Sunday 18 February 2024

Shout Out to My Ex - Sandy Barker (Blog Tour & Review)

Date of Reading: 18/02/2024
Author: Sandy Barker
Publisher: Boldwood Books
Publication Date: February 14, 2024
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 3/5

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

About the book:

Fashion designer, Elle Bliss, is unlucky in love.

She's still hung up on her first love, Leo, who ended things abruptly, then mysteriously disappeared – and a decade on, no one else can measure up.

But Elle's all-time dream of showing in Paris Fashion Week is about to become a reality, and she has no time to dwell on her dismal love life. That is until Leo – now going by Lorenzo – comes back into her life.

A celebrated up-and-coming shoe designer, ‘Lorenzo’ is nothing like the man she fell in love with. Rude, brash and with an ego the size of Paris, he’s too caught up in his own celebrity.

But as they constantly cross paths in the city of love, Elle begins to question how much of 'Lorenzo' is an act – a persona for the cameras. Because deep down, she can see glimpses of the man he was, and feelings from all those years ago become impossible to ignore…

Join Elle in the most romantic city in the world in this laugh-out-loud enemies-to-lovers romance, perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Emily Henry.

Review:

        'Shout Out to My Ex' is the second book in the 'Ever After Agency' series. It can be read as a standalone, still, I highly recommend reading them in order; one of the POVs follows Poppy, the protagonist of the first book, and even though we are been provided with all the necessary information, I struggled to connect with this character. This was like reading two love stories, one about the lovey-dovey scenes after the happily ever after and the other all about a broken love. As you can see, it is a bit hard to find the balance in the beginning.
        The story perks up halfway through as more revelations come pouring in finally convincing me of the utility of a match-making agency. Does that mean I was sceptical of the idea before? Oh, yes. I wanted Elle to move on from her first love who disappeared without trace. A reunion, if such a thing is possible, should have been orchestrated by Leo (who is responsible for all this mess) or by fate, if I indulge the romantic inside me.
        What changed my mind then? Well, not everything in our lives can be untangled by our own. That is what I learned from Leo. Sometimes no harm in asking some outside help. That is also part of being an adult, right? So by the end of the book, I became a full-fledged supporter of Ever After Agency. You go girls! Can't wait for the next instalment in this series.

Meet the author:

I’m a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of my travel adventures have found homes in my novels. I’m also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob. I live in Melbourne Australia with my partner, Ben, whom I met while travelling in Greece.

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Her Radiant Curse - Elizabeth Lim (Review)

Date of Reading: 30/08/2023
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Date of Publication: August 29, 2023
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

About the book:

One sister must fall for the other to rise.

Channi was not born a monster. But when her own father offered her in sacrifice to the tiger witch, she was forever changed. Cursed with a serpent's face, Channi is the exact opposite of her beautiful sister Vanna—the only person in the village who looks at Channi and doesn’t see a monster. The only person she trusts.

Now seventeen, Vanna is to be auctioned off in a vulgar betrothal contest that will enrich the coffers of the village leaders. Only Channi, who’s had to rely on her strength and cunning all these years, can defend her sister against the cruellest of the suitors. But in doing so, she becomes the target of his wrath—launching a series of vicious gladiatorial fights, a quest over land and sea, romance between sworn enemies, and a choice that will strain Channi's heart to its breaking point.

Weaving together elements of The Selection and Ember in the Ashes with classic tales like Beauty and the Beast and Helen of Troy, Elizabeth Lim is at the absolute top of her game in this thrilling yet heart-wrenching fantasy that explores the dark side of beauty and the deepest bonds of sisterhood.

Review:

        It took me nearly halfway through the book to realise that this is a prequel to 'Six Crimson Cranes', a work that I truly adored. Who wouldn't wonder about Shiori's stepmother after reading it? So it is with evident glee I delved into the rest of the narrative eager to uncover the fate that awaits the two sisters.
        Channi is nothing like the future queen who commands everyone's attention with her regal presence. Instead, we find an impulsive girl who doesn't always make the right decisions. It is hard to like her but we also get to see the gruelling experiences that made her future self. The bond that she shares with her sister Vanna is even more admirable. Still, I can't forgive her for the way she treated Hokzuh. Looks like the time has come for me to finally dust off 'The Dragon's Promise' from the TBR pile.

Meet the author:

Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age ten when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars and posted them online to discover, "Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that's kinda cool!" But after one of her teachers told her she had "too much voice" in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English.

Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel -- for kicks, at first, then things became serious -- and she hasn't looked back since.

Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the colour turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.

Saturday 5 August 2023

Heir to Thorn and Flame - Ben Alderson (Blog Tour & Review)

Date of Reading: 3/7/2023
Author: Ben Alderson
Publisher: Second Sky
Publication Date: July 31, 2023
Source: NetGalley
Rating: 3/5

About the book:

Married to a ruthless prince…

For years, Max had to serve and obey the vicious magical nobles. Now he is one of them.

