blog tour, books, instagram, reviews

Blog Tour: The Short Knife – Elen Caldwell*

Today I’m hosting a Bookstagram tour stop for The Short Knife – follow along on #TheShortKnife and #DarkroomTours

It is the year 454AD. The Roman Empire has withdrawn from Britain, throwing it into the chaos of the Dark Ages. Mai has been kept safe by her father and her sister, Haf. But when Saxon warriors arrive at their farm, the family is forced to flee to the hills where British warlords lie in wait. Can Mai survive in a dangerous world where speaking her mother tongue might be deadly, and where even the people she loves the most can’t be trusted?

Goodreads Amazon

Elen Caldecott graduated with an MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University and was highly commended in the PFD Prize for Most Promising Writer for Young People. Before becoming a writer, she was an archaeologist, a nurse, a theatre usher and a museum security guard. Elen’s debut novel, How Kirsty Jenkins Stole the Elephant, was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Prize and longlisted for the 2010 Carnegie Medal.


My thoughts:

This short and clever piece of historical fiction takes you to post Roman Britain and the struggle to stay alive in the face of invading Saxons and increased isolation. Gripping and moving, with a strong sense of time and place.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, instagram, reviews

Blog Tour: The Falling in Love Montage – Ciara Smyth*

Find this tour on Instagram today – follow #TheFallingInLoveMontage and #DarkroomTours for all the posts.

Seventeen-year-old Saoirse has finished with exams and is facing a long hot summer before uni. She plans to party, get drunk, watch horror movies and forget all her troubles by kissing girls. Ever since the breakupocalypse with her ex Hannah, she’s been alone and angry, dealing with the hole left in her family by her sick mother’s absence. Worse, Dad drops a bombshell: he’s remarrying at the end of the summer. Enter the scene: Ruby, who might just be the prettiest girl Saoirse’s ever seen. A romcom fan and a believer in true love, Ruby challenges cynical Saoirse to try a summer romance with the serious parts left out, just like in the movies. But what happens when the falling in love montage ends?

Goodreads Amazon

My thoughts:

Like a rom com in book form, this follows Saoirse (Seer-sha) and Ruby as they date in movie montage moments and learn that life isn’t like the movies.

Sweet, funny, clever and heartfelt, this was a delightful read that made me smile.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, instagram

Cover Reveal: Nutmeg Street – Sherrill Joseph

Something different today, a cover reveal and sneak peek of a book due to be published next year.

World-famous Egyptologist Dr. Winston Thornsley died suddenly two months ago in disgrace. His widow, Ida Thornsley, remains convinced her husband was falsely accused of stealing an ancient burial urn he discovered in Egypt last summer, but local and federal law enforcement officers are stumped.

Mrs. Thornsley, desperate for answers, calls in her thirteen-year-old neighbors, the Botanic Hill Detectives—twins Lanny and Lexi Wyatt, Moki Kalani, and Rani Kumar. Their exciting mission? To find the urn and its real thief, bring the criminal to justice, and exonerate Dr. Thornsley so his spotless reputation can be restored.

A roomful of venomous snakes, the poisoned Egyptian pond, and Dragon Pit Man are just a few of the tests awaiting the four tech-savvy teenagers. As the detectives begin to unravel the sinister plot, the mystery takes a dangerous turn. Answers are at their fingertips—if they can only convince their parents to let them solve the case.

Goodreads due to be published February 1st, 2020

Sherrill Joseph’s debut novel, Nutmeg Street: Egyptian Secrets, had been inside her head for decades. The mystery genre took hold of her as a fifth grader when she discovered Nancy Drew and Phyllis A. Whitney mysteries. Years later, it still hasn’t let go.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s in education, Sherrill spent the next thirty-five years as a K-12 literacy teacher. When she retired from teaching in 2013, the Botanic Hill Detectives and their mysteries finally sprang to life.

Forever inspired by her beautiful students in the San Diego public schools, the author has peopled and themed the Botanic Hill Detectives mysteries with children of various abilities, cultures, and interests. She strongly believes that embracing diversity is the key to a better world.

