Book Review

Witches of Barcelona – Caedis Knight

Witches of Barcelona, the second book in the Blood Web Chronicles series by the fabulous writing duo Caedis Knight, released on 31st March, and I am taking a break from bingeing on Mini Eggs and Lindt Bunnies to tell you all about it today.

BLURB:

Saskia de la Cruz is a Verity Witch and investigative reporter for The Blood Web Chronicle, the biggest news outlet on the paranormal Blood Web.

After escaping murderous Vampires in snowy Moscow, Saskia can’t imagine a more difficult or more dangerous mission. That is until her editor sends her to Barcelona to investigate a high profile disappearance at the Mage Association, which just happens to be run by her evil mother Solina.

Saskia’s plan is to spend as little time in Barcelona as possible, until she meets three junior members of the MA who know more than they let on – including information on Saskia’s missing sister, Mikayla. Among her new leads is Catalan bruixa Luisa, who has a hold over Saskia stronger than any magic.

It doesn’t take long until Saskia finds herself under the glittering spell of MA high society, where morals are few and magic is law. Can Saskia escape the clutches of a world that’s always been dangerous for her, before it turns deadly?

With vibrant characters, page-turning suspense and steamy romance, this second book in the Blood Web Chronicles series has been dubbed by early readers as ‘devilishly addictive’ and ‘a dark, magical world of power and passion.’ Co-authored by two established fantasy authors Jacqueline Silvester and N.J Simmonds, the second book in the Blood Web Chronicles series is perfect for fans of Crescent City, True Blood, The Elite, and The Craft.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Universal Purchase Link

Book Trailer

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REVIEW:

With its utterly gorgeous cover, stunning setting, and the promise of sexy witches, I was in love with this book before I even owned it. Knowing how much I enjoyed Vampires of Moscow, the first book in the series, and the prequel novella, Sirens of Los Angeles, I had every confidence that Witches of Barcelona would live up to my high expectations. What I didn’t expect was for it to surpass those expectations quite so spectacularly.

Upon opening Witches of Barcelona, I discovered two things that I love in a book. Firstly, illustrations – be it a map, a family tree, curious symbols, include these in your book and you have won me over. I loved the inclusion of the sigils for each of the witchy factions. Being able to visualise these as Saskia discovered more about them added another level to my understanding of the world of the Blood Web, and the Mage Association in particular.  The second thing I found was a prologue. In the great prologue argument, I am most definitely pro prologue. I just love them, and this one was a real treat, offering an insight into Saskia’s childhood and why she dislikes the Mage Association so much.

The rich descriptions in this book whisked me back to Barcelona, one of my favourite cities, and made me long for the day I can return to Spain. The sights, sounds and smells of the city came flooding back to me, and it really felt as if I was right there beside Saskia and her new friends. Reading this book did nothing for my diet, leaving me craving paella, croquetas, jamon serrano, manchego, and so much more.  It was as if Caedis Knight had reached into my heart and extracted all my favourite Spanish foods and added them to the pages of the book.

Witches of Barcelona is a real contrast of light and dark, balancing the joyfulness of Saskia’s new friendships, against the emotional struggles of loss, trauma and corruption. I loved the chemistry and light-hearted bickering between Rafi, Luisa and Beatriz. Everything about their relationship made me want to be in their inner circle. Seeing Saskia interact with people she could relax and have fun with provided an insight to her character that we hadn’t seen before, and I feel that I got to know her a lot better in this book than I had previously. Her difficult family dynamic added an extra layer to this new understanding too, and provided a lot of insight to her motivations.

This book is littered with one liners that made me laugh out loud, but also with scenes that broke my heart. It is a book that tugs at the emotional heartstrings and keeps you on your toes throughout as Saskia uncovers the secrets of the Mage Association, and discovers who she can truly trust. There are so many wonderful characters introduced in the book, and I hope we meet a lot of them again in future books in the series.

Knight’s signature steamy scenes are once again present, this time featuring some very imaginative uses of magic. I may never view art the same way again!

Witches of Barcelona is a feast for the senses in every imaginable way, and I devoured it as I would a table full of delicious tapas. Book three has a lot of work to do to replace this as my favourite book of the Blood Web Chronicles.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Caedis Knight (Jacqueline Silvester and N J Simmonds)Caedis Knight is the pen name of two established fantasy authors, Jacqueline Silvester and N J Simmonds.

