Book Review

Clara & Olivia – Lucy Ashe

If you enjoy historical fiction and are a fan of the ballet, then I have the perfect book for you as I join the blog tour for Clara & Olivia by Lucy Ashe. Many thanks to Lucy and Magpie Books for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting my to join the tour.

BLURB:

SADLER’S WELLS, LONDON 1933

I would kill to dance like her.

Sisters Olivia and Clara rehearse with Ninette de Valois at the recently opened Sadler’s Wells. Disciplined and dedicated, Olivia is the perfect ballerina. But no matter how hard she works, she can never match up to identical twin Clara’s charm.

I would kill to be with her.

As rehearsals intensify for the ballet Coppélia, the girls feel increasingly as if they are being watched. And as infatuation threatens to become obsession, the fragile perfection of their lives starts to unravel.

An exquisite goose-bumping debut from a former ballerina.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

I adore historical fiction and the ballet, so a novel set during the early years of the Vic-Wells company was always going to capture my attention. I particularly enjoy historical fiction where real people intermingle with the books characters, and in Clara and Olivia, Lucy Ashe seamlessly blends her fictional characters with the stars of the English ballet of the 1930s.

The beauty of the ballet is echoed in the wonderfully atmospheric writing, but the sense of foreboding that begins in the prologue lingers in the corner of the stage like a shadow. In fact, there is an unsettling feeling about the whole book, with the dark spaces of the theatre (not least the well) lending a gothic feel to the story. Something about the girls’ relationship feels dangerous, too close for comfort, as if they could destroy each other, in spite of loving each other dearly, and being prepared to fight to protect each other.

I love the ballet and whilst I usually read in silence, I found myself heading to Spotify to set Coppélia and Swan Lake to play in the background. I thoroughly recommend this, as the beautiful music really adds to the emotion and drama of the book.

Even before reading her author bio (see below), it was easy to see that Lucy Ashe has a great deal of experience with the ballet, and has poured her love for it into every word of Clara and Olivia. This book is an exquisite balance of beauty and tension, of emotion and drama, and it evoked the same feelings in me as if I had just sat through the most wonderful performance of my favourite ballet.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lucy Ashe trained at the Royal Ballet School for eight years, first as a Junior Associate and then at White Lodge. She has a diploma in dance teaching with the British Ballet Organisation. She decided to go to university to read English Literature at St Hugh’s College, Oxford (MA Oxon), while continuing to dance and perform. She then took a PGCE teaching qualification and became a teacher. She currently teaches English at Harrow School, an all-boys boarding school in North London. Her poetry and short stories have been published in a number of literary journals and she was shortlisted for the 2020 Impress Prize for New Writers. She also reviews theatre, in particular ballet, writing for the website Playtosee.com

LUCY WRITES:

“I have a great love of ballet and am fascinated by its history. I was lucky enough to meet many of the great dancers of the Royal Ballet, even Dame Ninette de Valois when she came to White Lodge to celebrate her 100th birthday. I have performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and learnt the repertoire for many of the classical ballets.

My novel is closely researched, re-creating the early years of the Vic-Wells company at Sadler’s Wells, and the story is immersed in ballet history featuring characters such as Ninette de Valois, Lydia Lopokova, Constant Lambert, Alicia Markova and Nicholas Sergeyev. Frederick and Dora Freed and their pointe shoe workshop play a key role, as does the history of Sadler’s Wells theatre itself. In a book shop on Cecil Court, I found beautifully preserved theatre programmes from the 1932-33 season at Sadler’s Wells and it was magical to imagine my characters holding those pages.

One major inspiration for me was my twin sister. We spent the first part of our lives doing everything together: first day of school, first ballet class, first piano lesson. We were a unit, referred to simply as the twins, and we had a very special connection. That connection remains even though our lives are so entirely different now. And so, in my novel, I have been inspired by the connectedness and the bond of twins, Olivia and Clara staying so close despite their lives starting to take them in different directions.”

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Make sure you pay a visit to the other blogs that are joining the tour for this fantastic book.

