Survival by Chris Ryan – book review

My latest personal choice of read, rather than a requested book review is Survival by Chris Ryan. To find out more about the author you may visit his website, although this only details his books for adults and not his children’s fiction.

Survival by Chris Ryan

Here is the book blurb.

Alex, Li, Paulo, Hex and Amber are five teenagers on board a sailing ship crewed by young people from all over the world. Together they are marooned on a desert island. And together they must face the ultimate test – survival! Battling against unbelievable dangers – from killer komodo dragons to sharks and modern day pirates – the five must combine all their knowledge and skills if they are to stay alive.

The team – Alpha Force – is born …

This is the first book in the Alpha Force series.

This book pulls you in right from the opening sentence of a very exciting prologue. It only takes an instant to die…

Alex, Li, Paulo, Hex and Amber are on board the Phoenix, which is being crewed by young people as an eco-voyage. They make up A-Watch reporting to Heather, but they haven’t bonded as a team, continually rubbing each other up the wrong way. After another mess, Heather bans them from dinner and tonight’s film. She doesn’t want to see them again today. But Amber comes up with a plan to raid the galley and have a picnic in the little rowing boat bobbing along behind the Phoenix.

However after eating they all nod over to sleep, but they wake a couple of hours later to discover they are adrift heading north, with no sign of the Phoenix, which had been on an eastward course. Alex has his survival tin and knife, but there isn’t much else useful on the boat. They then take a battering from a shark attack, before finally spotting land, beyond a deadly reef  on which they capsize.

Can they all make it to shore? This is where the prologue fits in, between chapters 7 and 8, And what then? Can they pool their individual key skills and survive?

And I loved how at the end, we get treated to Chris Ryan’s top ten tips for survival in tropical conditions. He is certainly the expert, with his SAS background.

Survival is an excellent book, suitable from about age 11 upwards. A real page turner with a great underlying message about working as a team.

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Wicked Earls’ Christmas anthology – book review

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

I have received a free e-copy of the book Wicked Earls’ Christmas to review. This is a collection of romantic Regency novellas by 10 authors.

Wicked Earls Christmas

Here is the book blurb.

Christmastide has never been more wicked. Join the Wicked Earls’ Club as they celebrate the holidays in a most debacherous fashion and manage to find true love along the way…

Earl of Dryden: A Dangerous lord and a desperate debutante…The Earl of Dryden knows all about the debutante who refuses to speak a word to anyone but he never expected she’d be so lovely, nor did he anticipate that he’d catch her confiding her secrets to a marble statue. Even more surprising, he wants to help her. Which is a mistake. A man like him shouldn’t go anywhere near a woman as lovely as Miss Chloe Finch.

Earl of Kent: A lady is determined to woo a brooding and reclusive earl out of his home for Christmas, only to get snowed in with him.

Earl of Kinross: Marcus Brayden, Earl of Kinross, thought fighting Napoleon on the battlefield was dangerous. But it is nothing to the upheaval caused by Lara Le Brecque, his best friend’s sister, when she climbs over his townhouse wall shortly before Christmas and attempts to sneak into his London home.

Earl of Bergen: Thomas, Earl of Bergen gets delayed on his trip home for Christmastide when he finds an abandoned, cross-eyed donkey who is believed cursed, and meets a lovely widow while trying to find the animal a home. Widowed Lady Elizabeth Newton enjoys her life caring for three children from her late husband’s mistress, as well as helpless animals of every description that have no home. Sparks fly between Bergen and the widow, but can a romance survive the danger that follows the donkey?

Earl of Charm: The Earl of Charm has it all–the title, the wealth, the land. The only one thing he doesn’t have? Charm. Luckily, his great aunt has brought her companion along to celebrate Christmastide. The lovely Miss Lovelace might be plagued by scandal and notoriety, thanks to her family’s downfall, but she knows more than anyone about the art of charm and flirtation. His new instructor makes the ideal practice partner for conversation, and dancing, and…kissing?

