7 February 2019

Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel - Ruth Hogan

As a little girl, Tilly's mother moved them to Brighton to live at Queenie Malone's Paradise hotel, where she was the happiest she'd ever been, until her mother sent her away to boarding school with no explanation whatsoever. Split between her childhood and adult life, the two storylines of the book both lead up to an explanation of this sudden event. Lots of mysteries run through the book. How did her father die, why did they leave so suddenly, why did her mother send her away?

Young Tilly is delightful. She's so funny and lively. She mis-hears so much with hilarious results, like wanting to be a virgin because she thinks its a greengrocer. Or the way she sings 'Hark the Herald', apparently something to do with David's tea... She's also convinced that stamp collecting makes you a pervert. The way Tilly loves things without prejudice makes me want to see the world that way too. As an adult, Tilda seems to have lost all that innocence. She has spent her life thinking that her mother didn't really love her and that her father died when she was little. I really felt myself hoping she would somehow find her young self again. 

This was my favourite of Ruth Hogan's books so far. Lots of humour from Tilly, plenty of emotions and wonderful feelings. There are so many charming characters such as Queenie herself, her mother and Geronimo. The occasional secondary points of view are a bit unusual but they work to help to explain what's happening, particularly when you're first seeing things from Tilly's slightly distorted view.

I've adapted a recipe* to create the Queenie's Paradise Hotel Super Cocktail. Shake the following ingredients with ice and strain into a glass: 1&1/2 shot rum, 1/2 shot Passoa, 1/2 shot lemon juice, 1/4 shot grenadine and 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters. Garnish with whatever kitschy stuff you find!

*original Queen's Park Hotel Super Cocktail

28 January 2019

Book Mix & Match 5

As usual with my Mix and Match reviews, I'll start with the cocktail. Today I'm drinking an Almond Martini. Shake the following ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled glass. 2 shots vodka, 1/2 shot lemon juice, 1/2 shot orgeat, 1 shot apple juice, 2 dashes of peach bitters. Now read through these mini reviews and pick a delicious book to go with your drink!

The Wicked King - Holly Black
Wow!!! I was really not expecting that ending. It's hard to describe without spoilers but I was actually fooled into believing that things might be working out. By now I should know better than to trust Holly Black with my feelings!
Jude has now managed to put herself into a position of power though only Cardan knows the truth of just how far she has gone. But she is realising that holding on to this power is even harder than getting it in the first place. She needs to find a way to extend her rule, while at the same time protecting the people she cares about, interrupting the schemes of other courts and fighting her growing feelings for Cardan.
I couldn't quite give it the 5 stars of The Cruel Prince, probably because now I kind of knew what to expect, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was at the edge of my seat through most of it. I'll probably need to re-read as I read it so fast and must have missed things.

Before I Let Go - Marieke Nijkamp
After only a few months away, Corey returns to Lost Creek when she hears of her best friend's death. What she doesn't expect is to be treated like an outsider by the rest of the tiny, close knit town. People she once thought of as family, no longer want her around when she starts questioning what happened to Kyra. Though she is told that Kyra fell through the ice on the lake, Corey suspects there is something more to it from the start. With all the spooky things that happen around Corey, and the powers Kyra seems to have had through her painting, the story gets more and more mysterious the longer she is there. 
I couldn't believe it when the book finished and I couldn't even move for a few moments! I expected a lot more from the ending, yet I think it was actually enough. 
I read this book as part of my preparation for YALC as I saw the author would be there. I'm so glad I put it to the top of my reading pile, I enjoyed it so much!

The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon
In a not too far off future, anyone with clairvoyant ability is hunted and feared. They must hide their abilities and a mafia-type criminal underworld has sprung up to protect and use those with the strongest abilities. When Paige is found out and imprisoned, she's sure that she will be killed. Instead she finds herself taken to a different kind of prison, the city of Oxford, where she finds out that the government she was so afraid of is nothing but a puppet to the Rephaim. They are powerful and deadly and she must somehow learn to trust one of them if she ever wants to escape.
I'm so glad I finally managed to get started on this series. Thank goodness for audiobooks! I've moved straight on to book 2, again on audiobook as I really enjoyed the narrator's reading.

Scythe - Neal Shusterman
In the world of the Thunderhead, there is no illness, war or hunger. The Thunderhead is an all-seeing, almost all-knowing AI which is running the world. But with no death, Earth's population growth is out of control. To combat this, the Scythes were created to glean a certain number of people each year. Neither Citra or Rowan want this job, but when Scythe Faraday chooses them as his apprentices, they both decide to give it a try for the year.
I didn't expect to feel so emotional reading this. Faraday's comments on Rowan's actions were so heart-felt.
I had mixed feelings through the book. I loved it at times, but wanted to rush through some parts. I definitely want to read more though, the whole idea was intriguing and I was fascinated by the moral uncertainty of Citra and Rowan. I'm looking forward to book 2, I really want to find out more about the Thunderhead.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes - Ruth Hogan
After tragedy struck 12 years ago, Masha has only been existing. She continues on but everything is tainted by her sadness until she realises that her life hasn't ended and she needs to start really living again. Seeing how other people have coped with death and managed to move on without forgetting their loved ones, she is inspired to enjoy life again.
The story is told mostly from Masha's point of view but also from the point of view of Alice, and you wonder where their lives will cross.
Despite the serious themes of the book, there were some hilarious sections. The description of a play Masha attends with her best friend is the funniest thing I've read in a while and I would have loved to be there to see it myself. The book was quite slow moving but still enjoyable.

