Reading Round Up – December

64. Queen of Coin and Whispers

Helen Corcoran

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Queen of Coin and Whispers

‘She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade.’

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …

This books attempts to be a political fantasy as well as a romance, and fails at both.

I love courtly intrigue and I love a good romantic subplot, and once I heard this was a sapphic romance I couldn’t resist reading it. Perhaps I expected too much from the blurb, but my expectations fell short. I political aspect of the book felt both overly complicated and over simplified in all the wrong places, and I just couldn’t take it seriously. While at the same time I felt the romance began strong but something about it sort of fizzled at the midway mark and never quite recovered.


65. Morning Star

Pierce Brown

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Morning Star (Red Rising Saga, #3)

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

This is a fantastic book and a great conclusion of the trilogy. An ending that truly did not disappoint.

After the dramatic ending of the previous book, I was very keen to get stuck into this one, so I don’t know why I left it over a year to begin reading it. But one of the issues I had with this book was that it wasn’t very forgiving towards readers who hadn’t just that second completed the previous book. There were a lot of places where a reminder was sorely needed about who characters were, how they related, and what events had gone on previously. It took a long while for me to feel comfortably back in this world as a result.
The other issue that stopped me giving this book the full five stars was the weird references to other works–I’m going to assume they were heartfelt homages rather than plagiarism. Whatever their intention, they sucked me right out of the story. For example, the moment that’s meant to be very deeply emotional between Darrow and Mustang, where she repeatedly tells him it’s not his fault in a scene plucked straight out of Good Will Hunting. It just undercut the moment for me, and left me feeling disappointed.

Other than that, I loved the book. And in a world of bittersweet or just unhappy endings, I was so pleased with this one.


66. A Court of Thorns and Roses

Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 1 out of 5.
A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

Why did I read this book? Maybe because I hate myself…

I knew nothing more about A Court of Thorns and Roses other than it was considered very inappropriate for the teenage audience it was intended. “Inappropriate for teenagers,” I thought, “I’m in!” What people should have said was it was just… pants. 

Apparently, the MC falls in ‘love’ but really she’s just in ‘lust’. That’s fine, whatever, but it all became very hard to believe the MC is going to risk her entire life because some fairy has a hot body…


67. A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens

Rating: 5 out of 5.
A Christmas Carol

‘If I had my way, every idiot who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips, would be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. Merry Christmas? Bah humbug!’

To bitter, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas is just another day. But all that changes when the ghost of his long-dead business partner appears, warning Scrooge to change his ways before it’s too late. 

Part of the Focus on the Family Great Stories collection, this abridged edition features an in-depth introduction and discussion questions by Joe Wheeler to provide greater understanding for today’s reader. “A Christmas Carol” captures the heart of the holidays like no other novel.

As soon as I read this I understood why A Christmas Carol is such a classic and why it’s been adapted so many times (The Muppets Christmas Carol is my favourite, followed by Scrooged). I listened to this on Audible, and can’t recommend the Hugh Grant audio book enough. When reading previous Dickens books I’ve occasionally found his meandering style a little tiresome, but when done in the Hugh Grant mumbles and waffling he’s so known for, the writing feels perfect. All Dickens should be read by Hugh Grant! 

It has been a long time (if ever??) since a book has brought me to tears, and I did not expect that to change now. But change it did. When the story concluded and Tiny Tim lived, tissues were required. I’m welling up now thinking about it.

This book also brings up a great code to live by. “I wear the chain I forged in life.” I think that’s something everyone should remember, regardless of religion, and remember the message of the book.

I loved this book so much I immediately bought the Penguin Classics hardback and vowed to read it every Christmas.

Reading Round Up – November

58. Frankenstein

Mary Shelley

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Frankenstein: The 1818 Text

Mary Shelley’s seminal novel of the scientist whose creation becomes a monster.

I read this at Halloween, looking for the creep factor, and it certainly delivered. The scenes are wonderfully painted, as are the characters. You really feel for everyone involved, and experience both characters’ pain as both Frankenstein and the monsters worlds crumble.


59. The Guest List

Lucy Foley

Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Guest List

The bride ‧ The plus one ‧ The best man ‧ The wedding planner ‧ The bridesmaid ‧ The body 

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why? 

