Bookish Ramblings: February Wrap Up

Wow, this month has felt even longer than January did! It’s fair to say that February hasn’t been a great month, our car failed its MOT, our fence came down in the storm (which I know is nothing in comparison to what others have suffered,) Leeloo has needed the vets again and a myriad of other costs that we just weren’t expecting. I decided to sell some books but somehow the ones that hold value have got damage, which is baffling since they’ve been on a shelf, but I’m taking a deep breath and hoping for better things in March! This is mainly because Animal Crossing: New Horizons is out and I’ve been saving some Christmas money (thanks mum!) for it 🙂  I’ve completed my TBR goal this month and im currently 2 ahead on my GR goal!

My 5 Star Reads

My 4 Star Reads
My 3.5 Star Reads
When I wasn’t reading

One amazingly exciting piece of news this month is that I was selected to be a panellist for the first ever BBNYA (Book Blogger Novel of the Year Awards) This is helping to champion Indie Authors which I’m so happy about and i’m hugely looking forward to the reads I’m going to be voting on!

Looking Ahead

I’m going to be trying to focus on my mental health in the coming weeks, I find myself randomly bursting into tears regularly, our finances are a serious worry and I just generally feel sad all the time. There may be fewer blog posts from me because of this but I’ll try to be upbeat and not let it impact negatively on my reviews




Review of Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

On a winter’s day in a British town, twelve-year-old Alex receives a package in the mail: an old tin robot from his grandfather. “This one is special,” says the enclosed note, and when strange events start occurring around him, Alex suspects this small toy is more than special; it might be deadly.
Right as things get out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, pulling him away from an attack–and his otherwise humdrum world of friends, bullies, and homework–and into the macabre magic of an ancient family feud. Together, the duo flees across snowy Europe, unravelling the riddle of the little robot while trying to outwit relentless assassins of the human and mechanical kind.

Monstrous Devices is a fantastic adventure story and lets face it, what’s better than an an eccentric family member whisking you off for a magical and dangerously exciting escapade? Many thanks to Rock the Boat News for sending us a copy of this book for review, the finished copy is amazing with a fabulous hidden design under the dust jacket which we just loved!

I adored Alex as a character, he has so many great attributes, determined, brave, resourceful, inquisitive and also very kind. He has a tough time of things which means that he is more cautious and more likely to question, this makes him the perfect balance to his Grandfather who is a whirlwind of bad habits with an act first and think later attitude. The author is also fantastic at painting a picture, I loved the way that the cities of Paris and Prague were brought to life alongside of the well thought out rooftop fights, alleyway scuffles and death defying car chases. There is a heavy dose of the paranormal too, (never go anywhere without your salt!) which helped bring the darker side of these cities alive and keeping the reader guessing about whether a character was friend or foe, or even in fact real. This did sit alongside of a slightly curve ball religious twist, which felt a little clumsy given that the rest of the story was so far removed from that. Thinking about it, I really did get a sense of Indiana Jones on an adventure with his Father for a lot of the story which really helped to endear it to me.

It is a book though that is often chilling, which I found quite shocking given the fact it is a MG book, I know that some kids like to be scared but the imagery is is vibrant with not only the movement of the robots, but also what lies behind their ability to move. There are also TW for bullying in the opening chapters to be aware of and Alex finds himself in some incredibly emotionally charged and lonely situations.

Monsterous Devices though is the ultimate adventure road trip through Europe, where the characters are fighting for their lives before breakfast and are never too far from a cup of coffee. There is lots of excitement balanced with a main character who in fact, acts their age when it comes to emotions and reactions which really helps to make this a fun story.

Biba’s Review: So usually I request MG on the basis that I will read and review with Biba, as her age appropriate review tempers my grown up one. This book has a starting age of 9, which she is, but honestly this was too frightening for her and she didn’t make it past Chapter 4. The imagery was too strong for a bedtime story but she does want to come back to it when she’s a bit older as she very much liked the ideas. I think for parents considering this, if you have a particularly sensitive 9 year old this might be a bit too much for them, I would pitch this as the sort of read that a year 7 would devour!

Rating this is tough, because I don’t have Biba to guide me so I’m basing this on her reactions and my thoughts, although I may revisit this rating when she feels old enough to read it without being scared.

