Flame in the Mist, by Renee Ahdieh

16 Mar

36348675Format: e-ARC, 400 pages

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 16 May 2016

ISBN: 9781473657977

Genre: Teens & YA

Back cover blurb: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn, comes a sweeping, action-packed YA adventure set against the backdrop of Feudal Japan.

Mariko has always known that being a woman means she’s not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden – the emperor’s son – Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued… or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.

Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan’s hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

My review: Firstly, I loved that this was set in feudal Japan. Ninjas! Throwing stars! Tea ceremonies! Add to that a kickass heroine, swoony boys, and magical powers, and you have a great read. I agree with other reviewers who found the names a bit tricky to keep track of, especially since some characters had multiple names, but other than that I really enjoyed this and look forward to reading the sequel. This was my first Renee Ahdieh book and I will certainly be reading her other works now.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

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The Masked Truth, by Kelley Armstrong

16 Mar

25727687Format: e-ARC, 352 pages

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 13 October, 2015

ISBN: 9780349002231

Genre: Teens & YA, Action & Adventure

Back cover blurb: They want her dead – but this time, she won’t hide.

A few months ago, Riley Vasquez was caught up in a horrific murder. Now everyone around her thinks she’s a hero. Riley isn’t so sure.

Meanwhile British army brat Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.

The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with ‘issues’. But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.

The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.

Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next. They’ll have to work together – but first they’ll have to trust each other with their deepest secrets.

My review: I put off reading this one for ages, and now I’m finished, I think I’ll stick to this author’s paranormal series. This just didn’t grip me like a thriller should. The characters were good, and top marks should go to Armstrong for showing the complexities of mental illness, but I guessed the twist and it just seemed so unlikely it made me groan. I did like Max and Riley, though, and would have cheered had the second half of the book been a romance rather than an episode of Scooby Doo.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 2/5

 

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Driving Miss Crazy, by D.J. Van Oss

22 Feb

30224056Format: e-ARC, 292 pages

Publisher: Blue Penny Press

Published: 16 May, 2016

ISBN: 9780692685730

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Back cover blurb: He’s got a car. She’s got places to be. If only things were that simple.

Maggie MacNally always falls short, no matter what she does. Whether it’s her career or her love life, nothing ever ends up right, and even as she tries to put her work mishaps and dating missteps behind her to forge a new life in Washington DC, she wonders: is she really heading where she wants to go, or simply following in the family footsteps?

But just as she’s considering packing it all in, an out-of-the-blue proposal from her influential grandmother offers her one last chance at success — a chance which puts her in the path of beguiling and mysterious French diplomat, Valery.

Meanwhile, diplomatic driver and widowed father Adrian Adams isn’t looking to change anything about his life, he just wants to keep his seven-year-old daughter Charlie safe and happy. The last thing on his mind is finding love again – and the last thing he expects is to suddenly lose his job. Luckily, he’s soon got a new assignment, one which brings him face to face with an overworked, stressed-out, but oddly charming Irish girl with a penchant for talking to squirrels: Maggie. It’s not long before Adrian finds himself, unwittingly, falling in love again.

Will Maggie seize the life she’s always yearned for, or be left with the pieces of yet another broken dream? And will Adrian take a second, crazy chance at love, or just play it safe? And what’s with all the squirrels?

My review: I picked this up from Netgalley because of the cute graphics on the cover and the pun in the name, and then was intrigued to find it was a sweet romance debut by a male author. However, I wasn’t really bowled over by the plot. My favourite character was Adrian’s daughter, rather than the couple themselves, and the “intrigue” at the embassy was signposted so far out that nothing came as a surprise in the end. There was a love triangle, of course, and lots of people telling Maggie what to do so she came across as a bit of a child. So overall it was just okay.

Since it was first published the cover has been redone to show a photo of a couple, and I’d have to say that I wouldn’t have picked it up at all had that been the original cover. I much prefer the cute pink and blue graphics.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 2.5/5

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Seven Ways We Lie, by Riley Redgate

21 Jan

26240663Format: e-ARC, 343 pages

Publisher: Abrams Kids/Amulet Books

Published: 8 March, 2016

ISBN: 9781419719448

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Teens & YA

Back cover blurb: Seven students. Seven (deadly) sins. One secret.

Paloma High School is ordinary by anyone’s standards. It’s got the same cliques, the same prejudices, the same suspect cafeteria food. And like every high school, every student has something to hide—from Kat, the thespian who conceals her trust issues onstage, to Valentine, the neurotic genius who’s planted the seed of a school scandal.