I really enjoyed how different this story felt, with multiple point of view in first person as well as the tie jumps. I expected a straight forward whodunnit, but enjoyed the addition of trying to work out who died. By the time you find out, you hate this character just as the murderer (and everyone else on the island!)


60. The Glass Woman

Caroline Lea

Rating: 3 out of 5.
The Glass Woman

1686, ICELAND. AN ISOLATED, WINDSWEPT LAND HAUNTED BY WITCH TRIALS AND STEEPED IN THE ANCIENT SAGAS.

Betrothed unexpectedly to Jón Eiríksson, Rósa is sent to join her new husband in the remote village of Stykkishólmur. Here, the villagers are wary of outsiders.

But Rósa harbours her own suspicions. Her husband buried his first wife alone in the dead of night. He will not talk of it. Instead he gives her a small glass figurine. She does not know what it signifies.

The villagers mistrust them both. Dark threats are whispered. There is an evil here – Rósa can feel it. Is it her husband, the villagers – or the land itself?

Alone and far from home, Rósa sees the darkness coming. She fears she will be its next victim… 

** spoiler alert ** This book did a really good job of placing you in the mindset of the people of this time, and all the restrictions that face main character Rosa. The downside was that the mysteries were answered way too soon and that the reveals just felt a little… flat. Additionally, despite what I said about the differences in society at this time, I wish this book hadn’t included the Bury Your Gays trope. Rosa got a ‘happy’ ending, why couldn’t Jon?!?


61. You

Caroline Kepnes

Rating: 4 out of 5.
You (You, #1)

When a beautiful aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

A terrifying exploration of how vulnerable we all are to stalking and manipulation, debut author Caroline Kepnes delivers a razor-sharp novel for our hyper-connected digital age.

hat a creepy book! I went straight from it to watching the TV show. I really enjoyed both, but you can see how the TV show tried to make Joe more likeable (quickly having his Saves the Cat moment by being kind to neighbour kid Paco). In the book… I don’t think anyone comes off well! A fucked up story about fucked up people, that’s deeply uncomfortable to read, and yet so good!

In conclusion… I’ve set my Instagram account to private!


62. The Hunting Party

Lucy Foley

Rating: 3 out of 5.
The Hunting Party

Everyone’s invited…everyone’s a suspect…

For fans of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a shivery, atmospheric, page-turning novel of psychological suspense in the tradition of Agatha Christie, in which a group of old college friends are snowed in at a hunting lodge . . . and murder and mayhem ensue.

All of them are friends. One of them is a killer.

After really enjoying The Guest List, I borrowed this one from the library and… I almost thought I was reading the Guest List again. Different circumstances, but same bunch of rich entitled people, the poorer character who doesn’t fit, and the staff all in a remote location with the same time jumps. I did get into the story eventually, but couldn’t shake how repetitive it felt. And yet while it was telling the same story all over again, it didn’t even do it as well, with the end reveal feeling… meh. 
I don’t know what other books the author has out, but it’s put me off of reaching for another of hers quite so quickly.


63. The Pariah

Anthony Ryan

Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Pariah (Covenant of Steel, #1)

From the international best-selling author of the Raven’s Shadow and Draconis Memoria series comes the spectacular first novel in an all-new epic fantasy trilogy.

Born into the troubled kingdom of Albermaine, Alwyn Scribe is raised as an outlaw. Quick of wit and deft with a blade, Alwyn is content with the freedom of the woods and the comradeship of his fellow thieves. But an act of betrayal sets him on a new path – one of blood and vengeance, which eventually leads him to a soldier’s life in the king’s army.

Fighting under the command of Lady Evadine Courlain, a noblewoman beset by visions of a demonic apocalypse, Alwyn must survive war and the deadly intrigues of the nobility if he hopes to claim his vengeance. But as dark forces, both human and arcane, gather to oppose Evadine’s rise, Alwyn faces a choice: can he be a warrior, or will he always be an outlaw?

