Thursday 29 September 2016

Review: Freed - Amanda Carlson

Phoebe Meadows has one thing on her mind: Free her mother.

For the last month, Phoebe has been training in the Valkyrie stronghold readying for battle. But when she stumbles into a secluded valley after a day of grueling practice, she’s given a dire prediction. Phoebe must leave the stronghold immediately with the aid of the giant, Junnal, to rescue her mother from the dark elves. If Phoebe fails, Leela will be transported to a place that can no longer be reached.

Leaving Fen behind threatens to undo her, but Phoebe stays true to the mission. Along the way, she allies with the god Baldur and an old white elf mage. Together, they storm the realm, and with the help of an angry wolf and her Valkyrie sisters, they just might stand a chance to free the valiant shieldmaiden.

But Phoebe soon learns that in order to save her mother, she might lose something too precious to sacrifice...

Phoebe Meadows Series:

Visit Amanda Carlson's website for more information

I loved Struck so I couldn't wait to read about more of Phoebe's adventures in Amanda Carlson's newest release Freed. Phoebe has come a long way from the girl we met in the first book, she has really embraced her Valkyrie heritage and has been training incredibly hard to learn how to use her powers. Of course most Valkyries start learning to fight practically from birth so she's still a long way behind most of her contemporaries but she doesn't let that stop her and she's determined to catch up as quickly as possible.

When Phoebe is offered the chance to rescue her mother from the Dark Elves that have been holding her captive she jumps straight in head first even though she knows the risks are high and she's not had time to fully prepare herself. You have to love that about Phoebe, she's always willing to do whatever needs to be done to protect the people she cares about and this is no different. The rescue attempt gives Amanda Carlson a chance to expand on the Norse mythology used in this series and we get to explore another of the Nine Worlds through Phoebe's eyes. I'm absolutely loving the variety of creatures, gods and realms this series has to offer and from events towards the end of this book it's only going to get better in the next book.

You'll get a chance to catch up with all your favourite characters from the previous book. Fen is a great partner to Phoebe but I'm glad she is still her own person and they aren't glued to each other's sides. He's very protective of her but he also trusts her to look after herself which is good to see. Tyr, Sam and Ingrid are all still on the scene although I think they get a little less page time this time around. That was more than made up for by the introduction of Baldur and Callan though, they are both really interesting characters but I'm not going to tell you much about them so you'll just have to read the book and meet them for yourselves.

This series is going from strength to strength, the books are fast paced and incredibly easy to read, the characters are multidimensional and easy to love (or in some cases hate!) and the world building is getting better and better. I can't wait to see where the series goes from here, the build up for the next book is intense and I have a feeling it's going to be epic.

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

Other Reviews:
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 / Kindle:

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Review: Angel Dares - Joss Stirling

Angel is impulsive.
Disguising her savant ability to control water doesn't come easily to her.

Then she meets the broodingly handsome Marcus at a music festival where they're both performing, and finds herself all at sea. For when he sings, her soul answers with its own music.

Like the tide, their mutual attraction cannot be held back but Marcus's mistrust of Angel's gift is even stronger. How can they ever be together if Marcus is unable to accept who Angel is or what they could mean to each other?

And with the net closing in on the Savant community - it is time for everyone to choose a side.

Savants Series:
Finding Sky
Challenging Zed (Free Short Story)
Stealing Phoenix
Burning Yves (Free Short Story)
Seeking Crystal
Misty Falls
Angel Dares
Summer Shadows

Check out Joss Stirling's website for more information

This series is a bit of a comfort read for me, the books are all cute, funny and incredibly easy to read and they're perfect palette cleansers when I'm in the mood to read something light hearted. I love the concept of the Savants, for anyone new to the series Savants are people born with some kind of psychic ability, they all have completely different powers so you never know quite what idea the author will come up with next so it's always interesting to see how each of the characters abilities work.

Angel Dares is a perfect summer read since most of it takes place at a music festival. We met Angel in the previous book so this story gives us a chance to catch up with previous couple Misty and Alex as well as some of the other Benedict brothers that we've all fallen in love with along the way. Angel is a talented musician and singer and along with her band she's at the music festival hoping to land her big break, the last thing she expects is to stumble across her soulfinder. Angel is a little wild and very impulsive which has a tendency to get her in trouble, her Savant powers allow her to control water which makes for a fancy party trick but she has to work very hard to keep her secret because using her ability is second nature to her and she has a habit of using it as a way to calm down when she's nervous. Marcus is her complete opposite in most ways, he's also a talented musician but he's part of an already successful group and they're headlining the festival. He is much more serious than Angel and doesn't really know what to make of her, it really doesn't help that he knows nothing about the Savant community either he doesn't even know that he has an ability so the whole thing comes as quite a shock to him, especially when Angel starts talking about Soulfinders and communicating with him telepathically.

I loved Angel, she was so much fun and she's definitely the kind of girl you'd want to be friends with. Marcus is harder to like and at times he really annoyed me because of the way he treated Angel. I get that she threw him for a loop and he was struggling to know how to react to her but let's face it he was a bit of an arse at times and there were moments when I found it hard to root for them as a couple. No matter how much he irritated me one minute he did have some incredibly sweet moments and the more you find out about him the easier it is to understand where he's coming from, I wish he'd come around just a little sooner (and I could have done without one particular event towards the very end of the book) but it all worked out in the long run so I've forgiven him now.