Earl of Woodcliffe: What begins as a silly game between girlfriends becomes a dangerous distraction for William, Earl of Woodcliffe. Indulging Lady Mercy’s desire for a kiss could lead to a duel with her brother, or at the very least, the loss of his glorious, hedonistic ways.

The Earl of Edgemore, Blake Fox, does as he pleases and he would not dream of apologizing for it. His only weak spot is his sister, Lady Minerva. Little does he know the minx has matchmaking on her mind and Christmas provides the perfect opportunity.

Earl of Oakhurst: James MacKenzie must face London as the new Earl of Oakhurst. Once there, he discovers an ailing grandmother, cause for a hurried marriage and a beauty who defies convention and sets his passion on fire. Caution: this story contains a meddling grandmother, a match-making mother and a marriage of convenience that goes wildly awry!

Earl of Darby: Miss Hannah Pendleton, nursing her pride after a childhood crush falls for another, hurls herself into the excitement of a first season. Since his wife’s tragic death, the Earl of Darby has cultivated his rakish reputation to deter the matchmaking mamas away. But when Nicholas sees a lovely newcomer being courted by the devil himself, her innocence and candor revive the chivalry buried deep in his soul.

Earl of Scarborough: When a woman desperate for a job saves the life of an earl, both of their plans for the future are thwarted. Neither Ansley, Earl of Scarborough, or Willow Harwood are prepared for the upheaval to their lives when she reluctantly accepts his offer of employment… as his housekeeper. Nor can either predict the mayhem that follows when a lord who disdains society and a country miss with no experience plan a haut ton Christmastide gathering.

The authors are as follows…

Tammy Andresen
Collette Cameron
Lauren Smith
Meara Platt
Maggie Dallen
Amanda Mariel
Madeline Martin
Aubrey Wynne
Anna St. Claire
Aileen Fish

I have previously read, reviewed and enjoyed Earl of Dryden by Tammy Andresen, when it was originally published, so I skipped that one and started with the second story in the anthology, Earl of Kent by Lauren Smith. This is the first story I’ve read by Lauren Smith, but apparently it is also the 11th book in her League of Rogues series. However it worked fine as a stand-alone read.

Phillip, the Earl of Kent was almost killed in a violent attack, but he is nursed back to health by an angel in his delerious dreams. Once conscious again, he discovers this is actually his best friend’s sister, Ella Humphrey. When he can walk again, he runs away from his heart’s desire to become a recluse, as who could love a broken man. Meanwhile Ella who has secretly loved Phillip for years is heart-broken.

A year later Ella is determined to persuade reclusive Phillip to leave his country home to escort her to a Christmas party. She won’t take no for an answer, but they get snowed in at a village inn en-route. Can broken bodies and broken hearts be healed?

A delightful Christmas tale and I’m looking forward to reading the eight other stories. Except for Tammy Andresen, they will mostly be new authors for me, apart from I have read the very short prologue to the original Wicked Earls Club which Maggie Dallen wrote jointly with Tammy.

Wicked Earls’ Christmas is available on Amazon in Kindle format. I believe some of the individual titles are also available in paperback.

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Hijab and Red Lipstick by Yousra Imran- book review

Disclosure.  This post is a review of a book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

I have received a free copy of the book Hijab and Red Lipstick by Yousra Imran to review. This was the winning entry for the Hashtag Press 2020 competition and Yousra’s prize was to see her debut novel published.

Hijab and Red Lipstick by Yousra Imran

Here is the book blurb.

“You cannot do anything in this country without my permission.” Being a teenager isn’t easy. And it doesn’t help when you have a mega strict Egyptian dad who tells you that everything is “haram” a.k.a. forbidden. All Sara wants to do is experiment with makeup and read fashion magazines, but her dad’s conservative interpretation of Islam makes it impossible. Things get even harder when her dad lands himself a job in the Arabian Gulf and moves Sara and her family to a country where the patriarchy rules supreme. In a country where you have to have your father’s permission for everything, every door feels like it is being closed on Sara’s future. Can Sara find her voice again? Will she ever be free?