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a fantasy now (like two months 😱) so I decided to get back into it with The Pariah. I’m not a huge fan of the narrative style. It’s told in first person, with main character Alwyn looking back on his life, so not only do you know he lives long enough to write all this down, but he gets to say things like ‘little did I know…’ or ‘he would meet his end in a much worse way…’ It’s fine, but it’s not my cup of tea. 
I’ve been spoiled a little by my run of thrillers and romances, so suddenly having to keep track of the bajillion characters present in fantasy was a little much, and I often forgot names. Mostly this was okay, with the text providing enough to jog my memory, but there were a few scenes (including the climax) where I had to go back and reread to work out what had been revealed and about whom. Similarly, on its length, I would say it could have used a trim. There is a lot going on in this book, and perhaps cutting back on characters would have helped to have a more concise story. 
All that aside, when I finished the book I was curious to know what came next, and unlike other fantasies I’ve read recently, nothing about it pissed me off. So that’s a bonus!

Reading Round Up – September

At the start of the year I set myself the challenge of reading one book a week, and am actually ahead of schedule – go me! For fun, I’ve started to number the books in my reviews.

46. 1984

George Orwell

Rating: 3 out of 5.
1984

Among the seminal texts of the 20th century, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmarish vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life—the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language—and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.

Is my three star rating unfair given what a classic this book is? Perhaps. The world is terrifying (and given the current state of things, the reason I decided to read the book at last), but I had little interest in main character Winston, who served as no more than the vessel through which we see this terrifying world. Apologies for what is probably my unpopular opinion, but honestly, who has ever mentioned 1984 to discuss Winston and not Big Brother?


47. Half a King

Joe Abercrombie

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Half a King (Shattered Sea, #1)

Betrayed by his family and left for dead, prince Yarvi, reluctant heir to a divided kingdom, has vowed to reclaim a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the shattered sea itself – all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of a hard, cold world, he cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so has sharpened his mind to a deadly edge. Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast, he finds they can help him more than any noble could. Even so, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, traps and tragedy.

Thanks to this book, I’ve really pinned down my love of the Coming of Age trope. As a character, Yarvi is instantly relatable, which is not a surprise as this book is penned by Character Master Joe Abercrombie. What is a surprise is that not everyone in this book is a back stabbing stain on society, as I’ve also come to expect from Abercrombie, who can sometimes take Grimdark to such depressing depths I feel the need to shower in Rom Coms afterwards.

While I absolutely loved this book, I have two criticisms. First, was that the “surprise” twist at the end was so obvious it may have been flashing headlights and banging a drum. Second, I have no desire to read the next is the series. Perhaps one day I’ll read it and call myself an idiot, but right now reading the blurb of what’s to come… no interest.


48. 100 Days of Sunlight

Abbie Emmons

Rating: 4 out of 5.
100 Days of Sunlight

When 16-year-old poetry blogger Tessa Dickinson is involved in a car accident and loses her eyesight for 100 days, she feels like her whole world has been turned upside-down. 

Terrified that her vision might never return, Tessa feels like she has nothing left to be happy about. But when her grandparents place an ad in the local newspaper looking for a typist to help Tessa continue writing and blogging, an unlikely answer knocks at their door: Weston Ludovico, a boy her age with bright eyes, an optimistic smile…and no legs.

Knowing how angry and afraid Tessa is feeling, Weston thinks he can help her. But he has one condition — no one can tell Tessa about his disability. And because she can’t see him, she treats him with contempt: screaming at him to get out of her house and never come back. But for Weston, it’s the most amazing feeling: to be treated like a normal person, not just a sob story. So he comes back. Again and again and again.

Tessa spurns Weston’s “obnoxious optimism”, convinced that he has no idea what she’s going through. But Weston knows exactly how she feels and reaches into her darkness to show her that there is more than one way to experience the world. As Tessa grows closer to Weston, she finds it harder and harder to imagine life without him — and Weston can’t imagine life without her. But he still hasn’t told her the truth, and when Tessa’s sight returns he’ll have to make the hardest decision of his life: vanish from Tessa’s world…or overcome his fear of being seen.

100 Days of Sunlight is a poignant and heartfelt novel by author Abbie Emmons. If you like sweet contemporary romance and strong family themes then you’ll love this touching story of hope, healing, and getting back up when life knocks you down.

I decided to read this book after watching Abbie’s YouTube series about character and her mantra of ‘Why It Matters!’ I would say in this she has achieved to set out what she intended, with characters built to test each other, with Tessa and Weston (I keep wanting to say Tessa and Will) perfect for each other’s issues.

