18 June 2018

After The Fire - Will Hill 





Outsiders are bad and they cannot be trusted. Moonbeam has known this most of her life since it has been drummed into her by Father John and he knows what is right and what is wrong. She has been living inside the Fence since her parents brought her there as a young child. Now she is alone, though part of the bigger community run by a very strict Father John. But she remembers what it was like before he was in charge and she starts to question the way things are. What if HE is wrong? Even just thinking this could get Moonbeam in trouble and she doesn't know who she can trust, who else might be thinking like her.

Then the community is raided by Governments, who they have all been taught to mistrust. The majority of the story takes place in the aftermath, when Moonbeam and some of the other children are being kept in a secure facility as they are interviewed by Doctor Hernandez and Agent Carlyle. Moonbeam struggles to get past the influence of Father John and open up to the two interviewers.

Gradually, through alternating After and Before threads, the story is revealed and it is so much more complex than you can anticipate. The book kept me guessing all along and was full of suspense in both of the story lines. I had so many questions throughout and if anything I had even more as the book progressed.

I got emotional so many times and felt like my poor heart was completely wrung out by the end. I just did not want to put it down! I have recommended this to so many even people even before I had finished it. I have read tons of good books recently but this really has to be one of the best in some time.

I heard the author talk about his book at a recent book festival (see previous post).  I was part way through the book and already enjoying it at the time and hearing some background made it even more interesting. Though some of his comments made me slightly nervous about what was going to happen! Getting my copy signed was a bonus.




You need a long drink to keep you going through this book as you won't want to stop for refills. The colour of an Aperol spritz almost matches the cover of my copy. Mix 3 parts prosecco, 2 parts Aperol and 1 part soda in a large glass with lots of ice. A beautiful drink and very refreshing.






12 June 2018

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes - Ruth Hogan


I was so excited to hear of a second book by Ruth Hogan, author of Keeper Lost Things, and have been waiting impatiently for this book ever since then. You can imagine how happy I was to receive a review copy. To make it even better, look at the little goodies it came with!




After tragedy struck 12 years ago, Masha has only been existing, rather than living. She continues on but everything is tainted by her sadness until she realises that her own 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 partly from the point of view of Alice, and you wonder where their lives will cross, what could it be that brings the two women together? There are some tiny hints as you read but nothing substantial until much further in the book.

Despite the serious theme of the book, there were some hilarious sections. You have hope that Masha will get through as she has a great sense of humour. 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. I also love how Masha sees beauty in everything and everyone. She makes various new friends as the book continues, including the intriguing woman she calls Sally Red Shoes.

The book was quite slow moving but still enjoyable, a comfortable read but quite emotional in places. There's a real lesson to live life with joy, without being preachy at all.

Angels were a recurring theme in the book so I've made an Angel Juice.  Combine all the following ingredients in a shaker and first shake without ice (this is due to the egg white). Then add ice and shake again, strain into a martini glass and enjoy!

1 shot pear vodka, 1/2 shot each of elderflower liqueur, sauvingon blanc wine, apple juice & lemon juice,  1/4 shot of sugar syrup and 1/2 an egg white. Garnish with an apple fan.





24 May 2018

CHCC YA Fest


It has taken me a while to get my thoughts together but here's my update on the marvellous Chadwell Heath Community Centre Young Adult Festival. The first thing that caught my eye as I walked in was the swag table, where I managed to get myself proofs of A Sky Painted Gold and Zenith. There were also some cute badges and bookmarks. In addition there were copies of books hidden around the venue where I found Unveiling Venus.




 

There were lots of interesting panels, with authors discussing Villains, Best Friends and First Loves in their books, as well as a writing workshop and Chloe Seager giving us some Literary Agent tips. When I eventually get round to writing my bestseller I will definitely be getting myself an agent!

I got to meet Will Hill who signed my copy of After the Fire with some very good advice. This is one of my favourite books in a while, if you haven't read it yet then get on it now!






Some of the other authors in attendance were Elizabeth and Katherine Corr, Alice Osman and Non Pratt. Hearing them all speak about their books has definitely made me add a few to my TBR list (already towering and ready to topple and kill me in my sleep) and books were available to buy at the venue.

The festival was a fun, intimate and cosy event. It was very well organised so you could attend all the panels and still have your books signed. At some festivals I've been to there's a trade off between signings and panels which can be very disappointing. At the end there were refreshments, raffles and games where you could win even more books and book-related goodies. The venue was great, what better place for a festival than in a library? And there were some great decorations around the place, including the room of requirement doubling up as the green room.




