2019 my Year in Review

So 2019 is at an end and it’s been quite a year in one way or another. I certainly feel that I am in a much different place to where I was this time last year, I little older, a little wiser, a little more weary and still wondering if I have a place – but I paid for 3 years hosting up front so you’re stuck with me for one more year at least!

The biggest change for me came in February when I decided that Post Apocalyptic Playground no longer represented what I was doing and I took the really tough decision to rebrand. This was scary as it meant potentially alienating a large proportion of my following, but to be honest I was losing them anyway as my content didn’t reflect my name. You can read the full reasons why I changed here. I set about getting a new domain and a very talented friend drew up my fantastic logo. On 1st March I relaunched as Paperbacks and Pinot and it really did help me feel more settled in my blogging skin.

In April I took the plunge with approaching publishers for physical ARC’s, my Netgalley usage was steadily increasing as did my approval rating. Since April, I have built up a wonderful relationship with a particular publisher and I’m so happy I reached out!

In June I attended Chapter.Con in London, which was a huge deal for me; not only because I was asked to be a panellist but because it was two nights away and the longest I had ever spent away from the children. It was honestly a wonderful event, I loved speaking on the blogger panel and really felt that there was an interest in what I had to say. I made some great connections and got to meet in person some lovely authors who I had known online for years. There was a fantastic awards dinner at the end and I was absolutely blown away to have a book I formatted win that category, huge thanks have to go out to Bethany Adams for having me bring her words to the page.

July brought #yalc and it was the first time I had attended with a Yalc ticket, usually we (Biba and I) do LFCC and head up to Yalc during the day. It was a fantastic experience, I got to meet lots of great bookstagrammers that I had gotten to know on the platform, watched some great panels and met some lovely authors. We also got to catch up with Steph and James from Geeky Clean, they are honestly some of the loveliest people you could ever meet. I loved how much Biba felt involved with it all too, she felt a little left out as there were hardly any others her age there, but loads of people knew her from our unboxings and loved meeting her. The best thing though was finally meeting friend and author Rebecca Gibson, we had been friends for years online and it was amazing to finally meet after a few missed opportunities.

In August I totally rediscovered audio books! I tried one a while ago but the narrator was just awful and it completely put me off. However I have found myself commuting in the car for longer than ever this year so it was the perfect time to try and get back into them, Nevernight and Red Rising being some of the amazing series I have read this way.

September was a lovely moment in that Biba was chosen to rep for a new UK based Middle Grade book box called We Read Box, it was amazing for her to have a part of my blogging life and she’s just been announced as a Brand Ambassador for them!

In October I finally threw the towel in with book boxes. For me, I think I had just reached a point where nothing felt new or exciting. I tried a book only option for a couple of months but that just didn’t feel value for money either, so now after 2 years I don’t have anything bookish – it feels weird! At least I can live vicariously through Biba 🙂

And that brings us to December! I turned 40 this month and we went away for a lovely Harry Potter themed weekend to Edinburgh with escape rooms and cocktail making it was amazing fun, I would love to go back there soon as it’s a truly beautiful city. Blog wise I’m currently having a crisis of confidence with my reviews, I just don’t think they hold up and as such I’m not feeling as motivated. I’m sure it will pass as these peaks and troughs do happen from time to time.

Ultimately though, I want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me this year, either by sharing my reviews, commenting on my posts or just reaching to chat or buddy read. It means the world to me when these things happen and I’m looking forward to connecting with more authors, bloggers and readers in 2020. Happy new year everyone!

Review of Flesh and Stone by P.M Hernandez

Seventeen-year-old Ellie Whitewood dreams of being a doctor and giving back to the grandfather who raised her after the death of her parents. When she receives an inheritance from a reclusive aunt, she becomes the mistress of a sprawling manor.
Selling the property to pay for college seems like the answer to her prayers, but each day she grows more and more attached to the stone gargoyles adorning the manor rooftop.
After finding the Whitewood journals, she learns she is the latest in a line of Caretakers who, with her Sentinels, defends the world from evil. While she is drawn to her Sentinel, Gabriel, and her new life, her future isn’t written in stone.
Haunted by dark dreams and facing deadly enemies, is she willing to sacrifice her well-laid plans and accept her new calling…even if it comes with wings and sharp teeth?