An insight into life as a young British Muslim woman growing up between London and the Middle East, this is a tale of a woman’s difficult quest to find herself, and an exclusive insight into life in countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, where people’s personal lives are rarely spoken about.

The book starts in London with Sara now aged 29 about to tell her life story for a documentary on TV. Her father Baba came to London from Cairo and married an English girl who had converted to Islam. He was very religious and had strict rules for Sara and her younger siblings Ahmed, Saffa and Abdullah. So no boyfriends and not even any English music, however Sara found that there are always ways to rebel.

But everything got even more strict when Sara was in Year 9 as her father got a new job and the family moved to the Gulf. There even magazine pictures and articles were censored before being put on the shelf. Sara thinks she can keep a relationship secret from her father, but she forgets about the itemised phone bill. Make-up is another area she comes to blows with her father over, he won’t even let her wear red lipstick at home, considering it sluttish. And so it continues from school to university and beyond. When will Sara be able to be herself?

Hijab and Red Lipstick is available on Amazon in both Kindle format or paperback. A great story for young adult readers encompassing difficult subject matter, cleverly woven with the current day interludes, when Sara still wears her signature red lipstick.

Note does include rape scene, self-harm and sexual abuse.

About the author

Yousra S Imran is an English-Egyptian hybrid who works and lives in West Yorkshire. She has been writing from the moment she learned how to hold a pen and works full time in marketing and events in the education sector.

Yousra grew up between the UK and the Middle East and has a BA Hons in International Relations. She is passionate about women’s rights and gender justice. Yousra lives with her husband in West Yorkshire.

Yousra Imran

I’m participating in the book tour and you may like to check out some of the other blog stops on the tour.

Hijab and Red Lipstick by Yousra Imran

Finally for a taster, here is an extract from the book to whet your appetite.

Extract from Hijab & Red Lipstick by Yousra Imran, Hashtag Press, November 2020

I went to a party. A party in a bar with boys! And I didn’t get caught by Baba. I could hardly believe it.

“My friends love you, by the way,” Heba said, as we walked into university. “And the guys asked me why I’ve been hiding such a beautiful friend.”

“Really?” I asked, blushing.
Heba linked arms with me. “Told you it’s fun to go out!” Heba’s friends added me on Facebook and started to invite me to their parties. I couldn’t get away with going to parties every weekend without my parents getting suspicious, plus we were in our final year of university. I had dissertations to write and exams to study for.

But once a month, I’d tell Baba there was a Gulf wedding I’d been invited to and he would let me go with Heba. The story that I was going to someone’s engagement party or wedding was a plausible one because in the Gulf it was normal for the young women my age to get married within weeks of each other.

In the mid -2000s most Arab women got married while they were at university or soon after graduating. Plus, agreeing to Heba picking me up meant Baba saved himself having to drive me places. It was the perfect arrangement.

Sometimes Heba would drop me home afterwards, and if Baba was in a very good mood, he’d let me sleep over at hers. I started to feel like I was leading a double life and I wasn’t bad at it.

Despite all the new – found interest from the Egyptian guys in Heba’s circle, I wasn’t interested in any of them. I was still attracted to Gulf men, despite that weird date I went on months ago. I’d written my date with Aziz off as a one – off.

Unlike the other expatriate girls I knew who went out with them just to get free expensive dinners, rides in sports cars and lavish gifts, it wasn’t the Gulf men’s wealth that attracted me.

I can admit I was a bit of a romantic, and found their Arab beauty alluring. I also felt that their lives, as boring and as routine as they were, had a sense of stability I hadn’t felt all my life. My childhood memories were of us moving from area to area in London. Even now, in the Gulf, I still felt a sense of insecurity, knowing that at any time if the government wanted to, they could terminate Baba’s work visa and we’d be deported.

