‘Sunwise’ spoiler-free review, and an interview with author Helen Steadman!

Hey everyone! I’m delighted that today is my stop on the blog tour for Sunwise, the sequel to Helen Steadman’s Widdershins which I read in 2017 and loved! I have been eagerly awaiting the sequel since I found out that Widdershins wouldn’t be a standalone – especially since I’ve had a fair bit of communication with the author on social media and she is so lovely! So not only am I reviewing Sunwise today but I’m also sharing an interview with Helen herself! I hope you’ll enjoy it 🙂

Sunwise


synopsisWhen Jane’s lover, Tom, returns from the navy to find her unhappily married to his betrayer, Jane is caught in an impossible situation. Still reeling from the loss of her mother at the hands of the witch-finder John Sharpe, Jane has no choice but to continue her dangerous work as a healer while keeping her young daughter safe.

But, as Tom searches for a way for him and Jane to be together, the witch-finder is still at large. Filled with vengeance, John will stop at nothing in his quest to rid England of the scourge of witchcraft.

Inspired by true events, Sunwise tells the story of one woman’s struggle for survival in a hostile and superstitious world.


my thoughts

Straightaway, I was reminded of how fantastic the author’s writing is. There is a real sense of quality to it, in her word choices and sentence composition. I particularly enjoyed the kern supper scene; Helen’s talent for descriptive writing is really displayed well here. It made me so hungry! Honestly, you could probably get away with reading this book as a standalone but I recommend reading the whole duology simply because the prose is such a treat.

Just like Widdershins, the narrative voices in this sequel are distinct and believable. I had no trouble whatsoever switching between the two perspectives; it was an instant shift. The reader goes from sympathising with Jane one minute to incredulous loathing towards John the next, and there is never any confusion or delay.

Once again, I adored the familiar settings of Scotland and North East England. I think part of why I love these books so much is that I recognise the local area and feel a connection with it.

I love witchy stories anyway but what Helen Steadman has created here is one of my favourites. The multitude of herb lore included shows that the author clearly knows her stuff, lending a wonderful level of believability to the story. Widdershins and Sunwise are both fabulous, and I passionately recommend them!

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And now onto the interview!

 

Hi Helen! I’m delighted to be helping promote Sunwise today and I’m so grateful to you for agreeing to answer my questions. Can you tell us what inspired you to write your first book, Widdershins?

I signed up for an MA in Creative Writing to help improve my novel-writing. I had ages to think about what to write before starting. After reading Hilary Mantel’s amazing Wolf Hall, I immediately knew I wanted to write a historical novel (even though I’d not read many and had no real clue about research). I had no idea what to write about, but I wasn’t too worried as I had a considerable stretch of time ahead of me. One day in the woods, I came across loads of felled trees, which revealed a natural amphitheatre. This set me thinking about what might have gone on there. Florence Welch’s song ‘Rabbit Heart (We Raise It Up)’ sprang into my head and I knew I was going to write about witches. So, I started reading widely about witches and was stunned to learn there’d been witchcraft trials on my own doorstep.

I read that despite the witchfinder being accused of fraud, sixteen people were still hanged on one day, making it one of the biggest (and least well known about) witch trials in England. I was intrigued by the girl who escaped the hangman’s noose, and so Widdershins came into being. That makes it sound a bit easy, but in reality, there were six years from having the idea to getting the book in my hand. At the outset, I was terrified of doing the research, and it seemed very daunting, but once I started, I absolutely loved it.

 

It’s fascinating that Widdershins is based on true events. Did you always plan to write a sequel or was Widdershins originally going to be a standalone?

Widdershins was going to be a standalone, and by the time it was published, I’d begun a PhD at the University of Aberdeen to write my next book. But once Widdershins was out in the world, the characters sprang back to life in my head and I realised they had a lot of unfinished business. The only way to get them out of my head would be to write them out, so Sunwise came along.

 

Who would you say are your writing influences?