The Whitewood Journals is the first series written by this author and strangely the last for me to come to!  I’ve been reading a lot of slow burn starts of late so it was really refreshing to get straight into it with this book. Within a few pages of meeting Ellie she is set on her path and so much is packed into the first two chapters, I really had to check that I had in fact only read that much. Whitewood manor feels instantly like stepping into a Bronte novel with Ellie’s approach up a long and winding driveway to an unexpected and unknown future, however, that illusion quickly steps into Fantasy when we start to discover the manor’s secrets.

As far as ideas for a fantasy novel go, I was instantly taken in by the unique idea of the Gargoyles, or Sentinals as they are here, Ellie’s discovery of the Journals is fantastic and I loved how she combined both her medical knowledge and her knowledge from the journals to bring in a whole new dimension to the role of Caretaker. I have to admit that I did get a bit of a Buffy vibe from Ellie and not just because of the whole “once in a generation thing” – Ellie has grown up completely unaware of her family history and so her snark and her difficult start in life really shape her into something special. We even have a not so great version of Giles in Lucas Ford, although his clear contempt for anything other than himself brought a wry smile as we all have had the misfortune to meet “that person” at a social gathering at some point!

Honestly, I’m not really sure how I feel about the relationship dynamics. I do have strong feelings about relationships portrayals in YA, especially when it comes to concepts of claiming and ownership, however, as Lucas Ford reminds us, they are all still monsters underneath. There also looks to be a bit of multiple choice on the horizon which I can imagine will lead to much exasperation and eye rolling for Ellie in future books! I’m also intrigued by the big bad and what truly is going on in the darker corners of Whitewood Manor.

Flesh and Stone is a great foundation book for the series, I felt that the premise was delivered well and that there was a lot of attention given to detail and explanation of how it all worked. I liked how so much was left open ended for the next book but I didn’t finish the last page feeling put out about this at all because so much had been crammed into story. With a lovely little snatch of an epilogue, things are going to get tricky for Ellie sooner than later!

4*

Six for Sunday: New Year New Books

The final #sixforsunday for 2019 could just as easily be the first of 2020! Whilst considering the prompt of “New Year, New Books” I realised that this wasn’t as straightforward as I thought, you see I am resolving to not buy more books in the new year. I have done pretty well since I imposed this on myself in the middle of December and since then have only bought one 99p kindle book. Other than existing pre-orders I won’t be buying any more book for the immediate future or until I have made a significant dent in my current tbr. I will still be accepting Arcs for review though so please reach out if you want to.  My list this week therefore comprises of books that I either got for my birthday this month, for Christmas or pre-orders which are out in January!

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This is in fact for the whole trilogy! When Jay Kristoff was in the UK promoting Darkdawn earlier this year I spotted on his IG Stories that he was signing books at Forbidden Planet and these books were on his trolley to sign! I have wanted them for an age and really would have loved to have them in Hardback but a signed paperback is amazing! I have kept them squirelled away in the attic because I didn’t know how I was going to justify bringing 3 new books into the house, so they stayed there for Mr Paperbacks to gift me for Christmas! I can’t wait to start 🙂

A Sleuth and a Charlatan by Clare Sager

Yup, this is the 99p ebook that broke my self imposed ban! I adored book 1 and I couldn’t pass up book 2 at this price! I loved this historical fantasy feel to this series and honestly I can’t wait to read more about Quin and how the world of Arinapole changes after the closing stages of book 1!

This Vicious Cure by Emily Suvada

A pre-order for January and this is the final book in this trilogy. I had been waiting patiently for Watersones to announce their special edition DNA edge and I grabbed it straight away when I saw it. This is a great YA trilogy with a strong STEM element and a thriller edge, I can’t wait to see how it ends. The Author is also doing a great pre-order campaign on her website where you can get signed bookplates and bookmarks for each book in the trilogy!

