Monday, 14 October 2019

The Winter of the Witch - Katherine Arden (Blog Tour)


Date of Reading: 30/09/2019
Author: Katherine Arden
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Publication Date: January 10, 2019
Rating: 5/5

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

About the book:

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.


Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the centre of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

Review:

       I am devastated. Can't believe this is the last book in the Winternight trilogy. Now I know how Peter and his siblings felt coming out of the magic of Narnia to the dreary, non-magical school life. Closing this book felt something akin to that. It has been a long journey and finally, it's over. Sigh!
      If you have never heard of Winternight series, then let me enlighten you. (And before you ask, no, they are not standalone).This concerns the story of Vasya, a Russian girl born with a certain gift (yes, in ordinary terms she is a witch). Weaving Russian history and folklore together, we get to know a magical and real-world, both existing side by side. Now both are in danger and their fate depends on this outwardly ordinary but exceptionally courageous girl.
     'The Winter of the Witch' is the perfect culmination to an altogether incredible series. Action-packed from the beginning, it starts off with a heartbreaking loss (ya, the prophecies are being fulfilled) and concludes with the peace brought by the balance of two forces. We find Vasya rising to her challenges and the leader in her has finally emerged establishing a third side against the twins. OOh! If I were one of the cheyerts, I would have gladly followed her like Ded Grib. Mmm !... He is one of my favourite characters, and that has nothing to do with the fact that I love mushrooms (probably). How I would love to see all of them in a movie!
      As I have never studied Russian history or folklore, this series was also a step into a new realm. Religion is also a sensitive issue here, which I think the author has handled with tact, (devout Christians may think otherwise) stressing the fact that both the old and the new doesn't have to contradict each other. The beauty and danger of the Russian countryside, noise and excitement of Moscow and the dreariness and hope of Midnight, this book has girdled them all with an effortless charm, hooking us to this world forever.
      I don't think my review can adequately describe the beauty and impact of this series. What can I say? My life would have been incomplete without reading them. Farewell, Vasya, Morozko, Sasha and Medved. Until next time.

Meet the author: 


Born in Texas, Katherine studied French and Russian at Middlebury College. She has lived abroad in France and in Moscow, among other places. She has also lived in Hawaii, where she wrote much of The Bear and the Nightingale. She currently lives in Vermont.    
  

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Four Christmases and a Secret - Zara Stoneley (Blog Tour)

Date of Reading: 22/09/2019
Author: Zara Stoneley
Publisher: One More Chapter
Publication Date: September 27, 2019
Source: NetGalley
My Rating: 4.5/5

(This review is part of the blog tour organised by Rachel's Random Resources)

About the book:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Except for Daisy Christmas means another of Uncle T’s dreaded Christmas parties, complete with Christmas jumper and flashing antlers.  And Oliver Cartwright.  Gorgeous Oliver Cartwright. Who she hates.

Every year Daisy has to face insufferable Ollie and hear all about how BRILLIANT he is.  Whereas Daisy has no job, no man and no idea how to fix things.

This Christmas however Daisy is determined things will be different.  There will be no snogging Ollie under the mistletoe like when they were teenagers.  No, this year she’ll show Ollie that she’s a Responsible Adult too.

But as the champagne corks pop, and the tinsel sparkles, Uncle T has news of his own to share…and it could change Daisy's life forever…

Review:

     Utterly fabulous! There is no other word for this emotionally woven, splendid Christmas story. It is everything that we could hope for this Christmas and I can hardly wait for December now. Out of all the books I have read of her (and that is more than one in case you are wondering), this is probably her best. Ok, I am getting carried away. But really guys, this is not an exaggeration. Whether you like the festive season or not, you really MUST read this.

What could be the reasons? Well, here is some to tempt you.

