11 February 2024

The Haunting of Lake Lucy by Sandy Deutscher Green

Book Summary

With his fear of dark, enclosed places, 13-year-old Jayce is the last person to check out the dilapidated lake house next door. Instead, he opts to write a note to the ghost he’s convinced is haunting the house, as well as his dreams. Getting his twin sister to deliver it to the mailbox is draining his snack supply, but so worth it because: THE GHOST WRITES HIM BACK. Now Jayce must uncover the dark secret of a cursed lake—or remain haunted forever.

Jayce is the quieter of the twins but he still has an adventurous spirit and when he dreams of the ghost next door he gets his sister to help with the investigation. What he finds is both more mundane and more spooky than he imagined! With the letters from the ghost, Jayce's dreams and the creepy mist appearing, you never know what is real or what is imagination.

This is a great option if you want to try out a poetry style novel. Even though I'm not used to reading poetry, the writing flowed really easily. I also enjoyed the clever use of different formats, like highlighted words telling a different story. I would have liked more of those as I expected a bit more variety in the book.

To make the Lucy cocktail, add 15ml lemon thyme syrup, 15ml lemon juice and 3 raspberries into a tall glass and muddle the fruit. Fill the glass with ice, add 45ml of raspberry vodka then stir to mix and chill. Top with sparkling water.

21 January 2024

Betrothal and Betrayal by Janet McGiffin

Book Summary

Seventeen-year-old Thekla needs her quick wits and knife to track down her betrothed, a soldier who has left her at the altar for the third time. Elias the monk travels with her to Constantinople where she meets Irini of Athens, an extraordinarily beautiful orphan her same age who has been brought by powerful Emperor Constantine to marry his son, Co-Emperor Leon. The two women join forces to survive this vigorous capital of the Roman Empire of the East which is rocked by religious and political strife. But will Thekla help the ambitious and ruthless Irini of Athens find the power that she craves?

I loved Thekla immediately, she was so feisty and no-nonsense. Her knife gets a LOT of use and I think should have it's own twitter account. It's practically a character itself and I bet it would have tons of stories to tell!

This was easy to get into and very easy to read, however it was a little bit lacking in suspense, which stopped me from getting completely gripped in the story. Everything just seemed to happen a bit too easily for Thekla, and even when real trouble did strike, it passed over very quickly, though I must admit I enjoyed not having to put up with too much angst!

The descriptions of all the food sounded so delicious, this is not one to read on an empty stomach! I loved all the Greek words included in the story and it was good to have the glossary at the end.

Author Bio

Janet McGiffin divides her time between her apartment in Manhattan, her family in Washington State, and her friends in Athens, Greece. She was born in Fairfield, Iowa into a newspaper family and learned to write copy as a teenager by writing obituaries for the Ellensburg Daily Record in Washington state. After university, she worked for the Milwaukee Health Department where she gained first-hand knowledge for her best-selling mystery series published by Fawcett Press, NY, featuring Doctor Maxine St. Clair, an ER doctor in an inner-city hospital. She worked as a press officer for the Washington state senate, then moved to Athens, Greece where she wrote grant proposals for small non-profit women’s organizations in Mediterranean countries. She also wrote a humor column for the Athens News newspaper with field archaeologist Adrian Vrettos, wrote two English language easy readers for Cambridge University Press, UK, and a series of hiking articles for greecetravel.com. She researched her Byzantine-era Empress Irini Series through extensive travel in Greece, followed by six months of research at the Bodleian libraries in Oxford, England. She enjoys hiking in Greece, England, Wales, and Scotland.

I'm sure Emperor Constantine would love a Constantine's Cosmo before going into battle. To make the cocktail, shake the following ingredients with ice and find strain into  a coupe glass. 50ml vodka, 20ml elderflower liqueur, 25ml raspberry-lychee puree, 25ml lemon juice.

14 January 2024

Graphic Novels (part 3)

My love of graphic novels just keeps growing! It's amazing how they can say so much in such a short space. These all have such different colour palettes and art styles but I really enjoyed them all.

You can start with this suitably arty cocktail, Arte De Volar. Shake all the following ingredients together with ice and strain into a cocktail coupe. 60ml blanco tequila, 7.5ml creme de violette, 7.5ml lavender syrup, 20ml lime juice, 2.5ml sugar syrup. Enjoy!

Evil Emperor Penguin: The World Will Be Mine! by Laura Ellen Anderson 

Evil Emperor Penguin keeps coming up with more nefarious plans for world domination but somehow they never work out. They just keep getting weirder and more insane and so, so funny. I just love his little helpers, they remind me of Gru's minions but even less evil. And EEP's secret love for Eugene is adorable, the way he never wants to admit how much he cares.

Though this was the latest book in a series, it didn't feel confusing without reading the previous ones. That being said I will definitely be reading the others too.

Witches of Brooklyn series by Sophie Escabasse

Effie finds herself dropped off to live with her 2 extremely weird aunts she's never met before. She soon realises what exactly it is that makes them weird, they are witches and it turns out she is one too!

Effie is such a sweetie and her aunts are great characters. I really liked the art style too. I bought myself the first book while on holiday in New York and enjoyed it so much that I've since ordered the rest in the series. I still have book four which I'm looking forward to and I hope there will be more.

Ghost Roast by Shawnee Gibbs, Shawnelle Gibbs, Emily Cannon

Chelsea will do anything to fit in with the popular girls at school, including doing her best to hide the fact that her father runs a ghost hunting company. Unfortunately for her, getting grounded means working for her Dad and she realises she's actually perfectly suited to the job!