I didn’t want to have to move again. I just wanted to settle down in one place, and Gulf families spent their whole lives in the Gulf. I believed that somehow, if I could find a good Gulf guy, we’d fall in love and he’d do the honourable thing and ask Baba for my hand in marriage.

One evening I was sitting on the family computer, browsing through an Arabic entertainment website, when I saw a banner ad for an Islamic marriage website. I looked over my shoulders to make sure no one was around. Mum was downstairs cooking and Baba was having a nap. Saffa and Abdullah were in their rooms studying, and God knows where Ahmed was. He was always out in the evenings, and neither Mum nor Baba asked him where he was and what he was up to. He was free to come and go as he pleased.

I clicked on the banner ad and it took me to the website. The home page had stock photos of smiling Muslim couples holding hands or putting their arms around one another. The membership was free.

I signed up, attaching one of the few photos I’d saved on the computer. It was me wearing my abaya and shayla, with a full face of make – up that Heba had taken for a photography project.

I knew Baba had showed that picture to his friends who had sons, much to my protest. After a year of me refusing all marriage proposals, he’d given up and now told anyone who proposed that I wasn’t interested in getting married.

Don’t get me wrong, I did want to get married, just not to one of his backward salafi friends’ sons. I didn’t want my life dictated by misogynistic doctrines that believed that women should go to university, but then get married as soon as they graduated, hang their degree up on the living room wall like a decorative painting, focus on the housework, pop out babies and get dinner ready for when their husband came home from work. No thank you.

So, after setting up my profile on the Islamic marriage website, I decided to set my filters so only Gulf men’s profiles appeared. I clicked ‘Search’ and hundreds of profiles swept on to the computer screen.

I went through profile after profile, until I couldn’t search anymore. I logged out, then cleared the Internet history. I didn’t want my parents or Abdullah stumbling across this website and figuring out that it was me.

I logged on again the next evening and found dozens of Arabic messages in my inbox, mostly from Egyptian men or men with faces that only their mothers could love. But in the midst of them I found a message from a Gulf guy who went to my university.

In his profile picture he was sitting on a jet ski, smiling at the camera, and had really cute dimples. The message was in English. Score! Someone who actually speaks English.

I think you have a very interesting profile. You write that you’re British but I can see that you have Arab features. I think you’re beautiful. My name is Fahad. I’d love to have a coffee with you. If you’re interested, this is my number.

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The Perfect Christmas by Annabelle Anders – book review

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Less than a week before Christmas last year, I received a free e-copy of the book The Perfect Christmas by Annabelle Anders to review. I decided to save it up to read until now, ready to share what I thought of it with you, in plenty of time for this year’s festive season. You may find out more about the author on her website.

The Perfect Christmas by Annabelle Anders

Here is the book blurb.

Miss Eliza Cline, a vicar’s sister, has accepted her life as a quiet industrious spinster. Lord Crestwood, the dashing widowed baron, is the rogue from her past. A chance meeting at a Christmas House party presents a second chance for both of them. But Eliza must decide: has the Baron’s unforgivable sin already doomed their love forever? This is a story about forgiveness. Over the course of a lifetime, a person is faced with millions of choices, some more difficult than others. And sometimes, we make the wrong ones.In a world filled with hard consequences, we need grace.

The Perfect Christmas is book 3 in The Not So Saintly Sisters series, but works fine as a stand-alone read too.

I had come across Eliza previously as a minor character  in book 2 of the series, The Perfect Spinster and in this story she is attending a Christmas House party hosted by her dear friend Olivia, the main female character from book 2.

The prologue is set 12 years earlier when Eliza Cline and Henry Fairchild first met. He was a loveable rogue who ruined her. Now taking shelter from the snow at an inn, Eliza bumps into Henry again, along with his teenage children Charlotte and Bartholomew. Their destination is the same as hers, Olivia’s Christmas House party. Eliza is horrified to only discover now that Henry was married when they first met.

Old wounds are reopened and buried feelings reappear as we see both sides of the story. Lies are exposed. Does Eliza now hate Henry? Is it possible to forgive?

