12 November 2021

Fledgling by Lucy Hope




Book Summary

A dark, gothic adventure set in the Bavarian forest, with angels and owls and magic and a boy who isn’t all that he seems to be…

A cherub is blown into Cassie Engel’s bedroom during a thunderstorm, triggering a series of terrifying events. Cassie must discover if its arrival was an accident or part of something more sinister.

With a self-obsessed opera singer for a mother, a strange taxidermist father, and a best friend who isn’t quite what he seems, Cassie is forced to unearth the secrets of her family’s past. As the dark forces gather around them, can Cassie protect all that she holds dear?


I knew I was off to a good start with this book when I read that the grandfather built an annex onto his house, just for books! This was definitely my kind of house, with so many interesting rooms, a roof that opens up and a steam-powered lift built in the middle. The house was a big part of the book too, playing a real part in the adventure.

I really felt for poor Cassie. Living with a horribly selfish mother who only cares for herself, a very absent, distant father and a grandmother on her deathbed. At least she has a wonderful friend in Raphael, you can tell he really cares about her and tries to protect her.

There are so many mysteries running through. How did Cassie's parents become like this? What's Raphael's story. And of course, why is the cherub there? The book was fast paced and really gripping, it kept surprising me.

My only problem with the book is I still don't understand why Cassie's mother was so horrible. It is kind of rationalised but I didn't really feel that explained it properly.

If you want to try out the book, the author reads the first few chapters on YouTube which is a lovely way to start. You can find chapter one here.


I made this delicious Cherryberry Cherub cocktail to drink with the book. Muddle a few raspberries in a cocktail shaker, then add 1&1/2 shots vanilla vodka, 3/4 shot each of triple sec and lemon juice, 1/2 shot of cherry brandy liqueur. Shake with ice and strain into an glass filled with ice.






29 October 2021

 The Haunting of Lindy Pennyworth - S.M. Pope




Just in time for Halloween, I am closing off the Lindy Pennyworth blog tour and I have a wonderful author interview for you!


Book Summary

I am writing this in an old notebook that I found in the common room. Every word is true. I can speak to the dead. And they can speak to me...

Nobody believes Lindy when she says she doesn’t pull her hair out on purpose. Nobody believes Lindy when she says she hears voices in the night. Nobody believes Lindy when she says that her dead ancestors are haunting her dreams. Nobody believes Lindy.

After the death of her father, Lindy falls headlong into a state of grief and no longer understands her place in the world. Through paranormal rituals, Ouija boards and spiritualist churches, Lindy attempts to speak to her father beyond the grave – but to no avail. That is until she receives a ‘visit’ from Esme, her Victorian ancestor, who reveals that her family is under a curse that separates them in the afterlife.

Determined to break it, Lindy sacrifices her grip on reality. But not everyone wants her to succeed. There are still secrets that fight to remain buried...



This book has such a fantastic start - "I am sane. I can speak to the dead. And they can speak to me." It really sets it up well and gets you hooked on what's to come. Lindy's story is so fantastical that almost no one believes her, least of all her mum. But can she trust the one person who actually does seem to believe? And can she trust the ghosts? Even as the reader, you find yourself wondering what is true. This was a perfect book for this time of year with all the creepy ghosts and the ending actually left me gasping! Now read on for the interview, as I'm sure that's what you're really waiting for.


Interview

What attracted you to ghost stories, have you always been interested in ghosts and psychic abilities?

I can't remember the first time I became fascinated in ghosts and the supernatural, but I was always desperate to look around any and every graveyard I encountered when I visited my grandparents on holiday here in the UK, when I was still living in Canada. We didn't have such old cemeteries and I found it incredible that you could stand in front of something so old and read about the person buried beneath. In my teens, I visited a medium with my mother - we went as a kind of a dare, a bit of fun, but we both came away absolutely shocked by how much she said about both of us without knowing anything about us. She told me things I'd never said to anyone before about myself - stuff that surpassed the usual 'you will pass your GCSEs' ,'you will fall in love' etc. A couple of not very nice predictions also came true which was scary for me and unsettling. She said I was an 'old soul' and had psychic abilities if I ever wished to develop them. (I haven't, though I am curious!)

I am not saying I believe in all mediums and clairvoyants, though. I had a five-minute, three-card Tarot reading with a bored-looking woman in Covent Garden, who apparently had read Richard Gere's future, and everything she said was absolute garbage! 


Are any of the characters drawn from people you know?