Is the book perfect? (Are any?) No. The opening is a tad cliched and all the characters are just too… good? Perhaps it’s that I lurk in the realms of Grimdark Fantasy that skewed my opinion here. I’m not asking for Weston to be Jorg Ancrath (poor Tessa if he were…), but I wish there was a little more lurking beneath the surface. But maybe that’s just me! Overall, a good read.


49. Great Expectations

Charles Dickens

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Great Expectations

‘In what may be Dickens’s best novel, humble, orphaned Pip is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman — and one day, under sudden and enigmatic circumstances, he finds himself in possession of “great expectations.” In this gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward, the compelling characters include Magwitch, the fearful and fearsome convict; Estella, whose beauty is excelled only by her haughtiness; and the embittered Miss Havisham, an eccentric jilted bride.

I knew enough about this book going in (thanks to adaptations and parodies) that I was familiar with the characters of Pip, Estella, and Miss Havisham. But I was not prepared for the character of Joe Gargery, who I absolutely fell in love with. Starting the book, I expected Joe to be Pip’s childhood antagonist (rather than Pip’s sister). How wrong I was and how I raged at Pip every time he treated Joe badly.

This novel was Grimdark before Grimdark was a thing, a complete study of character and human flaws. It could have done with an edit (I say, passing judgement on a classic), but in a book already so long did we need scenes about Pip and Herbert writing lists of debts, or the many, many characters there were to keep track of. 

The bonus of Dickens’ works (I say after reading just two of his novels) is that even when writing, he set his novels in the past already, and as a result explains how things are different. There’s no assumptions from the author as there are in Austen’s work, for example, where owning a chaise and four makes a gentleman of a certain wealth bracket. So it’s easy to read and understand, despite its age.


50. The Court of Miracles

Kester Grant

Rating: 4 out of 5.
The Court of Miracles (A Court of Miracles #1)

In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). 

When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.

Les Misérables meets Six of Crows in this page-turning adventure as a young thief finds herself going head to head with leaders of Paris’s criminal underground in the wake of the French Revolution.

I decided to read this book after hearing about it at Voyager Con. I’m a huge fan of Les Mis, though I must admit to not having read Victor Hugo’s original (the audiobook is 57 hours! I’m daunted, okay!), and have always had a soft spot for Eponine. Author Kester Grant is right, she is the best. 

I had expected something more like the film Ophelia, with the novel simply playing out from Eponine’s point of view with scenes previously unseen. This was definitely better. I loved the story, but in a way would have preferred it to have been an original. That way, I wouldn’t have been constantly comparing changes. [SPOILERS AHEAD] For example, I love Val Jean and Cosette in the original, and to find that even in the two years they spent together they had no bond… crying… And perhaps controversially, I love the original Javert. I was a bit devastated to see the new Javert reduced to a woman scorned (she’s hunting Val Jean because he hit it and quit it; he banged her then canned her). This is supposedly a feminist retelling, and that one just didn’t sit right with me. But I loved the other changed involving Nina (Eponine) and Ettie (Cosette). [NO MORE SPOILERS]

I was disappointed with one aspect of the plot, where the reader is essentially tricked into believing something which it is later revealed POV character Nina knew was a lie all along. That knocked a star off for me.

One thing to point out, because for a while it confused the hell out of me, is that the blurb states the book takes place ‘in the wake of the French Revolution’. So you aren’t confused when Nina runs across the Dauphin, the novel is set in an alternative Paris where the French Revolution was only a failed uprising and the monarchy is still very much in play. 

Saturday Cake Day – Gin and Tonic Cupcakes

This Saturday Cake Day, I’m looking back to Father’s Day (I know, I’m a little late posting this one!). Anyone who’s kept up with my other cake blogs knows it’s not been the easiest time recently, so Father’s Day came with a strong hit of emotions, which given that I love writing, I didn’t struggle to express at all… (and as you may have guessed, I also love sarcasm). 

