Thursday, 27 February 2020

Review: Kill The Queen by Jennifer Estep (Crown of Shards #1)

Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.


~ 480 pages

First-person, single pov.

Not for this one as it's book one in a trilogy.


Magic, poison, blade fights, a massacre, gladiator fights... Yeah, the book is violent.

This book had been waiting for me on my kindle for over a year before I plucked up the courage to finally read it. Why did it take me so long? I have no idea! I guess I was nervous that it wouldn’t live up to expectations. The cover is awesome, the blurb sounds awesome, the feedback from those who have read it is that it’s awesome, but too much hype and praise can be a bad thing for setting a person’s expectations super high and it all conspired to make me super anxious about beginning to read.
However! I’m glad that I got over it for Kill the Queen was a super enjoyable fantasy adventure filled with plotting, scheming, politics, loss, vengeance and strength.

The book is set in the fantasy kingdom of Bellona. The characters are human but most - if not all - wield magic to varying degrees. Lady Everleigh Saffira Winter Blair (aka Evie) is a distant relative of the monarch. She was orphaned as a child so has been raised at court, she doesn’t have the magical abilities or strength of her relatives and generally, she has a hard time of it. Initially, she seems perfectly pleasant but mousey and unremarkable. Certainly not the badass I assumed she was from the blurb and cover.

The book drags on a fair bit in the beginning and I’m not going to lie in that I was getting super worried that the book would be one of the super-hyped reads that I just did not see the fascination with but then the shit hit the fan in a spectacular way and changed my mind!

Now, a massacre is hardly a good thing to get excited about but it marked the moment that this book landed for me. From the moment the blood started to flow - around 15-20% into the book - the story seized me by the throat and wouldn’t let me go until the end.

The massacre was both the end and the beginning for Evie. It marked the end of her life as she knew it and set her on the journey to becoming a gladiator and gave her the tools to rise up, avenge her relatives, and rise to become the Winter Queen. It made her a badass.

Evie grows so much throughout this book and I quickly grew to love her! I have so many questions as to what being a Winter Queen means, what the full extent of her hidden power is and lots of pent up romantic frustrations regarding her and a certain someone that I could burst!

The friends and allies she makes throughout the book are noteworthy, memorable and truly loyal. I loved them so much!
The villains of the story are truly villainous and I hated them and am super nervous to see what they have in store next.

Kill The Queen is my first novel by Estep and it won't be my last! I can’t wait to get stuck into Protect The Prince!

If you’ve been on the fence about reading this get yourself off the fence and do it! It’s worth it.

This cover is freaking awesome!!
Even if the blurb wasn't exciting the cover would have me picking up this book.

“The day of the royal massacre started out like any other. With me doing something completely, utterly useless.”


“Someone always wanted to kill the queen.”


Wednesday, 26 February 2020

It's Wednesday!! You Deserve Each Other & Iron Kissed

Happy Wednesday you lovely bookish people!
I've found a new (to me) meme called Shelf Control and It merges beautifully with Can't Wait Wednesday! Celebrating the books already on my bookshelf alongside highlighting the books I'm looking forward to in the future!

I got an eARC of this one a while ago and I've been patiently waiting until we were closer to the release date before reading it but I can't wait no more!
I need to read it!

When your nemesis also happens to be your fiancΓ©, happily ever after becomes a lot more complicated in this wickedly funny, lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy debut.

Naomi Westfield has the perfect fiancΓ©: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family any bride would love to be a part of. They never fight. They're preparing for their lavish wedding that's three months away. And she is miserably and utterly sick of him.

Naomi wants out, but there's a catch: whoever ends the engagement will have to foot the nonrefundable wedding bill. When Naomi discovers that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But with the countdown looming to the wedding that may or may not come to pass, Naomi finds her resolve slipping. Because now that they have nothing to lose, they're finally being themselves--and having fun with the last person they expect: each other.

What are you waiting on this week?

