The Confectioner’s Guild. ARC Book Review.

Title: The Confectioner’s Guild. (Book One The Confectioner Chronicles)

Author: Claire Luana

Published: Live Edge Publishing

Release: 23rd October 2018

“A magic cupcake. A Culinary killer. The perfect recipe for murder.”

Confect

I gobbled this delicious story up in a day, I was hooked right from the beginning and could not put it down. Many thanks to NetGalley for getting me an advanced copy of this beauty. Fast paced, lots of twists and a dash of scrumptious romance made for the perfect tale of confectionery delights! It’s not often you find a book that combines two of your passions, The Confectioner’s Guild satisfied my love for baking sweets treats with my love for magical mystery novels!

Our main character Wren, has had a hard life full of bad luck. The only thing she knows for sure is that she is an incredible confectioner whose sweet treats work wonders. What she doesn’t know is that she can work magic through her baking! Wren is approached at the shop she works at by a strange man who whisks her away. She is introduced to the head of The Confectioner’s Guild and told of her magical powers. Barely used to the idea, given only seconds to process, the head of the Guild falls dead before her, poisoned by her own cupcake and now she stands accused of murder! A turn of events I definitely wasn’t expecting. In a whole new world with no friends she must learn how to use her magic properly and figure out who has framed her for murder. She only has a few weeks before the King and his headsman arrive, she starts to make friends but she doesn’t know who she can trust. The inspector on the case takes a special interest with her, they become close and together with her new friends search for whoever framed Wren. They uncover many secrets and a conspiracy that runs deep within the Guilds, they must stick together if they’re all to survive!

I loved so many of the characters in this book and was so thrilled to find out this is only the first book in a series. I can’t wait to see where the story goes now and how the relationships develop. Claire has created an intricately powerful world that I yearn to be part of. She is the perfect amount of descriptive which makes envisioning the scenes so spectacularly enjoyable. You feel for Wren straight away and want nothing more than for her to succeed and for the person who framed her to go down!

The Confectioner’s Guild is available for pre-order here: The Confectioner’s Guild, there is also a pre-order giveaway to coincide, just email your receipt to claireluanapreorders@gmail.com

The Pre-Order swag and giveaway includes:

  • Four recipe cards with recipes from the book
  • High res signed digital poster
  • High res digital maps of the Western Reaches and the City of Maradis
  • Folks who claim their pre-order bonuses will also receive entry in a giveaway to win:
    • (1) signed paperback copy of The Confectioner’s Guild;
    • (1) $10 Amazon gift card;
    • (5) 9 ounce Character candles from The Confectioner’s Guild;
    • (10) Autographed bookmarks!

Be sure to subscribe to Claire Luana’s website here: Claire Luana Home

Once you’ve gobbled up Book One you’ll no doubt want to pre-order Book Two which is being released on the 19th November 2018, so here’s the link for that too: The Confectioner’s Coup

Rating out of 10: 10!

A Curse so Dark and Lonely. ARC Book Review.

Title: A Curse so Dark and Lonely

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Published: Bloomsbury Publishing

Year: 2019

“There is blood under my fingernails. I wonder how many of my people I’ve killed this time”

A Curse so Dark and Lonely

At first I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this book but boy am i glad to be proven wrong. It had a very slow start and it took me awhile to realise it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling but it didn’t take long to pick up and i became invested in the characters and the story. This is the first book by Brigid Kemmerer that I’ve read and I enjoyed the way she writes, especially the different character perspectives. I enjoyed the diversity in our heroine, Harper, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy. I loved that she doesn’t let that get in the way of how she wants to live. Harper comes from the modern era in Washington D.C. Our other main character Prince Rhen, comes from a completely different world called Emberfall where he and his guard commander, Grey, are cursed to relive Rhen’s 18th birthday over and over again until he finds true love to break the curse.

Rhen’s guard commander, Grey, is my favourite character in the book, I found myself wanting his survival and happy ending more than Rhen and Harper. Each season Grey is allowed one hour to go to the real world (our world) to find a girl to bring back to Emberfall to break the curse. This season while he is trying to abduct a girl in D.C, Harper intervenes and thus Grey brings her back instead.

Harper has a highly realistic, troubled life in D.C, her mother is dying of Cancer and her brother has had to become a gang enforcer to pay off their father’s bad debt so being taken unwillingly to a different world was not something she had planned and she is eager to return to her family. Once Harper finds out about the curse she is adamant she won’t fall in love with Prince Rhen. Harper is a strong, intelligent and resourceful female lead, I admire her very much.