I’ve always loved reading and it’s always hard to answer this question! Hilary Mantel inspired me to write historical fiction – I’ve read all of her books, but I love her historical ones best and cannot wait for her next book. My favourite book is Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News and I read this at least once a year. She has such amazing economy of language, and yet she elevates it into something quite beautiful. My favourite author is Peter Carey, and for me, no one does character better. I particularly love Illywhacker, Oscar and Lucinda, and Theft: A Love Story by him. The book that had the biggest effect on me in my whole life was George Orwell’s 1984. I read this at school, and it exposed me to new worlds of ideas and writing. I’m currently reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck and I’m hugely impressed with how he deals with landscape. And poetry-wise, I love Sylvia Plath.

 

One of the things I loved most about your first book was the setting; I grew up in the North East of England, so I recognised a lot of the places mentioned. Did you always plan to write a book set in your local area?

I hadn’t really thought about writing about my local area at all, but when I found out about the Newcastle witch trials, it was impossible to write about anywhere else. My third book is set pretty much on my doorstep and the fourth will be a little further up the east coast. What’s good about writing about the local area is that I know it so well – so I have years and years of pictures of plants, landscapes and so on through all the seasons and can say with a reasonable degree of confidence that a particular plant blossoms at a particular time, which is vital in Widdershins and Sunwise, given the number of plant-based references.

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It was a brave decision to include some Geordie colloquialisms in your books (though one that I thoroughly appreciated!) Were you ever worried that non-local readers would have difficulty understanding certain phrases?

While I wanted to use some vernacular language to make the characters’ speech authentic, I tried to have a light hand. During my MA, we studied Lewis Grassic Gibbons Sunset Song, which made me think about dialect and how much is too much. In the end, I pared it right back, because what works in real life can quickly become overwhelming on the page. What I tried to do was to keep the Geordie dialect primarily with Tom and Meg. Likewise, I tried to be light-handed in the Scottish chapters. I hope what I’ve done is given a flavour, without bogging the reader down too much, or sending them off to dictionary corner too often.

 

Your two main characters, Jane and John, both had very distinctive narrative voices in Widdershins and Sunwise. How easy do you find it to write from different perspectives?

I found this quite easy, really, and I like trying on new people for size. In the original draft of the book, which ran to well over 120,000 words, there were seven different points of view. If memory serves: Jane, John, Tom, Rev Foster, Meg, Lambert Hobson (the ship’s surgeon) and Annie. A few people in my critique group complained (vociferously, in some cases) that this was too many and so I cut it down to three: Jane, John and Tom. This was still a very long version. Slightly before I submitted the novel for my MA, I worried that it was still over long, and I rewrote it without Tom’s perspective. This was a bit of a shame as he has quite an adventure at sea, and I really enjoyed all the medical and nautical research.

 

I love all the natural remedies featured throughout your books. Are you a believer in these practices yourself?

I suffered from terrible allergies for many years (face and head would swell up alarmingly, huge lumps all over me) and nothing helped – it just kept getting worse and worse. My GP insisted on sending me to the NHS Homeopathic Hospital in Great Ormond Street. I protested, saying I’d tried homeopathy, and it hadn’t worked, but she asked me to trust her. I chatted to a lovely homeopathic doctor for about an hour and she prescribed three vials of Calc. Carb. along with a list of what not to do while taking them (no strong-smelling food or drink like coffee, mint toothpaste, etc). After I took them, I had one of the worse reactions in my life and thought I was about to die, but as promised by the doctor, each subsequent attack was less violent until eventually I had no further problems. So that converted me!

Once I realised that many people accused of witchcraft were just healers quietly going about their business, I decided to learn more about herbal medicine. So I signed up for a course in Tree Medicine at Dilston Physic Garden and I can highly recommend it for courses, herbal remedies and just for a lovely day out. I learned to identify different trees and plants (probably the single most important skill to learn in herbal medicine) and then gathered various barks, leaves, berries and flowers and turned them into a variety of linctuses, tinctures and powders. I then bought lots of herbs and set up a herb patch at home. This really helped me to understand the plant lifecycles, smells, tastes, properties and so on. My cupboard is still full of various herbs, spices and essential oils! That said, sometimes all else fails and I get a bad chest infection and then I’m usually to be found begging the GP for antibiotics.

 

How do you switch off and unwind when you’re not writing?

