Friday, 26 August 2016

Recovering from a migraine

Me yesterday, minus cute frilly bed & cat paw pjs
Title explains it. I am resting lots after a migraine yesterday, so hope to blog more (& schedule some posts) tomorrow. Hope you are headache free!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Blog Tour: If Only I Had A Duke by Lenora Bell (Historical Romance, Romance, 10/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

Gorgeous dress!
30th August 2016, Piatkus, 384 pages, Paperback, Review copy 

Content: some adult romance scenes, humour, tension, 

Summary from Little, Brown
After four failed seasons and a disastrous jilting, Lady Dorothea Beaumont has had more than enough of her family's scheming. She won't domesticate a duke, entangle an earl or vie for a viscount. She will quietly exit to her aunt's Irish estate for a life of blissful freedom. Until an arrogant, sinfully handsome duke singles her out for a waltz, making Thea the most popular belle of the season.
Well, the duke ruined her plans and now he'll just have to fix them.

Dalton, Duke of Osborne, is far too heartless for debutantes or marriage - he uses dalliances to distract from his real purpose: finding the man who destroyed his family. When his search leads to Ireland, the last thing he needs is the determined, achingly innocent Thea, who arrives in the dead of night demanding he escort her to her aunt. His foolish agreement may prove his undoing. The road to the Emerald Isle is fraught with unforeseen dangers, but the greatest peril of all might just be discovering that he has a heart . . . and he's losing it to Thea.

Nayu's thoughts
Sorry this is late! Not been well the last few days (insomnia mostly) and like to have blog posts go out at midnight. Midday isn't too late....

Having a glimpse of Thea at the end of Charlene's story which was the first book in this series I was delighted that the 2nd book focuses fully on Thea. Poor Thea is spunky, educated and opinionated, all things her mother dislikes. Thea's mother has an ideal life in how Thea should live and enforces that on her daughter. Thea, quite understandably, reaches breaking point thanks to Dalton's so called helpful actions so takes matters into her own hands. I admired just how brave she was once free from her family's grasp. She isn't fearless, but freedom gives her confidence to keep going in whatever action she's undertaking, to see where it will lead. She is fun to read about, and her stubborness makes life entertaining for Dalton and his manservant Con who meddles frequently in his master's life in a good way. 

So confession time for me. Initially I skipped the all Dalton parts of chapters as I prefer female characters and 0wasn't in the mood for him. A few chapters in and suddenly interesting 'stuff' is revealed about Dalton that made me go reread the parts I skipped, and I never skipped any more, that's the strength of Lenora's writing. He was an idiot a lot of the time, but Thea filled up his life and he realises he can't live without her. While not necessarily liking all Thea does, she does make life easier for Dalton, and even aids him in dispensing wjth some bad men using her newfound courage. 

I liked the tiny crossovers from book 1, as it was fun seeing familiar characters again. It is a happy ending reading, but be prepared for a huge surprise from Thea's family which had me gaping at the page. That part of the book is so awesome!!! Cue fangirl squealing. Eagerly awaiting book #3! This will is one to reread. 

Find out more on Lenora's website

You can buy it from many bookstores including on Amazon UK

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Blog tour: Review + Special Baking Post: The Secret Cooking Club by Laurel Remington, Young Adult, 10E/10E (short 'n' sweet review)

4th August 2016, Chicken House, 304 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Chicken House
Twelve-year-old Scarlett is the star – and victim – of her mum's popular blog.

The butt of school jokes, she's eager to stay out of the spotlight. But one evening, she finds a gorgeous kitchen in the house next door, left empty by an elderly neighbour in hospital.

As Scarlett bakes, she starts to transform her life, discovering new friends and forming the Secret Cooking Club. But can she fix her family, seal her friendships and find the mysterious secret ingredient?

Nayu's thoughts 
This review nearly didn't happen because yesterday the internet played up so I couldn't finish writing it, and today we had a power cut! I was about to use my family's mobile phone to email the publicist to explain the situation when the power went back on. Phew! I'm typing this as fast as I can (which is thankfully quick) since I've no idea if it will go back out again.

