14 October 2017

The French Exchange Whale - Cal King

Cal King is full of the most brilliant book ideas, but unfortunately none of the publishers agree with him. Eventually someone suggested he create a book of his failed ideas, and here it is!

There's The Mummy's Nuclear Curse, which could definitely be made into an end of the world type of movie, and The Whenwolf, which is actually a very clever idea. Who wouldn't watch a TV series like Meme Street, where the internet-famous who want to escape their fame are put into a witness protection type scheme? I can never resist a sloth so the 100m Sloth is bound to be a winner. Advance warning, the last idea messes with your brain a little bit.

By the end you'll be desperate to find out why a werewolf would bite herself or how a hug might prevent Professor Evilution from turning evil. You'll definitely be hoping for more stories about the Models and the Tiny Penguins.

I found this book hilarious right from the start. There are fantastic illustrations accompanying the ideas and plenty of them sound perfectly plausible to me, or look like they could be made into comics at the very least.

A book like this definitely needs a punny cocktail. This is One Flew Over the Cosmo's Nest.

In a shaker, pour 1 1/2 shots of vodka, 1 shot of cranberry juice, 1/2 shot triple sec and 1/2 shot lime juice. Shake well with ice and strain into your glass. If you have a bird sitting around then that's the perfect garnish.

9 October 2017

The Exact Opposite of Okay - Laura Steven

I am so glad I waited in line at YALC for a copy of this, it was time very well spent. There are such great characters in this book.

I love Izzy, she's so brave, outspoken and sarcastic, her humour is perfect. Her grandmother Betty is the best character ever, she doesn't put up with any nonsense and is nothing but supportive of her granddaughter. You can see where Izzy gets her humour. Then there's the best friend, Ajita. She somehow just knows exactly what Izzy needs and her comments are beyond sarcastic. In fact, the only character that didn't jump out at me was Danny, the other best friend. This should have been a clue!!! (oops, um, spoiler alert???)

The book is written as a collection of Izzy's blog posts with occasional extra comments added in later that add even more comedy. Quite a serious theme treated with a dose of comedy that makes you laugh one minute and cry the next. You can't help feeling for what she goes through but it is dealt with in a way that never gets depressing.

Two one night stands in one evening is not a normal night, even for the wild and liberal Izzy, and unfortunately someone has taken photographs and posts them all over a website designed to specifically to trash her reputation. She needs to find out who is behind the website but none of her leads work out until the culprit makes a mistake and gives her the clue she needs to figure it out.

Luckily she has her friends and grandmother to help her through this challenging time. While it seems there are plenty of people ready to betray her, she also manages to make some new friends and realise that there is goodness in people that she might never have known otherwise. She does make some mistakes and unthinkingly manages to 'out' her friend but thankfully their friendship is strong enough to withstand this.

The end is wonderful and perfectly satisfying. The only thing I could add is that I would have loved to read more about what happened after Izzy and her friends set up their own website.

With all the nachos that Izzy and her friends eat, you need some tequila on the side. I've already made a margarita for The Ice Twins a while back so I decided a nice flavourful sangrita to sip with tequila is another perfect combination.

To make Tomato and Orange Sangrita, put the following ingredients into a small pitcher, mix well and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. 1 cup of fresh orange juice, 1/2 cup tomato juice, 3 tbsp fresh lime juice, 1 tbsp grenadine, 1 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 tsp salt and a pinch of black pepper. This makes 2 portions, to serve, pour into 2 shot glasses along with 2 shots of tequila. Sip together and enjoy!

21 September 2017

Book Mix & Match

I get through way too many books to properly review them all for my blog so now and then I thought I'd to put in a bunch of shorter reviews, just so I don't end up missing any of them on here. This time I'll start with the cocktail and you can pick a book to match.

I found this recipe for the Lavender Martini and couldn't wait to try it out. You need a shot of vodka, 1/4 shot each or orange juice, lemon juice and lavender syrup*, plus a pinch of black tea powder (I just opened up a teabag). Shake it all up with ice and then double strain into a martini glass to make sure you get all the tea granules and ice shards out. This tastes amazing but the only disappointment for me was that I would have liked it to be lavender coloured.

