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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Does the Minions movie live up to the hype?



The Minions first found fame in Universal’s Despicable Me (2010). Following the subsequent release of Despicable Me 2 (2013), the Minions found a firm place in the hearts of children and adults alike.

2015 brings the release of the Minions first solo film. But does it manage to live up to the hype?

The film starts off by showing the Minions’ timeline. We see them evolve from single-celled yellow organisms, serving the most despicable masters they can find through time, from a T- Rex to Napoleon. However, the Minions are continuously unsuccessful at keeping these masters, and over time they gradually run out of masters and become deeply depressed. But one Minion, Kevin, has a plan. He sets off in search of a new master alongside fellow Minions Stuart and Bob.

The trio soon find themselves heading to Villain Con, where they meet their next potential master – Scarlet Overkill, the world’s first female supervillain. But, of course, things don’t go entirely to plan and soon the three have to save the whole of Minionkind.

Continue reading: http://www.kettlemag.co.uk/article/does-minions-movie-live-hype

Monday, 29 June 2015

Book Review & Giveaway (CLOSED): All My Secrets by Sophie McKenzie

The shocking truth behind a massive inheritance turns Evie Brown’s world on its head. Devastated by her family’s lies and desperate to discover more about a secret which overshadows her past, Evie ends up at Lightsea – an island institute for troubled teens – where she meets the gorgeous but enigmatic Kit…

Rumour has it that Lightsea is haunted and soon Evie sense a strange presence following her. As she is drawn deeper into the island’s mysteries, Evie realises that it’s not just the past, or the dead, that she has to fear.

Trusting the wrong person could cost her life.

Image credit: Simon & Schuster
Before I read All My Secrets, I saw a lot of 2-3 star reviews. So with these in mind, I was expecting to be disappointed. However, I was actually pleasantly surprised.

I don’t know why the other reviewers found fault with it because I really enjoyed it – in fact I finished the majority of it in one night because I had to keep reading and find out what happened!

Unlike a lot of YA fiction, I didn’t find it predictable. I hadn’t guessed what was going to happen until it actually happened, and the story was unexpected, peppered with exciting twists and turns. Similarly, I also liked that it was fast-paced and full of action and drama throughout. Just a dash of romance was nice too, rather than the love interest becoming the main focus of the story (this tends to happen a lot in YA!)

All the characters were interesting with different personalities that really made for an engaging and involving read. I particularly liked Pepper and Josh, although they all had their good points. The author has definitely managed to accurately capture the wide range of feelings and emotions that a group of ‘troubled’ teenagers would be experiencing in this situation. From Samuel’s innocence to outspoken Pepper, not forgetting Evie’s childish reaction to her family at the start, it’s clear Sophie McKenzie has worked hard on this.

I actually really liked the setting of Lightsea too. I often think stories perform better with a limited or single location, because that forces the characters together. In turn that provokes certain dramatic situations and actions, which makes it much more interesting to read. The author has also mastered the technique of ‘show, don’t tell’. This is just my writing background coming through, but I really appreciate an author writing well. For example, Evie notices that some of the rooms at Lightsea are disused and that the owner, David Lomax, wears a threadbare jacket. This shows us that Lightsea is having money issues without outright telling us - things like that are perfect examples of good writing.

Personally, I think the beginning was by far the weakest part of the book because it didn’t draw me in straight away. But don’t give up - stick with it – because as soon as Evie moves to Lightsea the story really comes into its own.

A lot of reviewers have complained that the basic premise is too far-fetched. Sure, the set-up isn’t exactly realistic, but why should that matter? It’s fiction, not real life. The concept might not have been fully realistic, but the way that the characters dealt with it was, and that’s definitely what made this story for me.

Rating: 4 stars.

I really enjoyed reading All My Secrets, and I’m sure you will too. So it’s just as well that I’ve got another copy to give away to one of my readers, courtesy of Simon & Schuster. If you’d like to win yourself a copy, just enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
1. Giveaway closes on 12th July 2015 at 11.59pm (GMT).
2. The prize consists of one paperback copy of 'All My Secrets' by Sophie McKenzie.
3. Upon confirmation of the winner's address, the prize will be posted to the winner by Simon & Schuster, NOT The Writing Greyhound.
4. This giveaway is open to UK residents aged 13 and over.
5. The winner will be randomly generated by Rafflecopter once the giveaway has ended.
6. The winner will be informed by email once the giveaway has ended.
7. The winner will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If the winner has not responded by this time, another winner will be announced.

All My Secrets is released on July 2nd. If you can't wait to read it or don't want to risk not winning a copy in the giveaway, it's available to pre-order now.

Are you a fan of Sophie McKenzie? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Book Review: Anvil of God by J. Boyce Gleason

It is 741. After subduing the pagan religions in the east, halting the march of Islam in the west, and conquering the continent for the Merovingian kings, mayor of the palace Charles the Hammer has one final ambition. The throne. Only one thing stands in his way - he is dying.

Charles cobbles together a plan to divide the kingdom among his three sons, betroth his daughter to a Lombard prince to secure his southern border, and keep the Church unified behind them through his friend Bishop Boniface. Despite his best efforts, the only thing to reign after Charles' death is chaos. His daughter has no intention of marrying anyone, let alone a Lombard prince. His two eldest sons question the rights of their younger pagan stepbrother, and the Church demands a steep price for their support. Son battles son, Christianity battles paganism, and Charles' daughter flees his court for an enemy's love.

Based on a true story, Anvil of God is a whirlwind of love, honour, sacrifice, and betrayal that follows a bereaved family's relentless quest for power and destiny.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Image credit: J. Boyce Gleason / iUniverse
Before I get into the review, I should just point out that the formatting of this book didn’t make it easy to read at all! For some random reason, no ‘th’ in the entire book showed up, so I had to guess words and names (‘the’ became ‘e’, for example). Plus the paragraphing was all messed up too. I don’t know if that’s Netgalley’s fault or the fault of the publisher (it could be just because it was an ARC, or because I have the original Kindle rather than one of the newer models) but either way, it was really off-putting.