I could smell her fear, and it satisfied something deep inside me that had been writhing under her cool, superior gaze. I curled my upper lip so she could get a good look at my sharp teeth. I might only weigh thirty or so pounds in my coyote shape, but I was a predator...

Mechanic Mercy Thompson can shift her shape - but not her loyalty. When her former boss and mentor is arrested for murder and left to rot behind bars by his own kind, it's up to Mercy to clear his name, whether he wants her to or not.

Mercy's loyalty is under pressure from other directions, too. Werewolves are not known for their patience, and if Mercy can't decide between the two she cares for, Sam and Adam may make the choice for her...

I bought the ebook of this a very long time ago... So long ago, I don't remember exactly when I bought it! I'm sure I could look it up on Amazon but I'm too lazy, lol.
I actually own up to book six in the series but they've just sat on my kindle un-read until this year.
*hangs head in shame*

This series is on my list of series that I want to read this year. I've read the first two and enjoyed them so it's onto book three now!

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

A Tell Me Something Tuesday Collection #1

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Heidi over at Rainy Day Ramblings and is one that I love but so rarely take part in usually because my answers to the prompts are super short and wouldn't make a very good blog post... On their own. 
Can you guess what I'm going to do here? Yep! I've gathered this year's prompts to date and am going to answer them all in one go. 

What's your favorite underrated book/series?

Hmmm... This is tricky and I'm not 100% sure I'd class them as favourites but I liked them very very much...

Kalayna Price's Grave Witch series springs to mind for underrated UF. 

Katie Delahanty's In Bloom springs to mind as an underrated book (contemporary romance)...

 As does Heather Lyon's Deep End of The Sea (fantasy romance). 

I'm sure there are countless others but these are the ones my brain spat out at me so I'm rolling with them as my favourites, lol. 

Who are some of the recent debut/ new to me authors that impressed you?

This year, so far, Helen Hoang is the only new to me author who I adored! 
If you haven't read The Bride Test you so should... I fully intend to read more from her including the first book in the series, The Kiss Quotient. 

My favourite new-to-me author of last year was Annette Marie (no surprise there, lol!)
 I went from never having read anything of hers to having read almost everything because her blend of UF and Fantasy is freaking awesome!

Romantic Read Recommendations

Do you take advantage of free chapter previews?

Typically, no, as I don't see the point in reading the beginning of a book then being cut off for months! However, I have read a few chapter previews and when I do, I tend to read them in the days leading up to the book's release basically giving me a head start on reading it. That way, if I'm enjoying it,  I can just buy the book and keep on reading. 

I think this method defeats the publisher's intention though... They want people to read them in advance and generate buzz and build anticipation, but without having to pony up a full arc. 
If people ignored preview chapters (or read them just before release) they'd have to rethink that strategy. 
I guess the preview chapters would be enough for some people to decide whether they want to buy a book or not so could be used as a quick and cheap way for a reader to make a decision on whether to invest in a book but I still believe it's more about publishers wanting to limit arcs and the potential for spoilers. 

(I currently have a preview of House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas as I have no idea whether I want to read this one! Haven't started it yet though... Will read it in March just before release! πŸ˜‰)

What type of books do you like to cuddle up with in winter?

Whatever book I feel like! I'm a mood reader and I'm just as likely to read a "beach read" in winter as I am a "festive read" in summer. 
That said, I do enjoy festive reads in the run up to Christmas, and I do think I tend to crave things like PNR/UF more in autumn and winter than I do in summer. 
Summer, I crave more contemporary romances.

Do you read/listen to more than one book at a time, or do you give every book your undivided attention? 

I tend to have an audiobook and an ebook on the go at the same time. 
Sometimes, although it's rare, I have multiple ebooks in progress of different genres as well as an audiobook.
Having the books I'm reading in different genres is the key thing for me. 
I can't have multiple books of the same genre in progress simultaneously or it annoys me. The purpose of different books is to serve different reading moods and that purpose would be defeated if they were the same genre. 

