Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Travel – Cayo Guillermo, Cuba (Zap-it Gifted, Ad)

Hello Readers,
Welcome back to travel Tuesday, I have been lucky enough to visit different parts of Cuba but Cayo Guillermo has my heart. The places I am going to be mentioning are Egypt, Spain, Tunisia and Cuba. I do have one more thing to add I need to add a gifted and ad for the end of the post where I mention ZAP-IT and I don’t earn any money from the links included.

Cayo Guillermo is they stereotypical vision you get when you think of Cuba or The Caribbean perfectly clear sea, white beaches, starfish, beautiful birds, rum and cigars. I am part of a hotel page on facebook and somethings I would like to clear up from the questions I see on there.

Cuba is still under embargo; Cuba is recovering from a food shortage and the star rating is Cuban rated and please do your research before you go!!! You cannot go over the top clubbing in Cayo Guillermo aits attached to Cuba by a causeway. Also let’s not forget Hurricane Irma pretty much destroyed most of Cayo Guillermo, to the people moaning about their holiday being cancelled there is a special place in the afterlife for you!  
Most of the above usually gets me in trouble when I visit, my last visit I ended up on the same flight and hotel as a “Karen” she had stayed at an Iberostar in Tenerife and expect the same luxuries and I have never heard someone moan so much in a tropical paradise. Once more for the people at the back in Cayo Guillermo is attached to Cuba by a causeway and is stunning and peaceful.

I honestly love Cuba it is honestly the only Caribbean island I feel safe enough to walk around alone and off the hotel complex. I love the Cuban people and they are honestly so friendly and welcoming it’s unbelievable. There is very little to do outside of the hotels other than the other hotels, Dolphinarium, Pilar Beach. I don’t mind walking and usually go for walks down the beach or to the causeway bridge or Dolphinarium keep your eyes peeled on the way to the causeway and Dolphinarium you should be able to see the beautiful flocks of Pink Flamingos. There is also excursions to Havana, Crocodile farm, Catamaran trips, speed boats and deep-sea fishing off the top of my head.
If you find yourself in Cayo Guillermo, you must visit the stunning, Playa Pilar beach. It’s true white sand and crystal-clear water paradise and if you visit on a full moon the huge starfish are close to shore. If you get the chance you must visit Moron, in my opinion, the best way to view Moron is by private tour each time I have gone with Juan Carlos and I couldn’t recommend the trip enough.

Juan took Mother Goose and I to the nearby crocodile farm, Laguna de Leche and the best Piña Colada, Quick stop for sugar cane and we went on to Moron. I still love how pretty and bright the buildings are in Cuba and they still take my breath away each time I go I always pause and take in the moment and just enjoy the sights.

One thing that I have a love-hate relationship within Cuba is that every single bug that bites will find me. I have tried everything from sprays, bands, new bands, plugs and patches I have come to the conclusion I’m just going to get bitten anyway; however, I moved my focus to getting rid of the pesky itch.

Cubans recommend putting Rum on to stop it, sorry but nope and creams I’ve used in the past made me itch more. So, before my last trip, I was looking for something new and came across Zap-it after reading some reviews I thought I would order two. Imagine my surprise when I saw Zap-it put a request out for bloggers and here, we are a miniature review on a travel post. I'm unlucky when I get bitten as they swell and after the first couple of uses, I noticed the bites treated with the Zap-it didn’t swell and the itching was almost non-existent.

Here’s a little science scratching a mosquito bite may bring short-lived relief but it also increases the histamine levels in the area causing swelling and the slight risk of damaging the skin’s surface and making it itch more.

Zap-It! is available from Asda and Superdrug, and is also available online from Amazon

L x

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Strange Ink by Gary Kemble

Hello Readers,
Thank you, Sarah, and Titan Books, for sending me a copy of Strange Ink by Gary Kemble for free in exchange for an honest review.