In the past, I would unwind by reading and writing, and by taking occasional walks, but my sedentary lifestyle is catching up with me, so, I’ve recently bought a bike. I must confess that this is an e-bike as I live in a very hilly area, and between my dodgy knee and my asthma, I wouldn’t make it up some of the steep hills without a bit of battery assistance. I haven’t been out over the winter, but I’m looking forward to getting back out in the spring. I was really pleased when I managed to get all the way to Newcastle Quayside and home by myself. I’ve also changed my office into a home gym to try and get a bit fitter and I’ve been surprised at how much I enjoy this – especially the cross-trainer and weight lifting. Otherwise, I take my dogs for walks in the woods and on the moors, and I still spend a lot of time reading and writing, because that’s what I love. I would have added drinking red wine at the weekend, but I’m on the wagon for a bit (we’ll see how that goes)!

Helen and Eric

 

Are there any aspects of your work that you find particularly challenging?

The thing I struggle most with is just not having enough time. I work full-time, I’m doing my PhD, writing and researching novel 3 and currently promoting novel 2. But I love writing and researching, so these are lovely problems to have really. I sometimes find social media a bit overwhelming. I had to get to grips with Twitter and Instagram quite quickly when Widdershins came out, but it feels like sometimes it can take over your life if you let it. I’m trying to limit the number of times per day I look at email, social media and so on to try and get back some control (and much-needed time)!

 

I think you do very well with the social media side of things! Can you tell us anything about the projects you currently have on the go? Anything exciting that we might get to see in the future?

I’m currently writing book 3, whose working title is Running Wolves. This is about a group of Lutheran swordmakers who left Prussia in the late seventeenth century and came to live in the north east of England. The research for this has been very exciting as I’ve carried out some blacksmith training. So far, I’ve made a (badly burned) pendant, a rat-tailed poker, a firesteel and – best of all – my very own sword! I also have a substantial chunk of book 4 written, but to keep myself relatively sane, I’ve banned myself from doing any work or research on it until next year. I must confess, though, there is a sparkly notebook next to my bed (bought by a kind friend with excellent taste) and bits of book 5 keep finding their way into it…

 

How exciting! I look forward to the day we get to read more of your work. Thank you so much, Helen, for your wonderfully eloquent answers; it was fascinating to learn more about you and your writing process.

Thanks very much for having me along to talk about Widdershins and Sunwise today, Alex, I’ve really appreciated it, and thank you for being such a champion of my writing.


Well I hope you all enjoyed that! Helen is genuinely such an interesting and lovely person to chat with; I could have gone on all day! If you’re a fan of historical fiction, particularly stories about witches, I highly recommend Widdershins and its sequel Sunwise.

You can find Helen at the following social media links:-

Website/Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

And don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour! x

Final blog tour

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March 2019 Wrap-Up!

Hello everyone! I’m so sorry for being a bit absent this month; does anyone else feel like they’re constantly playing catch-up? I have had so much going on that I just couldn’t keep up with blogging – I feel like I’m saying this in every wrap-up lately but I promise I’m trying to get back on top of things!

March 2019 wrapup


Review Books

Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist by David Almond & Dave McKean

My first read of the month was this quirky little graphic novel sent to me by Walker Books. I enjoyed the pairing of the straightforward writing style with the mature-looking artwork, but would have liked it to be slightly longer.

 

Keep Her Close by M. J. Ford

A gripping thriller with plenty of twists and turns, that certainly kept me entertained for a weekend! Not a lot of character development but decently written.

 

Welcome to the Heady Heights by David F. Ross

A humorous portrayal of 1970s Glasgow, I really enjoyed this Tartan Noir! Black comedy at its finest.

 

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

While I would say I enjoyed Spooner’s first book ever so slightly more, this was a fun retelling! There were lots of great found family vibes and heaps of feminism, all portrayed through some great writing.

 

Sunwise by Helen Steadman

The sequel to Widdershins proved to be just as high quality as its predecessor, and I got even more from the reading experience since I was able to interview the author! Look out for my stop on the blog tour tomorrow 😉


Books from my TBR

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

It’s taken me two months to get through the audiobook of this one (it’s 39 hours long!) But I’m glad to have read it after enjoying the tv adaptation last year. I loved the wry humour.

 

The Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty

This sequel was everything I hoped for! The world-building was just as stunning as in the first book and I really appreciated the author’s ability to write realistic dialogue. Even if her endings destroy me!

 

Dry by Neal & Jarrod Shusterman

My final read of the month that I technically haven’t finished yet but that I plan to get through before April hits. This one is so compelling and fast-paced! Look out for my review next month.