Silvester began her career in screenwriting and lived all over the world before going on to pen her highly successful YA series, Wunderkids.

Spanish Londoner Simmonds’ background was originally in marketing before writing her fantasy series The Indigo Chronicles, along with various Manga stories and writing collaborations.

Together, they created Blood Web Chronicles – their first paranormal romance series set in Europe. Great friends and avid travellers, you can find them whizzing between one another’s homes in Germany and the Netherlands, or having Zoom calls to excitedly plot Saskia’s next humorous sexy adventure.

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All these amazing book lovers are sharing their thoughts on the book over the course of April, so go check them out!

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Book Review

The Rose Code – Kate Quinn

I am joining the blog tour for historical fiction novel, The Rose Code by Kate Quinn today. Many thanks to Kate for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be  a part of the blog tour.

BLURB:

1940. Three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes.

Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything – beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses – but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Awkward local girl Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzle beneath her shy exterior.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter – the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together…

As the nation prepares for the royal wedding they must race against the clock to save one of their own.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

The Rose Code Cover

REVIEW:

I have been interested in Bletchley since visiting almost 12 years ago. Even so, picking up this book the morning after a certain interview, and with the Duke of Edinburgh ill in hospital, it took a while for me to separate real life from this fictional account and become truly absorbed in the story. These current events made me glad I read the author’s note at the end of the book to help me untangle fact from fiction.

Had I been alive during World War II, and if I had been clever enough, Bletchley is where I would have wanted to serve and this novel brings the passion of the people who did so to life. In Osla, Mab and Beth we are faced with three very different young ladies who form the most unlikely of friendships after being billeted in the same house. This friendship combined with the fascinating history of the work carried out under the strictest secrecy at Bletchley Park would have been enough for this book to win me over. The added mystery of the events that ripped these friends apart and led to one being locked in an asylum only added to this and made this a gripping read.

Heart-breaking and inspiring in equal measure, The Rose Code celebrates the hidden heroes of the war in glorious detail, and twines fact and fiction together seamlessly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kate Quinn Author PicKate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages. She and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs names Caesar and Calpurnia.

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Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for more about The Rose Code.

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Book Review

Miniskirts Are Murder – Des Burkinshaw

Today I join the blog tour for Miniskirts Are Murder, the second in the Porter and The Gliss series by Des Burkinshaw. You can read my review of book one, Dead & Talking, here. Many thanks to Des for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

Porter Norton, his friends and his sarcastic spirit guide, The Gliss, are on the trail of a young actress who went missing in Soho, London, in the Swinging Sixties. Still recovering from their last adventure in the battlefields of WW1, the gang are confronted by a transatlantic conspiracy.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Miniskirts Front Cover

REVIEW:

Since reading Dead and Talking back in 2019, I have been eagerly awaiting the return of Porter Norton, his spirit guide, The Gliss, and their quirky Scooby gang of Namita, Feng and Karin. I love the different dynamics in play among the group as they continue to get to know each other.

Although Miniskirts Are Murder is the second book in a series, it recaps the events of Dead and Talking sufficiently that it would read well as a standalone, although I think you would be missing out if you didn’t read Dead and Talking as well.

In the historic cases that Porter, somewhat unwillingly, finds himself investigating, Des Burkinshaw isn’t scared to tackle difficult subjects. I don’t want to say too much about the discoveries made in Miniskirts Are Murder because it is hard to do so without giving away the story, but it certainly doesn’t shy away from the seedier side of 1960s Soho. At times, the writing is a little heavy on telling rather than showing, but I think Burkinshaw gets away with it as it means we learn the history as our heroes do, and this is also countered with flashbacks to the scarily naive Ursa, Rose and Bella. Seeing Soho through their eyes really brought it to life for me.

Despite the truly horrific deeds that are uncovered over the course of the book, this still somehow manages to be a fun read, purely because of the wonderful characters that Burkinshaw has created rather than because he has made light of the situation which he most definitely has not. The dry humour that I so enjoyed in the interactions between Porter and his friends, particularly The Gliss, provides a much needed light relief to what would otherwise be very difficult subject matter to digest.

