ARC REVIEW: The Thief on the Winged Horse

“Happy is as happy does, my brother. If she dwelled on her misfortunes less, then less misfortune would befall her.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I was kindly gifted an ARC of this book by Victoria at Head of Zeus and I took a chance on this one because fantasy is not my usual genre. The book is out now, and I read the book last month in the lead up to its publication.

What Did I Think?

As I just mentioned, fantasy isn’t my usual sort of thing, but I decided to push the boat out and try something different as the blurb sounded too good to miss…

‘The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls since the early 1800s. But their dolls are not coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop.

Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires.

But then, one night, the family’s most valuable doll is stolen. Only someone with knowledge of magic could have taken her.’

I really loved the concept of the book that combined doll making and magic. Doll making, in my opinion, is an old-fashioned art that isn’t done hardly as beautifully as it was in previous centuries. What Kate Mascarenhas does beautifully is take us back to a time where this art was celebrated and magically combines this with sorcery.

I loved the family history aspect to the story, and you can really tell how much thought must have gone into creating this community of doll-makers. Our main character, Persephone, is one I absolutely adored. I loved how strong-willed she was, but I also liked how the author made her naïve to her strength and the people around her, to make her growth more substantial.

A recurring theme throughout the book is women’s equality and I thought it was very clever of the author to raise awareness of gender inequality through the means of doll-making/magic. Obviously, the fact that dolls are women, but made by only men, highlights several issues that we can relate to in industries that exist today. Many of the male characters are sexist (some realising it and others not) and refuse to believe that women have the power, patience, and talent to create dolls or control magic.

“Those men don’t want to look at beauty. They want to look at something made for them, to confirm their desire is the most important thing in the world; they want their dolls like they want their women, a painted smile, no internal life of her own and you can blame her for your passions.”

Instead, the female characters within the book are only allowed to hold working positions such as household duties and retail. Persephone is no stranger to these inequalities and is determined to make everyone recognise her talent. Yet with an alcoholic father, and a mother who left her to make something of herself, it’s not easy for Persephone.

There were many uneasy characters in this book, and I loved how Kate made us believe that it could be any of them who stole the valuable doll.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and liked it more than I ever thought I would. My only issue was it took me a while to get into the book at the start is very slow to set the scene and provide the relevant background information. So understandably, the action doesn’t kick in for a while. Yet when the story does get going, it’s definitely one you wish you’d read sooner. 

The Thief on The Winged Horse

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published: 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
# of Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy
Trigger Warnings: Alcoholism, robbery, family feuds, sexism
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: The Heart Club

My last (but certainly not least) stop on the #12DaysOfClinkStreet is my review of The Heart Club by Tom Treasure. Suffering from a heart condition myself, I was extremely interested in this one when Clink Street Publishing offered me a gifted copy in exchange for a review.

The book was certainly more informative and serious than what I normally read but I was fascinated about the progress medical research and technological advances has been made since the 1940s. A perfect read if you’re looking for something more serious.

Last (but certainly not least) is my review of The Heart Club by Tom Treasure

Here’s the blurb:

Surgery on the heart was explicitly ruled out by the medical teaching of the 1940s.

A team of London doctors and scientists led by Russell Brock were determined to challenge and reverse that dogma. Together, they would help to change the history of heart surgery and the chances of survival for future patients. Brock, who had cared for the injured in London throughout the war, was poised to operate on the heart. The outstanding American surgeon Dwight Harken had trained under Brock at the Brompton. They later spent time together at a US army hospital, set in a cluster of huts in the English countryside in anticipation of the 1944 D-day landings. Brock watched Harken remove bullets and shrapnel from soldiers’ hearts and heard him speak at a 1945 meeting of British surgeons. Harken told them about operations on 134 soldiers, all of whom had survived. Coincidentally, wartime comrades in the allied forces medical services had built a bond between Guy’s and Johns Hopkins Hospital, funded by the Clothworkers’ Livery Company. This brought the surgeon Alfred Blalock to Guy’s in 1947 to perform and teach a new operation for children with fatal congenital heart disease. These were familiar at the time as ‘blue babies’ and the operations began to save their lives. With this tangible evidence from Harken and Blalock, Brock’s group — they called themselves a ‘club’ — set out to advance heart surgery.

Their work was meticulously chronicled in a rediscovered volume of minutes which form The Heart Club by cardiothoracic surgeon Tom Treasure. Many of the doctors who were members of the club were his teachers and mentors. To complete the story, three survivors, whose lives were saved by early heart operations, tell their life stories from being blue babies of the 1940s to the present.

