books, fun stuff, Illumicrate, lifestyle boxes, reviews

Illumicrate #13 Clever Ruse

This month’s Illumicrate has arrived! Yay and it’s a really cool one too.

There are 2 exclusive editions inside along with a host of bookish goodies.

Empress of All Seasons – Emiko Jean. This gorgeous hardback edition has an exclusive cover, sprayed edges and a signed bookplate.

Wild Magic – Tamora Pierce. An exclusive edition of one of my favourite books by one of my favourite authors.

Circus Top Banner designed by @Illumicrate – inspired by The Night Circus and Caravel. I’m going to transfer all my book related pins to this.

Stag Amulet Necklace designed by @fableandblack – this was the first item I picked out of the box – I don’t think it’s something I’d wear but it will look excellent hung up in my book lair.

Diner Drink Cosy art work by @gicatam – this made me squeak out loud. I love To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, both the book and film so this is super cute.

Warcross Woodmark artwork by @chattynora – I read Warcross with my book club earlier this year and found it interesting. I collect bookmarks and this is going to hang out with its new pals.

Mulan inspired scarf artwork by Feifei Ruan @ruan0v0 – this is beautiful. Silky and soft, I can’t wait to gently tuck this in around my neck.

Bonus items: The Poppy War, This Mortal Coil.

I loved this box, a beautiful mix of books and lovely items all lovingly designed and curated. The Illumicrate team are doing a fantastic job putting these boxes together for all of us book loving souls.

books, reviews

Book Review; The Relic Guild Trilogy – Edward Cox

The first Relic Guild book (called The Relic Guild) introduces us to the remaining members of the Guild, 40 years after they last worked together.

Their old enemy Fabian Moor has reappeared in Labrys Town and chaos follows in his wake. The Guild must come together again and find a way to defeat their enemies one last time.

Flipping between the present day and the events of forty years before, this three book fantasy romp heads into the labyrinth surrounding the town and worlds beyond it.

Each volume rachets up the adventure and peril as our heroes race against time to stop an army of demons from destroying everyone in the town and beyond.

To begin with I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this series as I felt the first book was a bit slow getting going (I am an inpatient reader) and it took me a while to get into the plot. However once it did I raced through it and was eager to get into book two (The Cathedral of Dead Things).

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.

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.

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.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna – Juliet Grames

I was very lucky to get a copy of this proof, it’s not due to be published till next May.

Stella Fortuna is born in a small village in Calabria, Italy, the second child of Assunta and Antonio, but the first to survive childhood.

Named after her deceased sister, and possibly haunted by her, Stella leads a life marked by the seven (or eight) almost tragedies.

A mix of family saga, immigrant story and a sprinkle of magic realism; this book was a brilliant read. I was completely hooked.

Stella’s familial relationships are key to her story, especially that with her younger sister Cettina – who serves as the secondary protagonist. These are beautifully written and the characters come to life on the page.

I highly recommend pre-ordering this one because it is excellent.