Before we get into my review, we are going to take a minute to appreciate how stunning this book is that simple black and white with a pop of colour on the cover is magnificent and black sprayed edges, I mean it could be more beautiful if it tried. The second book called Dark Ink will be published October 8th 2019
Just the concept of this book fascinated me poor Harry Hendrick wakes up to find a strange symbol tattooed on his neck. Harry thinks he had the tattoo done while drunk, but soon more tattoos appear along with violent nightmares. I’ve binge-watched enough tattoo fixers to know this can happen but the twist of having the tattoo linked to violent nightmare and more sent shivers up my spine.

Fed-up journalist Harry Hendrick was once a rising star, but his career was derailed and is now circling the drain in Brisbane. He’s meandering through life, a shell of his former self, until he goes to a friend's stags’ night and wakes the next morning with a hangover with a strange symbol tattooed on his neck. Harry has no recollection of getting the tattoo, his mate Dave can’t remember anything about them going for a tattoo, even photographs taken on the stag night reveal nothing and the local tattoo parlour denying any knowledge of tattooing Harry. It seems to have appeared out of nowhere.

However, this tattoo isn’t just a normal drunken tattoo. Harry has a nightmare, waking in fright and wondering where he is and this nightmare has just caused sweating a waking up oh no it is accompanied by another grisly new tattoo.  The tattoo depicts a scene from the nightmare this is followed by more tattoos and violent visions that seem to be tied to the war in Afghanistan that are becoming more vivid

Harry begins to realise that each new nightmare a tragic story is being told through the ink, through the images that the tattoos depict upon his skin. Harry suspects the nightmares and tattoos maybe someone else’s distressing memories. It is up to Harry to uncover the truth behind the tattoos and what happened to the person that they originally belonged to. Harry must solve the mystery they present before a depraved villain becomes prime minister.

The novel’s gritty realism and effectively conveys the discomfort of new ink, the uncomfortable heat of the Queensland summer, and the horrors of war and murder. As Harry digs deeper the story strands that at first appear to be disparate pieces all come together. Biker gangs, drugs, corruption, greed, the horrors of war, the water tower, politics and the presidential candidate all have their part to play in the dark narrative.

This is a wonderfully written book with an original premise could have easily gone wrong, but Gary handles it with such care and gives us a believable world and characters. This remarkable book is captivating from the beginning and is hard to put down. I couldn’t stop reading because stuff kept happening on nearly every page but not giving too much away. The pace is honestly remarkable it is fast yet not a single detail is lost. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little different.


Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Travel – Pamplona, Spain

Hello Readers,
Today we're carrying on from last Tuesday and posting another travel post, I am still being original and calling it Travel Tuesday. The places I am going to be mentioning are Egypt, Spain, Tunisia and Cuba. 

I not going to be talking about the more touristy places in Spain, I am going to be talking about Pamplona this hidden gem is all the way up in the north of Spain. Pamplona will always hold a special place in my heart as it was the first solo trip I took. You’ve probably heard of it in a negative light as its where San Fermin festival takes place or the running of the bulls. I visited in September long after the bull run had happened, I also think that was a brilliant time to visit as it wasn’t to warm or too cold, I think during my two-week trip I had rain for one day.
I did, however, get a map from the tourist centre that mapped out the bull run and walked the route from start to finish. The size of the bull ring at Pamplona was a stunning sight despite not agreeing with the event. On the outside of the ring, they have signs promoting how the money raised helps the old people who have been forgotten and orphans. I am so sorry but it is going to take a little more than that to make me agree with you.  

One thing I will say it’s a little difficult to get to Pamplona directly. I had to fly to Bilboa and catch a bus to Pamplona it only too an hour and a half so it wasn’t too bad. Pamplona is also on the pilgrimage route called Camino de Santiago (The way of Saint James). However, despite the added travel time the city is very easy to navigate turn right enough times and you’ll end up right where you started.

