Sunday, 12 January 2020

Lady of the Ravens - Joanna Hickson (Blog Tour)

Date of Reading: 12/01/2020
Author: Joanna Hickson
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: January 9, 2020
Rating: 4.5/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Random Things Tours)

About the book:

My baptismal name may be Giovanna but here in my mother’s adopted country I have become plain Joan; I am not pink-cheeked and golden-haired like the beauties they admire. I have olive skin and dark features – black brows over ebony eyes and hair the colour of a raven’s wing…

When Joan Vaux is sent to live in the shadow of the Tower of London, she must learn to navigate the treacherous waters of this new England under the Tudors. Like the ravens, Joan must use her eyes and her senses, if Henry and his new dynasty are to prosper and thrive. 


      Why do we read historical fiction? For me, the major attraction lies with the power of knowledge. At least here we know what is going to happen to our favourite heroes and vile villains. A bit like sharing the experience of being a divine perhaps. And Tudor England? Oh, that is the best of times; intrigue, executions and glory abound, making it a gold mine for writers and readers alike.
    'Lady of the Ravens' is another wonderful addition to this growing pile and we get to see the beginning of Tudor reign through the eyes of Joan, Lady in Waiting to Queen Elizabeth. Bold and compassionate, her role establishes a bridge between the royalty and the common man and we get to see both worlds, thanks to her perceptiveness. Intimate details of the royal household, pleasures of the countryside, danger lurking behind London alleys and the ravens of the Tower . . . there is not a single dull moment in this large narrative.
    More than the Tudor household, I was interested in knowing more about Joan. She seems to have a wisdom that is well beyond her time period. The openness in her narration revealing her concerns on marriage and childbirth will further endear her to us. I am practically jumping with joy to see that the author is going to continue this story. 
       Another character that intrigued me is Sir Henry Wyatt, the major fiend we get to know. How such a vile creature can produce a poet son is beyond me. Nature works in strange ways indeed!
     On the whole, this book was a delightful journey to Tudor England, a country struggling hard to find the stability it so craved after the wars of the Roses. Future years are going to witness the culmination of Henry VII's efforts and I can't wait to read the next book in the series. Highly recommended!!!

Meet the author:

Joanna Hickson became fascinated with history when she studied Shakespeare's history plays at school. However, having taken a degree in Politics and English she took up a career in broadcast journalism with the BBC, presenting and producing news, current affairs and arts programmes on both television and radio. Now she writes full time and has a contract with Harper Collins for three historical novels. The Agincourt Bride is the first. She lives in Scotland in a 200-year-old farmhouse and is married with a large extended family and a wayward Irish terrier.

Joanna likes people to join her on Twitter (@joannahickson) or Facebook (Joanna Hickson) and says if you can't find her she'll be in the fifteenth century! 

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

A Kiss Like Thorns - Eliza Colton

Date of Reading: 30/12/2019
Author: Eliza Colton
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Source: ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 4/5
About the book:

A princess doomed to sleep forever. A nobleman with countless secrets. Can they save each other before eternal rest claims her, or will they sacrifice themselves to the cursed forest trying?

Unwilling to accept an early death, Princess Isabella has spent most of her life hunting down a way to prolong her life—without success. With thirty days left to live, she begins to relinquish hope and decides to fulfill the dreams she pushed aside.

The number one thing on her wish list?

Making up with her estranged best friend, who distanced himself after a childhood kiss gone wrong.

However, she comes across something strange in his home: a collection of magical talismans and a map through the cursed and deadly Briar Forest, where lives the wicked witch responsible for her impending demise.

He can't have collected the strange items to save her. He barely even talks to her. So what could they possibly be for?

Confused but determined, Isabella makes a decision that may curtail what little time she has.

She'll head to the cursed forest, defeat the witch, and save herself from her deadly curse.

This standalone Sleeping Beauty retelling is perfect for fans of fairy tales, magic, dangerous adventures, and clean romance.