Now, onto the review.

To be honest, it reminded me more than a little of Game of Thrones. The basic plot was the same, with everyone fighting to become king/mayor and rule the kingdom. Even some of the places and characters drew comparisons – Charles and Tywin, Sunni and Cersei, Trudi and Brienne, Boniface and Littlefinger… I could go on.

There were so many characters and places (many with awkward or similar-sounding names) that by the end of the book I still didn’t have everyone straightened out in my mind! It was also a slow-burner. I didn’t really get into it until the end and I think a lot, especially at the start, could have been cut. It was quite long (440 pages) and not everything was necessary. A lot of it (i.e. the battles and the politics) I didn’t understand enough or wasn’t interested enough to care. Personally I would have liked more of the Christianity vs. Paganism storyline and less focus on the battle of succession.

However, the fact that it was all true to life is what made this book for me. Without it, I wouldn’t have been interested enough to give it any more than a Goodreads two-star rating (as it was, I gave it three stars). I really liked that everything was historically accurate (obviously with some artistic license) as possible. The author clearly did his research, and I appreciate that. It’s also nice because it’s teaching me about a period of history I know very little about in a fun and entertaining way.

The thing I liked most about Anvil of God was the attention to detail and the characterisation. Every single one of the characters really drew me into their lives and their stories, making me care about even the minor characters. They were all multi-faceted and intriguing – lifelike, but then I guess that’s easier when you have a real historical story as your basis to work from. It was hard to distinguish a distinct ‘baddie’ character because they all had good and bad points, and you could understand and sympathise with every character, which is one of the ultimate hallmarks of good writing. For every flaw or fault, there was a redeeming feature. No-one is ever truly evil through and through – it’s impossible – and Anvil of God recognised and addressed that.

I thought Hélène was a very interesting yet unexplored character – I would have liked to have learned more about her. However, my favourite character was undoubtedly Charles’ daughter Trudi. She’s a strong, independent woman who follows her heart and her desires rather than conforming to convention or expectation, and I like that. Like her Game of Thrones counterpart, Brienne of Tarth, she isn’t afraid to forge her own path and do what she thinks is right. Sadly female characters like these two are rare in historical fiction (or at least historical fiction dating from the Medieval ages and backwards) and even rarer in real stories from this era. Because of this, Trudi is a refreshing change.

The frustrating thing is that I want to find out what happens next in the series after reading this book. Although there’s no current release date for the second book in The Carolingian Chronicles series (I don’t even know if the author’s writing one!) I hope that this story gets continued. The only problem is, if a sequel ever does get published, I don’t know if I’ll be invested enough to bother when there are so many other books I could be reading instead.

Rating: 3 stars.

Anvil of God is available to buy now.

Will you be reading Anvil of God? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Five things to do in Canterbury, Kent

Image credit: Flickr/Les Haines
Situated in the middle of Kent, the garden of England, Canterbury is one of the country’s oldest cities. Canterbury is known mostly for its impressive cathedral, but there is a lot more to the city than most people know.

To me, Canterbury is like a second home. It’s where I went to university, where I found my independence, and where I fell in love. Sometime in the future I’d like to move back there, but for now all I can do is tell you about it.

Because of its history the city is a major tourist attraction (there are always parties of coach tours and school trips wandering around) so there is plenty to see and do in Canterbury all year round. Much as I’d love to list it all here that would take a very long time, so instead I’ve chosen five of the best things to do in Canterbury. If you’re ever in the area, you won’t want to miss these!

Canterbury Cathedral

Of course, it would be impossible to write a guide to Canterbury without including the cathedral. The original cathedral was built by St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, in around 597 AD. However, the current cathedral dates from 1070, just after the Norman Conquest.

Even if you’re not a religious person, the cathedral is great to visit because of its stunning architecture and wealth of history. If you go inside, you can see the spot where Archbishop Thomas Becket was famously murdered in 1170, now marked by a dramatic modern sculpture. The crypt, cloisters and cathedral grounds also help to make Canterbury Cathedral the perfect place to visit.

Continue reading: http://www.kettlemag.co.uk/article/five-things-do-canterbury-kent

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Wish list: Powder scarves

So I was recently browsing the web when I came across Powder. If you haven't heard of them before, Powder are a company specialising in women's accessories like scarves and gloves. They were founded in the UK in 2009 and have since gone from strength to strength, even launching in the US in 2012.

I've had a look at some of Powder's lighter spring scarves, and to show you some of my favourites I've decided to do a wish list post. (Note: I'm not getting paid for this post!)

1. Colour Riot Print - £18

Image copyright: Powder
I've started with my favourite of Powder's spring scarves collection. The pastels version of the Colour Riot Print is my favourite mainly because of the colours. They're less in-your-face than the brights version, and they blend well together. I also like the pattern - it's noticeable but not attention-seeking.

2. Tabitha - £22

Image copyright: Powder
This one is the lightest of the light, made from layered sheer organza and perfect for summer. I like the way the material looks when it's draped, with the light shining and reflecting off different layers and making it look much more multi-faceted. My favourite colour for the Tabitha scarf is raspberry, because it's such a lovely rich colour that really brings out the quality of the material.

3. Zoe - £18

Image copyright: Powder
This came very close to being my overall favourite, but the Colour Riot Print just cinched it. I love the pattern of the Zoe - the zigzag print and varying thickness of the bands give it a fun and almost childlike feel. The colour options are also gorgeous, though I prefer it in the purple mix. It's fun, feminine and playful - perfect for a day in the sun!

