Wednesday, 5 February 2020

The Unspoken Name - A. K. Larkwood

Date of Reading: 25/01/2020
Author: A. K. Larkwood
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 11, 2020
Source: NetGalley 
Rating: 4.5/5

About the book:

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honoured title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard's loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.


      Once I saw that stunning cover, I didn't think twice of requesting it. Anything inside such a poignant wrap should be nothing short of amazing. And how right I am! As an emerging genre, LGBT literature is surely in need of classical works like these.
      If you love that blurb, then let me tell you, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Spanning more than four hundred pages, the novel covers multiple universes with impeccable skill and even after the last page, I wished for more. There is one more book on the way since it is part of a duology and before you ask, no, this doesn't end in a cliffhanger. 
     Narrated mainly through Csorwe's perspective, the story follows her life from a sacrificial bride to a warrior. Indebted to Sethennai for her new life she is bent on procuring the Reliquary of Pentravesse, the most renowned mage who had somehow achieved a union with his deity. What follows is a tale of adventure where new love blossoms, destinies rewritten and some secrets are revealed.
      What keeps us constantly at the edge is the way good and bad fluctuates constantly as each character, especially Csorwe, Oranna and Shuthmili, make their own choices, altering their fates. Well, that almost summarises the crux of this story; our life is our own to live and shape. We definitely have a choice, but whether we are brave enough to grab it at the opportune moment seals our destinies. Highly recommended!

Meet the author:

A K Larkwood is a science fiction and fantasy writer and enthusiast. She studied English at St John's College, Cambridge. She has worked in higher education & media relations and is now studying law. She lives in Oxford, England, with her wife and a cat.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Dreaming of Verona - T. A. Williams (Blog Tour)

Date of Reading: 02/02/2020
Author: T. A. Williams
Publisher: Canelo
Publication Date: February 3, 2020
Source: NetGalley 
Rating: 3.5/5
(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Rachel's Random Resources)
About the book:
 Verona is the City of Love. But will Suzie find romance there or, like Romeo and Juliet, will it all end in tears?

When Suzie is hired to accompany spoiled, abrasive Lady Alexandra Tedburn on an all-expenses-paid holiday to Italy, she fears the trip will be a disaster.

But she soon discovers there’s more to Alex than shopping and tantrums, and she’s determined to help her realise her potential – against Alex’s authoritarian father’s wishes.

As they settle in Verona, Suzie can’t stop thinking about local artist Michael, who is still mourning the tragic death of his wife. With Suzie’s future uncertain, and Michael’s past holding him back, it seems there’s no hope for romance in the city of star-crossed lovers…or is there?

A gorgeously uplifting and moving story, Dreaming of Verona is the perfect read for fans of Holly Martin, Tilly Tennant and Jenny Oliver.


      When it comes to T. A. Williams' books, it is safe to say that we have a love and hate relationship. Fortunately, this one comes under the former category. Surely, it's not going to top 'Dreaming of Christmas' which is my absolute favourite but comes really close. Putting aside some dull moments in between, this novel on Verona is gripping, inspiring and is full of colours just like the city.
       The author has taken great care to maintain a Shakespearean spirit throughout. The fact that Suzie is a PhD holder in this topic must have helped it. I do love her theory of Shakespeare being a woman; who knows, one day we may get some proof regarding this conjecture. Besides the frequent quotes, the Tedburns family drama provides ample material for a Shakespearean play. Luckily, not all love should share the fate of Romeo and Juliet.
     As for the relationship between Suzie and Michael, I was in a dilemma. In my perspective, it didn't really go beyond infatuation so the way she waits was kind of perplexing. Same goes with James and Alexandra. If you look upon your best friend like a brother, could the feelings be changed to that of a lover? Well, I will leave that to the experts. 
      Yup, the story did give me enough to munch on. So grab a copy and join the discussion. Happy reading everyone!

