5 March 2018

This Is How It Always Is - Laurie Frankel

Rosie and Penn have 5 boys, until their youngest child, Claude, reveals that he wants to be a girl. While his parents and brothers are all as supportive as they can be, they know it won't be as easy for the rest of the world to accept him. They all struggle with how to handle the changes, how to advise Claude, how much is going to be accepted. Is this the whim of a small child or something deeper? Does he just like dresses or is he really a girl inside? Rosie asks herself so many questions though all she really wants to do is protect her child.

As Claude grows from toddler to young boy, from Claude to becoming Poppy, the book deals with the different stages he and the family go through. Their own understanding and acceptance as well as dealing with school, friends and the rest of the outside world. The other boys are also growing meanwhile, with their own needs for attention.

I liked the idea for the story but at the beginning of the book I found it all a bit too light and easy. It read a bit like a love story, with Rosie and Penn knowing even before they met, that this would be the one. I felt it difficult to relate to people who just know things, know their own minds so easily. Are there really people like that? That passed quite quickly though, once getting into the main part of the story it stopped being so simplified.

I found the descriptions of the markets and countryside in Thailand really brought it to life. I didn't find Bangkok quite as dirty and hectic as described but I can imagine it depends which sections you're in. Overall I really enjoyed the book though I thought it was a bit longer than necessary.

Make yourself a Thai Red Daiquiri to sip while you read. Muddle a few cubes of red pepper in a shaker and then add 2 shots of rum, 1/2 shot each of lemon juice and coconut water, 3 thai basil leaves and a dash of sugar syrup. Shake them all with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of pepper.

14 February 2018

The Waking Land - Callie Bates

I'm excited to be part of the blog tour for this fantastic book. Read on for my review and a competition to win a copy of your very own. And of course a cocktail to make!

A world where magic is forbidden, revered in secret by some, but feared by others.

Elanna was abducted by the king when she was only 5 years old. Brought up by him as a daughter and taught that her real father was a traitor. But is everything she has been taught all these years actually all false? When she is forced to flee after the death of the King, she learns many truths that were hidden from her until now. Including how much magic she has running through her. She discovers that her father believes her to be the reincarnation of Wildegarde, a goddess who could move the Earth and see through the eyes of the animals.

After living most of her life in Eren, Elanna feels Ereni. But when she reaches Caeris the old feelings of her family home come back to her and as she feels her powers growing she realises how much she is also Caerisian. She feels torn between the two places and doesn't want to betray either. Instead she eventually understands that she needs to find a way to unite them under a new King.

Despite being a YA book, Elanna seems very mature and relatable to all ages. I loved the magical world described in the book. I enjoyed this book so much and am so glad I already have book 2 The Memory of Fire to read.

I have a copy of this great book to give away to one lucky winner. You can enter by email or on twitter. Send an email to booktails.comps@gmail.com with 'The Waking Land Competition' in the subject and ensure you're following my blog by email. Or retweet the competition tweet which you'll find on twitter with the hashtag #Booktails. Open UK only, competition ends 24th February.

Forgive me for the cliche but as it's Valentine's Day, I've made a Loved Up cocktail. Shake up the following ingredients with lots of ice and pour into a pretty glass. I've added some edible hearts to garnish. 1 1/2 shots tequila, 1/2 shots of triple sec, chambord and lime juice, 1 shot orange juice and a dash of sugar syrup.

4 February 2018

Book Mix & Match 2

Another batch of short pick and mix reviews. Sip on an Aviation as you go flying through all these books! In a shaker, put a 1 & 1/2 shots of gin, 1/2 shot maraschino liqueur, 1/4 shot creme de violette & 1/2 shot lemon juice. Give it a good long shake with plenty of ice and strain into your glass.

Ash and Quill - Rachel Caine
If you aren't familiar with the series, it is set in a world where the Library of Alexandria still exists and holds the majority of power. Jess and his friends have been captured by a group of Burners and find themselved trapped in Philadelphia. They need to use all their strengths and talents to find a way to escape.
I absolutely loved the book, it left me with a huge book hangover and I can't wait for the 4th in the series. For some reason I had the impression it was going to be a trilogy but it soon became apparent that it would be a longer series. I am torn between wanting to know the end and wishing it would last forever!

