Grab a coffee and a book…

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That novel I said I’d write – Chapter 1

The new display looked fantastic. They had just had an order of themed cook books and so Cara had wasted no time in redoing the front window with the vintage cake stands she kept in the café kitchen, gingerbread men bunting and the old Alice in Wonderland cardboard cut outs they’d used for World Book Day.

After straightening up the teacups and making sure the Lord of the Rings recipe book was slap-bang in the middle, (it was her favourite, and she’d definitely be making the lembas bread later) Cara called over to the bookstore’s owner, Scarlett, to take a look.

“Only you could take some old Christmas bunting and teacups and turn it into something out of a fairy-tale!” Scarlett laughed as Cara brushed herself down. Handling decorations always meant being covered in stray glitter.

“Well, if it looks magical then maybe someone will actually buy a cook book! We’ve not had a sale on them since last year’s Bake Off final.” 

It definitely wasn’t their most popular genre. Usually anything non-fiction was delegated to the upstairs shelves next to the café, there for customers to flick through whilst waiting for their lattes. Science fiction, fantasy and young adult dominated their main floor and they were often changing their displays to fit what was popular. Cara’s favourite part of the shop was the crime and thriller section, as she was a huge fan of Q from the recent James Bond films (she’d even gone as far as calling her cat Q and had bought him a little plush laptop to play with) and so she’d decorated the space with Bond posters, cat plushies and scrabble mugs. Scarlett had pointed out that only she was obsessed enough to get the references, but Cara had already agreed not to bring her cat to work as an official mascot, and so Scarlett couldn’t have everything her own way.

Their relationship was definitely not one of an employer and employee. Given that it was only the two of them on the main floor every day, as their other colleague Martin ran the café single handed, Scarlett had become like a big sister to Cara and they’d bonded over their love of books and too much cake. Scarlett often commented that Cara had given the shop a new lease of life, as she was crap at window displays and didn’t have an artistic bone in her body. 

Cara had been given a lot of creative freedom when she’d joined. The main floor was now full of dark wood tables and plush armchairs. Lanterns hung off little stands and the exposed walls were covered in bookish wallpaper. Due to how popular their shop floor now was, Cara was now in charge of decorating and event planning.

“I admire your passion, but I think you’re on your own. Even Disney won’t get the next generation cooking.” Scarlett thumbed through the book and pulled a face at the Mickey Mouse shaped pie. She couldn’t imagine fiddling about with pastry when she could just stick a Tesco’s ready meal into the microwave.

Cara slapped her hands away and pulled the book to her chest like an overprotective mother, “it’s about appreciating good food you uncultured heathen. Now, if you’re done getting fingerprints on my books, could you check how many Sally Rooney totes we’ve got left? I might have to put another order in.”

“Um, who is the boss around here?” Scarlett raised an eyebrow.

“Definitely Martin, we wouldn’t survive if he didn’t feed us!” They both laughed and began to finish up so that they could unlock the door. There was usually a couple of early morning customers who liked to get a cup of coffee and read the paper upstairs, then browse politely for ten minutes before leaving empty handed.

To Cara’s surprise though, when she went to unlock the door she came face to face with a man considerably younger than their morning regulars. He was tall and had a full head of dark curls, rectangular glasses and was carrying a brown leather satchel. Cara immediately thought of her favourite Bond character and wondered if the universe was favouring her today.

“Hi there! Welcome to Cups and Books, can I help you with-“ 

“I need a spare table and any nonfiction you have on Oscar Wilde.” He barged past and any fangirl thoughts vanished immediately. Cara frowned at his demeanour. 

“All nonfiction is upstairs, Sir. Right next to the café.”

Mr Rude didn’t even bother to say thank you, and instead rushed over to the stairs as if Cara had purposefully held him up. From the corner of her eye she could see Scarlett at the tills, watching the scene unfold with a puzzled expression. Cara went to join her, wondering what on earth had just happened.

“Why do all the good looking men have really bad personalities?” Scarlett asked, sympathetically wrapping an arm around Cara. “I hope he doesn’t stay long.”