Our lead villain, the Enchantress is quite active in the story and commits some unspeakable acts of cruelty that make you truly loathe her and hope for her demise. Part of the curse is that Prince Rhen is turned into a beast each season though he never knows what kind of beast he’ll become. Over the last 300+ seasons Rhen as a beast has killed his whole family and nearly everyone in Emberfall, the guilt for which he feels immensely.

The relationship between Harper and Grey is one of the best parts of the story in my opinion. He teaches her how to throw knives and sword fight, they play cards together and the loyalty they end up feeling for each other is inspiring. The slow-burning romance between Rhen and Harper creates a lot of intrigue and suspense which i found enjoyable. The ending leads me to believe there may be a second book coming which if that’s the case I am extremely eager to read it.

Overall I think readers will really enjoy this book and fans of Beauty and the Beast can rest easy knowing this retelling has done it justice.

Rating out of 10: 8

You can pre-order here for it’s release on January 29, 2019: A Curse so Dark and Lonely

Unspeakable: A Deadly Secrets Novel. ARC Book Review.

Title: Unspeakable – A Deadly Secrets Novel

Author: Elisabeth Naughton

Published: Montlake Romance

Year: 2018

“At what should have been one of the tensest moments of his life, Rusty laughed. And for the first time, he was glad he wasn’t alone.”

Unspeakable

‘All his siblings have moved on from their troubling pasts, but Rusty McClane can’t leave his behind. Not even when his freedom is in jeopardy. Legal investigator Harper Blake can sense a bad boy. She’s drawn to them—like she is to her mysterious and brooding new client. The police believe that Rusty is involved with the case of a missing underage girl. Harper’s job is to find evidence to defend him. But is her sexy suspect a predator…or something else? If Rusty is guilty of anything, it’s of stirring something primitive in Harper. The closer they get, the harder it is to believe the worst of him. But in an underworld filled with sex trafficking, kidnapping, and murder, Harper will need to be cautious about whom she trusts. Because Rusty isn’t the only one with secrets.’

Fast-paced, raunchy as hell sex scenes and deep dark twisty shit that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Love, love, loved this book! Only took me a day to read it, I went to bed early just so I could keep reading and I stayed up until 3 AM to finish it. The drama, the romance, the sex, the emotions, all written so well I felt like I was living through it myself.   I really felt the connection between Rusty and Harper, their relationship was so similar to my own with my partner so I really related to what they were going through, falling in love and learning to trust, not only each other, but trust that they deserved the happiness they were finally feeling after both having such a rough past.

I can see why Elisabeth is a best-selling author, her writing flows, she creates suspense and keeps you wanting more. She writes with confidence and doesn’t shy away from sex, she puts a fire in your belly you can’t put out. This book was also quite humorous and had a great family aspect where you feel warm and comforted knowing there are good people and good families out there. I absolutely loved how everything tied together in the end, very clever storytelling. Elisabeth shows she can create a relationship as well as connect her readers with her characters, which is no small feat for an author. TO make you want to care, to make you invested in a characters outcome, even if they’re not the main character. I was just as concerned for some of the supporting roles as I was for Rusty and Harper.

Those who love Nora Roberts and Jackie Collins will absolutely adore Elisabeth Naughton, I for one can’t wait to read more!

Rating out of 10: 10

Unspeakable will be available in November 2018. You can pre-order it here: Unspeakable

 

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning. Book review.

Title: Sea Witch
Author: Sarah Henning
Year: 2018

‘It’s all I can do not to kiss him right there, in front of everyone. But there will be time for that after all of this. After tonight is the rest of our lives. Together.’

‘Everyone knows what happens in the end. A mermaid, a prince, a true love’s kiss. But before that young siren’s tale, there were three friends. One feared, one royal, and one already dead. Ever since her best friend, Anna, drowned, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. A freak. A curse. A witch. A girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears offshore and, though the girl denies it, Evie is convinced that her best friend actually survived. That her own magic wasn’t so powerless after all. And, as the two girls catch the eyes—and hearts—of two charming princes, Evie believes that she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after. But her new friend has secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad, or on two legs, unless Evie finds a way to help her. Now Evie will do anything to save her friend’s humanity, along with her prince’s heart—harnessing the power of her magic, her ocean, and her love until she discovers, too late, the truth of her bargain.’

