Book Review: Sweet Black Waves – Kristina Perez

Book Review: Sweet Black Waves – Kristina Perez

BOOK REVIEW - 2019-11-02T123322.057
Series:
Sweet Black Waves #1
Release Date: June 5th 2018
Publisher: Imprint
Pages: 448
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 4.25/5 stars

Synopsis

Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen. For fans of Graceling and The Mists of Avalon, this is the first book of a lush fantasy trilogy about warring countries, family secrets, and forbidden romance.

Review

Copy of book cover (85)Sweet Black Waves is the first in an all new fantasy series inspired by the legend of Tristan and Eseult. I must admit that I am not all that familiar with the famous tale. I know it’s a romance but little else, so when I went into Sweet Black Waves I wasn’t sure what the story would entail. I must admit I got completely hooked on the story of Branwen and Tristan and I am absolutely dying to read the next book in the series.

The story follows Branwen, cousin to the Queen and last survivor of her family after they were killed by raiders. She one day finds a man on the beach and rescues him, and discovers he is one of the enemy. As the two spend time together in secret, feelings start to bloom between them, but could the world ever accept a couple from the two opposing nations? As Branwen begins to fight for peace, she discovers she has magic in her blood and must to everything she can to keep it secret.

This book was honestly just so addictive. I’m not normally someone who loves romance stories but I completely fell in love with Branwen and Tristan. The characters were brilliantly written. Branwen is so complex, dealing with the loss of her family, the love of her country and her desires for peace. Tristan is likewise a fascinating character and I loved watching the two characters grow and develop as the story went on.

Kristina Perez has created a really fascinating world, and one that is steeped in history and culture. The world building was just perfect and I found it so easy just to sink into this world of magic and enemy kingdoms. Perez has a gorgeous writing style and I found myself getting so absorbed in the story that I ended up staying up way later than I planned because I just had to know what was going on next. Sweet Black Waves is a phenomenal start to this bright and vivid series and I’m definitely planning to dive straight into Wild Savage Stars.
4 stars

Blog Tour: The Lost Ones – Anita Frank

Blog Tour: The Lost Ones – Anita Frank

Release Date: October 31st 2019
Publisher: HQ Stories
Pages: 464
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917

Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

In the classic tradition of The Woman in Black, Anita Frank weaves a spell-binding debut of family tragedy, loss and redemption.

Review

Copy of book cover (78)This debut novel completely swept me up in it’s beautiful story of family and loss. It’s stunningly written and I could not put this book down.

The story follows Stella, a young widow dealing with the death of her fiancee. She goes to stay with her sister who is struggling with being pregnant. Madeline stays in a remote countryside mansion, known as Greyswick and as Stella spends more time there strange things begin to happen and she begins to uncover the dark history of Greyswick.

I honestly completely fell in love with this book. It was everything you could want from a Halloween/Autumn read. It has this dark, imposing setting that really came to life in Frank’s writing. It was full to the brim with atmosphere and I was constantly trying to squeeze in another chapters because I was so desperate to know more.

One of the things I loved most about this story was the characters. Stella and Annie are brilliantly fleshed out, and though the two are completely different I loved seeing them come together in an attempt to uncover the mysteries of the house. The story is well paced, with the latter half of the book having quite a few surprise reveals that I definitely didn’t see coming.

The Lost Ones is definitely a gripping read, with plenty of eerie, supernatural moments to send a shiver up your spine. It put me in mind of Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions, so if you’re a fan of Gothic historical fiction with a touch of the supernatural, this will be right up your street.
4 stars
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Book Recommendations: Halloween Edition!

Book Recommendations: Halloween Edition!

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I’m back with a new book recommendations post. This time we’re talking spooky reads that are perfect for Halloween. I absolutely love doing a readathon on Halloween, it’s a great time to get comfy on the couch with some candles, a blanket and a cat, so I thought I would recommend some of my favourite spooky books that would be perfect this Halloween.

Copy of book cover (80)1. Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo
I finished this just recently and absolutely adored it. Set at Yale University, it features magic, mystery and the dark underworld of the Yale secret societies. I got completely sucked into this story and ended up flying through it. It’s gripping, dark and deals with some really tough themes, but it was a brilliant read and definitely a new favourite of mine.

2. The Monster of Elendhaven – Jennifer GiesbrechtCopy of book cover (81)
This is quite a short little book that I ended up reading in one sitting – perfect for a readathon. The story follows a man hungry for revenge on those who wronged him, and his companion who cannot die. It has a really vivid setting, and excellent world building, especially in such a short book. It’s a gruesome and compelling tale, and one I highly recommend.

