Friday, 26 August 2011

Book Review - Stealing Phoenix by Joss Stirling

Earlier this summer I received an ARC copy of Stealing Phoenix, the second book by British author Joss Stirling due to be launched on September 1st (read about it here) by Oxford University Press. My question was: was it going to be as good as the first book?

"The notion that there is a soulmate out there for every person with a paranormal gift is mere myth is Phoenix's world. Phoenix was raised within the Community - a gang of thieves with paranormal powers - under the control of a harsh master known as the Seer. Leaving the Community is unheard of. But when the Seer gives Phoenix details of her next target, Yves Benedict, she soon realises that he is much more than just her next victim. Yves is her destiny. To be with him, she must break away from the Community, but resistance against the Seer puts them both in mortal danger. Phoenix has never trusted anyone before, now it is time to trust Yves with her life."

Finding Sky, originally the one and only book in this series, was great fun to read (read my review here) so the bar was set quite high for Stealing Phoenix. Well... I was not disappointed. It's not as good as the first book, it is better. 

The plot is interesting and solid. Even though it is fast paced - all the events happen within a week, give or take - the story is still convincing and entertaining. True to Stirling's style, the prose is smooth and flows nicely. While the original characters we already know and love remain true to the first book, the new ones are equally interesting and there are plenty of scenes with entertainment value. The villains are also tougher.

Even though she ended the book with a lot of closure and no cliffhanger, Stirling managed to do so without closing the door in the series. I know this is easier in her case as she only has to pick another Benedict brother to talk about; nevertheless, she managed to do it well. I, for one, hope she talks about Victor next. Bless him! I think he deserves to find his woman. That, however, would present challenges of its own since Victor is one of the older brothers and it might take the books on a different direction. 

What I enjoyed the most about Stealing Phoenix, though, was the gentleness and innocence of the romance. I read a lot of YA books and sometimes there isn't enough romance; other times, for my sadness, it verges on soft porn. Now, I am all for a good snogging scene (in good American - making out scene) and a nice dose of physical loving, but when that becomes the most important aspect of a YA book I find it quite disturbing. It was great to see, or rather - read, that Stirling managed to give Stealing Phoenix a good amount of teen hormones and drama without making it sound cheesy or over the top. By default that highlighted the plot, the situation the characters found themselves in and their feelings for one another. Just so we are clear and there is no doubt: there is plenty of kissing going on in this book.

Another detail I really like about this series is the fact that they are normal people. Ok, maybe not that normal. But after reading about vampires, werewolves, angels and what-nots it is quite a refreshing change to read about humans who do not transform into something else. Please do not take this comment as me saying I don't like paranormal or mysterious creatures. My other favourite novels are about angels, fairies and werewolves. What I am saying is that it is a nice change to read about humans in a paranormal novel as it makes it believable. The very possibility that people with a sixth sense really exist give this story a certain level of reality or probability.

While it is better to read Finding Sky before you read Stealing Phoenix just because it introduces you to all the seven brothers with a little more depth, it is not essential. You could still understand the story without having read the first book. They are not so much a series as they are companion books, if that makes sense.

OUT OF CURIOSITY: I interviewed Joss Stirling a couple of months ago. Read the interview here. The paper copy of this book is also for sale at Waterstones at a discounted price and you might be able receive it before the 1st of September depending of the type of postage you choose and when you order.

Book Rating: *****
To check the rating system click here.

Small Mention on Lancashire Life Magazine {5}

My blog for Lancashire Life had a little mention in the September paper issue of the magazine. Check the Bookshelf article on page 251.

I know it probably sounds bias when I say it, but Lancashire Life is a good way to keep up with what is going on in Lancashire: fashion, business, places to visit, arts, the social scene and more. On a bookworm-ish note, I have discovered quite a few local writers through the magazine. You can check the book section on the website (click here) or you can search through the paper version for book recommendations. They will be local writers, of course, as the magazine celebrates local talent. They also host some fab competitions, specially if you are into photography, so it is way worth checking.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

New Article over at Babi Dewet {7}

One of my favourite series, 'Mercy' by Rebecca Lim (read my review here), is about to launch in Brazil and I could not resist spreading the news by writing a new article for Brazilian writer and blogger Babi Dewet (click here to read it). You can also read all the other articles I have written in Portuguese for this black-belt blogger by clicking here.  