  • We get to see four Christmas parties, each one outdoing the previous year. And this is not a random selection of four Christmas celebrations, we also get to see the events leading up to it.
  • A friends to lovers story. The chemistry between Daisy and Ollie is so palpable that we just want IT to happen. So obviously, the author makes us wait.
  • Uncle Terence is one of the memorable characters that I have met. A man who doesn't frown on the new generation, but who could have guessed that among all his frolics he kept such a secret? I am not saying that he is a role model (probably not), but all the same an unforgettable person.
  • Then there is his brother Charles, who you may not even notice that much. That's why I am noting him down. I don't think a person like him exists. He is a saint. Why? I guess you have to read and find out for yourself
  • Last but not least, this story won't disappoint you. 
       It has ticked almost all the columns of a Christmas romance for me, and I do hope you will enjoy it too curling up on your reading nook.

Meet the author:


Zara Stoneley is the USA Today bestselling author of The Wedding Date.

Born in a small village in the UK, she wanted to be a female James Herriot, a spy, or an author when she grew up. After many (many) years and many different jobs, her dream of writing a bestseller came true.

She writes about friendship, dreams, love, and happy ever afters, and hopes that her tales make you laugh a lot, cry a little, and occasionally say 'ahhh'.

Zara now lives in a Cheshire village with her family, a lively cockapoo called Harry, and a very bossy (and slightly evil) cat called Saffron.


Thursday, 26 September 2019

Only Mostly Devastated - Sophie Gonzales

Date of Reading: 12/09/2019
Author: Sophie Gonzales
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Source: NetGalley 
My Rating: 4.5/5
About the book:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets Clueless, inspired by Grease.

When Ollie meets his dream guy, Will, over summer break, he thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After. But once summer’s ended, Will stops texting him back, and Ollie finds himself one prince short of a fairytale ending. To complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country—Will’s school—where Ollie finds that the sweet, affectionate and comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted—and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship. But as Will starts ‘coincidentally’ popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.

Right?

Right.
  


Review:

      I do have a soft spot for high school romances, especially the one involving a coming-out story. Oh, not that I miss school days😬 . . .  just prefer the adult life without the worries of exam grades and revisions. All the same, glad to receive a copy of this book through a wish in netgalley.
      The novel progresses through the perspective of Ollie (yes, our devastated hero). Brave and caring, he manages to win our hearts from the very beginning. There are no usual teenage tantrums as we expect, instead we are shown to the life of a mature boy (partly owing to his upbringing) who steps in to help his aunt in the time of need.  
      And that brings me to the next character: Aunt Linda. She may not have that many appearances, but her influence permeates throughout; some sad and some inspiring. It could be because I am on bed rest with a herniated disk that her plight drew me in. It is not anywhere near cancer, but she gave me the much needed catharsis. There are sometimes in our lives, we are confronted with some unexpected and unsurmountable barriers, and that in turn make us realise how much we are going to miss some ordinary things. So the way Linda approached her deadly illness, reminds one of the importance of little things.
      Will, Ollie's Disney prince, has his own demons to fight. Unlike his lover, his parents and friends are not open to his sexuality. His problems could be the usual ones, but the author way of dealing it is quite refreshing. Well, some scenes are quite unoriginal but that didn't stop me from shouting out with glee (internally, of course).
      Altogether a beautiful, heartwarming story that will make you weep and smile till the blissful end. Surely something to mark your calenders for in 2020.

Meet the author:

Sophie Gonzales writes Young Adult queer rom coms with memorable characters, biting wit and endless heart.

She is the author of The Law of Inertia, which released 2018 with Amberjack Publishing. Her debut YA rom-com, Only Mostly Devastated, is slated for Winter 2020 through Wednesday Books / Macmillan.

When she isn’t writing, Sophie can be found ice skating, performing in musical theatre, and practicing the piano. She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia where she works as a psychologist. She is represented by Moe Ferrara of Bookends Literary Agency.
      