3. The Deathless Girls – Kiran Milwood Hagravebook cover - 2019-05-01T094307.932
This one isn’t so much as scary as it is captivating and engrossing. The story is a reimagining of the brides of Dracula and the events that lead them to become immortals. It’s a beautifully told Gothic tale and I was absolutely hooked. It features some stunning writing and a fantastic cast of characters. I also really liked the romance in this story – which is something I don’t say very often!

4. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley JacksonCopy of book cover (83)
I couldn’t resist throwing a classic into the mix. Shirley Jackson is an author I have been a bit hit or miss with. I enjoyed The Missing Girl, didn’t really get We Have Always Lived in the Castle and loved The Haunting of Hill House. This is by far my favourite, it’s dark, creepy and a brilliantly weaved tale.

5. Tunnel of Bones – Victoria SchwabCopy of book cover (84)
This is the second instalment in Victoria Schwab’s middle grade ghost hunter series and if you haven’t read book one I highly recommend both.  The first is set in Edinburgh and the many haunted places within the city. This instalment is set in the creepy Paris catacombs and really brings these places to life, I really loved following Cassidy and her ghost best friend as they tackle ghosts and save the world as we know it.

6. Sanctuary – V. V. JamesCopy of book cover (40)
I still think about this book even though I finished it months ago. A story of murder, revenge and witchcraft, this book will have you on the edge of your seat right till the very last page. In a world where witches live and work alongside humans, the murder of a young high school student leads everyone to start pointing the finger at witches. But who really did it? and was Daniel as innocent as he seemed? Full of twists and turns, this is one of my favourite books of the year.

7. The Furies – Katie Lowebook cover - 2019-03-11T211035.250
This is another book I could not put down and is absolutely perfect for Halloween reading. The story of a group of high school students who believe they have ability to cast spells and enact revenge on those who wronged them. This is a stunning debut with vivid characters and an unforgettable plot.

8. Night Film – Marisha PeshlCopy of book cover (56)
I was a bit late to the Night Film party but my god I’m glad I finally picked this book up. The story follows disgraced detective Scott McGrath as he attempts to understand the suicide of Ashley Cordova, the daughter of a reclusive film maker. As he delves deeper, he learns it might not have been suicide and Cordova might have been messing with something far beyond our understanding. This story felt so real I wanted to google the characters so I could watch the movies.

Copy of book cover (60)9. The Puppet Show – M. W. Craven
Looking for a crime thriller fix this October? The Puppet Show definitely has you covered. The first in a new detective series, this book is full to the brim with shock twists I would never have seen coming and is full of plenty gory moments. It also features a brilliant crime solving duo and I can’t wait to pick up the next instalment in the series.

10.  Dead Voices – Katherine Arden Copy of book cover (82)
This one is a bit of an honourable mention because I’m actually in the middle of reading it now. This is the second instalment in Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces series. This middle grade series is so fun and full of spooky goodness. The first book features plenty of eerie, spine tingling moments and I am loving Dead Voices so far.

So there you have it! Those are my recommendations for spooky reads this Halloween. If you’ve read any great creepy reads recently I’d love to know what they were, and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them!

Blog Tour: A House of Ghosts – W. C. Ryan

Blog Tour: A House of Ghosts – W. C. Ryan

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Release Date:
October 4th 2018
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Pages: 419
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis

Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.
At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.
For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . .
An unrelentingly gripping mystery packed with twists and turns, A House of Ghosts is the perfect chilling read next winter.

Review

As we get to the last few months of the year I find myself reaching more and more for dark and chilling reads that will have me on the edge of my seat. I had pretty high expectations going into this one, I had heard lots of brilliant buzz and hype around it, and I’m so happy to say it delivered. Chilling, mysterious and featuring a brilliant setting.

The story is set in a remote, isolated house on an island off the Devon coast. I completely fell in love with this setting, it was the perfect place to make attempts to contact the dead, and it definitely helped to heighten the tension as we try to figure out the secrets surrounding the guests. I really liked the characters too, we are given two POVs in this story and I really enjoyed both Donovan and Kate’s perspectives as they tried to uncover the mysteries in Blackwater Abbey.

The story is full of plot twists and plenty of surprise moments to keep you hooked. I really enjoyed Ryan’s writing style, and felt the pacing was just perfect to give you that chill up your spine. I also really enjoyed the Wartime setting of this book, it’s not something I read often and loved that extra layer it brought to the story. If you’re looking for something eerie and dark with a real claustrophobic feel, this should definitely be on your wish list.  A House of Ghosts is perfect Halloween reading, and I can’t wait to try more from this author.
4 stars

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Spookathon TBR!