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Movie Review - Super 8

I am always a little skeptical when a great producer brings a new film out. 

Sometimes a new flick is labeled 'great' based on the credentials of its producer rather than the movie's standalone qualities; however, in this case, they were right. As I sit here trying to think of something to write about this movie that you have not read on the papers yet, I can only think of one thing to say: "they don't make films like Super 8 anymore".

Take away Spielberg's signature special effects and alien presence and you will still get that ever so alusive backbone moral lesson and feel good factor. You will jump out of your skin, cry, bite your nails and laugh, but more importantly it will make you think. No. Not about a possible alien invasion or what the government is hiding from us, but about the kids, their families and the underlying drama revolving around them. The fact that there is an alien on the loose almost becomes irrelevant in comparison with the father daughter/son struggle, losing a loved one, falling in love for the first time, finding your feet with your peers and fighting for what you believe is right. All seasoned with a good dose of 'nothing is what you think' and 'give the guy a break'. Absolutely brilliant! Add Steven Spielberg and you are in cinema heaven.  

Although in the UK this is marked as a certificate 12A, it's a little more violent than E.T., equality if not more scary and there is a good amount of swearing and drug orientated remarks, so I would not advice you take a 12 year-old who is a little more innocent than streetwise to watch it. Some 12A movies you can get away with letting younger children watch, but this one would give them nightmares. Having said that, there is nothing obscene or graphic so it's not that bad. I loved it.

Film Rating: *****
To check the rating system click here.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Music Mondays - Heal Over by Kate Tunstall

I cannot believe this song has never featured on Music Mondays since it is one of my absolute all-time favourites.

Kate Tunstall is a Scottish singer-songwriter and a guitarist. I love her voice and lyrics. This one in particular usually has me in a trance, repeating it over and over again, for my husband's despair. Having said that, I only take it a step further than him as he repeats this particular songs a few times himself. :-)

'Heal Over' is part of Tunstall's 2004 debut album 'Eye to the Telescope' and although it was not one of the most popular songs in this album, it is my favourite - raking right up there with my all-timers.


Sunday, 21 August 2011

Books in Fashion - Impulse Advert

Has anyone seen the new - and incredibly sweet - Impulse advert with the couple in the library? I'm sorry I don't have a better video, but it's not really out on YouTube yet. Whoever said bookish isn't trendy needs to reconsider. I thought the idea of using book titles is brilliant! What do you think? Press comment below and join the discussion!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Out & About - Oxfam Shop in Clitheroe

I have never been a charity shop fan. That was until I had the pleasure of organizing a fashion show for Oxfam.

When Lisa, the Clitheroe shop manager, told me we would be running the show with the clothes she had in stock I thought: 'Dear Lord! That will be a bit of a challenge!' In my mind, charity shops = other people's unwanted stuff. Something that, I am ashamed to admit, was a little prejudice of mine. It was not that I thought the shops weren't good enough. It was more about the barrier I had over the fact the stock was someone else's unwanted belongings. My thinking was: "why would I want something someone else is throwing away" when in reality these items have not been disposed of as much as donated. 

Needless to say, I walked into the shop to find rails and rails of designer gear including bags, shoes and jewellery. Not to mention the books! Lisa had a little bit of a problem getting me to concentrate on the clothes as I was just mesmerized by the huge selection of books they had for sale. All my favourites were there. I could have saved myself quite a lot by buying them second hand. "I know some people think charity shops are full of tat, but I don't sell anything that is not in good order or quality" said Lisa, a straight talking and active busy bee. Amen sister! I'm pleased to say I have been converted. And I tell you something... It's a triple winner. I am all up for buying that Ted Baker dress I saw (with the tag still on) at a discounted price for a good cause. How could you not be happy to part with your hard earned cash when you are ticking so many boxes? Good item - check; cheap or cheapER - check; for charity - check. I buy a dress for me and walk away feeling I've helped a child, farmer or family in some almost forgotten corner of the world. That's what I call retail therapy!

