books, reviews

Book Review: Of Curses & Kisses – Sandhya Menon

Will the princess save the beast?

For Princess Jaya Rao, nothing is more important than family. When the loathsome Emerson clan steps up their centuries-old feud to target Jaya’s little sister, nothing will keep Jaya from exacting her revenge. Then Jaya finds out she’ll be attending the same elite boarding school as Grey Emerson, and it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. She knows what she must do: Make Grey fall in love with her and break his heart. But much to Jaya’s annoyance, Grey’s brooding demeanor and lupine blue eyes have drawn her in. There’s simply no way she and her sworn enemy could find their fairy-tale ending…right?

His Lordship Grey Emerson is a misanthrope. Thanks to an ancient curse by a Rao matriarch, Grey knows he’s doomed once he turns eighteen. Sequestered away in the mountains at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, he’s lived an isolated existence—until Jaya Rao bursts into his life, but he can’t shake the feeling that she’s hiding something. Something that might just have to do with the rose-shaped ruby pendant around her neck…

As the stars conspire to keep them apart, Jaya and Grey grapple with questions of love, loyalty, and whether it’s possible to write your own happy ending.

My thoughts:

A contemporary retelling of Beauty & the Beast, set in an exclusive boarding school with an Indian princess and a British Duke’s son as the protagonists.

I really enjoyed the author’s previous book, When Dimple Met Rishi, and this was equally as fun.

Modern technology is the real villain here, with Jaya’s sister being the subject of some nasty gossip at home and the grapevine suggesting it’s Grey’s family’s fault.

This means Jaya isn’t remotely interested in the actually quite interesting Grey, and of course a series of misunderstandings, accidents and coincidences conspire to bring these two together again and again.

This was just a good fun read. And we all need some of those.

I was kindly gifted a copy of this book by the publisher with no obligation to review.

books, reviews

Book Review: Belle Rèvolte – Linsey Miller

Emilie des Marais is more at home holding scalpels than embroidery needles and is desperate to escape her noble roots to serve her country as a physician. But society dictates a noble lady cannot perform such gruesome work.

Annette Boucher, overlooked and overworked by her family, wants more from life than her humble beginnings and is desperate to be trained in magic. So when a strange noble girl offers Annette the chance of a lifetime, she accepts.

Emilie and Annette swap lives—Annette attends finishing school as a noble lady to be trained in the ways of divination, while Emilie enrolls to be a physician’s assistant, using her natural magical talent to save lives.

But when their nation instigates a terrible war, Emilie and Annette come together to help the rebellion unearth the truth before it’s too late.

My thoughts:

A French inspired, queer, role swap story with magic.

I thought this was great fun, Emilie and Annette are great characters, as her friends and allies, as they fight to save their country and stop the corrupt king and generals from slaughtering innocents and dragging their people into endless war and mayhem.

The plot is clever and full of joy, even as it heads towards the culmination of the story and the two girls join forces to fight back against their enemies.

From discovering their gifts and learning how to use them, to falling in love and finding their person (Annette’s gentle kitchen based romance with Yvonne is a delight).

Miller explores gender identity and queerness through these characters, but doesn’t make it the focus of the characters’ side plots, just part of who they are – which is refreshing.

While it works well as a standalone novel, the ending leaves it open to the possibility of a sequel, which would be interesting.

I was gifted a copy of this book by the publisher with no obligation to review.

books, reviews

Book Review: Anna K. – Jenny Lee

Meet Anna K! Every happy teenage girl is the same, while every unhappy teenage girl is miserable in her own special way…

At seventeen, Anna K is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W.; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a little controlling). Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather an sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.

As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.

Dazzlingly opulent and emotionally riveting, Anna K: A Love Story is a brilliant reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless love story, Anna Karenina—but above all, it is a novel about the dizzying, glorious, heart-stopping experience of first love and first heartbreak.

My thoughts:

A wonderful retelling of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina on the Upper East Side, with a Korean-American Anna, courtesy of the author’s own heritage.

Anna Karenina is of course hugely tragic, and while this shares some of that, it is a much more gentle book, I definitely cried more at the Russian original.

There’s humour among the moments of sadness, and it’s very Gossip Girl for a new century at times, so no surprise that it’s already being adapted as a TV series by HBO.

With an ethnically diverse cast, and social media as the way gossip spreads, as opposed to Tolstoy’s letters and whispers, this is a smart, fierce update.

Jenny Lee’s writing is assured and she clearly knows her source material, Anna and Vronsky are sympathetic characters, even though they’re not always on the moral high ground.

The other characters are also well drawn and interesting, the subplots enjoyable and fully formed, creating a whole world around the great love story at the heart.

I was gifted a copy of this book by the publisher with no obligation to review.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Dead Ringer – Nicola Martin*

Get ready to meet the other you.

Just upload your photo to get started. Using the latest facial recognition software, plus your votes, MeetYourDouble will find your doppelgänger.

She might be an astronaut or a model. He might live half a world away … or a few miles down the road. You share the same face. Who knows what else you might have in common?

Start now…

The idea is simple, vain, exciting. Tap the app, upload a picture of yourself, find your lookalike. Set up a meeting to see whether you have anything else in common.