Spookathon TBR!

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Things have been pretty busy at the moment and I haven’t been posted (or reading) as much as I’d like, but I’m hoping a Halloween themed readathon will be just the thing to get my reading back on track. I’m going to participate in Spookathon, the readathon run by BooksandLala, running 14th-20th of October. My TBR is going to be these beautiful books:

Read a thriller: Final Girls – Riley Sager
Copy of book cover (75)Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.
 
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.
 
That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Read something with red on the cover: This Lie Will Kill You – Chelsea Pitcher
Copy of book cover (76)Tell the truth. Or face the consequences.

Clue meets Riverdale in this page-turning thriller that exposes the lies five teens tell about a deadly night one year ago.

One year ago, there was a party.
At the party, someone died.
Five teens each played a part and up until now, no one has told the truth.

But tonight, the five survivors arrive at an isolated mansion in the hills, expecting to compete in a contest with a $50,000 grand prize. Of course…some things are too good to be true. They were each so desperate for the prize, they didn’t question the odd, rather exclusive invitation until it was too late.

Now, they realize they’ve been lured together by a person bent on revenge, a person who will stop at nothing to uncover what actually happened on that deadly night, one year ago.

Five arrived, but not all can leave. Will the truth set them free?
Or will their lies destroy them all?

Read something with a spooky word in the title: The Witch of Willow Hall – Hester Fox
Copy of book cover (77)Two centuries after the Salem witch trials, there’s still one witch left in Massachusetts. But she doesn’t even know it.

Take this as a warning: if you are not able or willing to control yourself, it will not only be you who suffers the consequences but those around you, as well.

New Oldbury, 1821

In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia, and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall. The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…

Read something set in a spooky location: The Lost Ones – Anita Frank
Copy of book cover (78)Some houses are never at peace.

England, 1917
 
Reeling from the death of her fiancé, Stella Marcham welcomes the opportunity to stay with her pregnant sister, Madeleine, at her imposing country mansion, Greyswick – but she arrives to discover a house of unease and her sister gripped by fear and suspicion.

Before long, strange incidents begin to trouble Stella – sobbing in the night, little footsteps on the stairs – and as events escalate, she finds herself drawn to the tragic history of the house.

Aided by a wounded war veteran, Stella sets about uncovering Greyswick’s dark and terrible secrets – secrets the dead whisper from the other side…

In the classic tradition of The Woman in Black, Anita Frank weaves a spell-binding debut of family tragedy, loss and redemption.

Read something you wouldn’t normally read: Unexplained – Richard Maclean Smith
Copy of book cover (79)Based on the ‘world’s spookiest podcast’ of the same name comes Unexplained: a book of ten real-life mysteries which might be best left unexplained. . .

Demonic possession in 1970’s Germany.

UFOs in Rendlesham forest.

Reincarnation in Middlesbrough.

To this day, these real life mysteries and very many more evade explanation.

Based on one of the most successful paranormal podcasts ever, with over 10 million streams and downloads to date, Unexplained consists of ten chapters focussing on a different paranormal event, from Australia to Germany, the UK to Zimbabwe, using the stories as gateways to a journey beyond the veil of the uncanny, exploring what they reveal of the human experience.

Taking ideas once thought of as supernatural or paranormal and questioning whether radical ideas in science might provide a new but equally extraordinary explanation, Unexplained is The Examined Life meets The X Files.

So those are the books I’m hoping to tackle for Spookathon! If you’ve read any of them I’d love to know what you thought, and if you’re participating, definitely let me know what you’re planning to read!

Blog Tour: Angel Mage – Garth Nix

Blog Tour: Angel Mage – Garth Nix

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Release Date:
October 17th 2019
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 560
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .

Review

Copy of book cover (63)To say that Angel Mage was one of my most anticipated books of the year is probably an understatement. Garth Nix has been one of my favourite authors since I was a child, and I absolutely credit him with being the reason I love fantasy books so much. So many of his books – Shade’s Children, Sabriel, A Confusion of Princes –  are some of my all time favourites so going into Angel Mage I had the highest of expectations. The story captivated me from the very first page, and I am already considering when I can make time to reread this stunning book.