Book Review

The Luminaries – Susan Dennard

Today I am reviewing The Luminaries, the YA fantasy novel by Susan Dennard. Many thanks to Susan and Daphne Press for my copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you…

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town―and the rest of humanity―from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night. Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal―and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.

But in order to survive, Winnie must enlist the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.

Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark. 

REVIEW:

Being a huge Leigh Bardugo fan, when I saw her quote on the front of this book, I knew I had to read it, and I wasn’t disappointed. From the very first page, I could tell that The Luminaries was the start of what promises to be a very exciting new YA fantasy series.

The prologue made my spine tingle and the hairs on my arm stand up, and whilst the rest of the book was not as dark as this made me imagine it would be, The Luminaries was the perfect escapism from a day where my health saw me miserable, in pain and stuck in bed. Winnie’s experiences as she fights to become a Luminary hunter  were a wonderful distraction from the real world. The world that Susan Dennard has created is rich with detail and I absolutely loved the pages from the Luminary compendium, complete with illustrations, that are included – a fully illustrated compendium would make a wonderful companion book to this series (hint, hint!) The inhabitants of Hemlock Falls make up a varied and well developed cast of characters, and I soon had my favourites among them. I very quickly became engrossed in their world and it was a real wrench when I had to leave it at the end of the book.

I finished The Luminaries with more questions than answers. I have a few suspicions about these though and I cannot wait until the next book so I can see if I am right about any of them.

Book Review

Blinded Me With Science – Tara September

Today, I am taking part in the blog tour for Blinded Me With Science by Tara September. Many thanks to Tara for providing me with a copy of the audiobook, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour.

BLURB:

Opposites attract like a magnet to steel, or in this case, Emerson to Steel.

Emerson Powers has been so focused on obtaining her science degree that she’s neglected the more social aspects of college life. With the new start of her junior year, she’s determined to fix that with a real hands-on lesson in biology. The assignment is simple enough—teach the rock star’s son how to be good, while he shows her how to be very bad. Two objectives, one outcome … will the lesson be love or heartbreak?

Steel is no longer the bad boy Emerson knew from prep school, and he’s set to prove it by helping Emerson complete her secret list of desired college experiences. And if he can convince her that they are meant to be together along the way, even better!

While teaming up on experiments, both in and out of the classroom, Emerson discovers a new side to Steel. Leaving her to question everything she thought she knew. Still, is it enough to forgive the past or just mere chemistry?

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

For a free bonus chapter visit HERE.

REVIEW:

My second review of the day couldn’t be more different than my first, and in actual fact is a real change from the norm for me. For one, it’s a romance, which is a genre that I don’t review often, and secondly, I “read” this as an audiobook – something I also don’t often review, as a narrator can make or break a book for me, no matter how good or bad the story is.

On the subject of narration, I think I would have preferred the audio to have been read by two authors for the dual perspectives of Emerson and Steel. I will admit that I struggled a little with the female narrator attempting a male voice for an entire chapter at a time. However, once I got past this minor irritation, Steel was a character who was hard to resist. He is exactly the kind of damaged bad boy (trying to be good) that I always fall for in books.

Bookish, serious Emerson is delightfully awkward, and I found I could easily relate to her attempts to discover her inner party animal and really live the full college experience. If I had been in her shoes, I would have been putty in Steel’s hands, but, at that age, equally scared to admit it.

I think I would have preferred getting to know some background characters a little more, to really get a feel for Emerson and Steel’s lives, but I can see how this may not have worked with the writing style which often takes the form of each of the characters’ internal monologues.

Despite being a bit too heavy on the romance and a bit too light on adventure for my personal tastes, this was a light, enjoyable read/listen that I am sure romance fans will adore. (Word of warning – don’t listen to this book if anyone else can hear what you are listening to. There were a couple of instances that saw me scrabbling for my volume control!).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Fueled by an IV of green tea and Prosecco, Tara September is a multi-award-winning contemporary romance author of bestselling sassy & steamy love stories filled with banter. Based in Southwest Florida, Tara holds a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, a B.A. from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, as well as attended college courses at Queen’s College in London, U.K. She is also the proud mom to identical twin 10-year-old boys and three cats.