I Am C-3PO by Anthony Daniels

This was a birthday gift from my brother and honestly I’m not usually a fan of non fiction or indeed biographies, however, I am a huge fan of Star Wars. It’s not a huge book and there are plenty of great “back in the day” photo sections so I’m willing to put my usual tastes to the side and try and broaden my reading horizons a little!

A Throne of Swans by Katherine and Elizabeth Corr

Firstly, just look at that cover, I could not pass up the opportunity to be considered to review this title and I was so excited that I got selected! Although I have struggled with retellings lately this one is based on Swan Lake which is a amazing and story I know very little about so I’m hoping that this will feel like a story all of it’s own.

Victory Day by Rachel Churcher

Another Arc that I was kindly gifted and it’s the final instalment of the Battle Ground series. This has been an amazing, rapid release series of books with a post brexit dystopian vibe which feels more real than ever now…. I loved the set up between the protagonist and antagonist and how things may not all be as they seem, I can’t wait for the finale!

 

Top 10 Tuesday – My Top 10 Books of the Year

It’s Christmas Eve!!!  I’m just about to start our Festive Tradition of making mince pies and sausage roll (veggie ones for me!) with Biba. Christmas Eve is one of my favourite days of the year, so what better time to talk about my top 10 favourite books (it might actually be 11 as I just couldn’t narrow it down…) that I’ve read this year! You can find my reviews to each book by following the review link at the end of each book summary.

Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury

Honestly, this book was nothing short of perfection. State of Sorrow featured in my top 10 last year and Song of Sorrow was top of my anticipated reads this year and it didn’t disappoint one bit. I adored every page and every twist the story took even when it felt that there was no way out. Also, I love Luvian more than just a little ❤ Review.

Viper by Bex Hogan

Viper took me completely by surprise! I was granted a copy from Netgalley and I couldn’t put it down, the writing was exceptional and the story just felt so alive. I was so pleased to then get a paperback copy in a Fairyloot box and even better, I then got to meet Bex Hogan at #Yalc. She is the sweetest individual and we discovered a mutual love for the game Hero Quest 🙂 Review

Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

Whilst I failed during #thegreatbreaking of Goldsboro’s website to get their edition, I did manage to snag a copy of this book from my Illumicrate Box. It was wonderful, full of snark, and squad goals to rival my beloved Rampion Crew! I adored how completely individual every member of Squad 312 was and Zila totally stood out. I have seen the Kal based cover for Aurora Burning and I honestly can’t wait! Review.

Sanctuary by V.V James

I have to admit that Sanctuary was not on my radar at all, until James from Geeky Clean couldn’t stop singing it’s praises at Yalc. Unusual for me in that it is a contemporary setting, the inclusion of modern day Witchcraft in a alternative reality way was brilliant. A brilliant narrative on mob mentality, the closing stages had me full of fear, just fantastic. Review.

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James

Lauren James is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe hit my top ten last year and the moment this wonderful stand alone was released I couldn’t wait to grab it. I think there is just something about her writing style that fits so well, unusually narrative twists by way of social media posts brought the story to life in an interesting way. It’s so inclusive and I felt it was a real education too. Review.

Awakening by Bethany Adams

It’s no secret that The Return of the Elves series is one of my favourites but I went into Awakening with a fair bit of trepidation. It focuses on Blood Elf, Vek and I’ve not been his biggest fan in earlier books. I needn’t have worried though as Bethany Adams is such an amazing story teller that she totally turned him around in my estimations. This book also completely nailed complex battle scenes so well that I felt completely consumed by the pages. I can’t wait for Ascent next year! Review.

Darkdawn – Jay Kristoff

For years Nevernight had been one of those books that I had seen everywhere but never quite got round to, so when Harper Voyager were offering a free download of the audio book if you signed up to their newsletter at Yalc, I felt that it was the perfect time! I was so glad that I came to it late because I could just go from book to book and was ready for Darkdawn’s release. Honestly it shattered me. So many revelations, heartbreak and truly epic fantasy, it was the perfect ending to the series, although I just can’t forgive one point, message me if you want to discuss!! I’ve not yet written a review.