Friday, 20 September 2019

One Christmas Star - Mandy Baggot

Date of Reading: 20/09/2019
Author: Mandy Baggot
Publisher: Aria
Publication Date: September 12, 2019
Source: NetGalley 
My Rating: 4.5/5
 
About the book:
 
Emily Parker is set to have the worst Christmas ever! 
 
Her flatmate's moved out, she's closed her heart to love and she's been put in charge of the school original Christmas show – with zero musical ability.

Disgraced superstar, Ray Stone is in desperate need of a quick PR turnaround. Waking up from a drunken stupor to a class of ten-year-olds snapping pics and Emily looking at him was not what he had in mind.

Ray needs Emily's help to delete the photos, and she needs his with the show. As they learn to work together they may just open their hearts to more than a second chance...

My Review:

    I don't know why I have never picked up a Mandy Baggot book before. Ok, I retract that, I know the reason. I have been quite stupid and well, maybe it was not the right time. Anyway, here I am kicking myself for all the lost opportunities. So take heed folks, and don't be like me. If you are planning to read only one Christmas book this year, let it be this one.
     A primary school teacher struggling set up a Christmas play and a disgraced musician in need of a new start. Nothing much in common if you ask me. But the season of miracles plays its just part and hurray! . . . what we have is a tantalising love story. 
     Emily Parker is a model teacher (someone I would like to be one day). She wins her students' hearts and cares for them deeply. But winning the approval of the school head and the diocese is an altogether different matter. Both of them may not go together. Still, she keeps it together until the very end. As all HP fans believe, 'help is always there, when you seek it' (well, something like that).
     Ray, on the other hand, is a different story. He is not our arrogant musician, drinking up the fame. He is  . . . hmm. . . a bit too soft. This is not something I blame, but as one of my besties used to say "if you are willing to be a doormat, you have no room to complain when others stomp on you". There is a time for compassion, but that should not degrade you as a person. I am glad that he stood up for himself at the end (this was really trying my patience). 
    I cannot finish this review without referring to Jonah and Allen, the gay couple who are the source behind most of the fun. I would have loved to hear their story. Truely a match made in heaven. And there are the children -- Jayden, Rashid, Alice, Cherry, Angelica, Felix, Mathew, Makenzie, Frema, Charlie and Lucas -- if you were real, I would have loved to meet you all. A teacher's true joy comes from his/ her students' achievements. I am sure you are all going to make Emily proud. 
    Am I making you sentimental? Yes, that is the other thing that I want to remind. Keep some tissues at hand. You will definitely need them by the end. Happy reading everyone! 

Meet the author:


Mandy Baggot is an internationally bestselling and award-winning romance writer.

The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association's Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016.

Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1's Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor.
Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Christmas at Frozen Falls - Kiley Dunbar

Date of Reading: 9/9/2019
Author: Kiley Dunbar
Publisher: Hera
Publication Date: September 4, 2019
Source: NetGalley 
My Rating: 4/5
 
About the book:
 
Christmas magic can thaw the coldest of hearts…
 
Sylvie Magnusson is going to be lonely this Christmas. Instead of jetting off for her sunshine honeymoon, she’s freezing at home in Cheshire. Guess that’s what happens when your fiancé dumps you a week before your wedding…

Sylvie’s best friend, Nari, plans a trip to see the Northern Lights and get Sylvie’s mojo back. But as their Lapland getaway approaches, Sylvie realises that Frozen Falls is the hometown of Stellan Virtanen, her dreamy Finnish ex-boyfriend, the one that got away. Even though he actually ran away, and Sylvie never understood why…

Luckily, when they meet, Stellan’s still gorgeous – and her heart is warmed when he shows her the romantic delights of Lapland (as well as some seriously adorable Husky puppies). But when she returns to England can she really leave Stellan behind? Or will she find that her heart belongs in the frozen North?

Curl up with the perfect cosy Christmas read this winter. Fans of Sarah Morgan and Carole Matthews will adore this feel-good, heart-warming rom-com.