The Perfect Christmas is available on Amazon, in paperback or Kindle format. An emotional Christmas tale.

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The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta – book review

Disclosure.  This post mentions a ticket I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Earlier this year I read Lark by Anthony McGowan which was the winner of the 2020 CILIP Carnegie Medal. However I also liked the sound of some of the other shortlisted titles, so for my next personal choice of read, rather than a requested book review, I have chosen to read one of them, namely The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta, which was subsequently selected as the winner of 2020 Carnegie Shadowers Choice Awards, as voted for by children and young people. This book also won the Children’s and YA category of the 2020 Stonewall Book Awards and was shortlisted for the 2020 Jhalak Prize.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

Here is the book blurb.

This is not about being ready, it’s not even about being fierce, or fearless, IT’S ABOUT BEING FREE.

Michael waits in the stage wings, wearing a pink wig, pink fluffy coat and black heels.

One more step will see him illuminated by spotlight.

He has been on a journey of bravery to get here, and he is almost ready to show himself to the world in bold colours …

Can he emerge as The Black Flamingo?

This book has been written in verse, interspersed with text messages and Michael’s own poems in a school note book. This combination works brilliantly and really draws you the reader in. And I love the illustrations too, especially the cover.

The story starts with Michael aged 6 wanting a Barbie doll and we follow his identity seeking journey through childhood, teens and into university, as he tries to see where he fits in. The story encompasses so many topics brilliantly – culture, race, gender, sexuality, bigotry, being bullied, homophobia, coming out, drag.

I highly recommend The Black Flamingo which is a brilliant diverse read, targeted at age 13+. A fantastic powerful read.

Margate Bookie

I’m also looking forward to listening to Dean Atta at one of the online Margate Bookie events later this month. I have received a free ticket for the Love with Dean Atta and Richard Skinner Bookie Chat session on 26 November.

The Margate Bookie is a charity that inspires a love of reading and writing through literary festivals and creative courses. They describe themselves as ‘the friendly lit fest’ by the sea, who are working to make Margate a bookish town, where words are enjoyed by all. You may see details of their events here. This year all the events have gone online, so may be enjoyed by book lovers everywhere.

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Who’s hungry for Awfully Posh Lomo Crisps? – review and giveaway

Disclosure.  This post is a review of products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

With everything going on this year, some businesses are really struggling in these tough times. So with the future still very precarious in the hospitality industry, The British Snack Co. has had to change their focus from the pub to online sales. They produce three brands of snacks which you may have come across previously:- Awfully Posh, The British Crisp Co. and The British Popcorn Co.

I particularly enjoy snacking on something savoury, so I was pleased to receive a box of 5 packs of Awfully Posh Lomo Crisps free to review from The British Snack Co.

Awfully Posh Lomo Crisps

If you haven’t heard of Lomo, it is cured Spanish Pork Loin, which is one of my favourite cuts of pork. I’ve previously enjoyed it as Tapas, but haven’t come across it as a crisp before. These Awfully Posh Lomo Crisps have been air dried, not fried and made using 100% Spanish Pork, cured with a blend of paprika and garlic. And I can affirmatively say that yes they taste as delicious as they sound. Very moreish and definitely crisp and crunchy. Much better than your average crisp.

They are high protein and low carb comprising 63g protein, 0.5g carbohydrate, 23g fat and 6g salt per 100g. They are also gluten free. The packet size is 25g. They therefore work well with both the KETO diet and Atkins approach to meal plans. It is always a plus point in my opinion to have high protein products like this which do not need refrigerating.

Awfully Posh Lomo Crisps

Lomo is a new addition to the Awfully Posh range which also includes Pork Puffs, Pork Scratchings and Pork Crackling in a selection of flavours. However Lomo Crisps do seem significantly pricer than all the other products in the range, probably due to it using a premium cut of pork, namely the loin.

You may purchase them via their online store in boxes of 10 packets and they are also stocked in places like Fuller’s and Waitrose.