No, not entirely. All authors say that their characters are composites of people they know and I agree that this can happen. I think that Lindy has characteristics of myself, but so does her mother - because I am a daughter and a mother! Writing Lindy was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, to be honest. I think that in early drafts I saw her as an extension of myself and therefore I could not settle on how to portray her. Would she be downtrodden or feisty? Acquiescent or stubborn? Early readers of my first drafts (including the author Melvin Burgess, who gave me a masterclass as part of my MA!) picked up on this hesitancy. It took a couple of years and many revisions to settle on this version of her.


Did you have to do a lot of research into the 1800s and the cholera epidemic? Is that a period of history that always interested you?

I don't know why but I have always been drawn to the Victorian era. I love the literature from that time, especially the Romantic poets, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen (she just about squeezes into it!), Henry James, Mary Shelley, the Gothic, etc. For me, what is so appealing is the stark juxtaposition of those who were trying to rationalise everything into scientific explanations, and those who were clamouring to protect the natural world and insist that mankind could not dominate it. This is seen most clearly in Shelley's Frankenstein - the Dr is so determined to go against the laws of nature and produce something incredible - but it eventually turns against him because you can't mess with nature. So, you've got a lot of fascinating developments in science going on alongside writers, like MR James, who are trying to scare people silly with stories that defy all reason. 

The idea for my story came about after reading about the Victorian art of making mourning jewellery out of a deceased person's hair. It disgusted me somewhat but it was fascinating, too. I then started wondering about what would happen if this memento mori would act as a conduit for the dead to communicate with the living, and I decided to explore that through a link between a girl in the present day and one in the past. I did lots of research on Victorian Oxford - the cholera plagues, how and where they started and what happened, newspaper articles from that time. I also visited the two graveyards mentioned in the book - they were created to help deal with the increasing number of dead people due to cholera outbreaks. The hardest thing is ensuring that the parts in which the Victorians speak sound genuine and not too stilted and of course not too modern! 


I'm trying to stay spoiler free here, but that ending!!! Did you always plan to have that epilogue? And will there be a sequel?

At first I had a different ending - it's hard to explain without giving it all away! And then the current one came to me and I thought it would be a better fit. As for a sequel, I'd quite like to develop the story but it depends on how well this sells!


Finally, what is your all-time favourite cocktail?

It should be a Bloody Mary but I absolutely love a well-made Margarita.


Well, fingers crossed we get a sequel and here is a recipe for what I think is a very well-made Margarita! Since it's Halloween I've decided to try out a Blood Orange Margarita. Take a shaker and fill with ice. Add a shot of tequila, 1/2 shots of Cointreau, blood orange juice and lime juice, dash of Campari and dash of sugar syrup. Shake well and pour into a glass with a salt rim.







17 October 2021

 Mix & Match 11


I am currently enjoying a really delicious Champagne Cocktail. I know I've made this before but I just had a craving today and it's such a simple one so here you go! Soak a sugar cube with drops of angostura bitters and drop into a glass of champagne. This time I've used a lovely, elegant flute. Once you've sorted your drink, pick one of the amazing books below to fall into.



Vulture - Bex Hogan

After the devastating cliffhanger at the end of book 2, I could not wait to get my hands on the final book of the Isles of Storm and Sorrow trilogy. It has taken me quite a while to be able to get my thoughts straight after! Bex Hogan is such an amazing writer, this book hooked me right from the start and had me craving more whenever I had to (very reluctantly) stop reading. I am very happy to finally have the conclusion but at the same time kind of sad that it's all over! 



City of Spells - Alexandra Christo

I love that there was a recap of Into the Crooked Place at the start of the book, it was so useful! All books should do the same.

Loads of adventure and excitement, and some twists I really didn't see coming. The descriptions of the places and all the different types of magic were fascinating and I loved being back in this world again. The love/hate relationships between all the main characters was so much fun to read. This was a fantastic end to the duology.


The House with Chicken Legs - Sophie Anderson

I loved this book so much! The writing was so comforting and I didn't want to stop reading at all.

Though Marinka could be a little selfish and annoying at times, her heart was in the right place and she was really just so desperate to be free. How will she be able to reconcile her desire for freedom and friendship with her expected destiny of being the next Yaga? 

The Yaga houses are the best, caring, sweet and so playful, but also capable of getting in a sulk!



A Crown of Talons - Katharine Corr & Elizabeth Corr

Shocking events and betrayals, some expected and most not so much! This was really gripping and so hard to let go of. Aderyn's character is so well formed. Brave and strong, still self-doubting, but despite everything still wanting to be able to trust people. The descriptions of all the places and of the the freedom of flying were really vivid.