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe - Lauren James
I loved this book right from the start. Romy's character draws you right in and I was completely hooked immediately. Romy was born on a spaceship sent to colonise a new Earth and she is now the only surviving crew member. She is completely alone until one day she learns that another spaceship has been launched from Earth, with a single passenger called J. While she waits for this ship to catch up with her, their friendship grows through emails, though they take months to transmit. There are references to her parents and the astronauts, but you don't know the full story until it is gradually revealed through the book. About halfway through I started worrying... what if J isn't who he says he is? What if he is but they never manage to meet?
I can't imagine what it would be like to be all alone so far from anyone and anything. Not even able to have a simple conversation with someone. It's hard to say too much without spoilers as there is only one main character but there are unexpected twists and turns.

A Thousand Perfect Notes - C.G. Drews
Beck's mother wants him to be a child prodigy on the piano, to live the life she believes she missed out on and make the family name famous. He spends his life practicing but it is never enough for the Maestro, he is never good enough. He feels like he hates the piano, even though music is his life. The only thing that keeps him going is protecting his little sister. Who knows what his mother might do to punish him if he can't make her proud. When he is paired with August for a school project, Beck tries to be cold and distant, like his mother, but August bashes through his defenses with barely any effort. Your heart breaks with feeling everything that Beck goes through and you can't help but wish for him to be strong and break the cycle before his mother causes irreparable damage to him or his sister.

Inherent Fate - Geanna Culbertson
I really love Crisanta Knight and think she's a great character but far too hard on herself. It feels like the whole defining feature thing makes the characters a bit one dimensional and the others, apart from Daniel, seem like they can never do any wrong. Or at least, that Crisa thinks that about them.
It was great reading about how all the fairy tales on Earth came about, as if they were distortions of real adventures in Book.
Really looking forward to book 4. Love that there are 5 more books but also can't believe I have to wait so long to find out what will happen to Crisa and her friends and Book. Can't wait for the next in the series!

My Side of the Diamond - Sally Gardner
This book took me a little while to get into but then I really enjoyed reading the story from different points of view. Jazmin is the main character and is being interviewed by a somewhat mysterious man. Almost nothing is revealed about him until the end. He goes on to interview other people too and between them you get a picture of aliens, friendship, love, hardship and truth.
Jazmin has been through a lot after her best friend, Becky, disappears. She is torn apart by the courts trying to find out what happened to Becky and Icarus, and what Jazmin's part was in everything. Becky and Icarus jumped from a building but then disappeared into thin air. Their bodies were never found and no one ever found out what happened to them. No one believes Jazmin's side of the story until Mr Jones comes along to interview her and gets the full story from everyone who had a part to play.

28 January 2018

Competition for Robin Hood's Dawn!

It has come to my attention that not everyone uses twitter so I have created another chance to enter and win a copy of Robin Hood's Dawn by Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer!

Simply email me at booktails.comps@gmail.com with 'Robin Hood competition' in the subject. Make sure you're also subscribed to the newsletter. You can enter here and on twitter for double the chances to win!

Competition ends 9th February, UK, US and CA only.

Here is a short reminder of the book, for the full review as well as answers from the authors, have a look at my previous post...

Accused of murdering Lady Marian's father, Robin is sentenced to death in a public hanging. When he is rescued by John Little and his men, Robin becomes an outlaw, pledging to destroy sheriff Argentan and his accomplices, Gisborne and Payan without killing. He decides to make their lives so difficult that they will leave Nottingham and end their tyranny of the common people.
This is an intriguing story of how Robin and the sheriff of Nottingham ended up opposite each other and is full of many surprising twists. It is quite a different take on the usual Robin Hood legend.

25 January 2018

Robin Hood's Dawn - Olivia Longueville & J.C. Plummer

Accused of murdering Lady Marian's father, Robin is sentenced to death in a public hanging. When he is rescued by John Little and his men, Robin becomes an outlaw, pledging to destroy sheriff Argentan and his accomplices, Gisborne and Payan without killing. He decides to make their lives so difficult that they will leave Nottingham and end their tyranny of the common people.