Almost every place of interest can be found within the well-preserved medieval city walls and is within walking distance from the Plaza del Castillo (Castle Square). Inside, the walls you have the old citadel and Vuelta del Castillo Park. Also in walking distance is the La Catedral de Santa María la Real de Pamplona and the Church of Saint Lawrence. The Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real is stunning, to the left of the building is a small shaded courtyard that is the perfect spot to read.

Pamplona is stunning by foot the stone-paved streets of the Old Town wind their way through the historic heart of the city, between medieval churches, palaces and, of course, plenty of bars and restaurants. The Taconera Gardens are the oldest and beautiful park in Pamplona at the time of my visit I wasn’t aware of the age of the site. This beautiful park combines trees and flowers with a wide range of sculptures and has a miniature zoo in the moat of the walls that contain deer, ducks, pheasants, swans and peacocks. Below is the Portal de Francia. 
If you get the chance when you visit you need to visit the indoor markets in Pamplona, they are such a wonderful and brightly coloured experience. The sight can almost overwhelming, the sight, smells and sounds are a barrage on the senses. Fresh vegetables meat and fish are wonderfully displayed, you can smell fresh herbs and meats cooking away as well as hear the sounds of deals being made.  

The food in Pamplona is scrumptious and they are very generous with portion sizes the picture below is a salad that I’m pretty sure only cost me 5 euros which is around £4.53 or $5.57. There are plenty of places with wonderful menu’s but it would be a shame if you didn’t take advantage of the set dinner menus that offer fantastic value for money for three courses and a bottle of wine.

Pamplona is worth a visit for a week or a long weekend away. You can explore so much on foot which is wonderful and you’ll find lovely hidden gems where you can sit and read or take a minute to watch the world go by.  

L x

Monday, 9 September 2019

Blog tour: The Devil Up Stairs by Anthony O’Neill

Hello Readers,

Thank you, Jaz and Black and White Publishing for inviting me onto the blog tour and for sending me a free copy of The Devil Up Stairs by Anthony O’Neill in exchange for a spot on the blog tour.

Today is my stop on The Devil Up Stairs blog tour grab a biscuit and a cuppa, I’ve got a spotlight and an extract just for you. This post contains links to buy the book, I do not profit from the sharing of these links. 

Tittle: The Devil Up Stairs
Author: Anthony O’Neill
Genre: Mystery and Thriller
Pages: 304
Publication Date:  5th September 2019
Cover Image:

An allegorical thriller set in modern-day Edinburgh; The Devil Upstairs sees Cat Thomas relocate from Florida after fleeing death threats related to her job as a fraud investigator. Finding an incredible flat in a beautiful area of the city, Cat can’t believe her luck, until her upstairs neighbour appears. His loud music at all hours and utterly inconsiderate behaviour leave Cat delirious with lack of sleep. After trying everything, her desperation leads her to ask for help from her colleague at a witches’ conclave where the devil is asked to intervene, and within just a few days, the neighbour is found dead. Disturbed by her dreams becoming a reality, Cat throws herself into her work, but as more bodies are found with links to her and her life, she confronts her colleague to find out exactly what kind of help she has accepted.

Impeccably plotted, intricately nuanced and shot through with darkly wicked humour, The Devil Upstairs perfectly captures the shadowy beauty and mystery of Edinburgh, whilst posing questions on the darker side of human nature.

About the Author:
Anthony O’Neill is the son of an Irish policeman and an Australian stenographer. He was born in Melbourne and lives in Edinburgh. He is the author of Scheherazade, a revisionist Arabian Nights epic; The Lamplighter, a psychological horror novel set in Victorian Scotland; The Empire of Eterinty , a history-mystery involving Napoleon Bonaparte and the early years of Egyptology; The Unscratchables, a Swiftian satire featuring dog and cat detectives; and The Dark Side, a crime novel set on the far side of the moon.