Ox-Tales Collection
On the bookish end... In 2009 Oxfam launched 'Ox-Tales', an anthology of short stories by well known writers using the four elements - water, fire, earth and air - as themes. This year they have taken it a step further by launching 'Ox-Travels', another anthology by two dozen of Britain's most lively, critical and thought-provoking travel writers who were asked to recall a significant encounter while traveling – one that has enriched the writer. There is no need to say, but I will anyway, that this book is incredibly interesting. 

The Clitheroe shop includes gifts, books, womenswear and ladies' accessories. The moral is: at Oxfam you can read and shop for a good cause. So why not?

Ambient: ****
Price: ££ with hints of £££
Children: Yes
To check the rating system click here

Oxfam Charity Shop
8 Market Place
Lancashire BB7 2DA
Tel: 01200 424 005

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Book Review - Exile by Rebecca Lim

I have just one thing to say: what an ending! My nails are bitten down to the quick!

Exile is the second book in Rebecca Lim's Mercy series. It tells the story of Mercy, a girl with no memory of who she is or why she finds herself waking up in the bodies of complete strangers. The central plot is Mercy's search for the truth of who she really is and her past. However, within each book there is another story. As she takes the form of someone else she has to live their life and, although she's not required to, she kind of helps them along the way. 

Mercy, the first book, left me a little confused and I was only able to really understand the central plot after reading a review from somewhere else explaining some details. However, Lim's easy prose, wit and gift to produce cliff-hanger endings got me hooked. 

Exile is a lot better than the first book as the plot starts to unravel and you start to understand Mercy's background. Once I got over the fact that the main plot is inside another, it became clear to me that my confusion with the first book was exactly what it needed to be. As a reader you are in a journey with Mercy. As she doesn't know what is happening... Neither do you. And as the she starts putting the puzzle pieces together, you start seeing the full picture. A brilliant piece of writing. 

And of course! There is also the romance in between the lines. Luc is Mercy's long lost love. Ryan is the boy she met during the first book and the one that stole her heart. During Exile, Mercy is faced with the reality that her love for Luc is not what it once was and things are not what she thought they were. My heart broke for Ryan and I can't wait to read Muse - the third book, which releases October 27th this year, and the fourth book, Fury, due to release on March 29th 2012. I, for one, love the fact you don't have to wait a year to read what happens!

This series is quickly becoming my favourite!

OUT OF CURIOSITY: Rebecca Lim is an illustrator and writer based in Australia and she has a long list of other published children and YA books. Get this: she was a lawyer for years until she gave it up to write full time. Talent seems to speak louder once more.

Book Rating: *****
To check the rating system click here.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Stealing Phoenix Teaser

As promised, here is the last exclusive teaser before the launch of Joss Stirling's 'Stealing Phoenix' on September 1st. 

In Finding Sky, the first book of the series (read my review here), we were introduced to the seven Benedict brothers and the story pivoted around Sky, the girl with no memory of her past, and Zed, the younger brother. In Stealing Phoenix is Yves' turn to take the spotlight.The first teaser was released last month (read it here). Enjoy!

"... I settled the backpack on his shoulders exactly how it had been - I'm good at the details. But now I was standing so close, almost embracing him, and I could see his eyes down the side of his glasses. My heart stopped when I caught sight of his expression. It wasn't the dull glazed look my victims usually wore; he was somehow aware of what was happening, fury burning in his eyes." 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

In the Mail {8} - My Bagabook Book Bag

 Coming back from holiday I had a lot of post to open and, while most of it was really boring stuff (bills), one had me really excited.