This is an intriguing story of how Robin and the sheriff of Nottingham ended up opposite each other and is full of many surprising twists. It is quite a different take on the usual Robin Hood legend. I have my own suspicions for the direction book 2 will take!

I haven't read a lot of historical fiction but I did love Philippa Gregory's series and thought this sounded interesting so decided to give it a try. It would help to know some history of the period, which is definitely not one of my strengths but the family tree at the beginning helps a bit. There is also an extensive glossary at the end, which is useful for some of the lesser known old fashioned words.

Of course, the perfect cocktail to drink while reading this book is the Robin Hood #1
In a shaker, mix 1 1/2 shot rum, 1 1/4 shot apple schnapps, 3/4 shot lime cordial and 1/2 shot lime juice. Add lots of ice, shake and strain into a cocktail glass.

Read on for a Q&A with the authors and an excerpt from the book... but first details of a competition! Head over to twitter (#Booktails) for a chance to win a copy of Robin Hood's Dawn along with a couple of bookish goodies. UK, US and CA only, competition ends 9th February.

Author Q&A with Olivia Longueville and J.C. Plummer

Robin Hood has been featured in many books, movies, and television shows. How is your story different?
We have taken a fresh approach to the Robin Hood story, and we’re excited to share our vision with fans of the legendary hero.
We have creatively reimagined the origins of the Robin Hood legend, which includes exploring the complexity of his family dynamics - an aloof, proud father loyal to King Henry II, and a kind-hearted, generous mother devoted to ministering to the poor with her gift for healing. One theme is that the consequences of immoral actions and secret sins can reverberate across generations, and this is part of the legacy that Robin receives from his father.
We wanted to cast him as a hero fighting against the tyranny of a lawless government official instead of a bandit redistributing wealth. When Robin is falsely accused of a shocking crime by the new Sheriff of Nottingham, he could have simply retreated to a safe place beyond the reach of the sheriff. However, he feels a responsibility to the people – he believes in the intrinsic value of every human being – so he takes a stand to defend the people from the actions of the sheriff. And this points to another theme: one person can make a difference by taking a stand for what is right.
Robin also feels great admiration for the newly crowned King Richard the Lionhearted. His loyalty to the king will create a number of conflicts and unexpected consequences in the story.
Lastly, we wanted to set our Robin Hood story in a fascinating time period: the 12th century. In our humble opinion, the 12th century has much to offer fans of sweeping tales of political, social, and spiritual upheaval.
We have carefully constructed our story within the framework of real history. We hope that this realism and devotion to actual history will add to the enjoyment of the story and encourage people to learn more about this time.

You’ve emphasized how your Robin Hood story has been reimagined. Will fans of the traditional ballads still recognize this as a Robin Hood story?
There is a lot of variety in the many books and screen adaptations of the Robin Hood legend. We wanted to create a story that was respectful towards fans of the original ballads and legends without necessarily adhering to the same storylines that have been previously written. It is our hope that all Robin Hood fans will enjoy this fresh retelling of the story.
For example, we feel that Marian is a character who deserves more attention. All too often she is a background character with little to do. With this in mind, we have focused on creating a Lady Marian who will figure more prominently in the story, especially in book 2.
Our Marian is more than a love interest for Robin. Over the course of Robin Hood’s Dawn, Marian transforms from a sheltered, somewhat pampered, girl into a brave woman who continuously strives to overcome both her fears and the obstacles that she faces. We also wanted her to be feminine and remain believable as a woman of the 12th century. Of course, keep in mind that the most prominent woman of the 12th century was the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine, an inspiration to any woman living in a male-dominated society.
Fans of the Robin Hood legend will find many familiar characters: Maid Marian, Little John, Allan-a-dale, Will Scarlet, Much the Miller’s son, Guy of Gisborne, and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Readers will also meet real historical figures such as King Stephen, King Henry II, Richard the Lionhearted, King Philippe II of France, Prince John "the Lackland", and many others, including Ranulphus Besace. Who was he? Well, he was a real person who was King Richard’s personal physician!