When the heir to the throne attacks him, Max accidentally responds with a lethal burst of magic. Max is certain he will be executed. But his power is too rare and precious for that…

Instead, the king forces him to become the boy he killed, taking on the identity and duties of the heir. That includes an arranged marriage—to the dangerously attractive Prince Camron.

Living a lie, Max knows he can trust no one. Not Camron. And definitely not Simion, a handsome, dragon-riding spy sent to test his loyalty.

As a deadly struggle for power begins and desire sparks, Max must protect his secret and his heart at all costs.

Heir to Thorn and Flame is a passionate and page-turning fantasy romance that will have you reading late into the night. Featuring slow-burn, dark secrets, arranged marriage and found family, it is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Elise Kova and C.S. Pacat.

Review:

        'Heir to Thorn and Flame' is the first book in the War of the Wood series. I am no stranger to Ben Alderson's style and even though this story may not quite reach the heights of  'Lord of Eternal Night', it undeniably serves as a fantastic kick-off to the series. Mages, dragons, familial bonds and treacherous betrayals . . . what is not to like?
        Accidentally killing the heir to the throne, Max is forced to wear his mantle and marry Prince Camron. Plagued by uncertainty and torn between loyalties, he finds himself in a precarious position as his parents remain captive in the clutches of his enemies. Whom should he trust? Dangerously attractive Camron or Simion the dragon riding spy or his loyal but secretive friend, Beatrice? Delving further into the plot will only spoil your reading experience, and thus, I better refrain from divulging any more details. 
       I should warn you though . .. there is sort of a love triangle in the beginning which is almost resolved towards the end. Aaah!! I do hope that the author will pick that plot point again . . . at present my sympathies lay with the (presumed) villain. Sigh! Can't wait to read the next one.

Meet the author:

Ben Alderson is a #1 Amazon bestselling author. His stories are set in fantasy worlds filled with magic, adventure and MM romance. Ben lives in Oxfordshire and, when not writing, can be found reading, taking Winston - his Labrador - out for long walks, or obsessing over Marvel’s The Scarlet Witch.

Wednesday 26 July 2023

Zero Days - Ruth Ware (Blog Tour & Review)

Date of Reading: 24/07/2023
Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 20, 2023
Rating: 4/5

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

About the book:

An adrenaline-fueled thriller that combines Mr. and Mrs. Smith with The Fugitive about a woman in a race against time to clear her name and find her husband’s murderer.

Hired by companies to break into buildings and hack security systems, Jack and her husband, Gabe, are the best penetration specialists in the business. But after a routine assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack arrives home to find her husband dead. To add to her horror, the police are closing in on their suspect—her.

Suddenly on the run and quickly running out of options, Jack must decide who she can trust as she circles closer to the real killer in this unputdownable and heart-pounding mystery.

Review:

        I saw mixed reviews on this novel everywhere comparing it with the author's previous works. Since I am new to Ruth Ware, I didn't have that mental hurdle of high expectations to tackle. And it made me stick to my Kindle the whole day (in spite of the pending works) as a thriller should. So, yes, this one left me pining for more.
        Packed with actions throughout, the tension begins in the first chapter itself. Jack and her husband Gabe are pen testers tasked with identifying vulnerabilities in security systems. Unfortunately, it doesn't go well all the time. The last test doesn't go as planned and she is caught by the security officer. Exhausted and battered, she returns home only to discover Gabe brutally murdered. To make matters worse, the police suspect her involvement in the murder.
        Thus begins Jack's harrowing journey on the run, narrowly evading the authorities while relentlessly pursuing her husband's killer.  The real culprit is not hard to guess, but that doesn't prevent you from eagerly turning the next page. However, not everything is flawless. I would have loved it if Jack had a partner and was expecting that to be one of the detectives: DC Miles or DS Malik, to add a touch of girl power. Unfortunately, one was too kind and gullible and the other too blind to think out of the box. Habiba Malik and Jack become friends by the end of the story which I find somewhat distasteful. With the way she carried out the case, shouldn't Malik be rethinking her career choice? If it was anyone else other than Jack, they would be rotting in jail while the real killer roams free.
        Even though it all looked a bit superhuman, I loved how capable Jack is. Her anguish, devastation and unyielding desire for revenge make it a truly addictive story.

Meet the author:

Ruth Ware is an international number-one bestseller. Her thrillers In a Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10, The Lying Game, The Death of Mrs Westaway, The Turn of the Key and One by One have appeared on bestseller lists around the world, including the Sunday Times and New York Times. Her books have been optioned for both film and TV, and she is published in more than 40 languages. Ruth lives near Brighton with her family. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @ruthwarewriter or at ruthware.com.