Sherrill is a native San Diegan where she lives in a ninety-year-old house in a historic neighborhood with her bichon frisé-poodle mix, Jimmy Lambchop. In addition to her dog, the city of San Diego, reading and writing, the author loves her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. She must also include dark chocolate, popcorn, old movies, staircases, the color purple, and daisies. She is a member of SCBWI and the Authors’ Guild and promises many more adventures with the squad to come.

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Sneak Peek

“Here we go again. An aftershock! I’ve been afraid this would happen,” said Dr. Kurtz. She rapidly surveyed the room full of terrariums. “And one of my assistants just called to say he’s found a somewhat hidden but large crack from this morning’s tremor on one of our venomous snake enclosure’s glass panes. It’s a major emergency. Come out with me quickly boys—now! I have to attend to this immediately,” she shouted behind her, as she grabbed her tool bag, yanked open the heavy door, and fled outside and down the breezeway to the enclosure.

Unfortunately, Moki and Lanny weren’t as fast as Dr. Kurtz. The door banged shut in their surprised faces and locked. They were trapped in a windowless room.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the power failed simultaneously, and the room went pitch black. Both boys froze, helplessly surrounded by three walls of venomous snakes they could still hear but no longer see.

Cover reveal organised by R&R Book Tours.

blog tour, books, instagram, reviews

Bookstagram Tour: War Girls – Tochi Onyebuchi*

Something a bit different today, I’m taking part in a Bookstagram tour so come join me on Instagram. Below is some info on the book but for my thoughts head over to see some photos I took and check out the rest of the tour too!

Two sisters are torn apart by war and must fight their way back to each other in a futuristic, Black Panther-inspired Nigeria.

The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.

In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.

Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.

And they’re willing to fight an entire war to get there.



Tochi Onyebuchi is a writer based in Connecticut. He holds a BA from Yale, an MFA in screenwriting from Tisch, and a JD from Columbia Law School. Tochi is the author of Beasts Made of Night and Crown of Thunder.



*I was kindly gifted a copy of the book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

instagram, life, mental health

#10YearChallenge or Not

You may have seen all the 2009 vs 2019 photos on social media, you may have even posted your own photo comparison, and for the most part they’re great fun, seeing the changes 10 years have wrought. However there is a darker side to this trend.

Dr Melissa Fabello,who writes abour such interesting things as the intersection of sexuality and eating disorders, posted on her stories why she wouldn’t be sharing her 2009 photos. In 2009 she was struggling with an eating disorder herself and in a dark place. Comparing her self was not a funny topic, but a painful one.

I understand that all too well. In 2009 I was struggling with my own demons. A year before I had graduated from university with a solid 2:1 into a financial collapse. Suddenly all the great graduate jobs were gone, companies were not hiring and the industries I was interested in had closed their doors (some would not survive this).

I was pretty miserable, the depression I have struggled with pretty much all my life was reading its ugly head and I was at a loose end. I still worked intermittently for the local council’s Children & Young People’s team; but that too would end as budgets were cut.

My mum, who may actually know me better than I know myself, seeing how lost I was told me to apply for a course. I studied to become a TEFL teacher – something I’ve not exactly made use of. It was an incredibly tough, emotionally draining course. But it had me using my brain, had me reading and writing essays. I really enjoyed it.

I have an analytical mind that also has an anxiety disorder. This is not a good mix – I know this now. 2009 was a year I had to get through. 2010 was better. I got a job I would have for the next 5 years, met one of my best friends and the man who is now my husband.

I won’t be sharing my 2009 vs 2019 photos (mostly because there aren’t any) because who I was then and who I am now aren’t hugely different but they’re different enough that the comparison isn’t worth making.

beauty, beauty boxes, instagram, lifestyle boxes, make up, perfume, skincare

Advent Calendar Opening

Hello lovely blog readers,

Today is December 1st, aka the first day of Advent. You may now put up your tree and hang your stockings.

This year I bought a beauty advent calendar as opposed to the chocolate ones I seem to have every year!


I went with L’Occitane’s rather sweet one as I love their products and thought a mini treat from them every day would brighten up a cold, damp December.


So, let’s see what’s behind door number one!

Ultra rich face cream!

I will most likely be posting these on Instagram so come follow me there, as well as all sorts of Christmas fun and games as we head further into the festive season.


beauty, books, instagram, make up

Who do you get your beauty advice from?

