Reviews

Empress Crowned in Red

Iraya, her revenge taken and magic unfettered, turns her sights on a bigger goal: freeing Aiyca for the Obeah. But first she must shed the guise of the rogue warrior and become the Lost Empress her people need.

Jazmyne has crowned herself the doyenne and is prepared to go to extreme lengths—and court ruthless danger—to prove to her people she deserves the throne.

But there is more at stake than Jazmyne or Iraya know: a new threat is awakening on the other side of the island that could destroy everything they’ve been fighting for.

Trust is scarce, and betrayal a breath away. But Iraya and Jazmine once again find themselves turning to each other—after all, better the witch you know than the nightmare you don’t.

I had enjoyed Witches Steeped in Gold so was very excited to read Empress Crowned in Red. I must admit that I enjoyed the sequel a little more than the first instalment. This book had pirates, monsters, witches, and an epic battle. It was pretty exciting and I really did want to know how the journey would end.

The beginning of the book set the scene for an amazing sounding quest. I really enjoyed seeing each of the protagonists being set their own tasks in order to meet their goals

The middle of the book was where it fell a little flat for me. I felt that the middle 40% of the book was a little lacklustre. It felt quite slow and at times was a bit of a slog to get through
The last 30% was so exciting though! I genuinely applauded at one point. The battle was really quite epic and so enjoyable

At times I found myself getting a little lost with the volume of characters, there was a character list at the beginning of the book but it only listed 6 characters (4 of whom were deceased before this book started). There were so many new names and loyalties that I would have loved the character list to include more of the characters or at least the ones who featured regularly. Also, some of the names were quite similar I did find myself having to go back and reread parts.

I really enjoyed the dual narrative aspect of the book, I love a dual narrative! I must admit that I preferred Iraya’s chapters to Jazmyne’s. Iraya was always the more interesting of the two. There were times were Jazmyne just annoyed me with her very poor choices.

I also have to acknowledge that this book included a romantic moment that I misread, resulting in so much hilarity. It’s been 2 days since I had to reread that part and I still keep bursting into laughter. I’m not laughing at the book, it was my mistake but I’m grateful for that misunderstanding because I needed it!


I did enjoy this book and I would give it 3.5 but rounding down just due to the slow middle. If the middle were maybe half the length or was a bit more exciting then this would have been a 4 star read. It was just such a large period of the book that felt slow so I needed to round it down. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I’m very grateful to have been able to complete this duology.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Hyde

Edward Hyde has a strange gift-or a curse-he keeps secret from all but his physician. He experiences two realities, one real, the other a dreamworld state brought on by a neurological condition.

When murders in Victorian Edinburgh echo the ancient Celtic threefold death ritual, Captain Edward Hyde hunts for those responsible. In the process he becomes entangled in a web of Celticist occultism and dark scheming by powerful figures. The answers are there to be found, not just in the real world but in the sinister symbolism of Edward Hyde’s otherworld.

He must find the killer, or lose his mind.

A dark tale. One that inspires Hyde’s friend . . . Robert Louis Stevenson.

I bought this book as it was the winner of the McIlvanney award in 2021 and I’d loved the 2020 winner. This awards goes to the Scottish Crime book of the year so I felt that this felt as good a reason as any to choose a book. I was instantly drawn to the plot as I was very into Jekyll and Hyde as a kid and still am. I was hoping that this would be a creepy and chilling tale. I gave this book 4 stars but it’s definitely more like a 4.5, I really enjoyed it!

I enjoyed the main characters. Hyde had a dark past and he was very sympathetic. He was desperate to understand what was happening to him. My favourite character was the Lady Doctor called Calley (I say this because everyone kept being shocked by her being a lady because it was the past). I didn’t just like her because my name is Caley and what’s an extra ‘L’ between friends? I liked her because she was strong and confident and brave in a time where women were thought of as feeble and less intelligent that their male counterparts.

This book was as creepy as I’d hoped! I don’t like scary but I enjoy gothic horror which this felt like. My fear levels are that of a Victorian with a sickly pallor! I enjoyed the darkness of this book and the sacrifices and cult elements were chilling!

The book was jam packed full of twists and turns. There was a cult, murders, missing people, stalkers, missing memories etc. I loved trying to work out of these were all related or not. I made so many guesses and they were all wrong which I enjoyed.

Despite this book being quite dark, there were moments of lightness and joviality. The comments about the lack of pockets in womenswear was a personal favourite!

