[Book Review] A PEARL FOR MY MISTRESS by Annabel Fielding

As a bit of a history nerd, I was understandably excited when Annabel contacted me last month enquiring if I would be interested in participating in the upcoming blog tour for her new historical fiction novel; running between the 14th and 28th of September; and today’s the (my) day!

DETAILS

TITLE: A Pearl for my Mistress

AUTHOR: Annabel Fielding

PUBLISHED BY: HQ Digital

GENRE: Historical Fiction

PUBLICATION DATE: 9th August 2017

EDITION: E-book / Kindle

ISBN: 9780008271169

PRICE: £0.99 / $TBC

Currently available from both Amazon UK and Amazon US .

THE STORY

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady’s maid in a small aristocratic household.

Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.

Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…

THOUGHTS

Both Hester and Lucy are inherently likeable characters, any flaws or failures being a byproduct of their respective upbringings or situations.

The author’s choice of lengthy descriptive prose is evocative of the era, indeed there is one particular part early on in the book when the two young women are discussing Lucy’s writing which to my mind sums it up rather nicely;

“My sentences used to take at least five lines each. Otherwise I felt I didn’t do justice to the heroine’s complexion or the fragrance of the garden”.

I feel that the physical attraction between the two was somewhat inevitable, given the somewhat forced closeness between them during their time in the isolated Hebden Hall; Lady Lucy’s foreboding ancestral home; and the romanticed notions they each have of the others life.

At times, I found myself getting somewhat frustrated by the unthinking ways and poor choices that led Hester (and at times Lucy) into difficult situations.

As always I am ever-mindful of not giving away too much of the story in my review, so rather than tell you my take on this wonderfully poignant tale, I’d rather concentrate on the vividly described world that Hester finds herself plunged in. At a time when the upper classes were still trying to cling to all their traditions and rules of proprietary as the world marched on to more modern ways of thinking, Hester could still experience what she saw as the wonder of a different way of life; although ultimately realizes that for all the luxuries afforded to the upper-class they are as much trapped by their situation as those of the working class.

Through her detailed and well-researched writing, Annabel Fielding immerses the reader in the world of 1930s society through her wonderfully evocative descriptions. Sometimes, this level of description and background information does cause the pace of the story to slow; but this makes for a languorous unfolding of the story which somehow feels in-keeping with the era.

RATING & RECOMMENDATIONS

As a lover of historical fiction, I enjoyed this richly woven tale. Whilst the story was somewhat of a slow burner, I felt this added to it’s charm.

I rate this evocative and eminently readable tale of 1930s society 4 out of 5 stars.

I recommend A Pearl for my Mistress to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a touch of romance, and fans of Downtown Abbey or similar.

MEET THE AUTHOR

You can find out more about Novelist, History Geek and International Woman of Mystery Annabel over on her blog History Geek in Town ; where she shares her love of travel, books and tea through her reviews of (mostly) historical fiction and her stunningly photographed travel posts.

Alternatively, you can also follow her, @DearestAnnabel, on Twitter.

DISCLOSURE

I received a copy of this book from the author, via NetGalley & free of charge, in order to read, review and join in with this blog tour. All thoughts are my honest opinions.

Do you enjoy Historical Fiction? Do you have a preferred era?

Hopefully, this review may have piqued your interest!

Thanks for stopping by,

Hugs,

Crafty xxx

I would also like to thank the lovely Annabel for inviting me to read her book, and participate in the blog tour.

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[Book Review] LETTERING WITH PURPOSE by Brittany Luiz

TITLE: LETTERING WITH PURPOSE

AUTHOR: BRITTANY LUIZ

GENRE: NON-FICTION, CRAFTS & HOBBIES, ARTS

PUBLISHED BY: WALTER FOSTER PUBLISHING

PUBLICATION DATE: 1st SEPTEMBER 2017

EDITION: PAPERBACK

ISBN: 9781633223424

PRICE: $21.95 (USD)

Creative techniques and prompts for making meaningful, inspirational hand-lettered art.

DESCRIPTION

Lettering with Purpose is

DISCLOSURE

I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in return for an open and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

As always, thanks for taking the time to stop by! Have you tried your hand at the current trend for hand-lettering yet? I’d love to hear whether you have or inspired to try it after reading this!

Hugs,

Crafty xx

[Book Review] TREAT YOURSELF! by Jessica Siskin

TITLE: Treat Yourself!