The Heart Club is a remarkable account of the magic of medicine and the tenacity of surgical pioneers.

The Heart Club

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Published: 2017
Genre: Non-fiction
# of Pages: 312
Links: Goodreads, Amazon

Authors I’ve Found in 2020 That I Now Love

Yes, 2020 has been a year of firsts and it’s been a year of complete craziness but in the midst of all this, I’ve managed to source out a positive. 

2020 (and having 7 months on furlough) enabled me to rekindle my love for reading and blogging and has enabled me to become part of such a huge and wonderful community where I can pick one out of thousands of you to have a conversation about books…what more could a girl want? 

So to commemorate this, I’ve gathered a list of all the wonderful authors (both new and legendary) that 2020 has allowed me the opportunity to find…

Beth O’Leary

I was first introduced to Beth through (not a coincidence I swear) Beth’s book club as we read The Flatshare earlier this year. I fell in love with her witty humour and her loveable characters. I have read two of Beth’s books now and each one has left me with a warm fuzzy feeling inside. I think it is truly incredible how Beth can instantly provide clarity on issues you’ve never thought about yourself.

Elif Shafak

Forgive me but I have only just come across Elif Shafak. I know, don’t hate me. I recently read her novel 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World and absolutely adore the way she writes and her descriptive narrative. I also love how she writes women back into Turkish history and culture that they are so often left out of. 

I actually received a copy of her other novel, The Bastard of Istanbul in a Books That Matter subscription box and never thought anything of it. Now, that book is sitting proudly at the top of my TBR list, along with her other work.

Alex North

As you are probably aware by now, one of the first books of 2020 that I read and fell in love with was The Whisper Man by Alex North. Now some of you have since read this book and not been overly convinced but for me this book was the first ever book that genuinely terrified me and made me want to explore the dark thriller and horror genre more. 
His second book The Shadow Friend was just as good and now I cannot wait to see what else this man has up his sleeve.

Matt Haig

Now I wouldn’t say that I’ve only just found Matt Haig in 2020 because I read his other book How To Stop Time whilst on holiday in Dubai about two years ago. However, Matt Haig is someone who takes a prominent place on my social media…and rightly so. 

Matt Haig’s 2020 release The Midnight Library made him become one of my favourite authors of all time. Matt is not shy about his problems with mental health and during a year when I’m sure everyone’s mental health has been affected in some way, Matt was there to provide us with the support we needed and the brutal honesty that sometimes, you know what, life can be shit. But it’s what we do during these days to help our mental health (such as walks, hobbies, or simply allowing yourself to feel the emotions you’re feeling) that matter the most and Matt has been there to hold our hand through it all. 

BRB (does anyone even use that any more) just off to read his other novel Humans.

Taylor Jenkins Reid

OK apologies, yet another blog post where I’m banging on about Daisy Jones & The Six but I promise I’ll make this quick. I’m sure like me, you’ve probably come across Taylor Jenkins Reid at some point this year whether that’s through reading Daisy Jones & The Six or The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Either way, I’m sure you’ve heard her name lurking about your social media channels and with every right too.

I’m yet to read a bad novel written by this woman and the sheer amount of detail, research, knowledge, compassion (I could go on…) that goes into her novel is exquisite. She truly is one of my favourite writers purely based on how completely encapsulated I was by the two books I’ve read by her this year. I was equally obsessed with both and equally heartbroken by the ending too…

Brit Bennett

Certainly last but not least is the incredible Brit Bennett. I read her book The Mothers earlier this year and aside from the fact that her book covers are truly a thing of beauty, I did not expect to love the story as much as I did. She beautifully showed the raw and honest reality of being a woman that can sometimes make the world seem like it is against you.

However with the support of empowered females behind you, well… you can be invincible. 

There are obviously MANY more that I could go on and talk about and after posting this, I’ll probably remember about five more I’d wish I’d mentioned. But for now, these are the authors that have had an impact on me this year and authors I hope to continue to do so for me and you.

ARC REVIEW: Olga’s Egg

My next stop on the #12DaysOfClinkStreet comes with a review of Olga’s Egg by Sophie Law. I picked this book to review from Clink Street Publishing because it looks gorgeous and it was something out of my comfort zone.

