Blog Tour: The Lights of Time by Paul Ian Cross – plus a giveaway!

Engella Rhys is alone, adrift and on the run. Pursued by a secret agency, known only as the Hunters, she must stay ahead to stay alive. 

As she travels through space-time using dangerously experimental technology, she only has one wish: to be reunited with her lost parents. After a close shave with a Hunter on the streets of New Shanghai, Engella escapes to find herself on a deserted beach. When she meets a kind stranger, who offers her food and shelter, Engella feels safe and protected for the first time in years. 

But who is this woman? And why did their paths cross at the most convenient of times? 

Engella soon discovers their lives are intertwined in more ways than she could ever imagine.

What I Thought:
It’s a real delight to discover great books quite by accident, and this is exactly what happened with The Lights of Time. I love science fiction and the concept of time travel even more so, so this book was a pefect read for me.

As this is, perhaps, a book aimed at younger readers, it’s not really aimed at me but, nevertheless, Engella and her travels through the ancient past and near future were highly engaging and entertaining. I can’t even imagine being able to keep all your ideas straight as a writer when you’re, in effect, writing historical fiction as the same time as contemporary fiction and science fiction but Engella’s timehopping is perfectly explained and it’s not hard to follow her tracks – even when she’s doing a Marty McFly and observing herself while trying not to interfere!

To me, what makes Engella so likeable is that she is not super-powered in any way. Yes, she’s very intelligent, but she is just an ordinary girl who has been flung into exceptional circumstances, leaving her to deal with that as any ordinary girl would – with all the emotional fallout that that entails.

The villians in this story – The Hunters – are suitably evil, but there does some to be some history there and, given that this is a time travel story, I can only assume that more information is going to be revealed in a further book. I’m quite happy with that, as I would definitely read more about Engella and her companions.

Exciting and appealing are two words I would use to describe this book and I’d happily pass it on to my kids, and my reluctant readers at school!

The Lights of Time is published by Farrow Children’s Books. To find out more about the book and about Paul Ian Cross, you can check out his website.

As an extra treat, as part of this blog tour, you can enter a giveaway to win a Kindle Fire and a signed copy of the book – why not enter below, and then take a look at some of the other fab blogs participating on the tour?

Giveaway – Win a Kindle HD Fire 7” and a signed copy of The Lights of Time (UK Only)

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note: I was sent a copy of the book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

Posted in blog tour, Book Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Hope to Die by David Jackson

There was a hate in this killer. A thirst for obliteration rather than a mere desire to end a life…

A brutal murder takes place in the grounds of a Liverpool cathedral. A killer is on the loose, driven by a chilling rage. The victim: the last person you’d expect to be subjected to such terrible violence. Can DS Nathan Cody crack the case before another innocent is chosen?

What I Thought:
I read quite a lot of crime novels and, in the main, they tend to be London-based. I could probably name a dozen quite easily with the capital as a backdrop, so it’s great to see an upward trend in crime novels based in the regions. Hope to Die (and its predecessor, A Tapping at My Door) is set in Liverpool, which definitely gives it a different edge.

Crime is crime, wherever it is set, but there is some exploration of the history of the city here, which I think is always a nice touch – the book is then not just about the crime, but other points of interest come out as our detectives move around the city and, if you’re even a little familiar with Liverpool, there are things you can recognise.

I was a wary of reading this book straight off, as it’s number 2 in a series featuring DS Nathan Cody. I worried that I would have missed out on some of the back story and, although that was true, David Jackson did a good job of recapping the important points – so much so that I went and bought A Tapping at My Door immediately on finishing this book.

With the way the book is structured, it’s clear who the murderer is from early on, in that we see a lot of their history, and we know why they’ve started killing, but that doesn’t ruin the climax, as we don’t actually know the identity until much later on. The intercut scenes of a child and their abuse at the hands of their mother are harrowing at times, but necessary to the plot and not gratuitous.

The one thing that made me wish I had read book 1 first, was that Cody suffers from PTSD, due to events in the first book and I found it difficult to appreciate what was a huge part of this book withoout having read it first – it is a minor thing, however and easy to fix! In general, Cody is a good detective, and good at hiding his inner turmoil as he tries to solve what becomes a case of three murders. His team are a good mix too, and they bounce off each other well.