The Prince of Dragons by Tameri Etherton

Tameri Etherton is a totally new author to me, I had the joy of meeting her at Chapter.con this year! When she offered copies of the first two books in her Song of Swords series to me I gratefully accepted, although there was no obligation to review from her I just fell so in love with the characters and the story I had to give book one, The Price of Dragons, five stars. It’s truly epic fantasy with a wonderful magic system and characters who actually stand by their oaths and are committed to their causes. I’m so glad I have book two as well! Review.

By the Feet of Men by Grant Price

Grant Price is to be commended firstly for his approach to bloggers, he found me not long after I stopped being Post Apocalyptic Playground and graciously understood that I had moved away from dystopia. However, I had to admit that I loved the premise to his story and actually, it turned out to be just book I needed to reignite my love of post apocalyptic worlds and dystopian environments. A real road movie of a book, it was gritty and stark but also hopeful for human nature and friendship, it also gave a scarily plausible future. Review.

Fighting Back by Rachel Churcher

I had the pleasure of meeting Rachel Churcher at Yalc this year, it’s funny how random encounters lead to something fantastic. I’ve loved reviewing her Battleground series and her guest posts on the blog have been amazing and insightful for the books. It been a steadily high rating series for me but Fighting Back lifted the series to a new level and it was the stand out with the way the story started to flip and the vibrant imagery. You can find my review here but it will contain spoilers for the earlier books.

Dark Shores by Danielle L Jensen

A book that I instantly connected with, I adored the writing style and the alternating POV’s. A gorgeous story with wonderful magics and terrifying lessons to be learned. I loved the Roman feel that made the story instantly accessible. I know that the next book is a parallel with other characters rather than a continuation, but i’m excited for it nonetheless! Review

 

Six for Sunday: All I want for Christmas is….

For this weeks #sixforsunday I talking about all the fanciful things I would like for Christmas, if for instance I had some money and didn’t have to go to work! I’ve tried to keep it as bookish as possible but ultimately I love films and gaming too. Let me know in the comments what you would love this year!

Matching Bookshelves

I know it sounds silly but I’ve got random bits of bookshelves around the house, I’ve got a beautiful wooden one that was donated by a friend, a cheap one I got from Argos and a small one I’ve had since I was little. I envy all the lovely bookstagram pics of beautiful library areas in people homes, who am I kidding I just want a house big enough to hold a library!

Custom Funko’s

Whilst I have always been a lover of collecting Funko’s I finally this year treated myself to a custom Kaz Brekker from a new UK based small business called Fandom Fealty. I also got a Jesper and I am desperate for an Inej. I just adore all the funko’s they do and I would love to have a whole Six of Crows set for my shelf.

Studio Ghibli Films

A few months ago we said goodbye to our Sky subscription as it just wasn’t value for money at all. The biggest downside is that we lost our recordings of our favourite Studio Ghibli films. The kids keep asking to watch My Neighbour Totoro and for the first Christmas in years, Film 4 aren’t showing them. So I would love to have our favourites on Blu Ray as they totally overshadow Disney in this house.

A TBR Cart

I’ve been umming and ahhing about one of these on and off all year, I think they’re amazingly practical, look awesome and I love that I can stick all my Sugar & Sloth stickers on them too. I need to massively reign in my book spends in the new year and actually take the time to read all the amazing books I have already.

Gaming Time

I feel like there are so many amazing games out there at the moment and not a great deal of time to play them. I need more balance between reading and gaming. I have been playing Zelda BOTW for a year and honestly I have no motivation to finish it as I just want to play something more platform based, but I have no money at the moment! I’ve just seen that they’ve re-released Katamari Damacy for the switch and also Okami, I’m also ridiculously excited for the new Animal Crossing!

