10 April 2021

The Magic Place - Chris Wormell

Clementine is kept locked up by her horrible aunt and uncle and only sees the outside by looking up her chimney to see a small square of sky. Despite this she has always dreamed of a place with huge mountains and green and wind, she calls this The Magic Place and it is what keeps her going even though everything at home seems so horrible.

I just knew this was going to be a magical book right from the start. I loved how the pictures weren't just illustrations but were actually a part of the story. Though I must say the vivid descriptions were quite expressive even without the pictures to look at. I could imagine the beetle-like Aunt Vermilia and crocodile Uncle Rufus.

Although Clementine doesn't seem to have much to hope for, she shows her strength and bravery. She manages to keep her defiance and gets back at her aunt and uncle is some small ways, even though she knows she will be punished. She always holds on to her hope that one day she will get away from them and find The Magic Place. I absolutely love a magical pet, and surely Gilbert is part magic as he is such a clever cat! He and a group of very persistent dogs actually play a big part in helping to save the day. With Gilbert's support, Clementine doesn't give up on her wish to escape.

Today I'm drinking a Rosemary Clementine Sparkle. Squeeze 1/4 clementine into a shaker, add 1.5 shots vodka, 3/4 shot lemon juice, dash of sugar syrup and a fresh rosemary sprig. Shake with ice and strain into a glass. Top with a splash of champagne and garnish with another sprig of rosemary.

31 March 2021

Amy McCaw Author Interview
Mina and the Undead

As you all probably know by now, I've been part of #TeamMina for the last few weeks, getting involved in lots of fun challenges about Mina and the Undead which is out tomorrow (1st April 2021)!

I've seen the quotes, read the first chapter reveal, even done the quiz and discovered I'm a Mina. AND finally I received my copy and read the actual book! As a huge bonus I got the chance to interview Amy and found out a few more exciting details about both the book and the author.

Read on for my review and the interview. Plus as usual there's a cocktail recipe inspired by Amy and the book for you to try at the end!

Book Summary

Summer ’95, New Orleans. Mina’s having a summer to die for.

17-year-old Mina arrives in New Orleans to visit her estranged sister, Libby. Mina loves nothing more than a creepy horror movie and can't wait to explore the city’s darkest secrets – vampire tours, seedy bars, spooky cemeteries, disturbing local myths…

Her trip takes an interesting turn when Mina lands a part-time job at a house of horrors, the Mansion of the Macabre. Especially when she meets Jared, Libby’s flatmate, and co-worker (and an excellent Lestat impersonator).

But, the perfect summer bliss is broken when, while exploring the mansion, Mina discovers the body of a girl with puncture marks on her neck and a lock of hair suspiciously resembling Libby’s … who, or what, has made those marks? Is Mina’s fanatical obsession with Vampires playing tricks on her mind? Or could Vampires actually be stalking the streets of New Orleans, hunting for fresh prey?

Mina and the Undead is such a fun return to my past loves of vampire films and books. Like Mina, I loved reading Interview with a Vampire in my youth and since then I have really wanted to visit New Orleans. The book takes a very sudden turn to the (really) supernatural and there's an excellent twist and reveal. This book was so full of wonderfully vivid descriptions. I felt immersed in the mansion and in New Orleans, I could practically feel the heat. It has just intensified my need to visit!

The book itself has some fantastic nostalgic details on the cover, sprayed edges and the pages inside have super cool borders and artwork.


How similar is Mina to you, and did you do that intentionally? Are there any of your own actual experiences in the book?

In some ways, Mina is very similar to me and in others not so much. We have the same interest in dark and creepy subjects. I would definitely seek out a local cemetery or a horror-movie experience! I wanted to bring those things into the book because they fit well with the murder mystery and New Orleans mythology. My love of 80s and 90s movies also seeped in and was part of the reason I set the book in 1995. Like me, Mina is reading whenever she gets the opportunity!

There are also ways that she isn’t like me. I’m too cautious to make a very interesting main character! Mina puts herself in harm’s way and rushes into situations more than I do.

Have you ever visited New Orleans? Your descriptions really made me feel like I was there! What made you choose it as the setting for Mina and the Undead?

Thank you! I visited New Orleans in 2012, and the story rattled around my head until I started writing it in 2016. I’ve visited 29 states over fifteen years of holidays to America, but there was something about New Orleans. The setting of Mina and the Undead definitely came before the plot. I loved the creepy, atmospheric locations and the stories surrounding the city. I wanted to write a book set there, and the murder mystery and characters developed from the setting.

(Pharmacy Museum New Orleans)

What started your love of Point Horror? Did you plan to write something along those lines or did it just happen naturally?

I read Point Horrors way too young when they were popular in the early 90s. I’d exhausted the Sweet Valley High, Babysitters’ Club and Nancy Drew books and liked the idea of moving on to horror. Point Horror was just scary enough and written with a fast pace and plenty of twists.

It didn’t occur to me that the book has a Point Horror feel until early readers pointed it out! I crammed a lot of the things I love into this book and chose to set it in the 90s, so I think that combination came out quite like a Point Horror.

Could we have a photo of your horror shelf?

My YA shelves are in a shameful disarray at the moment, so I’ve shared a photo of one of my adult horror shelves. A lot of the books are the ones I used to research Mina and the Undead and there are some novels too. They’re stacked two deep but the front layer should give you an idea of what I like!

Finally, what is your favourite cocktail?