The short review is that this book is AWESOME!! It was a pleasure to be part of this blog tour because not only did I get to read an amazing book, I took part in a super fun baking challenge that everyone including Laurel the author and Laura one of the publicists took part in! More on that after this review. 
Laurel's book has definitely inspired lots of baking fun! Photo by Jolo Cooper Photography
I instantly loved Scarlett's voice. Her mother is cruel, which made me feel sorry for Scarlett. No parent should do what her mother did. Making fun of every part of Scarlett's life online is bullying. I'm not surprised Scarlett was so desperate to do nothing in the way of extra activities at school, it was the only way to escape public humiliation. In a way her life was like the life of some celebrities-she had no choice in what her mum posted about, and not all of it was pleasant. I felt sorry for her lack of friends, so was delighted when Violet appeared on the scene. Their friendship has an extremely rocky patch, but I promise they are friends again by the end. While I wouldn't have had Scarlett's guts to investigate the odd noise from her neighbour's house, or dared to cook there without permission, what Scarlett did was so very cool, and ended up changing several people's lives as well as her own. 

I really liked that although it started as a baking club, it turned into cooking - often books stick with just baking, so hopefully this will encourage readers to get excited about savoury food as well as yummy sweet food. Baking/cooking was therapy for Scarlett, and ended up being the key to helping her mother change her career. There are plenty of plot twists which surprised me, the biggest one involved Scarlett's mother and I was shocked by what she did in a good way. It makes me smile just thinking about the moment Scarlett makes that discovery! The book covers bullying, illness, friendship, family, and possibly some other themes I can't recall.

It's frustrating that I can't say much about the end, but it made me so upset I couldn't write the review the same day that I finished the book as it reminded me of my own losses. I say that in a positive way (even though it's not the most positive of subjects). I really hope there will be a sequel as I'm sure that the secret cooking club will continue to have adventures! Be sure to have some cake when you read this! 

Special Blog Tour Baking Event! 
Flower power!!
As well as being asked if I wanted to review this exciting book (no books with cake are boring!) I was asked if I'd like to participate in a cake making challenge! It took only a few moments for me to say yes. I baked a cake from Kerry's Cake's blog. It looks a bit like the cake on the cover...except I made the following errors:

I didn't reread the recipe before buying the ingredients, so bought the wrong food dye (mine are weak colours. I will be remaking it at some point with the correct brightness!)

For some reason only known to me I used smaller cake tins than the recipe states, so the cake was set to be super high - I simply cut each cake in half so made 2 cakes instead of 1.

I didn't use the suggested frosting in the recipe as I'd already made & frozen buttercream, + I used jam instead of frosting to cement all the layers (minus the top layer on one of the cakes, which was buttercream since I used up the entire jar of jam and had no more).

Sweet butterflies
From all I've said so far can you guess what these two cakes might turn into?
I cut one cake....
Wait for it...

It's pretty (sort of.... the colours really aren't the best!)
Tada! Here's my 6 colour rainbow cake! The colours were super weak looking in the cake mix, and even baked they didn't look great. However, they seemed to brighten over time - I haven't edited these photos at all. 
Cake in a cake tub = extra yummy! This is the best rainbow image, although I think freezing the cakes helped bring out their colour a bit more too
So while not the stunningly bright colours like those who use the correct food colouring, I'm still pleased with the outcome. It makes a super yummy cake! It makes a lot so I have distributed some to friends. It was an unusual and fun challenge to accompany a book review. I'll let you know when I make the 2nd version of the cake - please do let me know if you make it too! 
It wasn't a half eaten slice - the cake is so big I only had half a slice at a time ^o^

Saturday, 20 August 2016

The Strawberry Sisters #2 Especially Amelia by Candy Harper (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

Love the funky cover!
June 2016, Simon & Schuster Children's, 272 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Simon & Schuster
Little Lucy has a scheme to get popular, but if you want to keep all your hair, you’d better not ask what it is. 