Shadow Faerie - Rachel Morgan
Emerson always thought she was human but has found out that she is actually a faerie, and not even a normal faerie. She has a griffin ability that makes her one of the most powerful faeries alive. Frustratingly for her, this still doesn't seem to be enough to save her mother and she finds herself agreeing to marry Roarke, the prince of the Unseelie court as part of a deal to make him remove the enchantments and wake her mother up. Although this book is continuing Emerson's story, many of my favourite characters made appearances at various parts of the story, which I love. This book was full of revelations and I actually exclaimed YES! at one point as I was so happy to see one of my hunches come true.

Things a Bright Girl Can Do - Sally Nicholls
Three very different girls from all walks of life, fighting for the same thing. For many reasons they all know that women deserve the vote just as much as men do and they are all willing to do whatever they can to get it. But then the war starts and most people's priorities are suddenly very different. I felt quite emotional throughout the book, reading about what these girls and women went through, and the different reactions to the start of the war. This is one of those books that stays with you even when you're not reading it.

One of Us is Lying - Karen M. McManus
Five very different teenagers get detention but only four of them come out alive. Though they all seem to have been tricked into it, their teacher is determined to keep them all in detention, until things turn deadly. Obviously it's in the title, but when I realised I could be reading from the killer's POV it suddenly got much more interesting. I started to pay much more attention to what the four characters were saying and exactly how they said it, looking for clues in the details. The growing relationships between the four were great to read. It was a bit difficult to keep the characters straight in my head at the start and I had to flick back a couple of times where I missed a character change but I soon got the hang of it. I didn't guess what was happening until almost when it was revealed so the mystery continued pretty much all the way through. I really enjoyed this book, I haven't read anything like this for ages and I don't often read mystery/thriller books but I'm so glad I had the chance to read this one.

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Ever since Conor's mother fell ill, he has been getting terrifying nightmares and school life has been incredibly difficult though he welcomes the bullying, feeling like he deserves the punishment somehow. His mother convinces him she will get better and he refuses to believe the terrible alternative. Then one day a monster arrives, just after midnight. But it's not the monster from his nightmares so he finds it hard to be all that scared, until the monster asks the most terrifying thing of all from him. I have to admit I heard of the film first and thought it looked interesting so wanted to read the book before watching. Now I'm not even sure if i can watch it! I cried my eyes out at the end of the book, it was so emotional. I felt Conor's heart wrenching feelings throughout.

The Siren - Kiera Cass
After nearly drowning with her family, the Ocean saves Kahlen and turns her into a Siren. But this comes with a price, for 100 years she will have to serve with the other Sirens, luring people to their deaths to feed the Ocean. After this she will be free to live her life again, but for Kahlen this is too long and after 80 years she accidentally meets and falls in love with Akinli. Though she vows to forget him and continue to serve, for all their sakes, there are stronger forces at work. I loved Keira Cass' Selection series so was excited to read this. It's not quite up to the same level as those but I still really enjoyed it.

Wishbones - Virginia Macgregor
All her life, Feather's love for her mother has been unconditional. Even though her mother never leaves the house and she has to do so much to help look after her, despite the fact that her mother doesn't support the most important thing in Feather's life, her swimming, she still loves and takes care of her. But when her mother collapses due to her obesity, the aftermath reveals so many things that she never could have imagined and Feather finds it harder and harder to accept things as they are. Feather always thought she knew everyone in the village but as she discovers past secrets she doesn't know who she can trust any more. I really loved Feather's character, she tries so hard to help those she loves and sees so much of the good in people. I had to stop reading quite a few times throughout the book so I wouldn't start bawling on the train. I went through so many emotions reading this book and wholeheartedly enjoyed it.