Like all of Garth Nix’s books, the world building is excellently plotted, allowing you to completely fall into this story of angels and magic.  The magic system felt really unique, I don’t think I’ve ever come across it before and it was a breath of fresh air. The story is quite a slow burn, it’s a big tome and it really gives you the chance to get to know the world and the brilliantly fleshed out characters. Nix has stated that this is a standalone at this stage, but I would honestly love to read more from this world and the characters.

Angel Mage has plenty of action scenes to keep you hooked in and gorgeous writing that I honestly just could not get enough of. Each sentence seems to leap off the page with vivid descriptions of characters and their setting. It features a brilliant cast of characters, each who brings a really interesting perspective to the table. I really liked Simeon and Henri the most, but honestly I thought all the characters were brilliant.

If you love epic fantasy stories with Three Musketeers vibes, you definitely need to pick up Angel Mage now. I for one am now going to start rereading Garth Nix’s back catalogue while I wait for his next book!
5 stars
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Blog Tour: The Black Hawks – David Wragg

Blog Tour: The Black Hawks – David Wragg

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Synopsis

Copy of book cover (74)Dark, thrilling, and hilarious, The Black Hawks is an epic adventure perfect for fans of Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch.

Life as a knight is not what Vedren Chel imagined. Bound by oath to a dead-end job in the service of a lazy step-uncle, Chel no longer dreams of glory – he dreams of going home.

When invaders throw the kingdom into turmoil, Chel finds opportunity in the chaos: if he escorts a stranded prince to safety, Chel will be released from his oath.

All he has to do is drag the brat from one side of the country to the other, through war and wilderness, chased all the way by ruthless assassins.

With killers on your trail, you need killers watching your back. You need the Black Hawk Company – mercenaries, fighters without equal, a squabbling, scrapping pack of rogues.

Prepare to join the Black Hawks.

Q&A

 1. For those that haven’t checked out The Black Hawks yet, how would you sum it up?

Hi! The Black Hawks is a work of (extremely) low fantasy, about a young man who falls in with a feeble prince and a dysfunctional mercenary company, and tries to save the kingdom in his own inept but well-intentioned fashion. It has intrigue, shocks, ambushes, wolves, weather and a whole lot of furious swearing.

2. What was your inspiration for book?

The story is both a misty-eyed love-letter and a contrarian take on the kind of fantasy I grew up reading. It’s firmly quest fantasy with a journey (both geographical and emotional) at its heart, but also a reaction to all the things I found wearing or just a bit naff about Classic Fantasy Works – the main character has no particular skills or knowledge, he’s just a young fellow with some ideals, and most of the characters in the world are just trying to get by.

3. What drew you to writing fantasy books?

I adore genre fiction, and my early life was steeped in all things fantastic and science-fictional. I grew up on SFF books, pen & paper RPGS, board games and video games (I dread to think how many hours I’ve sunk into computer RPGs over the last decade alone), and I couldn’t imagine writing anything else. Second-world fantasy in particular is fascinating as a way to explore themes and ideas – the other side of the coin from SF in that regard – but sometimes you just want to put characters in ridiculous situations and enjoy what happens next.

4. What was the writing process like for the book? Did you map everything out or just let it flow?

I wrote the first draft in 2015, when I was young and full of hope, based on an idea that had been kicking around for at least 5 years before that (I wrote some other stuff in-between as practice). I mapped out what I thought would be a quick-ish outline, spent several months reading research (13th Century Georgia and northern Turkey, for reference) and drawing up maps and family trees, then went for it. It took about 9 months, and stuck *more-or-less* to the outline. Then after a quick hiatus to have another child, I started planning the sequel.

5. What have you found hardest about writing The Black Hawks?

The opening. One problem with having an idea in your head for a long time is that it becomes part of your narrative bedrock, never to be questioned, and the rest of your work builds up from there. This can make it a real challenge when you realise that the weakest ideas are the earliest ones, and they could do with tweaking or replacing, because you’ve built a ridiculous narrative house of cards on top of it and the slightest change will bring the entire plot crashing down. I hope I’ve learned something from the process!

6. What are you working on next?

Black Hawks 2 is now with my editor, and I’m currently working on a standalone follow-up in the same world, set a while after the events of the second book. It’s set in the wild, untamed plains to the far north, and is a sort of fantasy western: think True Grit meets Terminator 2, with a bit of Fury Road thrown in, but with swords.

7. Finally can you recommend a good book you’ve read recently?

A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Somatar. It’s both a ghost story and an adventure, with spectacular, lyrical prose and an abiding respect for the power of the written word at its core, and about the closest thing to a literary hallucination I’ve experienced.

Massive thank you to David for answering my questions – The Black Hawks is publishing today from HarperVoyager.
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