Are you a fan of Powder's scarves? Tell me your favourites in the comments below!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Five summer breaks in Northern England and Scotland

Image copyright: Lorna Holland
Holidaying doesn’t have to break the bank. If you’re looking for a getaway this summer, there’s no need to look abroad when there are some great holiday destinations right here in the UK.

So in partnership with Kettle Mag's article on the best short summer breaks in mid-southern England and Wales, here’s my pick of the best summer breaks in northern England and Scotland.

The Lake District

The Lake District National Park, in northwest England, is primarily known for its series of glacial lakes, fell walking, and Kendal mint cake. But did you know it’s also home to Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain? Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of opportunities in the Lake District for fell-walking and taking in the stunning views, but there are also thriving towns to visit, like Keswick and Bowness-on-Windermere. For the lakes themselves, Derwentwater and Windermere are the most popular, and boat tours are available for both. If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, why not go horse riding or try a Segway tour?

Find out the rest and continue reading: http://www.kettlemag.co.uk/article/five-short-summer-breaks-northern-england-and-scotland

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Blog Tour: Sweet on Wilde by Fabiola Francisco

Last week I reviewed Sweet on Wilde by Fabiola Francisco. You can see my review here.

This week, I'm taking part in the book's blog tour - so check out the post below!

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Eight months ago, I made a deal with my best friend. This wasn't your typical pact. No, we had to take a different route. The deal was that if we were still single by fall, we would join online dating. Yes…now I am that girl. Just me, though, because she met a guy and saved herself from the awkwardness of dating people you meet via the Internet.

Cheesy pick up lines.
Inappropriate messages.
Disaster dates.

I don’t want to be "Savannah, profile 8713," but a pinky promise is a promise you keep. What I wasn’t counting on was meeting a guy at the local bar.

So what happens when you decide to open yourself up to new opportunities? You might just cross paths with someone who makes you believe in love. Parker Wilde brought out the best in me and understood the worst, but when an amazing opportunity presents itself and our lives take different directions, is being sweet on Wilde enough for us?
Sweet on Wilde
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The music blasting from the speakers draws me, and I move my body to the beat as I sit by the bar facing the dance floor. Although Southern is a more laid back bar, it has a small area designated for the patrons that want to dance without feeling like they’re disrupting the flow of the service.
“Let’s go dance.” Parker is eyeing me mischievously, obviously enjoying as I move to the music. The stress he came in with has now totally eased out of his body. He is back to his relaxed, confident self.
“It’s okay. I’m fine here, not much of a dancer,” I lie because the thought of dancing with him throws me off.
“Really? You haven’t stopped moving. Come on,” he reaches his hand out to me. Taking a moment to watch him as he stands before me with his hand out, I can appreciate how good-looking he is. I take his hand and let him lead me towards the small crowd dancing in the center of the venue.
“Sweet Home Alabama” begins to come through the speakers, and as soon as everyone hears the familiar introduction, they get in position, ready to dance the steps taught to us from a young age. In perfect unison, we all begin the line dance, looking like something out of Footloose. As I’m turning with the beat, I notice Parker beside me, following along without missing a step. I look down at his feet, and smile, shaking my head.
Two more songs come on, each with its own line dance to accompany the music, and we all dance. The next song that comes on is a slower one, so I head back to the bar in need of a cold beer to cool down. Line dancing always gets me excited but it can be tiring. Before I make it out of the crowd, an arm jerks me back and turns me. I’m facing Parker, his smile causing my heart rate to speed out of control. “One more,” he says, beginning the two-step to Billy Currington’s lyrics. Leading me around the dance floor, Parker is confident, his grip on me firm as we move through the other people dancing.
“You know, for someone who mocks my boots, yours look quite worn and broken in.”
He chuckles, his grip tightening around my waist. “I may not be from Tuscaloosa, but I am a southern boy, Savannah.” His drawl heavier, making his point.
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Fabiola Francisco is a contemporary romance author from Miami, FL. She has always enjoyed writing. When she was young she began writing creatively. It was always a therapeutic way for her to express herself. She began with poetry, and throughout the years went expanding to short narratives until she finally decided to write a novel.
Her love for books has inspired her to write her own stories. Her books range from emotional to lighthearted humor. She is a firm believer in happily ever afters and the sometimes jagged path to achieving it. She hopes to continue writing more stories to reach readers individually.
When she's not writing, Fabiola loves expressing herself through art and being out in nature. She loves to cuddle with a good book and a glass of wine.
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Other Books by Fabiola
Perfeclty Imperfect Cover
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Are you a fan of Fabiola Francisco? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Theatre Review: Communicating Doors at the Menier Chocolate Factory

Image credit: Kettle Mag
Over the years, prolific playwright Alan Ayckbourn has produced many works exploring the angst and trivialities of the British middle class. He often does this in a highly inventive way, working with intriguing concepts and combining genres to create entirely unique work. Communicating Doors is a perfect example.

Written in 1994, the play can best be described as a comic thriller with a sci-fi twist. As confusing as that sounds, it’s actually a subtle and surprisingly warm-hearted revival, directed brilliantly by Lindsay Posner.

In the year 2020, Reece, a dying businessman (Robert Portal), hires dominatrix Poopay (Rachel Tucker) and invites her to his hotel suite. Once there, he asks her to witness his written confession that he murdered both his first and second wives, or rather, he got his sinister business partner Julian (David Bamber) to do the dirty work for him.

After a struggle, Reece collapses and Julian comes after Poopay. She runs through a connecting door and suddenly finds herself in the year 2000. In this time, the same suite is being occupied by Ruella (Imogen Stubbs), Reece’s doomed second wife. Ruella in turn uses the connecting door, but instead of going forward to the present, she travels back 20 years to 1980 where she finds Reece’s first wife Jessica (Lucy Briggs-Owen). Eventually the three women join forces to try and defeat Julian and avoid their untimely deaths.