So this Father’s Day weekend, my little family of four celebrated Father’s Day on the Saturday, which included a trip to a restaurant. The boys began the meal almost in shock, after so long away from a eating out, and by the end of it they begged to come again. On the Sunday, my brother and I made the drive to the Royal United Hospital in Bath to visit our dad. As he enjoys a tipple (possible understatement), I brought Gin & Tonic cupcakes, which went down very well. I also baked extras, to ensure there was some for the nurses taking great care of him, which he could either give as gifts of trade for favours, like cigarettes in prison. 

I baked these not only with gin in the cake mix but also included a syrup, made by boiling tonic water, sugar, lime and juniper berries. Gin was to be added after the boiling, but given the circumstances, I thought it best to add during the boiling to burn off the alcohol but keep the flavour. I had loads of the syrup left, so mixed with extra tonic it made fab cocktails.

Reading Roundup – June

June’s book selection is a little smaller than last months, but my reading levels do vary depending on whether I’m working the day job (always done with an audiobook), or writing. I can’t read fiction while writing, I find it too distracting, and given that halfway through the month I started a new project, the reading stopped. But here’s the round up 🙂

We Ride the Storm

Devin Madson

Rating: 4 out of 5.
We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire #1)

In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson’s visceral, emotionally charged debut.

War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.

Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.

In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder.

In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall.

And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.

As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood.

This was a multi-POV book that really made me look at and evaluate how I might use multi-POVs in writing. Some multi-POVs are different views on one immediate story, this one was different POVs that lead their own story, until they all eventually collided. From time to time I found that my interest in some of the characters stories was dropping, and I was reading their chapters in order to reach the characters I preferred, though equally a few chapters later my interest would have risen in them and it was their chapters I devoured. But occasionally I did feel like some characters had filler chapters in order for the reader to keep checking in with them.

That being said, I did really enjoy the book. It took me a while at the start to sort who was who, and how they and their countries related to the rest. Some parts of the book had my mouth hanging, and I blazed through the finale. I would have preferred the ending to feel a little more concluded, but it is the first in a series (not certain a series of how many, but given that it’s called We Ride the Storm, The Reborn Empire #1, I assume it’s not a standalone!) so I’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.


The Bone Maker

Sarah Beth Durst

Rating: 3 out of 5.
The Bone Maker

Twenty-five years ago, five heroes risked their lives to defeat the bone maker Eklor—a corrupt magician who created an inhuman army using animal bones. But victory came at a tragic price. Only four of the heroes survived. 

Since then, Kreya, the group’s leader, has exiled herself to a remote tower and devoted herself to one purpose: resurrecting her dead husband. But such a task requires both a cache of human bones and a sacrifice—for each day he lives, she will live one less.

She’d rather live one year with her husband than a hundred without him, but using human bones for magic is illegal in Vos. The dead are burned—as are any bone workers who violate the law. Yet Kreya knows where she can find the bones she needs: the battlefield where her husband and countless others lost their lives.

But defying the laws of the land exposes a terrible possibility. Maybe the dead don’t rest in peace after all.  

Five warriors—one broken, one gone soft, one pursuing a simple life, one stuck in the past, and one who should be dead. Their story should have been finished. But evil doesn’t stop just because someone once said, “the end.”

This was an enjoyable read, and I got quite into guessing at twists before they came (always good fun). It couldn’t pick fault with joy in the fun of the story, but I struggled with the originality of it. Likely it’s because I’d just read both The Bone Shard Empire and Kings of the Wyld, but comparison niggled at me. Given the release dates of the books, I’m sure The Bone Maker and The Bone Shard Daughter were coincidences, but given that there was even an overlap of terminology, I occasionally found myself confusing the magic of both books. 

But until about halfway through this book, I was fairly convinced I was reading a gender swapped Kings of the Wyld. We follow our hero who, who is well past the glory days, who must get the band back together to save someone they love. The story to switch thing up about halfway through and went in a different direction, but for a while I was matching up characters, etc.

Overall, I preferred The bone Make to The Bone Shard Daughter, but Kings of the Wyld wins hands down. Is that fair? I don’t know; I guess female protagonists just can’t accidentally get hit by erectile dysfunction potions mid battle. And I’m immature, so that will always win!


Peaky Blinders: The Legacy

Carl Chinn

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Peaky Blinders: The Legacy

The Peaky Blinders as we know them, thanks to the hit TV series, are infused with drama and dread. Fashionably dressed, the charismatic but deeply flawed Shelby family have become cult anti-heroes. 