3.5 Stars

Blog Tour: The Golden Key by Marian Womack – Exclusive Excerpt

This week saw the release of The Golden Key by Marian Womack, through Titan Books, a richly woven tale of mysterious disappearances, seances and sceptics set against the backdrop of a country in mourning for Queen Victoria.

London, 1901. After the death of Queen Victoria the city heaves with the uncanny and the eerie. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms.
Samuel Moncrieff, recovering from a recent tragedy of his own, meets Helena Walton-Cisneros, one of London’s most reputed mediums. But Helena is not what she seems and she’s enlisted by the elusive Lady Matthews to solve a twenty-year-old mystery: the disappearance of her three stepdaughters who vanished without a trace on the Norfolk Fens.
But the Fens are a liminal land, where folk tales and dark magic still linger. With locals that speak of devilmen and catatonic children found on the Broads, Helena finds the answer to the mystery leads back to where it started: Samuel Moncrieff.

I really enjoyed this book and I’m so excited to be able to share with you this exclusive excerpt!

This dismal place wasn’t a new landscape. Eliza’s father was from around here, from a place called Waltraud Water; and so she had spent a few years of her childhood coming down from Lincoln to the cottage for little holidays, all year round and in all kinds of weather. She knew of young college men skating in winter or sailing in summer all the way up to Ely, usually to find some girl or another. The short sailing boats with two cabins, climbing up the Little Ouse. Those were the memories of youth, she thought now, kinder than a summer’s breeze. Her father had recounted it with pride, that long-gone world of fishing, fowling, of common wetland that was self-sufficient, well managed, cared for. Of the domestic geese that supplied the whole country with quill pens, those long feathers she marvelled at when she was little. Wildfowling season, from May to September, ‘fen slodgers’ carrying their decoys, and their tame ducks. The overabundance of pasture. The dykes dug up among the reeds, practically unseen when covered by snow or grass. And the moments when the snow started to melt, with those spring tides in motion. And the lost children, and the children that died in the eerie floods, and the children who were lost even before being born. For of course, there was no fairy tale here, and those were treacherous roads, deadly if misunderstood. 

Crumbled churches like the one at Wicken Far End were a reminder that nature would reconquer, eventually. Or would she? 

The Matthews’ abbey was nearby, and Eliza sometimes walked there in her morning stroll. As soon as she left behind the tamed landscape of its grounds, still holding some shape even after years of neglect, the view of the world changed immensely. From time immemorial, that countryside had been composed of those same fields of faded green, all of them covered by marshy reeds, unkempt patches scattered here and there, surrounding little islands of sturdier land. It was difficult to imagine all that expanse submerged, but that is how it had been. The fenmen had reigned over the water, conquering it. As the land had been drained, all that had changed forever. When the land was dried and cut and divided into those disorientating fields, traversed by thin unmoving rivers, what had happened to it? It had gone to men like Sir Malcolm Matthews’s ancestors. Eliza thought she understood that this countryside was haunted, by the bitterness, by the sorrow, by the suffering that went into its making. The same men who were forced to drain it lost their way of life while they did it. They had not benefited from the change. No one had given them a piece of land to grow crops and feed their families. Was it possible that the land itself was furious, as those men might have been? 

The scientist in her was recounting the missing birds, the spring that didn’t want to come. It had begun by mere chance, this exercise in vanishings. She had failed to find the tern, at a time when it should be here. There were other oddities: lack of some insects, strange pulpy grass, and, worst of all, some places where you could hear no birds at all. Something was going on. She had seen an eerie green light moving over the marshes as well. It seemed that all living creatures were making themselves scarce, getting away from its path; as if they knew that it was an uncanny thing, something that had no business being here… But of course, she insisted to herself, these were only fancies. There must be a scientific explanation, cause and effect, a reason behind those absences, removed from those strange green shades that seemed intent on advancing inland, intent on devouring it all. 

Following it, she had got to what she thought was its source, a ruined Tudor manor house by the North Sea. It wasn’t very imposing, but almost cosy and small; nonetheless, Eliza had felt a creeping unhappiness there, as if her life had no meaning somehow, as if she had founded all her beliefs on lies until that moment. There was a white sticky substance floating around the ruin, posing on places where multicoloured fungi sprouted; she did not have a lot of mycological knowledge, and thought of Peter. She would have to ask him. If she ever were to return to the place; for what she had felt, more than anything, was as though an invisible boundary between two places was slowly lifting, and was going to trap her at the wrong side. 