AUTHOR: Jessica Siskin

PUBLISHED BY: Workman Publishing Company

PUBLICATION DATE: 27 June 2017

EDITION: Paperback

GENRE: Cookery, Crafts & Hobbies, Food & Wine

ISBN: 9780761189800

PRICE: $14.95 (USD)

Jessica Siskin, AKA talented food artist; and Instagram sensation; @mister_krisp, invites you to ‘Treat Yourself!’ in this beautifully photographed & easy to follow book detailing 

“How to make 93 ridiculously fun no-bake crispy rice treats”


About The Book

One of the first things I noticed was the copious amount of clear photographs spread through the book. The instructions themselves are detailed yet concise and each stage is accompanied by a corresponding photo. 

The opening chapters include an introduction from the author, explaining a bit about how and why she got into Rice Krispie Treat modelling, and detailed descriptions of the equipment and ingredients necessary. Everything is well documented, with additional links, recommendations, and hints & tips where appropriate.

Another genius idea is that every single treat uses the same basic recipe. In the introductory part of the book, Jessica supplies us with a helpful table listing how many cups, tablespoons & drops are required to make batches of set sizes (named A-H for ease)

Each individual​ recipe then states which size batches you need and which colouring drops are required. 

The writing style is friendly and easy to read, chatty and full of puns, it’s like reading a letter from a friend.


The Recipes

The recipes themselves are laid out alphabetically; starting with Apples and a ridiculously realistic looking 11 inch tall Avocado, includes Balloons, a BBQ complete with kebabs, a dinosaur, lollipops, a piñata, a star-spangled wizard’s hat, and of course finishing up with a Zebra. 

There are even instructions for how to make Yourself  out of Rice Krispie Treats. I repeat, MAKE YOURSELF, OUT OF RICE KRISPIE TREATS. We’ve all seen those cakes with the photo of the birthday girl/boy/dog printed on top, but imagine the look on their face when they see themselves; in all their Krispie treats glory; taking centre stage at the party! (Coincidentally, this book is published the same day Offspring#2 turns 18. I’m already looking for a suitable snapshot to utilise this idea!)

The individual recipes are easy to follow, each step is clearly explained and any additional equipment or decorating ingredients are detailed at the beginning, alongside the required number of differently sized & coloured batches. The top of each page is also clearly marked denoting how hard each particular build is; bearing Easy, Medium or Advanced coloured banners. 

Also included are traceable (or downloadable) templates to make moulding your shapes easier. They are easily transferable to the reverse of baking parchment, then you can set to work moulding each batch of mixture.


How Did I Get On?

Of course, I had to give it a try, and since I was reading this book over National Doughnut Week (6-13 May), I just had to plump for misterkrisps Donuts recipe.

 I used chocolate crispies and didn’t add colour to the mix, if I was doing this again, I would probably add brown colouring or cocoa to my mallow mix.

I had 6 mini donut silicone moulds, so I used those. A ‘G’ Batch of mix filled those, plus I had enough left to mould 2 more by hand.

Half were iced with melted dark chocolate before being dusted with glitter sugar & coloured sprinkles, whilst I topped the remaining four with a coat of pink candy-melts and a drizzle of milk chocolate.

Jessica’s instructions were simple to follow and the opening chapters even include photographs of what the contents of your saucepan should look like at each stage, along with appropriate timings for a midsized batch. Speaking of which, I cannot believe how easy the cleanup was at the end; I filled my saucepan with hot soapy water whilst I put away my extra marshmallows etc and when I came back to it 5 minutes later, the remaining butter/marshmallow/crispie mix just wiped off!! 


What Did The Victims Think?

The Other Half: “Yummy!” and “mmmm..marshmallow-y”

Offspring#1: “I liked them, I guess!?!”

Offspring#2: “They were some good doughnuts” whilst simultaneously reaching for a second

& Me? I found it a bit on the sweet side but yummy, and I’m sure I’ll be making lots more Rice Krispie Treats in the coming months!

Rating

I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars, as it is a real treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds! 

Disclosure: A free ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


As always, thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you here again soon, and in the meantime; have you tried anything from an interesting new recipe book lately, or have you got an old favourite to share? 

Hugs,

Crafty xx

[Book Review] ‘DEAD LETTERS’ by Caite Dolan-Leach

TITLE: DEAD LETTERS

AUTHOR: Caite Dolan-Leach

PUBLISHED BY: Corvus

PUBLICATION DATE: 4th May 2017

GENRE: Fiction, Suspense/Thriller

EDITION: Paperback

ISBN: 9781786491305

PRICE: £12.99

Dead Letters is the debut novel of, writer and literary translator, Caite Dolan-Leach.  Although now living and working in Paris; she grew up around Finger Lakes, New York’s largest wine producing region, which probably explains why both areas are described in great detail and so vividly.

What’s the story?