With so many periods of history to explore, and with Porter needing to atone for so much damage caused by his ancestors, this is a series that could run and run, and I really hope it does (I also think it would make a fantastic television series, just in case any TV folk happen to see this!).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

DES DARKDes, 52, is a former Times journalist/BBC TV producer. Miniskirts are Murder is the second in the Porter and The Gliss Investigations series, following Dead & Talking in 2019. Des likes to live out as much of the stories as possible and spent 3 months in the US researching this novel. He runs a film school in London and has just been commissioned to write a limited season TV series intended for Netflix. He is also a keen musician and through work has jammed with people like Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and Jeff Lynne. He is married with 1 daughter.

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Don’t forget to visit the other blogs taking part on the tour.

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Book Review

Dragonfly Girl – Marti Leimbach

I am joining the blog tour for Dragonfly Girl by Marti Leimbach today. Many thanks to Marti, and Katherine Tegen Books for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

BLURB:

In this spellbinding thriller and YA debut from bestselling author Marti Leimbach, Kira Adams has discovered a cure for deathand it may just cost her life.

Things aren’t going well for Kira. At home, she cares for her mother and fends off debt collectors. At school, she’s awkward and shy. Plus, she may flunk out if she doesn’t stop obsessing about science, her passion and the one thing she’s good at . . . very good at.

When she wins a prestigious science contest she draws the attention of the celebrated professor Dr. Gregory Munn (as well as his handsome assistant), leading to a part-time job in a top-secret laboratory.

The job is mostly cleaning floors and equipment, but one night, while running her own experiment, she revives a lab rat that has died in her care.

One minute it is dead, the next it is not.

Suddenly she’s the remarkable wunderkind, the girl who can bring back the dead. Everything is going her way. But it turns out that science can be a dangerous business, and Kira is swept up into a world of international rivalry with dark forces that threaten her life.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Dragonfly Girl cover

REVIEW:

Dragonfly Girl is a fascinating book exploring scientific discovery that to my very unscientific brain seemed beyond the realms of possibility. The idea of being able to bring something previously dead back to life planted this book firmly in the sci-fi genre in my mind. Imagine my surprise then when, halfway through this book, I stumbled across a news story about doctors successfully transplanting hearts that had effectively died into teenage patients. This blew my mind, and made me read parts of this book through very different eyes. 

Although it is pretty heavy on the complex science at times, I still found this book an easy read and my lack of understanding of the intricacies of the science didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the larger story. Whilst I wasn’t, for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, overly keen on Kira herself, I loved the quirky supporting cast of characters, particularly poor, damaged Dimitry and rat-loving April.

Dragonfly Girl is a fast-paced YA thriller that sucks you in from the very start and leaves you wanting more at the end. I hope it won’t be too long before we see a sequel being published.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Marti Leimbach Author picMarti Leimbach’s latest novel is DRAGONFLY GIRL, a YA action/thriller about a high school girl with a gift for science who discovers a “cure” for death and ends up embroiled in an international rivalry. It is published by Harper Collins in February 2021.

Marti Leimbach is known for her bestsellers, Dying Young, made into a film starring Julia Roberts, and Daniel Isn’t Talking. She is interested in neurodiversity and has shared the stage with young inventors at the Human Genome Project (Toronto), the National Autistic Society, and the University of Oxford.

She teaches on the Masters Programme in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford. Dragonfly Girl is her eighth novel, but her first for young adults.

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Don’t forget to visit the other blogs taking part in the tour to read more about Dragonfly Girl.

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Book Review

The Once And Future Witches – Alix E. Harrow

I am diving into one of my favourite genres today with a review of The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow. Many thanks to Alix, and to Little, Brown Book Group UK, for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be. 

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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REVIEW:

As you well know by now, I adore books about witchcraft and The Once and Future Witches is a book that practically sings with magic from the very first page. I lost some serious sleep over this book as I had to really force myself to put it down and go to bed.

The Once and Future Witches is a story of three women not so much pushing through the boundaries placed on them by gender, race and sexuality, but more burning those boundaries to ash, a story of empowerment and of women claiming their place in the world.