Stats

Total pages: 3306

Average pages per day: 106.7

Longest book: Vanity Fair (912 pages)

Shortest book: Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist (80 pages)

Favourite read of the month: The Kingdom of Copper/Sunwise

Biggest disappointment of the month: Nothing really disappointed me this month!

Male authors: 5

Female authors: 3


march 2019.jpg

So that was March! I ticked a couple of chunky tomes off my TBR as well as tackling a few review books. How was your reading month? x

‘The Kingdom of Copper’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! I’m really excited to be reviewing what was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019 – The Kingdom of Copper! My review will contain no spoilers for either this book or book one, The City of Brass, though do be careful as the synopsis for this one reveals the ending of the first book! ❤

kingdom of copper


synopsis

Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabadand quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.

Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of the battle that saw Dara slain at Prince Ali’s hand, Nahri must forge a new path for herself, without the protection of the guardian who stole her heart or the counsel of the prince she considered a friend. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her familyand one misstep will doom her tribe.

Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the maridthe unpredictable water spiritshave gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.

And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates . . . and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.


my thoughtsThis was exactly the sequel I was hoping for! Chakraborty’s gorgeous world-building continues after her stunning setup in The City of Brass, with elaborate levels of detail lending a realness to the world she has created. Her writing is as flowing and wonderful as ever, totally sweeping me up in the story. Honestly, everything felt so cinematic; I could visualise everything playing out in my head so clearly and I could properly picture the characters (this is something I can’t always do so I see it as a sign of a great book!)

While the book was a tiny bit confusing at first, opening with a five-year jump ahead in time, I quickly settled back into the rhythm of things. As in the first book, I enjoyed the different perspectives, though I would have liked a little more of one of them!

Chakraborty again displays her talent for writing realistic dialogue. I don’t know how she does it but the conversations just flow so naturally and before you know it, you’re in deep! It really helps with the emotion of it all.

I will say that the book felt quite slow in pace until around the last 150 pages, at which point the drama really ramped up. However, I actually enjoyed getting immersed in the building political schemes so I didn’t mind the pace dragging a little.

I wholeheartedly recommend this adult fantasy series! I’ll just be over here slowly dying while I wait for book three…!

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Have you tried this series yet? What are some of your favourite fantasy stories? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

Interview with C. G. Drews!

Hey everyone! I am so excited to be bringing you an interview with the fabulous C. G. Drews! In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, Cait is basically an internet queen, running a fantastic blog and bookstagram and frequently going viral on Twitter. On top of this, she’s also a successful author. Her debut, A Thousand Perfect Notes, released last year and was one of my favourite reads of 2018, and now we are less than two weeks away from the release of her second book, The Boy Who Steals Houses!

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Cait recently and I’m delighted to be sharing that interview with you now 🙂


Hi Cait! Thanks so much for agreeing to an interview; I can’t wait to sing your praises on my blog! Your blog was the first one I ever discovered. Can you remember what your first ever post was?!

Honestly, my blogging beginning was rather tragic in that I had no idea how to blog and alternated between posting Lewis Carroll poems and holiday photos haha. I do believe my first ever post was the Jabberwocky poem?!

 

I love the Jabberwocky! So that was your first post… but what would you say is your favourite blog post you’ve written?

I am  really fond of a post I wrote back in 2016 called 10 Dreadful Things That Will Happen If You Read Too Much and it’s a total parody that made me laugh a lot while I wrote it!

 

Ah I remember that one! It definitely gave me a giggle. How do you maintain a balance between writing and blogging? Would you consider yourself quite organised?

I’m noooot organised! Sometimes I’m scraping to put up a blog post at the last second or writing ’til midnight because I spent hours formatting a post. (So basically if anyone has the secret spell to get more hours in their day?! I would love to know. Muchly so.) My best way to keep balance is just that I don’t blog AND write on the same days. That way I don’t have to shift focus too much.

 

I need that secret spell too! Do share it if you ever find it hehe. What were the pros and cons of being famous in the blogging community before releasing your first book?

Aw, I’m blushing that you said famous! I’m not sure I am that well known haha, but it did give me a solid base of readers who were already lovely and loyal and keen to read my writing! My blogging community’s support has been priceless.