To watch the new Star Wars

Mr Paperbacks is going to watch this tomorrow, but without me as we don’t have a babysitter that would allow us to both go, and with a 12a rating it’s not appropriate to take the little paperbacks with us either. We kind of used up a years worth of babysitting when we went to Edinburgh for my birthday earlier this month so I feel completely cheeky asking again, so subsequently, I haven’t…

 

Tag Thursday: 12 Days of Christmas Book Tag

It feels weird to say that this time next week the big day will be over, I’m feeling decidedly unchristmassy this year, I’m not sure why, I think maybe the cost is a big factor, we don’t buy for many but both the kids want new bikes and we’ve just had to get the car fixed for over £300 so kerching…..I’m hoping that by completing this Christmas Book Tag I’ll feel more in the festive spirit though!

ON THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE.

The partridge stood alone in the pear tree. What is your favourite stand alone?

For me, Lauren James is the queen of writing amazing standalone books. Whilst I love The Quiet at the end of the World, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe just tips it because that twist totally came out of nowhere and turned the the story on it’s head in the most spectacular way! She also wins Gaynor prizes for her outstanding covers.


ON THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: TWO TURTLE DOVES.

Love is in the air! Who is your one true pairing?

Cress and Carswell from the Lunar Chronicles without a doubt, he’s a loveable cad and she’s beautifully naive but he never takes advantage of that. Their connection is amazing and it was a joy to read, I love them!


ON THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: THREE FRENCH HENS.

In the spirit of threes, what is the best trilogy you have read?

During this year I discovered the Red Rising books and I was totally blown away by them. This relates to the first trilogy as the second I’m not quite loving as much sadly. But for the first, I just couldn’t get over the world building and the sheer scale of it all, the story was relentlessly exhilarating, exhausting and heartbreaking and I read them all back to back and highly recommend them.


ON THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: FOUR CALLING BIRDS.

Since series usually consist of four or more books, what is your favourite series?

Throne of Glass is the longest series I probably own and I know it’s an obvious choice but its such an amazing series, with fantastic characters. I totally do not ship Aelin and Rowan though which is a shame as it’s the only thing that bugs me about it – his behaviour towards her in Heir of Fire is such a thumbs down!


ON THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: FIVE GOLDEN RINGS.

One ring to rule them all! Who is your Favourite Villain/Antagonist?

One of my all time favourite series is the Lunar Chronicles and one of the reasons that it’s so amazing is because of how chilling Queen Levana is as a villain, what makes it harder as a reader though is that you know she has been through something devastating to make her that way, but she is still pretty unforgivable! I’ve still to read her origin story, Fairest, which has to be one that I need to bump up the list!


ON THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: SIX GEESE A LAYING.

Creation is a beautiful thing. What is your favourite world/world-building?

I absolutely adore the world of Morainia from Bethany Adam’s return of the elves series, it utterly gorgeous with magical forests, dragon caves and swirling mists, it has everything an epic fantasy world should have. I even don’t mind when the story flips to earth because again the locations chosen often feel as magical. Each new character and story brings a new facet to the world which never feels overwhelming with it’s scope. I can’t wait to read Ascent when it’s lands next year as its a consistent 5 star series for me!


ON THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: SEVEN SWANS A SWIMMING.

Who needs seven swans when all it takes is one good animal sidekick? Who’s your favourite animal sidekick?

Well it just has to be Pan from His Dark Materials! As fearless a Lyra and as much a main character as her I just love them. Watching the new TV series has just brought all the old feels back!


ON THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: EIGHT MAIDS A MILKING.

Milk is so 18th century. Which book or series takes beverages/food to a whole new level?

I’ve been pretty stumped by this one, Nina from Six of Crows has her waffles but I can’t really say she brought it to a whole new level, I suppose Lord of the Rings has a second breakfast which is a pretty epic idea!


ON THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: NINE LADIES DANCING.

Dancing is just one skill of a Lady! Who is your favourite kickass female lead?

