Reviews, Scottish Reads, Vlogs

The Witch and the Tsar and Raising the Alarm

My festive Vlog with full reviews

I’ve made a start on my Christmas film bingo board and checked off my first prompt. I’m feeling very accomplished! I finished the prompt for White Christmas which was a book featuring snow on the cover. For this prompt I chose The Witch and The Tsar by Olesya Salknikova Gilmore.

I also managed to squeeze in a wee novella and picked up Raising the Alarm by Nicki Bell which was short and sweet. I have preordered the second book in this series and I’m so excited about it!

So far, my plan to read at least 9 books by Christmas is going well. I hope these aren’t m famous last words!

Reviews, Vlogs

Finding a New Favourite and Book Haul

This month has not been a good reading month for me so far. I’m in a slump! I’ve read very little compared to previous months and just haven’t been enjoying the books I’d chosen.

Well this week I may have reached a turning point as I not only was able to finish a book…but I also found a new favourite! Needless to say, I am delighted

My reading vlog

I also had a very mini book haul. Clearly I’m ignoring my self imposed book buying ban. But if I can’t read the books, I might as well buy them. That’s flawless logic!

Reviews

The Dragon’s Promise

Princess Shiori made a deathbed promise to return the dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner, but keeping that promise is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

She must journey to the kingdom of dragons, navigate political intrigue among humans and dragons alike, fend off thieves who covet the pearl for themselves and will go to any lengths to get it, all while cultivating the appearance of a perfect princess to dissuade those who would see her burned at the stake for the magic that runs in her blood.

The pearl itself is no ordinary cargo; it thrums with malevolent power, jumping to Shiori’s aid one minute, and betraying her the next—threatening to shatter her family and sever the thread of fate that binds her to her true love, Takkan. It will take every ounce of strength Shiori can muster to defend the life and the love she’s fought so hard to win.

This story was just excellent and such an excellent continuation to Six Crimson Cranes (which I also loved). I found myself struggling to put this down, I devoured it over one weekend and it was a really enjoyable reading experience. I adored this book as much as Six Crimson Cranes and gave it 5 shiny stars!

This story picked up right where the last book had left, with Shiori about to embark on an epic quest. I was instantly brought into an adventure which was so exciting. There was no slow build or recap of the last book, instant excitement and adventure.

I loved the character growth and enjoyed all of the characters from the first book having their time to shine. I loved the changes that I saw in Shiori and Takkan. I also enjoyed meeting new characters. Kiki was as bossy and hilarious as always and I think may be my favourite character. She was far more vocal in this book and I loved it! I found myself crying about a paper crane and I do not feel silly about this because I just loved her.

I feel like so many of my questions from the first book were answered. I did have a lot of unanswered questions from the first book, or just things that I wanted to know more about. Each of the adventures in this book revealed some more about a character or plot element. The book was just filled with little breadcrumbs! I absolutely loved getting more backstory, I think that was my favourite part.

I really enjoyed getting to know more about the world and the different environments. The book took place in these new places, under the sea and new islands. I absolutely loved the island with the snakes, I think that was my favourite location and favourite part of the story.

During the last 15% of the book I could barely read the words as I was crying so hard (full on ugly sobbing!), but I persisted and was rewarded with a beautiful ending. This book included some inspiration from a fairytale or myth that I wasn’t familiar with at the time but am now because I went down a Google rabbit hole immediately after finishing this book. I adored learning tales from another culture.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I just think that it was a beautifully written, fantasy quest which is one of my favourite genres. I will be rereading this series in the future because it made me just so happy. Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ebook in exchange for an honest review. I have this book on preorder and cannot wait to own a physical copy!

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

Once Upon a Broken Heart

Evangeline Fox was raised in her beloved father’s curiosity shop, where she grew up on legends about immortals, like the tragic Prince of Hearts. She knows his powers are mythic, his kiss is worth dying for, and that bargains with him rarely end well.

But when Evangeline learns that the love of her life is about to marry another, she becomes desperate enough to offer the Prince of Hearts whatever he wants in exchange for his help to stop the wedding. The prince only asks for three kisses. But after Evangeline’s first promised kiss, she learns that the Prince of Hearts wants far more from her than she’s pledged. And he has plans for Evangeline that will either end in the greatest happily ever after, or the most exquisite tragedy…

This book was just a whimsical and dreamy delight of a book! I dithered between giving this book 4 or 5 stars as it was definitely at least a 4, like a 4.5. I ended up giving the book 4 stars but I’m still wondering about whether I should amend my rating.

I am a huge fan of fairytale retelling a or inspired books and this book did nod towards Cinderella but only a little. This was very much it’s own fairytale which was merged with a magical fantasy adventure. I have heard that this book features some characters from the Caraval series which I haven’t read but definitely want to.