I think the sole con is that many people assumed my blog is the reason I got a book deal. It’s not true oops. I was writing and working towards publishing before my blog even took off. And I hope that encourages fledgling writers too: your work gets you published first and foremost!

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You describe The Boy Who Steals Houses as a genderbent Goldilocks retelling – what inspired that genius idea?!

I often go on long walks, so passing empty houses led my imagination to ponder the idea of a teenage burglar who maybe was there to steal the house instead of the things inside it. I’m a huge lover of retellings, so this fit with the premise of Goldilocks… and my story unfurled from there.

 

What would you say is the unique selling point for your books, the one thing that makes them stand out from the crowd?

I’d like to say it’s my writing voice! I love mixing whimsical metaphors with punchy banter, and I write in a very close 3rd person. I hope my words fold around readers and make them feel like they’re inside the story. (And I always think YA needs more books that feature big families. So I can’t wait for everyone to meet my De Laineys and their seven loudly messy kids.)

 

I can’t wait either! Your writing voice was one of my favourite things about your debut. What have been some of your favourite reactions to A Thousand Perfect Notes? Did you get responses from famous authors?!

It’s made my day to have people storm into my mentions in all caps saying: WHY DID YOU HURT ME LIKE THIS. So nice! So kind! I do my best! And having readers make fanart, or enamel pins, or design bookmarks to go with ATPN!? I can’t even express how much that means to me!

Also, Laini Taylor replied to my publication day tweet with a congratulations and I HAVE ASCENDED.

 

We’re all here for the heartbreak 😉 And Laini Taylor is a QUEEN, I would have died. Now, to help us survive the wait for The Boy Who Steals Houses and the inevitable hangover afterwards, can you recommend any books that you feel are similar to your own work?

Ooh yes! Try to pick up A List of Cages by Robin Roe, Boomerang by Helene Dunbar or The Wicker King by K. Ancrum while you wait! Can’t recommend these three enough and they’d fit nicely next to The Boy Who Steals Houses.

I second Cait’s recommendation of The Wicker King, it’s fantastic!

 

You have spoken on social media about being an #ownvoices autistic author (thank you so much for this!) How do you find that this affects you in your role as an author, and life in general?

One thing I loved being able to include in TBWSH was Sam’s autistic older brother: Avery. While his experiences and reactions aren’t mine, I did pull a lot of autism feels from my own life and I hope readers fall in love with this messy, explosive but sweethearted kid. As for autism affecting my work as an author: it definitely does. I have a lot of communication fails when writing how I see the world vs how neurotypical people interpret things. But that’s also part of learning to write: you grow and you do your best! And an amazing part of being an autistic writer? I’m able to hyper focus. So when people ask how I can write a draft in 3 days?! This is how!

 

Thank you for sharing your experiences! While I don’t have experience of autism, I do relate strongly to your battles with anxiety. Can you share any tips with readers on how you manage this?

I rely on two things: (1) having friends and family I can lean on to vent or just listen while I whine like a miserable gnat for a while, and (2) distraction! I am master of writing a million books so I don’t have to think about the anxiety-inducing parts of publishing. (Also, I’m not saying cake cures anxiety, but it’s pretty freaking delicious. So have at it.)

a thousand perfect notes

 

Sound advice 😉 Speaking of, what’s your favourite type of cake?

Chocolate brownie cheesecake!

 

And just for fun, what is your Hogwarts house?

I’m a Slytherin.

 

And your OTP?

Both Blusey and Pynch from The Raven Cycle ahhh!

 

Thank you so much Cait for taking the time to answer my questions! I hope everyone is as excited for The Boy Who Steals Houses as I am!


C.G. Drews lives in Australia with an overworked laptop and the goal of reading every book in existence. Consequently, her brain has overflowed with words and she spends her days writing novels to make you laugh or cry (or both). She never sleeps and believes in cake for breakfast.

c g drews

You can find Cait at these social media links!

And if you’re interested in reading my review of Cait’s debut, A Thousand Perfect Notes, you can find it here!

 

‘The Hand, The Eye & The Heart’ blog tour! A very special Music Monday

Hello lovely people! I am absolutely DELIGTHED to be kicking off the Walker Books blog tour for The Hand, The Eye and The Heart by Zoë Marriott! When I heard that this book was a reimagining of the story of Mulan, I just knew that the beautiful ‘Reflection’ from the original Disney movie would pair with it perfectly.