I really enjoyed this book and I’m not usually one for books set from the police point of view. Although historical policing is ok, I think I just get annoyed when they do things they shouldn’t. Victorian authorities were pretty loose with the rules so I didn’t get annoyed (I do not think that being loose with the rules is a good thing for authorities, I just mean for plot accuracy). Although, maybe I just like the baddies? I’m definitely going to keep an eye on the shortlist for the 2022 award as I’ve not been let down by it yet!

Vlogs

Reading Goals Update

Back in January I set myself some reading goals which included reading 22 specific books during 2022. Since we’re now into the second quarter of the year, I thought I’d take a look at my progress so far. My progress was not good. Clearly I forgot which books I had intended to read as I’d only read two…whoops!

My lofty goals, sadly ignored

So I decided to read 4 books from my list of 22 in order to catch up. This week I read the following books;

📚Widowland by C.J. Carey

🔮The Moon, The Stars, and Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan

🐉Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

And

🏝The Island by C.L. Taylor

If you fancy hearing how I got one with these books, I’ve vlogged about them below

Reviews

Life Ceremony

With Life Ceremony, the incomparable Sayaka Murata is back with her first collection of short stories ever to be translated into English. In Japan, Murata is particularly admired for her short stories, which are sometimes sweet, sometimes shocking, and always imbued with an otherworldly imagination and uncanniness.

In these strange and wonderful stories of family and friendship, sex and intimacy, belonging and individuality, Murata asks above all what it means to be a human in our world and offers answers that surprise and linger.

I had heard many great things about this author. I’d been told that I would really enjoy their writing as it can sometimes be quite odd or unusual and that’s something I do enjoy in a book. I thought that a collection of short stories co up d be a great way to get to know a new to me author. I think it was! I really enjoyed this short story collection and gave it 4 stars.

I had seen this collection referred to as ‘horror’ which is not usually my thing. I love a good gothic horror but my scare level is similar to that of a Victorian lady, it’s very low. These stories were horrific in parts but not in a scary way. There were moments of horror and of shock and these stories made me really think!

These stories covered topics that I perhaps wouldn’t usually read about such as cannibalism and but in a thought provoking way. This collection of short stories gave me a lot to think about and I will be seeking out more books by this author Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ebook in exchange for an honest review

Often in short story collections there are some weak ones and some strong one but I am struggling to think of a weak link in this anthology. I enjoyed every story. My favourite ones where the ones that seemed linked to other stories, or maybe I was reading too much into things and making links that weren’t there. I also really enjoyed the first story, which was about a woman who was very into ‘recycled’ items made from humans but was marrying a man who was against these items. I feel that this story set the tone for the entire book as I got a grasp of what sort of horror was involved. I did also love the story about the curtain. Like I said, there really were no weak stories in this collection.

Each of the stories involved issues that was quite uncomfortable such as cannibalism or possession. However the way that they were written didn’t make me feel nauseated. The writing was very beautiful and the entire book was compelling and through provoking. This is another occasion where it turns out that I do enjoy an author that my friends thought I would.

I received this book as an ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I am thinking of reading Earthlings by this author next time I read their works.

Reviews

Six Crimson Cranes

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

I bought this book last year as I fell in love with the cover. When I learned that it was loosely inspired by The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen, I was even more excited! I bought this last year and kept putting it off as I didn’t feel in the right mood to enjoy a fairytale retelling book. However I was in the mood for it last week as I read it and absolutely adored it! I actually read it in one day because I simply could not put this book down. I gave this book 5 stars because clearly I loved it since I devoured in so quickly.

While this was a fairytale inspired book, it was very much a fantasy novel. The world in this book was so vast and gorgeous, I just felt immersed in this world. The book had a map and I love a book with a map, it really helped to get my bearings and to really understand the journey ahead.

I felt bad for Shiori at the start as she really did not want to take part in their betrothal ceremony. She just wanted to spend time with her brothers who had grown up and didn’t spend as much time with her as when they were children. I really enjoyed the creepiness of Raikama, she was definitely hiding something and I wanted to know what.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Shiori really had quite the character arc and really grew into a capable person who would be able to lead. My favourite character was Kiki who was the sassy sidekick who was sarcastic and just brought so much comic relief. I grew very attached to this paper crane! I also really liked Seryu because they just didn’t care that Shiori was a princess, they were royalty too and didn’t care for mortal royals.