I liked Evangeline as a protagonist. My heart just broke for her and I could completely believe the desperation that she felt. She was such a kind character and I felt that sometimes she looked out for others to the detriment of her own safety. I absolutely adored Jacks! He was the epitome of chaos and I loved having such an utterly chaotic character. I just never knew whether I could trust him, I was pretty certain that he wasn’t trustworthy but there were times where I forgot his chaotic energy and that led to some fun revelations. I thought that Marisol seemed very suspicious from the beginning and I kept my eye on her for the whole book as I just didn’t trust her.

This book was split into parts. The part before Jacks and the part after. You could really see the changes in Evangeline. She came into her own when she left for The Great North.

The world was just so immersive. I want to live on The Great North! I don’t want to marry the Prince or anything, I just want to live in a magical world and go to balls! The introduction of the two royal families really helped to imagine the sheer size of the lands.

This book had everything that I wanted: whimsy, magic, a strong female lead, vampires, fancy balls, and apples. The book answered a lot of my questions raised during reading this book but I’m still left with some unanswered questions. I want to know what is in that room? What is Jacks hiding?

I want to know more about this world! I had forgotten that this was the first book in a series and was so sad when it ended. I cannot wait for the next book to come out as I’m very keen to continue reading the series. I want to know what happens next for Evangeline and Jacks.

Reviews

An Unwelcome Quest

Ever since Martin Banks and his fellow computer geeks discovered that reality is just a computer program to be happily hacked, they’ve been jaunting back and forth through time, posing as medieval wizards and having the epic adventures that other nerds can only dream of having. But even in their wildest fantasies, they never expected to end up at the mercy of the former apprentice whom they sent to prison for gross misuse of magic and all-around evil behavior.

Who knew that the vengeful Todd would escape, then conjure a computer game packed with wolves, wenches, wastelands, and assorted harrowing hazards—and trap his hapless former friends inside it? Stripped of their magic powers, the would-be wizards must brave terrifying dangers, technical glitches, and one another’s company if they want to see Medieval England—and their favorite sci-fi movies on VHS—ever again. Can our heroes survive this magical mystery torture? Or will it only lead them and their pointy hats into more peril?

This was the third instalment in the Magic 2.0 Series, a series that I am aiming to finish in 2022.I was a little apprehensive about returning to this series as I didn’t overly enjoy the second book. It just fell a little bit flat for me so I was really worried that the series was going to continue going in that direction. Well worry not! This book was such a welcome return to the fun and silliness of the first book. I am so happy that the series is bringing me more of what I loved when i started the series! I gave this book 4 Stars on Goodreads and I’m so excited to continue with the series.

The majority of this book took place in a world within the computer programmed reality which made me laugh as it reminded me of the bird within a bird within a bird that I saw in the Christmas food brochures. There’s just something about a world inside another world that is inside our world that took a bit of time to get my brain around but I was loving it. The wizards were swept off to another world which was very Dungeons & Dragons (which I loved playing with my friends in the before times. I was a Drow after my Air Genasi fell victim to a dragon. I like playing characters that remind me of Warhammer figures that I have). This new world was also computer programmed but so full of glitches and short cuts which made for some moments of hilarity. I really enjoy reading fantasy and popping off to a magical world and this book really did feel magical!

I really enjoyed the quest element of this novel. I really enjoyed the story of the wizards going off to try to find a way to freedom and the rest of the gang coming in to save them. I really could picture this new world and enjoyed the wolves that when destroyed would multiply where they fell. This also made for some entertaining moments.

In the last book, the book tried to flip sexism and was set in a matriarchy but it just felt like the moments that poked fun at sexism and stereotypes ended up being sexist and just annoyed me. This book seemed to have learned from those mistakes and any sexism or misogyny was called out. The character in question came from a different time which was his excuse but he was told that his attitude towards women wasn’t ok and he did grow which I did enjoy.

This book was just jam packed with nostalgia! The part where the wizards were all together for video night brought back so many memories of my sister and I going to Blockbusters or Spar to rent a video and making a whole event of watching the film. I loved the idea of these wizards, with so many powers, just settling down at the weekend for a movie marathon.

I’ve read some rather emotionally draining books lately and was very much in need of something light, something fun, something whimsical. This book delivered! This book was a very quick and light read. It was super full of silliness, laughs and was just a really enjoyable read. I felt very happy reading this, it made me laugh so much.

I’m so glad that I read this book and I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens next in the series. While this book was part 3 in a series, I really feel like each of the books work well as standalone novels, or at least the ones that I’ve read so far would work as standalones. If you are looking for a silly fantasy adventure novel, this could be the series for you.

