13 October 2019

Shadows - R.J. Furness

(Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five #1)

Have you ever seen something you can’t explain? Did it vanish as fast as it appeared?
Perhaps that thing you saw was lurking in the shadows, and you caught a glimpse of it before it went back into hiding.
There’s a good chance, of course, that the thing you saw simply emerged from your imagination.
Or maybe, just maybe, it didn’t…

Shadows is book 1 of the Sapphire Smyth & the Shadow Five series. This is quite a short book, the first of a six part serial. I've read a few books this year in this format and I enjoy it as it keeps things fast paced and not too bogged down with detail. The downside of this is that it would have been nice to have at least a little more detail. There wasn't really enough time to really get to know the characters, though I expect this will be remedied in the later books. It would have been good to start just a little further back, to understand more about Sapphire's relationship with her foster family. Not knowing them at all, it is hard to feel the shock that she must be feeling at their behaviour. However, the prologue gives an intriguing glimpse into Sapphire's much earlier past and her parents.

Ben clearly knows a lot more about everything than Sapphire does, though he doesn't seem in a hurry to explain much to her. I don't really blame him as she can be kind of a bratty character and I really couldn't empathise much with her.  I'm not quite sure about their relationship as it sounds as though they are supposed to be really close but Sapphire definitely has trust issues from the start. Hopefully he will turn out to be a trustworthy friend.

I enjoyed the fantasy and wanted to know more about the shadows and where they come from, so far I can't tell if they are actually good or bad, I'm guessing they can be either. The book didn't leave me desperate to read more, though the titles of the next two books, Mermaids and Dragons, did pique my interest!

Here's my Shadowsmyth cocktail:
Mix 1 shot blue curacao and 1 shot chambord. Stir with ice to chill and strain into a champagne flute. Top with prosecco.

The Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five blog tour runs until 20th October so be sure to check out some of the other great tour stops.

29 September 2019

The Good Luck Girls - Charlotte Nicole Davis

Sold into slavery, as children they work as daybreak girls in the house until they are old enough to become sundown girls, when they work for their keep in a very different way. They are called Good Luck Girls and are expected to believe they are the lucky ones because they live in relative comfort with plenty of food and most importantly, protection from the dangers of life outside the house. Revenants, vengeants and many others besides.

On Clementine's first night as a sundown girl, she accidentally kills her brag and has no choice than to go on the run. With her sister Aster and three other girls from the house, they plan an escape from the welcome house. But even then, with their tattooed favors marking them out, they face the constant threat of capture.

The story is told mostly in Aster's voice. Although she isn't actually that much older than Clem, she seems years older and is driven by her determination to keep her sister safe. She leads the group even though she isn't sure she has the strength, but when any of the girls are in trouble, she is unstoppable and will do anything to protect them.

The book is full of ups and downs. Moments of despair and times of relief, both touching and joyful. Reading a sample of the book, I thought it would be interesting but didn't expect to find it as engrossing as I did! I found it so hard to put down and hardly noticed the time passing. One thing I would have liked would be a bit more explanation. I don't think it is ever fully explained what is a dustblood, brag, or why they don't have shadows. Mostly I could guess but would have liked to know a bit more about some things. I wonder if there will be a follow up book. There is a satisfying ending but I feel like it has been left open to the possibility of more.

The Good Luck Girls are given new names when they come to the house, all named after the flowers that they have as their favors.  I've made a Flower Mojito, adding elderflower, jasmine and lavender to the traditional cocktail. Gently muddle (crush) a handful of mint leaves in the bottom of a tall glass. Add 2 shots of rum, a couple of dashes of lavender syrup and elderflower cordial, a shot of cold jasmine tea and half shot of lime juice. Add some ice and stir well. 

15 September 2019

Spin the Dawn - Elizabeth Lim

The Emperor is looking for a new Imperial Tailor, and Maia knows this is the job for her, but women can't be tailors, let alone work for the Emperor himself. So when a royal messenger arrives asking for her father, she decides to pose as her brother and take his place. After fighting off the competition and winning her place, Maia is tasked with making 3 mythical dresses. One from the laughter of the sun, the second from the tears of the moon and the last from the blood of stars.

Maia is so sweet but so determined. Even the threat of discovery doesn't stop her from doing what she thinks is right. And she literally risks everything, including her life, for her family. Edan is quite a mysterious character and I liked his mischievousness right away. I loved the connection between them and their conversations, with Maia wary of the Enchanter and Edan clearly fascinated by her.

I don't think I really knew what I was getting into when I started this book. The cover attracted me first and then all the praise from other readers. I'm very glad I read it as I really enjoyed the book and hope that book 2 won't be far behind. The book was wonderfully written and I found it completely immersive.

I requested the book from my library but was lucky enough to be sent this lovely swag from the author.

To make the Starry Night cocktail, stir the following with ice: 2 shots Chardonnay, 1/2 shot pear eau de vie, 1/2 shot maraschino liqueur. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a star anise.

26 August 2019

Into the Crooked Place - Alexandra Christo

I can't believe how lucky I was to receive this proof copy! I loved Alexandra Christo's previous book, To Kill A Kingdom so much and was on the edge of my seat waiting for this one. The book came with a beautiful silvery map of the city. I can't seem to do it justice in the photo but it is lovely.

Tavia is the best magic busker in Creije, working for Wesley, who used to be her friend but is now the Kingpin's golden boy. Karam and Saxony also work for Wesley, but in the Crook, his underground fighting club. The four crooks now need to team up if they are to save their city, but they all have their own secrets and none can ever truly trust the others. This is the first half of a duology so there was bound to be a cliffhanger but the book is also quite self contained apart from this.

As the four main characters are introduced, they mostly seem almost like strangers. However, as the story progresses you learn a lot more about the relationships and history between them all. I felt like this changed how I thought and felt about each of them.

This was such an immersive world, I had to surface now and then just to find out where I was and what was going on. There was plenty of magic but the distinctive thing about this world is that while anyone can buy and use magic, only crafters can create new magic. Once again the author has created complex characters and actually managed to make me care about the bad guys. 

To make a Black Magic cocktail, muddle 12 red grapes in a shaker, add 1/2 shot of triple sec and ice and shake well. Strain into a flute and top with champagne.

5 August 2019

City of Wishes Serial - Rachel Morgan

This is a different take on the Cinderella story, where Elle is not just an unwanted stepdaughter, but a human slave to her fae step-family. However, unlike most humans Elle does have one gift. She is determined to use it to buy her own freedom and that of her younger step-sister. 

Elle's stepmother really is a horrible piece of work, the way she so casually hurts her own daughter as punishment to Elle and also the other way round. I was very interested in finding out what Dex's true motives were, and the clues about Elle's mother were intriguing. The Godmother is one of my favourite characters. She's kind of evil but in a cool way, I would love a book or even just a short story about her. To be honest all the characters are pretty cool, even the side characters seem interesting, I would like more about Cress too.

The series was written in six parts and I really enjoyed the serialisation aspect of the book. It was almost like watching a TV series though I found it so hard to wait for the next instalment each time. My only complaint is that the books are so short. They are supposed to be, but I felt like just as I was getting immersed in the story, it finished. And Rachel Morgan really knows how to leave you hanging and desperate for more! 

Essence Cocktail
Stir together 1 shot of orange vodka, 1/4 shot of lemon juice and a dash of sugar with some ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and stir in some edible glitter. Top with prosecco, the bubbles will help keep the drink shimmering. I used pink & gold glitter which turned the drink a pretty peach colour, but to be more faithful to the book you could use pure gold like the faeries' essence.