Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Hello Tokyo!

(Near lake Kawaguchi - can you see Mt. Fuji in the distance?)

Hello Tokyo

Hey lovely people! So I’m writing today’s blogpost from February Cafe - which is a lovely little coffee shop in Asakusa, Tokyo. I arrived in Japan on the 14th of March, and this marks my third trip to this totally amazing country. So what have I been up to these last few days? Well, here are some of my highlights!


(Dont mind a little rain @ Senso-ji Temple)

I always stay in Asakusa. It’s one of the many bustling and totally touristy parts of the city, but you can literally find everything you need right here. It has an awesome temple, great shops, every type of Japanese Cusine imaginable, not to mention cheap places to stay. My favourite Hostels are Tokyo Origami and Sakura Hostel - they are clean, safe and have super helpful staff - plus extremely awesome showers. Tokyo Origami even has heated toilet seats!

Mt. Fuji (Kawaguchi-ko)

(Mt. Fuji from lake Kawaguchi)

This was my first time seeing Mt. Fuji and it was so worth the overnight trip to kawaguchi. Since March is low season, I couldn't actually climb the mountain (maybe next time) but I certainly got close. I got really lucky and the weather was super nice allowing me to see for miles. 

And speaking of miles - I walked about 12 of them! Kawaguchi is one of the biggest lakes near Mt. Fuji and walking around it was literally breathtaking/ heart stopping! My feet are still recovering!

Harajuku and Shibuya


I always visit the temple at Harajuku. I could loiter for hours in the park that surrounds the temple, and its really easy to forget you are in the middle of a capital city. This is one of my favourite things about Japan: no matter where you are, there is always a park or green-space somewhere close by. A place to chill out and just relax away from all the hustle and bustle.

Harajuku also houses the famous street where you can see all the young people in Cosplay,  buy crazy clothes and eat pancakes to your hearts content. 

Just a train stop away from Harajuku (or just a short walk) is the famous crossing in Shibuya! I would recommend people watching from one of the cafes close by :)

Owl Cafes

Last time I was in Tokyo I made sure to visit the famous cat cafes. However since my last trip, owl cafes have sprung up everywhere! And they don't just house owls. The one I ventured into also had otters, baby meerkats, two huge tortoises, a chinchilla and an unidentified fluff-ball of cuteness that … well, I don't know what it was...

Most of the animals you could play with - although signs warned which ones would bite and which ones just shouldn't be touched. But the owls! So many owls of all shapes and sizes. To be honest I was expecting like three owls maybe… there were about twenty! However in terms of being a cafe, the drinks weren't so great...


(Tempura - and yeah, they did shape the seaweed into a shurikien!)

So much food… but only so much room in my jeans! For those of you who don't already know, food plays a huge part in all of my trips. I refuse to eat anything that isn't native to the country and Japan has so many extraordinary dishes. 

  • Tempura (deep friend everything)
  • Okonomiyaki (noodle/squid/vegtable pancake thing) 
  • Nigiri (Rice balls)
  • Omu-Rice (Rice Omelette - simple and delicious)
  • Sushi!
  • This list could go on and on…

(Meet Hideki, the coolest dog in Japan)

And that’s been my week so far. With another 7 days to go, who knows what else I’ll get up too :) How has everyone else’s week been? 

Have any of you been to Tokyo? If so I would love to hear your recommendations of things to do and see - the more off the beaten track the better!

Until next time...

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Mystery of the Painted Dragon - Book Review

The Mystery of the Painted Dragon - Book Review
Katherine Woodfine
MG Mystery 
(The Sinclair’s Mysteries #3) 
UK Publisher: Egmont 

Other books in the Series:
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow #1
The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth # 2


When a priceless painting is stolen, our dauntless heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves faced with forgery, trickery and deceit on all sides!

Be amazed as the duo pit their wits against this perilous puzzle! Marvel at their cunning plan to unmask the villain and prove themselves detectives to be reckoned with — no matter what dangers lie ahead…

It’s their most perilous adventure yet!