I love that there is always some kind of mystery or extra element to these stories alongside the romance and it looks like the Savants are now facing an enemy who is determined to get evidence of their powers and expose them to the general public. I'm not going to go into more detail for now but I will be very interested to see how that continues to play out throughout the series. I also love that we're getting to see the older Benedict brothers find their soulfinders throughout the series, I get that they're a little old to be main characters in a YA series (although I really would have loved separate books about each of them!) but this is a nice way to tie all of the stories together. It's Will's turn to fall in love in Angel Dares and I'm really hoping Victor will be up next as he's always been my favourite! The main character of the next book, Summer, is best friends with both Angel and Misty so I'm sure we'll be seeing more of them and I'm hoping with the introduction of a new group of Savant characters means that the series might continue on beyond Summer Shadows.

Source: Purchased

Other Reviews:
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 / Kindle:

Review: Burning Yves - Joss Stirling

In this FREE explosive short story, discover what Yves Benedict was thinking when he met his soulmate Phoenix for the first time.The Benedict brothers all have different abilities and powers. One can move things with his thoughts alone, another can heal. Yves Benedict is the second youngest of the seven brothers and he has the ability to set things on fire with his mind. This means he must keep a tight rein on his emotions which isn’t easy when he meets his soulmate . . . Phoenix is nothing like Yves imagined. She’s secretive, elusive and a thief. Yves lives by a strict code of honour and Phoenix is tangled up in a web of crime. But their fiery attraction cannot be denied.  Sparks will fly as their destinies and hearts collide.  A brilliant addition to the Finding Sky series for both new and old fans alike.

Savants Series:
Finding Sky
Challenging Zed (Free Short Story)
Stealing Phoenix
Burning Yves (Free Short Story)
Seeking Crystal
Misty Falls
Angel Dares
Summer Shadows

Check out Joss Stirling's website for more information

Burning Yves is the second of Joss Stirling's free short stories in the Savants series and it gives us a second chance to see the first meeting between Yves and Phoenix but this time from his point of view. Again I'd recommend reading the short story after the main book (Stealing Phoenix) so you're familiar with the characters.

The story starts a little before the beginning of the first book and it's nice to get a chance to see inside geeky Benedict brother Yves' head. He's not as confident as the rest of his brothers and feels a little like the odd one out but he's also extremely intelligent and loves to learn. His first meeting with Phoenix doesn't exactly go to plan since she attempts to rob him but he's surprisingly protective of the would be thief.

I don't think I enjoyed this one quite as much as Challenging Zed but it was still a fun, quick read and I'm sure fans of the series will enjoy eat up any chance to spend more time with the Benedicts!

Source: Free ebook short story can be downloaded from Amazon

Other Reviews:
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.


Review: Challenging Zed - Joss Stirling

Want to know what Zed Benedict was thinking when he met his soulmate Sky Bright for the first time? Find out for FREE in this compelling short story.

The Benedict brothers all have different abilities and powers. One can move things with his mind, another can heal. Zed Benedict is the youngest and the most powerful of the seven brothers and he is on the road to destruction until he meets his soulmate, Sky Bright. She is his balance, the light to his dark. Together they are even more powerful. Zed knows that they are meant to be together and that there is a connection that cannot be denied. But how can he convince Sky that their destinies are entwined when she doesn’t even realize the true nature of her potential? A brilliant addition to the Finding Sky series for both new and old fans alike.

Savants Series:
Finding Sky
Challenging Zed (Free Short Story)
Stealing Phoenix
Burning Yves (Free Short Story)
Seeking Crystal
Misty Falls
Angel Dares
Summer Shadows

Check out Joss Stirling's website for more information

Challenging Zed is a free short story written by Joss Stirling that links in with her Savants series. It gives us the chance to see Zed and Sky's first meeting from his point of view and also gives a bit more insight into the Benedict family when the brothers were all much younger.

Although this could be read as an introduction to the series I think you'd be much better off picking it up after you've read Finding Sky so you're already familiar with both the characters and the world. I really enjoyed the chance to get inside Zed's head and see exactly what he was thinking in the early days when he first met Sky, he runs a bit hot and cold with her in the beginning and this really helped to explain his actions.

I would have loved for this story to be longer but considering it's completely free to read I'm not going to be ungrateful and complain about that. If you're a fan of the series then you'll definitely enjoy this & I'm looking forward to reading the second free short story Burning Yves.

Source: Free ebook short story can be downloaded from Amazon

Other Reviews:
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.


Tuesday 27 September 2016

Spotlight: Chasing Embers - James Bennett

For fans of Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher comes a fabulously fun and fast-paced new contemporary fantasy series about a world of myth and legend that’s about to break loose . . .

Chasing Embers by James Bennett

The first book in the Ben Garston series
Published by Orbit on the 8th September

Behind every myth there is a spark of truth . . .

There's nothing special about Ben Garston. He’s just a guy with an attitude in a beaten-up leather jacket, drowning his sorrows about his ex in a local bar.

Or so he’d have you believe.

What Ben Garston can’t let you know is that he’s also known as Red Ben. He can’t let you know that the world of myth and legend isn’t as make-believe as you think, and it’s his job to keep that a secret. And there’s no way he can let you know what’s really hiding beneath his skin . . .

But not even Ben knows what kind of hell is about to break loose. Because the delicate balance between his world and ours is about to be shattered.

Something's been hiding in the heart of the city – and it’s about to be unleashed.