We meet Ava, midflight from Paris to New York, her first trip ‘home’ to the family vineyard in two years. It’s a trip she’s only making because her mother (who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s) emailed with news that Ava’s twin sister is presumed dead after a fire broke out in a barn on the property.

We know that Ava fled to Paris to escape both her discordant family life and a significant act of betrayal by her sister. The family business is failing, their absent father had distanced himself from them, and they were finding it increasingly difficult to cope with their mother’s illness. 

Ava likes to think of herself as the sensible twin, whilst Zelda was the wild one; but as she starts receiving emails, notes and letters purporting to be from the presumed dead Zelda; Ava too starts to lose control. 

Whilst caring for her mother, attempting to mend relationships with her father & paternal grandmother and trying to come to terms with the original betrayal; she finds herself in the midst of a strange alphabetical scavenger hunt, spiralling all the way from Ava to Zelda. Convinced that Zelda is still alive and in hiding, Ava and her ex-boyfriend (& Zelda’s… remember that betrayal!?) try to uncover the truth. Believing Zeld has manipulated those around her to play along with her devious scheme, Ava gets drawn further and further into what she sees as a game her sister is determined to win.

Unsure of what to believe, and drinking heavily, Ava’s behaviour becomes erratic; and she starts wearing Zelda’s more Bohemian clothes. She gradually uncovers more truths than she is comfortable with and as the alphabet progresses, discovers more about herself, her sister and their wider family.

What I thought

Prior to receiving a physical copy of this book, I had the opportunity to read a digital download of the first few chapters; isn’t it interesting how some books so often turn out entirely different​ from how you originally envision they are going to? My original thoughts, two chapters in, were: 

I really enjoyed reading the first few chapters. I particularly liked the author’s​ descriptive style of writing. The scattering of emails throughout the prose adds detail. The cover hints at mysteries to be unearthed. 

The title ‘ Dead Letters ‘ intrigues me as the postal service uses this term for undeliverable damaged or lost mail. It has left me wondering if there will be missing correspondence…. Perhaps Ava is correct in her assumption that her twin sister Zelda, already famous for her erratic and eccentric behaviour, had faked her death; but the loss of some important piece of mail puts her in danger. 

I am eager to find out what the betrayal was (it has been hinted at previous infidelity, did Zelda ‘steal’ Ava’s boyfriend; or date someone she knew her sister liked) and to discover more about the dynamics of this discordant family. 

So far I think i agree with Ava’s belief that Zelda wasn’t dead, but don’t think she will still be alive by the end of the book (or indeed, even at the present time in the tale!) 

This First Look has left me wanting to read more.

However, now that I have finished reading, I think differently. The story that I imagined was going to be a suspense-filled thriller full of twists turned out to be more of a family saga. There was a lot of character development and A LOT of wine. Gallons of the stuff. At first the wine descriptions and tasting notes were quite fun (& thirst-inducing!) but whilst the vast quantities of alcohol drunk by the Antipova family are a necessary plot point, the continual stream of booze got a bit wearing after a while. 

Ultimately, this book wasn’t what i thought it was, however i still enjoyed it; in particular the idea of the alphabetical scavenger hunt and the descriptive prose used by the author. I did not like the main characters, I found them unlikeable on the whole! 

I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars; the high concept intrigued me, but ultimately didn’t deliver it to me in a way i personally found enjoyable.

Disclosure: A free ARC was provided by the publisher via ReadersFirst in exchange for an honest review.

[Book Review] “FIND YOUR AWESOME” by Judy Clement Wall

  • Title: FIND YOUR AWESOME 
  • Author: Judy Clement Wall
  • Published by: HCI Books
  • Publication date: 4th April 2017
  • Edition: Paperback
  • ISBN: 9780757319754
  • Price: $14:95 (USD)
  • Self-Help , Crafts & Hobbies


Find Your Awesome

A 30-Day Challenge to Fall in Love with Your Playful, Imaginative & Colorful Self

by Judy Clement Wall

Part self-help book, part adult colouring & activity book; this lovely offering will appeal to those who love to doodle & scribble, and anyone who enjoys ‘Wreck this Journal’-style books.
Essentially a self-love & self-worth workbook, “Find Your Awesome” takes the idea of a 30 day challenge and turns it into a book. Taking the realisation that whilst we have no problem telling those around us how awesome they are; we find it difficult to extend the same courtesy to ourselves; self-confessed artist, writer, doodler, and love warrior Judy Clement Wall challenges us to 

“Fall in Love with Your Playful, Imaginative & Colourful Self”

through a set of daily challenges designed to encourage you to do just that.

