good at writing dialogues, she actually gets teenagers to act them out as she is writing because she wants to make sure the conversations sound real so it will be interesting to compare the book to the film.

The Devil Walks - Anne Fine
Release Date - 7th July 2011

Raised by a mother everyone thinks has gone mad, Daniel's only link to his past is the intricately built model of the family home - High Gates.  The doll's house is perfect in every detail.

As Daniel is reunited with the last remaining member of his family - his Uncle Severn, who bears an uncanny resemblance to a sinister wooden doll he has found hidden in the house - he begins to suspect that this vicious, haunted puppet of a figure has a chilling influence, bringing cruelty and spite in it's wake.

Now Daniel's very life is at risk as his uncle is determined to get his hands on the figure . . .

This story is set in the past but you never quite find out how long ago.  The author wanted to look at what happens to a child when they have no support system at home and there is nothing like social services to help them.  I'm intrigued by the story but I have a feeling that this one may be a bit too scary for me, even the cover creeps me out!

Bumped - Megan McCafferty
Release Date - 4th August 2011

A virus has swept the world, making everyone over the age of eighteen infertile.  Teenagers are now the most prized members of society.

Sixteen-year-old Melody is gorgeous, athletic and has perfect grades, and has scored an amazing contract with a rich couple.  And she's been matched with one of the most desirable 'bumping' partners in the world - the incredibly hot, genetically flawless Jondoe.

But Melody's luck is about to run out.  She discovers she has a sister - an identical twin, Harmony, who has grown up in a religious community opposed to the idea of 'pregging'.  Melody doesn't have time for this - she can't wait to meet Jondoe and seal the deal.  But when he arrives and mistakes Harmony for Melody, everyone's carefully-laid plans are swept out of control - and Melody and Harmony are about to realise they have so much more than just DNA in common.

Bumped has already been released in the US and is out next month in the UK.  It offers a futuristic, dystopian look at teenage pregnancy and sounds like a really fun read.  It has a lot of slang which can be a bit intimidating but we were told that it is one of those books that once you get started you just can't put it down and I'm very interested to give it a try.

The Adventures of the New Cut Gang - Phillip Pullman
Release Date - 1st September 2011

For the first time in one volume, two action-packed thrillers from one of our best-known authors, about a motley group of urchins forming THE NEW CUT GANG, solving crimes in late Victorian London.

Fake coins are turning up all over Lambeth and the finger of suspicion is pointing at Thunderbolt's dad - could he really be the forger?  The crime-busting New Cut Gang come to the rescue!

And when just two clues - a blob of wax and a Swedish match - are discovered at the scene of a break-in, the children find themselves on the trail of an extremely cunning criminal.

I'm a big fan of Phillip Pullman so I can't wait to read this one.  The two stories were originally published in the early 1990's but I've never read them so it'll be nice to discover something new to me from such a great author.  The story is a rip roaring adventure with an Oliver Twist feel to it - sounds fab doesn't it!

Dearly Departed - Lia Habel
Release Date - 29th September 2011

A pacy, bloodthirsty, hugely entertaining teen zombie novel with an unconditional but tender love story at it's heart.

From the ruins of a cataclysmic ice-age a new society has emerged, based on Victorian customs.  Nora Dearly, a feisty teenage girl and apparent orphan, leaves her exclusive boarding school for the holidays to return home - only to be dragged into the night by the living dead.

Luckily for her, this particular crack unit of zombies are good guys - sent to protect her from the real nasties roaming the countryside and zeroing in on major cities to swell their ranks.  Nora must find a way to defeat the evil undead with help from Bram, a noble, sweet and surprisingly hot zombie boy for whom she starts to fall...

OK so I have to admit that as soon as I heard the phrase zombie romance my first thought was ick!  I may love my vampire romances but zombie and romance are two words that I don't want to see put together in the same sentence lol.  However, the more I heard about the story the more curious I became, I'm sure you already know I'm a fan of anything paranormal but this is also steampunk and as it's set 200 years in the future it also crosses over into dystopian too - all genres I'm really interested in.  All of the RHCB staff were telling us how much they loved the romance so I'm interested to see if Lia Habel can convince me.  We were given an ARC in our goodie bags so I'll let you know how I get on with Dearly Departed as soon as I've read it.

This Dark Endeavour - Kenneth Oppel
Release Date - 6th October 2011

The first book in a pair of dark, Gothic thrillers that tell the story of young Victor Frankenstein's life - everything before he became the creator of THAT monster.

Victor and Konrad Frankenstein are twins, born just two minutes apart but with very different personalities.  Along with their beautiful cousin Elizabeth, they lead a charmed life at their parent's chateau.  But when Konrad falls dangerously ill, everything changes.