This book is left on somewhat of a cliffhanger as regards Cody’s state of mind and, when I read it, there was no book 3 to carry on the story – luckily for you (and me!), book 3, Don’t Make a Sound, has been published, so there’s not so long to wait to find out about Cody’s worsening mental state.

Hope to Die is published by Zaffre. To find out more about David Jackson and his other series of books, featuring Callum Doyle, you can check out his website.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Post: Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan – A Week in the Life

I don’t know about you, but as a somewhat frustrated NaNoWriMo participant, I am fascinated by those writers who can manage to produce beautiful stories, while still managing to keep on with all the everyday bits of life. I personally find it so hard to bring my creative muscles to bear when, with one hand I’m doing an online shop and with the other I’m picking up kids’ clothes off the floor!

That’s why, when I was asked to host a guest post by Deirdre Sullivan, I was interested to see how she balances her creative processes with her everyday ones – she’s been kind enough to put together a ‘Week in the Life’, and I’m definitely looking for tips!

Balancing writing and everyday life- a week in the life

Get up at 6 am, do fifteen minutes of yoga and make a cup of tea. I sit down at the table in my kitchen and the cat instantly begins approaching my tea, because he knows there’s milk in it. I re-read the notes my editor has given me for the new draft of Perfectly Preventable Deaths, and get to work. An hour later, I change out of my pajamas, eat breakfast, read a little bit of Ariel’s Gift by Erica Wagner, and get ready for a day of teaching Junior Infants at the special school I work in.

The day passes busily and happily, and I get home around half five (I do my planning and preparation at school if possible because I like home to be a writing and napping space), and my husband suggests we go for a walk. I cackle at the idea and answer my emails for an hour while eating cheese. I find the evenings are great if I’m writing a new thing because you’re completely in it, but the mornings are better for the clear head and distance that I need for editing.

I have a separate notebook for each project I’m working on as well, which is helpful and makes me feel better about all the notebooks I buy.

I press the snooze button so only do six minutes of yoga. The cat tries to hunt the ribbons on my pajamas, because he wants more breakfast. Most of Arthur’s actions are as a result of wanting more breakfast. We are very alike in that way. I read a brilliant book about witches and twins over the weekend so I spend a small amount of time staring into the dark abyss of the future, wondering what the point of it all is. Then I make a cup of tea and get stuck in.

I get to change a Raven’s name today. Not many people can say that. At school, we decide to all dress up as Minions on Friday. I realise that I already own a lot of stuff a minion would wear. And also that I know very little about Minions. Do they have a catch-phrase?

I decide that they do. It’s “LET’S GO MINIONS!”

In the evening I go see the new Halloween movie and then buy things so I can make a pumpkin vomit blue stuff to delight the Junior Infants.


I do eleven minutes of yoga today, and crack in. I’m on a really good bit, where the world is being coloured in around them, so it feels a little like lucid dreaming and I’m sorry when it reaches twenty past seven and I have to do real-world things. The cat gets a little bit of my coffee today and it does not seem to do him any harm.

After school, I have a phone call with my lovely agent, Claire about some SECRET GOOD NEWS. I laminate alphabet cards and cut velcro strips throughout the conversation, and when it’s over I finish up, organise my classroom (which smells a little bit like a chipper from the vomiting pumpkin), and get the bus home. On the bus, I read Drown by Esther Dalseno, which was recommended to me by @Jo_Scribbles on twitter. I love me a Little Mermaid retelling. Little Island is running a competition to give away a signed paperback of the new Tangleweed and Brine, so I keep tabs on that as well. I’m very interested in how other people’s brains would reshape old stories, and also what different people are drawn to. For me, it’s always The Little Mermaid because I feel like an outsider a lot of the time. Many years ago, before I qualified as a teacher, a little girl told me that she was scared of having friends. I knew exactly what she meant. There’s so much you can get wrong with human beings.

When I get home, I send an invoice for a writing gig I did, make dinner and watch many episodes of The Haunting of Hill House. Also, a book of poetry my pal Mark Ward wrote, Circumference has arrived and it looks BEAUTIFUL. Before I go to sleep, I plan my outfit for tomorrow and put some make-up in my work bag because reasons.