She needed to breathe, and had walked around the odd structure, looking for the flat sea. The marshes, the reed swamp, the open water at the end. In a moment, a wrong vista had revealed itself. 

The tide had freakishly receded, and the water, distant in a flat, eerily never-ending expanse, was nowhere to be seen. At the end of her vision, the same soft greenish mist, but no clear line where the water and the land touched. The ground itself also seemed to have been taken back by the water, to have sucked itself up and out of place—and then she saw it. Enormous, shining black and green, traversed by unexpected orange streaks, the largest seam of umber green rhyolite, the stone that, she knew, was found in Madagascar, Oceania, the Pyrenees, Germany, Iceland, and in this particular stretch of the coast of East Anglia. A black and green sea of hardened stone, as hard indeed as a witch’s heart. 

You can find my 4* review here and the book is out now through Titan Books

Review of The Golden Key by Marian Womack

London, 1901. After the death of Queen Victoria the city heaves with the uncanny and the eerie. Séances are held and the dead are called upon from darker realms.
Samuel Moncrieff, recovering from a recent tragedy of his own, meets Helena Walton-Cisneros, one of London’s most reputed mediums. But Helena is not what she seems and she’s enlisted by the elusive Lady Matthews to solve a twenty-year-old mystery: the disappearance of her three stepdaughters who vanished without a trace on the Norfolk Fens.
But the Fens are a liminal land, where folk tales and dark magic still linger. With locals that speak of devilmen and catatonic children found on the Broads, Helena finds the answer to the mystery leads back to where it started: Samuel Moncrieff.

The Golden Key is a wonderful debut novel by this author and I’m grateful to Titan books for providing me with copy for review, historical is a genre that I rarely get the opportunity to read and with the addition of some wonderful fantasy elements this book ticked a lot of boxes for me. The setting as the blurb explains, is in a Britain shortly after the loss of Queen Victoria, the seance scene has skyrocketed along with the naysayers, what is without doubt though, is a number of missing children in the Norfolk Fens which has led to a seemingly unsolvable mystery.

I found that out of all the major characters I found I connected with Helena the most and we do travel with her for the majority of the book. The time setting has the suffragette movement at the forefront and it was great to have both Helena and then Eliza carrying out typically male dominated roles for the time. It was the lengths that Helena went to in order to both pursue and preserve a career that she was clearly extraordinary at which weighed heavily for me, the self sabotage she had to undertake in order to not upset the delicate sensibilities of the men around her which probably rang true for many women of the time

This book is perfectly balanced with both it’s need to debunk the seance culture which rocked the time period and the idea that there is indeed true spiritualism. What comes between is an imaginative blurring of the edges which leaves you questioning, no matter which side of the argument you fall on, whether the other in fact has a point. As a great lover of fairies and fairy stories, I have always approached this kind of mythology with an open mind and that not every fairy will be of the Tinkerbell persuasion. This more trickster ideal is the level in which The Golden Key is pitched at, the darker side of fringe realms which cross over to our own more than we realise.

The story moves slowly and methodically as Helena collects and collates the evidence, the story cleverly punctuated with news clippings of the curtain being pulled back on the Seance culture, her journey bringing her to both the obvious conclusions and some that you, as a reader, have to work for with her. I have to admit that I didn’t realise there was a connection to an earlier children’s book called The Golden Key which appears to be the source for many of the revelations within this story. It’s certainly one for me to look into. As the investigation continues so does the sense of foreboding and even as the pieces start to fall into place, there are still more questions than answers. As a reader I don’t mind this kind of open ended style, and for a book that focuses on opening the characters eyes to alternate ideas, it felt right in the context. Where I did struggle was with the fact that the book felt somewhat flighty at times, I think this is down to incredibly long chapters that chop and change frequently with character focus and locations. This is of course reader preference but I felt the story would have felt more grounded and easier to keep track of if even there was a more frequent use of scene breaks or shorter chapters.

I found The Golden Key to be a thoughtful read that asks you to challenge your preconceptions about spiritualism and realism and I give this book 4*

Six for Sunday: Authors I Love to Follow

Continuing the love theme this weeks #sixforsunday is all about authors that I love to follow! I follow a lot of authors online whether they are traditionally published, Indie, or working to get their writing career off the ground, many of them can be a lot of fun to interact with, funny to read or inspiring with their content and I have had to narrow it down to just six for today!