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

Book Review

The Witches of Vardø – Anya Bergman

Come with me to the outer reaches of Norway today, as I join the blog tour for the historical fiction novel The Witches of Vardø by Anya Bergman. Many thanks to Anya for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Blog Tours for inviting me to take part.

BLURB:

They will have justice. They will show their power. They will not burn.

Norway, 1662. A dangerous time to be a woman, when even dancing can lead to accusations of witchcraft.
When Zigri, desperate and grieving after the loss of her husband and son, embarks on an affair with the local merchant, it is not long before she is sent to the fortress at Vardø to be tried and condemned as a witch.

Zigri’s daughter Ingeborg sets off into the wilderness to try to bring her mother back home. Accompanying her on this quest is Maren – herself the daughter of a witch – whose wild nature and unconquerable spirit gives Ingeborg the courage to venture into the unknown, and to risk all she has to save her family.

Also captive in the fortress is Anna Rhodius, once the King of Denmark’s mistress, who has been sent to Vardø in disgrace. What will she do – and who will she betray – to return to her privileged life at court?

These Witches of Vardø are stronger than even the King of Denmark. In an age weighted against them they refuse to be victims. They will have their justice. All they need do is show their power.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

Based on the real Finnmark witch trials of 1662-63 The Witches of Vardø is a hauntingly beautiful book. Having loved Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies, I was delighted to discover another author looking at the Scandinavian trials.

Told from the perspectives of two very different narrators, proud, privileged Anna and young, impressionable Ingeborg, The Witches of Vardø shows how no woman was safe from persecution as a witch. Ingeborg is easy to love. She cares deeply for her family and is willing to do whatever it takes to protect them, even if that means venturing towards people she has only ever been warned away from. On the other hand, Anna was a character who I was fully prepared to hate at the start of the book, but as her story unfolded, I found I ended up pitying her. She is a complex woman who did what she thought was the best she could with the hand she was dealt.

This book is beautifully researched with wonderfully rich descriptions of the landscape and climate – it made me positively shivery reading it at times, and very glad for my bog fluffy blanket! Through Bergman’s detailed descriptions of the conditions they were kept in, it is easy to see how women would confess to being witches if it would save them from barbaric interrogation tactics and torture, or in the hope a confession would spare the lives of those they loved. The inclusion of traditional Norwegian and Samí stories add  real depth to this book and really help bring the characters to life.

As you will know, I read a lot of books about witches, both fantasy and based on factual trials, and The Witches of Vardø is up there with the best that I have read. I am excited for what is to come next from the pen/keyboard of Anya Bergman.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Anya Bergman became interested in the witch trials of Vardø and the vivid folk tales of the north while living in Norway. Travelling to the Steilneset memorial, in which Louise Bourgeois and Peter Zumthor commemorated those persecuted witches, she became fascinated by their stories. Now resident in Ireland, she is currently undertaking a PhD by Published Works at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland where she also lectures, as well as tutoring for Jericho Writers. She is working on her next novel, which unites the fates of two very different women against the tumultuous backdrop of the French Revolution.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

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Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part in this tour.

Book Review

Different, Not Less – Chloe Hayden

Today I am joining the blog tour for Different, Not Less by Chloe Hayden. Many thanks to Chloe and Murdoch Books for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

BLURB:

An empowering guide to celebrating and supporting neurodivergence from Netflix’s Heartbreak High star and disability advocate, Chloe Hayden.

Growing up, Chloe Hayden felt like she’d crash-landed on an alien planet where nothing made sense. Eye contact? Small talk? And why are you people so touch-oriented? None of it made sense.

Chloe desperately wished to be part of the fairytales she so dearly loved. A world in which the lead is considered a hero because of their differences, rather than excluded and pushed aside for them.