Morning routine is the same as ever, except I’m coming towards a tricky bit and it’s going to take a bit of thinking. The cat has learned to jump of top of the highest wardrobe and stare at us, like a golden batman. It’s very disconcerting but also I am proud of him.

I put on my fancy dungarees, and red lipstick, because a short story I wrote about a world where women can give birth to adorable animals instead of babies has been shortlisted for an IBA and it’s going to be announced in the GPO this evening. The school day passes, and by the end I am covered in paint and yoghurt. It is not an ideal look, so I ask my husband to bring in a dress for me when we meet up this evening. I bus into town for around five o’ clock, eat pancakes and change into a black dress with some flowers on it. I own a lot of dresses that are black with flowers on. It’s kind of a uniform.

My toe is broken, so I’m wearing a very glamorous support sandal while all this is going on. I buy a yellow t-shirt so I can be the best minion I can be tomorrow, and meet some pals for a drink before the event. The YA shortlist is basically a roll call of sound people, and it’s very cool to be at a lock-in in a big fancy post-office. An Post have also started this whole campaign where people can post books to each other for free using special boxes and envelopes. I get very excited about this altogether, as I love getting books and giving books. I need to leave the GPO early because of school in the morning, but I buy The Importance of Being Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen on the way home as a mid-term treat.

I do not get up at six am, because I am very tired and also at a tricky part of the book that requires more time and energy than I have today. The cat is OUTRAGED his breakfast (and sneaky morning tea-dregs) is late, and miaows outside the door like he is reading us a letter of complaint. I dress like a minion, get the bus to school, teach all day, and then go vote for president Michael D. Higgins, who was very sound to me while I was a teenager, and had to interview politicians for civics class. At home, I change out of my minion costume, and fiddle with a few writing admin things. I put off edits because I am scared that I will do a bad job at them. Instead I eat pizza because cheese is the way forward, and order Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill, because it looks gorgeous and she is very sound on the internet.


I plan an outline for a short story idea I have, edit for about two hours and watch many episodes of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, about which I have mixed feelings. I finish knitting one hat and begin knitting another. Arthur wees on a spot where his favourite mat used to be because he misses it and we despair of him. I read the other shortlisted stories and realise there is no way in hell I can vote for myself. The sound guy wins the presidency and the blasphemy being a crime part of our constitution is good to go. Take that, Odin! In the evening, I do a tarot reading about something that’s bothering me, and it comes up murky but probably accurate.

I wake up at nine, do yoga, make coffee and intend to start edits. Instead I complain about a television series I mostly enjoyed on the internet and look at clothes I can’t afford. I need to buy a new keep cup because mine split in half from all the use it got. (I drink a LOT of tea, and some coffee). I find a really cool one, but shipping is too expensive, so I hiss at the computer screen like a feral cat. Then I make a list of blog posts I need to write and so we come full circle. It is half past ten, and I have edited 11,000 words this week, and want to do 5,000 more today. My little cat is napping on a mermaid cushion like a small croissant. I have an inch of coffee left to drink and it is safe.

Huge thanks to Deirdre for that – I am definitely going to build the cheese-eating and tea-drinking into my schedule for the week! There are also some really good reading recommendations there, which I have linked for you all.

If you’ve not yeat read it, Tangleweed and Brine (which I will review leater) is a beautifully written and illustrated collection of fairytales, retold with a feminist slant. I have got the hardback edition but, if you buy the new, paperback edition, there is an additional story in it just for you!

Keep an eye our for my review, and huge thanks again to Deirdre for a short peek into her writing/working/cheese eating week…

Tangleweed and Brine is published by Little Island. To find out more about Deirdre Sullivan, you can check out her website.

Posted in Guest Post | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Crate: A Story of War, a Murder, and Justice by Deborah Vadas Levison

After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust – in ghettos, on death marches, and in concentration camps – a young couple seeks refuge in Canada. They settle into a new life, certain that the terrors of their past are behind them. They build themselves a cozy little cottage on a lake in Muskoka, a cottage that becomes emblematic of their victory over the Nazis. The charming retreat is a safe haven, a refuge from haunted memories. That is, until a single act of unspeakable violence defiles their sanctuary.