One thing I would like to see changed is the packaging. It has the dispose in litter symbol. Hopefully they are investigating alternative compostable or recyclable packaging.

For those of you hoping to try them in a pub after lockdown, here is son1 enjoying them whilst taking mask precautions.

Awfully Posh Lomo Crisps

Awfully Posh Lomo Crisps

If you don’t mind the price for a premium product, I highly recommend that you give them a try. Otherwise try some of the cheaper items in the range.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway a box of Awfully Posh Lomo Crisps courtesy of The British Snack Co. to one lucky winner. A yummy prize. But you’ll have to be quick as this one is open for less than week.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your favourite savoury snack?

You can find Awfully Posh on social media as follows:-
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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What We Bury by Carolyn Arnold – book review

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

I have received a free e-copy of the book What We Bury by bestselling author Carolyn Arnold to review. I’ve now read quite a few of Carolyn’s books so I’m getting quite familiar with her lead characters. I was therefore very much looking forward to getting reacquainted with Detective Madison Knight for the third time. To find out more about the author you may visit her website.

What We Bury by Carolyn Arnold

Here is the book blurb.

She’s dying, and she knows it. If only she can stay alive long enough to leave one last message. As the rain beats against the metal roof, she uses her blood-soaked fingertip to scrawl on the floorboards… The letters GB.

Detective Madison Knight has been house hunting, but a call from her real estate agent has nothing to do with finding the perfect property. She’s found a woman’s body, stabbed multiple times. Madison arrives on scene and is presented with an unknown Jane Doe and two letters written in blood. There’s no murder weapon, and it seems Doe was attacked somewhere else.

As Madison works to find justice for the victim, Madison’s own life is put at risk. What she comes to discover is some people will go to extreme lengths to protect their secrets—even as far as murder. But will learning that lesson come too late for her?

This is book 10 in the Detective Madison Knight series but works fine as a stand-alone read. Although having also read books 8 and 9 in this series, I’m enjoying seeing how we follow Madison’s life along from book to book too.

The story starts with the discovery of a dead body, who has managed to write the initials GB with her blood before she died. Is it a clue to the identity of her killer? But with no identification on her, at this stage she is Jane Doe and it looks like she managed to stumble some distance before collapsing and dying. This could prove a difficult case to crack for Detective Madison Knight and colleagues.

But in true detective style, Maddy finds those clues. Meanwhile Maddy is also moonlighting on her own personal crusade against the local mafia and corrupt cops, as a sub-plot develops within the story.

As things progress, tension builds. Plenty of twists and turns in this page turner.

I also loved how the author squeezed her own name into the story. Such a nice little touch.

What We Bury is newly published today and available on Amazon. Once again a gripping story from a best-selling author who makes juggling multiple series seem easy. It reminded me that I still want to go back and read books 1-7 in the Detective Madison Knight series.

Here are the links to my reviews of other books by Carolyn Arnold.
Power Struggle
The Secret of the Lost Pharaoh
On the Count of Three
Shades of Justice
Exercise is Murder
Past Deeds
The Legend of Gasparilla and his Treasure

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The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall – book review

Disclosure. This post mentions a book that I won. All opinions are my own.

I’ve just got round to reading a book that I won as part of the online YALC 2020, (Young Adult Literature Convention). I had been hoping to attend for the first time, but lockdown put paid to that plan, so instead I followed some of the online events. My prize was a proof copy of The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, her debut novel. To find out more about the author you may visit her website.

The Mermaid the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Here is the book blurb.

In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, a desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial lady find a connection on the high seas.
Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is headed to an arranged marriage she dreads. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian. Neither expects to fall in love.

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, double agents, and the all-encompassing Sea herself.

Deftly entwining swashbuckling action and quiet magic, Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s inventive debut novel conjures a diverse cast of characters seeking mastery over their fates while searching for answers to big questions about identity, power, and love.