I loved the relationships in this book! I loved the relationship between Shiori and their brothers, it was so lovely and they were so protective of each other. I loved Takkan and Shiori bonding throughout the book. I especially loved the relationship between Shiori and Megari! I’d have loved more of these two together. I absolutely hated Zairena! Her existence made me so angry. I also thought she was far too comfortable in a home in which she was a guest. Congratulations to the author for making me feel such rage towards a character.

While this was inspired by a fairytale, this book took so many twists and turns that it became it’s own sort of fairytale. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I saw one of the twists coming but I think we were meant to.

The beginning of this book hooked me, I just wanted to know what happened next. The middle I felt was a little slow but I also think that mah be due to my dislike of one of the characters. The ending was perfection and I cried. Of course I cried! This felt like a mixture of a bunch of fairytale that I didn’t know (plus one that I did). I absolutely love fairytale inspired books and I am so happy to have read this book. I am so excited to read the next book in the series.

Book Recommendation of the Month, Reviews

This Wicked Fate

How much would you risk to save the ones you love? Would you tempt even the most dangerous fate?

Briseis has one chance to save her mother, but she’ll need to do the impossible: find the last fragment of the deadly Absyrtus Heart. If she is to locate the missing piece, she must turn to the blood relatives she’s never known, learn about their secret powers, and take her place in their ancient lineage. Briseis is not the only one who wants the Heart, and her enemies will stop at nothing to fulfill their own ruthless plans. The fates tell of a truly dangerous journey, one that could end in more heartache, more death. Bolstered by the sisterhood of ancient magic, can Briseis harness her power to save the people she loves most?

I preordered this book last Autumn and have been excited about reading this since June when I finished This Poison Heart. When I saw that NetGalley had this, I took a chance and requested an advanced reader copy. I did not expect to get approved but I did and I devoured this book over a weekend because I refused to put it down. I wish I could give this book more than 5 stars. Perhaps 5 stars and a kidney. I absolutely adored this book and struggled to put my thoughts into words. I felt like words just couldn’t possibly convey just how much I utterly enjoyed this book. This Poison Heart was one of my favourite books of 2021 so my expectations of this book were high and they were exceeded!

This book picked up right where This Poison Heart ended. Reading the fall out from the ending of the previous book was utterly heartbreaking. Watching people try to make sense of what had just happened and what they faced really did make me feel as if no time had passed since my last reading. This is because their reactions and fears were so similar to my thoughts at the end of the previous book.

This book gave me many strong female characters, gorgeous family and found family moments, and a pretty epic quest. There were even more strong female characters than in the first book and I enjoyed the relationships between all of the established characters and these new characters (who I also loved). The quest seemed so daunting and I was so excited while following the journey.

Tied throughout the book were pieces of Greek mythology which I’m very into. I really enjoyed the way that mythology and history emerged with the current world. There were hints peppered throughout the book so I got to get really excited by that.

This book was not overly long, it was just a pretty standard paperback. Yet it felt like so many things happened. It felt quite epic!

This book was utterly magical and heartwarming and just glorious. I am such a huge fan of this series and it makes me think I could be interested in plants despite not even being able to keep a cactus alive. I just want more of this world and these characters. I don’t know if there will be more books in this series or if it is now finished but I would definitely read more books set in this world.

I also sobbed so much during the last 20% of the book that I soaked my cardigan because I wasn’t prepared to stop reading to go and get tissues. At one point I declared that I couldn’t see through my feelings because I had tear smudged glasses. I had all the feelings during this book; I was delighted, hopeful, distraught, angry. It was an emotional rollercoaster.

This book was utter perfection and Kalynn Bayron is now one of my autobuy authors as this is the third book that I’ve read by this author and the third 5 star read. I loved this so much

I feel like I may have found my favourite book of 2022. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review. I look forward to receiving my physical copy in June, which I bought myself and despite having already read this I know for certain that I will be rereading this series for years and years.

Reviews

Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl

Monique is a preacher’s daughter who detests the impossible rules of her religion. Everyone expects her to wait until marriage, so she has no one to turn to when she discovers that she physically can’t have sex.

After two years of trying and failing, her boyfriend breaks up with her. To win him back, Monique teams up with straight-laced church girl Sasha–who is surprisingly knowledgeable about Monique’s condition–as well as Reggie, the misunderstood bad boy who always makes a ruckus at church, and together they embark upon a top-secret search for the cure.