Well-known social historian, broadcaster and author, Carl Chinn, revealed the true story of the notorious gang in his bestselling Peaky Blinders: The Real Story and now in this follow-up book, he explores the legacy they created in Birmingham and beyond. What happened to them and their gangland rivals?

In Peaky Blinders: The Legacy we revisit the world of Billy Kimber’s Peaky Blinders, exploring their legacy throughout the 1920s and 30s, and how their burgeoning empires spread across the UK. Delve into the street wars across the country, the impact of the declaration of War on Gangs by the Home Secretary after The Racecourse War in 1921, and how the blackmailing of bookmakers gave way to new and daring opportunities for the likes of Sabini, Alfie Solomon and some new faces in the murky gangland underworld.

Drawing on Carl’s inimitable research, interviews and original sources, find out just what happened to this incredible cast of characters, revealing the true legacy of the Peaky Blinders.

No reading fiction while writing, I’m turning to non-fiction. I recently binged Peaky Blinders, loving the atmosphere of the early seasons and then hooked by the story. So one a late night browse of the history section on Borrow Box, I stumbled across this one, and thought why not? Let’s get the true history behind the series (and I love history, so it has to be done).

I love the cover, how it’s clearly not affiliated, but they’ve done their absolute best to match the characters in the show.

Saturday Cake Day – Rum Ham

Today I look back at the previous weekend and the cake I made for my brother’s birthday: a pineapple upside-down cake. And believe me, on that day, cake was needed.

I’ve said before about my father being terminal, and though doctors gave him this year, we’ve really no idea (experience tells me you never really know). The cancer caused an infection in his hip, damaging the bone enough that it needed to be removed. Not replaced. Removed. And thanks to Covid, this was not a night of family getting together in the hospital. Instead it was an evening of waiting by the phone to see if he’d pull through the Hail Mary of an operation. To cut the tension, he did make. I remained glued to my phone, only to wake Saturday morning to news from my uncle, not about Dad, but Grandma. Taken to hospital during the night with heart failure. Ringing my brother to give him the update, and fitting in a Happy Birthday, was not easy. But the week has seen the situation improve, with my grandma able to return home, and my father managing to walk around his hospital room with a zimmer frame.

Oh, and because bad things come in threes, my brother had a reaction to some bug bites and had swollen and blotchy legs the whole day. He rated it his second worse birthday, so apparently, it could have been worse.

Now to move on from the trauma of the day, lets get to the cake. Like me, Little Bro is a huge It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fan. How does that link to a pineapple upside-down cake? Loosely at best! But link it, I did. Those familiar with the show will know of Rum Ham, Frank’s alcoholic snack he’s forced to bid farewell to Wilson style. 

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See the comparisons? Yeah, I did say it was loose, but the pineapple went down a treat on the hot day. And the fruit basically made it healthy, right?

But in conclusion… Happy Birthday Little Bro!

May be an image of 1 person, sitting and outdoors

Saturday Cake Day – Playdough and Pride

I looked through the back catalogue of cakes, and given that it’s June and Pride Month, I thought I’d share enough rainbow cake.

My oldest is rainbow mad, so I made him this cake on his 4th birthday. And yes, for the observant readers, he also had a Frozen cake, but that was for his party and this on his actual birthday.

Remember when we could go places? We visited the Sea Life Centre, had sushi (his favourite), and came home for cake. Good, so far. Except… The buttercream icing is meant to be made using unsalted butter, and I may have picked the wrong butter up at shops. Salted! The cake tasted like playdough and no one ate it! Whoops! But it looked okay, which is odd for me, as before I started trying to make decent looking cakes, mine were always ‘tastes good, looks awful’.

Saturday Cake Day – Happy Birthday Me!

On my actual birthday, my other half decided I shouldn’t have to make my own birthday cake, and so he and my boys chose one from the local supermarket. In my humble opinion, it was a tad dry, but I shan’t hold that against them. My youngest helped blow out the candles (he’s a little obsessed with that) and managed not to spit across the whole thing. Bonus.

