Book Review: Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw

NEW ORLEANS FANG FEST, 1995. MINA’S HAVING A SUMMER TO DIE FOR.

17-year-old Mina, from England, arrives in New Orleans to visit her estranged sister, Libby. After growing up in Whitby, the town that inspired Dracula, Mina loves nothing more than a creepy horror movie.

She can’t wait to explore the city’s darkest secrets – vampire tours, seedy bars, spooky cemeteries, disturbing local myths…

And it gets even better when Mina lands a part-time job at a horror movie mansion and meets Jared, Libby’s gorgeous housemate, co-worker and fellow horror enthusiast.

But the perfect summer bliss is broken when, while exploring the mansion, Mina stumbles upon the body of a girl with puncture marks on her neck, clutching a lock of hair that suspiciously resembles Libby’s…

Someone is replicating New Orleans’ most brutal supernatural killings. Mina must discover the truth and prove her sister’s innocence before she becomes the victim of another myth.

What I Thought:

Mina and the Undead was the perfect horror book for me, as I am a bit of wimp! Yes, there are vampires, the macabre and spooky New Orleans, but the 90s nostalgia really came through for me and it was that that I was happy to focus on.

Mina was great as a stranger in New Orleans, as we were able to see all the touristy sights that she would have seen, but as she was also accompanied by Libby and her friends, who were already at home in the city, there was a sense of familiarity.

As someone who had their formative years in this period, the pop culture references were very welcome and Amy McCaw used them respectfully – there was nothing that was ‘just filler’ and every reference had a point to make!

The mystery plot was excellently put together and certainly had me guessing right until the big reveal. It was very skillfully done and it will be interesting to see what Mina gets up to next.

Luckily, you won’t have to wait that long for the second book in this series, as Mina and the Slayers is out in September.

Mina and the Undead is published by UCLan.

About the Author:

Amy McCaw is a YA writer and blogger. She’s the author of Mina and the Undead, a YA murder mystery set in 1995 New Orleans.

Her main interests are books, movies and the macabre, and her debut novel has elements of all of these. If Amy’s not at a book event or reading, she can usually be found scribbling away in her writing room, surrounded by movie memorabilia and an out-of-control signed books collection. Unsurprisingly, she’s a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and has gone to conventions to meet James Marsters more times than she cares to admit.

Amy also loves travelling and has a particular affinity for America. She’s visited 29 states, 13 Man Vs Food restaurants and many bookish locations, including the cities where Twilight, Interview with a Vampire and Vampire Diaries were set.

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

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Blog Tour: The Belles of Waterloo by Alice Church

Maria, Georgy and Harriet navigate their first throes of passion, scandal, and love in the heady pre-war atmosphere of Brussels in 1815. Little do they know they will soon be waltzing their way to the battle of the century at a small village called Waterloo.

As the fight for Europe rages outside the city walls, Maria seeks to find herself – will she also find a husband along the way?

What I Thought:

The prevailing view of much of our military history is – inevitably – about fighting men and their experiences, so it’s refreshing to read an account (albeit fictionalised to some extent) of the women who also lived through periods of upheaval. The Belles of Waterloo are Maria, Georgy and Harriet who are aristocratic, with a family beset by financial troubles and find themselves living in Belgium (MUCH cheaper than London!) on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo.

Initially, their lives are dominated by parties, gossip and hair ribbons, but snatched kisses with potential suitors turn into a reality of assuming caring responsibilities for injured soldiers and realising that the men they may have been considering as a good match are now injured or dead.

While the book is excellent in its own right, and would be a great read if it was a purely fictional account, it is enhanced by the fact that the three ladies in question were real and living the life as described by author Alice Church. Church includes extracts from real-life letters between the girls, their mother (who was a Paget of Plas Newydd) and other family members at the start of each chapter which sets the scene and gives an insight into the feelings of these women.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this book for me was the fact that, after the battle, the family and others of their acquaintance visited the battlefield – even before the bodies had been taken away. I found this bizarre, but it seems to be a common enough practice at the time – I have also read accounts of the US Civil War, where families would picnic on the battlefield, to watch the battle!