Paperback / Kindle:

About the author

James Bennett is a British writer born in Loughborough and raised in Sussex, South Africa and Cornwall. His travels have furnished him with an abiding love of different cultures, history and mythology. He’s had several short stories published internationally and Chasing Embers is his debut fantasy novel. James currently lives in west Wales and draws inspiration from long walks, deep forests and old stones . . . and also the odd bottle of wine.

Connect with the author: Blog / Twitter

Monday 26 September 2016

Favourite Types of Contemporary Romance Heroes

The Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge is hosted by Gone with the Words and Love at First Page. As part of the challenge they are setting a different topic every month that participants can choose to join in with which I think is a brilliant idea so you can expect a post like this to appear at random most months throughout the year.

The September Prompt is:
Favourite Types of Contemporary Romance Heroes

Medical Professionals:

  1. Forever and a Day - Jill Shalvis (Doctor)
  2. Hearts in Darkness - Laura Kaye (Paramedic)
  3. Animal Attraction - Jill Shalvis (Vet)
  4. Emergency Engagement - Samanthe Beck (Paramedic)

Builders / Mechanics:
(Guys who are good with their hands *wink wink*)

  1. Simply Irresistible - Jill Shalvis (Building Contractor)
  2. How to Misbehave - Ruthie Knox (Building Contractor)
  3. A Wild Ride - Vivian Arend (Mechanic)
  4. No Flowers Required - Cari Quinn (Handyman)
  5. BONUS BOOK: In Rides Trouble - Julie Ann Walker (This one is kind of a cheat since it's Romantic Suspense but it's really good & it's a whole series of hot ex-marines who are now undercover mechanics!)
Tattoo Artists:

  1. Wrecked - Shiloh Walker
  2. Hard as it Gets - Laura Kaye
  3. Echoes of Scotland Street - Samantha Young
  4. Sins & Needles - Karina Halle
  5. BONUS BOOK: Beyond Jealousy - Kit Rocha (Another cheat, this time for an extremely hot futuristic dystopian story with tattoo artist Ace who happens to be one of my top book boyfriends ever!)

Famous Heroes:

  1. Rock Hard - Nalini Singh (Rugby Player)
  2. Rock Addiction - Nalini Singh (Rock Star)
  3. Lick - Kylie Scott (Rock Star)
  4. Hollywood Dirt - Alessandra Torre (Actor)
Do you have any recommendations for books that fit the above categories for me? Let me know if I've missed any of your favourites, I'm always happy to add more books to my ever growing to be read mountain LOL.

There were a million other tropes I could have included in this list - I love a geeky hero, I'm still partial to the odd billionaire & I definitely enjoy a Dominant alpha male - but I figured this list is already long enough! What are your favourite types of contemporary romance heroes?

Sunday 25 September 2016

Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

Harry Potter Series:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Illustrated Edition (Illustrated by Jim Kay)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: 20th Anniversary House Editions
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Illustrated Edition (Illustrated by Jim Kay)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Illustrated Edition (Illustrated by Jim Kay)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Illustrated Edition (Illustrated by Jim Kay)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Play Script written with John Tiffany & Jack Thorne)

Pottermore Presents:
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (Short Story Collection)
Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists (Short Story Collection)
Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (Short Story Collection)

IncrediBuilds: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Erumpent (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
IncrediBuilds: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Niffler (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
IncrediBuilds: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Swooping Evil (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
IncrediBuilds: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Thunderbird (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
IncrediBuilds: Harry Potter: Aragog (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
Incredibuilds: Harry Potter: Buckbeak (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
IncrediBuilds: Harry Potter: Hedwig (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
Incredibuilds: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Express (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
Incredibuilds: Harry Potter: House-Elves (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
Incredibuilds: Harry Potter: Quidditch (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
IncrediBuilds: Harry Potter: Sorting Hat (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
IncrediBuilds: Harry Potter: Stag Patronus (Deluxe Book and Model Set)
Incredibuilds: Harry Potter: Thestral (Deluxe Book and Model Set)

Other Harry Potter Books & Products:
Funko Pop 2019 Harry Potter Advent Calendar
Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Guide to Hogwarts - Matthew Reinhart
Harry Potter - Creatures: A Paper Scene Book
Harry Potter Hedwig Owl Kit and Sticker Book (Model & Sticker Book)
Harry Potter: Magical Film Projections: Patronus Charm (Activity Book)
Harry Potter Talking Sorting Hat and Sticker Book: Which House Are You? (Model & Sticker Book)
Harry Potter: The Character Vault - Jody Revenson
Harry Potter: The Marauder's Map Guide to Hogwarts - Erinn Pascal (Activity Book)
Harry Potter: Winter at Hogwarts: A Magical Colouring Set (Colouring Book, Gift Tags & a build your own 3D Firebolt in a Keepsake Box)
J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World: Magical Film Projections: Creatures (Activity Book)
Metal Earth: Harry Potter Gringotts Dragon (3D Puzzle)
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter: The Official Guide

Visit J.K. Rowling's website or the Pottermore website for more information

I've put off writing this review for a long time, mainly because it pains me to be even slightly negative about anything Harry Potter related. I fully confess to being a major Harry Potter fan, I love the series and I have spent far more money than I should have collecting all manner of fan merchandise not to mention the countless hours I've spent rereading the books and binge watching the movies. So obviously I was over the moon excited when I first heard about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and I preordered it the moment it appeared on Amazon. I'll admit I was a little disappointed that it was only being published in script version and not as a full novelisation and it definitely took a little while to get used to the different format but that was the least of my problems with this book so it hardly seems worth mentioning.