First of all, take a look at what the book is about…

the hand the eye the heart.jpgZhilan was assigned female at birth; despite an unusual gift for illusions, they know they will live out their life in the perfumed confines of the women’s quarters. But when civil war sets the country aflame, Zhilan is the only one who can save their disabled Father from death on the battlefield.

By taking his place.

Surviving brutal army training as a male recruit – Zhi – is only the first challenge. Soon Zhi’s unique talents draw them into an even more perilous fight, in the glittering court of the Land of Dragons, where love and betrayal are two sides of the same smile. The fate of an Empire rests on Zhi’s shoulders. But to win, they must first decide where their loyalty, and their heart, truly belongs.

I am so excited to be reading a book about a non-binary character and I think this concept will lend itself perfectly to the story of Mulan. I’m so happy to be promoting this book!

The lyrics of ‘Reflection’ talk about being unable to realise your true self and the pressures to conform to what other people expect of you. So this post is sending a lot of love to anyone struggling with these feelings – I hope you enjoy the song and that you will consider picking up Zoë’s book ❤


Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour – there is some real talent being showcased! x

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‘Sherwood’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! After reading and loving Hunted in January, I was delighted to receive an ARC of Sherwood by Meagan Spooner from Harper 360! The opinions expressed here are my own and are in no way influenced by the publisher.

Sherwood review


synopsisRobin of Locksley is dead.

Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on, but the people of Locksley town, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, need a protector. And the dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiancé.

Who is there to stop them?

Marian never meant to tread in Robin’s footsteps—never intended to stand as a beacon of hope to those awaiting his triumphant return. But with a sweep of his green cloak and the flash of her sword, Marian makes the choice to become her own hero: Robin Hood.


my thoughtsI’m really liking the way Meagan Spooner writes! This is the second book of hers that I’ve read and I’ve been impressed both times. There is some lovely lyrical writing, realistic dialogue and a good amount of world-building. I could really picture Sherwood forest and I particularly liked the sensory detail that was included, such as the autumn smells of rain and bonfires (heart eyes everywhere!)

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was the portrayal of Marian’s grief and anxiety. Maybe enjoyed is the wrong word? What I mean is that I found it highly believable and appreciated its inclusion. It is wonderful to see more fantasy books exploring mental health topics as this is something that has previously been neglected.

There were some really great feminist vibes throughout the book, with both Marian and her maid Elena fighting for girl power! It was impossible not to root for them.

I also loved the found family aspect of the book. ‘Robin Hood’ and the band of merry men form a fantastic group contributing both humour and poignancy to the story. And there were some very interesting moral questions raised.

There was a slightly strange enemies-to-lovers trope that I wasn’t too sure about, though it certainly added an interesting dynamic to the story. It just wasn’t really where I wanted things to go. I did, however, find the ending to be quite satisfying; I wasn’t sure how Spooner would be able to wrap things up but I think she did a good job.

Overall, this was a fun read and I would recommend both this and Hunted to any fans of retellings!

4 notesA final rating of 4 musical notes! 

sherwood

Sherwood releases in the UK on April 18th.

Music Monday – On Golden Pond

Happy Music Monday everyone 🙂

Today, I’ve got a lesser-known piece for you. It’s the main theme from the 1981 movie On Golden Pond, starring Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda and his daughter Jane. The film centres on an elderly couple living by a lake in New England, and it’s seriously gorgeous.

The film’s soundtrack was written by Dave Grusin and fits the tone of the movie perfectly. Grusin described the score as a departure from his usual style, in terms of how much emphasis was given to the piano.

I’ve heard a few interpretations of this song and some play it a bit faster than I do but I think it’s such a beautiful piece that it deserves not to be rushed. I hope it brings some peace and tranquility to your Monday ❤

‘Keep Her Close’ spoiler-free mini review!

Hey everyone! I’m reviewing a thriller tonight that was kindly sent to me by Avon Books!

keep her close


synopsis

It’s six months since DS Josie Masters saved her nephew from the clutches of the killer clown, but she’s still haunted by that terrible night. The Thames Valley police force, however, regard Jo as a hero – much to the jealousy of some of her colleagues.