Jinxed - Amy McCulloch
Imagine if your phone was a pet that could comfort you, advise you, keep you up to date with your messages, even organise your life. Lacey is just coming of age to get her first baku but wants to wait for the confirmation that she'll get into her perfect school, where they will give her a level 2 baku rather than the simple insect baku she can actually afford. Then she accidentally finds a broken cat baku and her life changes. This is no normal obedient cat baku, Jinx answers back, ignores her commands and seems to be having a bit of an existential crisis. On the other hand, he's the answer to all her dreams and she can't help loving him.
I thought the bakus were a little bit like the Daemons in Golden Compass. A constant companion that is almost a part of their owners, rather than just a gadget. The writing is just so good, I immediately got enthralled in the story and really want to read book 2. I hope it will be released soon!

22 January 2019

Enchantée - Gita Trelease 

I love books that make you forget everything when you're reading them and this is definitely one of them. I just fell headlong into this one, reading it felt is as if I was in France with the characters. 

Feeling like she is out of choices, Camille decides to find out what is in the burned chest her mother left. Warned not to touch it, she and her sister Sophie have ignored it all these years. Inside they find a tattered dress, make-up and a brooch. The make up transforms her face into perfection, but she finds that to make all the magic work, it needs more than just her sorrow, it needs blood. With her disguise in place, Camille enters Versailles as Cecile, Baroness de la Fontaine. Using magic she wins the money she desperately needs to look after herself and her sister. But the more she visits the palace, the harder it is to give up the money, the new friends and the feeling of power.

Wonderfully written, this book really makes you believe in the magic of Versailles. Lovely descriptions of the riches and finery. Camille is a great character but most of the other characters, including Sophie, are not very well developed which is a shame. The dress is almost like a character itself. It seems sinister at first but becomes Camille's armour, which she draws strength from, protecting and supporting her. 

Enchantée releases on 21st February so get out there and pre-order!

While reading about the glittering world that Camille is drawn to, you can drink The Palace of Versailles cocktail. Stir the following ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled glass. 3 basil leaves, 1 & 1/2 shots cognac, 1/2 shot Creme de Mure, 2/3 shot sauvignon blanc. Garnish with a blackberry and basil leaf.

15 January 2019

CHCC Bookish Joy Blog Fest

First of all, who's going to Chadwell Heath's YA Festival this year? It's all happening on 12th May in Chadwell Heath.  Which authors are you most looking forward to meet? Let me know in the comments! I'm so excited to meet Sarah Ann Juckes (author of Outside), Alexandra Sheppard (author of Oh My Gods) and many more. Keep on reading for a 10% off code, specially for you, my lovely readers.

Last year was the first event and I really enjoyed all the panels, meeting the authors and getting some of my favourite books signed. To read more about my experience last year, read my post. This year it promises to be even better, I was excited to hear there will be lots of bookish stuff on sale this year. I LOVE anything booky so will be saving up to treat myself, possibly to a Cruel Prince bookmark, or a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster Bookish Candle, or some postcards, or, or, or all of them! To celebrate the return of the festival, I've written a letter to an absolutely indispensable part of my life...

Dear Books,

Thank you for all the adventures, for transporting me to so many different places and worlds, for giving me a million lives to live.
When I was bored you chased the boredom away, when I was tired you helped relax me so I could sleep, when I had long journeys to get through, you filled the time and made it pass too quickly!
You help me understand what it's like to me so many different people, teaching me empathy. You cover any topic I can think of.
I know I'm not supposed to judge you by your covers, but with so many beautiful colours, sizes and formats, how could I ever be expected to resist?!?!? I know I will never manage to read all of you and that makes me a little sad, but it also makes me happy to know I will never run out of new and exciting things to read.
Reading is somehow magical. Somewhere along the lines of text, without realising it, the words turn into pictures in my mind.
I can't live without you, wonderful books, and will always be grateful for your existence.

Love forever,


Now for the goodies! If you buy your ticket using code YAFEST10 you can have 10% off the ticket price. Get on the site here to check out the festival or go direct to buy your ticket here. The code is valid until 28th February. Over the next few days there are still a couple more blogs taking part in the blog tour, check out their details below. Then there's a special mystery guest writer on 18th Jan!

5 January 2019

Beat the Backlist and My 2018 in Books

I've just discovered a great new challenge, Beat the Backlist. This challenge aims to help you clear all the older books on your TBR rather then just jumping into every tempting new book or ARC that comes along.  Beat the Backlist is hosted by NovelKnight who seems to have the best reading challenges! There's also regular or Epic Reading Bingo to play alongside, as well as a Hogwarts mini challenge if you're up for it.

I'm excited to see what I can do on this challenge, as my huge TBR shelves and kindle are a constant source of stress to me though I still can't stop buying new books or requesting advance copies of all the gorgeous looking new releases. This will be a good incentive to read some of my own books before getting more. I've decided to set myself a target of 25% of my reading this year, which is 50 out of the 200 books I have on my Goodreads challenge.

Speaking of which, here are some stats from My Year in Books (image and stats taken from Goodreads)

I managed to smash my target of 150 books, getting through 187, 50 more than the previous year (could have been a couple more if I was allowed to add my half books that I was left with at the end of the year!)

This covered 55,614 pages! (I can't even imagine what this looks like in actual physical pages)

My longest book was a re-read of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (this was actually on audio, I absolutely LOVE Stephen Fry!)

My average rating was 3.8 (this sounds about right. There were quite a few that I really loved but I'm not too good and DNF'ing so I forced myself through a few that were not so great too)