I was really looking forward to meeting the new generation of witches and wizards, sure I was expecting to see Harry, Ginny, Ron & Hermione in supporting roles as loving parents but I wanted the focus to be on the children. There are endless directions that this story could have taken and I have to say in the beginning I was just so thrilled to be back in this world that I was enjoying every minute of it. I loved the first meeting between Albus and Scorpius, I enjoyed their journey to Hogwarts and the sorting hat ceremony was great. But then it all started to feel a little repetitive, as much as those scenes fly by fairly quickly they were just too close to the original story and I was waiting for the characters to veer off in their own direction.

Unfortunately instead of something fresh and exciting we got a rehash of old plot lines, worse than that we had the books we know and love turned upside down and the rules of the universe were completely changed to make that possible. Things that were impossible in the original books were suddenly happening easily in the new story, people we know and adore were acting completely out of character and others who could have had really interesting tales to tell weren't even included. You'd be forgiven for thinking that Harry only had one child not three for all that we saw of the other two and I actually found myself not liking Harry very much which was nothing short of shocking. Ron and Hermione were no better and Ginny might as well have been completely absent for all the use she was. I'd rather have had a brand new story where the original characters just waved their kids off at platform 9 and 3/4 and weren't seen again until the holidays (a bit like the Weasley parents who had minor but loveable roles in the earlier books) than have them turn into cardboard cutouts of themselves.

I'm just left feeling a little bit heartbroken that a story that could have been amazing managed to fall so flat. Don't get me wrong it isn't all bad, revisiting Hogwarts is always a treat and I absolutely adored Scorpius (who'd have thought I'd find myself loving a Malfoy!). I also think that the script format doesn't help with the characterisation so I'm hoping that seeing it in play format will help bring the characters to life more. I didn't love the book but I'm still very excited that I have tickets to the play, even if I do have to wait until June next year to see it! I just hope that if J.K. Rowling decides to write (or approve) any further stories set in this world she won't continue to keep messing with the original plotlines. The wizarding world is a huge and wonderful place so surely there are a million new directions she can take us.

Source: Purchased

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.

Hardback / Kindle:

Saturday 24 September 2016

Review: Magic Binds - Ilona Andrews

Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-Shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this...

Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar...

Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead.

The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules...

The Kate Daniels Series:
A Questionable Client (Short Story in the Magic Graves anthology)
Magic Bites
Magic Burns
Magic Strikes
Magic Mourns (Novella included in the Must Love Hellhounds anthology or available separately as an ebook)
Magic Bleeds
Magic Dreams (Novella included in the Hexed anthology or available separately as an ebook)
Magic Slays
Magic Tests (Short Story included in the An Apple for the Creature anthology)
Magic Gifts (Novella available for a limited time as a free ebook from the authors and included in the print version of Gunmetal Magic)
Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniel's World book 1)
Retribution Clause (Short Story in the Hex Appeal anthology)
Small Magics (Anthology containing previously published stories including A Questionable Client, Magic Tests and Retribution Clause as well as 2 other stories not set in the Kate Daniels world)
Magic Rises
Magic Steals (Novella included in the Night Shift anthology)
Magic Breaks
Magic Shifts
Magic Stars (Novella, Grey Wolf book 1)
Magic Binds
Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant book 1)
Magic Triumphs

Visit Ilona Andrews' website for more information

I honestly don't know Ilona and Gordon Andrews do it but the Kate Daniels series just gets better and better with every book. We're heading to the end of the series now (just one more book to go *sob*) so everything is building up and falling into place ready for the big finale and the only word to accurately describe Magic Binds is epic. The stakes are higher than you could possibly imagine, the confrontation between Kate and Roland is closer than ever before and shit just got real.

It's so hard to write a review for a book that's so amazing because I want to talk about all the things but at the same time I don't want to mention any of them and unintentionally spoiler people. Just trust me when I say this has all the humour you've come to expect from the series as well as some beautiful and heart wrenching moments. Kate shows a little of her dark side, Curran proves beyond a shadow of doubt what a perfect couple they make, Julie has me a little worried but I'm going to trust her to do the right thing, Ronan is the most hilarious wedding planner you could ever come across, Christopher remembers something very important and leaves Barabas looking rather flustered, Andrea and Raphael prepare for a new arrival, Jim is his usual idiot self but Dali sets him straight when he needs it, Derek frustrated me by not believing in Kate when he should have but at the same time made my heart melt because he was just trying to protect Julie, the shock reappearance of an old character was absolute genius and then there's Roland, loving father one minute, crazy dictator the next Roland is a complex character but one who can never be trusted.

I've already devoured this epic rollercoaster of a book twice and I'm contemplating reading it for a third time just because I still have such a book hangover and no other book is able to compete. There aren't any other series that come anywhere close to this one, it's urban fantasy at it's very finest and I'm not going to know what to do with myself when I don't have my yearly dose of new Kate to look forward to. At least I'll still have my annual reread to help with the withdrawal symptoms and of course everything Ilona and Gordon write in the future will jump straight to the top of my to read pile.

Source: Received via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Other Reviews:
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.