When that scandal bubbles over, and rumors of a teacher-student affair surface, everyone starts hunting for someone to blame. For the seven unlikely allies at the heart of it all, the collision of their seven ordinary-seeming lives results in extraordinary change.

My review: This took me ages to get around to, but once I started I wondered why I had been putting it off. It seems quite fitting that a high school should be the setting for a book about the seven deadly sins, and although you could assign one sin to each of the seven main characters, in fact they were not so one-dimensional. I have totally known a few envious Claires in my time (and been her), so even though she was the worst-behaved character she rang very true. Matt, allegedly the sloth, was actually lovely, and his scenes with his little brother were the best. Olivia was more misunderstood than the “lust” label would indicate, and I loved the way she owned her sexuality.

The parents in this are generally absent, which annoys me as a parent myself. I expected Juniper’s to put their foot down, but what happened with them surprised me. I must add that a teacher at my high school married a senior after she graduated, not long before I started there, so I can understand how a young teacher must find it difficult when they are not much older than their students. The way the teacher and student met in this story made it not seem creepy, which I appreciated.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and found it hard to put down once I’d started. I’m looking forward to reading Redgate’s subsequent work.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

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How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days, by Megan O’Russell

14 Jan

32231955Format: e-ARC, 214 pages

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Published: 15 August, 2017

ISBN: 9781620072653

Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA

Back cover blurb: Ever wanted to grow a five-story tall flower in central park? How about fight a deadly battle under the subway tunnels of Manhattan?

Don’t worry. I never wanted to either. But if you’re ever being chased by ladies made of mist and you have to save the girl with the sparkly eyes you’ve never had the guts to say actual words to, there’s an app for that.

I found a magic cell phone, opened an app I shouldn’t have, burned down the set shop for my high school’s theatre, and it was all downhill from there. A drag queen seer who lives under a bridge is my only hope for keeping my mom alive, and I think the cops might be after me for destroying my dad’s penthouse.

But it gets better! Now I’m stuck being the sidekick to the guy who got me into this mess in the first place. It’ll be a miracle if I survive until Monday.

My review: This one lost me about halfway through. It started off well and I enjoyed the three main teen characters coming to grips with the mysterious phone they found, but when they got together with a fourth person – I won’t spoil by naming – I didn’t enjoy it as much and it was a slog to get to the end. If this is the start of a series I don’t think I’ll bother continuing.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 3/5

 

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Keto Slow Cooker & One-Pot Meals, by Martina Slajerova

14 Jan

34849261Format: e-ARC, 208 pages

Publisher: Fair Winds Press

Published: 1 December 2017

ISBN: 9781592337804

Genre: Cooking, Food & Wine

Back cover blurb: Slow cooker and one pot meals are the ultimate convenience food. Just fix and forget, then enjoy a nourishing meal when everyone gets home.

Unfortunately, most slow cooker and one-pot recipes depend on processed, high-carbohydrate ingredients like noodles, potatoes, and other high-glycemic ingredients which aren’t allowed on the ketogenic diet.

Keto Slow Cooker & One-Pot Meals lets you enjoy your slow cooker while maintaining your ketogenic diet, too!

Filled with 100 keto recipes for everything from satisfying soups, to quick skillet meals, and savory stews, you’ll always be able to get a healthy ketogenic meal on the table with no fuss!

My review: I was drawn to this title after hearing about the amazing weight loss of a couple of my friends who follow this diet. However, I was underwhelmed by the book and didn’t find any recipe I really felt like I wanted to try. Probably it’s just me.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 2/5

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Eye Candy, by by Tijan, Tara Sivec, J. Daniels, Helena Hunting, and Bella Jewel

14 Jan

35265623Format: e-ARC, 660 pages

Publisher: Swerve

Published: 5 September, 2017

ISBN: 9781250148230

Genre: Romance

Back cover blurb: A frightfully good time! Dive into these Halloween novellas from bestselling authors Tijan, J. Daniels, Helena Hunting, Bella Jewel and Tara Sivec. Featuring stories set in the worlds of their popular series.