“He looked like an older version of Q! I was all ready to be the perfect host until he opened his mouth. My god, he’s worse than Mr Darcy!” Cara glanced mournfully toward the staircase and then shook her head. It wouldn’t do any good to focus on one bad customer so early in the day, not when she’d put so much effort in with the window display and there was bound to be some bookish youngsters who would want to chat about the new Sally Rooney book or those shortlisted for The Booker Prize. Mr Rude would not spoil her love of being at work.

Sure enough, the rest of the morning went without a hitch. A group of teenagers praised her window display and one of them, to Scarlett’s shock, bought a Lord of The Rings recipe book. 

“It’s the lembas bread, it wins every time.” Cara passed the bagged book over to its new owner, a teenage girl dressed in a Minecraft shirt, with a huge grin.

Around lunchtime they both escaped upstairs to steal some shortbread off of Martin, who had some cheese toasties waiting for them. Bless him. Cara adored him the way a sister adores her older brother, and often commented he should apply for The Great British Bake Off because his cakes were out of this world. He always replied that he was flattered, but if he went on the show there’d be no one to run the cafe or feed his favourite girls. Martin was a sweet guy who baked for his wife on the weekends and then brought in the leftovers on a Monday. Scarlett always said that if he ever quit, she’d sell up because there’d be no point in coming to work.

Mr Rude must have left whilst they were occupied with customers, as the upstairs study area was empty when Cara checked it before locking up. Her and Scarlett had this funny routine of saying goodnight to each section as they turned off the lights and then they patted the door on the way out.

“Another day done, good job today partner!” The two women hugged each other before going their separate ways, Scarlett to the car park to drive home and Cara walking ten minutes down the street to her flat.

Q was perched on the kitchen table when she got in, his little paws kneading his plush laptop.

“Hard at work too?” She grinned and swept him up for a kiss, “time for a break Mr. Let’s get dinner.”

She’d brought back a copy of the Lord of The Rings recipe book and quickly got to work mixing the dough for the lembas bread. Once that was done and in the oven, she stirred some premade casserole and then got Q’s dish out from the cupboard. 

“What will you be having tonight, Sir?” Grabbing two tins from the shelf, Cara held them out and laughed when the cat batted at the tuna, “ah, a very good choice.”

Once the food was done and Q was happily munching his fish, Cara tucked herself up onto the couch and took a huge bite of the bread, sighing with happiness as it melted in her mouth.

“God bless the elves, they really have invented the food of the gods.” 

Q chirped happily in agreement.

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Baby Teeth Review

Thank you so much to Kate from Little Island Books for this copy of Baby Teeth to review.

I was quite pleased to see that it had been written in a sort of poetry format. I am such a fan of how Sarah Crossan wrote her books and so I love it when other authors do the same. I wasn’t clued into what Baby Teeth was about (I never read blurbs) and so I was quite surprised that the main character was a vampire who had lived past lives and was struggling through this one, as well as trying to fall in love.

The way the words are written gives off such a despondent and desperate tone and you can feel how much the main character is suffering. Everything is unclear and a struggle and it is strange to sympathise and pity a character who in other books would be written as a monster.

I found the f/f love trope good, however you could tell from the start it was doomed to fail and it almost ended with a whimper instead of a big reveal. There was a lot of repetition in a lot of the verses although it did add to the aching desperation of the characters.

I did like the added characters of Henry and Freddie, although at times felt as if I was trying to unravel the plot around them as their part in the story was often unclear. I would have liked more plot woven into the verses but for such a short book, know this is often hard to do.

I did enjoy this overall, although instead of a horror it was quite a sad story and I felt pity more than anything.

Final rating 3/5 stars.

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The Horseman by Christina Henry -may contain spoilers

I came for the spooky fairytale and stayed for the trans representation.

The Horseman is an incredible story featuring 14 year old Ben whose life becomes dangerous when something is awoken in the woods and starts killing children. It takes their heads and hands and the grim detail is enough to make you fearful of reading this book in the dark.

I utterly adore Ben’s strength throughout this, especially because everyone sees him as a teenage girl called Bente and his struggle and fight with that was heart-breaking, however he showed so much courage and would not let anyone break him down, including his own grandmother.

