11 August 2018

Between Darkness and the Light - Paul Mitchener

I am happy to be today's stop on the blog tour for Between Darkness and the Light. Read on for a guest post from the author, Paul Mitchener and also his cocktail recommendation!

Henry has no idea that he is anything other than a normal, slightly lazy, teenager or that his mother is not even human. After a fight with his mother he spends all day walking around and ends up in the forest where he meets a couple of very strange characters. After this he soon finds out a lot more than he ever expected. I really liked the character of Bert, one of the guardians. He reminded me a bit of Hagrid, telling Harry that he's a wizard! I felt like this book was at least a third longer than it needed to be, but it was interesting enough to keep me reading.

Here, Paul talks about his main protagonist:
My main protagonist (Henry) is a young and bored teenager, who quickly learns that there is more to this world than he could have ever imagined. At first, he’s like any other boy of his age but through a series of events he learns to grow up fast. Whenever I wrote about Henry I couldn’t help but think back to my own teenaged years and his relationship with Bree reminded me of how I felt when I met my first love, excited but also uncertain of his own feeling. Henry starts off as an insecure teenager, unsure of himself and the world around him, but quickly become stronger, wiser and more assertive as the story line progresses, and at the end of the novel, Henry is no longer a teenager but had become a man that is no longer afraid to stand up for what he believes, a man that those around him and those that love had come to admire. One of the main things I like about Henry is that he is a likeable character which most young adults would be able to relate to, but above all, I feel that he is a believable character.

Paul's cocktail recommendation is a Brandy Collins:
50 ml Brandy, 25 ml Squeezed Lemon Juice, 15 ml Sugar Syrup, 15 ml Soda Water, Maraschino Cherry, Lemon Slice. Mix the brandy, lemon juice and sugar syrup in a tall glass with ice. Top up with soda water, garnish with a maraschino cherry and a lemon slice and serve.

18 July 2018

A Sky Painted Gold - Laura Wood

Lou thinks of the Cardew house as hers. Sitting on an island of it's own, the house has been abandoned for some time when she decides to explore both the island and the house. Discovering orchards full of delicious fruit and a library full of books, she can't help going back and feels more at home there than at her own house. Eventually though, Robert and Caitlin Cardew come back to the house for the summer, to get away from London after losing both their parents.

As her friendship with the Cardew siblings grows, Lou is drawn into the life of glitz and glamour, parties and champagne, and she really doesn't want to go back to her sleepy village life. But everyone has secrets of their own and despite the easy way the Cardews live, even they have difficulties that Lou doesn't realise.

Lou is a wonderful character, I absolutely loved her slightly sarcastic humour. In fact, I'm a little bit in love with all the characters, even the ones I thought I would dislike at the start. Though some of the friends seem shallow at first, everyone has more to them than you think and the friendships and loyalties are deep. The descriptions of the parties made me feel like I was there, dancing and losing myself to the music. I enjoyed the book so much, I really hope the author will be writing more YA. Thanks to CHCCYA Festival for the proof copy. Hopefully I will be able to get it signed at YALC!

I started reading this book on holiday, with a jug of gin mojito next to me. A lovely neighbour made us a jug of mojito. It was full of fresh mint that was so tasty, I didn't want to throw it away away when we finished. So I refilled with gin, tonic and lemon juice, then left in the fridge to soak up all the flavours. So summery and delicious!

14 July 2018

The Dark Gifts Trilogy - Vic James

First of all, aren't the covers just so beautiful together? I love the theme that runs through them and it fits in with the books wonderfully (unfortunately Bright Ruin isn't out yet to finish my picture!).

Not all are free
Not all are equal
Not all are saved

This is a world so similar to ours, but sent in a different direction by the Equals, the elite of society who possess Skill and can do magic.

The books are mostly written in the points of view of Luke and Abi, but some chapters are narrated by other characters. Quite often ending in suspense, the various points of view are woven together so masterfully and they constantly surprise you. All are written so well that you want to continue with them but then you can fall into the next character so easily too. I didn't find it all confusing as some multiple POVs can be.

As I have reviewed all three books here, I've tried my best to avoid spoilers, or at least no more than the back of the books gives away. I am so glad to have met Vic James and got my first copy signed. It was the perfect excuse to buy myself a copy and I am so happy I did. Hearing her talk about the book definitely sent it way up my TBR list.

Book 1 - Gilded Cage
Have a quick ten years. This is the farewell most common people receive as they go to do their 'days'. 10 years of service to the Equals. Equals rule Britain and by law, everyone else has to serve them for a period, before they receive many of the rights most people would take for granted. Abi's family decide to do their service together, working for the Jardines, one of the most aristocratic of the Equal families. Abi thought this would help to keep them safe, but they are split up when her brother Luke is taken away to one of the worktowns. They both try to settle in to their new lives, while still working to find a way to be reunited. But danger seems to lie around every corner and neither way of life seems safe. The three sons of the Jardine family are as different as can be. Gavar is intimidating, proud and distant, seeming to barely notice the commoners, Jenner is a rare unSkilled Equal, which Abi hopes means that he will be more understanding, and Silyen is a complete mystery, exceedingly powerful but almost childlike in his curiosity.
I could not believe it ended on such a cliffhanger! I had to order Tarnished City immediately and pounced on it as soon as it arrived.

Book 2 - Tarnished City
Forget whatever you thought you knew of the characters in book one, this second book in the trilogy turns pretty much everything upside down. I'm still reeling!
Abi needs to save Luke, Luke is trying to figure out what on Earth Silyen is up to and the Equals all have their own agendas.
Some of them are starting to realise exactly what they can do with their power and even the other Skilled are no longer safe.
While this one doesn't end on quite as much of a cliffhanger as book one, I still needed to start book three, Bright Ruin, as soon as possible.

Book 3 - Bright Ruin
I was lucky enough to get an advance Netgalley copy of this book but I will still be buying it as soon as it is released, the covers look so lovely together and I need to have them all!
In this final book, the stakes are higher than ever and the nation needs to be remade, but in what way? Is it possible for things to reform and improve for everyone? Powers are growing, unimaginable truths thought to be hidden forever are being discovered and unlikely alliances are formed. With so many schemes, plots, double crossing and ulterior motives, I almost gave up trying to figure out who to trust and decided to just go with the flow. I enjoyed this final book almost as much as the first two but was upset with how many characters died in this one. I almost started expecting it whenever something big was happening. The ending was both satisfying and frustrating at the same time! I was screaming inside as it's probably frowned upon on the tube.

I found the perfect cocktail to drink with the books, the Golden Bird. Skill is portrayed as a golden, almost liquid substance and the bird fits in with the motif on the covers.

Add the following ingredients to a shaker with ice, shake and strain into a martini glass. 1 shot each of rum, Grand Marnier and pineapple juice, 1/2 shot of Banana liqueur, 1&1/2 shots of fresh orange juice. Garnish with an orange beak on the rim.

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.