Alluring, heart-wrenching and delightful. How can a story be all three at once? I never thought it could until I read Sea Witch. From the very start your heart races and you become immediately enthralled in the characters. I felt a strong connection right away to Evie and swear I could feel her lust for Iker in my belly. I understand the beautiful yet complicated friendship Evie has with Nik and adore the new friendship she builds with Annemette who she hopes is her real friend that she lost 4 years ago, Anna. I really enjoy the whimsy and innocence of the story, the childhood friendships that grew and blossomed into something even more unique and beautiful. I love how we travel back and forth in time so things happening in the present make even more sense knowing the past. It’s also a refreshing change to have a King in a fantasy story not be completely evil, strict maybe, but the Queen much meaner than he, often I find in the YA fantasy genre, the King was once kind but now evil and that gets a bit old after a while. I cannot begin to count the amount of times I craved a fruit and cheese platter while reading (at one point I actually got up and put one together with a cup of honey tea!). I’ve also teared up multiple times throughout the book, the cute moments between Annemette and Evie, the hopefulness I have that she is who Evie wants her to be, that they are reunited again and get their happy ending is really quite an overwhelmingly raw emotion. I did not expect what ended up happening at all, absolutely amazing, did not see it coming.

‘The sea is forever defined by its tide, give and take the measure of its barter. In magic, as in life, the sea does not give its subjects lightly-payment is required, the value equivalent, no matter the ask. A shell, a fish, a pearl of the greatest brilliance-non can be taken without a debt to be paid.’

Rating out of 10: 10!

You can buy your copy here: Sea Witch

Edition 1 of The Author’s Lounge featuring Sam Cabbage and children’s authors Nerris Nassiri and Kyle Duffy. Exclusive interviews and content!

Hello, fellow book-lovers!

This past couple of weeks I’ve had the absolute pleasure to work with publisher Sam Cabbage of A Belletristic Wander and her authors Kyle Duffy & Nerris Nassiri to bring you this exclusive feature. I was able to interview them all and all the answers to my questions were so passionate and eloquent i couldn’t help but tear up as i’m sure you will too! I am so beyond grateful for this wonderful opportunity and i hope i do their stories justice. I’ve attached some illustrations from the books and shared how you can view the artists other work. I myself have made a donation to their Kickstarter page, and i hope once you see the beauty in their work and the genuine kindness and need they have to put good into this world, that you will donate too!

First up is my conversation with Sam Cabbage, owner and creator of A Belletristic Wander: Publishing Enduring Children’s Books.

Same Cabbage & one of her children as captured by Robin Wilcox.

1) What made you want to start a publishing company?

“I think I always have, I just didn’t know I could. Books are the most amazing things in the world to me. I have often felt stuck, as I only can really understand my own experiences. I can never truly be another person and see and experience the world from their soul. Books are the closest thing to this. My mother spent hours at a time reading to me long before I can even remember. So even in my earliest memories, authors have always been almost immortal. In fact, in a way they are. My favorite authors who have touched me deeply, like Victor Hugo, died long before I was born. To be able to influence people, to change lives, to create understanding and give people the insights into each others differences, I do not know if there is a greater opportunity to give some of yourself to the world! To find stories that possess these qualities and have this potential, and help them to exist and to give them that opportunity to be there for kids that need them, that is what I have really always wanted to do! I mean, what if nobody had ever published Robert Munsch’s books, like Mud Puddle, or Love You Forever. Books have made me who I am, they have helped me so much in life. I would love to be able to do that for others. Lots of others.”

2) What draws you to children’s books?

“Picture books are a fairly new thing when it comes to books. The technology to be able to print affordable books full of color illustrations, hasn’t been around that long. Having read around 40,000 different picture books, I am excited about this relatively new art form! I think there is a lot of room for growth and exploration, as we get to witness the very first wave of some types of picture books. What fascinates me the most is when people really take them seriously as literature. They aren’t “just for kids” and so don’t matter. The small nuances that make a picture book good literature are just as important as those literary aspects in a novel. I am so excited to see this art form gaining more and more respect. Books like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, are not limited to just a young audience. Anybody who reads that wordless picture book, can feel the emotions he portrays in it just as much as if they read a novel or watched a movie that was so well done it succeeded in moving them.”

3) How did you meet your authors and illustrators?

“I read a post of Nerris Nassiri’s on the internet, about his book. He described it as an orphan who builds a hot air balloon. I love the feel of not having much, and finding a way to create what you want anyway, and so I was hooked from the very beginning.