         Fairy tale retellings are always going to be one of my favourites and when it comes to Sleeping Beauty . . . well, that is a tale definitely need to be retold. Who doesn't love the makeover of a docile heroine as pictured in the original version? In that respect, Eliza Colton delivers a wonderful and emotional story with a kick-ass princess. To be honest, my eyes were full by the time I reached the last chapter. Predictable for sure, but I loved that climax.
        'A Kiss Like Thorns' is the second book in the Fairy Tale Synergy series but rest assured it can very well be read as a standalone. Some of the other characters from the previous novel is going to make an appearance and with enough hints, this doesn't prove to be a hurdle.
      Princess Isabella is cursed to eternal sleep when she reaches seventeen and the impending gloom makes her bold to try every cure prescribed; even a kiss of love with her best friend. Sadly, the kiss doesn't work its magic and their friendship is strained. Now living her last months, what she wants most is to reconcile with her best friend. But Jeremiah is aloof and stubborn . . . or that is what she thinks.
       Are you tempted enough to read the rest? If you are a fan of slow-burning romance and a bit of magic, this story will surprise you. Mysteries are unfold and some past stories are revealed making this a story that will keep you on the edge. 

Meet the author:

Eliza Colton wishes she were a puppy so she can laze around a day and still be fed.

Then again, maybe not, since puppies can’t read (… or can they?). She’s had an unhealthy obsession with fairy tale and fantasy romances since she was a toddler, and she’d never sacrifice reading for anything.

She feels incredibly blessed to write, and she hopes you enjoy her stories as much as she loves creating them! 

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Starlight Over Bluebell Castle - Sarah Bennett

Date of Reading: 25/12/2019
Author: Sarah Bennett
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: November 1, 2019
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

About the book:

The most magical time of the year…

Jessica Ridley’s life has just been turned upside-down – and not in a good way! So when blast-from-the-past Tristan Ludworth invites her to stay at Bluebell Castle and transform it into a winter wonderland, it’s the perfect distraction for Jess and her two young children…

Jessica is used to planning even the most elaborate events in her sleep, but she certainly didn’t expect to be working so closely with Tristan at the castle – or that she could still find him quite so handsome after all this time!

And with a little holiday magic in the air, it’s becoming harder and harder to resist his charms. Can Tristan convince Jess to give love one more chance, just in time for Christmas?


       I can't believe that one of my favourite series just got concluded and this time we get to see Tristan Ludworth, my favourite among the triplets. Ever since reading the first book, I was waiting for his story to come out and Bennet doesn't disappoint this time too. Tristan's character and good nature shines throughout like a diamond and trust the author to give him the hardest challenge.
      A second chance at love? Well, I was not expecting such a gorgeous boy to be denied by anyone. Fate had other plans it seems. Anyone else might have run away from a divorcee with two little kids, but not Tristan. Every second he spent to win over Jessica adds golden points to his basket. And Jessica is well worth the effort. From the very first page, she conquers our hearts and that fiery independent streak only burns high as the story moves on. Sincere and steadfast, she is indeed one of a kind.
      I have one complaint though and that concerns the length; considering this is the last we see of this modern Arthurian family, shouldn't there be some more pages? The conflict at the end could have been a bit more complex too, but I am double-minded on that front. To be honest, I am happy that the author didn't follow the cliched plot lines. On the whole, a fitting conclusion to the Bluebell Castle series and just like the previous ones this wonderful story makes our lives a bit more colourful.

Meet the author:

Sarah Bennett has been reading for as long as she can remember. Raised in a family of bookworms, her love affair with books of all genres has culminated in the ultimate Happy Ever After – getting to write her own stories to share with others.

Born and raised in a military family, she is happily married to her own Officer (who is sometimes even A Gentleman). Home is wherever he lays his hat, and life has taught them both that the best family is the one you create from friends as well as relatives.

When not reading or writing, Sarah is a devotee of afternoon naps and sailing the high seas, but only on vessels large enough to accommodate a casino and a choice of restaurants.

You can connect with her via twitter @Sarahlou_writes or on Facebook

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Let it Snow - Sue Moorcroft

Date of Reading: 05/12/2019
Author: Sue Moorcroft
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: September 26, 2019
Source: NetGalley 
Rating: 3/5

About the book:

This Christmas, the villagers of Middledip are off on a very Swiss adventure…

Family means everything to Lily and Zinnia Cortez and, growing up in their non-conventional family unit, they and their two mums couldn’t have been closer.

