Book Review

Reading Challenge Update – January

At the start of the year, I set myself the goal of completing not one but two reading challenges in 2022. I will be cheating just a smidge and using one book for both challenges where there is crossover, but I am hoping that following the prompts will help me blitz through my ever increasing TBR pile! Here is a round up of how the first month has gone. Full details of both challenges can be found at the bottom of the post.


This was a book that I could use for a prompt on each challenge, covering “a book already on my bookshelf” and “a book featuring a health condition.”

Five Feet Apart is a book that I had owned for quite a while without reading it. I think I was trying to prepare myself mentally for it being a very emotional read. Although it wasn’t quite the full on heartbreaker I was expecting, it was still a very powerful book and one that I learnt a lot from.


I chose this book for  the “a book from an author I already know” prompt.

I am a huge Louise Jensen fan, and will read anything she writes without even looking at the blurb. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book and take part in the blog tour organised by HQ. I have also had the privilege of meeting Louise and she is just the loveliest person. You can read my review HERE.


This was my choice for the prompt “a book published this year.” I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley. It is released on 17th February, but in the meantime, you can read my review HERE.


I chose this book for my “book that’s a guilty pleasure,” although in all honesty, I don’t feel remotely guilty about loving the Rizzoli & Isles series. Police procedurals and crime thrillers are my easy reads when I need a breather from all the fantasy books I read, and I particularly love a series because I can dive in to characters that are already familiar.

I think was my favourite of the Rizzoli & Isles books so far, partly because it reminded me of the the museum where I did my work experience at school. We even had a mummy and a stuffed bear.


I chose little beauty as my “book that’s a YA novel.” To be honest, I read a lot of YA, so there will be a number of books over the course of the year that would fit this brief, but I am a fan of the author, so this was my first choice. You can read my review HERE.


This was my choice for “a book that’s a murder mystery.” This is another challenge prompt that I knew I would have no problem fulfilling. I opted to read this book for the prompt because I had been hearing so many great things about Angela Marsons Kim Stone series, and had been slowly collecting the books, but hadn’t actually read any of them. The book totally lived up to the hype and I am so glad to have discovered a new series to immerse myself in.


This was another double challenge winner for me, matching the briefs of “a book that is set in the continent of Asia” and “a book set in a foreign country.”

I loved reading about how one little puppy won the hearts of so many people, and the efforts they went to so that he could make his escape from Iraq, but I found the writing style hard to fully engage with. It was quite matter of fact, with little emotion, although I can see that this would most likely be the author’s way of processing his experiences in Iraq.


The Leviathan was my choice for “a book that has a green cover,” and isn’t it a stunner!. This is another book that I receive an advanced copy of via NetGalley. It is released on 3rd Febraury, and you can read my review HERE.

I am really pleased with how the first month of my challenge has gone, with two books ticked off the Fiction Cafe Book Club challenge, and eight ticked off the second challenge.


I did manage to squeeze in some non-challenge books this month, a mix of books read for blog tours, as part of an author’s advanced reader team, and some read purely for relaxation.

The Unravelling – Polly Crosby (read my review HERE)

Dusky Dahlia – Lucy Holden (read my review HERE)

Blue Lilies – Lucy Holden (review coming soon)

The Coffin Dancer – Jeffrey Deaver

The Killing Place – Tess Gerritsen

Night Shade – Lucy Holden (review coming soon)

Livingston Girls – Briana Morgan

The Empty Chair – Jeffrey Deaver

These were great books, all of which I heartily recommend you checking out.

As promised, here are the full details of the challenges in case you fancy joining in. The first of these comes courtesy of the fantastic Fiction Cafe Book Club on Facebook and the second via a friend, so I am not too sure of its origins – if anyone knows, please shout so I can credit the author. I will be back with another update of my progress at the end of February.

Book Review

The Rhythm of My Soul – Elin Dyer

For today’s review, I am taking a look at the first book in the Roseheart Ballet Academy series by Elin Dyer.


Welcome to Roseheart Ballet Academy, where the best dancers have the biggest secrets…

Taryn Foster has her eyes set on becoming the first aro-ace ballerina in the academy’s company of professional dancers, and all she needs to do is graduate. But she’s haunted by the ghost of her dead sister—and now she’s living for the two of them.

Teddy Walker has a serious illness. But he’s determined to hide how ill he is and continue dancing—even if it kills him.

Jaidev Ngo was arrested the last time he danced. Now, he’s having a new start at Roseheart Academy, but someone here knows about his past—and that person wants revenge.

The Rhythm of My Soul is book one in Elin Dyer’s new YA ballet series, where even the darkest secrets will be discovered. Please note this book contains eating disorder representation which some readers may find triggering.