This is the first book by Anthony I have read and it certainly will not be my last. Anthony has created a wonderful horror: it's creepy, well written and kept me on the edge of my seat until the end. like any good horror book it kept me guessing which made the book hard to put down, in fact I hope there’s more books to come involving these characters.  The writing style and pacing keep the whole story cooking along, and the characters are fleshed out very well. I loved the atmosphere, the well written cast of characters and the gripping and entertaining plot. Overall, it’s an entertaining and well written story that has a lot of appeal.

L x

Thursday, 5 September 2019

The Barrister’s Book Chamber

Hello Readers,
I would like to start by saying thank you again to The Barrister’s Book Chamber for the invite to the launch of their True Crime and Crime fiction floor. The event was gifted. I would also like to say thank you for sending me home with a blind date with a book. This was honestly one of the cutest events I’ve been invited too, nothing was too much for our lovely hosts. I honestly can’t think of the last time I went into a bookshop and felt like I was being welcomed back by friends I have known for years, despite only just meeting everyone.

This mind-blowing bookshop is hidden way in Retford, from the outside you wouldn’t believe the wonders and magic that are hidden inside. The Barrister’s Book Chamber is at 33 Churchgate, Retford, and behind its magical doors, you will find the floors of pure literary magic and its a must-visit for any book worm. As soon as you walk through the door your eyes are drawn to the books there is a book tree as you walk in and if you look up you will see books swirling on the ceiling…. yes, real books, it is remarkable.  Also, on the ground floor, there is a wonderful little tearoom that is surrounded by vinyl records. The café has scones and homemade cakes, as well as coffee and proper tea with a strainer.

I’m going to stop going on about the shop for a minute and talk about the event. We were treated to a screening of the film Clue in the fiction room on the second floor. I’m so sorry but I have to do it, it was The Barrister, in the fiction room with the cupcake. I will be honest Clue is one of the only Tim Curry films other than IT I haven’t seen and I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it. Considering the film is based on the board game Cluedo, I think they did a good job and I can see why it is called a cult classic. The murder cupcakes were the cutest they had a blood-stained glass (melted glacier mints with red icing) sticking out of the frosting.

All I can say is that even though we were in a bookshop it was an intimate screening without feeling claustrophobic it that makes sense, it felt like I was with a bunch of friends at a sleepover with snacks and popcorn. After the movie, we were treated to a guided tour of the upstairs floor, on the way up I recognised the names of the streets on the wall but we’ll touch on that later and we passed a collection of the green penguin classics. On the top floor, you have a small room the first left off the stairs that is currently themed Agatha Christie but it will be changing to Jack the Ripper closer to Christmas.

The next room was the crime fiction room while here we were told about the history of the building and possible plans for the future. The next room was a meeting space that people can book out when required it’s a large enough space without taking too much away from the bookshop, the room is also relatively out the way so people using it won’t be disturbed.

The next room is the true-crime room and this room was my favourite in the bookcase there were little displays on a serial killer but the ones that jumped out to me were Ian Brady, Mary Rose Cotton and John Christie. On the right-hand side of the room, we have the courtroom memorabilia there was a stenotype machine, law books, wig and gown. During the talk for this room, I learnt a lot about being a barrister and it was honestly fascinating.  It was in this room that I realised the names of the streets on the stairs where the locations of Jack the Rippers crimes.

After visiting the top floor we started working our way back down to the ground floor while talking on the second floor their other shop The Barrister in Wonderland came up and myself and another blogger who wasn’t local were invited to go take a look after everyone was finished at The Barrister’s Book Chamber.

I was in love with The Barrister’s Book Chamber imagine how excited I was when I saw The Barrister in Wonderland this shop is honestly the best children’s bookshop I’ve ever been too.  This bookshop well and truly captures wonderland and I would love to see the shop through a child’s eyes because even at 26 I was full of wonder and magic. I loved the book archway as you enter and seeing everything topsy-turvy, there was a chess set on the ceiling as well as the white rabbit and the mad hatter's tea table. There is also a fairy door and the door to wonderland yes, I did try both of them you never know.