There is more to fear than just the monster though. Superstitious and ignorant villagers, brutal men who believe in witches and teenage bullies. A shadow seems to stalk Ben everywhere he goes and what I love is that not all of the pieces of Ben’s story is revealed until the very end, making the ending truly amazing.

Ben is not the only character I fell in love with. As much as I hated Katrina’s views at the start, she really was a fierce woman with more internal strength than anyone in this book, and she had such loyalty to her family that I couldn’t believe how much she’d already endured and was still continuing. Henry writes such strong, well rounded characters that come alive from the page.

I would definitely recommend The Horseman for such incredible content and the twists that permeate each chapter.

Thank you so much to Titan Books for the free copy to review.

Full rating: 5/5 stars.

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Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good

Thank you so much to Louie Stowell for a copy of Loki in return for a review.

I had been eagerly awaiting this book as I was so hyped for more Loki content after the new Disney Plus series, and let me tell you, it is worth the wait.

Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good features our favourite trickster as a young boy who has to prove to Odin that he can be good. With the threat of eternal damnation and torture on the cards if he doesn’t get enough points, Loki must navigate school, homework and house chores without causing any more trouble.

This book was gloriously nostalgic. It was the right kind of humour I hunted for in books as a child, and made me think of the Dennis The Menace cartoons or even The Simpsons. The illustrations are an absolute laugh and I love how the jokes are the ones adults will appreciate greatly.

Loki is also an utter sweetheart (though maybe just in my eyes, I really am fond of him) and I love how you can feel so fond for a character who can be an absolute lost cause at times. Stowell has kept his character true whilst turning a God into a child, and although he is a far cry from the one we see in Marvel movies, the spirit of Loki is very much alive in this book.

What’s refreshing is that we see all the other character’s from Loki’s perspective and it certainly changes things up a bit -I loved how Heimdall went from a fierce warrior to a grumpy old man hooked on parenting books!

I read this book in one go, it was so funny and brightened my day, so any reader who loves Loki and Norse Mythology will get so much joy out of this, it’s something light to read that will leave you smiling for hours afterwards.

Final rating: 5 stars.

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Book Review: Book of Baku

Thank you to Sarah from Titan Books for an Arc of Book of Baku to review.

This novel is a thrilling tale of the nightmares of children and a mythical creature who takes away those nightmares, but then becomes the nightmare itself.

After losing his mum, Sean moves in with his Grandfather and finds a book called The Book of Baku. He begins to dream of the nightmares described in the book, but then begins to dream of children he has not yet read about. Slowly, the Baku is becoming more of a reality…

I found this book so chilling. The slow hints of something bad happening definitely got my attention and I loved the back and forth from Sean’s old life to his new one. The details such as the garden slowly rotting was so effective, and in some way even more frightening than the gruesome stories Sean reads from the book.

I like that the book didn’t just feature a horror story. There was a lot of development with Sean’s relationship with his Grandfather and how he dealt with the loss of his mum and moving away from home. The way the author pays attention to Sean’s love of art speaks volumes, as it often conveyed how Sean was feeling and added more drama at times.

There was one bit of the book which disappointed me, however, as Sean encounters some thugs who use the R slur and kill a defenseless animal in such a brutal way. As a Disabled person myself, I feel the use of the R slur is such a lazy way of adding shock factor to the story and it is now becoming tiring to read. I also thought such a brutal killing of an animal wasn’t needed at all. The book already had a shock factor to it in a rich and creative way, so the tone dropped horribly in that scene and I felt more sad than anything.

It is Sean’s personality that kept me reading though, as grief has followed him and yet even in a place of such horror, he has so much empathy and even extends that empathy to what might be evil. At times I wanted to cry for him and I admired him greatly.

All in all, I did enjoy the book and loved the horror aspects to it, though there was an unnecessary laziness when adding shock factor that spoilt the story a little.

Final rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟

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Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller

I so wanted to love this book, and the fact that I couldn’t seem to understand the plot was so frustrating. This was a book that was so hard to rate, because it wasn’t as if the book or story was bad, but because I couldn’t form a single opinion on what was happening.