This really is a fascinating book, clearly well-researched and, as I said, refreshing to read about the thoughts, feelings and actions of this group of women whose previous experiences would have been so far removed from the realities of battle and horrific injuries.

The Belles of Waterloo is published by Unicorn Publishing Group.

About the Author:

Alice Church has specialised in Wellington-era history since studying for her BA at University College London. After graduating in 2012 she worked as a researcher on the Wellington portrait catalogue ‘Wellington Portrayed’ (Unicorn, 2014). She has also published a biography of Lady Georgiana Lennox, daughter of the 4th Duke of Richmond (Universe, 2016). She lives in Dorset with her husband Charles and son Freddie. This is her first novel.

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

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It Started With A Kiss by Lisa Hobman

Can two strangers’ dreams lead to their destiny?

American Star Mendoza is living in her dream location, Edinburgh, a place she discovered in British novels while growing up. Employed at a trendy city centre coffee shop, quirky, pink-haired Star spends her days fantasising about a handsome businessman she serves daily. He’s totally out of her league but a girl can dream, right?

Fin Hunter is exhausted from striving for his father’s elusive love and approval, and of following a life path of his family’s making. When things go drastically wrong Fin decides it’s time to stand on his own two feet and follow his own dream.

Star is bereft when her handsome stranger stops coming to her coffee shop, but a chance encounter in the most unlikely of places leaves her wondering if her fantasy could now become a reality?

Can opposites attract over their love of a city and music or is their story simply doomed to fail?

What I Thought:

It Started With a Kiss differs from many romantic fiction books, in that we know pretty early on that our star-crossed lovers get together – the hook in this book is wondering whether, in the face of outside pressure, they will be able to stay together. The conflict here is not will-they-won’t-they and I think the book is the stronger for that.

Star and Fin are great characters – Fin’s back story is quite sad, as he seems to come from parents who never should have had children! Fin and his brother seem only to exist to further the prestige of the parents and, when Fin makes moves against this and realises that his family is definitely not typical, it’s great to see him blossom in his personal and professional life.

Star is blessed to come from a supportive family who provide real love and affection and she is able to show Fin that family love can be given freely, rather than ‘earned’ as he had thought in the past.

Aside from the romantic storyline – which is pretty good itself – at the heart of this story is Fin’s blossoming from dutiful, son and buttoned-up lawyer to a braver man, following his own path. Whether his new future includes Star, you’ll have to wait and see!

A very enjoyable book, with a perfect, picturesque setting – highly recommended.

It Started With a Kiss is published by Boldwood Books.

About the Author:

Lisa Hobman has written many brilliantly reviewed women’s fiction titles – the first of which was shortlisted by the RNA for their debut novel award. In 2012 Lisa relocated her family from Yorkshire to a village in Scotland and this beautiful backdrop now inspires her uplifting and romantic stories. Her first title for Boldwood Dreaming Under an Island Skye was published in February 2021.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of It Started With a Kiss. For more reviews and exclusi ve content, check out the other participating blogs below:

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

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Blog Tour: Welcome To Your Life by Bethany Rutter

This is a love story…

Serena Mills should be at her wedding. But she’s not.

Instead, she’s eating an ice cream sundae and drinking an obscenely large glass of wine in a Harvester off the M25.

Everyone thinks she’s gone mad.

She’s left the man everyone told her she was ‘so lucky’ to find – because Serena wants to find love. Real love. A love she deserves – not one she should just feel grateful for.

So, she escapes to the big city and sets herself a challenge: 52 weeks. 52 dates. 52 chances to find love. It should be easy, right?

A story about love, forging your own path, and falling head over heels – with yourself.