Continue reading: http://www.kettlemag.co.uk/article/review-communicating-doors-menier-chocolate-factory

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Book Review: Sweet on Wilde by Fabiola Francisco

Eight months ago, bakery-owner Savannah made a deal with her best friend, Emily. If either of them was still single eight months down the line, they would sign up for online dating. Typically, since then Emily found herself a boyfriend, leaving Savannah to brave the world of online dating alone.

But Savannah wasn’t counting on meeting a guy at her local bar after a disaster date. Southern boy Parker Wilde turns out to be everything Savannah wanted. He brings out the best in her and understands the worst. He even makes her believe in love again.

But when Parker is offered the job of his dreams and their lives take different directions, will being sweet on Wilde remain enough for Savannah?

Image credit: Fabiola Francisco
I was sent an ARC of Sweet on Wilde in exchange for an honest review. So having said that, I wish I could say I liked it more than I did. I didn’t dislike it, but similarly it’s far from joining the select few books that have managed to reach my prestigious ‘favourites’ shelf on Goodreads.

My main problem concerned the plot, or rather the lack of it.

Nothing much happened till way past the middle of the book (and at 283 pages, it was no short story or novella either). It wasn’t even particularly character-led. Basically, the whole plot consisted of just ‘this happens, then that happens’ – there was no real action or conflict. The main conflict was Parker’s move to Atlanta for the new job, which happened about 75% of the way through the book and got resolved within approximately 5%!

Having said all that, however, I did like the characters. Both Savannah and Parker were realistic and relatable three dimensional characters – real people, not just fictional characters. To give credit where it’s due, Fabiola Francisco is great at creating lifelike and approachable characters.

Nevertheless, at certain points in the story characters seemed to have complete U-turns within the space of a few pages. For example, to paraphrase Parker: ‘I can’t take the job, I won’t leave you, my home is Tuscaloosa now.’ Then the next day – ‘I’m taking the job’. The parts like that were just too contradictory to be entirely believable, because if you’re that set on one thing, nothing could make you change your mind that drastically, that quickly.

I also didn’t really like how Francisco would spend ages describing one thing, like a particular date, but would then suddenly jump ahead a week and dump you straight back into the story at that point with no prior warning. That got a bit disorienting after a while. There were also parts where the dialogue and turn of phrase made me wonder if it was written in a second language, or just poorly edited.

Image credit: Fabiola Francisco
As it turned out, I have to wonder if the whole set-up with the online dating business was really necessary. It didn’t really end up adding to the story at all because Savannah could have just met Parker at Southern anyway, without all the online dating set-up. I also found myself questioning why every single person they knew seemed to be supportive of them. Whatever Savannah did, everyone she came into contact with seemed to be proud of her, urging her to follow her dreams. This goes back to my main point – this book needed more conflict. We needed a villain, but there was no-one there. Everything just fell perfectly, unrealistically, into place and all reasoning and logistics flew straight out of the window.

However, (without giving away any spoilers) I’m a sucker for a happy fairytale ending. You know the sort: ‘and then they got married and lived happily ever after’. It’s cliché and definitely over-used but I don’t care – fairytale endings are feel-good and inspiring, and fill you with hope for your own life.

Speaking of clichés, the concept of a main character with dead parents is getting a bit tired now. It’s not new anymore and it didn’t add anything to the story. Savannah’s relationship with her grandma was sweet, but her parents didn’t need to be dead in order for it to be included.

Another thing the author did well was to perfectly capture the feelings of a long-distance relationship. The feelings of loneliness, irrational jealousy, always waiting… they were all there, and used well. Though I have to say, it annoyed me a little because long-distance relationships are never as easy to change as Savannah made them out to be.

Basically, if you want an easy, relaxed, feel-good read (this would be a perfect holiday read for the beach!) this is the book for you. Or if you have a thing for charming Southern guys, then you should definitely read it! But if you want something with a bit more pace, action, and plot, then I’d give it a miss.

Rating: 3 stars.

Image credit: Fabiola Francisco
Sweet on Wilde is available to buy now.

Will you be reading Sweet on Wilde? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Interview: C.A. Jonelle

If you regularly visit my blog, you’ll know that yesterday I reviewed Zaryk - book one in the Twisted Epiphany series - by C.A. Jonelle. (If you missed it, you can read the review here). Today, again as part of Zaryk’s blog tour, I’m interviewing the lovely C.A. Jonelle herself!

Firstly, tell us a little about yourself.

I’m currently working on my bachelor’s degree in accounting and I’m employed full-time as a bank teller. I live in a small town in Ohio with my husband, daughter, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and 6 fish. I started off writing poetry in high school and didn’t start writing stories until my late twenties when a good friend of mine, Mel, brought up the idea of doing writing prompts. It was then that I found my love of writing again (I had given up on it shortly after high school).

How did you first become interesting in writing?

In high school it was a therapy session when I wrote. My poems helped me release what I felt deep down inside. When I started writing the prompts with Mel, it released my desire to write even more. I wanted to tell stories. I wanted to dive into a new world.

How do you get inspiration for your books?

I love rock music and I love rock band romance novels. I love the drama, harshness, sex, and the way these rock stars sweep the love of their life off their feet. I tapped into my crazy imagination and set forth into that world.

Image credit: Book Wormie Spot
What draws you to writing romance?

The drama. I really like the drama. I like making up new lives and watching them develop on the pages. The sex is a nice perk as well ;) 

How did the Twisted Epiphany series come about?

To be honest, it just popped into my head one day. I started writing and let the words flow. It was originally going to be a standalone novel, but then I decided I wanted each guy to have a story of their own.

What’s your writing process?