She moved between ten schools in eight years, struggling to become a person she believed society would accept. After years of being “weird, quirky Chloe,” she was eventually diagnosed with autism and ADHD. It was only after a life-changing group of allies showed her that different didn’t mean less that she learned to celebrate her true voice and find her happily ever after.

Different, Not Less is a moving, at times funny story of how it feels to be neurodivergent as well as a practical guide, with insights on how autism and ADHD present differently in females, advice for living with meltdowns and shutdowns, tips for finding supportive relationships, communities and workplaces, and much more.

Whether you’re neurodivergent or supporting those who are, Different, Not Less will inspire you to create a more inclusive world where everyone feels like they belong.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US


REVIEW:

Some of you will know that I suffer with a couple of chronic illnesses, and as much as I wish some of the people around me would do more to understand my health issues, I realise that I also have a lot to learn about how other people experience the world. When the opportunity to improve my understanding through joining the blog tour for Different, Not Less came about, I jumped at the chance. I know I still have a way to go, and I apologise if I word things incorrectly in this review. I would welcome any further education if I do.

While I could empathise with the sensory processing issues Chloe has faced, struggling with hypersensitivity myself, other areas were a real eye opener. The complete lack of support she received from the education system and medical professionals in the very recent past was shocking! I naively thought that, at least in these area, things had improved over the years. My heart bled for the little girl who wanted so much to find her place in the world, and was blocked from doing so at every turn, and simply written off as “weird.” I also had no idea that autism came with so many common comorbidities – as if life isn’t difficult enough when you don’t fit the accepted “normal” mould, you are hit with multiple health conditions to manage on top of everything else.

The passion with which this book was written shines through in the language used making it an easy book to read, not dry or a slog like some self-help/health books can be. Chloe’s openness about her experiences as a neurodivergent woman is brutally honest at times, but it is this honesty that a) will hopefully make other people in her situation feel less alone, and b) really drives home to neurotypical readers just how confusing and overwhelming life can be.

Whether you are neurodivergent yourself, supporting someone who is, or just want to understand more about other people’s experiences, Different, Not Less is a great place to start.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Chloe Hayden is an award-winning actor and disability advocate, motivational speaker and social media influencer whose story of being “different, not less” has attracted a worldwide following. She is currently appearing in Heartbreak High, the Netflix remake of the iconic Australian series.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

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Don’t forget to have a look at the other blogs taking part in the tour for Different, Not Less.

Book Review

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries – Heather Fawcett

I am getting back into the swing of blog tours today as I join the tour for Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett. Many thanks to Heather and Orbit books for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Blog Tours for inviting me to take part.

BLURB:

Enter the world of the hidden folk – and discover the most whimsical and heart-warming tale you’ll read this year, featuring the intrepid Emily Wilde…

Emily Wilde is good at many things: she is the foremost expert on the study of faeries; she is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people.

So, when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby.

But as Emily gets closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones – the most elusive of all faeries – she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all – her own heart.

Filled with enchanting magic, heart-warming romance and a heroine you can’t help but love, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is the perfect read for fans of The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

Well, if my first tour of the year is any indication of what is to come, then 2023 is going to be a brilliant year for books. From the outset, Emily had such a distinctive voice that I found myself presented with the clearest image of a highly intelligent, yet somewhat socially awkward and eccentric young lady that stayed with me throughout the book. She is a delightful character and I found the style of the novel as her journal to be particularly endearing.

Although we, thankfully, didn’t have the extreme weather of Hrafnsvik, this book was the perfect read for the cold winter evenings of January, and is definitely best read with a soft blanket and a warm drink.

I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book, from the warmth of the villagers of Hrafnsvik to watching Emily’s heart begin to thaw, in spite of the frozen conditions that she finds herself in. It is beautifully written and made me wish that Emily’s Encyclopaedia was a real book. That would make for some fascinating reading.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Heather Fawcett is a Canadian author of books for adults, kids, and teens, including the Even the Darkest Stars series, Ember and the Ice Dragons, The Language of Ghosts, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, and more. Her books have been translated into more than ten languages and somehow all include dragons in one form or another. She has a Master’s degree in English Literature and a Bachelor’s in Archaeology. She lives on Vancouver Island.