I don’t really buy magazines, I resent spending my money on adverts and pictures of hungry women in over-priced, ugly clothes.

I do buy Glamour, which in the UK often covers issues that affect women, like politics and women in sports, not just celebrities and clothes I would never be able to afford.

Via @GlamourUK on Twitter

And I do read Sali Hughes’ beauty column in The Guardian’s Weekend magazine on Saturdays. I like Sali, she’s no-nonsense, writes about products that she’s tried and that work from a variety of brands and prices.

Via @salihughes on twitter

Last year she published a book Pretty Honest, which expanded on her columns and explored issues around the cosmetics industry and skincare.

Via google

Her website features fun interviews with women like Caitlin Moran and Marian Keyes, who I admire as writers and women. I follow Sali on Twitter and Instagram too, where she talks about more than just make up.

In fact it’s one of the two books hanging out in my wardrobe/lady space/hoard. The other is The Goddess Guide, which is purely aspirational.

I also quite like the weekly free magazine The Stylist, and in terms of their beauty advice – the column Trend on Trial is probably the most interesting. Three of their beauty staffers test out the new catwalk make up trends to see how wearable they are in real life. Often to hilarious effect. Worth reading online if you don’t live in the UK (or if you do but don’t see the vendors on your travels).


I also stalk nail trends on instagram, as well as people I admire and want to copy their style. There’s also twitter, pinterest, tumblr and facebook, and I do spend a bit of time ogling pretty things when I should be doing more active or important stuff.

So where do you get your inspiration from? Is there a blogger, instagram account or beauty writer you refer to?


instagram, life, ratties

Ratties – 2 became 5!

Peaches and Custard

You may remember my little ratties – Algernon and Justin. Well now they have three sisters.

Oh mum, not girls!! We're off!

We adopted three fluffy sisters, who needed to be re-homed ASAP. We’d been discussing getting some girls after having the boys neutered, rats are social creatures and need companionship.

We did rename them – Custard, Peaches and Cream (she’s camera shy) and they’ve been adjusting to each other.

Algernon is quite easy going and likes cuddling up with Peaches, while Justin seems unimpressed and would like them to stop eating ‘his’ food. Greedy chops.

Cream doesn’t like being handled and is a nervy thing, spends most of her time asleep or hiding. Peaches is more gregarious, and likes popping up to say hello. Custard is a bit bitey but I’m training her out of that. Unfortunately I’m not sure she’s completely healthy – she has a funny lump on her belly and makes an odd chuffing noise from time to time so I’ll be popping to the vet next week for a check up.

I keep trying to get a photo of them all together, but apart from Justin the poser, they all scatter when they see my phone!

If you want to see how they’re doing, I post pictures on instagram with the hash tag #fuzzyweirdos


giveaway, instagram, upcoming

A lucky streak?

I am not one of life’s winners, I don’t have natural luck.

The only thing I ever won as a kid was a blue stuffed elephant, who I imaginatively called Elephant. I still have her. Turns out it was rigged. I was three, it was my great-aunt’s birthday party and the raffle was for a local charity. My Grandad swapped out the ticket so I’d win the elephant.

At school I didn’t win things, I wasn’t that kind of kid, and they don’t give prizes for reading. I won first place in girl’s shot putt in year 10 at sports day. That was a fluke, I am not athletic. But I do have a younger sister and many years of practice in throwing stuff.

Recently I’ve been entering competitions, mostly on social media, and I’ve hit a lucky streak.

I won Saturday’s giveaway on Scribblicious which was an Anne of Green Gables mug and Dr Seuss bookmark.

Then I won Butterfly Twists competition on Instagram, two pairs of ballet pumps (I love shoes)!!

The re-grammed image

Previously I’d won London Craft Club’s giveaway – a book on hand knitting, canvas bag and other bits, and The Vagenda’s discussion group starter kit (book, postcards, badges, snacks, balloons and stickers).

Lomdon Craft Club prize

While it would be nice to win some bigger items, like the bed in this week’s Observer (the slats in ours are on their last legs – that’s what you get when you buy cheap!) or a holiday, even winning little things gives me a nice buzz of excitement, and I didn’t spend any money!

What about you? Have you ever won any competitions or giveaways? Let me know in the comments.

There will be a blog giveaway soon so stay tuned. 🙂