What I Thought:

What a joyous book Welcome To Your Life is!

After writing successfully in the YA genre, Bethany Rutter has given us her first book for adults, featuring a heroine who has a lightbulb moment on the day of her wedding. Is this slightly late to have it? Yes – and Serena would agree with you – nevertheless new experiences beckon as Serena swaps comfortable-but-boring for new things and new people in her new London life.

While, yes, I have said the book is joyous, that doesn’t stop it from dealing with some quite big issues – the storyline around workplace harrassment is rage-inducing but it’s fantastic to see the strong group of women in this book support each other and stand up to that kind of behaviour.

Serena’s progression through the book, from ‘wedding jilter’ to a woman unapologetically in control of her life is so uplifting. There is still very much a sense in society of fat people being undeserving of nice things, so to see Serena blossom and begin taking what she wants is worthy of a round of applause!

I would very much recommend this book – a fantastic main character, and an inspirational mentor and friend in Nicole, it will leave you with a smile on your face.

Welcome To Your Life is published by HarperCollins.

About the Author:

Bethany Rutter is the author of YA novels No Big Deal and Melt My Heart, and the editor of fashion coffee-table book, Plus+. She works in the plus-size fashion industry, so is mostly interested in women, clothes and bodies.

Bethany co-hosts the books podcast What Page Are You On?’

Catch up with Bethany via her website.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of Welcome To Your Life – check out some of the other participating blogs below for more reviews and exclusive content.

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

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Blog Tour: Keeping Up with the Kershaws

What do you do when your life becomes more dramatic than reality TV?

As the devoted carer for famous antique expert Harold Kershaw, Karrie Morgan was always happy to keep a professional distance from his four spoilt grown-up children, who rarely made time for their father. But then a surprise involving Harold’s Will means Karrie is flung headlong into a press scandal, and into the chaotic world of the surviving Kershaws.

With the support of her trusted childhood friend Andrew, mild-mannered Karrie must face down ruthless ice queen Portia, master manipulator Gabriel, Botox fanatic Arabella, and ladies’ man Rafe, star of reality TV show Raised in Richmond … although perhaps not as fake and flashy as he initially seems?

As vicious rumours circulate and Karrie’s past comes back to haunt her, she struggles to know who to trust. Can she keep up with the Kershaws’ schemes?

What I Thought:

In Keeping Up with the Kershaws, Helen Buckley returns to the world of showbiz, privilege and scandal and introduces a trule detestable family!

On the death of antiques expert Harold Kershaw, his devoted carer Karrie Morgan is pitched against his neglectful children over a sizeable inheritance. Claws and dirty tricks are fully out, but will Karrie be able to stand firm with these spoiled rich kids, when they have lawyers galore and she has her only friend in her corner?

I very much enjoyed this book as we had a glimpse into the world of privilege and fame, but the entitled family in this book don’t have things all their own way.

Karrie was a great character – caring and quiet next to the very loud Kershaw family, but with a hidden core of steel, she was a good foil for them, although her connection with Rafe was an interesting wrinkle in the plot.

Although this book can be read as a standalone, it is part of Helen Buckley’s Spotlight series, featuring in the lives of the rich and famous. I particularly liked the fact that she made subtle references to the other books in the series throughout – these little titbits encouraged me to read more of the books, so I’ll be starting with Strictly on Ice!

The romantic part of the plot is a very slow burn, but has an incredibly satisfying conclusion and I defy you not to finish this book with a smile on your face…

Keeping Up with the Kershaws is published by ChocLit.

About the Author:

Ever since I was little I wanted to be a writer, to turn daydreams into books. I’m fascinated by fame, in love with Happy Ever Afters, and enthralled by slow-burn romances. I squeeze in time to write around looking after my two sons. Find out more about me on my website.

This post is part of a tour to celebrate the oublication of Keeping Up with the Kershaws – check out more reviews and exclusive content at the blogs below:

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