Without a doubt, Mia Corverre from the Nevernight trilogy. This was a series that I only started to read this year and I just finished Darkdawn last week! It was such an emotional ride and I’m still reeling from so much of it and parts of it left me heartbroken. Mia is amazing and goes through so much but always with a Gravebone dagger and snarky kitty at her side. Its phenomenal writing and I’m so glad all the books were out for me to read!

ON THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: TEN LORDS A LEAPING.

How about your favourite leading lad?

Kaz, oh my Kaz Brekker he is so gloriously morally grey and I love him for it! I adore his character so much I actually got a custom made Kaz funko for my birthday 🙂 Always one step ahead and never far from a cunning plan  Six of Crows will forever be one of my favourite duology’s and now I have both in the collectors editions too, I’m definitely going to get a re-read in next year!


ON THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: ELEVEN PIPES PIPING.

What is your favourite book or bookish thing with musical influence? (It can be about music, reference music a lot etc.

I’ve not got one, but I love these cute little Harry Potter themed music boxes!


ON THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS MY TRUE LOVE SENT TO ME: 12 DRUMMERS DRUMMING.

Drum roll please…what is your favourite read of this year

This is so so hard by I think Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury has to be my winner. State of Sorrow was one of my favourite books of 2018 and Song of Sorrow topped my list of anticipated reads for 2019 – it didn’t disappoint at all. I love it from start to finish, the story going in so many directions that I didn’t foresee and truly sealed my adoration for Luvian Fen – although as a far as me mentally dating a fictional character goes, I feel that I’m likely crossing an age barrier sadly!

I tag anyone who wants to do this fun Christmas tag!

 

Review of A Thief and a Gentlewoman by Clare Sager

An audacious thief. A charming nobleman. An irresistible con.
Quin poses as an aristocrat to rob from the rich and give to the poor. Her goal: to save the city’s slums. Her method: swindle and move on, because rich men are for conning, not for falling in love with, however tempting this one may be.
Artistic, observant, and charismatic, Atesh is second in line for the throne. Marrying for love is a foolish dream. Or is it? When he meets Quin, he begins to wonder. Little does he know, he’s her next mark. And someone else’s. Someone who wants more than just his fortune.
The clock ticks. The gallows looms. And Quin must save Atesh from its shadow or lose him forever.

I have to admit that this was a complete cover pick, I just totally fell in love when I saw it and it was a stand out in a room full of books that I was considering at the time. What was inside was all that the cover promised it would be!

Quin is a fantastic character, smart, sassy, totally kick ass but a little morally grey too. She is a Robin Hood for the residents of the stories Arinapole, which has a sumptuous Constantinople feel to it. A product of the Gutter Streets, she has risen above to fleece the hoi Polloi under the expert tutalage of an ex hareem darling who is also handily, her mother.  She is one of several amazing female characters in this story, Derry, her friend and trainee apothacary holds her own wonderfully and can I just say that I am desperate for more Tacita! I actually think that Tacita is my favourite side character, she’s the antithesis of Quin in that she appears to be at the other end of the social spectrum but with a similar outlook for adventure. For anyone familiar with the new She-Ra, she is giving me total Scorpia vibes and I really hope she appears in future books in the series! The guys don’t hold up too badly either, the stalwart Ariston is a delight and although it took me a while, I did warm to Atesh as Quin melted through his initially aloof exterior. They’re not quite the full rag tag team that is becoming a YA staple (which I personally love) but there are enough for some fledgling #squadgoals to surface.

I absolutely adored the magic system, contained within tarot style cards each deck is unique to its creator and grows slowly over time, each card created and mastered to either disguise, distract, locate and seemingly get up to no good with, for the most part. I really liked how it wasn’t overly relied on as a means to an end though, there is a tithe to pay for it’s use and did give more scope for genuine skill and cunning to be used, which we had in a glorious abundance. I have to say I wasn’t clear on whether everyone could have a deck or whether it was a select few who could use these magics, but they did seem to be popping up more and more as the story progressed although more at the higher end of the social spectrum. I’m a total world building girl with books and the amount of care and attention to detail in creating such a gorgeous world is outstanding. A true picture was painted and I rarely felt that I didn’t have a clear vision of where the characters were or the situations they were in, which totally pulled me into the story and wrapped me in a big world building sized blanket of goodness.