You must remember my article about Bagabook a while back (read it here), well... I got one! The exact one I mentioned in the article. It arrived while I was away and it is gorgeous! (Thanks Susan!) Please forgive the photos, they don't do it justice. I had to take them on my phone as I manage to loose my camera while I was away - 'avec' (French for 'with') holiday photos - V.E.R.Y. annoying.

Going back to the bag... It's brilliant! And the quality is really good. We have all been there where you've made a decision based on a photo and when the item comes it is anything but what is on the image you saw. I assure you this will not be the case with these babies. I absolutely love mine and I am sure if you come across me somewhere you will see it in action.

Don't forget that Bagabook has a super promotion available for my readers! Quote the discount code and have 25% off any of the designs. Spread the BLC - Book Love & Care! (For the code click here)

Monday, 15 August 2011

Music Mondays - This = Love by The Script

Since I am back in the UK, there is nothing better to start the week than celebrating European Music.

The Script, an Irish band from Dublin, is currently one of my favourites. I have just bought their latest album and I love this song. The lyrics have a powerful message and the harmony is fab. You might recognize them from TV shows like The Hills, The Vampire Diaries and others as quite a few of their songs have been featured. Go Ireland!

Enjoy and have a fantastic Monday!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

A ‘Petit’ Epiphany & Being Thankful

By now I’ve been on holiday for almost three weeks. As all our friends and family have come and gone and even the husband and the daughter are out busy with little jobs. I sit in an empty house.

A few minutes ago I decided to strip off my sun dress and jump in the pool in my undies. Something I have not done for a few years. While I was floating away on my own I had a little epiphany. How blessed am I? Eleven years ago, fresh out of an airplane from Brazil to the UK, I would never have thought I would be standing in St Tropez enjoying the good life. And not for a moment I think I deserve it. I have worked hard ever since I understand myself to be a person, but I’m no sweet smelling rose. Very good opportunities have come my way and I have only gone for them with some determination and willingness. I honestly believe that if you want something bad enough, you can make it happen. However, a little bit of it is also down good luck. God, or whatever you call Him in your culture, country religion, faith or belief, has indeed being good to me.

So while I stared into the sky I took stock of all my blessings and I am grateful. Not only grateful for enjoying the pool in this beautiful villa, but for being healthy, for having a loving family, a healthy and clever child, five fingers in each hand and five toes in each foot, for the gift of loving to read and write, for being born in a culture where woman are free to develop their potential, for having parents who invested in my education, for having all my five senses working just fine, for never have to experience a war on my door step... The list of all the things I’m thankful for is far too big. Sometimes when you are in the rat race, and if you are an unsatisfied ambitions little thing like me, you get so busy running around headless after better and bigger things that you forget to take stock of all your current blessings. So if I can inspire you to do anything today, may that be to be happy for all you are, have and enjoy. Even the smallest little thing like being able to read this blog.

Have a fantastic day!!! ^_^

Friday, 12 August 2011

Nominated for Liebster Blog Award!!!

I have been on the move and a little out of action for a couple of weeks now so only today I managed to have an internet connection strong and long enough to check all the comments in my blog. What a fantastic surprise!

I would like to say 'THANK YOU!' to the lovely Sierra over at Happily Never Ending for nominating me to the Liebster Blog Award!!! Things like this and reader's comments are what make blogging such a fulfilling experience. Thank so much to Sierra for this lovely surprise and to all my readers for sticking with me. ^_^

Sierra has also listed a fab list of bloggers so when you have a moment do go through them, they are way worth checking. I will now work at my list to pick my top 5 and pass the award on. Thank you so much for this fab opportunity!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Book Genre & Reasons for Reading

While away with friends I’ve had some very interesting discussions about reading and what we read. The result? I realized just how narrow minded I have been and that there is a common thread in between why and what we read.