When Ella and Jem meet, the physical resemblance is uncanny, but their lives couldn’t be more different. One is from a tiny island in a deprived Northern community – pretty much the back of beyond – where she has no job, no boyfriend, limited prospects.

The other is a London socialite, an aspiring actress living in a multimillion-pound mansion. By all appearances, she’s living a charmed life, but she’s got some serious shit to run away from. Both of them have. Can either hide in her double’s skin? And at what cost? Will it solve any of the problems, or merely compound them?

Nicola Martin studied at the University of East Anglia and the University of California, Berkeley. After many years working as a senior copywriter in the low carbon technology sphere, she is now a freelance writer. Dead Ringer is her first novel.

My thoughts:

This is a very clever concept, two girls who look so similar they could be sisters, dip into each others lives and wreck havoc.

Obviously it’s not a new concept – the idea and appeal of doppelgangers has been a subject for countless writers, from Alexandre Dumas (The Man in the Iron Mask) to Mark Twain (The Prince & The Pauper) but this brings the idea bang up to date with a twist on the dating app.

Jemima is a spoilt socialite with wealthy parents and a devil may care attitude to everything, Ella lives in a caravan and cleans hotel rooms for a pittance. But what happens when one decides she wants the other’s life?

Darkly comic and viciously apt on how teenagers think and act, this is a clever, twisted tale of how the other half lives.

*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, reviews

Blog Tour: The Cellist’s Notebook – Kittie Lambton*

The Cellist’s Notebook is a charming, life-affirming tale of discovery surrounding an old family mystery. A young girl’s curiosity, her love of a little melody and the beauty of a cello evokes memories long forgotten.

Set in the present day, ten-year-old Emily Peters is spending the summer with her Nana Rose, a retired piano teacher, in rural Cumbria whilst Emily’s sister Lizzie travels to Paris for a French exchange. When Emily notices an old photograph of a cellist dating back to the Second World War and discovers cellos and an old music manuscript in the attic, her Nana tells of the touching and compelling story of her brother Leni, a linguist, cellist and music composer, whose disappearance was marked ‘ultimate fate unknown’ following World War II.

Emily’s love of the unfinished cello melody, found in her Great Uncle Leni’s music notebook, evokes memories for her Nana Rose and Emily returns to Norfolk with a passion to play the cello and a determination to learn the long-lost melody. A series of events unfold that change the life of Emily and her family forever.

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Kittie Lambton was born in 1975 in Norfolk, England. She is a cellist, and has been providing music tuition for over fifteen years. She is an advocate for all children being able to learn musical instruments from a young age. Her early learning of the cello with her cello tutor in Norwich, Norfolk has created warm memories that inspired the writing of this book. Kittie enjoys exploring the science behind how music can evoke and improve memory and the importance of music in our everyday lives. She was recently awarded second place in the Westgate on Sea Literary Festival Short Story Competition 2019.

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My Thoughts:

This novella is a rather sweet story of forgotten memories and family coming together.

It’s a gentle tale of Emily and her grandmother, music and memory.

I enjoyed it and wished it was longer and more in depth at times, feeling it’s short length meant it sacrificed the nuances of the story.

*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, reviews

Blog Tour: Are You Watching? – Vincent Ralph*

Ten years ago, Jess’s mother was murdered by the Magpie Man. She was the first of his victims but not the last. Now Jess is the star of a YouTube reality series and she’s using it to catch the killer once and for all. The whole world is watching her every move. And so is the Magpie Man.

Vincent Ralph has been writing in one form or another since his teens and always dreamed of being a novelist. He owes his love of books to his mother, who encouraged his imagination from an early age and made sure there were new stories to read. Vincent has lived in London, Cornwal and Chester but he now lives in his home county of Kent with his wife, son and two cats.

My thoughts:

This was a really clever premise – Jess is determined to find her mum’s killer by appearing in a weekly YouTube series. Combining old school detecting and new technology.

The writing is crisp and the characters relatable. The plot is compelling and enjoyable.

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

books, reviews

Book Review: The Sky is Mine – Amy Beashel

Izzy feels invisible. Trapped under the weight of expectation and censored by shame.

Her mum Steph and best friend Grace have always been there to save her. But with one under the control of her stepfather and the other caught in the throes of new love, Izzy is falling between the cracks.

As threats to her safety grow, Izzy wants to scream. But first she must find her voice.

And if the sky is the limit, then the sky is hers.

[This book contains material which some readers may find distressing, including discussions of rape, coercive behaviour, domestic violence and abuse.]


My thoughts:

One of the things a lot of people who don’t read YA think, is that it doesn’t tackle difficult topics and is too fantasy heavy. Well, not only is that not remotely true, but books like this, which tackles some very dark themes, help so many readers to deal with the situations they themselves are living with.

Just being told you’re not alone, that there are people out there who will support you, help you and care for you is a huge thing when you’re young and scared.

This is beautifully written and incredibly touching. It can be hard to read and if you are currently dealing with similar themes may be too much, but I think the subject matter is dealt with sensitively and the characters of Izzy and Steph are relatable and empathetic.

I was kindly sent a copy from the publishers as this book won’t be available till February 2020, which gives you plenty of time to read some reviews and decide whether you could comfortably read this.