Whilst it is a long read, there is really so much packed into its pages with a little something to please everyone, as it encompassed murder mystery, courtroom drama, romance, action and giant sabrecats all wrapped up in a glorious fantasy bow. Honestly Sabrecats are my new favourite animal sidekick and the author gives a totally plausible and astute reasoning as to why they are vastly superior to horses in this context! A Thief and a Gentlewoman rose to meet all my expectations, I loved it. From its languid opening to it fast paced ending, it had me guessing and hoping all the way to the end. Its also a story that brings closure on itself but open ended enough to have me excited for what comes next without relying on a gimicky cliffhanger to drawn me back in. I’m just glad the next book in the series is already out!

5*

 

Review of Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon

It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe – eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty – is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.
Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick’s calling card…
Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something – or someone – is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.

Firstly, James Lovegrove is my go to for a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, no one brings the character to life quite as wonderfully as he does in my view. It’s a beautiful book too, under the dust cover the publishers have gone into great detail with an embossed cover and a wonderfully embossed spine to really give it a look of a book published much longer ago, thank you so much Titan Books for sending me a copy for review.

Set, as you would expect, at Christmastime, Holmes and Watson find themselves in Yorkshire trying to find proof that a Miss Eve Allerthorpe is being tricked into believing she is not of sound enough mind to receive an inheritance. Whilst of course the “demon” of the piece could be interpreted in many ways, the centrepiece around Eve’s disquiet is the sinister Black Thurrick, a Krampus style character, straight from her childhood. Her nightmares being rekindled by curious sightings and insidious gifts. One of my favourite passages of the book comes when Holmes recounts all the different traditions like The Black Thurrick from around the world, I found this totally fascinating and somewhat macabre, but this completely ensured that the Thurricks activities seemed perfectly at home with their sinister counterparts throughout history.

Fellscar Keep is our home for this story, it immediately felt eerie and too big for its few inhabitants, but also a fantastic backdrop conjuring up a feast of references for creepy castles in my mind. There was, however, also a warmth with crackling fires and a huge library to scour for clues. For me this is why the authors writing really captures my imagination, playing so well that there are two sides to everything, a light and dark which makes misdirection all the harder to spot, especially when you throw in family drama on top.  The history of the Keep itself is also a hugely fascinating chapter, dark beginnings which really are pretty intense and feed into they hysteria that is being created, this was a direction that I didn’t see coming at all and it was just fantastic to read. Stories within stories, it’s just perfection. There are extra points on offer to those who know their heraldry…

Lovegrove injects great humour into proceedings though too and keeps on top of a large cast of characters well, proving that latterly in the story, large family gatherings being awkward and tiresome were just as much so in those times as they can be now. He is also masterful at setting a scene and creating atmosphere. The Yorkshire countryside in deepest winter, invoking the sparkle of a fresh snowfall at Christmas that we all long for, whilst also using it as a perfect backdrop to a heart stopping set piece of horror story style blinding mists and dark forests. The family members’ stories intertwine wonderfully, each of them adding a little extra piece to the puzzle, and the history feeding in nicely too. His deductions are as clever as you would expect, when they are not being reduced to parlour tricks, and offer a timely reminder to sweep your attic floor.

I honestly found this to be a delightful read, and any book that mentions my hometown randomly gets an extra tick in the box for its scarcity! Holmes and Watson’s banter is brilliant though and I loved turning every page waiting to discover which cutting comment, sneaky sarcasm, great wit or indeed faux pas, usually by Watson, would come next. This is a fabulous addition to any bookshelf and a great alternative story for the festive season.

5*

 

Bookish Ramblings: December TBR – Indiecember

This month I’m not going to set myself an exact Tbr but I know I have been neglecting my beloved Indies of late. I found a great little challenge grid on Twitter and I have plenty of Indie reads both on my shelf and on my kindle so I’m going to list a lot of them here and hope that I reach as many of them as possible!