This book is advertised as the first in a trilogy. Will the first two books end in cliff-hangers? Will any of the books be stand-alone?
Although the final mysteries and conflicts will not be resolved until book 3, we have structured the trilogy so that books 1 and 2 do not end in cliffhangers.
The readers will not be left wondering whether the main characters will live or die, and we have endeavored to create a sense of completion in each of the first two books. Some story threads will be resolved, and some of the mysteries surrounding the main characters will be revealed in each of the first two books.
We think readers will be excited and eager for the next installment without suffering undue frustration at the endings of books 1 and 2.
The books will not be stand-alone.

How did each of you become interested in writing this story and working together as co-authors?
Olivia: I love to tell stories with multi-dimensional characters. I speak several languages, and I found that I enjoyed not only writing stories but also writing them in different languages. My favorite legendary hero is Robin Hood, and my favorite historical figure is Anne Boleyn. My first novel is an English-language re-imagining of the story of Anne Boleyn.
In 2015, I met Coleen (J.C.) on the Internet and we decided to co-author a Robin Hood Trilogy.
It is amazing that Coleen and I have managed to successfully work together on our project despite the fact that we have never met each other in real life. We talk on the phone and
frequently exchange skype messages as well as emails. We have been working together long-distance despite living in very different time zones.
Coleen (J.C.): I began writing about three years ago. I had previously done editing work for other authors, but I had never thought about writing my own stories until one day when I was suddenly inspired to start writing, and I’ve been writing nearly non-stop ever since.
I wanted to write a book that would honor the legend of Robin Hood as a man who stood against the tyranny of a powerful government official; a man who fought for justice and fairness because he recognized the intrinsic value rooted in the humanity of all people.

So, you’ve never actually met, you come from different countries, different cultures, and speak different languages. How can you co-author a book? Is it because you have similar writing styles?
Coleen: Fortunately, Olivia is fluent in English, because that’s the only language I know!
Olivia: We have found that we have a lot in common – especially our love of writing and of history. We have to work hard to merge our writing styles, but we have successfully done this.
Coleen: That’s very true. Olivia and I have very different “voices” and writing styles. You might even say they are nearly opposite styles.
I tend to write in a straightforward, expository style, with a minimum of descriptive elements and metaphorical flourishes. I am good at explaining things, organizing ideas, and creating natural sounding dialogue.
Olivia: My writing is characterized by lush romanticism and passionate lyricism. I love to create metaphors and descriptions which excite the imagination of the reader in a vivid and dramatic way.
Coleen: In some respects, Olivia’s words are the emotional heart of the story, and my words represent the rational intellect. Of course, it’s not quite that cut-and-dried, but it is one way to describe how two people with such different styles have come together to create Robin Hood’s Dawn.

An excerpt from the book that I enjoyed

Marian was laughing so hard that she was gasping for breath. She admonished, “You cannot put a hole in that cloud with an arrow.”
“Why do you have so little faith in my abilities?” queried Robin with mock offense. “You are not even giving me a chance. Very well. Pick a leaf, any leaf, and I will pierce the center in one try.”
Marian wiped a stray tear that had leaked from her eye during her unrestrained mirth. “How do you expect me to choose one leaf? The tree is thick with them. It does not matter which leaf I select; you will always claim that you pierced the correct one.”
She beheld him as he stood there, bow in hand, his pale blue eyes sparkling with mischief, his boyishly handsome face sporting an impish smile, and his wheat-colored hair slightly ruffled owing to their spirited ride from the Locksley stables to their favorite meadow. Marian liked to imagine that it was an enchanted corner of the forest – a refuge dominated by a massive oak, one of the largest trees in this part of the greenwood.
“Well?” he demanded. “What shall I aim for next? I need a challenge, and you will not allow me to poke holes in the clouds, for fear that it will cause them to rain–”
“That is not what I said!”
Robin persisted, “And you refuse to choose a leaf, although there appears to be an abundance of leaves from which you could make a selection. I have already slain a brace of coneys and a pheasant. Elvina and the cook will be quite pleased with me.”
Marian huffed in mock exasperation. “Elvina and the cook are always pleased with you.” A sly twinkle brightened her eyes. “What about the pheasant you missed?”
“Missed!” he thundered. “No, no, I did not miss that pheasant. I never miss. Someone deliberately distracted me.”
“It was accidental,” she insisted with a grin.
Robin argued, “Sneaking up behind me and shouting, ‘Do not miss,’ just as I released the arrow was not accidental.”
Their laughter faded as he took her hands into his.