So it’s a bolt out of the blue when Lily finds her father wasn’t the anonymous one-night stand she’s always believed. She is, in fact, the result of her mum's reckless affair with a married man.

Confused, but determined to discover her true roots, Lily sets out to find the the family she’s never known – an adventure that takes her from the frosted, thatched cottages of Middledip to the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland, via a Christmas market or two along the way…

      This book left me confused for a bit. The narrative sounded more like a travelogue than a novel. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed the travelling part great deal than the story wrapped around it.'Let it Snow' stroked in me the fire to travel which had been dulled for some time now. Through Moorcroft's efficient writing Scotland with all its pristine beauty and festival traditions has come alive and I was rather tempted to book a ticket right away. Well, that is part of my bucket list now.
        Now to the story. Lily and Zinnia are part of a homosexual family unit and now Lily has found out the identity of her father with whom her mother had an affair only for getting pregnant. Yes, this sounds flat even to my ears and surely her partner is not that forgiving. But they have weathered this storm somehow and now Lily wants to meet the rest of her biological family including her two brothers. She takes a job as the serving staff in the pub operated by one of her half brothers, Tubb. But even after two years, she is not confident enough to reveal who she really is. And that is taking its toll on everyone.
      Zinnia, her sister, accuses her of not being happy with their family and regretfully I agree with her. What is the need to tarnish another man's memory by bringing up this affair now? Especially when he is thought to be a besotting father. However Lily argues her case, I partly blame her for the fractures inside her first family. And that has ruined the romance for me. I am no expert in the complexities of human emotions and therefore don't want to judge Lily's motives. Still, I can't help feeling let down. Does the author intend to convey the incompleteness of homosexual families?

Meet the author:
Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times bestselling author and has held the coveted #1 spot in the Amazon Kindle chart. She's also a bestseller in Germany. She writes women's contemporary fiction with sometimes unexpected themes.

Sue has won the Best Romantic Read Award, been nominated for a RoNA and is a Katie Fforde Bursary winner. She also writes short stories, serials, articles, columns, courses and writing 'how to'.

An army child, Sue was born in Germany then lived in Cyprus, Malta and the UK. She's worked in a bank, as a bookkeeper (probably a mistake), as a copy taker for Motor Cycle News and for a typesetter, but is pleased to have wriggled out of all 'proper jobs'.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Out with the Ex, In with the New - Sophie Ranald

Date of Reading: 29/10/2019
Author: Sophie Ranald
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 4.5/5

About the book:

You know when you sleep through your alarm, trip over running for the bus, and then someone points out that your dress is stuck into your hotdog-print knickers? That’s basically my life right now.

Gemma didn’t expect her life to look like this. She’s still living with her mother, who steals her leggings and tells her off for leaving crumbs in the butter. After twenty failed interviews she thought she’d bagged her dream job as a journalist – except it turns out to be writing articles about cats that look like George Clooney. Luckily she has her wonderful boyfriend, Jack, to help her forget just how rubbish things are.

Then Jack dumps her out of the blue. With nothing but her childhood teddy bear, Stanley, and a whole heap of heartbreak, Gemma resolves to turn things around. She throws herself into her new job and soon she’s hanging out with cheeky, golden-haired hunk Charlie, eating in swanky restaurants and sipping trendy cocktails – and her old life seems like a distant memory.

But it’s not long until her shiny new world starts to lose its sparkle – and Gemma misses the days of wearing battered pink converse and eating peanut butter on toast in bed. Then Jack turns up, backpack in tow, and things start to go wrong with Charlie. ‘Out with the old, in with the new’, the saying goes. But what happens if neither one is quite right?

This laugh-out-loud romantic comedy is for anyone who’s ever cried their eyes out to love songs after a break-up or accidentally drunk-texted their ex. Fans of Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk will love this unmissable read which is all about falling in love with the most important person: yourself!