I have always loved a good rhyme. And sadly, there aren’t very many children’s books written in good rhyme. Along with my love of children’s books, I have also become rather picky about them. When I came across Kyle Duffy’s rollicking poetry, with hilarious twists and turns in it, I felt like I had found gold! Actually better than gold. What is gold compared to a good book? I have lots of kids (understatement) and so have been reading Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Sandra Boynton, etc. to my youngest ones almost every night for close to two decades straight. There is little that excites me more than when we get another book that entertains that very very young crowd. Like some people wait for the Super Bowl, I wait for Mo Willem’s next release. To have found another author like them. Let’s just say it is worth trying to raise $18,000 to start this publishing company, just to be able to have another truly great rhyming book for the very young, to choose from when I want to snuggle up with my 3 year old and read.

Mary Manning befriended my when I first started exploring the mysterious world of publishing, and started editing manuscripts like crazy. This gave me much needed experience and I am grateful to those hundreds of authors who let me edit their stories! I think I first fell in love with her artwork when I saw her piece “The Cheesemaker”.

cheesemaker
The Cheesemaker by Mary Manning.

Her art has such a real feel to it. Our lives (in the culture I am in here in the US) get so caught up in portraying a certain image to others, that I really appreciate her grasp of “just how things are”, the authenticity. She doesn’t try to make them a certain way to appeal to the public, but instead draws what is in such a way that we realize that it is the less than glamorous aspects of her characters, that we relate to and truly love. My other favorite piece of hers is “Sisters”.

sisterds
Sisters by Mary Manning.

She so perfectly captures that emotion of truly knowing each other, all the flaws and the good and the bad, way deep down inside, and just loving all of each other.

The other thing I love about her artwork is that she is not scared of pushing reality.. if you browse her amazing pictures, you will see her stretching the limits of imagination. This is just what Kyle Duffy does with his rhymes, and so when he too fell in love with her artwork, it was a perfect match. His rhymes appeal to even the very young, and the brightness of Mary Manning’s pictures is going to be so good in a picture book coupled with Kyle Duffy’s rollicking rhymes!

You can find more of Mary Manning’s artwork here: Mary Manning Portfolio and here Mary Manning Artwork

The first illustration she has finished, turned out even above my expectations. She has made Rumtum so real, so easy to relate to, and at the same time making us feel better for our uniqueness. But she has also added her touch of whimsy, that is so tantalizing to the imagination.

Rumtum the sailor
Rumtum the Sailor by Mary Manning.

I have over 50 cousins, all talented in their own unique ways. Nerris Nassiri and I were searching for just the right illustrator to give Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon the exact feel we wanted. Different styles of illustrations can decide the mood of a story so strongly, we wanted just the perfect one. Then the below image came across my FaceBook page, (as I follow most of my cousins).

jess white
Illustration by Jessica White.

Without telling Nerris that I even knew the artist at all, I sent it to him, along with a bunch of other samples of artists for him to consider. He too fell immediately in love with it. Here was the exact feeling we were looking for. The exact feeling his words were trying so hard to convey. There was no question about it. Jessica White was the illustrator for his book.

I cannot express my gratitude enough for these amazing illustrators also falling in love with the books, and agreeing to join us in this incredibly enjoyable creative process.”

You can find more of Jessica White’s artwork here: Jessica White Artwork

4) Can you share with us a bit about the Kickstarter you’ve started and how people can invest and share with others?

“I know too well how it feels to not be able to afford books. Almost all of the books I have read have come from libraries. Libraries make it so that books that appeal to those who may not be able to afford books, can afford to exist. They not only give the freedom of knowledge to all, but the preserve the diversity in our literature and media, to benefit all. The big reviewers that help books become widespread in libraries, like to only recommend books that are hard cover and will have enough copies printed that libraries will be able to easily find them. We need to print at least 1,000 copies of each of these titles in order to qualify. So that is exactly what the kickstarter is for. All of the money (and then some) will go directly towards the costs of making these books, (and the short film of Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon).

We would love your help in helping us to reach our goal, so that we can get these books into libraries. We are also in the process of coordinating with Charities that provide children in need with books. Some of the rewards are specifically for donating books, but you can also choose for us to donate any book you pre-order, to a child in need, and we will send you a signed postcard of the book, to show our thanks.

We would also love it if you would share this message as much as possible. The most effective way to help with a kickstarter is contacting friends and family individually. If everybody that reads this, and believes in this cause, will contact those closest to them, and individual ask them to also contribute, even if it is only $1, that is what would help the most.