Hardback / Kindle:

Friday 23 September 2016

Cover Love: Caraval - Stephanie Garber

I've been excited about Stephanie Garber's debut novel Caraval ever since I was given an arc at the Chapter Five Proof Party back in July. We were told it was perfect for fans of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, both of which happen to be favourites of mine, so I have extremely high hopes for this book! I've not read it yet (it's not publishing until the 31st of January 2017 so it hasn't quite got to the top of the TBR pile yet) but I definitely think it's going to be a book to watch out for and I thought I'd share the fab animated cover with you in the meantime!

Welcome to Caraval, where nothing is quite what it seems.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters’ long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show’s mastermind organiser, Legend.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever.

Doesn't it sound brilliant? Who else is looking forward to Caraval as much as I am?

Thursday 15 September 2016

Review: A Crown of Swords - Robert Jordan

Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, has escaped the snares of the White Tower and the first of the rebel Aes Sedai have sworn to follow him. Attacked by the servants of the Dark, threatened by the invading Seanchan, Rand rallies his forces and brings battle to bear upon Illian, stronghold of Sammael the Forsaken . . .

In the city of Ebou Dar, Elayne, Aviendha and Mat struggle to secure the ter'angreal that can break the Dark One's hold on the world's weather - and an ancient bane moves to oppose them. In the town of Salidar, Egwene al'Vere gathers an army to reclaim Tar Valon and reunite the Aes Sedai . . .

And in Shadar Logoth, city of darkness, a terrible power awakens . . .

Wheel of Time Series:
New Spring (Prequel Story but it's recommended to read after Crossroads of Twilight)
The Eye of the World
The Great Hunt
The Dragon Reborn
The Shadow Rising
The Fires of Heaven
Lord of Chaos
A Crown of Swords
The Path of Daggers
Winter's Heart
Crossroads of Twilight
Knife of Dreams
The Gathering Storm
Towers of Midnight
A Memory of Light

Visit the Wheel of Time series website for more information

I've fallen so far behind our group buddy read of this series thanks to this book. I read it back in
July and I've spent the last couple of months trying to pretend it never existed. I was so in love with this series, yes there were problems with it but I was still completely hooked on the story and eager to find out what would happen next, but then I read A Crown of Swords and it nearly ruined everything.

I've ignored the fact that nearly every single female character spends half their time acting like an idiot and the rest screeching like a fishwife; I've put to one side the fact that Robert Jordan is pretty hopeless at creating believable romantic relationships (seriously do any of the couples actually speak to each other or do they all just stare longingly across the distance before suddenly declaring themselves head over heels in love?); and I've not even minded the way the story is taking so long to actually get anywhere but I can't ignore Tylin's actions in this book. I've tried so hard to forget about it but every time I think about this book I want to start screaming. There is just nothing on this planet that can justify the direction the story took and even though I'm sure there were lots of other brilliant plot developments in this instalment I can't remember a single one of them because they've all been eclipsed by Tylin the rapist queen.

I'm going to give the author the benefit of doubt and assume he meant for the scenes between Mat and Tylin to be amusing but he couldn't have missed the mark more badly if he'd tried. If Mat (or any other male character) had forced Tylin to sleep with him at KNIFE POINT there would have (rightfully!) been uproar. Just because Tylin is female she seems to get away with it but rape is rape and it is NEVER acceptable. It's not something that should be used as an "amusing" plot device either because it is NOT a laughing matter. The way she stalked Mat was downright creepy and it got to the point where every time her name appeared on the page I started feeling nauseous but when we reached that scene with the knife I nearly broke my kindle by throwing it across the room. Just what was the author thinking putting that scene in there? Where were the editors? Why did nobody think to question it before it was sent out into the hands of the unsuspecting public?

I'm sure there were good parts to this book because I wouldn't have made it to the end if there hadn't been but I literally can't remember a single thing that happened apart from the scenes with Mat & Tylin. I know that sounds crazy considering Tylin wasn't even on the page for at least three quarters of the book but she's such a sore point that it's all that stuck in my mind. I have such mixed feelings about A Crown of Swords that I'm not even sure that I want to carry on reading this series anymore but I've invested so much time in it that I feel obliged to see it through to the end. Fellow buddy readers have assured me that Tylin isn't even mentioned in The Path of Daggers and at the moment that's the only thing enticing me to give it a try. I really, really hope that Robert Jordan can rekindle my love for the series with that book but he's got his work cut out and at the moment I'm not holding my breath.

Source: Purchased

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Tuesday 13 September 2016

Roald Dahl Day: My love for The BFG (Let's talk about the book and the movies!)

Every year I plan to write a blog post to celebrate Roald Dahl Day and every year time runs away with me and I somehow end up missing it. But this year we're celebrating 100 years since his birth so I guess that makes it a perfect time to talk about how much Roald Dahl's books meant to me as a child.

I used to reread all of his books over and over again but The BFG was always my favourite, I just loved everything about it from the friendship that forms between Sophie and the BFG, to the adventures they have together along with all of the crazy new words you discover along the way. Don't you just think that we should use words like scrumdiddlyumptious, gobblefunking and whiffswiddle in every day conversation? Not to mention the fact that I'm still waiting for someone to invent a real life version of frobscottle so I can practise my whizzpopping LOL.

The BFG is just the ultimate adventure story, I loved the idea of dreams being real things that you could capture and I desperately wanted to visit the land of dreams so I could find my own. I wanted a giant friend who could run so fast with me hiding in their pocket that it felt like I was flying and I even wanted to have breakfast with the Queen. Roald Dahl's stories always have a darker side to them and the giants terrified me but you get to see justice served in the end which was incredibly satisfying.

