[Book Review] Blog Blitz: THE GIRL FROM THE SUGAR PLANTATION by Sharon Maas

As a lover of Historical Fiction, I was understandably very much intrigued when Bookouture approached me with an invitation to participate in an upcoming Blog Tour for Sharon Maas‘s latest novel The Girl From The Sugar Plantation.….

DETAILS

TITLE: The Girl From The Sugar Plantation

AUTHOR: Sharon Maas

GENRE: Historical Fiction

PUBLISHED BY: Bookouture

PUBLICATION DATE: 19 October 2017

EDITION: E-Book

ISBN: 9781786812957

PRICE: £1.99

Currently available to purchase as an e-book from Amazon UK & details can also be found at Amazon US.

An unputdownable story about a woman in search of the truth, the man she falls in love with, and the devastation of the Second World War.

1934, Georgetown.

All her life, Mary Grace has wanted to know the truth about who her parents really are. As the mixed-race daughter of two white plantation owners, her childhood has been clouded by whispered rumours, and the circumstances of her birth have been kept a closely guarded secret…

Aunt Winnie is the only person Mary Grace can confide in. Feeling lost and lonely, her place in society uncertain, Mary Grace decides to forge her own path in the world. And she finds herself unexpectedly falling for charming and affluent Jock Campbell, a planter with revolutionary ideas.

But, with the onset of the Second World War, their lives will be changed forever. And Mary Grace and Jock will be faced with the hardest decision of all – to fight for freedom or to follow their hearts…

THOUGHTS

When we first meet 16 year-old Mary Grace amidst the sugarcanes of her ancestral plantation, the juxtaposition between her family’s social standing and her perceived lower class personal standing due to her mixed race heritage is clear. On the one hand, she has been brought up as a young lady of the English upper classes; but destined to never be accepted by her peers she is unsure of her place in the world.

At times, her behaviour seems spoiled & brattish, as she pouts & wheedles to ensure her mother capitulates to her every whim; but in reality I think the strained relationship with her mother combined with the constant bombardment of racist treatment has left her having no option but to construct this veneer.

Young and naive as she is, Mary Grace is a likeable character, who ultimately aspires for a better fairer life for those around her as well as herself.

As we learn more about the difficulties of being both a young woman and of mixed race in 1930s British Guyana, it is all too clear that Mary Grace is going to have to struggle to find a place where she feels that she ‘fits’.

The author’s passion for both place and time is made obvious by the way her well-researched factual findings are seamlessly woven into the fabric of this thought-provoking, tale evocative of the era.

Whilst this particular book can be read as a stand-alone novel, it is in fact the third offering in Maas’s The Quint Chronicles trilogy and having enjoyed The Girl From The Sugar Plantation, I fully intend to read both The Secret Life of Winnie Cox and The Sugar Planter’s Daughter to find out more of the family’s backstory, as well as reading ahead into the future with The Small Fortune of Dorothea Q.

RATINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Maas presents a tale as perfectly woven as the fluid green silk of Mary Grace’s concert debut gown, her descriptive prose brings the landscape and feelings of the era to life and the story is as full and rich as that skirt.

I rate this touching and enthralling tale 4 out of 5 sugar-encrusted stars.

An utterly compelling and evocative story about the heart-breaking choices men and women had to make during a time of unimaginable change. Perfect for fans of The Secret Wife and Island of Secrets, lovers of Historical Fiction, and those interested in the history surrounding the British sugar trade.

THE AUTHOR

Born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951, Sharon Maas spent many childhood hours either curled up behind a novel or writing her own adventure stories. Sometimes she had adventures of her own, and found fifteen minutes of Guyanese fame for salvaging an old horse-drawn coach from a funeral parlor, fixing it up, painting it bright blue, and tearing around Georgetown with all her teenage friends. The coach ended up in a ditch, but thankfully neither teens nor horse were injured.

Boarding school in England tamed her somewhat; but after a few years as a reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown she plunged off to discover South America by the seat of her pants. She ended up in a Colombian jail, and that’s a story for another day…

Sharon has lived in an Ashram in India and as a German Hausfrau–the latter giving her the time and the motivation to finally start writing seriously. Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, was published by HarperCollins, London, in 1999 and reprinted as a digital edition in 2014. After working as a social worker in a German hospital she finally retired and now has time for her favourite pastimes: reading, writing, and travelling.

The Author’s website SharonMaas.com is well worth a visit; being full of all sorts of bookish treats & tidbits and, always eager to hear from readers, Sharon Maas can also be contacted (and followed, if you are interested in keeping up-to-date with upcoming news!) via Facebook and Twitter.

DISCLOSURE

I received a digital copy of The Girl From The Sugar Plantation, from Bookouture via NetGalley and free of charge, for the purpose of supplying an honest review and participating in this blog tour. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

And, also as always, thanks for stopping by!