You can contribute to the kickstarter page here: A Belletristic Wander – Kickstarter

Thank you so much!”

I then had the great honor of interviewing Kyle Duffy, Author of Rumtum the Sailor.

kduffy
Kyle Duffy, Author of Rumtum the Sailor.

1) Is this your first children’s book? What is your favourite part of the creative process so far?

“Yes, this is my first children’s book. My favorite part is getting to share a story I created with my daughter and with others. I also really love seeing a talented artist like Mary Manning interpret my story in her art.”

2) Where and when did you get the idea for the story and can you tell us a little bit about it?

“It was just over a year ago soon after our daughter was born. We were living in Brussels, and had been reading nursery rhymes to our daughter every day. I had started complaining to my wife about some of the ones in our rotation that I really didn’t like and she challenged me to write my own. Rumtum the Sailor is about a larger-than-life sailor who sets off on an adventure from which it proves difficult to return.”

3) What inspires you the most when it comes to writing?

“I like this question a lot. If I had to pick one thing that inspires me most it would be the prospect of reading my stories to my daughter and any future children we have and inspiring them to start dreaming up stories of their own.”

4) What is it like for you to see your story come to life in the illustrations?

“It’s incredible. Mary’s illustration of Rumtum with his family is up on our homepage now and every time I see it I’m blown away all over again. Seeing someone with a ton of talent take your idea and put their own spin on it is a really cool experience. I never actually pictured what Rumtum’s kids would look like so seeing her bring them to life was really an awe inspiring moment for me.

We plan to donate as many books as we can to children in need throughout the country. I am especially excited to partner with Bernie’s Book Bank in Chicago area where i live now as they provide books to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have their own to read at home on a quarterly basis for 12 years. I love their mission to further a love for reading among this population.”

You can view more of Kyle’s work here: Kyle Duffy Collection

My final interview is with the extremely talented, Nerris Nassiri, Author and Film-maker of Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon.

Nerris
Nerris Nassiri, Author and Filmmaker.
charlie
Draft sketch of Charlie, a young Hispanic boy.

1) Is this the first children’s book you’ve created?

“Yes! I’ve written many stories before, but this is the first time I’ve gone into actually publishing a book.”

2) What is your favourite part of the creative process?

“Being able to breathe life into a character and portray their joys and struggles for an audience to empathize with. The world needs a lot of empathy right now, and I hope to create characters that can bring more of it around.”

3) What inspired you to write this story and can you tell us a little bit about it?

“Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon is a story about a young boy who builds a hot-air balloon to find his mother, who “went to the stars.” In a way, it’s a letter to my younger self. I had some sad childhood experiences and wanted to portray them in an innocent, sort of dreamy and positive way. We’ve all lost someone, and would do anything to get them back. This story tributes that.

Reviews have been mixed so far, but mostly positive. The story may not be for everyone, and that’s okay. It’s a story i wrote for both children who’ve lost, and adults who lost someone in their childhood. It’s my way of saying, “I understand how you feel. You’re not alone.””

4) You’re also developing a screenplay for Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon, how has that experience been for you?

“Exciting! Film-making is what my hands were built for. Bringing words to a visual medium, being able to work with actors and a creative team, all of it is my favourite kind of experience. I’m hesitant to start really working on everything until funding for our Kickstarter is complete. Kickstarter contributors will get a credit in the film, which seems to be getting a lot of people excited as well!”

You can watch a trailer for the short film adaption here: Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon

Below are some of the beautiful rough draft sketches for Charlie and the Hot Air Balloon.

Candhotair

C2

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c4.png

hot air.png

Nerris had already made other films for some of his other stories which i found to be so touching, he is incredibly talented! You can see more of his work at his webpage: Nerris Nassiri and you can find his short films here:

Charlie and the Baker

Charlie’s Pancakes

A Passing Glance

I would like to again say a huge thank you to Sam, Nerris and Kyle for sharing with me and for allowing me to share their beautiful stories with the world. I implore all of you reading to please visit the Kickstarter page A Belletristic Wander and make a contribution. We need more good in the world, especially for the children and what Sam, Nerris and Kyle are aiming to accomplish just goes above and beyond. I look forward to getting the final copy when both books are published so i can post reviews too! I hope you’ve all enjoyed the first edition of The Author’s Lounge, i can’t wait to bring you all more interviews and stories.

JR xxx