Melinda Salisbury

I have to say that Melinda Salisbury’s tweets make my day, she doesn’t just tweet about her books but also wonderful vegan recipes she’s found, plastic alternatives, home made cleaning and beauty products and lots of other amazing things. She is also great at interacting with her fans on Insta, she always likes or comments when she is # on the platform which as a content creator is always a fantastic lift!

Rebecca Gibson

I have been immensely privileged to have beta read for this aspiring author and it’s honestly criminal how her books have not been picked up yet. Whilst she’s not writing books or screenplays she has an amazing Mental Health Blog, Lost Twenty Something where she is candid about her life behind the filters. An active campaigner for pay transparency within the publishing industry she has a lot to say that is well worth listening to.

Carlyle Labuschagne

Indie author Carlyle Labuschagne is one of life’s truly beautiful souls, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting her at Chapter.Con last year and she is both sincere and passionate about her life and work. Her Insta posts are all about celebrating the beauty of the world around us and reminding us that even in the darkest times there are plenty of reasons to keep going.

Jay Kristoff

Just an all round top author and bloke to follow! I love how passionate he is with his fans, he is constantly interacting with them on Twitter, celebrating their fan art and latest ink, I’m a little late to the Kristoff party having only fallen in love with the Nevernight books last year and Illuminae this year, I’m still not quite at the point where I feel like I can tag him in stuff. He’s also really funny to read, having coined “the great breaking”yet serious when the situation calls for it

Jen Williams

Author of all things dragon based, her Tweets are a great combination of books, sci-fi, D&D, and pop culture in general. She brings a brilliant dry humour to her daily interactions and is also great if you’re after a rec for a good read or watch.

Leigh Bardugo

Whilst she’s not on social media constantly, Leigh Bardugo is brilliant at using IG stories. I love how she takes fans on her travels with her, talks to us directly about exciting news that she has and generally gives us behind the scenes details about her books and TV show.


Tag Thursday: Valentines Book Tag

Love it or Loathe it, St Valentine’s day is here tomorrow, for us we don’t really celebrate – mainly because it’s our anniversary in March and we save our pennies for that, I can’t believe that this year we’re celebrating 18 years together!  So whether you’ll be going all out, just giving a nod to it or just naffing it off all together, I hope you’ll enjoy this book tag and also play along! I found this tag from The Awkward Book Blogger

Also if you liked the love hearts in the covering photo – they are from Geeky Clean, £4.50 for a pack of 3 bathbombs and you can save 10% by using my code Paperbacksandpinot10

Standalone Book You Love

There aren’t enough standalone books out there but last year I read Sanctuary by V.V. James and was utterly blown away by it. Witches are allowed to practice in a small affluent town, where entitlement outweighs all but mob mentality. When a beloved school champion is tragically killed all the eyes of course turn to the magic in a wonderful down the rabbit hole story.

Dystopian Book You Love

I’m going for the obvious answer but it truly is the dystopian book I love best – it has to be The Hunger Games, not only is it a great story but it’s also one that got me into reading YA as an adult. You all know that I have rarely looked back since.

Book that you Love but no one else Talks About

I honestly don’t know why more people aren’t talking about Ash Princess? I know it covers all the usual bases however this book does it so so well that I honestly didn’t care. Sometimes I think we need a book to just go back to these bases of lost princess, betrayal and hidden powers to remind us why they paved the way for so many other great stories.

Favourite Book Couple

There are so so many but I’m going to narrow it down to a top 5!

Sorrow Ventaxis and Luvian Fen

Cress and Carswell Thorne

Feyre and Rysand

Manon and Dorian

Mia and Tric

Book that other People Love but you Haven’t read yet

Shamefully I have yet to read anything by V.E Schwab – I know that so many people who’s bookish opinions align with my own, rate her so highly that I really need to remedy that, the only problem being that I still have a ways to go until my unread books are cleared enough to justify buying more.

A Book with Red on the Cover

Finale by Stephanie Garber is the closest red cover I can see on my shelf (i have to admit that I’m typing this whilst ill and I don’t want to move from the sofa) I think that red was a bold choice for the end of the series given the muted colours that had been chosen previously. Whilst I sadly didn’t love the way Finale played out I still thinks its a great trilogy.