* You can easily make all kinds of flavoured syrups. In a pan, heat up sugar and water (twice as much sugar) until the sugar is dissolved. Add in 1g dried lavender buds for 500ml of water and leave to cool and infuse for an hour. Then strain into a container. I also love making rosemary syrup and you can pretty much make whichever flavour you want.

16 September 2017

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer - Rick Riordan

I have read so many of Rick Riordan's series and I still can't get enough of them. I just love the mythology and his slightly different take on all the gods. This series involves the Norse gods, Loki, Odin, Frey and Freya and many more. This is such a fun book to read, great characters with hilarious sarcastic comments all through, even in the direst situations.

Spoiler alert, Magnus dies right at the beginning, but that's not much of a spoiler as he tells you himself at the start. However, he is reborn when a Valkyrie sees his death and believes he is a hero worthy of Valhalla. It's not quite as you would imagine, more like a very fancy hotel resort, complete with fun activities like single combat to the death, group combat to the death, and buffet lunch... to the death! Unfortunately Magnus can't stay to enjoy the amenities, he has to find a way out of Valhalla so he can save everyone from Ragnarok, the end of the world.

'Myths are simply stories about truths we've forgotten' This seems to be a bit of a theme in my reading lately. I would love to find out that some of these stories of the past are really true.

I was happy to see a link to Annabeth from the Percy Jackson series. Clearly godliness runs in the family as she is Magnus' cousin, though I don't think either knows this about the other. I expect this will lead to further crossovers from that series and I'm looking forward to reading the next book and seeing where it will lead.

While reading this book I just happened to attend a gin festival (not like I go to them all the time or anything...) and saw a new gin called Ragnarok. Coincidence? I think not, so I had to give it a go. According to the blurb, it was inspired by the tale of how Odin lost his eye and is supposed to be an 'illuminating' spirit. This definitely fits in with Magnus' story and the Well of Knowledge. It was a very different gin with the garnish of dill bringing out that flavour most of all. I've been cooking with dill a lot lately so I'm happy to find another way to use it. You probably don't need instructions to make a gin and tonic but the recommended proportions of gin to tonic and 1:2 or 1:3, depending how strong you want it. Most important to me is tons of ice.

You can see the photo with my lovely gin festival copa glass, the perfect way to serve a gin and tonic.

3 September 2017

The Girl of Ink and Stars - Kiran Millwood Hargrave

What a wonderful, magical book. I've had this on my list to read for some time now and I eventually bought the book.  The actual book is beautiful, all the pages have lovely map designs on them, and I think I would not have hesitated to buy this ages ago if I had realised! The story itself does not disappoint either. Though it is aimed at younger readers, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

Isabella lives on an island, apart from the rest of the world. Her father is a cartographer but they are no longer able to map the whole island as the Governor has forbidden any travelling, both around the island and away from it. But when the Governor's daughter, Isabella's best friend, runs away, Isabella manages to trick her way into the search party. While trying to save her friend, Isabella realises she also needs to save the entire island itself from the threat that has appeared. This is something everyone thought was a myth, but as she says, 'A myth is something that happened so long ago people like to pretend it's not real, even when it is.'

Another line I particularly liked was '...she was as uncoordinated as a one-legged rabbit...' it made me laugh out loud when I was on the train!

I have a bit of a weakness for mythology stories so I loved the way myth turned to reality as the book progressed and the truth of why the Governor appeared on the island is eventually revealed. Isabella is a great character too. She grew up hearing the stories and they stayed with her even as she got older and other children didn't want to believe any more. This is why she is the perfect heroine in the story and the only one who could save the island.

The descriptions of the maps are amazing, you can imagine the seas glittering and the forests moving. I would love to have one of Isabella's maps on my wall.

All this island talk has me craving a Long Island Iced Tea. There are a lot of ingredients in this cocktail and it does sound quite boozy but the quantities are small and everything is in equal measures so it is really easy to make. Add 1/2 a shot of all the following ingredients to a shaker and shake well with ice - gin, rum, vodka, tequila, triple sec, lemon juice, lime juice and sugar syrup. Pour into a glass with ice and top up with cola. Done!