Both the shops are magical and even at 26 years old they felt me wonder and magic and It is worth visiting Retford just to visit both of the bookshops. I honestly can’t recommend visiting The Barrister’s Book Chamber enough. Also, keep your eyes out for some blind date with a book they have a couple of books wrapped up with a description.

L x

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt

Hello Readers,
Thank you, Jamie, Tor and Pan Macmillan for sending me an ARC of The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt
for free in exchange for an honest review.
I am going to try keep this as spoiler free as I can
Publication Date: 5th September 2019

I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC of this thank you again Jamie, Tor and Pan Macmillan, I honestly loved this book and its concept. I was utterly captivated by the world that Deborah created and I couldn't bear to put the book down! And I have already reread the book.

I thought the concept of this book was beyond interesting and I am so in love with the idea that there are guardians for our souls and only certain people can see. The story builds upon tropes familiar to the fantasy genre but does so in a way that feels fresh. Set in a modern-day and an alternative London, that is populated by people with special powers linked to water, fire, earth and air, magic hunters and our protagonist Alice Wyndham. Alice is an "aviarist", which means she capable of seeing nightjars the magical birds that guard human souls. I felt compassion for Alice right from the start and the writing style effortlessly drew me into her life as she discovered a hidden world called the Rookery.

This is a book full of magic, deception, betrayal, friendship, love and loss. The story had me gripped, and the characters were brilliant. I love the way the book began; I was immediately interested in the characters and what was happening. As we delved straight into a  dark mystery and suspense, which is a brilliant dramatic start to a novel and it makes it so hard to put down.  Throughout the book, we follow Alice as she navigates the Rookery, escapes the Beaks, and tries to find her way to the land of death.  Things are a lot more complicated in this alternate London that she initially thought. I also appreciate the Beaks and the history of the magic vs non-magic people. There is so much manipulation and deception going on, and chasing around yet the book manages to keep up with the pace.

Something that I appreciated in this book we how well the Rookery was thought out. You can tell that Deborah spent time thinking about this world and mapping it out. The writing style is fun and smart, lending itself to an easy read that has true depth. The magic system is stupendously explained and set up without feeling info dump.  The reader gets to experience the folklore, the culture, the history, and let’s not forget the death cult. It does end in a way that wraps up the story, and is bittersweet yet beautiful way, while also leaving it open just a smidge where a sequel could pick up.


Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Travel - Egypt

Hello Readers,

Today we're going to be doing something a little different, I’ve been lucky enough to travel and I thought I would share some of my favourite places I’ve visited. So this month I am going to be posting a travel post on Tuesday, I am being very original and calling it Travel Tuesday. The places I a going to be mentioning are Egypt, Spain, Tunisia and Cuba. 

I have always been interested in Egyptology so when I was told we were going to Egypt I begged and pleaded to go to the Pyramids or the Cairo museum. Such a great plan until I was told we were going to Sharm El-Sheikh 511.0 km away! So we arrived at Sharm El-Sheikh and before the bus had even left the airport I was asking the rep if they did a trip to Cairo. They did and with a little help from my aunty, we booked the trip the next day to go in three days.
The trip included flights to Cairo and tours, the day of the trip we were up at 4 am, I have a confession I’m not the best flyer. Well, the plane we flew to Cairo in still gives me nightmares it was an old Russian plane, that looked like it was held together with tape!! There was actual duct tape on the wing and a couple of seatbelts that didn’t actually fasten, I swear it was the longest hour of my life.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only remaining survivor of the Seven Wonders (Anyone else hear Stevie Nicks just then) of the Ancient World and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I honestly believe that if you ever get the chance to visit the Pyramids you should. Nothing will ever compare to the feeling of wonder when standing next to something so large. The pure size, scale and wonder of how defies all our logic this place has to be seen to be believed.