A Thief and a Gentlewoman – Clare Sager

An audacious thief. A charming nobleman. An irresistible con.

Quin poses as an aristocrat to rob from the rich and give to the poor. Her goal: to save the city’s slums. Her method: swindle and move on, because rich men are for conning, not for falling in love with, however tempting this one may be.

Artistic, observant, and charismatic, Atesh is second in line for the throne. Marrying for love is a foolish dream. Or is it? When he meets Quin, he begins to wonder. Little does he know, he’s her next mark. And someone else’s. Someone who wants more than just his fortune.

The clock ticks. The gallows looms. And Quin must save Atesh from its shadow or lose him forever.

The Stones of Resurrection – Tameri Etherton

Never let gods determine your fate…

For thousands of seasons Aelinae has been a peaceful world, since the Great War that saw the banishment of the god Kaldaar, and the imprisonment of his brother. But now Aelinae’s peace is threatened as an ancient prophecy predicting the return of the Eirielle, the one who is and who is not, blazes to life.

Rhoane has battled his demons and accepted his role in Aelinae’s future. Now, it’s up to him to guide Taryn, a woman raised on Earth without any knowledge of her family, her power, or of his place in her life. He must find a way to gain her trust, and her love, or Aelinae will be lost.

Everything Taryn knew was a lie. Yet something about the strange new world of Aelinae feels true. Even Rhoane, a man she remembers without knowing why. She’ll need to accept his help if she’s to learn the ways of this dangerous and magical world.

Evil lurks in the hearts of the Brotherhood and it’s been waiting a long time for Taryn’s return.

Emergence – McCallum J Morgan

I await thee, Iara—the Book of Elem
A planet said to be heaven itself is about to appear in the firmament. The armies of the Empire and rebel factions prepare to stake their claims but an ancient evil has emerged and its eyes have been fixed upon Iara for millennia.
A runaway and a cult apprentice will both find themselves drawn into the core of this conflict. Their destinies are tangled with those of the Empire, the rebellion, the Church of Elem, a menagerie of monsters, and the universe itself.
Heresy, fellowship, valor, and darkness will all emerge—and be tested to the breaking point.

 

 

Flesh and Stone – P.M. Hernandez

Seventeen-year-old Ellie Whitewood dreams of being a doctor and giving back to the grandfather who raised her after the death of her parents. When she receives an inheritance from a reclusive aunt, she becomes the mistress of a sprawling manor.

Selling the property to pay for college seems like the answer to her prayers, but each day she grows more and more attached to the stone gargoyles adorning the manor rooftop.

After finding the Whitewood journals, she learns she is the latest in a line of Caretakers who, with her Sentinels, defends the world from evil. While she is drawn to her Sentinel, Gabriel, and her new life, her future isn’t written in stone.

Haunted by dark dreams and facing deadly enemies, is she willing to sacrifice her well-laid plans and accept her new calling…even if it comes with wings and sharp teeth?

Webley and the World Machine – Zachary Chopchinski

If Adal and Arija can’t survive, we’re all screwed.
Let the war begin.

Deep in the belly of a cave lies a door to a mechanical world that will change two lives forever.

Webley and the steam-powered creations of the World Machine keep the Earth turning. But, when Adal and Arija unknowingly set the gears in motion on a fierce civil war, they could destroy billions of lies. Including their own.

Adal and Arija have already lost so much, they can’t lose each other too. But, when they’re forced to fight a creature that couldn’t possibly exist, they must adapt or they’ll lose the only people they have left.

The Forest of Adventures – Katie M John

For Mina Singer, falling in love with a knight on a white horse was never part of the plan.

Finding herself catapulted into fairyland she discovers that the Real World is not quite what she thought and fairyland is not quite what she imagined.

The question is… who will come out alive?

 

 

 

 

Do you think you will take part in the Indiecember challenge? If you don’t know where to start with Indie authors then please take a look at my post here and hopefully you’ll find a great story to start with. If you love Indie authors as much as me (or even if you don’t), let me know if you want to read along any of these with me!