Blog, Vlogs, Wrap Ups

2021 Wrap Up

What a year 2021 has been! I have a tendency to read more during times of stress or anxiety and in 2021 I made my way through 202 books. This is a stupidly large number of books and is o way sustainable I will no be aiming for anywhere near this number of books any time soon. My Goodreads goal for 2021 was actually 60 which I reach somewhere around Easter but I chose not to change my target so that I could feel a sense of accomplishment by meeting my goal so early in the year.

My fun stats are as follows:
202 Books
63,928 pages
Average Book Rating of 3.6 Stars

I’ve either had a smashing year or have been extra kind with my ratings. I think it may be a little of both as I do tend to round up rather than down.

When it came to picking my favourite reads of the year, I honestly thought that it would be as simple as just looking at my top read of each month…it was not that simple though! I knew that I didn’t want to include a reread in my top reads of the year and I was also positive that I wanted to have a top 10. I also had gone slightly off of one of my top picks since reading more books in the series plus I had 5 more books that I wanted to include. So suddenly my Top Ten had become a Top Fourteen. The easiest part was whistling this down to ten and honestly, deciding my Top Ten took me the best part of December!

My Top 10 Reads of 2021
(My copy of Duck Feet is currently on loan which is why it’s not in the stack)

As you can see, my Top Ten includes 7 Reads of the Month plus 3 books that I just couldn’t stop thinking about and very much deserved to be in my Top Ten. It’s pretty cool to see three authors on my 2021 Top Ten who were on my 2020 Top Thirteen (2020 was a tough year, I didn’t have the energy to whittle it down to just 10): Lucy Foley, Ayisha Malik, and L.L. McKinney have done it again.

If you want to see which book took which spot, this is all in the video below. but if you just want to know which book took my Number One spot…keep scrolling down past the video and all will be revealed. I honestly knew straight away that this book was going to be at least in my Top Four. I almost just went with a Top Three but then I had two books sharing a spot and Top Four felt weird.

My 2021 Wrap Up and Top Ten Reads of the Year

My winner of Caley’s Book of the Year goes to…

My Number One Book of 2021
Reviews

Sign of the Eight

Two messengers, six allies, fight for survival!

A gateway to a world of the past, of vanished names, hopes and dreams has opened in the depths of the Black Forest. Two messengers have come to our present from the immense sunken realms of time.

Tristan is the messenger of doom. Martha is the messenger of preservation. They used to be lovers, now they are sworn enemies. They have come together to fight one final, decisive battle.

But they cannot fight this fight alone. Both must win allies to fight by their side. Time is of the essence and there can only be a few – everything revolves around the eight, a mystical number that refers to infinity.

Tristan and Martha must search the Black Forest to find six comrades-in-arms to join their fight. Ultimately, five fighters for doom and three fighters for preservation will face each other. And the battle of the eight will continue until only one of them is left and the fate of humanity is sealed.

This was a very quick read with really short chapters, it was so easy to just dip in during a lunch break. This was an ambitious concept and I gave this book 3 stars.

I thought that the premise of this book was just so exciting, I am a huge fan of fantasy novels and quests. It was a battle between good and evil, bother against brother, lover against lover. I enjoyed the gathering of the allies but it felt like there was maybe more behind the selection of the allies that wasn’t mentioned

While there were eight fighters, there were more than eight characters in this book, there were 10 important characters. I did find myself getting confused between some of Tristan’s cronies as they were so similar that it was easy to forget that they were different characters. I enjoyed that the allies weren’t the typical sort of hero characters. With so many characters, I found it difficult to warm towards many of them but I did really enjoy Isobel and the lovely old man with the dog

This book was set in The Black Forest which provided a really atmospheric environment, I am a huge sucker for a story that includes a forest and The Black Forest is possibly the most famous forest I can think of (other than Sherwood). While the book took place in some almost fairytale-like settings, the book was set in the modern era which was an interesting mix. I very much enjoyed the setting of this novel.

I really enjoyed the flashbacks which allowed me to learn more about the relationship between Tristan and Martha. Martha’s history felt unnecessarily violent and abusive. I was very annoyed at the reference to the sexual assault of a character to only existed in reference, it provided nothing to the storyline and wasn’t needed.

I honestly thought that this book was the first in a series. This was because the book took a quite leisurely pace for the first 80% of the novel, the pacing of this was fine as it really let me get into the book. The last 20% felt a little rushed and I was surprised because I thought that this book was building up to the climax which was over very quickly.

I did enjoy the twist in this book, I hoped it would happen and was pleased when it did!

I liked this book, it was ambitious but felt a little rushed in places and I felt like there were a lot of missing explanations. This book included scenes of sexual assault, spousal abuse, racism, xenophobia, violence and anti-semitism, so please bear this in mind if you are picking this up-please look after yourself. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.