4 December 2017

Here We Are Now - Jasmine Warga

Taliah has never known her father, but she suspects she knows who he is. After spending three years writing to him and getting no response, Julian Oliver, rock star, just shows up on her doorstep and wants to take her to meet the rest of her family. Through the book, Julian tells Tal his side of the story of his relationship with Lena, Tal's mother.

The Lena in Julian's stories seems very different to her mother and Tal finds it hard to reconcile the two sides but eventually realises everyone has multiple selves, including herself. She has always thought her mother and her best friend Harlow were enough for her, but while meeting various members of her extended family, Tal learns how to open up and grow.

I found the short descriptions of Jordan full of warmth and emotion. Even though they were so brief, the author managed to put a lot of feeling into them. However, the character development could have done with a lot more. For example, people kept telling Tal that she was too closed off but that just made me feel a bit defensive for her as there wasn't really much evidence of this. I loved the way the parents' story was told in installments by Julian, almost like a separate story within a story.

This book goes perfectly with a Rockstar Martini. Combine 1 shot of raspberry vodka with 1/2 shot each of Apple Sourz, blue curacao and lemon juice. Add a dash of sugar syrup and shake with ice. Pour into a martini glass garnished with pop rocks or sherbert.

26 November 2017

The Summer of Impossible Things - Rowan Coleman

If you kept seeing things that no one else could see, you would probably assume you were ill. That's exactly what Luna thinks at first, until she manages to get some evidence, in the form of her mother's missing locket. With this small but significant thing, Luna proves to herself that she is not sick and there is far more going on. Luna can travel through time, to the days just before she was conceived. Now she has the chance to change everything and save her mother. But can she risk erasing herself?

Luna keeps going back and trying to make things right for her mother, her sister and her whole family, but things don't always work out as expected. Even when she thinks she has figured out what she needs to do, the results aren't what she hoped for and she is not willing to live with the unintended consequences. As she realises how far she may have to go, she also realises how much more she has to lose.

This book is so full of emotions and sensations that you can actually feel what Luna goes through and experiences. There is so much going on with the changing relationships between Luna and her family as well as her mother in the past and the other people she meets there. Every time she comes back to her own time, things are different and she has to learn to deal with the new situations. I really enjoyed the growing friendship between Luna and her mother in the past. Most of all I absolutely loved the last line of the book, but I won't spoil it for you!

I was so lucky to meet the author at a book club event. At the time I was about halfway through the book and got very excited when Rowan mentioned the exact bit of the book I had just read! Hearing her describe visiting the places in the book brought it all alive even more for me and the few titbits and teasers she mentioned made me want to get right back to reading!

As Luna means moon, I have made a Moonlight Cocktail. If you like the Aviation then you'll enjoy this slightly fruitier twist. Shake up 1 1/2 shots of gin, 3/4 shot triple sec, 1/2 shot creme de violette, 1/4 shot lemon juice and 1/4 shot lime juice. Strain into a flute and toast the moon.

12 November 2017

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black - Emily Barr

I'm so glad I didn't have to wait too long for this after reading the sampler. I've been a huge fan of Emily Barr ever since reading The One Memory of Flora Banks so I jumped on the sampler and absolutely loved it. The rest of the book did not disappoint and I loved it just as much.

40 days until she dies. The start of the book sounds clear enough, but as you continue to see these mysterious numbers counting down you realise the meaning is not as simple as you expect.  Ella Black leads a privileged life with parents who will do anything for her. But they don't know she is hiding a secret and is not really the simple, nice girl she tries so hard to seem. When they pull her out of school for an unexpected trip to Rio, she finds out that everyone has secrets of their own and nothing about her life is as she thought.

Everything Ella goes through made me feel extremely grateful for all the simple things in life. My only slight criticism is that the explanation of Ella's secret at the end isn't very satisfying, I feel like it needed a bit more information and was almost glossed over with a fairly quick statement. Other than that, the book was well written and put you right in both Ella's and Bella's head.

Once again Emily Barr has written a wonderful character who is brave and strong but, like most people, doesn't realise her own strengths at first. Ella has to go through a lot of adventures to come to terms with herself but she comes out whole at the other end. Despite everything, Ella is a realistic character.

For Ella Black I have made the Black Raspberry Martini. Add 1 shot vanilla vodka, 1/2 shot each of Chambord, cranberry juice & lemon juice. Shake and pour into a martini glass.

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.