There is a lot to love about this book, and in fact I could wax lyrical about it for hours if nobody stopped me, but I will attempt to contain myself to my particular highlights here. One of these was the rhymes and witch-tales that are interspersed through the book, familiar, yet not, as Perrault, Lang and the Grimms are reimagined as women. I loved each of the Eastwood sisters for different reasons, although bookish Beatrice won a particular place in my heart. In contrast, Gideon Hill is an antagonist to make your skin crawl and give you goosebumps.

Some books just demand to be held as a physical print book and the e-book is just not enough. I was trying to justify buying the hardback when I already had the e-book, so it absolutely made my day when the lovely K T Robson gave me a copy for Christmas. I just know this is a book that I will be rereading and guarding with my life as a treasured possession.

 

Book Review

All Girls – Emily Layden

Today’s review is for coming-of-age novel, All Girls by Emily Layden. Many thanks to Emily and to John Murray Press for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

A keenly perceptive coming-of-age novel, All Girls captures one year at a prestigious New England prep school, as nine young women navigate their ambitions, friendships, and fears against the backdrop of a scandal the administration wants silenced.

But as the months unfold, and the school’s efforts to control the ensuing crisis fall short, these extraordinary girls are forced to discover their voices, and their power. A tender and unflinching portrait of modern adolescence told through the shifting perspectives of an unforgettable cast of female students, All Girls explores what it means to grow up in a place that promises you the world––when the world still isn’t yours for the taking.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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REVIEW:

There is something about books set in prestigious boarding schools that I just find irresistible, so I was so happy when I was approved to receive a copy of All Girls. Unlike most boarding school books I have read, which are focused on back-stabbing, bitchiness and bullying, All Girls deals with a number of different issues. The girls of The Atwater School are outwardly nice, well-rounded girls, but as each section of the book focuses on the experiences of a very different girl over the course of one academic year, it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to these girls than meets the eye.

Covering issues including sexual assault, unhealthy relationships, mental health issues, sexuality, affirmative consent, and gender disparity, All Girls is a book that, for me, the title says everything – all girls are struggling with something, and all girls should read this book. Yes, the subjects are challenging, and not always easy to read, but Emily Layden handles each of them with sensitivity and nothing is included simply for the shock factor to keep the reader engaged.

With such a range of characters telling their stories, I think everyone who reads this book will find someone to relate to. Although I am significantly older than the target demographic for this book, I could still see elements of myself in more than one character and found myself totally engaged with each of their stories. What I found particularly interesting was, with the frequent changes of point of view, you saw each character through their own eyes and through the eyes of the other narrators, and it was fascinating just how different people’s opinions of themselves and others was.

All Girls is an engaging read that makes you challenge things that perhaps you have always just accepted and highlights just how many struggles teenage girls are facing.

Book Review

Botanical Curses and Poisons: The Shadow-Lives of Plants – Fez Inkwright

I have two beautiful books to tell you about today! Whilst officially this is the blog tour for Botanical Curses and Poisons by Fez Inkwright, it would be remiss of me not to tell you about Folk Magic and Healing at the same time. Many thanks to Fez and Liminal 11 for providing me with copies of both books, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.

BLURB: BOTANICAL CURSES AND POISONS – THE SHADOW LIVES OF PLANTS

Discover the fascinating folklore, lurid histories, and malignant properties of toxic plants.

Poisonings are among the most memorable deaths in history, from the Roman Empire, to the Medieval era and beyond. Concealed and deliberate, it is a crime that must be planned in advance. And yet there is a fine line between healing and poisoning – Paracelsus argued that only the dosage matters.

In Botanical Curses and Poisons, illustrator, author and folklorist Fez Inkwright returns to archives to uncover the fascinating folklore, lurid histories, and untold stories behind deadly plants, witching herbs and fungi.

Filled with beautiful illustrations, this treasury of folklore is packed with insight, lore, and the revealed mysteries of everyday flora!

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BLURB: FOLK MAGIC AND HEALING – AN UNUSUAL HISTORY OF EVERYDAY PLANTS

A book of the folklore, history and healing properties of common plants.