Victor's quest to find a cure leads him into the Dark Library, a secret room full of ancient, forbidden knowledge.  On the spine-chilling mission that follows, he is forced to confront strange foes, alchemical forces and the most difficult torment of all - the pain of unrequited love.

I loved Kenneth Oppel's novel Half Brother (read my review here) so as soon as I heard about his new novel This Dark Endeavour I knew it's one I have to read.  Then when I found out that the story is a prequel to Frankenstein and I was completely sold, I love reading different authors takes on well known stories and I think it will be incredibly interesting to read about how Victor Frankenstein could have ended up as a crazy scientist.  We were told that this is a dark thriller and Gothic horror story with an erotic love triangle.  If you follow my blog you'll probably know I don't read a lot of horror as I have a fairly low fear threshold, I have a feeling that this may scare the pants off of me but I still can't wait to give it a try.  Other exciting news is that This Dark Endeavor is going to be made into a film, it will be directed by Matt Reeves who also directed Cloverfield and Let Me In.

Runelight - Joanne Harris
Release Date - 3rd November 2011

The humor, spark and magic of Discworld's Tiffany Aching meets the action-packed adventure of Percy Jackson in a page-turning fantasy blockbuster, from the bestselling writer of Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes.

The squabbling Norse gods and goddesses of Runemarks are back!  And there's a feisty new heroine on the scene: Maggie, a girl the same age as Maddie but brought up a world apart - literally, in World's End, the focus of the Order in which Maddy was raised.  Now the Order is destroyed, Chaos is filling the vacuum left behind... and is breaching the everyday world.

Runelight is the sequel to Runemarks and this is an epic fantasy series full of Norse gods and plenty of adventure.  I have to admit that I've not read the first book but this sounds just like the kind of thing I'll love so I was very excited that we were given a copy of Runemarks in our goodie bags!  I know nothing about Norse mythology but the author has done a lot of research and is even learning Old Norse so I can't wait to find out more.

The Haunting of Charity Delafield - Ian Beck
Release Date - 3rd November 2011

Flame-haired Charity Delafield has grown up in a vast, isolated house - most of which she is forbidden to explore - with her fiercely strict father.  With only her kindly nurse, Rose, and her cat Mr Tompkins for company, she knows very little of the outside world - or of her own family's shadowy past.  What she does know is that she is NEVER to go outside unsupervised.  And she is NEVER to over-excite herself, because of the mysterious 'condition' that she has been told she suffers from.

But Charity has a secret.  All her life, she has had the same strange dream - a dream of a dark corridor, hidden somewhere in the house.  Then, one day, Charity stumbles across the corridor.  It leads to a door . . . and suddenly she realises that things are not quite what they seem.

Ian Beck is best known as an illustrator, he was the artist who created the cover for Elton John's Yellow Brick Road album and has worked on numerous children's books.  We haven't seen the cover yet but it was drawn by the author and actually became the inspiration for the story so I'm sure it will be stunning!  The Haunting of Charity Delafield is a creepy, atmospheric, dark and magical fairytale aimed at ages 9 and up and it's one I'm really looking forward to reading.

Inheritance - Christopher Paolini
Release Date - 8th November 2011

The final stunning book in the Inheritance cycle featuring Eragon and his dragon Saphira.

Not so very long ago, Eragon - Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider - was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest.  Now, the fate of an entire civilisation rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss.  And still the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix.  When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him.  And if they cannot, no one can.  There will be no second chances.

I'm very excited to finally get to read the last installment in the Inheritance Cycle series, I've been a fan of these books since the first book Eragon was released so am looking forward to seeing how the series ends.  I'm planning on doing a re-read of the first 3 books over the next couple of months ready for the release of Inheritance so keep an eye out for reviews coming soon.  We were shown this video of Christopher Paolini taking about the final book so I thought I'd include it here so you can watch it too:

Wolf Spring Chronicles: Unleashed - Nancy Holder & Debbie Vigue
Release Date - 1st December 2011

When Katelyn starts at her new school, the only person she knows is the handsome and intriguing Trick Sokolov, an acquaintance of her grandfather.  She's surprised when the popular Cordelia Fenner invites her home and when she meets Cordelia's hot brother, she begins to think her new life might be OK after all.

But as she spends time with the family, every bone in Katelyn's body tells her that the Fenners are mad, bad and dangerous to know - but how can she give up her only friend, and how can she ignore the way Justin sets her blood on fire with a single look?

Katelyn finds herself caught between three major werewolf clans who have been at war with each other for centuries - a war, it seems, that Katelyn is destined to end.

