Saturday, 31 October 2015

Happy Halloween!

(Our pumpkins from last year)

We completely failed at Halloween this year, my Mum & I usually love to carve pumpkins & put up a few decorations ready for the trick or treaters but this year we've had some family stuff going on and neither of us have really been in the mood to celebrate.

We left it so late to buy pumpkins that we drove to 4 shops and they'd ALL run out LOL. On a positive note we both ended up buying Christmas decorations so at least we're getting a head start on the next holiday but we definitely failed at Halloween.

Anyway, I just wanted to do a quick post wishing everyone a fab day, I hope it's full of treats not tricks and that if you're doing anything special that you have a brilliant time.

Friday, 30 October 2015

These Shallow Graves Murder Mystery - Clue 3! (Your chance to win some fab prizes) #TSGMurderMystery


To celebrate the release of Jennifer Donnelly's fabulous new novel These Shallow Graves I'm really excited to be taking part in the Murder Mystery tour organised by Hot Key Books.

Today several bloggers will be posting 6 different clues on their blogs, twitter and instagram. All you need to do is track down all 6 clues and answer the questions (Hot Key Books will be tweeting all of the links you need here https://twitter.com/HotKeyBooks to make it super easy for you). Email your answers to Hot Key Books to be in with the chance to win all kinds of prizes including ten signed hardback copies of These Shallow Graves!

You can find all the details (as well as the Terms & Conditions) of the Murder Mystery Tour on Hot Key's blog here: http://www.hotkeyblog.com/these-shallow-graves-murder-mystery/ and don't forget to follow them on Twitter (or search for #TSGMurderMystery) to make sure you find all of the clues.

So without further ado here is clue number 3 for you:


These Shallow Graves was released on the 27th of October and is a fabulous historical murder mystery! I'm reading it at the moment so will be posting my review very soon but I'm already loving the story so it's one I'll definitely be recommending :o)

Just check out this blurb and tell me you're not dying to read it!

A wealthy family. A deadly secret. A young woman with more to lose than she knows.

New York, 1890

Josephine Montfort is one of the city's most eligible heiresses, and as such, she understands the importance of doing what is expected. She knows that a suitable marriage and a comfortable life is what she should dream of - but her heart can't help yearning for more.

But then Jo's father dies, and suddenly her charmed life is shattered. His death appears to have been a tragic mistake, but Jo quickly discovers that the details of his death don't quite add up. If her father's death wasn't accidental, could it have been suicide? Or worse . . . murder?

Jo is desperate to uncover the truth, but escaping her gilded cage is dangerous, and soon it's hard to know who can be trusted. A chance encounter with handsome journalist Eddie Gallagher shows Jo just how dangerous digging up her family's past will be - but some secrets can't stay hidden, no matter how deep you bury them.

Visit Jennifer Donnelly's website for more information.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Crafting Corner Review: Paper Dandy's Horrorgami - Marc Hagan-Guirey


Paper Dandy's Horrorgami features 20 kirigami (cut-and-fold) designs based around haunted houses and scenes from horror films.

Each project features step-by-step instructions and a template that can be removed from he book. Cut the lines on the back of the template and make the folds to create your own kirigami model. All you need is a scalpel, a cutting mat and a ruler. The step-by-step photography guides you through each stage, while a clear image shows you how the finished model should look. Projects are ranked from beginner to advanced.

Suitable for folding experts and beginners alike, Paper Dandy's Horrorgami makes the perfect Halloween activity.

Visit Marc Hagan-Guirey's website for more information.

Review:
When I was offered a review copy of Paper Dandy's Horrorgami I had no idea what kirigami even was but the image on the cover immediately caught my eye so I had to find out. After a little research I discovered kirigami is a form of paper craft where you make 3D images by cutting and folding a single piece of paper and I knew I had to give it a try. I've tried origami in the past but this was very new to me and I'll admit that I was more than a little nervous that my cutting skills wouldn't be up to the job.