Poking around the dark crawl space beneath their cottage, they discover a wooden crate, nailed tightly shut and almost hidden from view. Nothing could have prepared them for the horror of the crate’s contents – or how the peace and tranquility of their lives would be shattered. Now, their daughter, Deborah Vadas Levison, an award-winning journalist, tells the extraordinary account of her parents’ ordeals, both in one of the darkest times in world history and their present-day lives.

What I Thought:
Generally, my practice in undertaking reviews is to see what other people are saying about a book. In reading some of the reviews on Goodreads, I wondered really if they had read the same book as I had, as some of the criticism of the book seemed to somewhat miss the point of it.

Although the inspiration behind the writing of this book may have been the real-life murder of Samantha Collins, what The Crate is, is a clever interweaving of true crime, memoir and historical record of some of the darkest days of world history.

By taking the discovery of a body at the family cottage, Deborah Vadas Levison is able to reminisce about her own, sheltered upbringing, which is in direct contrast to that of her parents who, being Jewish and Hungarian, were directly persecuted during the Holocaust, losing close and extended family to forced labour and the death camps. It is so important that stories like theirs are recorded – especially these days when ‘Lest We Forget’ seems more of a platitude than a genuine promise to not let these things happen again.

Joined with these horrific experiences is the story of Samantha Collins, whose life only came into contact with the Vadas family in the most tragic and violent way. Featuring information that the author has gathered directly from Ms Collins’ family, the account of her life is itself a cautionary tale of how easy it can be to fall onto a certain path, and how domestic violence affects so many families.

The book deals well with a catalogue of difficult subjects, and treats them all with the utmost sympathy and respect. It’s interesting to see the family’s focus switch from ‘why did this happen to us?’ to ‘actually, there was a young woman who was the victim here’ and we certainly could all do with having such empathy at times.

I have read a good deal about the atrocities of the Holocaust, both in fiction and non-fiction, but still it just seems unreal that such hatred was heaped upon one group of people. Ultimately, as Debbie Levison points out, the best way to honour the dead is to live, to make a life and leave a legacy for your descendants – something that the Vadas family has certainly done.

As I’ve said, the book is written so sympathetically to the horrors it tries to protray, and with such affection and some of the language is so evocative – in particular, Debbie Levison recalls a visit with her father to Budapest and the Dohány Street Synagogue, and feeling as though they were among ‘ghosts, whispering Kaddish for eternity’. Phrases like that pepper the book, and create such a sense of atmosphere and tragedy.

Books like this are crucial in these days when anti-semitism seems to be growing, the far-right are being listened to by many more people and nationalism is seen as something to be admired. Any one of the ever-dwindling number of Holocaust survivors can tell you where those roads lead, and it’s something we should all be concerned about.

The Crate is published by WildBlue Press. To find out more about the author and additional notes about her work, you can check out her website.

As a side note, I had no idea about Steven Spielberg’s project to record the testimonies of Holocaust survivors (Vera and Pista Vadas took part in this project), and I have further explored the Foundation that came out of the project. It’s a fascinating and ever-expanding project, which now encompasses the Rwandan Genocide, the Nanjing Massacre and the Cambodian Genocide, among other awful acts of mass violence. It’s well worth taking a look at the work of this Foundation.

Please note: I received a copy of this book through Netgalley for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog Tour: A Little Christmas Charm by Kathryn Freeman

Would you swap sea and sunshine for tinsel and turkey?

Gabby Sanderson is used to being let down – even at Christmas. Which is why she’s happy to skip the festive season completely in favour of a plane ticket and sunnier climes.

 But this Christmas could be different, because this time she might not be spending it alone.

Can Owen Cooper charm Gabby into loving Christmas in the same way he’s charmed his way into her life, or is he just another person who’ll end up disappointing her?

What I Thought:
After being extremely snobby about women’s fiction for a good long while, I find myself reading more and more of it. I guess it’s in part due to a comforting familiarity in women’s fiction – we live in such uncertainty these days, it’s reassuring to read about love and happy things and, by the way, I have also succumbed to the lure of the Christmas book!

A Little Christmas Charm is a warm and welcoming story of a strong and independent woman who has been hurt in her early past by a poor relationship with her family, but begins to trust again when she meets a charming and irresistible colleague.

Despite twists and turns in both their lives, a little of the Christmas spirit leads them together and – hopefully – into a bright and loving future. You see? Happy things!