Next up is my review of Olga’s Egg by Sophie Law

Here’s the blurb:

When Fabergé specialist Assia Wynfield learns of the discovery of a long-lost Fabergé egg made for the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, she appears to be the only person with misgivings. On travelling to St. Petersburg to see the egg, Assia moves among Russia’s new rich but finds herself pulled back into a family past she would rather forget. With news that a friend is missing, Assia starts to dig deeper. But does she really want the answers to the questions she is asking? Set in today’s glamorous world of Russian art with glimpses into the lives of the last Romanovs as their empire crumbled in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Olga’s Egg is an enthralling tale of love, family secrets and the artistic treasures that conceal them.

I really enjoyed this book and I thought the storytelling was magnificent. If you’re like me, you probably don’t have a clue of what a Fabergé egg is or how to say it properly. I loved how the book transported me into the depths of Russian culture and it was VERY obvious that the author had done her research.

A great read and now I want my own Fabergé egg too…

Olga’s Egg

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Published:
2018
Genre:
Thriller
# of Pages:
314
Links:
Goodreads, Amazon

The Books On My 2020 Christmas Wishlist

Ahhh Christmas…it’s finally in sight and the end to this crazy year is just around the corner.

This year has been a year of firsts and one particular for me has been joining the wonderful Bookstagram community and all the fun things it brings!

So this year, I’m hoping to get LOTS of books (either from friends or gifts to myself) and here are the books on my wishlist!

Daisy Jones & The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

My favourite book from this year without a doubt and I won’t hear anything bad said about this book hence why the hardback and a signed copy is first on my list. I actually sent a link to this edition to my boyfriend…

Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart

The winner of the 2020 Booker Prize just HAD to feature on my Christmas wishlist. I’ve seen a few people give this a read and said it is a worthy winner…I’m just hoping it’s not going to break my heart as much as ‘A Little Life’ did!

Half of A Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won the Women’s Prize for Fiction ‘Winner of Winner’ prizes recently and I don’t think there could be a more worthy winner. So, of course, the special limited edition hardback had to be included on my wishlist.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong

This book has been sitting on my Amazon wishlist from the VERY moment it was published and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve still not bought this beautiful book. So Santa for Christmas I would really like this copy.

The Pull of Stars – Emma Donoghue

One I’ve heard INCREDIBLE things about and I think every one of my good friends has told me to read this one so this one is sitting proudly on my list, don’t you worry!

Songbirds – Christy Lefteri

I read (like most of the country it seems) ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ earlier this year and I devoured it in one whole day. Since reading that book, my outlook and opinion on immigration and the inhuman treatment of those just trying to escape a life of torture and violence. I’m hoping ‘Songbirds’ will be just as eye-opening.

The Betrayals – Bridget Collins

I read Bridget Collin’s debut novel ‘The Binding’ back in March and I just wasn’t convinced. Although I liked the concept, I thought the book took some unnecessary turns. I’m willing to give The Betrayals a go just to see if I like this one better and c’mon…LOOK AT IT! It’s absolutely beautiful!

REVIEW: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

“The world is no longer the same for the one who has fallen in love, the one who is at its very centre; it can only spin faster from now on.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

Towards the end of November, I was really stuck on what to read. My usual books weren’t doing it for me and I had spent the majority of my time reading ARCs, so I needed something different. Molly at Molly’s Book Club chose this book for their book club read and everybody had commented saying how much they loved it. I thought I’d give it a try…

What Did I Think?

I absolutely adored this book and its format. If you haven’t heard about this book, it is written by the wonderful Turkish author, Elif Shafak, and the first part follows the 10 mins and 38 seconds before our protagonist’s brain dies.

As each minute ticks by, we get a glimpse into a different part of Leyla’s life and there were some truly heartbreaking moments. I loved the cultural references and historical background, and all of this mixed into beautifully written prose was exactly what I needed.

Elif Shafak beautifully depicts the struggles of the women of Istanbul in terms of culture, equality and sex. Her harrowing depiction of the impacts that religion, faith and shame have on families is one that will stick with me forever. Not that Elif Shafak shuns religion or Turkish culture in any way, she simply shows how dangerous and detrimental the most extreme versions can be, especially during a time of political turmoil.

The only thing criticism I have is that after Leyla’s chapters, I lost interest a little and kind of just wanted it to go back to Leyla…but overall the story itself was magnificent!