Tuesday 4 July 2023

The French Chateau Dream - Julie Caplin (Blog Tour & Review)

Date of Reading: 3/7/2023
Author: Julie Caplin
Publisher: One More Chapter
Publication Date: June 30, 2023
Rating: 4/5

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

About the book:

You are invited to a summer of sparkling champagne, warm buttery croissants and a little bit of je ne sais quoi… 

With a broken heart and a broken spirit, Hattie is in need of a summer escape. So when an opportunity comes up to work at a beautiful, stately chateau in the Champagne region of France she books her flights quicker than the pop of a cork. Romance is the last thing Hattie is looking for but then she wasn’t expecting gorgeous Luc to stroll into her life. With picnics in the warm French sun and delicious foodie trips to the local market, Hattie starts to wonder if a holiday fling – or maybe even something more – might be just what she needs.

Review:

        I almost DNFed this on finishing the first chapter with its cliche dialogues and the insta love scene. Well, 'almost' is the keyword here and I am glad that my persistence paid off. Soon we are transported off to the Chateau in Champagne province and as expected we get to learn a lot more about wines.
        Hattie is taking a break from an unwanted relationship and her cousin's wedding gives her some alone time and also a career boost as a wedding planner. However, things are not as smooth as anticipated in sunny France as someone is trying to sabotage her wedding plans. Thankfully, things begin to perk up with the arrival of Floss, her friend in charge of food. Soon we see the indomitable duo breaking down obstacles and finding love amidst adversity.
        The vivid descriptions of delectable food and the accompanying wines are as tantalizing as they are mouthwatering. Caplin has once again crafted an unforgettable gem that will leave a lasting impression.

Meet the author:

Julie Caplin is addicted to travel and good food. She’s on a constant hunt for the perfect gin and is obsessively picky about glasses, tonic and garnishes. Between regular gin tastings, she’s been writing her debut novel which is set in just one of the many cities she’s explored over the years.

Formerly a PR director, for many years she swanned around Europe taking top food and drink writers on press trips (junkets) sampling the gastronomic delights of various cities in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Copenhagen and Switzerland. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. These trips have provided the inspiration and settings for the trilogy, The Little Cafe in Copenhagen, The Little Brooklyn Bakery and The Little Paris Patisserie.


Tuesday 20 June 2023

The Rose of Florence - Angela M. Sims (Blog Tour & Review)

Date of Reading: 19/06/2023
Author: Angela M. Sims
Publisher: Romaunce Books
Publication Date: April 2023
Rating: 4/5

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

About the book:

1478: Gianetta and Matteo have a happy life, working in service to the wealthy Rosini family. They are used to entertaining rich and powerful members of Florentine society in Palazzo Rosini, where Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici and Botticelli are regular visitors. Even when the Medici brothers narrowly escape the Palazzo with their lives (an accident, surely?), Gianetta and Matteo can’t imagine that the growing unrest in the streets of Florence would ever spoil their happiness.
When a bloody conspiracy erupts in the heart of Florence, in the city’s beloved Duomo, nobody is left unaffected by the aftermath. When the family hear that Matteo is among the conspirators, Gianetta knows that her life will never be the same.

Review:

        Located in the heart of 15th-century Florence, 'The Rose of Florence' is a captivating tale that seamlessly blends romance, mystery, and history. The novel is uniquely styled in the form of an Italian meal, with each course tantalizing our appetite and the ending providing the satisfying conclusion of a memorable dinner. As a reader, I found myself intrigued by the Italian cuisine mentioned at the beginning of each part, and I would love to experience it all one day. 
        The story is set in Palazzo Rosini, the opulent home of the wealthy Rosini family and their loyal servants. The family caters to the powerful Medici brothers and the renowned painter Botticelli, who are frequent visitors to the palazzo. However, not everyone in Florence is content with the Medici's control over the city, and there are frequent attempts on their lives, even within the walls of Palazzo Rosini. The tension builds to a crescendo on Easter Sunday, culminating in a shocking uprising and blood bath that horrifies the entire city.
        The Rosini family also suffers a devastating loss, and Gianetta and Matteo find themselves at the centre of a web of conspiracies. As the story unfolds, secrets are revealed with each passing chapter, and we are enveloped in a comfortable anxiety, confident that all will be resolved in due time.
        While Gianetta and Matteo are the central characters, the story does not revolve solely around them. Instead, it is a richly woven tapestry that explores the Rosini family's forward-thinking attitudes, particularly given the time period. The novel also features cameo appearances by historical figures such as Machiavelli and Leonardo Da Vinci, reflecting the Italian cities' high regard for art and artists.
        Overall, 'The Rose of Florence' is a masterfully crafted novel that transports the reader to a bygone era, immersing them in a world of intrigue, passion, and artistry. 

Meet the author:

Angela’s background is in healthcare, and she has been a university lecturer since 2010. Her writing experience was limited to a master’s dissertation, purely academic, but the research skills she learned during that process were soon used in researching her favourite topic, the Italian Renaissance. It didn’t take long before the seeds of a story began to germinate, and The Rose of Florence her debut novel blossomed.