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Bookish Christmas Book Tag

The quiet period between Christmas and New Year seemed the perfect time to hop on to the Bookish Christmas book tag. Thanks to Danni at For Book’s Sake for tagging me to do this. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out her blog!

This tag was originally created by Callum McLaughlin.

Father Christmas: Name a book you received as a child that you treasure to this day.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. I adore the Chronicles of Narnia, but this was my first introduction to the world, a gift from my much loved godmother.

The ghost of Christmas past: Is there a book or series you like to revisit each year at Christmas time?

Fittingly for the start of this question, I always like to experience A Christmas Carol in some way at Christmas, whether that be reading the book or watching one of the many screen adaptations. This year, I was lucky enough to attend an interactive dramatic reading of the book at a stately home near where I live, which was so much fun (if this sounds like your kind of thing, check out their website – Torchlight Tours)! I do keep a folder of festive books on my Kindle as well to dip into if I fancy it. Some of the books on there include Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar, The Gift by Cecelia Ahern, and Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather.

Christmas tree: Name a series that reaches new heights with every entry.

This has to be Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles. I am absolutely addicted, and I am currently counting the days until the next instalment releases (35 days including today, in case you were wondering).

Friends and family: Name a book with fantastic characters.

Oh so many! As this is a friends and family question, I think I will say the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. The characters there may not be blood, but they are still very much a family.

Decorations: Name a book with a gorgeous cover you would proudly display on your shelves.

I see so many absolutely beautiful books being published these days, but I think that the Blood Web Chronicles by Caedis Knight take some beating – especially all lined up together. Designed by Jacqueline Silvester, one half of Caedis Knight, the colours are simply stunning, and the detail in each globe is spectacular. Find out more about this spicy series HERE.

Christmas cards: Name a book that carries a great message.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I remember a friend telling me that I had to read this book, but not telling me anything much else about it. At the time, I thought this was a bit strange, and when I started reading and found it was a book about a boy on a boat with a tiger, I thought it was an even stranger book to recommend. However, I ended up being absolutely blown away by it. I can’t say much more about it, or the message it carries, without spoiling it for anyone who is yet to read it, but it really is an astonishingly good book.

Ice and snow: Name a book that you were hoping to love, but which ultimately left you feeling cold.

Oh no, there’s no ice and snow here this Christmas, just hot chocolate and lebkuchen for all!

Christmas lunch: Name a book that was big and intimidating but oh so worth it in the end.

I love a big chunky book, so I don’t tend to find a high page count intimidating, and to be honest, I read mainly on Kindle, so I often don’t even know how long a book is before starting to read it. According to Goodreads, the longest book I read in 2022 was The Stone Monkey by Jeffrey Deaver at 657 pages. I really enjoy his Lincoln Rhyme series, so I am sure this didn’t feel anywhere near as long as it is.

Mince pies: Name a book you found sweet and satisfying.

A food based question at Christmas? There is only one possible answer that I could give – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bar by Isabella May. It is an absolute delight featuring all the Christmas loveliness that your heart could desire. Read my review HERE.

Presents: What book do you wish you could give everyone to read?

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. I read this book way back in way back in February 2018, and I still find myself thinking about it. It is just such a beautiful book in every single way. You can read my review of it HERE.

Spreading the festive cheer: Tag some friends to help spread the festive bookish love.

K T Robson

Kate Kenzie

Book Review

The Witch & The Tsar – Olesya Salnikova Gilmore

Well, 2022 is certainly going out with a bang – my final blog tour this year features one of the best books I have read this year, the wonderfully wintery The Witch & The Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore. Many thanks to Olesya and to Harper Voyager 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:

As a half-goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread rumours about her supposed cruelty and wicked spells. But when her old friend Anastasia – now the wife of the tsar and suffering from a mysterious illness – arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realises that the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s. Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves.