A couple of things you need to know before you get started:
  1. This isn't a craft book for young children, the designs are far too intricate to cut out using scissors so it's not for anyone who can't safely use a sharp knife. It takes patience and practice to create even the beginner designs but the results are well worth the effort.
  2. You're going to need some extra equipment before you can get started. At minimum you'll need a craft knife but I would highly recommend a metal ruler and a cutting mat too. You could probably use thick cardboard to lean on but if you're not REALLY careful you'll end up cutting right through and marking your table so I wouldn't recommend it. I was able to purchase a set of knives, a metal ruler and a cheap cutting mat for less than £10 on Amazon so you don't have to spend a fortune but I wouldn't have got anywhere without them.
So, back to the book. Marc Hagan-Guirey has created 20 templates for you to use to make horror themed kirigami models. These templates range from beginner, through intermediate to advanced so are suitable for all skill levels and I think you'll be surprised at the huge range of images included. You can make everything from haunted houses, catacombs, gallows, a headless horseman, Dracula's castle, a ghost train and many more. I've included pictures of the 5 templates I've completed so far below to give you some examples.

Each template is printed on card that can be removed from the book and used straight away (which is what I've been doing) or photocopied onto your own card so that you can reuse them as many times as you like. My only tiny complaint about this book is how hard it was to remove the templates, it would have been so much easier if they'd had perforated edges and were easier to tear from the book. The author talks about his inspiration for each of the designs and then gives tips on how to cut and fold them. The book includes clear and easy to follow images of the cutting process and gorgeous pictures of what the finished designs should look like (I wish I'd been able to replicate the lighting at home because it wasn't the easiest thing to get decent pictures myself!).

It's funny because I was most worried about my lack of cutting skill before I started the first project but the thing I actually found hardest was folding the designs. The first template in the book is called The Thing Under the Stairs and I'll warn you now that those stairs were a nightmare to fold! It was well worth the effort though and finishing gave me a real sense of accomplishment.

The template for The Thing Under the Stairs
Starting the cutting phase
Design 1: The Thing Under the Stairs (Beginner)
Design 2: Crypt Creeping (Beginner)
Design 12: The Werewolf (Intermediate)
Design 13: Alien Abduction (Intermediate)
Design 16: Skull Island (Advanced)
I thought you might like to see Skull Island
from the back to give you a better idea how
much cutting and folding is involved.
I absolutely love this book, I've had so much fun with these designs and I still have 15 more waiting for me to get to. I have to admit I don't think I have the skill to create my own templates so this book is ideal for me, I get to have the fun of cutting out and folding something that looks fantastic and none of the hassle of trying to make sure I get the design right in the first place. I'm definitely hoping that Marc Hagan-Guirey brings out more books in the future, the number of potential themes is endless and I'd definitely be first in the queue to buy the next one.

Source: Received from Laurence King Publishing 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.

Paperback:

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Urban Fantasy Series


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week has a different theme & you can find all the details about how to join in HERE.

Today's topic is a Halloween Freebie so I've decided to talk about my Top Ten Urban Fantasy Series. These are all adult series so most of them won't be suitable for younger readers but they're all fantastic and books I'm happy to shout from the rooftops recommending. It was actually REALLY hard to narrow this list down to just 10 series so I may have sneaked a few extra in there! All links below will take you to my reviews the different series mentioned.


1. My absolute favourite urban fantasy writers would have to be Ilona and Gordon Andrews, their most well known series is about Kate Daniels, a sword wielding, totally kick arse heroine who has a great deal of power and is half of one of my favourite fictional couples. I just have one word for you - Curran. I LOVE him and that's all you need to know! These books are full of action and danger, have a great supporting cast of characters and just never fail to make me smile. You can find my reviews of the Kate Daniel's series here but I'd highly recommend EVERYTHING by these authors including their Edge series and Innkeeper Chronicles and their most recent Hidden Legacy series which I'm desperately waiting for the next instalment of. Ilona and Gordon are undoubtedly the Queen and King of urban fantasy so if you've not read any of their books you're definitely missing out.