Unleashed is a paranormal romance but also a re-telling of Shakespeare's King Lear.  I have to admit that I've never read the original play so although I'm looking forward to reading this one I won't be able to compare the two stories.  This is the first in a series and we were warned that it has a cliffhanger ending but there is more to come.  I have several books by Nancy Holder and Debbie Vigue on my to read pile so I'm going to have to start trying to read them.

Mortal Kiss: Fool's Silver - Alice Moss
Release Date - 5th January 2011

This second sensational story in the MORTAL KISS sequence - first serialised on international hit teen website Stardoll - is now a novel that is set to take the world by storm!

Could you chose between the ones you love . . . ?

A gorgeous boyfriend and a long summer in Winter Mill to look forward to - things are too good for Faye McCarron.  Then her friend Lucas disappears without a trace.  But nobody seems to care - until two strangers arrive in town . . .

Faye and Finn leave Winter Mill to try and find Lucas.  But with Finn struggling against his new role as leader of the wolf pack, and unknown evil forces working against them, will they save their friend before it's too late?

I really like the look of this series, I actually bought the first book a few months ago but still haven't read it (I really need to do something about my ridiculous to read pile!).  Looks like I'm going to have to pick it up soon though as I already want to read the sequel.

Kiss, Date, Love, Hate - Luisa Plaja
Release Date - 2nd February 2012

A cool computer programme that can change your life, looks and who falls in love with you?  Let the games begin... Lex Murphy's group of friends have all dated, hated, ignored and lusted after each other for the last few years.  If only there was a way of matching people perfectly to avoid all the unrequited love, dumping and drama!

Then Lex's friend George is given a mysterious Sims-like game by his software-testing dad which involves building character profiles in the categories of Life, Looks and Love.  Lex and George populate the game with avatars for their mates, making a few 'wishful thinking' adjustments to the settings - and find that the next day these tinkerings have come true!  But how can this new calm, loved-up atmosphere continue...?

I still haven't read anything by Luisa Plaja despite having a couple of her books in my to read pile (I did already say that my to read pile is crazy!).  I've heard a lot of good things about her writing though and this sounds like a really fun read.

Desert Angel - Charlie Price
Release Date - 2nd February 2012

A terrifying cat and mouse game with a tough yet vulnerable character.

He is waiting... He is watching... He will hunt her down.

Angel is on the run.  Her mother is dead, her body buried in a shallow grave by her latest boyfriend, Scotty, an ruthless, illegal hunter who is prone to violence and who now wants Angel dead before she can talk to the police.

Angel has lived through more than a young girl should have but she's determined to stay alive.

But in the scorching heat of the open desert, where can she hide?

Charlie Price's last novel, Hear the Dead Cry, may have been a paranormal but Desert Angel is full of gritty realism.  When Angel finds her mother's body she soon finds that the killer is after her too, in a race for her life across the desert can Angel escape from the killer?  This sounds like such a fab read, I really can't wait to get my hands on a copy!

The Wood Queen - Karen Mahoney
Release Date - 2nd February 2012

The fey war continues in this bewitching sequel to Karen Mahoney's The Iron Witch.

Donna Underwood is in deep trouble.  An ancient alchemical order is holding her accountable for destroying the last precious drops of the elixir of life.

Never mind the fact that Donna was acting to free her friend, Navin, from the dangerous clutches of the Wood Queen at the time.  But what the alchemists have in store is nothing compared to the wrath of the fey.  The Wood Queen has been tricked and Donna must pay.

Get ready for all hell - literally - to break loose...

I absolutely loved The Iron Witch when I read it earlier this year (read my review here) so I can't wait to find out what happens next.  It certainly sounds like Donna is going to be up to her eyes in trouble!  There is no cover image available yet but I'll be sure to post it as soon as I can, the cover is going to be along the same lines as the first book though which is great because The Iron Witch has a beautiful cover.  We have also been told we can expect a very steamy love scene in this installment, what I want to know is who is in it - Donna and Xan or Donna and Nav?

Now Is The Time For Running - Michael Williams
Release Date - 2nd February 2012

On the dusty fields of Zimbabwe, Deo finds meaning in football.  He's a Man United fan with a home-made ball and one day he's going to make it big.  Innocent, his older brother, isn't like the other boys; he's slow sometimes, but no one dares say so - not with Deo listening.

When the soldiers come with their trail of death and destruction, the boys have no choice but to flee for their lives.

On the run and in hiding, the boys weave their way through the border to South Africa, arriving with their meagre possessions and a handful of dreams.

Again, I'm sorry but I don't have a cover image to share with you for this one.  Michael Williams is a South African author and this story is based on true events when the army was systematically removing anyone who was opposed to the government.  We were told that a suitable name for this book would be "Now is the Time for Kleenex" as the book is one that will really have an effect you, especially if you're from Africa.  A refugee story with 2 young boys looking for somewhere to belong this reminded me of In the Sea there are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda and I definitely want to read it.