My Review:

      Less than hundred days to Christmas and the literary world is already abuzz with Christmas books. So if you are not yet in the festive spirit, this story will be the perfect start. Travel to Finnish Lapland, hug some cute huskies,  see the Northern Lights and experience the magic of Christmas along with Sylvie and Nari.
      Yes, yes, I know. It is not even winter, but what does it matter to a talented author. Off we go to the winter wonderland, all thanks to the beautiful writing of Kiley Dunbar. And the love story is just the icing of the cake. Oops! my bad. It is love stories since there are not one but two.
      For Sylvie and Stellan this is a second chance at love, while for Nari and Niilo, it is love at first sight (love the way their names rhyme). Narrated through multiple perspectives, we get to experience each character's emotional turmoil, all leading to a much expected and cutely visioned happy ending.
       So don't forget to add this cosy, cute romance to your Christmas reading list. Have a great time enjoying the wintry nights in Lapland!

Meet the author:

Kiley Dunbar is the author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places. She is Scottish and lives in England with her husband, two kids and Amos the Bedlington Terrier. She writes around her work at a University in the North of England where she lectures in English Literature and creative writing. She is proud to be a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and a graduate of their New Writers' Scheme. 

Friday, 30 August 2019

When Polly Met Olly - Zoe May

Date of Reading: 29/08/2019
Author: Zoe May
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: January 7, 2019
Source: NetGalley
My Rating: 4.5/5

About the book:

Polly and Olly were never supposed to meet…
Polly might spend her days searching for eligible matches for her elite list of clients at her New York dating agency, but her own love life is starting to go up in smoke.

Even worse, she can’t stop thinking about the very person she’s meant to be setting her latest client up with… surely it can’t get any worse!

But then Polly bumps into oh-so-handsome Olly, who heads up a rival agency, and realizes that perhaps all really is fair in love and dating war…

My Review:

       An air of caution surrounds me whenever I select a Zoe May book to read; she is the queen of unpredictability. We might be deluded in thinking that this is another cosy read, but then the story takes a totally different direction (in a good way, actually). Well, this particular story at least defines the heroes in the title itself, so I was relaxed in that part. But then came the blow: Olly is not your typical dashing young man, he is rather old. Yup! that is Zoe May for you.
       Online dating scenario is turned out to be the setting of far too many novels by now, but the author has managed to put a rare perspective even in this cliched world. Polly is a likeable character trying hard to keep her dreams alive and I immediately warmed up to her. Even though her interest lies with photography, the necessity of keeping the ends meet had forced her to work for a dating agency. But what could we know? This might actually be the turning point in her life. Not only her love life but everything.
       Compared to Polly, we don't see Olly that often in spite of the prominent place allotted to him in the title. Sometimes we get dubious, is he really the one? But the fact is it doesn't really matter. This is all about Polly and how she manages to turn things around with the help of her friends, both new and old.
       Overall, a refreshing read as expected from one of my favourite authors.

Meet the author:


Zoe May lives in Oxford and writes romantic comedies published by Harper Collins. Zoe has dreamt of being a novelist since she was a teenager. She spent her twenties living in London, where she worked in journalism and copywriting before writing her debut novel, Perfect Match. Having experienced the London dating scene first hand, Zoe could not resist writing a novel about dating, since it seems to supply endless amounts of weird and wonderful material!

Perfect Match was one of Apple's top-selling books of 2018. It was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association's Joan Hessayon Award, with judges describing it as 'a laugh-out-loud look at love and self-discovery - fresh and very funny.'

Zoe is also the author of How (Not) To Date A Prince (May 2018), When Polly Met Olly (January 2019) and As Luck Would Have It (June 2019).

As well as writing, Zoe enjoys walking her dog, painting and, of course, reading.

Zoe is currently taking part in a blog project called 'Seven Writer, Seven Novels', which charts the publishing journeys of seven writers over the course of a year through monthly updates. The blog was featured in The Bookseller.
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