My writing process is an extremely messy one! I tap out notes into my phone all the time and random snippets are all over the place. It’s not organised very well at all! But it works for me somehow. I can never sit still and my environment is noisy.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

The writer’s block. There are times when I’ll write every day for a week. Then all of a sudden I won’t have anything for days or even a month!

What do you love most about writing?

I love coming up with the stories. I love getting lost in the writing and forgetting about reality for a bit. Creating the characters and places and plotting is an amazing feeling and almost freeing.

Which authors inspire you?

My awesome friend, Mel. If it wasn’t for her I would have never even gotten this far. She’s the reason I made my dream come true.
Kylie Scott and Michelle A. Valentine. Their rock band series made me realize my love for rock band romance novels.
Edgar Allan Poe. His writing helps keep my mind and imagination sharp.

Image credit: C.A. Jonelle
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Take your time. Don’t rush. Keep organised (I never will be lol) and make a budget for your work. Don’t let any discouragement get you down. Just keep on writing.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is my all-time favourite book because it teaches you to put yourself in someone else’s skin and walk around in their shoes. It’s emotional and powerful.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I just want to put out great stories that touch my readers somehow. It always puts a smile on my face when I hear someone tell me they loved the book. I also love the reaction I get when they read the shocking parts of the story and ask me “Why?!” or “No! You can’t do that to him or her!” I just want to enjoy writing and publishing and keep having fun with it.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m working on book two, and that’s Zayne’s story. After that, I will tackle Kreed’s, Zayden’s, and then Deklan’s books. I also have notes stashed away for two standalone novels. One is about a woman who battles depression and comes to some realisations about life. The other one is about three individuals of different ages who are bullied and find a way to get through it together. After those, I would like to publish a poetry book and another series involving a female rock band.

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?

I love both, but prefer e-books because I can have them all on my Kindle and take them with me. Nothing will ever beat the feel of the pages of a real book on my fingers though. I like e-books more because of the convenience of them.

You can find C.A. Jonelle on all the usual social media channels: Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest & Wattpad.

Are you a fan of C.A. Jonelle? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Book Review: Zaryk by C.A. Jonelle

Book one in the Twisted Epiphany series, Zaryk follows the story of the titular character, Zaryk Hunter, as he attempts to piece his life back together after the tragic death of his little sister. Years after the fatal accident, Zaryk is on the cusp of success with his band Twisted Epiphany, but he still can’t shake the demons from his past. Instead he drowns his memories with alcohol and partying.

Enter Lyndsay.

Lyndsay is the most beautiful woman Zaryk’s ever met. He can’t help falling for her - she gives him hope that there can be happy endings in life after all. But one night of drunken passion ruins everything and misunderstanding drives them apart.

Will things ever work between them? Or will Zaryk’s growing fame and Lyndsay’s insecurities keep them apart forever?

Image: Book Wormie Spot
Before I get started, I should just quickly point out that I received a free copy of this book to review as part of the Zaryk blog tour. I was also lucky enough to interview the author, C.A. Jonelle. You can read the interview here.

Anyway, now for the review.



Zaryk pleasantly surprised me. Sadly, good quality writing is quite rare in this genre (contemporary romance) so it’s great when you discover a well-written gem like this, especially from an indie author. And, even better, it had an engaging storyline and interesting characters as well.

The fast pace kept me reading on – there were just enough hooks in all the right places to keep me interested and pique my curiosity. The author drags us into the action right from the very start, meaning you’re instantly hooked. I had to know what was going to happen and as it turned out I ended up finishing the whole book in less than a day!


To begin with, the set-up really intrigued me. Although Zaryk is in a band, the whole band aspect took a backseat which allowed the book to really be about Zaryk’s individual story. In books like this the rise to fame is usually the key aspect, but here the romance and Zaryk’s relationships were instead. This was refreshingly different and made a nice change, showing that famous people and celebrities really are just like us.

Quite often I found myself thinking about the reality of the situation and some of the events, because I don’t think it’s possible for any more bad luck to happen to that family! At points it got a bit too unbelievable, but somehow in this context it didn’t really matter. I was able to suspend my disbelief, forget reality, and just focus on enjoying the story.

However, I can’t help thinking that when Zoey (Zaryk’s younger sister) died the others would surely end up respecting and valuing their own lives more? For example, Zaryk wouldn’t be drinking himself into an early grave, and their parents would surely care more about some of the more questionable things the boys were up to rather than just instantly forgiving them. I know everyone deals with grief in different ways, but this seemed a bit too unrealistic for me.

Getting on towards the middle of the book, I felt the story started jumping around too much. The combination of suddenly skipping years ahead and simultaneously switching between narrating characters is confusing and disorienting. I think the story could easily have been longer, or even split up into two books to fully explore the events that occur during these long gaps of time rather than just glossing over them with a brief explanation.

For all his faults, I actually really liked the character of Zaryk. He’s a celebrity, but he’s detailed, he’s complex, he’s unpredictable… He’s human. On the other hand, I have to admit I’m not too fond of Lyndsay. Everywhere Zaryk excels, Lyndsay does the opposite. She’s too contradictory and she changes her mind from one page to the next. All the fuss about Zaryk’s lifestyle and his ex got repetitive and irritating, and by the end I just wanted to slap some sense into her!

But regardless of all that, it was a good book and an enjoyable read. And talk about a cliff-hanger ending! If there was any doubt in my mind, now I definitely have to get the next book when it comes out so I can find out what happens!

Rating: 4 stars.

Zaryk is available to buy now. Zayne, book two in the Twisted Epiphany series, is also available now.