Chloe’s facing the fight of her life and this time she can’t win it with her fists.
Ella would just like everyone to stop shouting so she can do her homework.
Then there’s Amelia. The moody big sister. Except Amelia’s decided to ditch the sulks and the sarcastic remarks. But that’s not so easy when your best friend is keeping secrets, your mum won’t even let you babysit and you’re terrified to do a solo in the school concert.
Amidst all the chaos, is Amelia ready to grow up and grab the spotlight?

Nayu's thoughts 
I want the next book in this series already! I absolutely loved returning to the Strawberry household, and it was refreshing to see life from Amelia's view, as she is quite a drama queen. There's a lot going on in her life, and she is trying to be nicer after being so horrid to her dad in book #1, Perfectly Ella (link takes you to my review)
I was moved to tears as Amelia's relationship wih her stepmother (can't quite remember if they got married), progressed to the stage she confided in Suvi AND felt able to offer some advice which transforms part of Suvi's life. Amelia does revert to her former self sometimes, but she realises when she goes too far. By working on being kinder she is able to walk in her sisters' shoes, and figure them out too.

Ella really suffers when a massive change is sort of forced upon them, but Amelia and the others rally round for her. I loved how all the different aspects of a divorced family are explored, how hilarious the sisters are (especially Lucy), and how realistic their lives are. I loved Chloe's stress busting technique, as well as how fired up Suvi gets on her behalf when injustice occurs. This is a book I'll reread lots as I never want to be out of the Strawberry sisters' lives!

Friday, 19 August 2016

How To Find Love In A Book Shop by Veronica Henry read by Julia Barry (Contemporary, Romance, audiobook, 9/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

June 2016, Orion Publishing Group, 10 hours 54 minutes long, Audiobook (& Paperback) Review copy

Summary from Veronica's website
Nightingale Books, nestled on the high street in the idyllic Cotswold town of Peasebrook, is a dream come true for booklovers.

But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open. The temptation to sell up is proving enormous - but what about the promise she made to her father? Not to mention the loyalty she owes to her customers.Sarah Basildon, owner of stately pile Peasebrook Manor, has used the book shop as an escape from all her problems in the past few years. But is there more to her visits than meets the eye?

Since messing up his marriage, Jackson asks Emilia for advice on books to read to the son he misses so much. But Jackson has a secret, and is not all he seems...

And there's Thomasina, painfully shy, who runs a pop-up restaurant from her tiny cottage. She has a huge crush on a man she met and then lost in the cookery section, somewhere between Auguste Escoffier and Marco Pierre White. Can she find the courage to admit her true feelings?

Nayu's thoughts  
Initially I wasn't fond how the point of view regularly changed; having memory issues makes this type of read/listen a bit tricky. I don't overly like male povs, but was surprised by how quickly I cared Emelia's father. He certainly had an interesting life, one that makes a huge impact on Emelia. It sounds idyllic to take over a bookshop, but it is far from as simple as that, no least because one character wants Emelia to fail. He gave me the creeps! I don't care for people who have affairs, or do drugs, which meant 2 key characters were clearly in my dislike pile. I was scared that Sarah's daughter wouldn't learn the truth about her fiance in time, she doesn't but it's a good end to taht plot thread. 

As for Emelia, she makes some good friends, but is worn down by grief and other emotions and considers going away from what is a painful mess. Then there's Thomasina, well she positively blossoms throughout the novel, which was such a delight to see happen. I promise it's a hapoy ending! I loved watching Emelia work through her grief, how she learnt more about her father's life through the people he knew divulging information to him. I loved the strength of Sarah's daughter whose name escapes me right now, how she coped with a major plot twists that eventually reveals her fiances true colours. And of course there's the bookshop, what isn't there to love about one! 

Definitely going on my relisten pile-yes, this is an audiobook review request! The narration is excellent, a voice I can happily listen to for hours which nails the sentiment in the stoey perfectly. The only reason this didn't get full marks was because of my initial confusion with so many characters, but that's a personal problem rather than one most readers would have. 