I read for escapism. So I love fantasy and books that make me reminisce my golden years, in other words, YA books. My other half reads for general knowledge, therefore he is into autobiographies, adventures based on real life stories or conspiracy/political novels. My cousin Barbara, loves well known established Brazilian writers and old classics. One of my friends, a romantic to the core, loves ‘Chick Lit’ and poems. Some of the boys are into conspiracy and murder mysteries or anything action packed. My friend Ruth is incredibly open minded about reading and will read anything her friends highly recommend. She reads to relax, ‘books = holidays’ kind of thing, as long as the story is good she will read it.

Talking to my friends changed my attitude towards genre. Originally, I narrow mindedly thought genre was connected to a reader's stereotype. My conversation proved there is a lot more to it. As a matter of fact stereotypes didn’t even come into it. Quite simply is a matter of taste and what you want to get out of a book at a particular time of your life. A little like food, over time your taste in books can also change and you might end up reading something you had no interest in reading before.

Interesting. Very interesting indeed. What about you? What are you into and, apart from loving books, why do you read? 

Friday, 5 August 2011

Book Review – Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Nightshade has been sitting on my to-read shelf for ages and I finally had the pleasure to read it!

It tells the story of Calla, a she-wolf who is not only an Alpha and commands a pack of wolves, but is also destined to become a mate to Ren, the male Alpha of another pack. Of course, things could not be that simple. Although Ren is incredibly charming and all an Alpha female should want, Calla finds herself falling for Shay, a human with his own unique abilities. And things are about to get worse. Shay’s rebellious and questioning attitude reveals all is not what it seems and Calla’s world starts to fall apart when hidden truths are uncovered.

I love the plot! The story is fantastic. I love the fact that at the beginning Calla is presented as having the ideal life: she has everything she needs given and she has a purpose. However, as you get deeper into the book it becomes clear, not only to you the reader but Calla herself, that things are anything but perfect. That is all I can say without spoiling it too much. Conspiracy, intrigue, manipulation... Even though this is a YA (Young Adult) Fantasy book, there are details here that are definitely very human. Politics and the struggle for power make this book very close to reality in some aspects.

Unfortunately, I cannot say I feel the same way about the main characters. There is just something that doesn’t quite stick and I can’t put my finger on it. Calla particularly annoys me. She is meant to be an Alpha leading a pack, but spends most of the book either been filled up by both Ren and Shay or wanting to be filled up by both Ren and Shay. While it makes for very interesting and hot scenes, which I am sure some people will love, the fact that both guys seem to be able to just grab at her whenever they feel like it, with Calla just about managing a very weak ‘no’ only because of circumstance, somewhat annoys me. She doesn’t seem to have any ideas of her own.

At particular moments of the book I was also left a little disappointed. Cremer describes Calla inner chatter for pages, but when something really important happens such as a fight or an important discovery the scene is over before you can actually get into the mood for it. Calla’s bending or breaking of the rules could mean she gets punished with death by her master, however, you don’t quite feel the weight of that. There is one particular scene, about a transformation, which I think should be terribly important, but it is over in half a page.  

I love all the other characters, though. Mason and Sabine are particularly interesting. And I have a huge soft spot for Ren. Like the plot itself, he is one of the characters who change your mind halfway through the story: you start by not liking him all that much and by the end you are genuinely heart-broken for the guy.

All in one, this has been a really interesting read. While this is not a small book, the prose flows so easily I just seem to fly through the pages and I was done within a week. Looking forward to book two in the series, Wolfsbane, which released on July 26th.

Book Rating: ****
To check the rating system click here.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Out & About - Puy Du Fou, France

Ok, I know this blog is not really about holidaying in France, but I just have to talk about the Puy Du Fou. It’s out of this world!

As a parent, I have endured many things for the sake of making my daughter happy. Yeah, that unfortunately includes the latest Chipmunk movie: over one hour of high-pitched computerized voices... Oh the joys of parenthood!  Having said all that, Puy Du Fou is not one I had to endure, but a place where I became a child with eyes full of wonder myself.