That’s certainly not to say that things are all plain sailing along the way for Gabby and Owen, but following the twists and turns of their new relationship is both sweet and incredibly annoying! As with most fictional couples, the urge to bang their heads together at certain moments is very strong, but they are both sweet characters, deserving of a happy ending.

This book is really heartwarming, perfect for the time of year and, at the time of writing this review, only 99p on Kindle, so an absolute steal.

A Little Christmas Charm is published by Choc-Lit. To find out more about this book and about Kathryn Freeman, you can check out her website, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

For more exclusive content and reviews, please check ut some of the other stops on this blog tour below.

As part of this blog tour, you can win a paperback copy of A Little Christmas Charm using this widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

Posted in blog tour, Book Review | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Blog Tour: Dreaming of Christmas by T. A. Williams

Good morning! I’m pleased to be bringing you an exclusive extract of Dreaming of Christmas by T. A. Williams today – I reviewed the book earlier in the week, so please do check out my thoughts.

It’s the dream Christmas: snow, mountains… and, er, an ex-boyfriend. But can Zoe still find love in the Alps?

Dumped on Christmas Eve by her long-term boyfriend, it’s been a rough year for Zoe Lumsley. But then she gets an invitation she can’t refuse: an all expenses paid skiing holiday with old university friends.

The bad news: her ex, Grant, will be there with his new girlfriend. But so will her former flatmate Billy, the organiser, and in the meantime he’s done rather well for himself. As Christmas in the Alps approaches, it’ll be great to see the old gang. Some more than others…

Next day at work, Zoë was too busy to spend much time thinking about the invitation to Austria, but she had done more than enough worrying overnight. In fact, although she had finally drifted off to sleep in the small hours, she had tossed and turned for ages first. Of course Juliet was right. It was time she got on with the rest of her life, but the idea of not only seeing Grant again but being cooped up with him in a hotel for a week was both intimidating and infuriating.

His announcement last Christmas that he had found another woman and was leaving had come as a bolt from the blue – or as near as made no difference. Yes, there had probably been a few little doubts in her mind, but nothing she could put her finger on. Considering she was a journalist, it rankled with her that she had been so blind to what was going on. Of course, she had been aware that her workload meant she had been seeing less and less of him over the last few years of their relationship. And his business trips away – often involving weekends as well – had been getting more frequent, but she had never seriously thought he might have somebody else. The tragic fact of the matter was that she had loved him in spite of everything, and losing him really had broken her heart. Beneath the anger she still felt towards him was bitter grief. How would she feel about seeing him again?

Then, sometime in the small hours, she had suddenly sat bolt upright in bed, eyes wide open, at the thought that he would almost certainly turn up in Austria with his new woman. The idea of meeting her was immensely unpalatable. With that thought lodged in her mind, it had been a long night.

Consequently, she wasn’t feeling at her chirpiest the next morning as she shared a taxi with Ron the photographer en route to an interview with a B-list movie actor hungry for publicity. Her lack of enthusiasm, however, was more than compensated for by her companion. Ron was positively bouncy.

‘Like the new jacket, sweetheart?’

She hadn’t noticed. She turned her head and took a look. It was a brown leather bomber jacket and it looked pretty good on him. He wasn’t a bad-looking man, as long as you didn’t concentrate too much on what he was like underneath the skin. As far as she was concerned, Ron was an acquired taste – rather like creosote or silage. She nodded her head and told him what he wanted to hear.

‘Very nice. Expensive?’

‘Five hundred quid.’

‘Blimey, Ron, did you win the lottery?’

He shook his head. ‘No, I’m doing a bit of work on the side. And it pays well.’

‘Wedding photography?’

‘No, very different. Here, take a look.’

He pulled out his phone and scrolled through a whole heap of photos until he found the one he wanted.

‘What do you think of that, sweetheart? Good, eh?’

Zoë took the phone from him and squinted at it. With the taxi weaving in and out of the traffic in the streets of east London, it wasn’t easy. She held the phone closer to her eyes. It took a few more seconds before she suddenly realised what she was looking at.

‘For God’s sake, Ron, that’s disgusting.’

She almost threw the phone back at him and rubbed her hands on her coat in an attempt to remove the contagion. He looked not only unapologetic but positively buoyed, by her comment. There was a broad lascivious grin on his face.