A Book with Pink on the Cover

I know it’s not a hugely popular choice, but it’s my list and I would choose The Beholder by Anna Bright,although you can’t really tell from this pic it’s more of a rose gold but lets run with it. I have the fairyloot edition which has pink sprayed edges too. I actually found this a really great story, I think it should have been pitched more as a teen read than YA but I loved all the twists and the betrayals

If you were given a box of Chocolates, Which Fictional Bae gave them to you?

Definitely Luvian Fen from the Sorrow duology by Melinda Salisbury, he totally has my heart. He is endearing, clever, creative, loyal and maybe just a little shy of humble. I totally recommend these books to everyone!


You are single on Valentines day, what TV Show do you watch, Book do you read, Film do you watch?

For TV show I would have to go with New Girl, I just love Jess so much and even though I have seen them all before they still make me laugh so hard! Film would have to be Legally Blonde, it is the most feelgood film ever and again even though I have watched it probably 20 times I still love the way the end pans out. Book would probably be Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles, it’s just such an easy and fun read and one of the few retellings that I adore.


You’re in the Bookstore when you get shot with an arrow by Cupid, what New Release will you love?

Being strict with myself to February I would have to go for The Sisters Grimm by Menna Van Praag. The story of lost sisters with elemental powers coming together to fight for their destinies, sounds pretty much like the kind of story I would instantly fall in love with!


Unboxing the Spooky Skillz We Read Box!

At the end of last year Biba was selected to become a brand ambassador for We Read Box for the first half of 2020! These UK boxes are for readers aged 8-12 (and beyond if you love MG fiction!) and have a great combination of themed crafts and activities to go along with the book, they have moved to quarterly boxes so this is the Jan/Feb/March box. You can find unboxings for the September box here and the November box here as well as live unboxings pinned to my story highlights on instagram if you have it.

The Book

This months theme is Spooky Skillz!! Unusually I’m got to go in a start straight away with the book this time and the featured book is Demelza and the Spectre Detectors by Holly Rivers and published through Chicken House and it sounds just like the kind of book that Biba will love! A bit sciency, a bit spooky and an exciting mystery adventure.

Demelza loves science – she loves it so much that she stays up late to work on her inventions. But she soon discovers she’s also inherited a distinctly unscientific skill: Spectre Detecting.

Like her grandmother, she can summon the ghosts of the dead. When Grandma Maeve is kidnapped, Demelza and her pasty-faced best friend, Percy must leap into action to solve the deadly mystery…

This box came with not only a signed book plate, but in fact three so that there will be ones for future books in the trilogy too, which is such a great idea and a lovely touch.

Box items

The box items this month were absolutely amazing and we especially love the Spectre Kit with its Alice in Wonder Land style “open me” envelope. Inside is Nightglow Fimo, a spectre shape and some googly eyes, Biba is just itching to make this but I’m trying to get her to hold off until half term next week! As usual there was a themed bookmark although this one is quite a bit different! Shaped like a teapot but made out of circuit board this is a totally stand out item and really striking – also Biba’s favourite colour is purple so the ribbon went down well too, this bookmark came from A Quarter Past Eight and we’ll definitely be checking out more of their items on etsy. The next items was a Scratch Mask – these scratch items are a firm favourite in this house, we love them and the colourful rainbow underneath the surface, the ones in the box are from Baker Ross. Next we had a lovely little pocket mirror from Midnight Bookmarks with the quote “under the moonlight it glimmered like a strange alien creature” this is such a cute addition and one that will be going straight into Biba’s favourite bag!

Enamel Pin

We Read Box always feature an enamel pin, however this box, like so many other companies, has had delays with items produced in China because of the health concerns. This is 100% right because peoples health should always come first. At the moment there is no firm date for when production will start again, but exclusively I am able to share with you the design that will be being made, this is through Felfira Moon Designs. Again we are huge fans of her pins and Biba got quite a few from Santa in her stocking at Chirstmas!

Activity Book

This box’s activity book is brimming with ideas and activities, including a recipe which we’ll be making in half term next week and is amazing as it’s something her little brother can be involved in too. Biba also has her first ever review published in the booklet which was for The Clockwork Crow, one of the two books featured in the November Natural Magic box. I’m really proud of her for this and I hope that when you read it you enjoy it too!