It's a shame that the festival couldn't go ahead as a 2 day event as originally planned but I had a great time anyway and I'm very glad to hear that it will be back next year. I'm sure it will be even bigger and better.


19 April 2018

The Potion Diaries - Amy Alward


Samantha Kemi's family were once the premier potion makers in Nova, apothecaries to the Royal Family. But when big corporations started using synthetic ingredients, they were left behind. ZA corp has teams of alchemists and can synthesise ingredients, making them far cheaper than the authentic natural ones.




Princess Evelyn accidentally gives herself a love potion meant for someone else and then falls madly in love with herself. This triggers a Wilde Hunt in which all Nova's alchemists must compete to find the cure before it's too late to save the princess. Sam decides to join, against her grandfather's wishes and battles to discover the recipe which is illegal and has been lost for over a century. Add to this the handsome son of her biggest rival, who seems to genuinely care about her and about finding a cure, regardless who manages it. Nevertheless Sam is naturally a bit sceptical of his true intentions.

I really enjoyed the story, the characters and the magical world. I've already started reading the second book, Royal Tour, and I am hoping it will be just as fun as the first.

Sam's creative thinking about mixing her potions reminds me of myself thinking about a new cocktail. Trying to decide which ingredients are needed to get the desired results and which go together well. I have used some of the love potion ingredients to create my cocktail, the Nova Love Potion.

Unfortunately I don't know where to find Abominables but I have managed to find some of the ingredients such as this lovely shimmery Unicorn Tears gin. I won't give the significance of all the ingredients* but hopefully as you read the book it will all become clear!




First of all brew up some jasmine tea, you don't need much so make sure it is strong. Leave to cool.
Shake up 1 shot of Unicorn Tears gin, 1/2 shot each of cranberry juice and lemon juice and a dash of rose syrup with ice, then pour into a rocks glass full of ice. Top up with a shot of jasmine tea and stir in a little blue shimmer to turn the cocktail purple. At the last minute add a drop of Chambord (I won't say what this relates to as it is a bit of a spoiler!). Garnish with a few rose petals.




*If you do want to know, leave a comment below or message me on twitter...



2 April 2018

To Kill a Kingdom - Alexandra Christo


When Elian saves Lira from drowning after her mother turns her human and steals her siren's song, he has no idea this is the same girl who almost killed him. Still he doesn't know if he can trust her though they may need to work together to find what they are both looking for.




Lira and Elian are both great characters with as many similarities as they have differences. Both are reluctant royal heirs to their kingdom's throne and both feel like they cannot live up to their parents' expectations. But while Elian has made it his life's mission to rid his world of the threat of the Sirens, Lira spends her life killing princes and stealing their hearts, earning the title Prince's Bane.

To say this is just a Little Mermaid retelling is to sell it short. Though it has a surface similarity in that a mermaid (or siren in this case) loses her song, it is far more than that. There are many more levels to this story and plenty more adventures going on.

I absolutely loved the magical world of Lira and Elian. I found it delightful realising that the Siren language Psariin is actually Greek and many of the place names have hidden meanings. It is full of intriguing Kingdoms with Greek connections. Elian's home land, Midas, where everything is golden. Pagos is the land of ice and snow, while the sirens live in the Diavolos sea.

I have named my cocktail the Prince's Bane. It brings together the Greek theme with ouzo for the liquorice aroma Elian has and the green/blue colour of the sea.

Shake up 1 shot of ouzo, 3/4 shot lemon juice, 1/2 shot each of blue curacao and apple Sourz and a dash of sugar syrup with lots of ice. Strain into a glass and stir in a little blue shimmer to make it even prettier. Garnish with a star anise floating on the top like a little boat on the sea.








24 March 2018

Book Mix & Match 3


So many books! I decided to do another quick round of short reviews to catch up a bit.

The well known Heisenberg principle states that you can know what you're drinking, or what you're reading, but not both at the same time! So the Heisenberg cocktail is perfect when there are so many books to read that you don't know where to start.
2 shots of tequila, 1/3 shot of maraschino, 2/3 shot lemon juice and 1/4 shot each of lavender syrup and blue curacao. Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass with a salt rim.




