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Friday, 22 January 2021

A DOWRY OF BLOOD by ST Gibson

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets. 

 With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.


I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book from the publisher this week, and couldn't wait to get started.

While left for dead on the battlefield, Constanta captures the attention of a mysterious man who saves her by turning her into something else. And so begins her life as one of the brides of the cunning Dracula. A vampire tyrant who hides cruelty behind love and strips freedom away from everyone who crosses his path...

Wow. This is such a lyrical and beautiful story. An addictive tale I couldn't put down.

Told from the POV of Constanta, as she confesses via a series of long and intimate letters to the vampire who gave her a second chance and shaped her world, I was captivated by the vivid imagery and strong emotional impact.

The words captured my imagination and swept me off my feet instantly. The tale that unravels within the pages of this wonderful book is seductive, dark, full of lavish excess, and features many historical settings. It features unquenchable lust and a shared love capable of hurting as much as it pleasures.

All the characters involved in this family are fascinating in their own way. Magdalena is sweet and vibrant, an independent woman whose fire slowly dims. Alexi is a shining beautiful young man with so much energy and enthusiasm who finds himself stifled. And Constanta is a gentle soul full of love and belief, even after her transformation. I was drawn to these amazing characters and drowned in sympathy because of what they go through.

This story is full of the manipulations of a wretched creature able to destroy anyone he comes in contact with. The narrative doesn't shy away from bloody violence, abuse, and dares to tread into some very dark places. It's also sexy, passionate, romantic and so lovely.

It's everything a vampire story should be and more. So much more.

I really enjoyed this book, and the cover is creepy and perfect. Totally suits the melancholy impression Constanta left with me long after reading her last word. 


Thursday, 21 January 2021

My First Mini Reading Challenge


Hey! How are you?

Today, I wanted to stop by to chat about my reading so far this year. I might have posted my personal Reading Goals for 2021 at the beginning of this month and even posted it on Goodreads, but I also like giving myself spontaneous Mini Challenges.

The first one I gave myself was to read 10 highly-anticipated (by me) YA (paperback) books written by women. 

Here's how I did:

As you can see, I actually ended up reading 11. There's a great mix of books in this bunch featuring different genres, authors and styles. And 10 out of those 11 were 5-star ratings! Yay.

I even managed to read the last book in a thriller quartet and the last in an urban fantasy series. Books I'd been meaning to read for years

I'm SO excited about completing these two books. 😃

Well, that's about it. I'm just very excited about getting such a great start to my reading this year. I hope it continues!



THE SAD GHOST CLUB by Lize Meddings

 

Ever felt anxious or alone? Like you don't belong anywhere? Like you're almost... invisible? Find your kindred spirits at The Sad Ghost Club. (You are not alone. Shhh. Pass it on.) 

This is the story of one of those days - a day so bad you can barely get out of bed, when it's a struggle to leave the house, and when you do, you wish you hadn't. But even the worst of days can surprise you. When one sad ghost, alone at a crowded party, spies another sad ghost across the room, they decide to leave together. What happens next changes everything. 

 Because that night they start the The Sad Ghost Club - a secret society for the anxious and alone, a club for people who think they don't belong. 



As soon as I spotted this book in the Hachette catalogue, I knew I had to read it. Not just because the cover is adorable, but also because I found the concept intriguing. And somewhat familiar.

Sam desperately wants to finish his essay, but he stayed up too late and the cat won't leave him alone. Before he realises what he's doing, he's accepted a party invitation and that sets off a new bunch of racing thoughts. If only he'd just concentrated on his essay...

OMG. This is such a lovely graphic novel! Not only is the book beautiful and the illustrations lovely, but the story within these pages is very relatable. How many times have simple thoughts caused a landslide of anxiety within your mind? Until you feel like you're tumbling down a dark hole full of worries that never stop?

Let me take a breath because I know exactly what that feels like. Magnifying the smallest of concerns to the point of exhaustion is how Sam deals with his day. Until he finds he's not alone. And that there are others with even darker and more helpless problems.

That's when he decides it's time to reach out.

The Sad Ghost Club is a moving story anyone who's ever felt invisible will not only relate to, but really enjoy. I Iiked how unpredictable everything was, loved where it ended and thought using ghosts to represent this state of mind was perfect. The message was sweet too. We're never really alone, and there's always someone who'll see you no matter how little you think you matter.

Thank you Hachette Australia for sending me a copy! 


The Sad Ghost Club, January 2021, ISBN 9781444957358, Hodder Children's Books

BEAUTIFUL DECAY by Sylvia Lewis

 

Beautiful DecayBeautiful Decay by Sylvia Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I found last year while checking out Amazon paperback deals. It was cheap, sounded very interesting, and I love the title!

Ellie lives an isolated, lonely life and everyone at school calls her a freak. Even her parents are uncomfortable around her because her touch rots anything she touches.

She wears gloves all the time, her only friend is online, and although Ellie's smart she isn't looking forward to much of a future. Until she meets the new kid in school. Nate has his own condition and as their friendship intensifies, Ellie realises she's not the only freaky person in town...