As a big fan of Madeline Dyer’s Untamed series, I was keen to read this book by her alter ego Elin Dyer as she ventures into new genres and steps away from dystopian fiction. The Rhythm Of My Soul sees a move into YA/NA fiction with more than a hint of a thriller about it.

Elin Dyer presents a beautifully diverse cast of characters, and I loved the own voices representation across a number of different aspects in terms of sexuality and chronic illness.

I love watching ballet and whilst I am by no means an expert, it was clear that Dyer had done her research and I was swept away by the descriptions of the performances, whether on stage or in rehearsals. Both the academy and the company were brought to life beautifully, making me wish that I could be a part of their world.

The Rhythm Of My Soul is the start of what promises to be an engrossing new series and I look forward to book two.

Book Review

The Leviathan – Rosie Andrews

Today I have a wonderfully atmospheric book to share with you all in the form of The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews. Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for my copy of the book which I received via NetGalley.


The most beguiling debut of 2022, perfect for fans of The Essex Serpent, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock and The Binding.
She is awake…

Norfolk, 1643. With civil war tearing England apart, reluctant soldier Thomas Treadwater is summoned home by his sister, who accuses a new servant of improper conduct with their widowed father. By the time Thomas returns home, his father is insensible, felled by a stroke, and their new servant is in prison, facing charges of witchcraft.

Thomas prides himself on being a rational, modern man, but as he unravels the mystery of what has happened, he uncovers not a tale of superstition but something dark and ancient, linked to a shipwreck years before.

Something has awoken, and now it will not rest.

Richly researched, incredibly atmospheric, and deliciously unsettling, The Leviathan is set in England during a time of political turbulence and religious zealotry. It is a tale of family and loyalty, superstition and sacrifice, but most of all it is a spellbinding story of impossible things.


In The Leviathan, Rosie Andrews has created a wonderfully rich book with the feel of a classic gothic horror. The story unfolds in the mid 1600s with shorter chapters from the early 1700s offering a tantalising glimpse of something dark and dangerous imprisoned in Thomas’s attic.

I have a fascination with the witch-hunters and trials of British history which is why this book appealed. However, The Leviathan is so much more than your average book about witch trials. There is a great attention to detail throughout the book, and the truth behind the darkness that Thomas must face is beautifully crafted.

If this is what Rosie Andrews has written as her debut, I can’t wait to see what she has to offer us next.

Book Review

Sick Girl Secrets – Anna Russell

I did a lot of reading last year, but lost my reviewing mojo a little. As such, I have quite a few reviews that I had written, but had not formatted to share. My goal for the first couple of months of 2022 is to catch up on all of these, and I am starting with Sick Girl Secrets by Anna Russell. Many thanks to West 44 Books for my copy of this book which I received via NetGalley.


Hi-Lo, written in verse.

Sometimes in high school, all you want is to be invisible. Being invisible might be the biggest problem of all for Natalie. She has a disability that causes chaos to her body on the inside but leaves her unmarked on the outside. She’s learned to hide her pain so well that you would never guess she’s not the same Natalie as she was before she got sick. But after having surgery, Natalie must return to school in a wheelchair. Now, Natalie has to decide if the painful consequences of pretending to be healthy are worth keeping the last of her sick girl secrets.


As a chronic illness sufferer, I was drawn to this book from the second I saw it, and being a zebra myself, I loved the dedication.

This book broke my heart a little. I was lucky enough to get through school before my own body decided to go into meltdown, but Natalie’s feeling of wanting to be seen as “normal”, telling everyone she is fine when she isn’t, really resonated with me.

While I loved Riley’s fire, and wish I had even an ounce of it, Mr Wilson, on the other hand, made my blood boil!

I really enjoyed the concept of a novel written in verse, and found that this style made Natalie’s story even more powerful and emotive, leading to a book that really touched my soul.

Book Review

Only A Monster – Vanessa Len

I love discovering new authors, especially in the YA fantasy arena, and so I was thrilled to stumble across this little beauty. Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with a copy, which I received via NetGalley.


With the sweeping romance of Passenger and the dark fantasy edge of This Savage Song, this standout YA contemporary fantasy debut from Vanessa Len, is the first in a planned trilogy.

It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.

But she soon learns the truth. Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers. And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.

As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story . . .

. . . she is not the hero.


Well, it’s safe to say that Vanessa Len has found a firm fan in me. I absolutely loved Only A Monster! Turning the standard hero versus monster premise on its head, in Only A Monster, Vanessa Len somehow manages to make you root for the monster and hope the hero fails in his quest, while still making you fall in love with him.