A Shiver of Snow and Sky - Lisa Lueddecke

This is set in such a harsh, scary and unforgiving setting, I found it hard to understand why anyone would want to live there. On top of that, there is the double threat of the plague warning and the sudden attacks from the Or, who want a war with Skane. As well as the Or there are so many other monsters that Osa discovers too.

A really gripping story, despite the sheer foreignness and strangeness of the world, I could relate to Osa and her wish to save her village. Her family, on the other hand, were so awful I would have happily thrown them to the giants! 



Shadowghast - Thomas Taylor

A very creepy start sets this book up very nicely. Here Herbie and Violet face the scariest creature yet, the Shadowghast which steals people's shadows and leaves them confused and lost. People are going missing and a new arrival has her sights set on Herbie. Somehow Herbie and his past seem to be caught up in all that is happening, but what could the Shadowghast really have to do with him? Of course they wouldn't get anywhere without Erwin, the mysterious talking cat that is never actually seen to talk. 

The adventure races along and you can't help getting caught up in it and gripped till the very end!




26 September 2021

 The Book Snob Book Tag


I am so behind in my blog posts that I now realise I was tagged twice for this! First of all on Lili's Blissful Pages (@lilikmarcus), you can read her excellent answers over on her blog here. And more recently on Shelves of Starlight (@shelvesofstarl1) with more wonderful answers here. Answering these questions has made me realise I probably am quite a book snob! 😉

I tag @theartsyreader1, @mybookishbliss, @Biblio_fi@amysbookishlife


ADAPTATION SNOB: Do you always read the book before watching the film/TV show?

I haven't actually watched all that many adaptations where I hadn't already read the book before it was made. I would generally prefer to read first if I could.



 

FORMAT SNOB: You can only choose 1 format in which to read books for the rest of your life. Which one do you choose: physical books, eBooks, or audiobooks?

Definitely physical books! I much prefer the feel of them. Being able to see where I am up to and also the ability to easily flick back to check on something I've forgotten or am unsure of.


SHIP SNOB: Would you date or marry a non-reader?

Yes, but what would we talk about???


GENRE SNOB: You have to ditch one genre – never to be read again for the rest of your life. Which one do you ditch?

Romance, I just find it boring to read and usually skip those bits in books.


UBER GENRE SNOB: You can only choose to read from one genre for the rest of your life. Which genre do you choose?

This is a very easy one for me. It has to be Fantasy, I need all that magic in my life!




COMMUNITY SNOB: Which genre do you think receives the most snobbery from the bookish community?

Probably romance, though everyone seems to say they love it. I don't think there is anything easy about it, it's probably one of the hardest things to write realistically!






13 September 2021

 May Day - Josie Jaffrey
Spotlight Tour




I am highlighting another of the wonderful books in round 2 of BBNYA 2021. If you still have not heard of this competition, scroll down to the end of this post to learn more.


Book Summary

If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one. It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake.

When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does.

To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die.

Body bags on standby. May Day is the first book in Josie Jaffrey’s Seekers series, an urban fantasy series set in Oxford, England.


Author Bio

Josie is the author of multiple novels and short stories. Most of those are set in the Silverse, a pre- and post-apocalyptic world filled with vampires and zombies.

She is currently working on a range of fantasy and historical fiction projects (both adult and YA). Ultimately, she hopes to be a hybrid author, both traditionally- and self-published.

After finishing her degree in Literae Humaniores (Classics) at the University of Oxford, Josie wasn't sure what to do with her life.

She slogged through a brief stint working for an investment bank in London during the 2008 credit crunch, then converted to law and qualified as a solicitor specialising in intellectual property. She worked at a law firm for five years before moving to a UK-based international publisher in 2016. Whilst she loved law, in the end she didn't love it quite as much as writing, which she now does almost full time.

Josie lives in Oxford with her husband and two cats (Sparky and Gussie), who graciously permit human cohabitation in return for regular feeding and cuddles. The resulting cat fluff makes it difficult for Josie to wear black, which is largely why she gave up being a goth. Although the cats are definitely worth it, she still misses her old wardrobe.




This year, the Book Bloggers' Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA) is celebrating the 65 books that made it into Round Two with a mini spotlight blitz tour for each title. BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 10 finalists and one overall winner.

If you want some more information about BBNYA, check out the BBNYA Website https://www.bbnya.com/ or take a peek over on Twitter @BBNYA_Official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.