This is another exceptional box from We Read Box and as I’ve mentioned in the post, absolutely perfect for school holidays! All their boxes have similar crafts and activities and you can buy past boxes in their online shop as well as individual items too. They are amazing value for money at just £27 posted within the UK and would be the perfect reward for young readers who have had a great term at school or as a pick me up for children (or indeed adults) who need a little boost ❤

Review of The Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith

Every book left unfinished by its author is filed away in the Unwritten Wing, a neutral space in Hell presided over by Claire, its head librarian. Along with repairing and organizing books, her job consists of keeping an eye on restless stories whose characters risk materialising and escaping the library.

When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto. But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong, in a chase that threatens to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell… and Earth.

First of all this is such an amazing concept for a story, I was totally pulled in by the blurb and as a book worm, the idea of reading a book about books is a total no brainer. The idea that Hell has areas up for rent is brilliant in itself, and whilst the idea of unwritten books materialising isn’t new the approach that the Librarian must keep the characters both within their books and happy is a new one for me. I really enjoyed how each chapter was laid out, even with mixed POV’s, each chapter was anchored by some sage wisdom from earlier librarians and even from Claire herself which was a nice touch. We even go back to the beginnings of AD and a great take on the burning of the library at Alexandria. It’s those kinds of touches that blew me away quite honestly, so much thought going into the ideas and explaining alternative takes.

The story itself was solidly laid out, a librarian, a muse, a demon, and an escaped book character are on the run from Angels trying to get pages of an important codex back to hell. Their journey taking them across all manner of different plains, from Valhalla – where we get to enjoy the most unusual yet satisfying of battles, to an almost ancient Egyptian ideology of the weighing scales. To me it felt like they were traversing their own levels of hell to get back to their start point. There is plenty going on in between as the characters learn more about themselves and each other, some reveals surprising and some which I felt were just a matter of time. I particularly enjoyed the Angels giving chase, they kind of reminded me of a film, part of me wants to say Dogma but I can’t quite place it at the moment. I definitely felt most invested during this middle section which had the most drive within the story and actually the place where all my sticky notes are housed.

Despite how amazing the ideas are and how much I loved the slightly sarcastic undertone of Claire (which totally reminded me of me) I can’t escape the fact that I did struggle with coming back to this book each day. I just couldn’t find that spark or the exciting pace that should have been there given that they were on the run and on a time limit. The important reveals blended into, rather than popped from the page and I struggled to connect with a lot of the characters. I admit though that I was easily distracted which is likely because I’ve been under the weather the last few days so I am carefully considering my rating because I know this and I may have felt differently had I read this in a months time perhaps. I did feel that there was a lot that probably could have been pared down given it’s fair size and the story wouldn’t have missed one less obstacle in their way. The story was wrapped up nicely though and I’m interested to see where it goes next as this read very much like a standalone but apparently is a series. I hope we get more Brevity as I actually think she’s my favourite character.

This was a good enjoyable read though, with many aspects of thoughtful prose that is written to be appreciated and savoured. I don’t think I’ve ever used so many sticky notes on a book when a particular sentence or idea has resonated, the author really does have a skill for storytelling and I’ll likely continue on with the series, mainly because I’m curious about where thing go from here.


Review of House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City) by Sarah J Maas

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

I have to say that I went into this with an element of trepidation, what if I don’t love this as much as her other series? It’s a more contemporary setting which I’m not a fan of usually? Honestly I can say that from the first few chapters I knew my worries were unfounded and I should put trust in Sarah J Maas as a storyteller – she’s done it again.

I do admit though that I did intially struggle to warm to Bryce and Hunt but I feel like that was by design, Bryce starts as a party girl brat and Hunt as your standard “Alphahole” but as the story progresses real care is taken with how they came to be that way. As is now her staple, Maas deals with recovery from trauma and mental health effectively and with great empathy, sealing these characters into my heart. As readers we are growing and changing with them, given time to understand and the mutual respect of boundaries and waiting until the time is right, in a slow burn that will give even Rhys and Feyre a run for their money. Given that slow burn is my favourite romance trope this was a huge tick in the box for me.

I have seen people feel intimated by the size of the book, honestly don’t. Considering it’s size it’s actually a quick read, personally I felt that there was very little drag or that anything was redundant and everything that happens serves to push the story forward, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. This is such a great story though and the way I had it pegged at the start couldn’t have been more wrong, the cosmopolitan setting of Crescent City bringing about a huge diversity in the breadth of characters from Otter delivery people to sassy fire sprites, there’s a lot to get your head round outside of the usual Fae we’ve become accustomed to. The seedy underworld element that Bryce and Hunt must trawl through during their investigations is reminiscent of Gotham City and perhaps an inspiration taken from Maas’s earlier DC outing. The investigation itself is as page turning and twisting as many of the best in the thriller genre. Utterly nail biting and ultimately heartbreaking, each piece of the puzzle is another gut punch revelation.