Vanessa Len’s world-building from the method of time travel used by the monsters, to the different clans they come from, so wonderfully intricate and imaginative. Add in a trip to London in the 90s, which brought back some happy memories from my teen years, and not one but two swoon-worthy boys and this book has everything this book blogger could wish for.

Only A Monster has left my heart divided. I feel like I need a sequel because I loved the world and characters so much, but at the same time the end is so perfect that I am scared anything further could spoil it. I would love to know your thoughts on this once you have read the book for yourself. Whatever happens, I know I will be reading whatever it is that Vanessa Len writes next.

Only A Monster is published on 17th February, and you can pre-order your copy here.

Book Review

All For You – Louise Jensen

I am delighted to be joining the blog tour for All For You and wishing a very happy publication day to Louise Jensen! Many thanks to Louise and the team at HQ for providing me with a copy of the book.



Lucy: Mother. Wife. Falling to pieces . . .

Aidan: Father. Husband. In too deep . . .

Connor: Son. Brother. Can never tell the truth . . .

Everyone in this family has something to hide, but what are they trying to protect, and at what cost?



As you will all know by now, Louise Jensen is one of my favourite thriller writers, and I usually devour her books. Reading All For You, I found it a little slower to really grab me than her other books, in part one at least, although I confess I am not quite able to put my finger on why this was.

Told from the perspectives of Lucy, Aiden and Connor, All For You gives you the opportunity to really get under the skin of each character, to the extent that Lucy’s emotions and thought processes felt so real that at times I had to stop and remind myself that I was reading fiction and this wasn’t about the author’s own family.

Although part one is something of a slow burn, it is full of tension and the sense that something big is coming. That said, nothing prepared me for the start of part two which was so shocking that I was glad to be reading in daylight and not at night – it was most definitely the stuff of nightmares. The pace definitely picks up in the second half of the book, and the revelations start coming thick and fast.

As always with Louise’s books, I jumped from one theory to another to another. Some were right. Others couldn’t have been more wrong. I will leave you to see which conclusions you leap to and how accurate they are.

You can order your copy of All For You here.

Don’t forget to visit all the amazing blogs that are joining me on this tour.

Meet the Author

Hunter’s Rules – Val Penny

I am joining the blog tour for Hunter’s Rules, the latest instalment in the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series by Val Penny, and I have a treat for you all as I am being joined for a chat by Val herself.

Hi Val. Let’s start with an easy one. Why don’t you us a bit about yourself?

I am an American author living in SW Scotland. I have two adult daughters of whom I am justly proud and live with my husband and cat. I have a Law degree from Edinburgh University and my MSc from Napier University.

I have had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, I have not yet achieved either of my childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, I have turned my hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.

What inspired you to start writing?

I took early retirement when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and there were times when I suffered severe side effects from my treatment. I could not go out, spend time with friends or indulge in many of my favourite hobbies, but watching daytime television gets very old very fast, so I turned to reading. It was the only thing I had the energy to do and could do safely.

I read voraciously, as I always have and after a while, I began to feel a little better and decided to start reviewing the books I read in a blog I enjoyed doing that. Then, as I began to feel better still, I got restless, but was still did not well enough to do very much and I complained to my long-suffering husband about getting bored. It was then he challenged me: ‘If you know so much about what makes a good book, why don’t you write one?’ I did laugh.

How many books have you written and published?

So far, there are six books in my Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series and I am presently writing the second novel in my series of Jane Renwick Thrillers. I have also written and published a nonfiction book, Let’s Get Published.

Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?

I think Hunter’s Rules is my favourite because it is actually the continuation of a short story that I contributed to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland. Of course, both stories can be read independently, but I hope that those who read both will enjoy the conceit.

How do you choose the names of your characters?

I have always enjoyed unusual and interesting names. From those I have heard over the years, I often choose the first name from one place and the surname from another.

Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?

Definitely Tim! He is resourceful and strong enough to build a shelter, good company and easy on the eye.

Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?

I enjoy most crime fiction that I read and especially enjoy Erin Kelly’s books. She wrote the novel of the TV series Broadchurch. I also enjoyed her novel He Said/She Said.

What is the first thing you can remember writing?

The first book I remember writing was a handwritten story called ‘The Douglas Family’ when I was eight or nine. I still have the jotter.

If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go (backwards or forwards!)?

Gosh, I am not sure I am brave enough to go forwards, but if I went backwards, I would like to find out who killed JFK!

If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I would have loved to meet Mother Theresa. I think she would be fascinating to talk to and learn from.

What are your favourite things to do?