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea is a mixture of fantasy, adventure and romance. Part one is set aboard the pirate ship Dove where the passengers on a long voyage from Crandon to the Floating Islands are initially unaware that the ship they are on is actually crewed by pirates, who plan to sell them as slaves.

Flora now known as Florian and brother Alfie are crew members, previously living from hand to mouth on the street. Meanwhile 15 year old Lady Evelyn Hasegawa is travelling with the Lady Ayer on the Dove to meet her husband-to-be in the Floating Islands. Flora is assigned by the captain and Rake to guard Evelyn from other crew members, especially Fawkes, as she will fetch a very good price. However Flora and Evelyn form a bond and fall in love. How will Flora save Evelyn from her awaiting fate?

This book which is divided into 3 parts, The Mermaid, The Witch and The Sea is full of twists and turns. With the fantasy element, I found it quite difficult to keep up with what is going on, but I found it a lovely touch that the Sea was viewed as a character. So yes we meet a mermaid who sadly has been captured by the pirates, since Mermaid’s Blood is a powerful expensive drink. She is getting weak. Can Flora or Evelyn come up with the answer to save her? And was Flora identifying as a female or a male?

We don’t meet the witch and her magic until much later. Meanwhile not everyone is whom they seem. I lost count of how themes, the author managed to weave into this tale.

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea is an intriguing fantastical magical romantic adventure.

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AD Britmums #ACEit Challenge or has she gone conkers?

Disclosure. This post is an entry for the #ACEit Challenge, sponsored by ACE. Get ideas on how to wash whites, treat stains and laundry like a boss with tips from the ACE site!
This post mentions a product I received for free. All opinions are my own. This post is classed as an advert because of the requirement to include the #ACEit hashtag.

Britmums recently challenged bloggers to take part in the #ACEit Challenge for brighter whites when trying the new ACE Ultra for Whites. I was in two minds whether to take part in this challenge or not, especially since it is in a plastic bottle. Regular followers of my blog will know that I am trying to reduce plastic. Pity it isn’t a powder rather than a liquid, as the last ACE product I reviewed, ACE for Colours Powder came in a plastic-free fully recyclable carton.

ACE Ultra for Whites

However I have to admit that my whites have been starting to look rather off-white since I swapped regular detergent for more eco-friendly alternatives, like soap nuts or homemade from horse chestnuts (conkers). Don’t get me wrong, my laundry is clean, but not bright white. I know you can’t expect a natural product to give the same results that bleach does, so perhaps this would be the answer, an occasional helpful boost from ACE.

So I signed up and received a free 1L bottle of ACE Ultra for Whites.

#ACEit Challenge

Now onto the actual washing test. There were my eldest son’s school shirts complete with very bad underarm stains and greyish grimy collars, plus off-white socks and undies, along with a very grey floor cloth. Unfortunately only a very small load, as ACE Ultra for Whites should only be used on totally white items. Again from an eco point of view, I prefer to do a full load which would normally include cream coloured bedding and towels too plus clothes which are part white, part coloured.

#ACEit Challenge

The instructions on the bottle suggested 4 possible alternative methods of use as follows, (along with household cleaning instructions for your sinks, etc too) …

  1. Fill your CL bleach compartment with the product. (My washing machine doesn’t have a CL compartment.)
  2. Fill your fabric conditioner compartment with the product, if you’re not planning to use fabric conditioner.
  3. Pour product directly in during a pre-wash cycle.
  4. Soak by hand in 10L of water to 150ml of product, for 20-30 minutes before rinsing and washing as usual.

#ACEit Challenge

I decided to opt for method 4, but I have to say I didn’t see much difference after the 30 minutes, but I assumed that perhaps I had over-diluted it, as I had just guessed how much to fill the sink. I didn’t actually measure the 10 litres of water. Also there was no indication of what temperature the water should be, so I had opted for warm, which may have been wrong too.

#ACEit Challenge

Since I still needed to wash the clothes, I tried again, this time using method 2. A much better success. Everything did look bright white. However ACE didn’t work its full magic on the underarm stains. They were better but still yellowish. The most remarkable change was on the floor cloth. It actually was white again.