As she travels to Moscow, Yaga witnesses a sixteenth century Russia on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan – soon to become Ivan the Terrible – grows more volatile and tyrranical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.

In this stunning debut novel, the maligned and immortal witch of legend known as Baba Yaga will risk all to save her country and people from Tsar Ivan the Terrible – and the dangerous gods who seek to drive the twisted hearts of men.

PURCHASE LINKS:

REVIEW:

Wow! I thought I was almost set on my favourite books of 2022, but this one has certainly put a spanner in the works. From the cover to the very last page, The Witch and The Tsar is an utterly beautiful book, exquisitely written and absolutely captivating. I studied Russian history at A-level many years ago, and this book brought the rich culture, landscape and folklore of the country to life in a way my teacher could only have dreamed off.

Part historical fiction, part reimagining of Russian folklore, The Witch and The Tsar weaves together the facts of Ivan IV’s reign of terror with the traditional tales of Baba Yaga and Koshey Bessmertny, giving a twist to their stories and offering a new explanation for Ivan’s behaviour. I was not hugely familiar with Russian folklore prior to reading this book, but it has left me wanting to know more and I will certainly be looking for more about Yaga and Koshey.

Olesya Salnikova Gilmore’s characters are simply wonderful, and I felt an emotional attachment to each and every one of them. She even managed to make Ivan the Terrible seem somewhat relatable! Even the worst, most evil of the characters had motivations that were understandable, whilst their actions remained awful. It is no mean feat to make a reader feel sorry for the antagonist, but Olesya succeeds in this beautifully.

It is hard to believe that The Witch and The Tsar is the debut novel from Olesya Salnikova Gilmore. I think we can expect great things in the future, and personally, I can’t wait!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Olesya Salnikova Gilmore was born in Moscow, Russia, and raised in the United States, and graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in English/political science, and from Northwestern University School of Law with a JD. She practised litigation at a large law firm for several years before pursuing her dream of becoming an author. She is happiest writing historical fiction and fantasy inspired by Eastern European folklore. She lives in a wooded lakeside suburb of Chicago with her husband and daughter. The Witch and the Tsar is her debut novel.

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Make sure you check out the other blogs taking part in the tour.

Book Review

Goblins of Lapland – Caedis Knight

If you are still looking for that perfect gift for the (adult) bookworm in your life, I have the book for you right here as I share my (overdue) review of Goblins of Lapland by Caedis Knight. Actually, the full set of the four Blood Web Chronicles books (so far), with their exquisite jewel covers, would make a really beautiful gift.

BLURB:

Saskia de la Cruz, Verity Witch and undercover reporter for the Paranormal Blood Web, has been sent on her first international mission…to Lapland!

Convinced she’s set for a magical Christmas adventure in the snow, she’s dismayed to find the Christmas village she’s investigating is a complete disaster. She also takes an instant dislike to the rugged Finnish inn owner, Elias, who’s so miserable he makes the Grinch look like Santa. How can she trust a man whose only friend is a reindeer?

But Elias has bigger things to worry about than a nosy journalist. Locked in a bitter feud with a Texan tycoon, Elias has already lost too much to hand over his family business to his rival. As more mysterious disasters befall the village, Saskia soon discovers that one local Christmas myth is still very much alive. Will Saskia manage to save the village in time for Christmas? Or will they all end up Feliz Navidead?

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

Whilst I might start planning the gifts I want to make for Christmas way back in March or April, I usually have a fairly strict “no Christmas books or films until December” rule. However, when the eagerly awaited Goblins of Lapland landed on my Kindle on 1st November, I knew there was no way I would be waiting a single second before reading it. By happy coincidence, I had finished my previous book the night before (okay, yes, I might have stayed up late to ensure that was the case), so I was able to jump straight in. A prequel to the main series, Goblins of Lapland sits after Mermaids of Los Angeles chronologically, but before Vampires of Moscow in the Blood Web Chronicles world, so if you haven’t read the previous books, it doesn’t matter, although you are missing out on multiple treats and I highly recommend you read them as soon as possible.