      Since I loved her previous work 'Sorry not Sorry' I didn't think twice before requesting this novel. Previously published as the Truth about Gemma Grey, this tale of self-discovery opens before us the glittering world of vlogging. With unexpected success which her sudden-impulse video garnered, she gets entry to the world of vlogging celebs along with its false charm.
    More than a romance, this novel traces Gemma's path from ruin to instant fame and the prize she will have to pay in order to keep it that way. Sure, we could guess right away who she is going to select at the end but that seems irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. What I loved most is the way Ranald describes the vlogging community and the raw emotions of a vlogger. Anyone who is in the same field can identify with her desire for recognition and the comradeship she feels for the camera. This is a place to reveal your inner goddess and when nothing in life goes according to plan, the likes and comments there is the perfect balm.
     So I wouldn't term this novel as a laugh out loud romantic comedy. This is a light read for sure, but what it offers is something more profound. It is the story of a simple girl finally finding her way. . .

Meet the author:

Sophie Ranald is the youngest of five sisters. She was born in Zimbabwe and lived in South Africa until an acute case of itchy feet brought her to London in her mid-20s.

As an editor for a customer publishing agency, Sophie developed her fiction-writing skills describing holidays to places she’d never visited. In 2011, she decided to disregard all the good advice given to aspiring novelists and attempt to write full-time. After one false start, It Would Be Wrong to Steal My Sister’s Boyfriend (Wouldn’t It?) seemed to write itself.

Sophie also writes for magazines and online about food, fashion and running. She lives in south-east London with her amazing partner Hopi and Purrs, their adorable little cat.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Carry On - Rainbow Rowell (Review & Summary)

Date of Reading: 30/11/2019
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: October 6, 2015
Rating: 5/5

About the book:

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who's ever been chosen.

That's what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he's probably right.

Half the time, Simon can't even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor's avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there's a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon's face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it's their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon's infuriating nemesis didn't even bother to show up.

Carry On - The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell story - but far, far more monsters.


      Since 'Wayward Son', the second book in the series has come out, I thought I will start with the first book. I was informed that there are no cliffhangers at the end. True, but it leaves something worse than that; a sense of doom. As expected the second book evolves on this issue and sadly it is not yet resolved (I had a peek at the end of 'Wayward Son' to be sure).
       But we are not here to talk about 'Wayward Son'. Let's just blot out its existence and think of the happily ever after on which 'Carry On' ends. If you haven't heard about this book, then let me enlighten you. This is the gay version of Harry Potter (with a mix of Twilight). The story is almost the same but shorter and with a gay love story. It is cute, magical and romantic. As you must have guessed by now, I didn't swoon at the end being highly suspicious of the 'ever after' part.
         Baz and Simon are one of the best gay couples I have encountered. Their predicament is heart throbbing and I closed the book with a heavy heart. Will love be enough for Simon? Well, let's hope the next books will answer to that. Considering the amount of time Rowell took to write the second book, I guess we are in a rather long wait.