I loved the style and the colours, I'm sure the finished version will look absolutely amazing! It was such a fun book to read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mamo by Sas Milledge

Jo goes in search of the Witch but doesn't expect to find Orla who has taken up the mantle from her grandmother, Mamo. Together they try to fix the many things that have gone wrong in town since Mamo's death.

Orla is clearly very conflicted about being back in her hometown but Jo loves it there and can't imagine leaving. Somehow they complement each other perfectly and it's lovely seeing their friendship and trust grow.

How to Love by Alex Norris

Not strictly a graphic novel but I wanted to include this anyway. It's an adorable and funny collection of comics covering everything from whether you really need love, to what happens when you've found The One.

25 November 2023

Spotlight on...
Arvia: Wings of the Wild by D. H. Willison

Today's spotlight is book 4 of the Tales of Arvia series. It's full of magical creatures and was just released on 22nd November 2023. Find it on Goodreads.

Book Summary

It’s easy to stand up for your friends. What about for anonymous creatures nobody else cares about?

With their homes apparently safe from the magical storms, Darin and Rinloh venture to an isolated elven village and another ancient mystery: ruins of an imperial city whose entire population vanished centuries ago.

The duo befriend a host of eccentric new characters, from a chipper ogress and hipster troll to a deadpan griffin. Yet the Forest of Nightmares challenges them as never before. Merciless carnivorous trees, subterranean horrors, ethereal creatures no mortal weapon can slay… and most sinister of all, the greed and ambition lurking within the human heart.

Darin and Rinloh’s empathic connection grows stronger the deeper into the wilderness they go, but will it be enough to stop a dark conspiracy from ravaging the land?

Arvia: Wings of the Wild challenges the harpy-human duo with their grandest adventure yet. They must balance their deepening relationship as they sharpen their skills and work together as never before to unravel a deadly new plot.

Author Bio

D.H. Willison is a reader, writer, game enthusiast and developer, engineer, and history buff. He’s lived or worked in over a dozen countries, learning different cultures, viewpoints, and attitudes, which have influenced his writing, contributing to one of his major themes: alternate and creative conflict resolution. The same situations can be viewed by different cultures quite differently. Sometimes it leads to conflict, sometimes to hilarity. Both make for a great story.

He’s also never missed a chance to visit historic sites, from castle dungeons, to catacombs, to the holds of tall ships, to the tunnels of the Maginot Line. It might be considered research, except for the minor fact that his tales are all set on the whimsical and terrifying world of Arvia. Where giant mythic monsters are often more easily overcome with empathy than explosions.

Subscribe to his newsletter for art, stories, and humorous articles (some of which are actually intended to be humorous).

5 November 2023

Mix & Match 15

The weather lately has been pretty horrendous so I've made a Dark & Stormy cocktail to drink while you look through today's selection. I've got a real mix this time, from picture book to non fiction to novels.

Fill a tall glass with ice and add 50ml dark rum and 15ml lime juice. Top with ginger beer and enjoy.

Tapper Watson and the Quest for the Nemo Machine by Claire Fayers

Tapper loves adventure stories but really has no wish to live them himself. He's much happier at home, reading about his favourite hero, Isosceles. Of course, this all changes when he's sent to help some merchants with a delivery by submarine.

I thought this book had really great characters, but I must admit Morse was my favourite. The tapping Erisian Danger Plant had me smiling throughout the book, with its cheeky messages and always wanting to help everyone. I loved all the amazing worlds and the fascinating echolings, created from people's memories. And there were so many unexpected twists, the book was action-packed.

The use of the rivers of the underworld from Greek mythology was really clever, how it varied for each of the different nations. Every world had their own version of how the rivers fit into their origin myth. 

It sounds like this will be a series and I really hope so. I'd love to read more from Tapper, Fern and hopefully also Morse!

Can You See the Stars Tonight? by Anna Terreros-Martin

Nora and her puffin find a lost baby puffling (the cutest name for a baby animal ever!) and realise that many are getting lost because the can't see the moon and the stars any more. This has really adorable illustrations and a very important story that we can all learn from.

The Disappearing Diamond by Glen Blackwell

Emmie and Jack are sent to 1851 by a mysterious stranger. The Koh-i-Noor diamond has disappeared from the present and they must find out what happened to it in the past!

I don't know how they were supposed to know what to do, they were given absolutely no information! But somehow the two manage to find themselves at the Crystal Palace and discover the the diamond being stolen. Luckily they make some friends that can help them along the way. I liked reading about Victorian London and the Great Exhibition.

This was the second book in the series but even though I hadn't read book one, it didn't really affect the reading too much. It has made me curious about the previous books involving the Titanic and the Blitz. They both sound so interesting and take place in such fascinating time periods!

Biology: The Whole Story by Lindsay Turnbull

I love science books and this one was so easy to read with lots of fascinating subjects, written in a very accessible way.

This really is the whole story, from bacteria and eukaryotes all the way up to ecology and how different species in ecosystems work together. Including the dangers of interfering and affecting the delicate natural balance. The colourful illustrations help to explain the concepts.

Shiver Point: It Came From The Woods by Gabriel Dylan

As you probably all know by now, middle grade is my favourite and I do love a good spooky book. So this was not one I would miss out on.

To me, Shiver Point sounded like a perfectly creepy town, complete with an eerie forest, but the kids who live there are all so convinced that their town is terminally boring that they can't believe what's actually happening.

I liked getting the story from all the different kids' points of Views. They are all very different but at the same time have something in common and I was really hoping for them to get together and be a monster hunting gang!

Lots of mystery and action and I will never look at slugs the same way again!