2. Nalini Singh is another author that I absolutely adore. I'm kind of cheating with this one because her Guild Hunter series definitely straddles the line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance but it's absolutely excellent so I had to include it. The series follows vampire hunter Elena as she hunts rogue vampires to keep humanity safe. This is a world where angels are in control, they're powerful and often terrifying creatures and they rule over humanity with an iron fist. The world is divided into territories, each controlled by an Archangel and Elena catches the attention of Raphael, the Archangel who runs New York. While many of the books in this series focus on Elena and Raphael and are definitely what I would consider urban fantasy (with a fairly high level of romance!) there are some books that feature other couples and are probably more paranormal romance. The world building is very strong in the whole series though and there is an incredibly likeable cast of secondary characters who all have major roles to play. If you enjoy Nalini's writing then it would be well worth checking out Nalini's Psy-Changeling series too, it's definitely PNR but also has very strong world building, wonderful characters and a lot of action. Nalini is an auto-buy author for me and I've yet to read a book by her that I didn't love.


3. I recently reread Rachel Vincent's Shifters series and I loved it just as much the second time around. The main character of this series is Faythe Sanders, a twenty something cat shifter and her family. The Shifters world is very male oriented and Faythe struggles to make some of the old fashioned council members take her seriously because she's a woman but she's stubborn, intelligent and stands up for what she believes in so she refuses to back down. This series can be quite dark in places and there were a few parts that absolutely broke my heart but I love it.


4. Another series I absolutely adore is Rachel Caine's Weather Warden and the spin off Outcast Season. It's been a long time since I read these books, in fact I read most of the series before I started blogging so it would have been about 6 or 7 years ago, but I love them. I was incredibly excited when Rachel Caine recently announced that she is going to revisit this world and I'm planning on rereading and reviewing the entire series before the new book releases next summer. These books are about humans who have the ability to control the weather and the Djinn they use to help them, the series is very different to anything else I've read and I'm looking forward to revisiting it.


5. You can't really talk about urban fantasy and not mention Patricia Briggs and her Mercy Thompson series (or the spin off Alpha & Omega books!). This is a series full of werewolves, vampires and fae and Mercy Thompson is the only known coyote shifter. She is less powerful than the other supernatural creatures around her but that never stops her for standing up for what she believes in no matter what it costs her. I love Mercy, she's one of the bravest characters you'll ever meet and I've been rooting for her from the beginning. The spin off series allows us to spend time with werewolf couple Anna and Charles and lets us explore more of the world that Patricia Briggs has created. There is always so much going on in these books and I just wish we didn't have to wait so long for new instalments!


6. So I've already included series with shifters, angels, vampires and even humans with magical abilities but the fantastic Katherine "Kitty" Katt series by Gini Koch is a little different because it's all about aliens. Kitty's whole life is turned upside down when she discovers not only that aliens exist but that they're living among us and hiding in plain sight. Not all of the aliens are benign though and when she manages to kill one of the monsters using just a pen from the bottom of her handbag Kitty is recruited to fight alongside the good aliens to protect humanity. This series is absolutely hilarious and never fails to make me laugh out loud, the characters are brilliant, the antics are madcap, the plotting is superb and I guarantee you'll never know what's coming next.


7. There is a reason that Karen Marie Moning's Fever series is such an incredibly popular one and it's a series that I'm going to be rereading over the next few weeks. Mac isn't your typical urban fantasy heroine, in fact at the very beginning I wasn't sure if I was going to like her much because she comes across as quite weak, but she goes through a baptism of fire and we really get to see what she's made of throughout the series. I ended up absolutely loving Mac but even if I hadn't these books would be worth reading just for Barrons. He's a totally mysterious, unapologetic alpha arse and I just can't resist his charms!