I haven't read the previous two books in this series, but The Mystery of the Painted Dragon has ensured I will be picking them up at the first opportunity. This Middle Grade novel was utterly compelling and I throughly enjoyed both the characters and mystery it provided. 

When a famous painting is stolen from Sinclair’s department store, Sophie and Lil find themselves drawn into a mystery that leads them through doors of forgery, secret societies, and into the arms of old enemies. It’s their biggest mystery yet…

Despite starting with the third book in the series, I had no trouble following this story. Not only was the mystery unique to this book, but the bigger picture elements were easy enough to follow since just the right amount of backstory was offered. 

The first thing that struck me about this series though was the historical setting of 20th century London. Theatre was a massive thing, motor cars were relatively new and I adored the inclusion of the suffragettes as they fought to give women the vote. Combined with lovely descriptions, interesting facts and fitting dialog, Katherine Woodfine has done an exceptional job of bringing this world to life.

The main characters, Lil and Sophie are strong heroines and I like how despite the odds, they always look out for each other, even when they aren't in agreement. In fact, the relationships between all the characters are really enjoyable, and I also liked the introduction of Leo — an antisocial artist with a bad leg — who added an element of compassion to the story, especially as nothing about her fitted the social conformities of the time. 

As for the mystery, following the clues was interesting although I actually worked out straight away who the culprit was. Having said that, despite having guessed the bad guy, this didn't ruin my enjoyment of the book. In fact it enhanced it, and I felt all smug when it was revealed I was right. Not that I had any doubts.

With lots of intrigue and nefarious deeds, all delivered inside a fast paced plot, I can’t help but give this book 4 stars! A most enjoyable read!

Talk to me! Have any of you read this series? If so let me know which book has been your favourite so far? I’m can't wait to pick up the rest :)

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Black Cats and Butlers - Book Review

Black Cats and Butlers - Book Review
Janine Beacham
MG Mystery 
UK PUBLISHER: Little Brown Books
UK Release Date: 9th March 2016


The Clockwork Sparrow meets Downton Abbey.

Rose Ravensthorpe loves nothing more than wandering around Yorke with her beloved butler, Argyle, listening to the stories he tells about the city. So when Argyle is murdered - the third butler to be stabbed in a week - Rose knows she must find out what really happened.

Rose’s investigation leads her on a journey into a hidden world of grave robbers and duelling butlers, flamboyant magicians and the City’s ancient feline guardians.

Knives aren't just for cutting cucumber sandwiches, you know.


This was a really cute story that I devoured in one night. Full of history, mystery and a hint of magic, Black Cats and Butlers is a lovey book with fun characters and a clever storyline. A perfect murder mystery for a Middle Grade audience!

Rose Ravensthorpe is a lady of class and pedigree, but when her beloved butler, Argyle is murdered, she sets out on an unladylike mission to find Argyle’s killer. Along the way she discovers grave robbers, magicians, a whole bunch of missing feline statues… and a secret society of sword-wielding butlers. Now Rose must find out how they are connected if she is to have any hope of bringing Argyle’s killer to justice…

There were so many things I adored about this book. First, all the butlers came with really creative names that I enjoyed reading aloud. You know, those kind of words that just roll off your tongue, particularly if you are putting on a posh accent... and this book made me want to do a lot of posh accents :) 

Secondly, I liked that this book was set in York (one of my favourite places) and I could easily imagine and relate to many of the buildings. Considering most English books are set in London, or sometimes Edinburgh - York was a refreshing change. 

Rose was quick witted and brave, overall a pretty awesome heroine. However, I would have liked to have seen the secondary characters filled out a little more. I’m hoping both the butlers and grave robbers get a little more page time and backstory in the next book since they certainly caught my interest in this one. However, I think Rose’s gothic best-friend, Emily was one of the most amusing characters of the book. I really hope she will be making an appearance in the sequels!