Find out more on Veronica's website.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Jesper Jinx and the Scrumptious Snacks by Marko Kitty (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

June 2015, CreateSpace, 152 pages, Paperback, Review copy 
 Book Summary 
Jesper Jinx is eleven, and probably the unluckiest person in all of Puffington Hill. Everything he touches seems to end up in sweet disaster. Hence his nickname 'Jinx'. In this fifth book of Jesper Jinx's wonderfully wicked adventures chaos unfolds when Jake the school bully meets an ancient chocolate bar. Soon, things get even weirder when Jesper's mum can't bake her cherry pie because her precious cherry tree's gone missing. And then, to top it all off, Snowy the Cat decides to go on a hunger strike. Can Jesper save the day with his best Boredom Breaker ever or will a diabolical lunch thief get to him first?

Nayu's thoughts
This series gets better and better! Jesper, the great prankster and clumsy pone gets pranked twice! One is official, and one is unofficial, since it's not just him who got pranked. The ins and outs are revealed through the not so innocent cat who tells all after the prank happens. I had no clue what was happening, and the cat is sheer genius to come up with that trick. 

I felt a bit sorry for Jesper's sister who got the blame, but then when she pranked Jesper I was both proud at her fooling him and frustrated that Jesper got tricked with an idea I'm sure he would have come up wih. But then it's justice from the universe for teasing his sister so much. I feel desperately sorry for their mother who has to put up with both of them, but without them the story wouldn't be fun and b) wouldn't exist. 

I loved how smoothly Delbert was mentioned, he fits in as though he'd always been somewhere in Jesper's life. Delbert debuted this year in Delbert the Reluctant Spy
While I don't approve of how Jesper sorted the bully, Jesper did attempt to say the truth but the bully was too greedy to listen properly, so he suffered greatly in a way that made me feel a bit ill, bot not for long. Eagerly awaiting Jesper's next adventure! 

Find out more on the dedicated Jesper Jinx website.

Suggested read

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Cool Mythology by Malcolm Croft (Non-fiction, Children's, 9/10E, short 'n' sweet review)

11th August 2016, Pavillion Children's Books, 112 pages, Hardback, Review copy 

Book summary
This fun book, part of the popular Cool series, is a fascinating introduction to world mythology, broken up into handy bite-sized chunks. It covers all the main world mythologies, including Sumerian, Incan, African, Native American, African, Egyptian, Persian, Hindu, Norse and, of course, Greek and Roman, including the famous Olympians (Zeus, Hera, Poseidon and others). It begins with a selection of creation myths from different cultures (for example the Dreamtime of Aboriginal Australian mythology) and delves into individual stories from mythology, such as Perseus meeting Medusa and Pandora's box. It covers fantastical mythological creatures from the fearsome Manticore from Persian legend to the modern-day Yeti, plus giants, dragons and the Phoenix. It explores mythological places like Atlantis and various versions of the afterlife, from the idyllic Arthurian Avalon to the rather less pleasant Yomi, the dark and gloomy underworld of Japanese mythology. 

Ancient myths are still relevant to today's society, explaining traditions and giving lasting moral lessons. But most of all, they're entertaining adventures that connect us to the past - and this book is the perfect introduction to how cool mythology really is.

Nayu's thoughts 
Do not underestimate this book by it's size. It may be small, but it is jam packed full of facts about myths! There's vampires, unicorns, Nessy, and the usual Greek/Roman/Egyptian myths too. It goes into great detail about famous ancient authors, the necessary facts about mytical gods and goddesses, it dispells famous myths which aren't at all true (including the Bermuda Triangle), there is so much crammed into this book that's a bit bigger than A5 in length but not width. While quite a lot of the myths were familiar to me, there was a fair amount of information which I didn't know

The illustrations are colourful and numerous, without something new on each page to attract the reader. The only reason it got a lower grade is because I'm not fond of the illustration style. It's a book to dip in and out of, perfect if you need to learn about particular topics, as well as a book to read for a few hours if you love factual reads (I did as a child).