8. Another one of my favourite authors is Keri Arthur, she writes brilliant paranormal romances as well as urban fantasy but my favourite is her Riley Jenson series and the spin off Dark Angel books. Riley is a half werewolf- half vampire hybrid and alongside her twin brother Rhoan she works for the Directorate of Other Races, an organisation that is tasked with keeping humans safe from the huge variety of supernatural creatures that are wandering around. Life isn't easy for Riley, she is often forced into difficult situations because of her job but she always comes out fighting and I love her for that. This is a vast world and has a great range of characters and I loved meeting the next generation in the Dark Angels spin off, I keep hoping that Keri Arthur will revisit some of the other side characters in the future but I've not seen any indication that it will actually happen.


9. If you love vampires you should definitely check out Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires series, Merit never asked to be a vampire but she was turned by Master Ethan when he found her badly injured after she had been attacked. He may have saved her life but he also turned it upside down at the same time and now she has to find a way to come to terms with what happened and rebuild a new life for herself with the vampires of Cadogan House. I love this series, Merit is brilliant and there are some great side characters, the series has plenty of humour but also plenty of danger, there's magic, sorcery, shapeshifters and interesting vampire politics, not to mention a brilliant romance.


10. I can't compile a list of my favourite urban fantasy series without including the Night Huntress series by Jeaniene Frost. I discovered this series back in 2010 when it was recommended to me by several UK bloggers and I've been hooked ever since. Cat Crawford is a half vampire who was born after her mother was attacked by a vampire. She has dedicated her life to killing every vampire she meets believing them all to be evil but then she meets Bones and he makes her realise that not all vampires are monsters. Cat is kick arse, Bones is hot and I absolutely love them as a couple. It's been a long time since I read these books but it's still a favourite series and I think I might be due a reread soon!

Honourable mentions:


So those are my top urban fantasy series but I feel like there are a lot of other series that also deserve some love, these are mostly (but not all) newer series so haven't quite earned such a huge place in my heart (yet!) but they're definitely ones I'm excited to continue and worth giving a try!
  1. The Hollows series by Kim Harrison: I started this series before I was a blogger so I've not reviewed any of the books but I remember loving the world Kim has created and it's a series that I'm planning on starting again next year.
  2. Cassandra Palmer & Dorina Basarab series by Karen Chance: Two more series that I started years ago and haven't reviewed, I love Karen's writing and really want to catch up with these books.
  3. Weird Girls - Cecy Robson: This series is about four sisters, each with their own unusual magical ability thanks to a curse that was placed upon them when they were children. The curse backfired and left them extremely powerful but it also placed a target on their backs and now they're trying to deal with the aftermath.
  4. The Colbana Files - J.C. Daniels: Kit is a warrior born and bread and she is incredibly skilled with weapons of all kinds. She was raised to be an assassin but escaped from her family and now works as a PI trying to help people in need.
  5. The Veil - Pippa DaCosta: Muse is half human and half demon, she was raised in the hell where she suffered horrific torture until she was able to escape and make it to the human realm. Her whole life has been about survival and now she just wants to live a quiet life but with the veil between the worlds starting to fail and old enemies looking to catch up with her Muse is going to have to choose which side of the upcoming war to fight for.
  6. Fallen Siren series by S.J. Harper: This series is all about a siren who was cursed by Greek Goddess Demeter and it's quickly becoming a favourite, Emma is an FBI agent who specialises in tracking down kidnapping victims and her partner at the agency is a werewolf.
  7. Monster Haven series by R.L. Naquin: The Monster Haven books are really light hearted and very funny reads, the author includes a huge amount of different supernatural creatures and they cause all sorts of mischief for the main character, Zoey, to deal with.

So those are my favourite urban fantasy series! Do any of them make your top ten? Have I missed any series that you love? Urban fantasy is definitely one of my favourite genres so I'd love some new recommendations :o)

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