Judy’s writing style is Awesome, she has you nodding along and giggling at the many witticisms she shares. Nevermind being a self-love guru; it seems like she’s the kinda person that would do your soul good just by knowing her! Someone you’d love to hug, hang out with, drink tea and eat copious amounts of cheecake with; regularly.

The book is a fun read, at times touching, and actually quite eyeopening – through sharing her own story of opening herself up to embracing her own Awesome badassery she gives us the impetus to proclaim our own. 

In case you haven’t worked it out yet; I LOVE THIS BOOK!! I must admit, I never really ‘got‘ the whole Adult Colouring thing, I understand why people enjoy it; it just never clicked with ME. But, this? This I can embrace. I’m obsessed with daily/monthly challenges but sometimes get bored if they are the same thing repeated (a month worth of photoprompts is fine, once you’re into your 3rd month, it gets a bit ‘mehhh’) The clever thing here is that the style of challenge differs from day to day; some days you doodle, some days you write, others you send a text; it keeps it varied and interesting.

Fancy a sneak peek at some of the challenges? I’m happy to oblige:

  • Doodle your perfect t-shirt
  • Text love
  • Writing yourself a love letter
  • Appreciate your body in all its awesomeness
  • Make time for you by writing a Not-To-Do List
  • What’s your Personal Manifesto?

Another idea suggested throughout the book is choosing your favourite challenge(s) and turning them into month, or even year, -long challenges in their own right; similar to the author’s own Year of Loving Fearlessly challenge.   

Now, obviously, you can work through the book on your own, but I was excited to discover that Judy is running a free online group, starting May 15th, where you can sign up now and then complete the challenge alongside [as she puts it herself] “a posse of like-minded love-warriors”. I have, of course, signed up; and now I’m off to buy a physical copy to play with.


Rating

I award this book 5 out of 5 stars. I found it Awesome! 


Connect with the Author

     



    Disclosure: A free ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

    Audio

    [Book Review] “SUPERPOWERLESS” by Chris Priestley

     

    Title: Superpowerless 
    Author: Chris Priestley

    Published by: Hot Key Press Publication date: 17th June 2017 

    Genres: General Fiction/ Young Adult/ Teen/ Contemporary/
    Edition: Paperback
    ISBN: 
    9781471404979
    Price: £6.99 (GBP)


    • Synopsis

    David is sixteen. A pretty ordinary boy, in most ways – he just wants to hang out in his bedroom, reading his dad’s old comics. Comics that are full of his heroes – those figures whose lives are charmed, special, unique.

    Life hasn’t been easy recently for David, though. His father died just a couple of years ago, he has a fractious relationship with his mum, and he has fallen out with his best friend. But, David has a secret, which he hasn’t told anyone.

    He has superpowers. He can soar through the air, he has superhearing, he feels and hears everything super-keenly. So life should be easier, then, shouldn’t it? But somehow it’s not – and when David gets involved with the girl next door, gorgeous Holly Hunter, he begins to realise just how very complicated it can get.

    David’s harbouring another secret, a deeper darker one, and on this journey from boyhood to manhood, will he have the courage to face up to it?

     

     

    • Review

    Well firstly, Thank you Mr Priestley! I finally finished reading Superpowerless at 5:17am. Luckily I wasn’t working that morning, otherwise i might have just cried at a 7am alarm….

    “I think about sex all the time. All the time. Well, sex and death and comics.”  or so 16 year old David admits to the older, and certainly more streetwise Holly; his neighbour, and the object of his teenage fantasies. Strange circumstances make them friends as David comes to terms with his grief and feelings of helplessness at being unable to ‘save’ his father, his loneliness after withdrawing from friendships, his infatuation for Holly, and his uncertainty over girls, sex and relationships. Holly struggles with her own demons regarding selfworth, and failed and unhealthy relationships.

    Obsessed with the comic books left behind by his father, David attempts to rationalise his feelings by constructing a superpowered alterego.

    Torn between his loneliness and his belief that with the mantle of superhero comes a necessity to be alone and unknown, he spends his days watching the neighbourhood through his dad’s old telescope and imagining how it would feel to fly unseen and unhindered by the constraints of ‘normal life’.

    Through his own loneliness, grief and uncertainty; he finds it increasingly difficult to reach out and connect with those around him.

     

    • Thoughts

    Whilst unlike my usual choice of reading material, I very much enjoyed this book (probably made obvious by the aforementioned 5:17am fiasco!) and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fiction. I particularly think it would resonate with teenagers struggling with their own perceptions of not fitting in, and/or those trying to come to terms with prior loss.

     

    •  The Author

    You can find out more about the author via his website or blog, or connect with him via Facebook or Twitter @crispriestley.

     

    I rate this a 4/5 stars read

    Disclosure: A free ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.