Ghost Bird seems to be about the beliefs of First Nation Australians, but also centres on their community and the racism they face outside of their community. When Stacey’s twin, Laney, goes missing, the plot switches between the danger of racist thugs having taken her, or old stories of creatures that have haunted the girls since being young.

My biggest peeve is that I couldn’t seem to learn anything, because the topics switched up too often to be able to understand what the reader was supposed to learn. There were no real details on the different families and their pasts or history, just that two of them had a feud. I couldn’t get a clear picture on the old beliefs as it was just a topic that the families called taboo even though these creatures popped up towards the end of the story.

The only real clarity I had when reading this was that these children were living at a disadvantage. They were in a truly racist town with poor education, some had families who abused them and they weren’t sure who they could trust or what stories they could rely on. Whilst that did break my heart, it still didn’t match up with Laney’s disappearance.

I think the mesh of topics weren’t blended well together at all. Everything jumped into something else too quickly and too vaguely and even at the end, I still didn’t understand what I’d read. Why had Laney gone missing? What took her and how did she escape? I was still asking these questions once I’d finished the story.

The plus points are that the characters really are great. May was my favourite of them all and I loved her approach to everything, even when she was scared or felt defeated. I do wish I’d have understood the story better so that I could understand her part in it more.

Final rating: 2 stars.

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The Prince of the Skies Review and Blog Tour

Today is my stop on the Prince of The Skies tour; a huge thank you to Random Things and Pan Macmillan for a copy of the book in return for a review.

We all know the story of The Little Prince (at least, I hope we do) but do we know much about the author?

I certainly didn’t, and dived at the chance to read about him in Antonio Iturbe’s The Prince of the Skies.

Iturbe has managed to capture much of the poetic beauty that was in TLP when writing about Saint-Exupery, especially his romance with Louise. As soon as I had read their love story and its demise, I knew immediately where the story of the rose came from and felt so much love, angst and sorrow.

Much of the book features a love of flying, and how the characters cope when they cannot fly. The magic of flying is not something I understood until I picked up this book, however Iturbe gives such fantastical perspective to being a pilot that for a second, I wanted to be up in the air too.

What surprised me most was that Saint-Exupery did not seem to be a born writer. Instead, you get this slow burn to how he became an author that is delightful but at times, heart wrenching and humble. I was particularly surprised to see a throw away comment about Thoreau, who could be Henry Thoreau, described as just a passing traveller than a great man. It gives the book this refreshing perspective that at one time in history, these men were just humble men instead of the great authors we see them as today.

There are of course sad aspects to the book and a lot of hardships, but as a reader you can pull through those times with the close bond the men have. The relationship between reader and character is not always smooth sailing, however, as I found them to be trying men who had a lot of ego and learning to do. I did find a love and respect for them though, as they began to learn and grow.

Though Saint-Exupery’s ending was not a happy one, I am honoured to be able to read about him in this book and am forever grateful for The Little Prince. I feel closer to the book and it’s author after reading The Prince of the Skies and can now see the comparison between Saint-Exupery’s experiences and what he wrote,

Thank you to Antonio Iturbe for bringing such clarity to the life of an incredible legend, and thank you for writing such a beautiful book.

Final rating: four stars,

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Assembling the Wingpeople -book tour

Thank you so much to Love Book Tours for a copy of Assembling the Wingpeople by Nicky Bond.

This book focuses on three main characters who are past middle age and seem to be questioning what to do with their life, now that they aren’t young anymore. With romances, old friendships and jobs adding more turbulence than clarity, it takes a high school reunion for our characters to decide on how to move forward.

The two main characters I loved were Bea and Tilda. They have a wonderful friendship, and despite not being close to each other due to Tilda moving away, they still managed to lift each other up from afar. I loved Tilda’s journey in finding herself and how settling into a new town doesn’t always mean settling down. I certainly related to getting a flat on your own but struggling to make it your home!

