books, reviews

Book Review: Empress of all Seasons – Emiko Jean

Set in an alternative feudal era Japan-like country, this story follows Mari, born a yokai or demon, and her attempt to become Empress.

The Emperor has had built 4 rooms, one for each season, that prospective empresses must conquer to win the hand of the reluctant Prince Taro.

Mari has been trained for this her whole life by her mother, an Animal Wife – who seduce wealthy men, marry them and steal their fortunes before retreating to their secretive village in the mountains.

Meanwhile in the capital city yokai are forced to wear iron collars that cause them pain and serve the humans. However a revolution is brewing and Mari’s friend Akira is drawn in.

This is a really interesting book, Japanese mythology is rich with unusual creatures, ghosts and monsters. Emiko Jean has woven just a few into this tale of survival – ancient beings against the humans who would wipe them out or enslave them.

The plot is gripping, with shades of the Hunger Games, drawing on the rich mythology and geography of Japan’s islands. The characters are well rounded and likeable.

The way it ends suggests there could be a sequel but it can also be read as a standalone novel.

It’s refreshing to have a different traditional backdrop in YA, rather than the Western mythos that has been common over the last few years (minus a few books like the excellent Jade City). I’m interested to see where the author goes next.

art, Christmas, gift guide, reviews

Under the Tree: Print Panoramics

Another day, another excellent option for your Christmas shopping.

Print Panoramics are a cool online company that help you create amazing prints from your photos – something that would make a fantastic gift for a loved one.

You pick the size, style and type of print, upload your image and the team will print it for you, ensuring it looks the best.

The team at Print Panoramics have kindly offered my readers a 15% discount, valid until 31/12/2018 (UK only, includes shipping, minimum spend £50). Enter code MADSPP15

You can also follow Print Panoramics on Instagram and see some of their great images.

lifestyle boxes, mental health, mindfulness, reviews

Review: Cancer Care Parcel

Cancer has affected everyone I know in some way or another.

When I was 18 my paternal grandmother died after a long fight against lung cancer that eventually spread through her whole body to her brain.

It was difficult to see her become weaker and more fragile. Cancer treatments were debilitating and had some pretty terrible side effects.

The people behind Cancer Care Parcel want to help alleviate some of the stress and worry patients and their families are dealing with.

Each package has been tailored with practical and fun items that meet specific needs.

I was kindly sent this Deluxe Box for women to share with you and it’s a fantastic assortment of items.

As well as their incredible boxes, which are available for all genders and children too, the website offers social networks, advice and information for cancer patients, family and friends.


I think that if you’re looking to buy a gift for someone dealing with cancer, one of these boxes could be a really good idea. And the parcels are now on sale too.

art, Christmas, reviews

Under the Tree: personalised art from Karishma, London Life Drawing Girl

Today’s gift idea is a bit different and something that could be ideal for an art loving friend or family member.

I’ll let Karishma, aka London Life Drawing Girl introduce herself;

“Hi, I’m Karishma, a 26 year old, London based artist. I love to draw and paint buildings and skylines around the world. These can be anything from a favourite city, a special building, or home. I work in the city by day and sketch in my spare time.”

If you want to buy someone an amazing hand drawn image of their favourite London landmark or somewhere that means something special then head to her website and order via the form or by email.

And Karishma has kindly offered all my followers a Christmas order discount – just add code MADS for a cool 10% off one of her drawings.

You can also follow Karishma and see some more of her amazing art on social media, Twitter, Instagram

Christmas, gift guide, reviews

Under the Tree: Prestige Hampers

A festive classic, the hamper is a great gift when you’re not sure what to get someone or need to send a gift well packaged.

Prestige Hampers are based in Yorkshire and offer a wide range so you can pick the perfect hamper for your chosen recipient.

This particular number has a great selection of sweet and savoury treats, guaranteed to give the lucky receiver a delicious Christmas.

I remember as a kid my dad used to buy hampers for clients at Christmas, a little way to say thank you for their support and custom. I always wanted someone to send me one as they seemed exciting and fun.

You can follow Prestige on social media too. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

books, Christmas, gift guide

Under the Tree: coffee table books from Thames & Hudson

I don’t own a coffee table but I do have a few hard to buy for relatives. Books like these can suit those with tricky tastes. I can imagine a few family members who might appreciate these. As do I.

The Face and The Bestiary are produced in conjunction with the British Museum. Containing images of some of the intriguing artefacts housed in one of Britain’s oldest and most eclectic museums.

I can spend a whole day wandering the galleries and still have only seen a fraction of the treasures it houses. These books are a great way to see some of the artefacts that you might have missed.

If I hadn’t been very kindly sent these books to share with you in the run up to Christmas, personally I’d be really chuffed to receive them as they’re beautiful objects as well as fascinating reads.

To buy your copies, you can order direct from the publishers or contact your local book shop. Priced at £16.95 each.

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: Defense of an Other – Grace Mead

Written by a practicing lawyer this novel is very heavy on the legal details and arguments, which at times made it a struggle to read.

However it was at least an interesting case to build a story around.

Matt is a young lawyer in New Orleans who after visiting a gay bar is attacked by three thugs. Defending a new acquaintance, he kills one of the thugs and is arrested for murder. The plot follows his trial and time in Angola state prison, notorious for its human rights abuses and extreme violence.

There is a lot of legalese used throughout, having so many of the characters be lawyers means it seems natural for them to speak like that, but harder for the lay person to understand. Especially the verbatim Supreme Court transcript.

Set in 2007 before several changes in law and culture, including marriage equality, Matt’s chances of leaving prison rest on arguments around whether or not a gay person can be sentenced by a bias jury; or should be a protected characteristic like gender and race (you can’t have an all white jury if there’s a black defendant for example).

Most of my legal knowledge is, like many people’s, based around watching a lot of crime shows and hours of Law & Order. The author however went to law school and works for a large Miami firm, having done similar jobs as her character.

Overall I found this book a little hard going at times (must watch more L&O) but certainly interesting. I would suggest reading it but not when you’re a bit sleepy, you need to be wide awake to follow the legal arguments being made.

This review is part of a blog tour, check out the rest of the tour.