Wow. I didn't expect to enjoy such an unknown book SO much. It was awesome! I shouldn't be surprised because a lot of great titles slip under the radar, so I'm really glad I found this one.

I was very curious about this book since it arrived and moving it up to the top of my TBR pile was a great idea. The supernatural angle was dark and so fascinating. It was delivered in a very organic way and also took a very unexpected turn I didn't expect.

What starts out as a story about a shunned girl with a rotten curse everyone avoids, soon becomes the tale of two online friends, before shifting to her finding her first true friend in the boy in school. BUT, before you get comfortable with all of that, the supernatural twist hits and you realise the boy has even more secrets than the girl. And that while Nate's condition makes him a little temperamental, there's a real emotional connection between these two. And this is before you find out the secret he's keeping at home! 👀

Yep. This story is packed full of so much awesome stuff, and Ellie's such a wholesome narrator--though she has so many reasons to not be--that I couldn't help falling deeply into her antiseptic, loveless life as she discovers the true sense of mutual caring. As she slowly learns she does in fact deserve love and respect.

I also really liked Mackenzie because she was cool, understanding and fun. Not to mention has her own very interesting story.

The worst characters in this book were the parents. They were awful and kept the secrets they had no right to keep quiet. But it was refreshing to see adults behaving like the assholes some can be to their own children.

This is a great YA supernatural story with some great ideas and some fantastic imagery. Loved it! 🌱

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

CRUEL SUMMER by Juno Dawson

 

Cruel SummerCruel Summer by Juno Dawson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here's another book I've had my eye on for years and finally purchased a copy.

Ryan hasn't seen his school friends in a year. Not since their friend committed suicide after their prom. Now, they're all getting together for a few weeks in a beautiful Spanish villa.

Time might have gone by and put a bit of distance between them, but soon confusing thoughts start to resurface as quickly as memories and the group dynamic. And Ryan's still convinced Janey didn't kill herself... 

OMG! Yikes. Juno Dawson never disappoints. No matter what subgenre she tackles, she sure delivers an engrossing and entertaining story. I was instantly hooked and couldn't wait to find out how this was going to end. 👀

Ryan's voice is addictive, interesting and even funny. He's super snarky too. I love how his side of the story is narrated in a very TV-show style, because it presents all the facts in such a cool way. It makes following this group of friends an intoxicating experience that I found hard to pull away from.

Alisha's POV also provided great insight and filled in the blanks between Ryan's POV. Oh, and the surprise ones were very informative too.

Essentially, this is a murder mystery featuring beautiful self-absorbed young characters who are so obviously keeping secrets from each other, find cheeky ways of concealing the truth by presenting pretty lies, and share a toxic friendship that ties them together. This group has so much room for destruction, it's no wonder they barely talked to each other since finishing school. There's also a lot of stylish drama and biting dialogue. Yes, the snark is strong in these characters. And I loved every minute of it. 😁

Another thing I enjoyed about this book is how well the location and season is portrayed. The description of the villa and beach is perfect to set the summery scene, making the heat drip off every page. Not to mention that as gorgeous as the view is, there's also a strong sense of unease beneath the surface the whole time. And when things start to unravel, it all comes undone very quickly. And violently.

This story might appear lovely on the surface, but there's a very ugly core at the heart of everything. The secrets these friends are keeping provide a twisty and awesome tale of deceit it's very easy to lose yourself in. None of these characters are innocent and it's easy to judge them, but I was still sad at the end. 😢

Man, I LOVED this excellent dark and twisted thriller that keeps you guessing until the end. 

Sunday, 17 January 2021

NONE SHALL SLEEP by Ellie Marney

 

None Shall SleepNone Shall Sleep by Ellie Marney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book that I've had my eye on for a while because the concept sounded intriguing and I've heard great things about it. So I was super excited when we found a copy in one of our local Street Libraries. 😊

Emma Lewis and Travis Bell are teenagers who have suffered through separate personal trauma and survived. This is why the FBI approaches and recruits them to interview convicted juvenile killers.

They're supposed to concentrate on cold cases and provide insight adult agents can't. But when they're drawn into an active case involving a deranged psychopath, everything changes...

Wow. This book is an amazing and addictive read. I was instantly drawn into this story. As soon as it started, I was intrigued by the characters and everything moves at such a great pace that I couldn't help but get swept up in the investigation.

Emma is such a great character. She's smart and determined, she's also strong and a survivor who made it out of a nightmare kudnapping that still haunts her. Travis is a great partner to Emma. He's clever and ambitious, and wants to follow in his father's footsteps after losing him on the job. Together, they make a great team that really bring the story together.

Their immediate friendship is strong and real. I really enjoyed their connection and how well they work together.

Also, I found the focus placed on young killers fascinating. And really liked how the FBI was interested in finding out what makes a killer, what makes them tick, and what the difference is between them and their older counterparts. But all of this pales in comparison when the seriousness of an active serial killer really kicks in and everything they think they know gets turned upside down.

The cunning and creepy serial killer Simon Gutmunsson is also a great addition to this story. He's so Hannibal Lecter.

This is a fantastic book, I enjoyed the hell out of it, and the last one hundred pages were so tense and nerve-wracking. Plus I loved the ending!