I still have my original copy of this book from 1985 and it's one of my most treasured and reread books. The illustrations by Quentin Blake compliment the story perfectly and make it something to be treasured.

My brother was never much of a reader (I'm pretty convinced he must be a changeling because surely we can't be related! LOL) but he absolutely adored the animated version of The BFG and would make us watch it over and over again. I think I've probably seen this adaptation of the story even more times than I've read the book and I have to say it's pretty perfect. It completely captures the feel of the story with it's laugh out loud humour but also the more heartwarming moments between Sophie and the BFG as well as the fearsome man eating giants to add tension. I love the music too and can remember singing along with my brother when he we were kids.

This animation may have been created in 1989 but it's still utterly brilliant and when we watched it with my 12 year old nephew a few months ago he loved it just as much as we did.

Being such a huge fan of the story I had incredibly high hopes for the new Disney version directed by Steven Spielberg. We made a family outing of it a few weeks ago and I think my Dad, brother and I were probably even more excited than my nephew was. There is no denying that the visual effects in the new movie are stunning, the land of dreams in particular was spectacular and the giants looked impressive.

The opening scene where Sophie first sees the BFG and the way he manages to sneak down the streets and avoid being spotted by anyone else was very cleverly done. The young actress who played Sophie did a brilliant job and there was one moment in particular that made me laugh so hard I had tears rolling down my face. I wasn't the only one either and pretty much the entire audience was laughing hysterically.

Unfortunately even though there were things I loved about the movie it didn't manage to live up to expectations and we all agreed that the animated version that is nearly 30 years old was better. The new movie stays pretty faithful to the book but it managed to be boring in spite of that, there were actually times when I was just wishing it was over so we could leave the cinema and no matter how good the graphics were or how humourous those few stand out moments were it just didn't make up for the poor pacing.

The new movie may have been a slight disappointment but that hasn't decreased my love of The BFG. I have so many happy childhood memories wrapped up in reading Roald Dahl stories and it's easy to see why they're still so popular today.

Digitally remastered trailer for the original animated movie made in 1989:

Trailer for the 2016 Disney & Steven Spielberg movie:

What is your favourite Roald Dahl book? Are you a fan of The BFG? I'd love to know what you thought of the movies, if you've seen them both which was your favourite?

Monday 12 September 2016

Review: Barefoot on the Wind - Zoe Marriott

Everyone in Hana's remote village knows that straying too far into the wood means certain death. Hana, still grieving the loss of her brother to the beast, knows it better than most. When her father is taken too, she gathers her hunting gear and goes in search of the monster, determined to destroy it - or be destroyed herself. But the forest contains more secrets, more magic, and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined. And the beast is not at all what she expects . . .

A beautiful, thought-provoking retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" set in a fairytale Japan.

The Moonlit Lands Series:
(These are companion novels set in the same fictional version of Japan but there is no crossover of characters so they can both be read as standalone stories)
Shadows on the Moon
Barefoot on the Wind

Visit Zoe Marriott's website more information.

I've been a huge fan of Zoe Marriott's writing ever since I read Shadows on the Moon five years ago, it's a fairytale retelling of Cinderella set in a fictional Japan where magic is real and it's one of my all time favourite books so you can only begin to imagine how excited I was when I found out she was writing a companion novel set in the same world. Barefoot on the Wind is a feminist retelling of Beauty and the Beast (which happens to be my favourite fairytale!) and it's just as wonderful as Shadows on the Moon.

Although both books are set in the same world and are linked by the same beautiful writing and the fairytale feel to them there is no crossover of characters so you don't have to read them in any particular order but I want to go out and place a copy of both of these books into the hands of every fantasy fan I come across. Zoe was writing YA fantasy long before it became so popular and she really doesn't get the recognition she deserves considering how absolutely amazing her stories are so I want to see her at the top of the best seller charts where she should be.

Let's get back to Barefoot on the Wind though, this is the tale of a young girl called Hana who lives in a remote village in the middle of a dark and dangerous magical wood. Everyone in her village knows that there is a monster in the forest and they live every day with the knowledge that leaving the safety of home means certain death. Hana's family have lost more than most to the monster, she is still grieving after the deaths of her grandmother and her brother but when her father is taken too something inside her snaps. Her grief and the additional pressure of survivor's guilt have combined into a reckless desperation to do something, anything, to try and save her father's life. She knows that she is unlikely to survive an encounter with the monster but when the rest of the village turn their back on her pleas for help she just has to try and fight for what is right.

I'm not going to tell you much more than that so you're going to have to read the story for yourself to find out whether Hana manages to slay the monster and rescue her father. Instead I'm going to talk about the rich world building, the evocative and beautiful writing, the fantastic three dimensional characters that each have their own fears and sorrow, the heartbreak you'll feel as Hana talks about her grief, the joy and pride you'll feel for everything she accomplishes, how you'll fall be drawn totally into this world and find yourself wishing it was real just so you could live there. Barefoot on the Wind is a Beauty and the Beast retelling unlike any you've read before, it's utterly captivating and so, so beautiful that it makes my heart hurt just thinking about it. There is no doubt in my mind that this is going to be in one of the top slots when I'm trying to pick my favourite books of the year and I can't wait to reread Shadows on the Moon when the new extended version is published in November.