My review: I didn’t much like the Tijan story, which was the first thing I’ve read by her, but the rest of this anthology was solid and very enjoyable. The best story by far was Helena Hunting’s, and I’m keen to read more with these characters. I think I’ll also have to check out the other writers in the collection, too, whom I haven’t read before.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

 

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Plum Dandi Knits: Simple Designs for Luxury Yarns, by by Alicia Plummer and Melissa Schaschwary

14 Jan

36461929Format: e-ARC, 128 pages

Publisher: Interweave

Published: November 30, 2017

ISBN: 9781632505941

Genre: Crafts & Hobbies, Non-Fiction (Adult)

Back cover blurb: Polished knits. Plush yarns. Perfect match.

My review: Gorgeous collection of snuggly warm patterns. The photography is wonderful, the patterns look clear, and I have almost all of them in my knitting queue to try. There are also handy hints at the back of the book with drawings for different cast-ons and other techniques. Highly recommended.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 5/5

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Artemis, by Andy Weir

15 Nov

28239935Format: e-ARC, 384 pages

Publisher: Del Rey

Published: November 14, 2017

ISBN: 9780091956943

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Sci Fi & Fantasy

Back cover blurb: Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of Jazz’s problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself – and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even more unlikely than the first.

My review: Confession: I never read The Martian, I only saw the film, but I enjoyed that very much. This wasn’t as much fun and I wasn’t as invested in Jazz as a character to care what happened to her. I actually think Jazz sounded more like a man at times than a Saudi Arabian woman, especially the comment about peeing in the shower. The whole moonbase thing is a great concept, and of course there is science-y stuff for Africa here – lol, the moon is even run by Kenya because of its prime launch position on Earth’s equator – but I can’t say I was gripped.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 3/5

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The Artful Baker: Extraordinary Desserts From an Obsessive Home Baker, by Cenk Sonmezsoy

15 Nov

34227715Format: e-ARC, 384 pages

Publisher: Abrams

Published: October 17, 2017

ISBN: 9781419726491

Genre: Cooking, Food & Wine

Back cover blurb: A collection of more than 100 extraordinary desserts—all with photos and meticulous instructions—by Cenk Sönmezsoy, creator of the internationally acclaimed blog Cafe Fernando.

Written, styled, photographed, and designed by Cenk Sönmezsoy, The Artful Baker shares the inspiring story of a passionate home baker, beginning with his years after graduate school in San Francisco and showcasing the fruits of a baking obsession he cultivated after returning home to İstanbul. Sönmezsoy’s stories and uniquely styled images, together with his original creations and fresh take on traditional recipes, offer a thoughtful and emotional window into the life of this luminary artist.

The Artful Baker is comprised of almost entirely new content, with a few updated versions of readers’ favorites from his blog, such as Brownie Wears Lace, his signature brownies topped with blond chocolate ganache and bittersweet chocolate lace (originally commissioned by Dolce & Gabbana and awarded “Best Original Baking and Desserts Recipe” by Saveur magazine); Raspberry Jewel Pluot Galette, a recipe inspired by Chez Panisse’s 40th year anniversary celebrations; and Devil Wears Chocolate, his magnificent devil’s food cake that graces the cover of the book.

Each chapter highlights a variety of indulgences, from cookies to cakes and tarts to ice creams, including recipes like Pistachio and Matcha Sablés; Tahini and Leblebi (double-roasted chickpeas) Swirl Brownies; Sakura Madeleines; Sourdough Simit, the beloved ring-shaped Turkish bread beaded with sesame seeds; Isabella Grape and Kefir Ice Cream; Pomegranate Jam; and Blanche, a berry tart named after the Golden Girl Blanche Devereaux.

Every recipe in The Artful Baker has gone through a meticulous development phase, tested by an army of home bakers having varying levels of skill, equipment, and access to ingredients, and revised to ensure that they will work flawlessly in any kitchen. Measurements of ingredients are provided in both volume and weight (grams). Where a volume measurement isn’t useful, weight measurements are provided in both ounces and grams.

My review: The gorgeous chocolate creation on the front immediately attracted me to this book, and the photographs inside are just as mouth-watering and quirky. The author has an engaging writing style which begins with his journey from childhood to food blogger, and gives great background and tips on all the recipes he has developed. He admits to judging other cooks on the quality of their chocolate chip cookies, and I don’t think that’s a bad gauge to go by. Although many of the recipes contain hard-to-come by or unusual ingredients, and some are quite involved and time-consuming, there are plenty of others here that pique my interest. Although the digital version is impressive, I think a hardcover would be fantastic on any kitchen bookshelf.

***Disclaimer: This e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Huge thanks to them. ***

My rating: 4/5

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