I’m more of a tea drinker, but I am a fan of fruity drinks with lots of ice. I put a sticky red cocktail in the book that looks a lot like blood, and that sounds pretty fun too!

For both Mina and Amy I have tried to make something like the test tube cocktails Mina and her friends drink at Fang Fest. If you have a test tube to use then great, but otherwise a shot glass works just as well. Chill all the ingredients in advance. Pour vodka roughly halfway, add 3 drops of angostura bitters and a dash of lemon juice, then top up with strawberry syrup.


19 March 2021

The Gilded King - Josie Jaffrey

Book Summary

In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well.

Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside.

But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained.

Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight.

One way or another, the walls of the Blue are coming down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.

The Gilded King was a finalist in the Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award for 2020. It just missed out on the top 3, coming 4th in the competition.

I'm not sure this was exactly the right book for me to read at this time, with a virus quite heavily involved, but luckily I didn't realise before I started and despite it I still really enjoyed the story. The vampire concept was unique, quite different from anything else I've read. The writing was really good, keeping me captivated. However, I felt confused quite often and couldn't keep all the characters straight in my head, meaning I got a lot of them mixed up. I'm still not really sure what happened at the end, though it is the first of a trilogy so I'm sure a lot will be explained in the next book.

To go with The Gilded King, I made a Silver Martini. Shake the following with ice: 1 shot gin, 1 shot extra dry vermouth, 1/4 shot maraschino, couple dashes orange bitters. Strain into a martini glass.

I received this book to read and reviewed as part of the BBNYA 2020 competition organised by the @The_WriteReads tours team. All opinions are my own, unbiased and honest. BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors.

If you are an author and wish to learn more about the 2021 BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website (https://www.bbnya.com/) or our Twitter account, @BBNYA_Official. If you would like to sign-up and enter your book, you can find the BBNYA 2021 AUTHOR SIGN UP FORM HERE. Please make sure to carefully read our terms and conditions before entering.

If you are a book blogger or reviewer, you can apply to be part of BBNYA 2021 by filling out this form (also remember to read the terms and conditions before signing up)!

BBNYA is brought to you in association with the Folio Society (If you love beautiful books you NEED to check out their website!) And the book blogger support group TheWriteReads.

18 March 2021

 Mina’s Movies Recommendations

Today I have Mina from Mina and the Undead taking over my blog to share her fave horror movie and book recommendations!

If you've been following the hype (and twitter, and my blog...) you'll be well aware of Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw which will be released on 1st April. Not long to wait now 🥰 Hopefully you've seen the character quiz but in case you missed it, you can find it here. If you have taken the quiz you'll already know which character you are and if you're anything like me, you're a Mina.

And now, over to Mina herself...

Mina’s Horror Movies for YA Fans

I decided to combine two of my favourite things for this article: movies and book recommendations. So, snuggle down in your comfiest chair with plenty of snacks and a blanket (equally good for cosiness and pulling over your head at the scary bits).

The Forbidden Game by L. J. Smith: Jumanji meets Labyrinth

I’m starting strong with two movies to go with one of my favourite books. The Forbidden Game is the story of three teens who get sucked into a board game. Before they get to the end of the game, they have to conquer their worst fears and get the better of the wicked and gorgeous Erlking. It has the evil board game vibes of Jumanji and the sexy villain of Labyrinth. If that doesn’t get you to pick it up, I don’t know what will.

The Betrayal (The Fear Street Saga) by R.L. Stine and Hocus Pocus

In The Betrayal, you get the Fear Street origins and why the horror began. I won’t give too much away, but if you want witch trials and family feuds, then this is the book for you. It pairs perfectly with Hocus Pocus, the story of three teens who accidentally wake three witches intent on sucking the life out of every kid in town. If you’re after dark magic and witches with attitude, give these two a go.

The Silent Scream (Nightmare Hall) by Diane Hoh and Urban Legend

Looking for a creepy campus setting to get your heart racing? In Silent Scream, Jess is excited about college until she starts to unravel the dark secrets surrounding her dorm. Then you’ve got Urban Legend, the ultimate serial killer thrill fest. A killer is stalking a group of college students, picking them off in the style of urban legends. There’s something about a college setting that I can’t resist, with parents safely back home, the suffocating pressure of exams and the small campus environment… Definitely check these two out.

Secret Vampire (Night World) by L. J. Smith and The Lost Boys

Yes I’ve put another L. J. Smith book on the list, because I couldn’t resist adding some of my favourite vampires to the mix. Poppy is dying, and it just so happens that her best friend is a vampire who could save her. This one is full of smouldering tension and is only the first of a long, brilliant series. It pairs great with The Lost Boys. Michael’s family moves to a town overrun by vampires. He’s drawn to a girl who is one of them, but will he join her on the fanged side? I love everything about this movie, from the killer soundtrack to the Gothic set pieces. Look no further than these two for your vampire fix.

Who did you get in the quiz? Have you read or watched any of Mina's favourites?

11 March 2021

Mina and the Undead - Amy McCaw
Chapter 1 Reveal

Today I have a very special post. You lucky people can now read the first chapter of Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw! If you've read the prologue you'll already be captivated and desperate for more so here it is!

(Full disclosure, this is my first time trying something like this so in case it doesn't work, follow this link to go straight to Amy's website and read it there!)

So, what did you think? I'm sure you'll agree that was an extremely intriguing start and you'll be as excited as I am to get my hands on a copy of the book. It is released on 1st April so get pre-ordering now 😃