Will you be reading Zaryk? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Interview: Alex Olivetti from Threatpoint

threatpoint, metal, music, band
Image credit: Stencil PR
Threatpoint are a groove metal band from Scranton, Pennsylvania, in the US. The band includes Chris James (vocals), CJ Krukowski (drums), Alex Olivetti (guitar), Mike White (guitar) and Eric Ross (bass). I sat down for a chat with Alex about the band, their influences, and what's next for Threatpoint.

What made you first become interested in music?
My father had guitars around the house when I was younger and both he and my mother always had music playing, so it kind of spiralled from there.
How did Threatpoint start?
A mutual friend actually got the ball rolling. CJ and I played in a band with our singer Chris' old band, so we already knew each other. We had a couple line-up changes and currently have Mike and Eric, who came from a band Threatpoint played with numerous times.
Who are your musical influences?
A lot of newer American metal bands - Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Shadows Fall, Tremonti, etc. I also love some old-school metal like Metallica, Pantera and Testament. In terms of lead playing, Paul Gilbert is my favourite guitar player. I used to play for hours and hours a day with his instructional videos.
What’s your favourite song?
That's a tough one. Probably 'Suffocate' by the band Sevendust. It's got a heavy groove to it with great lyrics.
What music are you listening to currently?
A little bit of everything, from Michael Buble, to Cannibal Corpse, to Elvis.
What’s your favourite lyric?
From another Sevendust tune called 'Confessions' - "You know the world doesn't always love you, but you never let that define you". That's a powerful line that always picks me up when I'm down.
Why did you choose your name?
CJ and Chris were tossing around ideas. The words "Threat" and "Point" were somewhere in the mix so we just combined them. I think the name is a good description for our music as well - aggressive and in your face.
Which of your songs is your favourite?
Man, that's a tough one. I love playing a lot of our songs but my favourite would have to be a toss-up between ‘The Beast Within’ and ‘Collapse’. ‘The Beast Within’ is heavy with a melodic edge and ‘Collapse’ is non-stop energy.
What are your most and least favourite things about being in a band?
I love being able to write and create music with like-minded people, it's the best feeling in the world. Playing shows is always fun, recording and hanging out in the studio and overall just getting along with the guys, we see each other even when we're not doing anything band related. It's a brotherhood that helps keep us moving. As for the least favourite, the travelling can get boring and tiring. We're all very energetic on stage so my body hurts after every show. Having a bad show experience is never fun either.
What are your interests outside of music?
I like movies, sports (football and soccer), video games and just hanging out with friends.
What’s the best moment of your career so far?
We've had some amazing shows over the past two years and got to meet Tim "Ripper" Owens. But the best moments would have to be fans/friends coming up to us and telling us that our music helped them through a tough time in life or even inspired them. Knowing that our music can have such an impact on people is humbling beyond words.
What’s happening in the near future?
We’re currently in the writing process for our third album. So far we have 10 songs written and a couple more ideas floating around.
How can people find out more about you?
Our website is a one stop shop for everything. You can also find us on social media, so subscribe, follow us or give us a like! Thank you for all of the support!
Are you a fan of Threatpoint? Let us know in the comments below!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Book Review: Blurring the Line by Kierney Scott

Blurring the Line is the first book in Kierney Scott’s The Firing Line trilogy. It follows the story of DEA agent Beth Thomson as she works to find ‘El Escorpion’, the elusive leader of the Los Treintas gang.

But Beth’s work isn’t getting her anywhere. To help, she recruits ex-soldier Armando Torres as an undercover agent. Tasked with infiltrating Los Zetas, one of Mexico’s deadliest cartels, Torres needs to help Beth expose the gang’s drug-running into the USA. In return, Beth promises to turn a blind eye to Torres’ goal of finding and killing the rival cartel member who killed his best friend.

It doesn’t take long for Torres to climb up the ranks within the cartel, and soon even Beth has to question his loyalty. Who does Torres really work for? Can she trust him? And why can’t Beth stop thinking about him?

Image: Kierney Scott / Carina
I’ve read a lot of positive reviews of this book, so when I was sent a review copy I was pretty excited to read it myself. Unfortunately though, Blurring the Line didn’t manage to live up to my expectations.

I’m not saying it was bad, because it wasn’t. It was okay… Just nothing more than that.

I suppose in the end this book wasn’t really my kind of thing. Although I regularly read books from every genre out there, sometimes a book just doesn’t connect with me for whatever reason.

But regardless of all that – God, do I want to buy the next book so I can find out what happens next! This book has one of the best cliff-hanger endings I’ve read for a long time. It’s not just on the edge of the cliff, it’s teetering right on the very edge on the most unstable bit of ground possible. So I warn you, if you read this book, you will have to read the next one too! (Holding the Line, book two in the series, is currently on my Goodreads to-read shelf!)

But anyway, back to the review.

Especially at the start, the author didn’t really marry the two components of the story (the romance and the DEA/cartel stuff) together well. They felt mismatched, like two completely different books had been merged together, and not well at that. But in fairness, this did improve throughout the book.

I also got a bit confused with all the cartel and drug-running stuff. It obviously didn’t help that I know virtually nothing about that world anyway, but I do think it could have been made clearer. I kept forgetting who people were and what was happening, which often made me lose the thread of the plot. But despite that, sadly the whole thing was a bit predictable. It was obvious that Beth and Torres would get together and the cartel would eventually be brought down, and there were no real surprises until the very end with that cliff-hanger ending.

Beth is a good character, she’s complicated and intriguing. But I couldn’t help wondering, if she’s supposed to be an OCD workaholic cat-lady, why are so many men falling in love with her? It just seems contradictory. Plus Beth herself had a massive U-turn with her feelings about Torres. One minute she’s scared out of her wits around him, the next she’s inexplicably in love with him. It’s not logical, and it doesn’t realistically make sense. Also, the whole backstory and subplot with her family seemed a little over-the-top and unbelievable. Was it all entirely necessary? I can only assume it’s there as set-up for the rest of the series.