       Simon Snow is returning for his last year to Watford School, an institution for mages. He is an orphan and his magical abilities came to be known when he turned 11. The Mage, the headmaster of Watford and the leader of the coven traced him and brought him to the school. The Mage has been a father figure for him until then. But despite his schooling, he is not able to handle his immense power well. When he tends to use spells, it seems to do more than he intends or explodes.
        He is considered to be the Chosen One by the magical community; the one who can defeat the insidious Humdrum. Humdrum is an evil being who seems to have the power to make holes in the magical atmosphere, and the places where these magical spots appear can no longer be inhabited by their kind. It is just like the holes in the Ozone layer. Simon and his best friend Penelope is kidnapped by Humdrum the previous year and to their astonishment, they found that he looked like eleven-year-old Simon. This happened at the end of the academic year, and now he cannot imagine what the new year will bring.
      Only Penelope has arrived back at Watford. She was in America during the vacation with her boyfriend. Agatha was Simon's girlfriend but he is no longer sure about their relationship. He has seen her with Baz, his roommate and enemy, before he is kidnapped by Humdrum. He confronts Agatha, and though she doesn't confirm his suspicions, they both decide to break up.
        Simon has hated Basilton Grimm Pitch (Baz) from the first year. He is from the prestigious family of Pitches and obviously heavily loaded. Simon believes Baz to be a vampire but he hasn't got any solid evidence to support this. He always finds some ways to bully Simon, but this year he hasn't made an appearance. Every twenty years, the veil between the living and the dead are lifted and ghosts can visit someone to convey messages. Natasha Pitch, the former Headmistress of Watford and the mother of Baz comes to their room. When she cannot find Baz, she leaves her message with Simon. Baz is to avenge her death (she was killed in a vampire attack on Watford) and to do that he needs to find Nicodemus.
       Simon is now anxious to find Baz but there is no news of him. Finally, after two months, he comes back lean and haggard. From his perspective, we come to know that he is hopelessly in love with Simon. Now with the encounter with his mother's ghost, Simon agrees for a truce and together they decide to trace Nicodemus. Penelope too joins the team but the trio fails to find any lead.
    During Christmas break, Simon stays in Watford and while talking with Ebb, the goatherd, he learns about her twin brother Nico. He became a vampire to gain immortality and thus is stricken from the book of mages. She is no longer allowed to meet him. Simon understands that this is the Nicodemus they are searching for and goes to inform Baz at his home. With the help of his aunt Fiona, they meet Nicodemus but he refuses to give them an answer. He had been approached by someone to attack Watford; he refused due to his sister's presence there and eventually someone else agreed to the deal.
   Disappointed, Baz tries to kill himself with fire since he believes that his mother would never have allowed him to live as a vampire. A frantic Simon kisses him and finally both acknowledge their feelings for each other. Spending Christmas with Baz, Simon wakes up with a feeling of dryness, a sign of Humdrum. He finds Baz outside drained of his magic with Humdrum near, again in Simon's shape. He says that he is what is left when he (Simon) is done. Simon saves Baz by injecting him with his magic and Humdrum disappears. Baz asks him to run.
        In between, we get to hear the voice of Lucy,  a girl who is now a ghost. She was in love with a boy named Davy and gradually we get to know that he is The Mage. He believed in the coming of The Great Mage and wanted his son to be him. He carried out a ritual during the birth and Lucy names him Simon Snow. Davy leaves him with the Normal people until his powers are formed. But now he realises that the boy he created is a broken vessel.
       Simon runs to Penelope's home for help and Baz finds him there. He solves the riddle of Humdrum. Simon is responsible for the vacant spots as each spot appeared on the same day he used magic to go off. He absorbs too much magic and Humdrum is the echo he leaves behind. It looks like the eleven-year-old Simon because he is born on the day Simon showed his powers. Both Simon and Penelope believes that they need to inform The Mage but Baz is against it.
     Baz goes after the numpties who kidnapped him at the beginning of the school year to find the one behind it. He fails to get a direct answer from them but Nicodemus comes to help by then. The Mage is behind the vampire attack that Turned Baz and killed his mother. Now he has arrested Ebb for his devious schemes. She is one of the most powerful wizards among them though she never uses that power.
        Meanwhile, Agatha who was with Penelope decides to meet The Mage and she finds him doing a ritual with Ebb. When Ebb escapes he catches hold of Agatha and to save the girl Ebb sacrifices her life. Simon finds him this way but fails to comprehend the murder. The Mage demands Simon to transfer his power to him as he can wield it better. Then Humdrum appears and Simon decides to give up his power to fill the void named Humdrum. It disappears taking Simon's power. The Mage is angry, but by then Simon is joined by Baz and Penelope. In the ensuing fight, The Mage is killed accidentally.
      The Epilogue informs us that Agatha ran away to America leaving magic behind. Simon can no longer study in Watford and Penelope also drops out in solidarity with him. Mitali Bunce, Penelope's mother is the new headmistress. Baz completes his studies as the topper in the class and he is officially dating Simon. 

Meet the author:

Rainbow Rowell writes books. Sometimes she writes about adults (ATTACHMENTS and LANDLINE). Sometimes she writes about teenagers (ELEANOR & PARK and FANGIRL). But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they're screwing up. And people who fall in love.

When she's not writing, Rainbow is reading comic books, planning Disney World trips and arguing about things that don't really matter in the big scheme of things.

She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.
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