Compared to last year’s birthday in a full lockdown, this year my birthday fell the week restrictions were lifted and I ate inside a restaurant for the first time in over a year! Quite the surreal experience. I should also have been able to have 30 in the garden, with a BBQ planned, but I didn’t get so lucky with the weather. Blooming rain. but these cupcakes were made with such things in mind, as I figured cupcakes could more easily be given away at the door or saved for another day. My oldest is rainbow and unicorn mad, and seeing as he has a winter birthday, I made this tower with him in mind–something for him while the rest in the family all do our birthday’s within one star sign.

I also can’t resist showing off all the books I have piling up to read, along with a few other pressies. These days most of my reading is done via audiobook, whether through Audible or BorrowBox, but come Birthdays and Christmases I put a little list together to get a few physical books. I’m also enjoying my nerdy T-shirts. I’m sure most can recognise Grogu (or at least Baby Yoda), but for reference, the other is the Wanderer from Shadow of the Colossus (so I got two Shadow of the something presents!), which I may or may not have played through 4 times in a month….

So in conclusion, Happy Birthday me. I’ve got lots of reading to do now!

Saturday Cake Day – An Unexpected Wedding

Here’s to another working week over and another Saturday Cake Day. This week I want to be a little sentimental with the cake I show off. Pandemic aside, it’s been a tough few years for my family. First, we lost my mother-in-law, then just as she passed her husband was also diagnosed with leukemia. Sadly, he lost his battle with cancer a year later (almost to the day), just as the UK went into lockdown. We’ve still not been able to have a funeral. Then, as if on cue, my father was diagnosed with bowel cancer. At first it was all very treatable, he had surgery and chemotherapy, but this January we found out it was terminal. Luckily, he has passed the year marker and has broken the cycle my family seemed to be stuck in. Though there are a lot of ups and downs, lots of hospital visits, he’s still going strong. 

Now I’ve started this somewhat miserable Saturday Cake Day with a few negatives, so you can see why I choose to focus on the positives! After about fifteen years of being engaged, my dad and his fiancee decided to finally tie the knot. So I went into full wedding mode!

With pandemic restrictions we weren’t allowed to attend the wedding, but we got dressed up to join the ceremony and speeches online (I even taught my Grandma how to use Facebook video calls so she could see her son getting married). The (very loose) theme of the day was navy and rose gold, so I made a foil lined prosecco cake. I would normally stuff that sort of cake with berries, but as it had to travel and be kept fresh for a week before the wedding, I decided to avoid this as I wasn’t certain how well the fruit would freeze. 

A pandemic wedding

Even though the wedding had four in-person guests with the reception being held in my dad and step-mum’s living room, I still made them place names, a cake topper, and with the boys we made cans to attached to car (personalising each can from different family members). 

The wedding went well, though was a little hard to hear and my grandma couldn’t work out how to mute or stop commenting throughout the ceremony! We had guests from Spain, Greece, and Australia, the sort of worldwide wedding only the pandemic can create. 

Congratulations to my dad and Tracy, married 11th March 2021!

And no, this isn’t the Leaning Tower of Wedding Cake, you’ll need to be patient for that one!

Saturday Cake Day – Dinosaur Cake

I know it’s been a while since my last cake day. In my defence there has been a pandemic, a flour shortage, and–closer to home–building work taking my kitchen out of action for a while. But it’s back and ready to get your appetites going. As well as my recent exploits, I’ll add those I’ve created previously (do look out for ‘The Leaning Tower of Wedding Cake!).

Kicking off Saturday Cake Day will be a fault line dinosaur cake! Fault line cakes are often sparkly creations, but I took the love idea and turned it into digging for bones! The bones were created using white modelling chocolate, and given that it was a very hot day, it was sticky business. But it had the desired effect, as my boys enjoyed finding and eating the dino skeleton.

I was fairly convinced I’d get the fault line wrong and it would all go to pot, but in the end it turned out the hardest bit was trying to get handfuls of sprinkles to stick to the buttercream icing (curse you gravity!). I made have cheated and used toy dinosaurs as the cake toppers, but there were well appreciated, regardless. ‘Lophus’ (Parasaurolophus to the rest of us) was a particular favourite of the birthday boy.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the Saturday Cake Day update! Keep and eye out for more 🙂