While on their quest, Monique discovers the value of a true friend and the wonders of a love that accepts her for who she is. Despite everyone’s opinions about her virtue, she learns to live for herself, inspiring us all to reclaim our bodies and unapologetically love ourselves.

This book was an absolute delight to read. When I started the book, I wasn’t too sure about it as the mum and boyfriend seemed to be just awful, like your classic mean mum and manipulative boyfriend. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get past that. I needn’t have worried as by 8% I was hooked and I realised that first impressions of some of the characters were not accurate.

I absolutely loved Monique and how much she grew as a character. I really liked Sasha and totally understood her character and she felt super relatable. Reggie was silly and fun and I think 17 year old me would have wanted to be his friend. I loved the friendship story and it felt so authentic and was really supportive and sweet.

The amount of strong female representation in this book made me just so happy! Monique’s mum didn’t make a good first impression on me but by the middle/last third of the book I was cheering her on. I also absolutely adored Monique’s auntie and Reggie’s mum, it was so nice having their friendship along with the teenage friendship.

I got so annoyed during this book as some of the actions of the characters were so terrible yet were so realistic. I was enraged by Monique’s father. Monique’s (ex) boyfriend was a sleazy sleazebag and I could see that straight away. I think that’s the perk of being an adult reading Young Adult, I can see situations with my adult eyes when I know 100% I fell for some ridiculous lines in my teens (and 20s).

This book covered some very serious topics and raised awareness of a condition that affects many people who don’t even realise that it is a thing. I genuinely think that this book could change lives. I think that the way that this book discussed sex was really healthy. This is a book that I would definitely encourage my step kids to read when they’re a little older as it was a really good story about attitude towards sex and knowing your own body.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I really enjoyed reading this book and will be looking out for more books by this author as I lived their characters and their writing left me feeling warm and fuzzy. I also happy cried during this book.

Vlogs, Wrap Ups

March Reading Wrap Up

Hello and welcome to my Wrap Up for March. This was a super busy month for me but I somehow managed to get through 21 books and I’m pretty shocked by this!

2 Bookclub Books

5 Audiobooks

2 ebooks

3 Non-Fiction Books

18 Fiction Books

5 💫

✨You Should See Me in a Crown – Leah Johnson https://kapowskireads.com/2022/03/21/a-week-of-reading-and-disliking-a-hyped-book-🙀/

The Young Team- Graeme Armstrong https://kapowskireads.com/2022/03/16/the-young-team/

4 💫

1984- George Orwell (a reread)

Horrorstör – Grady Hendrix https://kapowskireads.com/2022/03/12/horrorstor/

Agatha Christie: The Killings at Kingfisher Hill- Sophie Hannah https://kapowskireads.com/2022/04/02/the-killings-at-kingfisher-hill/

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Weird Sisters- Olga Wojtas* https://kapowskireads.com/2022/03/29/miss-blaines-prefect-and-the-weird-sisters/

Rizzio- Denise Mina https://kapowskireads.com/2022/03/09/rizzio/

Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz- Ely Percy https://kapowskireads.com/2022/03/23/vicky-romeo-plus-joolz/

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz- L Frank Baum (a reread)

3 💫

After the Funeral- Agatha Christie https://kapowskireads.com/2022/03/19/after-the-funeral/

Call Me Maybe – Cara Bastone https://kapowskireads.com/2022/03/21/a-week-of-reading-and-disliking-a-hyped-book-🙀/

The Christie Affair- Nina De Gramont https://kapowskireads.com/2022/03/26/the-christie-affair/

Empress and Aniya- Candice Carty-Williams https://kapowskireads.com/2022/03/21/a-week-of-reading-and-disliking-a-hyped-book-🙀/

2 💫

Fight and Flight- Scott Meyer

The Finalist – Joan Long*

Out of Spite Out of Mind- Scott Meyer

1 💫

How to Murder a Boyband- Jason Roche*

The Lost Daughter – Elena Ferrante

Non-Fiction

Educated – Tara Westover

84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

Watching Neighbours Twice a Day- Josh Widdicombe

*gifted

I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these! Or if you’ve enjoyed any other books lately 💕

Reviews

The Killings at Kingfisher Hill

Hercule Poirot is traveling by luxury passenger coach from London to the exclusive Kingfisher Hill estate. Richard Devonport has summoned the renowned detective to prove that his fiancée, Helen, is innocent of the murder of his brother, Frank. Poirot will have only days to investigate before Helen is hanged, but there is one strange condition attached: he must conceal his true reason for being there from the rest of the Devonport family.