Hugs,

Crafty xxx

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[Book Review] THE TEA DRAGON SOCIETY by Katie O’Neill

DETAILS:

TITLE: The Tea Dragon Society

AUTHOR: Katie O’Neill

GENRE: Children’s Fiction, Comics & Graphic Novels, Fantasy

PUBLISHED BY: Oni Press /Diamond Book Distributors

PUBLICATION DATE: 31st October 2017

EDITION: Hardcover

ISBN: 9781620104415

PRICE: $17.99 (USD)

THE STORY:

From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons. After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives–and eventually her own.

THOUGHTS:

This beautifully written and illustrated manga-style fairytale is a delight of warm thoughtfulness.

The artwork is sublime, the characters all realistic and eminently likeable, and the tea dragons themselves are quite possibly the cutest creatures ever invented.

The legend of the Tea Dragons, and the story of the strong bond and shared memories they form with their guardians is enchanting; and the addition of Extracts from The Tea Dragon Handbook at the rear of the book was a welcome and intriguing discovery. The Tea Dragon Handbook includes an introduction to Tea Dragon care, information on the history of both Tea Dragons and The Tea Dragon Society, and individual fact-files on each species of Tea Dragon.

However something struck me as I was reading it for the third time that left me utterly insensed! I suddenly realized how inclusive the book was, no fanfares, no wordy blurbs, just honest inclusivity; which is just as it should be. I was angered, not by this book, but by all the ones that don’t get it right!

Gender stereotypes are ignored as Greta’s tall muscular mother is the town’s blacksmith, whilst her slighter framed father keeps shop; promoting and selling his wife’s creations alongside sundries such as tea.

Most relationships appear to be mixed race (or species!?) and same-sex couples are nothing of note.

Physical Disability and Mental Health feature as part of life rather than trotted out as yet another trope.

I utterly and wholeheartedly applaud this book for setting such a high standard that ALL books, graphic novel to weighty prose and everything in between, should aspire to.

Plus, I desperately wish for a tea dragon of my very own!

RATINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS:

I rate this beautifully written and illustrated tale 5 out of 5 magical stars.

I recommend The Tea Dragon Society to lovers of: wonderful tales with a mythological twist, beautifully illustrated graphic novels, diverse reads, dragons, and; of course; tea.

THE AUTHOR:

An illustrator and graphic novelist from New Zealand, Katie O’Neill mostly makes gentle fantasy stories for younger readers.

She is very interested in tea, creatures, things that grow, and the magic of everyday life.

You can find out more at teadragonsociety.com and follow Katie on social media, where she can be found using the moniker @strangelykatie on both Twitter and Instagram.

DISCLOSURE:

I received a digital copy of The Tea Dragon Society, via NetGalley and free of charge, for the purpose of supplying an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Hugs,

Crafty xxx

[Book Review] DOCTOR WHO : MYTHS AND LEGENDS by Richard Dinnick

As a die-hard Whovian, it should come as no surprise that I jumped at the chance to read and review Richard Dinnick‘s latest offering, DOCTOR WHO : MYTHS & LEGENDS Epic Tales From Alien Worlds, when it was made available for request on NetGalley.

DETAILS:

TITLE: DOCTOR WHO : MYTHS & LEGENDS Epic Tales From Alien Worlds

AUTHOR: RICHARD DINNICK

GENRE: SciFi & Fantasy, Teens & YA

PUBLISHED BY: Penguin Random House UK , BBC Books

PUBLICATION DATE: 26th September 2017

EDITION: Hardback

ISBN: 9781785942495

PRICE: $16.99 (USD)

DESCRIPTION:

THOUGHTS:

As a long-time lover of Greek Mythology, I was delighted to discover that this anthology was actually a collection of fourteen short stories based on well-known; and much loved; Greek Myths.

During his introduction, Chancellor Drakirid; Historian to the Bureau of Ancient Records on Gallifrey; makes reference to the repeated appearance of an unknown man at various points within the legends.

He is never given the same name twice and always seems to wear a different face.

Now, who does that remind you of?

Each offering is a retelling of a classic tale; such as The Mondas Touch, inspired by the story of King Midas, in which we meet Queen Lydia as she is presented with a legendary metal gauntlet purported to have special powers. On donning the glove, she soon discovers it does indeed have the power to upgrade both the planet’s technology and her Royal guards…. I’m sure you can work out what happens next!

Tales of King Minos, his Labyrinth, and the Minotaur it held, were a firm favourite during my Classical studies class at school (many years ago!); therefore I was looking forward to reading The Labyrinthine Web in which a Gallifreyan colony finds that the arrival of a Racnoss ship brings invasion. Enslaved by Messothel, commander of the spider-like craft, the Time Lords are first forced to build the titular Labyrinthine Web then to draw lots to become tributes within the hatchery it holds. Will the scientific minds of this outpost of Gallifrey be able to outsmart their oppressors? You’ll need to read it to find out!