Tell me about the city/town you live in.

I live in a small village bordering Salisbury (which is our postal town) and the New Forest.
Salisbury is a cathedral city in the south of England. 
A cathedral city is basically a town which is way too small to be considered a city under standard definitions but is classed as one anyway because it has a cathedral: Yep, it's weird, I have no idea why they have this definition but it is what it is... Anyway, the professor and I moved here after University (11 years ago) and here we remain!
It's very pretty here and it's excellently placed for travel to lots of locations with the centre of London being only a 90 minutes train ride away.

(Stonehenge, Old Sarum and Salisbury Cathedral.)


What's your favourite underrated books/series? 

Monday, 24 February 2020

Family Adventures! Sarum Lights: A light and sound spectacular (Salisbury 800 years Celebrations)

This year marks the 800th anniversary of Salisbury and that means that this lovely cathedral city of mine is doing lots of random stuff to celebrate.

The kick-off event was this week at Salisbury Cathedral where they held "a light and sound spectacular" dubbed Sarum Lights. 
Combining light and sound projections, the exhibit explored the history of the cathedral over its 800 years celebrating the founding of the cathedral all the way through to modern-day Salisbury. 

I've been enjoying the trend of projecting light onto buildings to change them or bring them to life so there was no way I was going to miss this!

Salisbury has been our home for 11 years now and the cathedral is a dominating feature of the skyline which I guess isn't surprising seeing it has the tallest (and oldest) church spire in the UK. 
For my fellow history aficionados, Salisbury Cathedral houses the best preserved of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta. (Which is on public display if you ever want to see it.)

The event took place at night so the lights could work their magic and we were super lucky that the rain that had been plaguing us for weeks took a night off!

They'd turned out the street lights of the Cathedral Close and lit up the pavement cutting across the grass with fairy lights.
The spotlights that lit up the cathedral were also turned off which gave it a spooky almost gothic feel and when combined with the eerie blue glow of the projections from inside the Cathedral, the majestic building looked haunted! lol.
Very atmospheric.

Following the fairy light path around the building to the West Wall, we stood back on the grass and watched them project the history of the Cathedral onto the cathedral itself.
It took us back in time from when the Cathedral used to be out at Old Sarum, the decision to relocate it and the legend of an arrow being shot from Old Sarum and landing at the site of the "new" cathedral (yep, the 800 year old one, lol).

I should also mention that the legend is actually less pretty than what was projected but I guess the arrow hitting a stag and the stag running until it collapsed dead at the site of the current cathedral is less appealing to the masses...

While the story was projected in pictures onto the side of the cathedral, beautiful music was played from speakers surrounding the site and the music, more than the images, generated a whole load of feels in those present. I heard quite a few people talking about the music giving them goosebumps, etc. 

After watching the external displays, we went into the cathedral itself and it was breathtaking.
There was music that again created a majestic atmosphere and different images projecting different stories onto different parts of the cathedral as you walked through... It was like walking through a kaleidoscope at times, which could be disorienting, but still cool.

(Fingers crossed the video works!)

I thought that the inside stories were less clear and harder to follow than the outside display but it didn't detract from how visually appealing it all was.

Salisbury Cathedral sits right in the middle of the city and its spire can be seen for miles outside the city if the lay of the land is right but it is so easy to take it for granted as it's part of the furniture so to speak. It's awesome seeing it celebrated for the incredible building it is. I'm in actual awe of the fact that this building (including the spire) was founded 800 years ago. The fact that the entire building was built within 40 or so years, is mind-boggling especially when you factor in that they built a spire that's over 120m high all the way back in the medieval period!


The event cost £14 for the three of us (as we booked in advance) and it was well worth the ticket price. As our time slot wasn't until 19:00 we had a meal out beforehand and it made for a really lovely evening.

And in case you're curious as to what the cathedral looks like without all the projections, I dug out some pictures I've taken of it over the years... They're not very good though.