#ACEit Challenge

About ACE Ultra:

  • It’s specifically formulated to help brighten dull whites.
  • It’s gentle on delicate clothes.
  • It tackles germs and odours, including viruses. That means not only do your clothes smell cleaner, they actually are cleaner – something even more important in the current climate.
  • It’s concentrated, making it among the most affordable ways to keep white clothes looking bright!
  • It’s available in Morrison’s.
  • NOTE: ACE Ultra includes bleach.
  • ACE Ultra for Whites should only be used on totally white items.

So yes I can see some plus points from ACE Ultra, but I think on the whole, it is not the product for me. Instead can anyone point me in the direction of an eco-friendly answer for brighter whites please, if such a thing exists?

Horse Chestnuts for laundry

And for those of you still wondering, how on earth do I use conkers for my laundry, let me point you here to The Watercress Queen who I have to thank for this environmentally friendly idea. I tried this out last Autumn and I still have over 4 big jars left, so no need to collect any this season. Plus not only is it eco, but it is very cost effective too, saving all the money you would have spent on detergent. I made a couple of variations to the original method, one being I dried the pieces of conker spread out on trays in the airing cupboard for about a week. And secondly I only do two soaks rather than three. I can highly recommend you try this idea out, but if you do, please remember to plant some of the conkers you collect.

Soap Nuts for laundry

Before trying this, I had bought a large bag of soap nuts shells, which work on the same principle. However I am a bigger fan of using conkers because they are grown locally so have a minimal carbon footprint in comparison. Also subsequent to buying the soap nuts, I read that the export market has driven the price up so locals who have been using them for generations can no longer afford them, which is so wrong and needs addressing. I do also use the soap nuts in the dishwasher although I haven’t dared try conkers, since they are poisonous.

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An Unexpected Adventure by Kandi J Wyatt – book review

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

I have received a free e-copy of the book An Unexpected Adventure by Kandi J Wyatt to review. You may find out more about the author on her website.

The Unexpected Adventure by Kandi J Wyatt

Here is the book blurb.

Harley will do anything to keep his new pal safe. But a hungry dragon needs to eat. And the government is hot on their tail.

Harley Maegher’s seen E.T. and knows what the government will do to mythical creatures. There’s no way he’s about to let his new-found friend fall into the hands of an NSA agent. When the dragon starts setting fires and eating livestock, the choice may be taken from him.

Steria is only interested in filling her tummy and spending time with Harley and his friends. After all, they’re the ones who woke her and called her from her egg. When the agent tries to capture her, she’s confined to the farm where she’s safe but without sufficient food. She’ll do anything to protect herself and Harley, even if it means she’ll go hungry.

This is the first title in the Myth Coast Adventures trilogy, set in a small town in Oregon. The story starts with eighth grade (yr9) Harley and his friends Will and Chace searching on the beach for Thundereggs for Professor Raleigh. If like me, you have never heard of a Thunderegg, Wikipedia tells us it is a type of rock. Will finds something, but rather than a Thunderegg, it is an actual egg, but a very large one indeed, as big as a backpack. On Monday, they show it to their science teacher Mr Behr, before hiding it in a barn at Chace’s family farm. Before long, another school friend Cherise is in on the secret too. But is Professor Raleigh really who he says, especially once he turns threatening?

Is it a dinosaur? No, when it hatches, they discover it is a dragon who they name Steria. But how are they going to feed her and keep her a secret from the Professor and everyone, even with Mr Behr’s help? And what about once she starts to get bigger and learns to fly? She definitely gives Harley’s older sister Karis a shock, who is delighted to then be in on the action too.

Things progress and this develops into quite a page turner. Certainly a bit more than the biology project they say they are working on.

An Unexpected Adventure is available on Amazon in Kindle format, audiobook or paperback. A great book for older children and teens with its mix of adventure, fantasy and fun.

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