Throughout history, plants have played a key and vital role to our existence. Many of the old wives’ tales about plants were created to spread knowledge of their medicinal and nutritional properties, and many have become entwined with stories of local spirits, deities, and more ancient legends.

Folk Magic and Healing is, ultimately, a collection of many of these beliefs, aiming to inspire a greater appreciation of our wild plants and countrysides.

This stunningly illustrated treasury of the folklore of flora is packed with insight, lore and the revealed mysteries of everyday plants – perfect for gardeners, writers, folklorists, witches and general knowledge buffs alike.

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PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK – Folk Magic & Healing

Amazon UK – Botanical Curses & Poisons

Amazon US – Folk Magic & Healing

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REVIEW:

I read a lot on my Kindle these days, but some books just demand to be touched and to  be held. Everything about this book duo, from the gorgeous covers and illustrations right down to the quality and feel of the paper is just beautiful. These elements add up to books that feel like they have been handed down through the ages, a kind of grimoire passed from generation to generation. I heartily recommend buying them both as they make a stunning pair.

As a writer, I spend a lot of time looking at books for research purposes, and because of the theme of the books I am writing, I have amassed quite a stack of books about plants and their uses in healing and poisons. Fez Inkwright’s books have quickly become firm favourites in my collection.

Botanical Curses and Poisons covers everything from the history of poisoning and witchcraft, to a comprehensive A-Z of plants, from apple to yew and everything in-between, some that will be familiar to you and others that won’t. Inkwright has included facts about the nature of the poison and the plant, alongside anecdotes and tales from ancient civilisations and mythology. In Folk Magic and Healing, we learn about the magic of plants, different forms of preparation, and look at plants from agrimony and back to yew.

I love the literary and poetic quotes at the start of each plant’s section. The inclusion of these just serves to add to the magical feel of these wonderful books. They are absolutely fascinating and very easy to read. As I read each of them, I was buzzing with inspiration for how I could incorporate each plant into my book, and I can’t wait to dive back in to writing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Fez Inkwright Author PcFez Inkwright is an illustrator, author and folklorist. Her great passions are botany, nature, primitive religions, and folklore, which flavour most of her work. For the past eight years she has produced work for children’s books, hand-drawn maps and tattoo design and now spends her time indulging in conservation work and writing. She lives in Bristol with two cats and several hundred bees.

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Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for more on this stunning books.

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Book Review

Shiver – Allie Reynolds

I have a chilling (quite literally – put on a jumper before reading this) thriller to share today in the form of Shiver by Allie Reynolds. Many thanks to Allie and Headline for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way.

How far would you go to win? Hyper-competitive people, mind games and a dangerous natural environment combine to make the must-read thriller of the year. Fans of Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by spectacular debut novel Shiver.

When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.

The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.

In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light. 

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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REVIEW:

I do enjoy a good psychological thriller, especially one where the characters are completely cut off from the rest of the world in some way or other with limited or no means of escape. Even better if the threat to their safety apparently comes from within. In Shiver, Allie Reynolds delivers on all these fronts and then some. The location, the isolation and the mysterious invitations to a reunion at a deserted ski resort gave me chills that had nothing to do with the weather (although as previously mentioned, just reading this book made me cold!).

I loved the dynamics between the characters in this book, both in the situation they currently find themselves in, and in the events of ten years ago which are slowly revealed throughout the split timeline of the story. Each and every character has a secret to hide, and something to feel guilty about, and with them not knowing who did or didn’t do things themselves, it makes for a very twisty read that I truly had no idea how it was going to end.

Shiver is the perfect winter’s read – although perhaps not if you are yourself tucked away at a remote ski resort. Maybe read it when you get home. If you are a fan of Lucy Foley, then you will thoroughly enjoy this book. It is a brilliant debut and makes me excited to read whatever Allie Reynolds writes next.

Book Review

The Crow Folk – Mark Stay

Today I am joining the blog tour for The Crow Folk by Mark Stay. Many thanks to Mark and Simon & Schuster UK for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.

BLURB:

Faye Bright always felt a little bit different. And today she’s found out why. She’s just stumbled across her late mother’s diary which includes not only a spiffing recipe for jam roly-poly, but spells, incantations, runes and recitations… A witches notebook.