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Friday, 15 January 2021

IRONSIDE by Holly Black

 

Ironside: A Modern Faerie TaleIronside: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another book I've had on my bookshelf for way too long. It's also the last book in a trilogy and it's about time I read it.

Kaye is a pixie. She's also a changeling and is in love with Roiben, who will soon become king in the Unseelie Court. Lost and miserable, she's convinced she doesn't fit in either world, even though she's part of both...

I'm so glad that I finally read this because it's a direct sequel to the first book, Tithe, and I loved that book. It's also a fast and entertaining story that doesn't shy away from the wickedness of the Fae, the cruel games they play, and the violence they're responsible for (and enjoy so much).

I love the way Holly Black superimposes the faerie realm alongside the human world. It's the best kind of disorientation, because one minute you understand exactly where the characters are and what they're doing. Then, when everything slips into the very unfamiliar, shadowy realm of the fae folk, anything goes.

I really like Kaye because she tries so hard to be helpful, though she doesn't need to. Even after finding out what she really is and falling for one of them, she still feels like having a foot in each world means she gets left behind in both. At least she has her best friend, Corny.

Well, Corny has his own trauma and secrets, and is willing to do just about anything to get revenge. While also hoping/pursuing his ambition on being different, which has some very unexpected results. 👀

I had such a great time following Kaye to the end of her adventure because it was great and so very satisfying.

So glad I read this awesome story because it was well overdue. And it's a great finale!



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Tuesday, 12 January 2021

TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET by Karen M McManus

 

Two Can Keep a SecretTwo Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm storming through a bunch of my YA horror/strange/thrillers written by women because they rarely disappoint. And this is the next one on my list. 😊

While their mother is in rehab, Ellery and Ezra are shipped off to Echo Ridge to stay with their grandmother. This is the small town where their mother escaped, where their aunt disappeared, and where being a homecoming queen means really bad things...

Wow. This book gets off to a great and mysterious start! What first appears as the mundane misfortune of lost luggage soon turns into meeting an estranged grandmother, a neighbour who lost their daughter, and a dead body on the road. 👀

Yep. No wonder I was instantly hooked and couldn't wait to find out how this mystery was going to turn out. Just when you think more complications can't be added into this twisty mix, something else is added to throw everything out. There are so many secrets and mysteries--both past and present--to sort through.

And all of them, including the revelation, are totally messed up. Seriously.

The story unfolds through the very interesting POVs of Ellery and Malcolm. One is an outsider with a family history that ties her to Echo Ridge. The other is a resident whose family has been tainted by a past crime still haunting Echo Ridge. But their alternating experiences provide a great pace for the mystery to unfold. The story might be narrated by two teenagers, but the issues are all very adult. Yikes.

And OMG, that last line was a total shock. Like I said above, so messed up. This is such a great book!

I'm really enjoying this author's brand of thrillers and look forward to checking out the other two I have on my TBR pile. 

Sunday, 10 January 2021

YOU MUST NOT MISS by Katrina Leno

 

You Must Not MissYou Must Not Miss by Katrina Leno
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So far this year I've read books I've had my eye on for a while, and this is another one. I actually bought this one a few months ago but have been looking forward to checking it out for a lot longer than that.

Also, will you look at that beautiful cover! It's colourful and full of rage and features pretty birds. Yeah, it really caught my eye.

Magpie's life fell apart six months ago. Her father hurt her mother. Her mother started drinking herself to oblivion. Her older sister left. And her best friend stopped talking to her after a big party. Now, she's finally starting to open up to her new group of friends, but she's also discovered Near. A place she wrote about in her yellow notebook...

Oooooh. This is one amazing book that's hard to put into one single genre because it fits into so many. It's a serious commentary on rape culture. It's a complicated look at friendship and family. It's a thorough study about the effects trauma has on someone. And it's a dark fantasy story with a wicked horror lining.

Also, there are so many trigger warnings that can be applied to this story, it's easier to say all of them. I'm not kidding or trying to make light of it. I mean it.

The writing style is so nice, I found myself falling headfirst into the narrative. Magpie's story is full of mystery from the very first sentence and the more I read, the more intoxicating her words become because we get hints about the series of events that destroyed her family and friendship, but it's obvious there's so much more under the surface.

Another thing that I absolutely loved about this book was the weirdness. And I'm not even talking about the surreal appearance of the land of Near. It's everything. In Magpie's school days, her home life and everything in between. I often found myself wondering what was real and what was imagined, but all of it is tinged with darkness.

All the characters in this book are interesting in their own way. Some because they are so kind and nice (Ben, Clare, Brianna, Luke, Jeremy), others because they are awful (Allison, Brandon, Dad), and the rest because they are absent or just don't bother noticing what's really going on (Mom, teachers).

This story is quite confronting and disturbing in so many ways. It also highlights how a nice, average person who's constantly shoved aside can slowly morph into an angry monster determined to enact revenge.

It's sad, relatable and such a fantastic book. I really (really) enjoyed this. I loved the cover before, but after reading it's also a perfect representation of Magpie's experience.


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