7 January 2018

Rebel Faerie - Rachel Morgan

I was so excited to get back into Emerson's story and was not disappointed at all! I am just upset that now it is finished and I can't believe this is the last of the Creepy Hollow books.

I was really grateful for the prologue as it helped me to get back into scene and remember where the story was after finishing book 8. My memory can be crap and I often feel a bit lost at the start if it's been a while since reading the previous book. This one jumps straight back into the action but still helps to explain what's going on.

After finding out the truth about Prince Roarke's plans for her and escaping from the Unseelie world, Emerson is desperate to stop him from going through with his schemes. However no one realises or even imagines just how far he intends to go. At the same time she has Ada, the glass faerie, to deal with, as well as getting control of her magic. Emerson has to quickly learn to use her her magic and control her griffin ability, as well as learning the truth about her family and where she fits in with the rest of the rebels.

I enjoyed reading Rebel Faerie so much. I love the characters and the fact that some of them have been there since the start of the books. I have actually seen quite a few of them grow up through the series. There are some great alternative swear words that Dash uses, 'freaking fluff hat' I might even have to try using them myself.

This was such a satisfying end to the series. I will seriously miss the Creepy Hollow world and characters. I'll just have to sit around waiting for any scraps of short stories that Rachel Morgan throws me.

The elixir Em takes to help with her griffin ability is an important tool for her so I created this Elixir cocktail. Most of the ingredients I've chosen have some kind of health benefit. This cocktail will help you reach your full power, it's so full of goodness it's practically a health food!

Shake up 1 shot of vodka, 1/2 shot of lemon juice (vitamin c), 1/2 shot cranberry juice (tons of health benefits, good for the heart, increases antioxidants, protects the gums), dash of grenadine (made from pomegranate, know as a superfood) and a few drops of cherry bitters and chocolate bitters (bitters were originally developed as a medicine, thought to be good for health, plus I got them for Christmas and they taste amazing!)

Pour into a cocktail glass and add some pink shimmer to make it look magical.

I had some trouble getting the shimmer to show, hopefully it comes through a little better in these photos.


28 December 2017

The Cruel Prince - Holly Black

It is so wonderful to be back in Holly Black's faerie worlds. Probably the first faerie books I ever read as a young adult were her Tithe series. I bought the first one on holiday and immediately had to buy the rest of the trilogy, just in case I couldn't find them back home. They still have pride of place on my shelves.

But back to The Cruel Prince... This is such a twisty & scheming tale, set in a fascinating and thrilling world. I couldn't guess what was going to happen, it was captivating all the way through. The ending is satisfying but I was still left eagerly anticipating more.

As a young girl, Jude saw her parents killed by the man who has now become like a father to her, her twin sister, and her older half sister. All three girls were taken back with him to Faerie, where they grew up living like royalty, but Jude and Taryn are still treated as inferior for being human. Mocked and laughed at, despite their father's high position in the royal guard.

Vivi is half faerie but shuns the life and her father and can't wait for a chance to go back to the human world. Meanwhile, Jude can't resist the beauty and magic and longs for a place among the faeries. She knows that to fit in she has to become just like them, and to truly belong she must be even worse than them. She takes her lessons seriously and learns as much as possible about strategy, swordfighting, politics and deception from her adopted father. Using all her knowledge and cunning, she comes up with a treacherous and dangerous plan that could cost her everything if it goes wrong. And there are far too many ways it could go wrong.

I usually shudder at the thought of my favourite books being turned into movies but I think this one could actually be amazing and I look forward to seeing how it is done.

The blood red wine drunk by the faeries reminded me of mulled wine. There are plenty of places you can buy it at Christmas but it's fairly easy to make too. All you need is some red wine, cinnamon sticks, lemon or orange zest, star anise and cloves. Put everything in a pan and warm up gently without letting it boil. Add a little sugar to taste. For variations you can add some sloe gin or orange juice.