‘These folk pay me well, and they pay the girls well too. If you ever want to supplement your wages, just say the word. With your face and figure, I’m sure it could be a nice little earner for you.’

‘Oh God…’

Dreaming of Christmas is published by Canelo and available now. To find out more about the book, and T. A. Williams, you can check out his website.

This extract is part of the blog tour to celebrate Dreaming of Christmas. To find out more, and for more exclusive content and reviews, why not chek out some of the fab blogs below:

Posted in blog tour | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Dreaming of Christmas by T. A Williams

It’s the dream Christmas: snow, mountains… and, er, an ex-boyfriend. But can Zoe still find love in the Alps?

Dumped on Christmas Eve by her long-term boyfriend, it’s been a rough year for Zoe Lumsley. But then she gets an invitation she can’t refuse: an all expenses paid skiing holiday with old university friends.

The bad news: her ex, Grant, will be there with his new girlfriend. But so will her former flatmate Billy, the organiser, and in the meantime he’s done rather well for himself. As Christmas in the Alps approaches, it’ll be great to see the old gang. Some more than others…

What I Thought:
Living in uncertain times, as we do, I find myself more often looking to uncomplicated things, and things that comfort the mind – in T. A. Williams’ Dreaming of… novels, I’ve found an uncomplicated happy place!

Dreaming of Christmas is the latest in T. A. Williams’ popular series featuring young women, unlucky in love, and searching for something more in their lives. In this case, it’s Zoe who finds herself a year on from being dumped at Christmas time and invited to spend some time skiing with her former Uni housemates.

Each of the characters have their own problems and knotty relationship difficulties, but a week away at Christmas may just be the thing they all need to revive them. Having not seen each other for 10 years, they have all changed in subtle ways, but rest assured that all ends well for the group of friends.

I’ve read several of T. A. Williams’ books now and they are all of a high standard and when I say they are easy to read, I mean it in the best sense. Zoe is a likeable girl, who has been unlucky in her personal life, but who is also doing a job that she’s really too qualified – a highly relatable character.

Ultimately, the novel is so likeable because wouldn’t we all like to be invited to a luxury hotel, all expenses paid, and then – just maybe – end up falling in love?

Dreaming of Christmas is published by Canelo. To find out more about the author and his other excellent novels, you can check out his website.

If you pop back here on 11th November, you can check out an exclusive extract of Dreaming of Christmas, and also find out about some of the other stops on the blog tour.

Please note; I received a copy of this book via Netgalley. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Spotlight: Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

Hello! Today I am excited to bring you one of a series of short extracts from the latest in the Three Dark Crowns series, Two Dark Reigns. These have been chosen by Kendare Blake to illustrate the gifts of some of her characters and help you get to know them before reading the full novel.

As a proud member of the Naturalist court, I am thrilled to introduce you to Jules:

Jules hears the bear before she sees the den dug into the side of the hill. She moves her torch so the light falls across the entrance, and something looks back at her with bright, fire-lit eyes.

It is a great brown. She was not seeking it. She was on the path of a stag and would have caught up with her quarry over the next rise.

The bear does not want trouble. It has most likely retreated back into its winter den in order to avoid the hunters.

Jules draws her knife. It is long and sharp and can go through a bear’s hide. But the bear will still kill her if it decides to fight.

The bear looks at the knife and sniffs. Part of her wants it to come. She is surprised by that, by the heat of her anger and the weight of her despair.

“If you are looking for the queen,” she says, “you came too late.”

There are more of these extracts featured on lots of other blogs today and in the coming weeks, so do take a look at the #TwoDarkReigns hashtag.

Two Dark Reigns is published by Macmillan Children’s Books. To find out about Kendare Blake and this amazing series, check out her website.

Posted in Spotlight | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog Tour: Death Comes in Through the Kitchen by Teresa Dovalpage

Havana, Cuba, 2003: Matt, a San Diego journalist, arrives in Havana to marry his girlfriend, Yarmila, a 24-year-old Cuban woman whom he first met through her food blog. But Yarmi isn’t there to meet him at the airport, and when he hitches a ride to her apartment, he finds her lying dead in the bathtub.