I'm very excited to use one of my birthday presents for the first time here. My Wonder Woman jar is perfect for drinking my cocktail from.

26 August 2017

Fandom - Anna Day

A dystopia within a fantasy, this is a gripping read right from the start. I would guess everyone has a particular book or fantasy world they would love to explore, maybe even live in. But that life probably wouldn't be as great as expected if you had to struggle fill someone else's shoes and live up to their reputation.

Violet and her friends have been looking forward to comicon for ages, this is where they are hoping to meet characters of their favourite book and movie. However, just after meeting the star of the movie, there is an accident and somehow they end up right in the middle of the world of 'The Gallows Dance'. In this futuristic world people are split into the Imperfect people - Imps, and the Genetically Enhanced Men - Gems. Gems rule the world, pretty much keeping the Imps as their slaves, and they regularly hang anyone who hasn't kept to their many rules. This is where the gallows come into it. When Rose, the heroine of the story, is killed, somehow Violet has to replace her as the main player in the plans which the rebels have put in place.

This book is one of the proofs I managed to get my hands on at YALC and it was worth the queuing. I enjoyed it, though not quite as much as I expected which was possibly due to all the hype. It's pretty hard to live up to that. It does keep you on your toes as there are so many twists, turns and betrayals that you just can't figure who to trust or how it will end till you get closer. But by then it is almost inevitable.

If you're hoping for a resolution to everything, be prepared to keep waiting. Though there isn't a cliffhanger, there are still some story threads left unfinished, possibly ready for a sequel.

The Act of Violets cocktail was just made for Violet and is perfect to drink while reading.
Into a shaker pour 2 shots of gin, 1 each of creme de violette and lemon juice, 1/3 shot of dry vermouth, 2 dashes of bitters and half an egg white and dry shake (without ice). Then shake again with ice and stain into a cocktail glass.

Dad just happened to visit while I was thinking of making this cocktail so of course I had to make two. Lucky him!

13 August 2017


As I have been reading so many samplers lately, I thought I'd post my thoughts on a few of them.

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr
The descriptions I've read do not really do this book justice. There is so much more to it, just from the couple of chapters you get in the sampler. Though I have to say it is quite a substantial start to the book, some samplers are so short you don't have time to really get into the story, not so with this one.

Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury
The chapter here seems to be more of a prologue to the book so it is hard to guess what it will be like but I really enjoyed it. I believe 'Sorrow' is just a working title. I've heard it will be quite a long book so I am really looking forward to getting into it. If it is even half as good and the 'Sin Eater's Daughter' trilogy I will love it.

The Book of Dust by Phillip Pullman
I'm quite nostalgic for the days when I got to read His Dark Materials so it is great to get into that world again. This time going back to when Lyra was just a baby. This is a short sampler but still enough to know that I want to read the rest of the book... as if I didn't already know that.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
The cover and title drew me to this one but while I did enjoy the sampler, it didn't really entice me to read the rest of the book. I've heard good things about it though so I might be persuaded in future.

Floored by 7 authors including Melinda Salisbury, Non Pratt and Holly Bourne
I am really enjoying reading the scenes from each different character's point of view. I think I already have a favourite, Kaitlyn, and I look forward to seeing if that will continue when I read the rest of the book. I haven't read all the authors before so I don't have a clue who wrote what but I am curious to find out.

Here are some quick recipes for short and sweet cocktail shots to go with the short reads.

Tequila sunrise shot - fill a shot glass 1/3 with tequila, top up with orange juice, then slowly pour some grenadine in. It should sink to the bottom of the glass, giving a nice sunrise effect.

Pornstar martini - half fill a shot glass with vanilla vodka and add a squeeze of lemon and sugar syrup. Fill to 3/4 with Passoa and finish with cranberry juice.

Long Island Ice Tea - 3/4 fill a shot glass with equal measures of gin, vodka, tequila, triple sec and rum. Add a little sugar syrup and a squeeze of lime juice. Top with cola.