Otherwise as far as the story goes, the plot was fast paced with plenty of action. Each problem intrigued me - although some were easily resolved - while others were less obvious and harder to work out. The killer’s identity was particularly well hidden with plenty of red herrings - and while I did guess who it was before the big reveal, the story certainly kept me on my toes right up until the end.

I also enjoyed the hint of magic at the end of the book. I thought it fitted well with the story since there was always an underlining promise of it, and it makes me curious to read more books in this series.

Overall a most enjoyable story that I think fans of Stephanie Burgis and Katherine Woodfine will enjoy. A deliciously sharp edged tale, I give Black Cats and Butlers 4 stars!

Have any of you guys read this book? If so I would love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Dawn Study - Book Review

Dawn Study - Book Review
Maria. V. Snyder
YA Fantasy
(Soul Finder Book 3)
UK PUBLISHER: Harlequin / Mira Ink

Other books in the Soul Finder Series:


Despite the odds, Yelena and Valek have forged an irrevocable bond and a family that transcends borders. Now, when their two homelands stand on the brink of war, they must fight with magic and cunning to thwart an Ixia plot to invade Sitia.

Yelena seeks to break the hold of the insidious Theobroma that destroys a person’s resistance to magical persuasion. But the Cartel is determined to keep influential citizens and Sitian diplomats in their thrall and Yelena at bay. With every bounty hunter after her, Yelena is forced to make a dangerous deal.

With might and magic, Valek peels back the layers of betrayal surrounding the Commander. At its rotten core lies a powerful magician and his latest discovery. The fate of all rests upon two unlikely weapons. One may turn the tide. The other could spell the end of everything. 


From beginning to end, I have loved this series. All nine books of it! However while this final book wasn't without it’s flaws, it still brought everything to a satisfying conclusion. All the characters (both new and old) came together for one last adventure, and together they helped put the world to rights.

Ixia is preparing to invade Sitia with a weapon created to wipe out magic. Yet with the magicians under the influence of Theobroma, their minds controlled by the cartel - Yelena and Valek find themselves trapped between their two fighting nations. Now with Yelena heavily pregnant, they are determined to bring about peace before their child can be born, but they will require the help of their friends if they are to defeat old enemies… 

This book is told from several character view points, however Yelena’s POV remains my favourite. For all her trials, she is still very much the same girl we all came to know in Poison Study, and I especially like that without her magic, she is back to relying on her initial wit to survive. 

Valek’s POV though comes in at a close second, and I love the emotional insight we’ve had into his character. Getting Valek’s backstory was one of the best things about this series - along with meeting his family. As strange as it sounds, its also nice to see him getting older. Unable to rely on his physical abilites, he wins his battles through strategy and skill, unlike the previous books where he was just an awesome, “I can conquer all” assassin. 

I guess my biggest nit-pick with this book though was how the plot fell into a repetitive, characters captured/characters rescued sort of pattern. We went through so much of this in the previous book and I felt it got a little silly. No one learned from their mistakes! I kept feeling all “I’ve read this before”, however the dialog and humour (generally supplied by Ari and Janco) stopped me from getting bored. 

This book also offers a lot of insight into the commander and the ending scene between him and Valek  blew my mind. I would have read through even more capture/rescues scenes so long as I ended up with that same finale. It was grand!

Otherwise everything wrapped up very smoothly. However I feel there is plenty potential for a spin off featuring the next generation of trouble makers. I would really love to see this happen, because saying goodbye to this world and characters is truly heart-wrenching. All in all - while I only give this book 3 stars, I would give the Soul Finder Trilogy as a whole a solid 4!

It’s been an awesome magical journey! I cant wait to see what Maria. V. Snyder will write next!

How about you guys? Have any you read this series? If so what did you think? And if not, please give me your excuses as to why?!!

Friday, 3 March 2017

February in Review

(Going to miss all the fireworks...)