The cast of supporting characters is pretty vast but they all very much have their part to play, I have to admit that I’m very taken with Bryce’s brother Ruhn, I just can’t let the fae thing go! Jesiba and Fury were real standouts though especially in the closing stages. Bryce also undergoes one of the biggest character arcs I think I’ve ever read, get ready to get emotional again. Because lets face it, that’s what Sarah J Maas does to me. I’m not ashamed to say that this book made my cry a fair bit at times, the painstaking care taken with the characters encompassing me wholly with my emotional attachment to them. The final part had my heart racing with each reveal and twist and a large lump in my throat for most of it too.

Ultimately, I don’t think I could have loved this story more (well actually maybe I could as I was expecting a bit more steam given it’s NA but oh well) but, House of Earth and Blood is everything you have come to have known and loved about Sarah J Maas’s writing but with some graphic violence and a few more swears.


Review of The Stars we Steal by Alexa Donne

Engagement season is in the air. Eighteen-year-old Princess Leonie “Leo” Kolburg, heir to a faded European spaceship, only has one thing on her mind: which lucky bachelor can save her family from financial ruin?
But when Leo’s childhood friend and first love Elliot returns as the captain of a successful whiskey ship, everything changes. Elliot was the one that got away, the boy Leo’s family deemed to be unsuitable for marriage. Now, he’s the biggest catch of the season and he seems determined to make Leo’s life miserable. But old habits die hard, and as Leo navigates the glittering balls of the Valg Season, she finds herself falling for her first love in a game of love, lies, and past regrets.

I’m a huge fan of YA stories set in space, I feel it’s never used enough so I was excited to get the chance to read this thanks to Titan Books. It’s pegged as a retelling of Persuasion coupled with The Bachelor, which I have both never read and never watched so I went in with a clean slate of what to expect. The cover is truly beautiful and I’m much preferring the UK version that we get!

Humanity has taken to the skies to escape what they have done to the Earth. Relegated to rapidly deteriorating space crafts with dwindling resources, it really is the case of the more things change the more they stay the same when it comes to the rich poor divide. The ships are pretty much floating countries or groups of countries, for Leo and her family they are attached to the Scandinavian, and the general concept left me with a Mortal Engines feel. I have to say I immediately liked Leo as a character and I think anyone who has had experience of trying to make ends meet will be able to identify with her and her frustrations. I felt that her determination at finding an alternative solution to her family’s woes a great side plot and the route she takes pretty genius. The Valg season however is the centre point which comes around every 4 years. I found strange seeing as the pickings are somewhat slim on board each ship and the participants seem to go from underage to over the hill within that gap, however it serves as a relevant plot device! The season feels pretty cringy at times with the participants forced into speed dating, baking, painting and all manner of contrived situations, but the characters still dive in with varying levels of interest!

The friendships and shifting dynamics were nicely done though, with a lot of genuine fun being had in between. The book is also great for representation with gay, demi, and ace characters very much at the forefront. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this was enemies to lovers but there is definite tension which is more than a little swoony at times, spacewalk anyone? I really enjoyed the comedy of errors feel at every turn with facepalm moments of near misses and for a group able to communicate by direct message, they really take the indirect route most of the time. This all serves to drive the story forward though in a wonderfully endearing way and actually brought about a regency kind of feel in a nod to the story it takes it’s initial inspiration from. I’m not sure yet where I would pitch the story as whilst there are some very YA moments it felt like more of a teen read overall.

I did feel that the movement for change/terrorist aspect took quite a back seat sadly, after the initial gatecrash with a frightening display and threatening message I really thought were in for more of a mystery to be solved and greater upheaval but despite that side to it, everyone seemed perfectly happy to go back to parties and speed dating. I was left feeling whether it was really a necessary addition to the story at all as it kind of detracted from the overall tone of the story. I was also left feeling uncomfortable at how advanced Carina became for her 16 years, especially with her level of engagement with the partying and her eventual match, perhaps that’s just the parent coming out in me though.

I would sum up The Stars we Steal as a great, fun read with fantastic characters and storytelling. It’s easy going, full of friendship, sweet romance, second chances and it’s in space!