The coach is forced to stop when a distressed woman demands to get off, insisting that if she stays in her seat, she will be murdered. Although the rest of the journey passes without anyone being harmed, Poirot’s curiosity is aroused, and his fears are later confirmed when a body is discovered with a macabre note attached . . .

Could this new murder and the peculiar incident on the coach be clues to solving the mystery of who killed Frank Devonport? And if Helen is innocent, can Poirot find the true culprit in time to save her from the gallows?

I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie so was both excited yet apprehensive about reading one of the New Hercule Poirot Mysteries. Excited because I love Hercule Poirot and was so happy to read more stories featuring him. I had previously read one book by Sophie Hannah and gave it 5 stars so I knew they were a brilliant author. I was a little apprehensive because it’s an existing series written 100 years after the series began. I was worried about a modern author conveying the atmosphere of the original Agatha Christie novels. I really enjoyed this book and I gave it 4 stars.

I was hooked from the first chapter. The book featured a coach trip and travel is something that has featured so many times in Agatha Christie books that it felt authentic. The rest of the book took place in a grand home in an affluent housing estate, grand homes are such a setting for my favourite Agatha Christie books. The estate setting sort of made the book feel a little more modern.

I thought that Hannah captured the character of Poirot just perfectly. I absolutely love Poirot and I feel like the Poirot in this book was the Poirot that I knew and loved. Poirot has a new sidekick who was a little bit timid for a police detective but other than that he was alright. I was a little sad not to have any of the existing Poirot sidekicks but I’m happy that Poirot was captured so well. The rest of the characters were pretty terrible, for various reasons, they just were not likeable at all. This felt a little out of sorts for a Poirot as usually there are some likeable or sympathetic suspects. This book was different though as I would have been ok with any of them being found to be guilty.

I really enjoyed the plot of this book. It was a classic whodunnit which was exactly what I wanted. I didn’t guess the ending or see any of the twists coming. It did feel different to an Agatha Christie book but it felt like a very excellent homage. This was the fourth of the New Hercule Poirot Mysteries but I’ve found out that my library has the first three books in this series so I fully intend on reading those too!

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Miss Blaine’s Prefect and the Weird Sisters

Fifty-something librarian Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist and musician, Shona is selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for a crucial mission involving Macbeth, the Weird Sisters and a black cat.

Unsure which version of history she’s in, Shona tries to figure out who she’s here to save. But between playing the Fool and being turned into a mouse, things don’t always go her way. Shona’s expertise in martial arts is out to the test as family tensions rise and fingers are pointed to Murder. Can Shona unravel the mystery in time to complete her mission?

… Never underestimate a librarian!

This is the third book in the Miss Blaine’s Prefect series. I absolutely loved the second book so my expectations of this third instalment were high! I can happily report that my expectations were exceeded. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and gave it 4 stars on Goodreads.

While this is part of a series, the books can easily be read as standalone novels. All you need to know is that Shona gets sent back in time to correct moments in history and hilarity ensues.

I really enjoyed Shona as a character. She’s so intelligent but she has no common sense or risk awareness which leads to her ending up in some pretty awkward situations. I really enjoyed all of the characters in this book, I loved Duncan and the Hectate the most though.

I have never read Macbeth but do know the basic plot (mainly from Terry Pratchett and The Simpsons). I didn’t feel like that was required reading as the story filled in any gaps.

Neighbour Cat approved

There were a lot of things going on in this book so multiple plots going on. It was easy to keep up with the various plots though as they involved different people and it was very clear what were and weren’t related.

Like with the previous books, this book had a lot of references to historical events. Not just 11th century Scotland but lots of little historical nuggets which I really enjoyed.

This book was utterly hilarious and I laughed so much while reading this. I laughed a lot at the silly situations that Shona ended up in. I also laughed heartily at the terrible jokes within this book. Shona was mistaken for being a fool and with that, came many terrible jokes. However, since the audience of 11th century had never heard these jokes, their reactions made the jokes really funny.

This book was very moreish and I didn’t want to put it down…so I didn’t. I finished it in one day and I regret nothing. Sometimes you just don’t want to stop reading a book and time allows to keep going.

I really enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend the series. This is possibly my favourite book in the series but closely followed by The Vampire Menace. I received this book as an ARC in exchange for an honest review.