Source: Received from Walker in exchange for an honest review

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Sunday 11 September 2016

Review: Haunted by the King of Death - Felicity Heaton

A ruthless vampire warrior, Grave Van der Garde rules the mercenary Preux Chevaliers with an iron fist, determined to retain his hard-won position as one of the most powerful men in Hell and his reputation as the heartless King of Death. But beneath the cold façade beats the heart of a vampire torn between love and hate, ripped in two directions by a single ethereally beautiful female—his fated phantom mate.

Driven by her phantom instincts, Isla used a spell to make her solid in order to deceive the vampire who killed her sister’s demon mate and have revenge on him, condemning him with a single kiss to become a phantom too. But her plan took an unexpected turn when she fell in love with him, and with her new life, and the night she betrayed him shattered both of their hearts. Now, he lives to make her suffer through their connection, one that is fading with them as they begin to slip into the phantom world, and she must face the monster she created if she is to save herself and the vampire she still loves.

With a demon from Grave’s past determined to destroy him and everything he holds dear, and the clock ticking down to their inevitable doom, can he and Isla overcome their past and their pride to work together to claim the future they both desire deep in their hearts? Or will death finally catch up with the vampire king and his phantom mate?

Eternal Mates Series:
(This series is set in the same world as the Vampire Erotic Theatre series but can be read completely separately)
Kissed by a Dark Prince
Claimed by a Demon King
Tempted by a Rogue Prince
Hunted by a Jaguar
Craved by an Alpha
Bitten by a Hellcat
Taken by a Dragon
Marked by an Assassin
Possessed by a Dark Warrior
Awakened by a Demoness
Haunted by the King of Death
Tuned by a Tiger
Tamed by a Tiger
Treasured by a Tiger
Unchained by a Forbidden Love
Avenged by an Angel
Seduced by a Demon King

Vampire Erotic Theatre Series:

Cougar Creek Mates Series:
(Set in the same world as Vampire Erotic Theatre & Eternal Mates series but can be read completely separately)
Claimed by her Cougar
Captured by her Cougar
Courted by her Cougar
Craved by her Cougar

Black Ridge Bears Series:
(Set in the same world as Vampire Erotic Theatre, Eternal Mates & Cougar Creek Mates series but can be read completely separately)

Visit Felicity Heaton's website for more information

Unlike the previous couples in this series Isla and Grave are already mated but a series of misunderstandings and betrayals have turned them into bitter enemies and neither of them has any intention of forgiving the other. They have spent the last 100 years apart and that time has just allowed their resentment and anger to grow so it's fair to say that this couple have major issues to deal with. Unfortunately for them they can't avoid each other forever, there has been a nasty side effect to a spell that Isla placed on Grave and now if they don't work together to fix things it'll end up killing them both.

It's not easy to work with someone you can't trust, especially when that person is someone you loved who went on to betray you in the worst possible way. Grave has every reason to hate Isla and it was easy to see his point of view but at the same time Isla had very good reasons for doing what she did and she has regretted her actions for a long time now. I have to admit I found it a little frustrating that Isla was able to understand why Grave was so twisted up about their relationship one minute but then the next she expected him to put it all behind him like it was nothing and was angry when he didn't trust her. I wanted her to be a bit more apologetic for what had happened between them but that really was a minor irritation when I enjoyed so much more about the story.

One of the things I loved the most was the chance to catch up with some familiar faces from the Vampire Erotic Theatre series. I don't want to say too much about it but fans of the previous series will love the surprises in store for them. Haunted by the King of Death also introduces some great new characters and I really want stories about Isla's brother-in-law and Grave's brothers in the future. The story is full of action, has a great romance and has started to bring back old characters as well as new ones which is a trend I'm really hoping continues in the future.

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

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Saturday 10 September 2016

Review: Witches' Bane - Pippa DaCosta

“I didn’t earn the name Godkiller, but in three days I’ll own it.”

Witches are disappearing all over New York and Ace Dante couldn’t care less. Until one holds his friend at gunpoint, demanding Ace take the job.

The witch produces a girl's severed arm, bearing an unusual hieroglyph, and Ace starts to care a whole lot more. He recognizes that mark. It’s connected to Ace in ways he doesn’t yet understand. Why is it on a dead witch’s arm?

Missing witches and severed arms aren’t Ace’s only problems. With a new name around his neck—Godkiller—Ace has a promise to uphold. He has three days to kill the god, Thoth. Or risk Osiris’s wrath. The last time Ace defied Osiris, he earned a curse that crippled his life and turned him into Osiris’s puppet for eternity.

This time, Osiris won’t be as lenient. Ace must kill Thoth. An impossible task. It takes a god to kill a god, and Ace is just a washed-up mercenary. Isn’t he?

As the spells are cast and the truth is revealed, there’s only one way out. Ace must become the monster the gods fear him to be.

The Soul Eater has a new name, and now, nobody is safe.

Soul Eater Series:
Hidden Blade
Witches' Bane
Chase the Dark (Short story in the Full Metal Magic anthology)
See No Evil
Scorpion Trap
Serpent's Game
Edge of Forever

Visit Pippa DaCosta's website for more information

I loved Hidden Blade but wow, Pippa DaCosta has definitely upped the stakes in Witches' Bane. This series has quickly become one of my favourites and I absolutely can't wait to get my hands on See No Evil in a couple of months.