Also, while you’re visiting the Pyramids at Giza you can see the Sphinx. Sphinxes are old mythological creatures who have the body of a lion and human head. The biggest monolith statue in the world, this reclining sphinx is thought to depict the Pharaoh Khafra and guard the pyramids.
One thing I wish I had known before I visited was that yes, it’s amazing to going inside a Pyramids and being able to say you have. I do have just a little warning it is hot, steep and narrow and claustrophobic. There is a medley of beautiful chaos between the Pyramids and the hustle and bustle of the mass tourism industry. The only downside is even if you go with a guided tour you will be hassled for taxis, camel rides, tours and souvenirs.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo was more than I thought it could be, coming face to face with Tutankhamun’s death mask was magical. One thing I would like to say is I didn’t see Tutankhamun’s mummy as the mummy was on loan to The British Museum (Typical!). However, we paid extra to visit the mummy room and I saw Ramesses II (His head still has quite a bit of hair on it) and the yet to be identified, KV60 mummy. I know it’s kind of morbid but it is also fascinating I never in my life thought I would be looking at a real-life mummy there is also something unsettling about being surrounded by them but I blame that on The Mummy films (thanks to Brendan and Rachel). The only thing that still upsets me to this day was that even with a bribe like the people in front we were still not allowed to take our cameras into the museum despite them being allowed. 
To finish off just a little reminder to do some research before you travel and check out any rules and regulations and remember to try to be as culturally respectable as you can.

L x

Monday, 2 September 2019

The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

Hello Readers,
Thank you, Sarah and Titan Books, for sending me a copy of The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young for free in exchange for an honest review.
Publication day: 3rd September 2019

This is the second book I have read by Adrienne I loved Sky in the Deep although I am yet to review it. I am going to try to keep this as spoiler-free as I can. Also, just a little side note, this is not a sequel to the first book, however, if you have read Sky in the Deep, you can appreciate the development of the world, mythology and characters. There are little Easter Eggs for people who have read Sky in the Deep as we get to meet some familiar faces and enjoy the new dynamics between.

Adrienne took a topic that I am familiar with and took my hand and told me to run, it wasn’t long before I captivated with their way of life, their gods and beliefs and their struggle. This book made me think about the complexities of fate and war. Adrienne has shown characters who react to fate and war in realistic ways there is a whole spectrum of how each character responds to them which makes them feel that more real and believable. Adrienne’s writing is wonderful and there is such an atmospheric quality to her words that makes you feel like you’re living the story, rather than just reading about it. The battle scenes were brutal and extremely detailed and were easy to picture, I honestly enjoyed reading this book, the language and writing were magical, I couldn't stop reading I finished this book in a day.

The story was about Tova who was found at six years old on the shore by, Jorrund who became her surrogate father.  She was in a funeral boat that was partially burned out and it was obvious to him that she was a seer that casts runes and reads them.  Jorrund decides to use this to his advantage and tells her that she was a sacrifice to the gods by her people. She grew up thinking her people didn't want her, so she survives with a different clan and casts the rune stones for them

The Svell whom she lived with hated her for being the messenger of bad things so they mistreat her, yet Tova still worries about what the fate is telling her and she’s scared of screwing it up. The Svell treat her like the things she saw where her fault despite them asking for the readings, mostly during dire situations or in times of war. It is a wonderfully complex and intricate situation with Tova being an outsider wanting to fit in, while her “father figure” has raised her but also used her. Tova tries to do what is right and nobody wants to let her, and nobody ever stands up for her so it's easy to see why she is so conflicted and why she follows along with what the Svell wants.

 Our two main characters, Halvard and Tova, were my favourite characters in the world of this book. I loved that Adrienne added the two perspectives and flashbacks as it was a delightful addition to the book. Their duelling viewpoints work well and both their character development was done marvellous and wasn’t lost with the two perspectives. Halvard fascinated me a little more but that’s down to the fact we were introduced to him in Sky in the Deep.

The ending was enjoyable and answered my remaining questions.  I’m just going to say again that I don’t think you have to read Sky in the Deep to enjoy this book. If you’ve read it then you’ll enjoy re-visiting or finding out what happened with certain characters, but these are minor aspects of the book.

L x