When a young girl goes missing from Jesus College, Jo is assigned to the case, along with new recruit, the handsome DS Pryce. The city of Oxford goes into turmoil when two more girls disappear from Oriel and Somerville, and Josie soon realises that the killer is spelling out her own initials in a deadly game of cat and mouse. This time, the case is personal – but who is the perpetrator?

In a race against time, Jo hunts for the killer – but soon realises he could be a lot closer to home than she’d realised…


my thoughtsThis second thriller by M. J. Ford was just as gripping and easy to fly through as the first. There were plenty of twists and turns which is just what I want from this kind of book.

In terms of character development, it was ok but a bit sparse compared with other similar series I’ve read. Also, while I liked the main characters, the supporting characters were quite indistinguishable from one another. They almost blended together in my mind. I guess it worked to keep the focus on the right people but I personally like everyone to feel a bit more real.

There’s so much I wanted to talk about in my initial reading notes but when I reached the end, there was a huge twist that then affected everything I’d said! I can’t talk about any of it now without it being a spoiler. I guess the author succeeded in throwing me off the scent and surprising me!

All I can say is that this is a decently-written thriller that will keep you gripped and entertained for a weekend if it’s the kind of thing you’re into 🙂

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‘Welcome to the Heady Heights’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! I’m delighted that today is my stop on the blog tour for Welcome to the Heady Heights – I can’t wait to chat about this book with you! A big thank you to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for the free copy 🙂

welcome to the heady heights


synopsisWelcome to the Heady Heights…

It’s the year punk rock was born, Concorde entered commercial service and a tiny Romanian gymnast changed the sport forever.

Archie Blunt is a man with big ideas. He just needs a break for them to be realised. In a bizarre brush with the light-entertainment business, Archie unwittingly saves the life of the UK’s top showbiz star, Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks’, and now dreams of hitting the big-time as a Popular Music Impresario. Seizing the initiative, he creates a new singing group with five unruly working-class kids from Glasgow’s East End. Together, they make the finals of a televised Saturday-night talent show, and before they know it, fame and fortune beckon for Archie and The High Five. But there’s a complication; a trail of irate Glaswegian bookies, corrupt politicians and a determined Scottish WPC known as The Tank are all on his tail…

A hilarious and poignant nod to the elusivity of stardom, in an age when making it was ‘having it all’, Welcome to the Heady Heights is also a dark, laugh-out-loud comedy, a heart-warming tribute to a bygone age and a delicious drama about desperate men, connected by secrets and lies, by accidents of time and, most of all, the city they live in.


my thoughts

I felt an instant liking towards this book. I lived in Glasgow for five years and this book references SO many places that I’ve visited or know about. I love when a book really captures the essence of a place and this one certainly did that. Billy Connolly of course gets a mention and even Queen were in there with Bohemian Rhapsody, which made my fangirl heart very happy! So even though I couldn’t relate personally to the protagonist Archie, I felt a degree of connection with him thanks to the author’s vivid realisation of the setting. 

The dialogue in particular was one of my favourite aspects of the book. Ross writes in a realistically Scottish manner (swear words and all!) I personally found it extremely easy to read and understand, having been surrounded by Scots all my life, but I’m not sure how other readers will cope with it. Just something to bear in mind if you consider picking this one up.

This book is black comedy at its finest, with some seriously twisted moments. I don’t often laugh out loud at books but this one did it. Archie’s escapades were a delight to read about.

One small thing that bothered me was the sexism experienced by the female characters in the book. I realise that it would have been characteristic of the time period (1970s) but wow, did it make me rage! I guess it shows that we have made progress, thank goodness, even if there’s still a way to go.

Overall, this was an extremely fun read that I would recommend to fans of The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, or anyone with a love of Glasgow.

welcome to the heady heights


Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour! x
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Music Monday: Make You Feel My Love

Hey everyone! I’ve got something a little more mellow for you this week. This song used to be a popular request when I was playing at weddings back in the day so I hope some of you will enjoy it.

The song was originally written by Bob Dylan in 1997, though the first person to record it was Billy Joel. Bob Dylan brought out his own recorded version later that same year. It has since been covered multiple times, most famously by Adele in 2008. It has a simple beauty, in my opinion.

Thanks for listening! x