I enjoy travelling – it is said by my family that I would go to the opening of a paper bag! I also like to swim, knit and spend time with friends and family. However, most of my time is spent reading or writing.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?

I was walking along the Mall in Washington D.C. with a friend from Virginia, only to notice another friend from Edinburgh sitting on the bench we were approaching. It was exciting and great fun.

If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?

Persevere. Keep writing and enjoy meeting other like minded people.

Name one book you think everyone should read?

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. He is mixed race and was born in apartheid South Africa when that was illegal. He tells his story with humour and intelligence. It is a book well worth reading.

And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?

Hunter’s Rules is the sixth novel in bestselling The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series. In it a bloody scene brings Hunter and Meera’s romantic plans to an abrupt end.

A young woman was attacked in a hotel lift. She has life changing injuries, but she is alive. Hunter notes that her wounds are like those inflicted on two women who previously died. 

Can Meera keep the injured woman alive long enough for her to identify her assailant? Is the same person responsible for all three crimes? When Hunter is identified as a suspect in the crime, can he establish his innocence and lead his team to solve the crime and keep Edinburgh safe?

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me Val. 

If you would like to purchase a copy of Hunter’s Rules, here are the all important purchase links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

You can find Val all over social media with the following links:





Giveaway to Win a PDF of Hunter’s Rules by Val Penny (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.


Don’t forget to visit the other blogs taking part in the tour, which has been organised by Rachel’s Random Resources.

Book Review

Dusky Dahlia – Lucy Holden

Happy publication day to Lucy Holden and Dusky Dahlia, the fifth book in the Nightgarden Saga. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book from Lucy, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it! If you haven’t read the rest of the series, I highly recommend it, especially before you read on, because there are spoilers ahead!

You can read my review of Red Magnolia, the first book in the series, HERE. As an added bonus, Red Magnolia is free to download on Amazon from today until 20th January, so make sure you don’t miss out.


Magical. Mystical. Unimaginable.

Harper’s dreams are strange. But her reality is about to become stranger than any dream.

Nobody will believe her. Harper isn’t sure she believes it herself. Until the waterpaths take her somewhere she never thought she’d be again – to someone she thought lost to her forever. Now she has more than one unlikely miracle to explain, and no way to prove her story.

Worse, Harper knows the only way to keep them all safe is for her to travel the waterpaths again. Antoine is just as determined to stop her trying.

Deepwater has a new vampire. One who seems willing to help Harper do what she must. But nobody knows quite where she comes from, nor what happened to her Maker. Antoine doesn’t trust her.

Harper doesn’t know who to trust. But she knows someone who does.

She just has to work out how to get back to her.


Amazon UK

Amazon US


Regular readers will know that I absolutely love this series, and the first four books all featured in my top reads of 2021. After reading and reviewing Red Magnolia, I decided that I would save the rest of this fantastic series to review en masse once I had read them all. However, I then had the opportunity to join Lucy Holden’s Street team and I couldn’t resist.

Each book in the series starts with a letter written by Harper to her twin sister, Tessa. Throughout the series, these have served as a handy refresher and link to the previous book, but the letter that starts Dusky Dahlia sounded so desperately lonely that it made me feel quite sad.

As much as I have loved each book in the series, Dusky Dahlia is my favourite so far. Where there has been a lot of world building and action up until now, this book sees something of a change of pace. It is so full of emotion that it really touched my heart. The night garden and water garden felt so real, I could practically see and smell them, hear the leaves rustling in the breeze.

Although I am no stranger to books of a paranormal nature, Lucy’s use of ancient cultures that are, to me at least, less familiar than your average vampire origin tale has been absolutely fascinating. I can’t get enough of the different stories and origins that are being introduced in each book.

Each book in this series has such a gorgeous cover, each of which links beautifully to the night garden that Harper is growing throughout the series, and I can’t wait to see them all lined up together.

Forget Edward Cullen, or whichever Salvatore brother stole your heart, Antoine Marigny is the number one vampire in my heart. I hope you love him just as much as I do.


Lucy Holden is a pseudonym for Paula Constant, Random House published author of Sahara and Slow Journey South and indie author of the Visigoths of Spain historical fiction series. The Nightgarden Saga is Paula’s first foray into YA/NA paranormal romance.

Lucy Holden is Paula’s alter ego. She is a romantic tragic and has a deep fascination for all things supernatural. Starting with Anne Rice as a teenager, Paula has read her way through the vampire panoply. Her passion for the supernatural is so ingrained, she can recite whole scenes from The Vampire Diaries.

Her favourite thing in the world to do is sit on Cable Beach at midnight under a full moon with a glass of wine, something she gets to do almost every month not that she lives in the tropical North West town of Broome, Australia.