I also liked the character of Torres. My only criticism is that I needed his backstory to be clearer. His motivation could have been portrayed in a much better way – we know he joined the cartel to get the chance to avenge his best friend, but I wanted to have more depth than that. Considering he’s one of the main characters, I would have liked some more information so I could relate to him more.

One particular feature I liked about the book was the fact that the cartel and gang members had redeeming features. It’s obvious that they were the villains, but they weren’t just bog-standard two-dimensional baddies. Granted, they didn’t have particularly significant redeeming qualities, but no-one is completely bad, and it was refreshing to have an author recognise that.

So to summarise, Blurring the Line was okay. Not outstanding, but definitely not bad either. The biggest problem was that I wasn’t really invested in the story or the majority of the characters, so I didn’t have that all-important emotional connection. It’s a shame, but there you go.

Rating: 3 stars.

Blurring the Line is available to buy now.

Will you be reading Blurring the Line? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Unboxing and review: Goodies from PetShop.co.uk

My dog Max and I were recently lucky enough to have the chance to review some goodies from the lovely people at PetShop.co.uk!

PetShop.co.uk are an online pet food company. They supply pet owners with food, treats, beds, toys… basically everything a pet could need. And although I’m reviewing dog food, they also provide items for cats, small pets, birds, and fish.

They also provide a unique feature called the Bottomless Bowl service. Essentially, you set it up at checkout and they redeliver your order at a frequency that suits both you and your pet, from as often as every two weeks right up to every twelve weeks. This is a really great idea because it makes sure you always have the food your pet needs all the time without the hassle – it eliminates the annoyance of running out of pet food and having to lug a heavy bag all the way home from the supermarket. (Can you tell I like this idea, by any chance?)

Anyway, on with the unboxing!

Image copyright: Lorna Holland
The parcel arrived promptly and, as you can see, was very well packaged for safe transit. I particularly liked that it was addressed to both me and Max – a funny little personal touch.

Image copyright: Lorna Holland
So, here are the products that we received. (Excuse the blurry photos, Max was impatient to get his paws on the treats!)

Image copyright: Lorna Holland
Firstly – Huntland Grain Free dog food.

Max is used to dry food (he normally has Bakers Complete) but it was nice for him to get to try a different brand to normal. At first I wasn’t sure if he’d like the flavour (British grazing lamb with peas and mint leaves), but he soon proved me wrong. He was a little hesitant at first, but after the initial few bites he really seemed to enjoy it. In fact, he definitely seemed to be a lot happier to eat this than he’s been to eat any food for a long while!

Next was Naturediet dog food.

This one I was a little wary of. Max used to have wet food a lot when he was younger, and it sometimes repeated on him. Plus it was so strong that it used to make the whole house smell of dog food, which is partly why we eventually switched him onto dry food. But anyway, the Naturediet food apparently agreed with his system and caused no problems. The flavour we were given was rabbit and turkey with vegetables and rice, and Max certainly liked this one. I think he hoped he was going to start getting wet food again though, because he seemed a little crestfallen when it was back to dry food the following day.

Image copyright: Lorna Holland
Lastly, a pack of Dentastix treats.

Dentastix were the only one of the three that Max had tried before. Dentastix are great – they’re tasty chews that last longer than a regular treat but aren’t too chewy like rawhide. They also help to reduce tartar build up on your dog’s teeth, so they’re practical as well. And as you can see from the photo, Max is a big fan of Dentastix!

If you have a furry friend (or a feathery friend, or an aquatic friend) I can’t recommend PetShop.co.uk enough. A wide range of products, prompt delivery, great customer service, that genuinely personal touch… the list goes on, but I’m sure you get my point.

PetShop.co.uk definitely gets Max’s seal of approval!


Image copyright: Lorna Holland
Have you used PetShop.co.uk before? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Book Review: Secrets of the Singer Girls by Kate Thompson

Set in 1942 during the Second World War, Secrets of the Singer Girls follows the story of sixteen year-old Poppy Percival. Turning up at the gates of Trout’s clothing factory in Bethnal Green, Poppy has no idea what her new life holds in store for her. It doesn’t take long for the dirt, noise, and devastation of East London to make Poppy miss the peace and quiet of the countryside back home. But Poppy harbours a dark secret, one that wrenched her away from the only life she knew and threw her straight into this unfamiliar new world.

However, Poppy isn’t the only one with a secret. Each of her new friends at Trout’s is hiding something, from hardworking mother Sal to young Daisy the hopeless romantic. Even Daisy’s sister, the uptight forelady Vera, keeps the worst of her scars hidden.

This is a story of hardworking, cautiously optimistic East End women, bound together by newfound friendship, family, loyalty and love. The devastating effects of the war throw each of their lives into turmoil and change their world forever, but also bring them closer than anyone could have imagined.

Image: Kate Thompson / Pan Macmillan
As usual when I’m sent a copy of a book to review, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I was expecting a light-hearted historical novel, so I wasn’t entirely wrong…

The thing I liked most about Secrets of the Singer Girls was its historical accuracy. It’s clearly been well-researched, especially with the inclusion of events like the Bethnal Green Tube disaster. The author accurately portrays a little-known tragedy, effectively helping to bring it further into the public eye through her work. She also managed to deal with the strong emotions relating to the disaster brilliantly, tastefully handling the story.

The book is a great mix of genres, combining historical fiction, romance, and women’s fiction perfectly. Add to this the many unexpected twists and turns, and a surprisingly bittersweet ending, and you have a read that’s worthwhile yet definitely still enjoyable.