10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Viking
Published: 2019
# of Pages: 312
Genre: Contemporary, Historical Fiction
Trigger Warnings: death, rape, child abuse, prostitution, violence, abuse, murder
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, <a href="http://"www.blackwells.co.uk"/” data-type=”URL” data-id=”"www.blackwells.co.uk"/“>Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: Ballroom Fever

I’m so excited to be joining the 12 Days of @clinkstreetpublishing event that is going on in the lead up to Christmas 😍

As part of this, I was able to read some amazing books which I will be sharing with you over the next few weeks!

First up is Ballroom Fever by George Lloyd.

If you don’t know I’m a HUGE fan of Strictly Come Dancing and anything dancing related really so when I was able to read an ARC of Ballroom Fever I was over the moon!

Everyone LOVES getting the inside scoop on all the gossip and goings-on backstage and what I loved about this book was I got to learn all the secrets behind showbiz!

The book follows George Lloyd’s experience of how he became a rising star in Ballroom during the 1970s. Here’s the blurb:

The dog-eat-dog 70’s Ballroom scene was lubricated with huge amounts of alcohol and sex; and budding ballroom professional George Lloyd was there for every filthy second of it.

Plucked from a life of mucking out hogs, George is snapped up by a London dance school where he becomes a rising star of Ballroom.

The late 70’s signals the death knell for Ballroom dancing across the country. However, the guy who saves the day is none other than George Lloyd, who helps many dance schools by introducing Disco Dancing to his classes.

Through a haze of drink and a coterie of adoring women, George becomes an instant doyen of the British dance scene and is nominated for one of the biggest awards in the industry. But, for every new star on the block, there is always a queue of nasty adversaries, with daggers sharpened, waiting in the shadows.

A moving memoir to say the least but one I thoroughly enjoyed!

Ballroom Fever

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Published: 2020
Genre: Non-fiction
# of Pages: 192
Links: Goodreads, Amazon

If you would like to see what’s happening and who’s involved with the #12DaysOfClinkStreet, you can find more details below.

ARC REVIEW: Breathless

“I’m right here. We’re right here. I can’t tell you what the point of this is except that I’m so fucking happy I met you, and I can’t tell you what’s going to happen… But I do know that right now, in this moment, on this island, I’m where I’m supposed to be, and that’s with you.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I was able to receive an ARC of this book through NetGalley and the reason I requested this book was because I had heard wonderful things about Jennifer Niven’s previous book, All The Bright Places. So I decided to give her new book Breathless a try to see what all the hype was about…

What Did I Think?

I read this book after reading quite a few dark, heavy and spooky reads and I hoped that this book would give me something light to read. I hadn’t realised that it was ‘young adult’ novel and I really loved the ‘coming of age’ element of this story. 

If you are unaware, Breathless follows Claudine Henry’s final summer before moving to college. But instead of spending this time with her friends, she and her mother head off to a remote island off the Georgia coast. There, amidst the wild beauty of the place, she meets the free-spirited Jeremiah Crew. Their chemistry is immediate and irresistible, and even though they both know that whatever they have can only last the summer, maybe one summer is enough…

What I really loved about this book is the story about how Claudine goes from hating the little remote island to loving it. It gave me flashback to when I used to go to a little Welsh island for the weekends with my grandparents and absolutely hate it until I grew older and it became a place of sanctuary and quietness. 

Claudine experiences the teenage dream of having a summer romance whilst staying on the island. This is where she meets the mysterious and island-hottie, Jeremiah Crew, who will make her experience on the island one she won’t forget. I also love the part that Jeremiah plays in the development of Claudine. We go from witnessing a very torn, emotionally distressed young girl to a girl comfortable in who she is and what she wants to be. 

Overall, I enjoyed it as it provided me with the getaway I needed (even if it was only fictional) but I feel like the ending was missing something…

Breathless

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Published: 2020
Publisher: Penguin
# of Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Trigger Warnings: Separation, divorce, loneliness, sex
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

December TBR

First of all, I must apologise for the radio silence recently. I’ve recently returned to working full-time and found it difficult to find time to fit in everything I was doing during lockdown. However, I’ve decided to join in with Ronah @ Read With Ronah who is running a ‘blogmas’ challenge to blog every day in the lead up to Christmas! 

So here’s day number one…my December TBR!

Funnily enough, all the book clubs that I’m part of (except for my local book club) are reading books I’ve already read which already ticks off at least three books on my list for this month. That includes Educated by Tara Westover, This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens and In Five Years by Rebecca Serle!

So here are the ones I’m hoping to tick off this month too!