February in Review

Hey lovely people - How are things going with you? February has been a really fast paced month for me and now that we’ve reached March, well, lets just say I’m pretty excited/nervous. 

March brings with it some really big changes for me, the biggest of which is: After four years, I’m finally leaving China for good!

And with that bombshell, here is last months recap!

February Highlights & March Plans

Writing: At last I have my head back in the game. I’m managing a nice 500 words a day and have just passed the midway point in my MG WIP. So far I’ve had some really great feedback from my lovely critique partners and I have such a good feeling about this book. Set in a boarding school, it has monsters, magic and an underlying mystery… 

Reading: I’ve hit 18 out of 100 books in my Goodreads challenge, 8 of which are books by British authors. But despite only one book meeting the criteria for the fairytale retellings challenge, I’m still really happy with my progress :)

Otherwise the number of books I have on netgalley has crept up again. My “Lets stick at 5” rule has totally gone out the window. I now have 12 books to catch up on!

I Quit My Job: March 1st was officially my last day of teaching English. Now I have the rest of the year to travel, write my book, learn a language and basically hit all my 2017 goals!

Travelling: So my boyfriend and I are packing up our lovely little apartment (It’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate in two years!) and heading off to travel. There’s a few things we want to see in China, then on March 14th he’s heading off to the Philippines, and I’m going to Japan! :) 

I had thought to go back to the UK after, but now I’m considering a slight detour to Australia. I have friends in Perth, and seeing how I’m practically on their doorstep anyway, and it ticks another place off my list…. It’s a win win as far as I can see :)

Books Read
  1. The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris
  2. A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
  3. Black Cats And Butlers by Janine Beacham  (This was super cute - Look out for my review in March)
  4. Smugglers Kiss by Marie-Louise Jensen
  5. Echoes in Death by J.D. Robb
  6. Barefoot in the Wind by Zoe Marriott (Really enjoyed this & it counts toward both my fairytale retellings and British Book Challenge!)
  7. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab (Yay for this book! I finally understand why everyone gushes of V.E Schwab)

Review Posts

Other Posts:

Currently Reading:

  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (Haven’t actually read a singe page more this month)
  • A Gathering of Shadows by V.E Schwab (Flying through this one)
  • Moon Chosen by P.C Cast (Still plodding along with this, although finally reached 20%)

And that wraps up my Month :) What’s everyone else news? How was your February?

Friday, 24 February 2017

Traitor to the Throne - Book Review

Traitor to the Throne - Book Review
(Rebel of the Sands Trilogy - Book 2)
Alwyn Hamilton
YA Fantasy
UK Publisher: Faber

Other books in the series:
Rebel of the Sands 


This is not about blood or love. This is about treason.

Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince’s message has spread across the desert - and some might say, out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruelest manner possible.

Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl’s instinct for survival. For the Sultan’s palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper’s nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive… But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani’s past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.


There seem to be lots of mixed reviews circling about this book, but I thought Traitor to the Throne was simply brilliant. True it did have a slower pace than Rebels, but this second book focused more on world building and character development. We got a real in depth look at both the politics and backstory of Amani’s world - and I felt this book really showcased Amani’s quick wits and inner strength — which was one of the reason I was initially drawn to her character in the first place.

Picking up almost year after the last story left off, this book sees the rebellion growing in both strength and popularity. But when Amani is captured and her Dijinni powers neutralised, she must fall back on her old survival instincts if she is to navigate the treacherous web that is the Sultan’s palace. Now a captive turned spy - Amani will do anything to ensure the rebellion remains one step ahead of the Sultan. But the Sultan has dark and sinister plans for the rebellion, and it begins with him wielding a weapon intended only for Gods…

With so many conspiracies and lots of underlying intrigue, I devoured this book within days. Told mostly from Amani’s POV, I also loved the third person chapters that — with an old school, storytelling narrative — unveiled the history of the Gods and some of the major characters. It was all very beautifully written.