Set in the middle of France, in the beautiful province of the Loire (pronounced Loo-are), the place I can unfairly compare it to is Disneyland. Even though they are nothing alike, the concept is the same. Puy Du Fou is a huge amazement park like Disney, however, instead of rides you watch performances, shows in movie set scale stages. It’s like travelling back in time to the Viking and Medieval eras,  the Coliseum , 18th Century and 1900s to watch Viking invasions, Knight Challenges, Lions fighting Gladiators (although not literally of course), Damsels in distress and birds of prey. Even if you are not the outdoor type or a history fanatic you will still find it entertaining.

One of the shows you just must watch is ‘La CinéScénie’. The sheer scale of this performance is mind boggling, starting with the fact that you will be one of 14000 people watching it at one time. With the Château de Puy Du Fou as a background, a lake, windmills and hundreds of actors and animals as part of the cast, I reckon the stage for this performance could quite easily be the size of a 5 or 6 football pitches. The production is basically about French history, going from Monarchy to post World War II via the French Revolution. However, this is far from being a show only people interested in ‘World History’ would enjoy.  With dancing, drama and amazing costumes, light and laser effects, explosions and fire, well trained animals and the best fireworks I have ever seen in my life, there is something for everyone.

‘La CinéScénie’ is a night show. It starts at 10pm and it can be a little too late for little ones, but my 9 year-old was in complete awe. As you will be sitting near a lake watching this performance, even if it’s summer, the temperature will drop so it is wise to leave the flip-flops at the hotel and go wrapped up in something warm. All the shows in Puy du Fou are also in French. If you don’t speak it enough to get the gist of the story you can hire translating headphones to do the job for you.

The other high-light for me was the “Dance of the Birds” where they basically bring out all sort of birds flying so low you could touch them. At the end, the feathery fleet is all let go off and 150 birds fly just above your head in the most amazing spontaneous dance. Owls, American Eagles, smaller birds of prey, Pelicans and many others in this amazing display of natural acrobatics. To see their wins in motion that up-close-and-personal is not to be missed. And don’t worry. They will not deliver little splash bombs to your head.

For bookworms... In the Medieval City and 18th Century Village there is a fantastic display of craftsmanship. All the manual crafts that are slowly becoming rare, but are nonetheless fascinating are represented: barrow building, leather conditioning and use, old-fashion bread making, pottery, iron work, joinery, calligraphy with feather and ink... It’s amazing to see how it was done on the old days, before computers and machinery. It also makes for amazing souvenirs: leather or personalized hand painted bookmarks, clay or iron markers amongst others. There is also a book shop in the 1900 Town Square with a variety of informative books about the shows you have watched or the eras they are set in. You can buy ink and feather pens, wax seals and other old fashion calligraphy items too! I was lost in there for hours! My husband is convinced I have a thing for paper in general, not just books. ^_^

If you ever come to France for a visit, this is definitely a place worth checking. The Puy du Fou is very well managed and organized so there are no real queues or hassle. Even when a show is about to open its doors and there is plenty of people waiting, it still runs smoothly.  The park is also fitted with good disable facilities and access. Don’t worry about getting there too early either. Most shows start from 10am and will run through to late afternoon so you can pick and choose in what order you do the rounds. There are night performances as well, if you are a night owl. The restaurants inside the park don’t really open for food until 11am so make sure you have you breakfast before coming over.

In short, get to France and become a Viking, Gladiator, Damsel-in-Distress or Knight for the day. No... I was not a Damsel in distress. It’s not my style. I was a Gladiator!!! A mean one at that too. ^_^

Ambient: *****

Food: ***
Price: £££
Children: Absolutely!
To check the rating system click here

Puy Du Fou
BP 25
85 590 Le Epesses
Tel: +33 (0) 820 09 10 10

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Hi everyone! I’m really sorry I have not updated the blog recently. I’m on holiday at the moment and despite my best effort to organise places I could connect to the internet, things have not gone according to plan. Typical.

I have a few updates now scheduled in, I hope you enjoy them. Again, I’m sorry they are not as regular as they should be. Thing will go back to normal as soon as I am back.  

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