Ace is my favourite kind of anti hero, there is darkness inside him and he's definitely crossed plenty of lines in his time but he also tries to do the right thing and he stands up and fights for people less powerful than himself. He's walking a very fine line thanks to the curse that binds him to Osiris knowing that no matter how hard he tries to be good Osiris always has a hold over him and can force him to act against his will. Ace is compelled to kill Thoth at Osiris's command and even though he knows he doesn't stand a chance against someone that powerful he also knows that Osiris will take it out on his friends and allies if he fails. Throw in murdered witches, missing memories and meddling gods with plenty of time on their hands to play a very long game and Ace's life has hit an alltime low point.

Everything I loved about the first book was ramped up a level in this one, the story is darker, the gods are even more twisted and Ace is caught up in plots that are far more complicated and overreaching than he could ever have guessed at. Shu is totally brilliant and we meet a new (and equally badass!) sidekick that is going to help make Ace's life interesting. We're starting to dig a little deeper into the characters and I loved the glimpses we saw of Ace's history and finding out how he ended up in the situation he's in now. He's trying so hard to live up to Bast's assertion that there is good inside him but sometimes the past comes back to bite you and the stains on his soul aren't so easy to wipe clean.

If you're looking for an urban fantasy series that stands out from the crowd for it's unique mythology, brilliant world building and outstanding, three dimensional characters then you need the Soul Eaters series in your life. I love all of Pippa DaCosta's books and would happily recommend any of them but I think Ace might just be edging Caleb (from her 1000 Revolution series) out of the top spot on my favourite anti heroes list and that's very high praise indeed.

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

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Friday 9 September 2016

Review: Traditional Family Cakes - Parragon Books

Traditional Family Cakes
Easy-to-make classic favourites

Baking a cake is one of the most satisfying types of cooking there is - it is both fun and easy to do, while the end results are always more tasty and impressive than their shop-bought equivalents. And it isn't just fun for the baker - family and friends will be thrilled to indulge in a slice of gorgeous, home-made cake, fresh from the oven. 

Enjoy traditional baking at its best with this collection of 40 easy-to-bake recipes, from the classic Victoria Sponge or Fruit Cake to the more adventurous Mocha Layer Cake or Blueberry Swirl Cake.

Visit the book page on Goodreads for more information

This has quickly turned into my favourite baking cookbook, it has a great selection of both traditional recipes (like Coffee & Walnut Cake, Banana Loaf, Gingerbread & Victoria Sponge Cake) as well as some that look a little more exciting for special occasions (like Mocha Cake, Devil's Food Cake, Chocolate Ganache Cake & Boston Cream Pie). There are 40 recipes to choose from and the hardest part is trying to decide what to bake next.

I've not tried all of them but so far this is proving to be a very easy book to use, each recipe has a clear ingredients list and simple, easy to follow instructions (even for baking novices like me!). It also has gorgeous full colour pictures of what your finished cakes are supposed to look like even if you never quite achieve perfection yourself.

I'm going to include my thoughts on each of the recipes that I've tried so far and I'll try to come back and update this review in the future as I test out more.

1. Iced Madeira Cake

This cake was incredibly easy to make and tasted absolutely delicious, it actually reminded me a lot of the lemon cakes my nan used to make when I was a kid which brought back lots of happy memories. I followed the recipe to the letter until it came to the icing, I used the book's suggestion of lemon icing with lemon curd for the topping but added a layer of lemon buttercream and lemon curd in the middle which I think made it even nicer. I think the only thing I didn't get quite right was the icing on top of the cake, I probably needed it to be a little runnier when I put it on the cake so that it was easier to spread but I'm sure the next one I make will look smoother. This has definitely become a family favourite, it's the one everyone always asks for and I've made it four times now.

2. Grasshopper Cake

This is a really rich & decadent chocolate cake, layered and coated with peppermint buttercream icing. The recipe includes an alcoholic version which uses Creme de Menthe in the icing but I went with the standard version using peppermint extract. Once again the recipe was incredibly easy to follow and the results were really tasty. I was impressed by how moist the chocolate cake is and the flavour combination with the chocolate and mint is delicious.

As much as I liked the cake I'm not sure that I'd make it again though, I think it was a little too rich for our tastes and the addition of double cream to the icing made it quite sickly. This definitely isn't the kind of cake you can eat seconds of (which is probably a good thing really LOL) so unless you're making it for a larger family gathering you're going to end up with a lot of leftovers. The Grasshopper Cake certainly looks impressive though and I can't fault the flavour.

3. Lemon Drizzle Cake

Another recipe that took me straight back to childhood and my nan's home baking, the cake had a great flavour and was lovely and moist thanks to the lemon syrup drizzle. It's a perfect afternoon tea cake and I'll definitely be making it again. I forgot to take better pics after I'd got the cakes out of the tins but I think you can still see how tasty they look.

4. Red Velvet Cake

So this cake looks delicious but it was actually my first complete disaster. I take full responsibility though, I didn't have the right size cake tins and I misjudged how long to cook it for in my substitutes so it came out rather stodgy and underbaked. The flavour was lovely though so I'm sure if I hadn't messed up it would have been fab and I'm determined to try the recipe again (hopefully with better results!) in the future.

5. Carrot Cake

I love carrot cake but this was my first attempt at making it and I'm definitely impressed with this recipe. This is a lovely cake with carrots, mixed spices, fresh orange juice and pecan nuts. The frosting is cream cheese with a lovely orange flavour and it complimented the cake perfectly. I can't decide if I love this or the Iced Madeira Cake more but they're both cakes I'll be making again in the future.

Source: Purchased

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