Meet the author:

I’m a man. And a pretty old man as well. I did languages at university a long time ago and then lived and worked in France and Switzerland before going to Italy for seven years as a teacher of English. My Italian wife and I then came back to the UK with our little daughter (now long-since grown-up) where I ran a big English language school for many years. We now live in a sleepy little village in Devonshire. I’ve been writing almost all my life but it was only seven years ago that I finally managed to find a publisher who liked my work enough to offer me my first contract.

The fact that I am now writing romantic comedy is something I still find hard to explain. My early books were thrillers and historical novels. Maybe it’s because there are so many horrible things happening in the world today that I feel I need to do my best to provide something to cheer my readers up. My books provide escapism to some gorgeous locations and, as a writer, I obviously have to go there in person and check them out first. I love my job…

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Mad About You - Anna Premoli

Date of Reading: 1/2/2020
Author: Anna Premoli
Publisher: Aria
Publication Date: November 14, 2019
Source: NetGalley 
Rating: 4/5
About the book:
Giada Borghi has always known exactly what she wants. Graduating with honours? Check. An internship at a prestigious consulting company in Milan? Check! Ariberto Castelli, with his pretty face and unironically monogrammed shirts? Definitely not.

Sure, they may have shared a kiss in a nightclub once upon a time – that doesn't change anything! Boys like Ariberto and girls like Giada just don't belong together. But working so closely with a handsome Italian is bound to turn any girl's head, especially as she realises there's more to Ariberto than meets the eye.

The summer days are long and hot... can Giada make it through with her head – and heart – intact?
      It is hard to let go of a book written by Anna Premoli. Undoubtedly, she is one of my favourite romance authors and this humorous and enlightening story has just confirmed my trust in her. Set in Milan, we get to see a hate-to-love story -- well, it might be one-sided -- and as always the humour and the funny banter between our couple bear Premoli's trademark style. 
      Giada and Ariberto meet first at a bar and  Giada hates him at the very first sight. Reason: a boyfriend like him will be surely approved by her mother and she cannot let that happen. Yup, we have got a weird heroine (or should I say she is nuts?) who hasn't outgrown her teenage tantrums. I do have my own quirks, so no judging her in this aspect. Who is perfect anyway? . . . except for Ariberto. He should be recommended for sainthood; really guys, I don't think this man is real.
      One of the disadvantages of the first-person narrative is that it is hard to make a fair judgement. Ariberto could be a possessive man, but through the love hazed narrative, it is difficult to ascertain. But the patience and stubbornness he has shown in wooing the lady is nothing but remarkable. I know he is too good to be true, but can't help but wish him to be real.
     If you are looking for a sweet rom-com for the weekend, then search no further. This will surely fill your day with laughter and may lengthen you life span for a good measure too. Happy reading!
Meet the author:
Anna Premoli is a bestselling author in Italy. She began writing to relieve stress while working as a financial consultant for a private bank. Her novel, Love to Hate You won the Bancarella prize in 2013.  

Monday, 27 January 2020

Enshrine - Kay Bennson

Date of Reading: 28/11/2019
Author: Kay Bennson
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Publication Date: June 4, 2017
Source: YA Bound Book Tours
Rating: 3.5/5

About the book:

When Sage Wolfe is accidentally mistaken for a peace offering, her world turns upside down. Dayton, the young, handsome, and insane King of Rosementh whisks her away to his castle to be his bride with the promise that he can give her the world and anything she desires. These offers becoming tainted as Dayton’s true colours show themselves; he is cruel and violent and Sage vows to run away or die trying.

Just when Sage thinks she is hitting rock bottom, a hooded stranger named Jonathan Kreider comes to the castle. He doesn’t say much but his actions speak for themselves. Not only can he wield a sword or shoot an arrow better than most of Dayton’s men, but he always seems to be a step behind Sage, and though it should terrify her, for the first time Sage finds herself filling with hope.

Sage is faced with a choice. Should she run away from the wicked king who took her away from her family? Or should she stay to learn more about the man who lurks in the shadows, the man that makes her heart race and almost makes suffering Dayton’s wrath worthwhile? Sage is about to discover that nothing is as it seems and everyone has secrets; Dayton, the man that calls himself Jonathan Kreider, and even herself.