Thanks to the backstories - we also get a more in depth look behind each characters motivation. For example the Sultan was a particularly interesting character, strong willed, power hungry but difficult to hate, and I liked how Amani also had conflicting feelings about him too. He is definitely a very layered bad guy - and I can’t wait to see what he will throw at Amani and the gang next.

This book also had a lot of character development. I really loved how Amani used her brain instead of her powers to get herself out of trouble, and didn't rely on a boy to save her… much. Actually her relationship with Jin was a little strained in this book, but I actually liked how the romance took a backseat since Amani had more pressing concerns than thinking about boys. However I do hope there relationship grows deeper in the next book. Fingers crossed!

Otherwise this story contains lots of new characters - all with quirks and interesting stories of their own. We learn more about the Dijinni’s and their capabilities, and I can’t wait to read the final book because the ending… oooh it was so good. However, I did spot some of the plot twists before they happened, and I generally had a pretty good guess of what was coming next. Still, rather than diminishing my enthusiasm, this only increased my anticipation to see if I was right. Sometimes I was, but sometimes I wasn’t. 

All in all, a fantastical read! The final book cannot come soon enough!

4 stars!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Unbecoming - Book Review

Unbecoming - Book Review
Jenny Downham
YA Contemporary 
UK PUBLISHER: David Fickling Books


Katie’s life is falling apart: her mum’s controlling, her dad’s run off, she’s in love with someone whose identity she can’t reveal and now her estranged grandmother’s turned up on the doorstep and Katie’s expected to take care of her. Soon Katie discovers she’s not the only one in the family hiding the truth. If she’s going to get her life back together, she’s going to have to expose everyone’s deepest secrets - including her own…


The were serval scenes in this story that really touched my heart. Exploring themes of sexuality, bullying, the pressure of expectation and the onset of dementia, this book follows a story that spans three generations. It is a book I won’t soon forget. 

When a grandmother Katie never knew she had, suddenly comes to live with them, Katie at last feels she has found someone who understands her. But grandma Mary has dark secrets of her own, and she wants them brought into the light before her growing dementia sucks them from her memory, forever. 

Following three generations of women, this is a story that reveals their struggles, triumphs  and searing determination to break free from the conformity of society and make their own marks on the world. Told from the dual perspectives of seventeen-year-old Katie and her grandmother, this book was very character orientated and packed a lot between its pages. 

Pressurised by her mother to be the perfect daughter, Katie is a closet lesbian - at least she was until she tried to kiss her best friend. Now ostracised from her classmates, and duty bound to her disabled younger brother, Katie feels trapped by her life. The arrival of her a long-lost-grandmother is a great comfort and distraction for her - but overall Katie came across as a very angsty and indecisive teen. 

She spends a good portion of the book whining and keeping her head down. It wasn't until the end I began to see some real character development - however the ending was one of the things I loved most about this book. 

Then there was grandma Mary, who was hands down my favourite character. The story explores both her wild youth and dips from past to present. The struggle she undergoes as her dementia becomes worse really broke my heart, but I loved how it allowed the author to merge reality with a touch of the otherworldly. The “conversations” Mary has with her deceased husband were the sweetest thing, and I loved how her husband played such a big role in the story despite not being alive. 

Yet one of the most touching scenes in the book was when Katie discovers the post-it-notes Mary’s husband left throughout the house. Things like “If you go outside - I want to hold your hand and come with you.” And “Only one spoonful of sugar, you are sweet enough.” These little notes told me so much about their relationship and I thought it was both the saddest and most romantic thing ever.

Overall though this is really a story of self discovery. Each character learns about who they are and becomes brave enough to share their true face with the world. 

My biggest gripe with this book though was that it was so long. A few times I had to put this book down for a breather - and also because things were taking a long time to happen. However I am glad I persevered with it, since it's a really emotional story that I fully enjoyed. 

4 stars!

Talk to me - has anyone else read this book? What were your thoughts?