Another personal favourite was The Angels of Vengeance, a tale based on the story of the three Furies and Orestes. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Weeping Angels, and their use as a means of execution in this tale is an interesting take on them.

Each short story is well-written and offers an intriguing SciFi twist to well-known tales of ancient mythology.

RATINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS:

I rate this legendary anthology 5 out of 5 stars.

I recommend DOCTOR WHO: MYTHS & LEGENDS to readers of all ages; in particular fans of Doctor Who, lovers of myths and legends; especially Greek mythology; and those who enjoy retellings of classic tales.

THE AUTHOR:

Richard Dinnick

[Book Review] NO SHAME by Anne Cassidy

Stacey Woods has been raped and now she has to go through a different ordeal: the court trial. But nothing in life it seems is black and white and life is not always fair or just. Suddenly it seems that she may not be believed and that the man who attacked her may be found not guilty . . . if so Stacey will need to find a way to rebuild her life again . . .

A tautly told and important book, perfect for readers of Asking for It by Louise O’Neill.

DETAILS:

TITLE: NO SHAME

AUTHOR: Anne Cassidy

GENRE: YA , Fiction , Personal & Social Issues

EDITION: Paperback

PAGES: 192

PUBLISHED BY: Hot Key Books

PUBLICATION DATE: 21 September 2017

ISBN: 9781471406782

PRICE: £7.99

STORY:

NO SHAME continues Stacey’s story which we were introduced to in Cassidy’s previous book, NO VIRGIN; a raw, powerful, moving tale about a girl attempting to deal with the aftermath of a sexual attack.

Written as companion books, both can be read as stand-alones, so don’t be put off picking this up if you haven’t read the other.

In NO VIRGIN, Stacey is the victim of a terrible sexual attack. In the beginning she does not feel able to go to the police, or talk about it to anybody other than her best friend, Patrice. Patrice, outraged, when she cannot persuade her to go to the police, encourages Stacey to write everything down; and the first book is Stacey’s story of how she starts to come to terms with what happened, and her eventual decision to report the crime.

NO SHAME returns to Stacey’s story nine months later, and a week before her attacker; who was subsequently arrested and charged; is to be tried.

Finding it difficult to move on with her life, she has put her social life on hold and is thinking about deferring her university place for the next year.

Although she has the support of her family, best friend, headteacher and Annie; her assigned police officer; she is struggling to come to terms with the impending court case and is increasingly aware of how confused her feelings are for her rapist’s brother, a young man she barely knew but felt intensely attracted to.

The prosecuting team warn her that without evidence or witnesses, it is going to be difficult in court but everyone assumes that justice will prevail.

Putting on a brave face, Stacey attends court but finds her composure rattled when she comes face to face with her attacker; the press become interested in the case, and then she has to go through a brutal cross-examination in court; leaving her scared of the possible outcome.

THOUGHTS:

Anne Cassidy approaches a sensitive and important subject matter head on.

Overall Stacey is shown as a strong character rather than being seen as a a victim and ultimately becomes empowered by the court process; immaterial of the actual outcome. Her strength in adversity and ability to see her quest for justice through to the end is also seen as empowering to others who may find themselves in similar situations.

The court proceedings are relatively true to life and the inclusion of detailed contact information for a number of helpful organisations who offer advice, support, counselling, advocacy, and legal services for anyone affected by rape or sexual assault shows a desire to empower and equip survivors with the tools they require to rebuild their lives.

Whilst frustrating to witness, Stacey’s clouded judgement when it comes to Harry and her belief he was in someway also a victim of his older brother seems like a normal human reaction. Understandably it seems better for her to believe he was not a willing player in Marty’s devious plans.

Before I started reading this book, I assumed that it would be a somewhat harrowing and unsettling read; but I can honestly say that I finished it feeling uplifted, both by Stacey’s decisions to restart her life and not let her experiences define her future, and by the positive support network surrounding her.

RATINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS:

A thought-provoking, and at times uncomfortable read, I rate this ultimately empowering book 5 out of 5 stars.

Recommended for both readers of Cassidy‘s companion book NO VIRGIN, or Asking for It by Louise O’Neill; as well as fans of Juno Dawson and Malorie Blackman.

THE AUTHOR:

Born in 1950s London, Anne Cassidy spent many years in teaching before becoming a full-time writer in 2000, specialising in crime stories and thrillers for teenagers.
Many of her works have been shortlisted for various literary prizes, including LOOKING FOR JJ (shortlisted for both the 2004 Whitbread Prize and the 2005 Carnegie Medal) and MOTH GIRLS (nominated for the 2017 CILIP Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the 2017 Sheffield Children’s Book Award).

She can be found on Twitter using the moniker @annecassidy6.

I received an advanced reader print copy of NO SHAME, via ReadersFirst, for the purpose of supplying an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Hugs,

Crafty xx

[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.

[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