With Yarmi’s murder, lovelorn Matt is immediately embroiled in a Cuban adventure he didn’t bargain for. The police and secret service have him down as their main suspect, and in an effort to clear his name, he must embark on his own investigation into what really happened. The more Matt learns about his erstwhile fiancée, though, the more he realizes he had no idea who she was at all—but did anyone?

What I Thought:
In preparing for this review, I took a look at the book on Goodreads, and various other places and was quite shocked with what I found. It seems that Death Comes in Through the Kitchen is a Marmite book – people either loved it or hated it.

I for one thought it was a really interesting book and particularly liked the format. At once it was an exotic murder mystery novel, and also an introduction to authentic Cuban cuisine. As a Cuban transplant, now living in the US, I felt that Teresa Dovalpage was uniquely placed to give both a view of the Cuba that she remembers – not that of the tourist trail – but also the view of outsiders to what seems a very alien regime.

Some of the reviews I read criticised the lead character, Matt, as being a bit stupid to assume he would arrive in Cuba and marry Yarmila but I felt that a certain naivety was needed in his character, alongside the brash American assumption that everything will immediately go his way – certainly not the case here.

The murder mystery plot was inventive and eventually resolved in an unexpected way, after leading us down paths that make us ask how well we ever really know anyone and immersing Matt fully in both the spiritual life of Cuba, and the restrictions placed on its citizens under a communist regime. By the time Matt contemplates leaving Cuba, his eyes – and ours – have been opened to some of the freedoms we take for granted.

Cuba and the people Matt meets are written vividly and, while you can imagine life is not always sunny for the characters, it is easy to picture the beauty of the Caribbean and the vibrancy of the sounds and smells of Cuba. This is helped in no small way by the recipes included in the book – a big part of the plot involves Yarmila running an English-language cooking blog and some of the recipes and the anecdotes in her blog posts are evocative and definitely worth trying to make.

Death Comes in Through the Kitchen is published by Soho Press and is currently available in hardback, with the paperback following next year. To find out more about the book, and Teresa Dovalpage, you can check out her blog, or you can connect with her on Twitter.

This post is part of a blog tour to celebrate Death Comes in Through the Kitchen and for more exclusive content and reviews, why not check out some of the fantastic blogs below?

Posted in blog tour, Book Review | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Dynasty by Christina Oxenberg

Part memoir, part royal history – this is the intimate and enchanting true story of Christina Oxenberg’s discovery of her remarkable and illustrious Serbian heritage.

In 2014 Christina Oxenberg visited Serbia for the first time on the trail of her family history. What she discovered was not only the astonishing story of her origins – a descendant of the Karadjordjevic dynasty who rose from shepherds to kings – but also the hair-raising history of Europe and its royals from the 18th century to the present day. Deftly weaving Oxenberg’s own family history with that of Europe’s tumultuous recent past, Dynasty is a gripping and at times controversial royal saga, illustrated with 8 pages of beautiful images from Christina’s private collection.

What I Thought:
My recent media tastes seem to have leant towards royalty, given that I have watched both Victoria and The Crown within the last few weeks. I could probably write what I know about the crowned heads of Europe on the back of a postage stamp, but I was quickly drawn in and fascinated by the history of the Serbian royal family, as written by Christina Oxenberg in Dynasty.

Although non-fiction, the story of Oxenberg’s forebears from a humble shepherd, to a young man used as a pawn by the Allies of WW2, the family history reads like an adventure novel – it’s so easy to get caught up in the drama of it all that it is easy to forget that these are not a made-up cast of characters.

What makes this memoir so easy to read is the inclusion of Christina Oxenberg’s own memories of a childhood spent with exiled relatives, and knowing that there was something different about the family but never speaking openly about any of the events that had affected them. To have this interspersed with the whole shocking story adds to the feeling that you are not just reading a history book, but that the terrible world events that happened around and to the family are given an edge of humanity.

There are times when the author writes quite emotionally about her grandparents, and the things she discovered had happened to them only after they had passed away and this adds to the power of such an otherwise public and well-documented family history.

Complete with several pages of family photos, Dynasty is a fascinating book for historians, but at the same time it’s a human story of cherished family members that has clearly been written with love and respect.

Dynasty is published by Quartet Books. To find out more about the book and its author you can check out Christina Oxenberg’s website.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , | Leave a comment