       If you think for a moment that I picked this book because of the stunning cover, then you are ABSOLUTELY . . . right! Yes, yes, I know; you should not judge the book by its cover. Since my judgment is not made poorly, I think the problem resolves itself. Trust me, the story inside is as intriguing as the cover itself.
       Kay Bennson was an unfamiliar name, but one couldn't help but be drawn to this storyline. From the very beginning, the beautiful landscape and the small community piques our interest and the author cleverly maintains this throughout the novel. One part of my brain had hoped for a Beauty and the Beast storyline, but that is not to be so. This is all about Sage and Jonty, aka Jonathan and what a delightful love story it is! But be warned, this is a sweet, slow-burning romance which makes the last scenes all the better.
        Still, I maintained a soft spot for Dayton till the very end. An orphaned Prince burdened with leading a kingdom on its decline will always touch a chord. However cruel he is, I did wish for his redemption. But the most touching scene involves Martin and Nev. They might be part of an irrelevant side story, but they surely have stolen the show. I don't want to give out any spoilers, but suffice to say that their eternal love brings back memories of 'Titanic'.
        On the whole, a beautiful book inside and out that won't fail to leave some traces in your bookish world.

Meet the author:

Kay Bennson is from Northwestern Connecticut where she lives with her husband. She doesn't remember a time where she wasn't writing stories (in fact, some of her best ideas were forged in high school classes and at part-time jobs). When she isn't writing, she is a competitive Irish Dancer. Enshrine is her first novel.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Killing Beauties - Pete Langman (Blog Tour)

Date of Reading: 18/01/2020
Author: Pete Langman
Publisher: Unbound
Publication Date: January 23, 2020
Rating: 3/5

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

About the book:

England, 1655. Following the brutal civil wars the country swelters under a cloud of paranoia, suspicion and the burgeoning threat of rebellion. With the fragile peace being won by Cromwell’s ever-efficient Secretary of State John Thurloe, the exiled king Charles Stuart sends two spies on a dangerous mission to wrest back the initiative. These spies are different, however: they are women. Their task? To turn Parliament’s spymaster into their unwitting accomplice.
Killing Beauties is a dark tale of subterfuge, jealousy and betrayal.

It is sometimes said that women are written out of history, but often they are not yet written in. Killing Beauties is based on the true stories of two female spies from the 1650s and gives them the voice that only fiction can.


      I am not going to tell that this is a literary masterpiece. But this review is a salute to Pete Langman for his efforts to preserve the bravery of two female spies forgotten by history. There are many loose threads and vagueness for sure, but the book has accomplished its intention of bringing into life the efforts of Susan Hyde and Diana Jennings.
        As you must have garnered from the abstract, both Susan and Diana are part of a Sisterhood which work for the restoration of Charles Stuart to the throne. Their mission now is to infiltrate the secrets of Crowell's spymaster John Thurloe. Susan, in spite of her inexperience and her position as a lady, volunteers to seduce Thurloe defying the protests of Diana. But things are not that easy, are they? What follows is some nerve-racking and emotionally unsettling events which unfortunately the author fails to take full advantage of.
       Yes, the story could have been narrated better. But this is just the beginning of a grand venture. The novel, without a doubt, is an inspiration to future writers to pursue the search for unsung heroes and heroines.

Meet the author:

An unexamined life is one not worth living, or so they say. Well, what if you're too busy living to examine?

Sometimes painter and decorator, professional guitar singer, university lecturer and cricketer, Pete's been quite busy. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2008.

He's written for Prospect, the Independent, the Guardian, All Out Cricket and, most voluminously, Guitar and Bass Magazine. He was awarded a PhD in Renaissance Literature a few years back and his first book was a collection of essays on Jacobean Books in 2011, editing the great Randall McCloud, who went under two pseudonyms for the first time.

In 2013 this was followed by Slender Threads, the much-lauded (honestly) disquisition on early-onset Parkinson's disease, and in 2014 the short story collection Black Box and The Country House Cricketer longlisted for the MCC/Cricket Society book of the year.

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! 

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