As you wish - Chelsea Sedoti
Eldon lives in a little town in the desert, where nothing much happens apart from being close to area 51. At least, that's what he and the other residents want everyone to think, while in fact his town is extremely special. Everyone who lives there gets a wish on their 16th birthday. A real, guaranteed, wish come true. While the rest of the town thinks this is the only thing that really matters in life, Eldon isn't so sure any more. His birthday is coming up and he still doesn't know what to wish for, despite his mother's request.
Eldon has seen first hand how wishes can ruin lives and is determined not to make the same mistakes other people have made, so he asks everyone he can about their wishes. These are touching stories which I found so emotional to read. I can't even imagine what I would choose if I had the chance.

The Hanging Girl - Eileen Cook
Skye is desperate for money and what she makes on her fake tarot readings for the other pupils at her school aren't going to be enough. When an opportunity to scale up her fake predictions presents itself, she decides to take the chance but she doesn't realise how much more complicated things are than she expected. Skye convinces herself that Paige won't really be hurt, it's only for a couple of days and then she'll have the money she needs so she doesn't have to let her best friend down.
There's plot twist after plot twist, just when you think you have a clue what's going on, you realise that you really have no idea.
I really enjoyed this book, the writing was very clever and I will be looking for more from this author.




How to Hang a Witch - Adriana Mather
Samantha Mather is unwillingly moved to Salem, home of the witch trials. Her father is in a coma and the high medical bills mean her step-mother can't afford to keep them in their New York home. There she must learn a lot more about her ancestry than she ever wanted to know. Throw in an angry ghost, some bitchy teenagers and an ancient curse and Sam has her work cut out for her. The author makes you suspect almost everyone in this book so you never really know who Sam can trust.
This is narrated by the author which I think gives an extra insight into how she really wanted the characters to feel.

Undercover Princess - Connie Glynn 
Lottie has spent her life trying to live up to her ideal of a princess, she has her motto to be kind, brave and unstoppable.  Lottie promised her mother, before she died, that she would be happy and do her best to go to Rosewood Hall school. When she manages to get a rare scholarship, she never expected that she would have a real princess as a roommate and that she would end up pretending to be her.
This is the first in a new series and I think there is plenty more to the story and to the mystery of Rosewood Hall.

Rebel of the Sands - Alwyn Hamilton
Amani is probably the best shooter in Dustwalk, but as a girl she has no rights as lives at the mercy of her aunt and uncle. When she overhears her uncle deciding that he should marry her himself as she will never find a husband of her own, she is even more determined than ever to flee to Izman. While putting her plan into action she meet a mysterious foreigner, Jin, who has his own reasons for running away. Together they escape on a magical horse, but the adventures only just begin here.
I enjoyed the book but not enough to rush out for the second in the series. I probably will read it eventually because I do want to know what happens to Amani and Jin.


5 March 2018

This Is How It Always Is - Laurie Frankel





Rosie and Penn have 5 boys, until their youngest child, Claude, reveals that he wants to be a girl. While his parents and brothers are all as supportive as they can be, they know it won't be as easy for the rest of the world to accept him. They all struggle with how to handle the changes, how to advise Claude, how much is going to be accepted. Is this the whim of a small child or something deeper? Does he just like dresses or is he really a girl inside? Rosie asks herself so many questions though all she really wants to do is protect her child.

As Claude grows from toddler to young boy, from Claude to becoming Poppy, the book deals with the different stages he and the family go through. Their own understanding and acceptance as well as dealing with school, friends and the rest of the outside world. The other boys are also growing meanwhile, with their own needs for attention.

I liked the idea for the story but at the beginning of the book I found it all a bit too light and easy. It read a bit like a love story, with Rosie and Penn knowing even before they met, that this would be the one. I felt it difficult to relate to people who just know things, know their own minds so easily. Are there really people like that? That passed quite quickly though, once getting into the main part of the story it stopped being so simplified.

I found the descriptions of the markets and countryside in Thailand really brought it to life. I didn't find Bangkok quite as dirty and hectic as described but I can imagine it depends which sections you're in. Overall I really enjoyed the book though I thought it was a bit longer than necessary.

Make yourself a Thai Red Daiquiri to sip while you read. Muddle a few cubes of red pepper in a shaker and then add 2 shots of rum, 1/2 shot each of lemon juice and coconut water, 3 thai basil leaves and a dash of sugar syrup. Shake them all with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of pepper.