The character I struggled with, however, was Stewart. He truly is loathsome and I honestly wished he wasn’t in the book. Not only was his attitude towards to women in his life truly reprehensible, but he is extremely spoilt and entitled. Wanting to sack his cleaner because he didn’t recall her working hours, treating Rosie like dirt despite the fact she was holding his business together and thinking Tilda owed him her time when he was pretty much a stranger to her left me with no sympathy at all towards him. In fact, he reminded me of all the men I’ve come across who like to be the focal point in a woman’s life but have no reason to be that at all. He is aggressively upfront and I truly felt sorry for all the other characters who had to deal with him.

Stewart aside, Bea and Tilda made up for his presence and I truly loved how Freya was able to slip in without there being a threat to anyone’s friendship. There is a lovely reflection on how mature adults meet new people who their friends know, and how it is naturally a bit awkward but they’re able to build up to a good relationship with each other.

I think, in conclusion, books like these are valuable for realising that it’s not just young people who make new friends and begin new adventures, but people of any age, and it gives a great insight to the social expectations older people face when beginning new lives or changing careers.

Final rating: 3 stars.

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The Book of Uriel -book tour

Thank you to The Write Reads and Elyse Hoffman for a copy of this book in return for a review. Today is my stop on the tour and I absolutely loved reading this book in preparation.

The Book of Uriel follows a little boy (Uriel) whose home and family have been destroyed during World War Two. As Uriel is Jewish, his family were hunted down and killed and you witness first hand the brutality and evil of the Nazis.

Uriel is tasked with finding the Archangel Michael, and what I love most about this book is it doesn’t try to turn what happened during the Holocaust into some sort of fairy tale. The book is very true, heartbreakingly so, but has this amazing second plot to it which shares Jewish beliefs and stories.

Uriel is mute, but the author is very clever in making his personality shine through. What I love especially is that although Uriel is tasked with this big thing of finding an Archangel. he isn’t turned into a warrior or a ‘chosen one’. He still remains a little boy with a lot of innocence, and the small acts of him messing up a bookshelf or laughing at birds during this dangerous time makes my heart ache.

There are some moments that made my blood run cold, and you do get the full horrifying reality of Nazi Germany. It is especially hard to see Uriel’s rescuer, Uwe Litten, fight with his morals but also work with the Nazi’s even though at times he had no choice. The relationship that builds between Uwe and Uriel is a powerful one, and you’ll find yourself holding your breath many times.

About the author:

Elyse Hoffman strives to tell historical tales with new twists: she loves to meld WWII and Jewish history with fantasy, folklore, and the paranormal. She has written six works of Holocaust historical fiction: the five books of The Barracks of the Holocaust and The Book of Uriel.

Rating: three and a half stars.

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My last time in the World of Mages

Waiting for Any Way the Wind Blows was excruciating -I’m not known for patience. However reading Rainbow Rowell’s third and last (although please write a fourth!) instalment of the World of Mages was something else entirely.

Having gotten through Simon’s depressive episodes in Wayward Sons, I wasn’t prepared for the triple dose of angst that this book brought. My heart was already cut up by their almost break up and I wanted Simon and Baz to sort their relationship out quickly. It took many angsty chapters, me aggressively drinking tea to cope and having to take breaks because oh my goodness, these two are such wild fires that you can’t even read about them without being scorched.

The plot itself was a good wrap up to the last two books. I liked that Agatha got a good amount of scenes without having to be a damsel in distress, and I absolutely adore Shephard and Penny’s growing relationship. Penny was absolutely BAMF and I’m actually a little afraid of her, but adore her nonetheless.

Although I believe there could be more stories to this series, AWTWB is a good ending and I like that it doesn’t close the door fully. It gives fans something to think about and leaves that world open to interpretation.

I fully adored my time with this book. I cried, I laughed, I threw tantrums when characters were being frustrating and I was fully invested. Thank you so much to Rainbow for creating a series that I could fall in love with so easily.

Simon and Baz Playlist

Never Enough -Loren Allred

Could Have Been Me -The Struts

Too Much To Ask -Niall Horan

Hold On -Cord Overstreet

Carry On Wayward Son -Kansas

Still Falling For You -Ellie Goulding