While off work with a broken leg, Paula wrote the entire Nightgarden Saga and now has plans for two related series set in the same world.





Book Review

The Unravelling – Polly Crosby

For my first review of 2022, I am joining the blog tour for The Unravelling by Polly Crosby. Many thanks to Polly and HQ for providing me with a copy of the book.


Tartelin has been employed by Marianne Stourbridge to hunt for butterflies, but she quickly uncovers something far more intriguing. The island and Marianne share a remarkable past, and what happened all those years ago has left its scars.

The island has a strange effect on Tartelin, too, finally allowing her to confront her own, painful, memories. As she does, Marianne’s story begins to unravel around her, revealing an extraordinary tale of two girls, an obsession with pearls, and a truth beyond imagination.

Atmospheric and deeply emotional, The Unravelling is a captivating novel about the secrets we can only discover when we dare to look beneath the surface.


Told through the dual timelines of Tartelin and Marianne’s stories, The Unravelling is something of a slow burn, and I will admit that it took me a little while to fall under its spell. As much as I enjoyed exploring the island and uncovering its secrets with Tartelin, I would have preferred a greater emphasis on Marianne’s narrative as it was this that really called to me. The more I read though, and the more the two women dealt with their personal grief, the more caught up in the secrets of Dohhalund I became.

As I was reading, I struggled to see how Polly Crosby would bring this book to a close, and was a little worried that the story would simply peter out. However, when the conclusion came, it was just beautiful and absolutely made the book for me.

The Unravelling is a gentle, slow-paced but deeply moving book that was the perfect way to ease myself into my 2022 reading.

Don’t forget to have a look at the other blogs taking part in the tour.


2021 Top Reads

Happy New Year everyone! It’s that time again when I share with you my Top Ten reads of the outgoing year. Now, I may have cheated a little with my Top Ten of 2021, but then my blog, my rules, so you will spot a couple of entries that contain more than one book. As usual, these books are in no particular order. There are one or two that I still owe a review, but where I have reviewed, if you click on the title, it will take you to the full review.

(I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I have to say, the books on this year’s list are particularly gorgeous, aren’t they?)

This Can Never Not Be Real – Sera Milano and Where Hope Comes From – Nikita Gill

These two, very different, books had a long-lasting effect on me, and in fact I think they are books that have probably changed me forever. I read This Can Never Not Be Real way back in April, and I still find it hard to put into words how it made me feel. It is a startling raw book that invaded my thoughts even when I wasn’t reading. Where Hope Comes From was exactly the book I needed to get me through the year. After shielding for most of 2020, and then heading back into lockdown this year, my mental health has taken something of a battering, and this beautiful book was a real comfort.

Kingdom of the Wicked and Kingdom of the Cursed – Kerri Maniscalco

I fell in love with Kingdom of the Wicked long before I ever opened the first page, having seen it in so many beautiful Instagram photographs. I just knew I had to get my hands on a copy of the hardback, and I wasn’t disappointed when I did. As soon as Kingdom of the Cursed became available to pre-order, I was straight on the case, and now I am impatiently awaiting the release of the final instalment, Kingdom of the Feared.

Threadneedle – Cari Thomas and Twisted Roots – A.G. Parker

Next up are two magical YA books that were wonderful summer reads. A large majority of the books I read are YA, and I can never resist a book with even a hint of magic or witchcraft, so these were perfect for me.

Once Upon A Broken Heart – Stephanie Garber and Witches of Barcelona – Caedis Knight

Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of both Stephanie Garber and Caedis Knight, and if they have a book out in any year, the chances are it will appear in my Top Ten. These are authors who I swear just get better and better with every book they release, and I am very excited for their forthcoming 2022 books (one of which I may have already pre-ordered).

The Nightgarden Saga – Lucy Holden

Okay, I am cheating a little here as I am including four books as one entry. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Red Magnolia from NetGalley, and I absolutely fell in love with it. As soon as the rest of the books became available for pre-order, I ordered the entire series, and having read the first four I am now counting the days until book five is released. I think this is quite possibly my favourite YA paranormal series. I can’t get enough of it.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Bar – Isabella May and Midnight in Everwood – M.A. Kuzniar

Rounding out my Top Ten are two wonderful festive reads, both of which are totally magical in very different ways. I adore Isabella May and always devour her books, and it was a real treat to revisit some familiar characters in a return to Glastonbury. Midnight in Everwood is a beautifully imagined retelling of The Nutcracker, and I completely fell under its spell. I know I will be returning to both of these books for many Christmases to come.

Have you read any of these and did you love them as much as I do? What were your top reads of 2021? I would love to hear your recommendations.