The Flappers: Vixen - Jillian Larkin
Release Date - 1st March 2012

The first in a sparkling new trilogy full of romance, dancing and secrecy.  Seventeen-year-old Gloria wants the glamorous flapper lifestyle.  Now that she's engaged to the heir of one of Chicago's most powerful families, Gloria's party days are over before they've even begun . . . or are they?

Clara, Gloria's goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch - but Clara isn't as lily-white as she appears . . .

Lorraine, Gloria's social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria's shadow.  When Lorraine's envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe.  And someone's going to be very sorry . . .

I think the only book I've ever read set in the 1920's must be The Great Gatsby (if I'm remembering correctly - it's a long time since I studied it at school!) so I love the sound of this one.  It's such a glamorous era and one I'm really excited to learn more about.  Vixen has already been released in the US but unfortunately we have to wait until next year for it to come out in the UK, I can't wait!

Sea Hearts - Margo Lanagan
Release Date - 5th April 2012

A mesmerizing selkie tale from one of the most exciting voices in modern literature.

On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings - and to catch their wives.

The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast.  And, for a price, any man might buy himself a sea-wife.  He may have and hold and keep her.  And he will tell himself that he is her master.  But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she is.  He will be equally ensnared.  And the witch will have her true payment.

Margo Lanagan weaves an extraordinary tale of desire, despair and transformation.  With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also unspoken love.

I'm loving the idea of a story based on folk legends about selkies, I know very little about selkie mythology having only come across them in 1 other novel (adult urban fantasy Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler) so am really looking forward to finding out more.  I think this will be a really interesting read and am looking forward to getting hold of a copy.

Struck - Jennifer Bosworth
Release Date - 5th July 2012

Three days are left until the final storm that will destroy the world.  Mia Price must make her choice before it's too late.

LA has been devastated by a massive earthquake and the city is full of chaos and shattered lives.  Mia Price has a connection to the storm that caused the earthquake but doesn't know why - who should she turn to for answers?

The religious FOLLOWERS prophesise the end of the world and claim to have the answers that Mia is seeking.  The mysterious and beautiful Jeremy warns her away from them but he's hiding a more sinister truth.

In the end, Mia is to discover that she is part of a power much larger than she could ever have imagined.  When the final disaster strikes, she must unleash the full horror of her strength to save them all.

Struck is a debut novel by Jennifer Bosworth, it's dystopian novel set in LA and full of earthquakes and doomsday cults which seems very relevant considering fairly recent events in Japan and America!  The story is very visual and fast paced and full of plenty of sub plots that will keep us gripped to the pages.  I've been really enjoying the dystopian genre recently and this one has just gone to the top of my wish list!  The only problem is I've got to wait about a year to get my hands on a copy, I have a feeling this will be a big hit next summer though.


So what do you think of all the new titles coming soon?  I'd love to know which ones you're most looking forward to reading!  I've added so many new books to my wish list that it's getting a little bit scary lol.  After we had spoken about all the new books coming we were given some very exciting goodie bags and allowed to pick from a selection of books that had been piled around the room, everyone at RHCB should know better than to let us loose on books by now - we were like a hoard of locusts and there weren't many left by the time we'd finished!  I'd like to say a massive thanks to all of the staff for being so generous to us all.  Here is a picture of the books I picked up:

The event didn't end there though, we still had a couple of very special guests to meet - authors Lindsey Barraclough, author of Long Lankin and Andy Mulligan, author of Trash.  I really enjoyed both of these books (read my review of Long Lankin here and of Trash here) so it was great to meet both of the authors and they were very happy to sign our books for us.

Here is the trailer for Lindsey Barraclough's Long Lankin:

And some of the pictures I took of Lindsey with some of the bloggers:

Here is the trailer for Trash by Andy Mulligan:

And some pictures I took with Andy and some of the bloggers:

There was just enough time for some group photos before it was time to leave, here is one of all the bloggers with Lindsey & Andy (if you click on the picture you should be able to see a larger version):

And here are all the lovely ladies from RHCB:

Thanks so much for everyone at RHCB for a fantastic morning, it was lovely to see you again (and to meet some new faces!).  I can't wait to get started on the books I came home with :o)

In the afternoon quite a few of us went to a local pub for lunch and book chatter, it's always so much fun hanging around with other bloggers.  I've made some great new friends since I started blogging and we always have a blast together.  I'm already looking forward to seeing everyone again soon!

Who Was There:
Lauren, Clare, Rosi, Lisa, Louise, Lauren, Emily & Nathalie - RHCB
Andy Mulligan - Website
Lindsey Barraclough - Lindsey's page on Goodreads
Carly - Writing From The Tub - Event Report


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