And Faye has inherited her mother’s abilities.

Just in time, too. The Crow Folk are coming. Led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villages. Armed with little more than her mum’s words, her trusty bicycle, the grudging help of two bickering old ladies, and some aggressive church bellringing, Faye will find herself on the front lines of a war nobody expected.

Fall in love with the extraordinary world of Faye Bright – it’s Maisie Dobbs meets The Magicians.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Bookshop.org

The Crow Folk Cover

REVIEW:

The Crow Folk is an unusual mix of genres, part utterly charming in a Darling Buds of May sort of way, part something else altogether with an army of the reanimated scarecrows who sent me straight back to my childhood when I was banned from watching Scooby-Doo because it gave me nightmares (I wish I was joking, but I am not).

In the people of Woodville, Mark Stay as created a wonderful community of characters, each of whom has their set role in the village, and a rich history behind how they got there. There are hints of scandals and squabbles going back through the years that show just how much thought has gone into creating this little slice of Kent, and which make it feel so real that I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to find it was a real place and the characters real people.

Our 17 year old heroine, Faye, is full of the exuberance of youth, feisty and determined, and it is impossible not to get swept up in her enthusiasm. She puts her heart and soul into everything she does and will do anything for the people she loves. Miss Charlotte and Mrs Teach are quite the double act and I loved their interactions throughout the book.

Pumpkinhead makes for a sinister and powerful villain of the piece and gave me something of a shiver down my spine throughout the book. Whilst his scarecrow companions unnerved me to begin with, I loved that they had their own personalities, some of which we got to know, and the story behind these personalities was both sad and lovely at the same time.

As you will know from past reviews, I am a big fan of magical realism, and the way in which the magic and the reality are combined in this book is simply wonderful. The setting in the early years of the Second World War is inspired, adding challenges for our villagers to overcome that just wouldn’t be present during any other period of time. I fell completely in love with this book, and I look forward to getting to know the people of Woodville better in the future.

Oh, and once you have finished reading this, go and sign up for the author’s newsletter. It is an absolute treat!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Stay Author Pic

Mark stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival. He is co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and has worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com

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Don’t forget to visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for more on The Crow Folk.

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Book Review

Secrets Of The Starcrossed – Clara O’Connor

I have the first book in what promises to be a fabulous new series to share with you today. Secrets of the Starcrossed is book one in The Once and Future Queen series by Clara O’Connor. My thanks to Clara and One More Chapter for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, two starcrossed lovers fight to ignite the spark of rebellion…

Londinium, the last stronghold of the Romans left in Britannia, remains in a delicate state of peace with the ancient kingdoms that surround it. As the only daughter of a powerful merchant, Cassandra is betrothed to Marcus, the most eligible bachelor in the city.

But then she meets Devyn, the boy with the strange midnight eyes searching for a girl with magic in her blood.

A boy who will make her believe in soulmates…

When a mysterious sickness starts to leech the life from citizens with Celtic power lying dormant in their veins, the imperial council sets their schemes in motion. And so Cassandra must make a choice: the Code or Chaos, science or sorcery, Marcus or Devyn?

Panem meets the Grishaverse in this explosive new YA trilogy perfect for readers of Marie Lu, Bella Forrest, and Cassandra Clare.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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REVIEW:

Part historical fiction, part dystopia, Secrets of the Starcrossed appealed to me on so many levels. Clara O’Connor has created a series that presents a clever twist on history, entwining hints of real British history with a reimaged world where the Roman Empire still reigned supreme. From a history perspective, I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of familiar names such as Owain Glyndwr, Elizabeth Twdwr, and the Plantagenets, and how their stories had shifted in this alternate world.

As we follow Cassandra to her classes, I found myself picturing ultra modern monorails whizzing around the Colosseum in Rome and the amphitheatre in Verona. The landscape of Londinium with its street and area names that I have walked many times was easily recognisable, but at the same time strange and unknown, and I found this intriguing. The concept of taking something so familiar, both in terms of geography and history, and twisting it into something so very different made this book absolutely fascinating to me right from the start.

As soon as I finished reading I had to dash to Amazon to pre-order the next two books, and I am very interested to find out what happens next and hopefully learn more about the people of Britannia.