The Twelve Dates of Christmas – Jenny Bayliss

This is an ARC I received from NetGalley a few days ago when I requested a few Christmas novels. I’ve never actually read any Christmas books or rom-coms but you’ve got to love a bit of cheese around this time of year and what better way than to sink my teeth into a feel-good book! 

When it comes to relationships, thirty-four-year-old Kate Turner is ready to say “Bah, humbug.” The sleepy town of Blexford, England, isn’t exactly brimming with prospects, and anyway, Kate’s found fulfilment in her career as a designer, and in her delicious side job baking for her old friend Matt’s neighbourhood café. But then her best friend signs her up for a dating agency that promises to help singles find love before the holidays. Twenty-three days until Christmas. Twelve dates with twelve different men.

Yet with each new date more disastrous than the one before–and the whole town keeping tabs on her misadventures–Kate must remind herself that sometimes love, like mistletoe, shows up where it’s least expected. And maybe, just maybe, it’s been right under her nose all along…

Christmas Island – Natalie Normann

Another feel-good (I hope) ARC I was accepted for on NetGalley and this one looks super sweet and will hopefully allow me to have a little holiday when I can’t physically go on one myself!

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined.

Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine.

The Christmas Killer – Alex Pine

This is the book club pick for my local book club this month and I have to say I’m excited about reading a Christmas thriller! 

DI James Walker is ready for a quiet family Christmas in the sleepy village of Kirkby Abbey.

But when he opens an early Christmas present left on his doorstep, he soon realises it is no gift. Inside is a gruesome surprise, and a promise – twelve days, twelve murders. Not long after, the first body is found, half-frozen in the snow.

As the blizzards descend, panic spreads through the remote Cumbrian village – there’s a killer amongst them, and with eleven more victims to go, anyone could be next…can James stop the killer before they strike again?

The Switch – Beth O’Leary

I started reading this one yesterday evening so it had to feature on my December TBR. I’m currently 8 chapters in and loving it and I’m quite shocked it’s taken me this long to get round to reading it if I’m honest!

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

 Couldn’t resist the opportunity to plug my classics book club, ‘Let’s Get Classical’, who’ve decided to read A Christmas Carol this December. It’s interesting to hear from members that even though many of them have seen some sort of movie adaptation of this one, they’ve never actually read the original story written by Charles Dickens, so we are excited for this one! 

And that’s my December TBR! Let me know what you think and if there are any on here that you’ve read or are thinking about reading. I hope you have a fabulous reading month and enjoy some of the posts I’ve got coming your way this month! 

Join me tomorrow when I review Breathless by Jennifer Niven

REVIEW: Corrupt

“Things done in the dark hours of the night, behind closed doors, or in the heat of the moment looked a lot different in the morning, out in the open, and with a clear head.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This is far from the usual genres I read but my local book club picked it as the book for this month and I was up for giving it a go. I think the best thing about book clubs is that you can easily challenge yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

What Did I Think?

Personally, I would say that I am a little crude when it comes to the vocabulary used to describe sex scenes and some of the language in this book definitely made me cringe. But by the end of this book, it’s safe to say I’ve got used to the language.

Just to warn you, if you erotica or dark romance isn’t normally your thing, I wouldn’t start with this book. I had no idea that this book was classed as a dark romance until I got about five chapters in and it was evidently clear. There are some pretty horrific scenes in this book and I would like to urge anyone thinking about delving into this genre, to be careful about which books you pick. For me, I’ve read some pretty dark and disturbing stories over the years, but even for me, this book was eye-opening.

Corrupt follows a rich young woman named Erika who, whilst she was at school, got mixed up with the wrong sort of boys and ended up causing a lot of trouble. Since then, years have passed but the group of four men haven’t forgotten the pain she’s caused them and set out to get their revenge. What makes this difficult is that the leader of the group, Michael Crist, and Erika are both irresistible to each other, blurring the lines between love and hate.

I would say that for my first-ever erotica novel, this one was quite a rollercoaster and one that I didn’t feel comfortable reading in a room full of people. However, the ending for me became too dramatic and over-the-top and began to ruin all the drama, suspense and tension that the author had created prior. Safe to say, I can’t wait to discuss this one with book club!

Corrupt

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Penelope Douglas LLC
Published: 2015
# of Pages: 461
Genre: Erotica, Dark Romance
Trigger Warnings: Violence, abuse, bondage, rough-sex, crime, abusive relationships
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, <a href="http://"www.blackwells.co.uk"/” data-type=”URL” data-id=”"www.blackwells.co.uk"/“>Blackwells

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