I enjoyed learning about the characters and their backgrounds, but I did find myself wishing that they didn’t all have secrets. The fact that everyone was hiding something got a bit predictable for me, even though most of the secrets turned out to be pretty integral to the storyline. Also, I hate to say it but I found the main character, Poppy, annoyed me a bit at times. She was just too timid, and I couldn’t fully engage with her. Similarly, some of the other girls, the lesser characters, started to turn into stereotypes. They became nothing more than stereotypical character roles – the loud one, the flirty one…

Also, a few little bits niggled at me. Without giving away spoilers, at certain points throughout the book I felt that things started to become unbelievable. There were a few predictable moments (the couple will get together, the feud will heal, the family will be reunited, etc) and sometimes characters did things that seemed a little out of character for them, but on the whole I enjoyed it.

On the whole it’s very much a pro-women story, as most of the men in the book are bad in one way or another, but there are some exceptions. Still trying to avoid spoilers, I loved the way that Poppy and Freddie met, though I can’t help but remain sceptical about how realistic that situation would have been. Still, I thought it was sweet and it satisfied my inner romantic, so I’m not really complaining. I also loved the character of Robert and his relationship with Daisy. An example of the age-old star-crossed lovers, Daisy and Robert have ideas far ahead of their years, dreaming about a time where a black man and a white woman have a future together.

The characters and the plot are mostly equally as strong as each other. It’s a fast-paced read but isn’t breakneck speed, and it’s a really well-written book. The overarching theme of friendship is uplifting despite the setting, as it reminds us that love always triumphs in the face of evil.

Reading the book, you can’t help but the think of the real East End women who inspired it. Despite the devastation and terrible things happening, these women remained positive through it all. They are the real heroes of the story, and Secrets of the Singer Girls is a worthwhile credit to their memory.

Rating: 4 stars.

Secrets of the Singer Girls by Kate Thompson is available to buy now.

Will you be reading Secrets of the Singer Girls? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Book Review: Captain’s Orders by Kara Keen

"Those eyes bluer than the sky – I don’t know about being on drugs, but surely this kissing is a drug, a narcotic keeping the rest of the world away, out of our minds.”

So I recently got the chance to review Captain’s Orders by Kara Keen as part of the book’s blog tour! Exciting, right? But before I go on, just a warning that this review contains *MILD SPOILERS*

Image credit: HEA Book Tours
Tania Shevchenko, an American nurse originally from Ukraine, loves her sister more than anything. So when Oksana becomes ensnared in a deadly web of international kidnapping and sex trade, naturally Tania will do everything she can to save her. Oksana’s trail leads Tania to the cruise ship Sunset, captained by handsome twin brothers Jack and Cole Carleton. Unfortunately, Tania’s attraction to Cole might be more of a hindrance than an advantage, especially when Cole vows to capture her heart. But is Tania only using Cole to rescue her sister?

Firstly, I should say that I jumped into this book blind. I didn’t really know what it would be about, but I agreed to participate in the blog tour and review it anyway because not knowing what a book’s about is part of the fun of starting a new read. Plus, as I’m sure my regular readers know by now, I’m willing to read anything and I always finish a book I start.

Having said that, there was a hell of a lot more sex in this book than I was anticipating. I mean, sure it’s a romance novel, but it did seem a bit like every single character just wanted to have sex literally all the time. And not just regular sex either, there were some rather unorthodox ideas floating around at times… (I’ll leave you to discover those for yourself!) So really the plot ended up being side-lined at times because of all that, and I was definitely left wanting more plot and less sex scenes for most of the book.

That was a shame really, because there’s so much that could have happened with this set-up. There’s so much scope in this story, with such a varied cast of characters stuck together in one place. I love that all these people from completely different walks of life are suddenly thrown together, and I genuinely think this could make a great screenplay (that I’d love to write!) Because of this, I wasn’t too keen on the whole ‘chase across the country’ idea towards the end. I would have much preferred the whole story to be confined to the setting of the cruise ship, because the end started to get too hyper-real and prevented me from fully believing in the story.

Image credit: HEA Book Tours
The sad thing is that the underlying theme of the book is a real issue. Every day desperate girls are kidnapped and tricked into the sex trade – somewhere in the world this is happening right now. It’s a serious issue that needs to be addressed properly, not just used and exaggerated in fiction. And because some of these situations in the book get too over-the-top, I’m not sure if the author does this problem justice.

However, I really liked the characters. They’re all so detailed and interesting that I wanted to learn more about every single one of them. It was nice that they were all so different yet similar at the same time, especially Cole and Tania. The only thing I would say about the characters is that I felt their relationships all happened far too fast to be truly lifelike and believable. I know this is fiction, but it has to keep at least some degree of reality or I can’t fully buy into the story. I also got confused with some of the characters at the start of the book, especially the Russian and the German passengers. Too many people were introduced too quickly so it took me a while to be able to differentiate between them all. Plus I’m still not sure why almost every passenger on the ship seemed to be a criminal!

If I had to be really picky, I would question why Tania didn’t seem to be more worried about her sister. The whole reason she was on the ship was to rescue Oksana, but as soon as she met Cole she seemed to almost completely forget about her. I also think that some of the plot points were purely there for exposition. For example – the scene where Tania and Cole are on the beach and the elderly woman collapses is clearly only there to show Cole that Tania is a nurse and can keep her head in a crisis, because it’s completely irrelevant to the plot.

However, there were a few nice touches towards the end. Without giving too much away, I was glad that a certain character returned and was able to help bring the bad guys down. Similarly, I liked the part at the end of the cruise where Khalid’s wives were able to experience freedom for a change.
For its genre, Captain’s Orders is great. But I’m sorry to say that it wasn’t quite right for me - there were just too many plot holes and not enough actual plot! Still, if you’re a fan of sexy contemporary romance, this one’s definitely for you.

Rating: 3 stars.

Captain’s Orders by Kara Keen is available to buy now.

Have you read Captain's Orders? Let me know in the comments below!