As always with Caedis Knight’s books, Goblins of Lapland is a real feast for the senses, filled with rich descriptions of wintery landscapes and festive treats. I don’t really eat meat, but even my largely vegetarian mouth was watering at the description of the reindeer stew. That said, it was all the sugary delights that really got my taste buds going – stocking up on the mince pies and lebkuchen before settling down to read is recommended!

Saskia’s stay at the Crazy Reindeer, the oldest Christmas village in Lapland is filled with mayhem, as she attempts to uncover the cause of some rather strange goings on – is the village being sabotaged by a rival, or is there something more unusual behind the mishaps being suffered? Whatever the cause, the situations that Saskia finds herself in are sure to have you spluttering in your Christmas cocoa!

Goblins of Lapland may be set in one of the snowiest spots in the world, but Caedis Knight once again ensure that temperatures don’t dip below scorching (and not just inside the sauna!).

The only problem with this book? It was just too short! I could have quite happily stayed with Elias in Lapland until spring! Maybe without the goblins though!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Established fantasy authors Jacqueline Silvester and N J Simmonds joined forces in 2019 when they learned readers were looking for steamy paranormal stories with more diversity, more sass, and set outside of the US.

Between them, they have lived in ten countries and speak six languages fluently – all of which inspired them to create a fantasy world hidden within our own. The cities featured in the series are cities they have lived in (except for Lapland).

Jacqueline Silvester is of Russian/Ukrainian descent and now loves between Berlin and The Netherlands. She works as a screenwriter and producer and has collaborated with large names such as Netflix, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon. Natali Simmonds lives in The Netherlands and has British/Spanish heritage. She writes fantasy as N J Simmonds, and feminist thrillers as Natali Simmonds.

Together they pen paranormal romance as Caedis Knight, and run the Caedis Knight Romance Academy where they teach a variety of courses on writing and self-publishing.

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Book Review

The Complete Fairy Stories of Oscar Wilde

If you are still doing your Christmas shopping, I have the perfect book for readers of all ages to share with you as I join the blog tour for The Complete Fairy Stories of Oscar Wilde. Many thanks to Duckworth for providing me with a copy of the book, and Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

For nearly 150 years, the classic fairy tales of Oscar Wilde have been cherished by readers of all ages. Rediscover all nine of the stories first published in The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888) and A House of Pomegranates (1891) in this beautiful new edition of Duckworth’s exquisite 1952 complete collection, featuring intricate illustrations by the celebrated twentieth-century artist and aesthete Phillippe Julian, and an afterword by Wilde’s son Vyvyan Holland.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Waterstones

REVIEW:

Although I have read and enjoyed a few of Oscar Wilde’s works previously, this was my first encounter with his collections of fairy stories. Whilst not as dark as some of the tales of Charles Perrault, these fairy tales are still a long way from the sanitised, happily ever afters that I grew up with, and in fact, some of them are desperately sad. Of the stories included in this collection, The Selfish Giant and The Birthday of the Infanta were favourites of mine, although The Birthday of the Infanta made me feel particularly emotional. That said, Wilde delights in poking fun at those who think too highly of themselves, and so with the sadness came plenty of smiles.

While I was reading this book, I found I had to check if there was an audio version available, because I could hear Stephen Fry’s voice in my head telling the stories as clearly as if he had been sitting in the room beside me. If there are plans for an audiobook, he really is the only possible choice for the narrator.

Philippe Jullian’s striking illustrations are the perfect addition to Wilde’s parables, and the afterword by Vyvvan Holland provides a fascinating insight into Wilde’s mind and creative processes.

This 70th anniversary edition is a delightful book, and one that I think any book lover would be happy to have on their shelf.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Born in Dublin in 1854, Oscar Wilde was an Irish wit, playwright and poet best remembered for his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), and his social comedies including The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). He published two volumes of beloved fairy tales. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1884 he married Constance Lloyd, and his two sons were born in 1885 and 1886. Wilde died in Paris in 1900.

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