In at the Deep End – Kate Davies

42089727._SY475_.jpgJulia hasn’t had sex in three years, and she’s about to learn that she’s been looking for love in all the wrong places. Embarking on an eye-opening journey into lesbianism, Julia opens herself up to some brand new and pretty niche experiences, including an LGBT swing dance class, raves, conceptual art shows, polygamy, S&M and sex clubs. She has well and truly jumped in at the deep end.

On the surface, this book really doesn’t sound that great, but something about it had me completely hooked.

There is a tonne of sex. It’s frank and filthy, but in a very direct, explanatory kind of way. The sexual activities throughout the story are pretty detailed (including strap-on dildos, fisting, etc) but not erotic at all. This book is filled with pure filth, but it isn’t designed to turn you on – which makes it remarkably readable (even for someone quite prudish like me).

While about 70% of the book is filled with sexual content, Julia spends at least 20% of it crying. In at the Deep End is surprisingly emotional, with some great characters who I found myself really caring about.

Julia herself is a great lead character. She’s witty, likeable – despite her denial and poor taste in girlfriends – and very real, and there’s a full cast of fantastic secondary characters, like Julia’s swing-dance friends and her WWII-veteran pen-pal. My personal favourite was her therapist, who absolutely should not be qualified to do that job but was brilliant nonetheless.

This book is a brilliantly written, straight-talking, up-front and funny read which I enjoyed way more than I expected to.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Ask Again, Yes – Mary Beth Keane

43666435._SY475_.jpgThis is the story of two neighbouring families, the friendship between their children, and a tragedy that tears them apart. Kate and Peter live next door to each other and were born six months apart. They are best friends, but their families just don’t get on. One horrific night, their bond is pushed past its limits. But can they move on from the events of the past when they meet again, years later?

Books of this genre aren’t rare. They’re full of drama and explore the darker side of family, but what makes this one stand out if that the catalytic event is truly shocking, while the fall-out is well considered and realistic. Issues around mental health and alcoholism are quite well (though not very sympathetically) explored, and suicide and sexual abuse are touched upon. Quite a lot of ground is covered, but it failed to keep my interest throughout.

Firstly, I would say that the pacing isn’t brilliant. The early portions of the book progress very slowly, and then things pick up speed as things start to happen later on. Because of this, the beginning of the story dragged a little and the end portions felt a bit rushed.

I did like the exploration of Peter and Kate’s marriage, and Kate’s commitment to Peter despite his problems driving her away and her family telling her to leave him. However, very little else stood out to me.

I would recommend Ask Again, Yes to fans of dark domestic dramas. The characters are well developed and their relationships are interesting, but I would steer clear if this isn’t your genre.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Lord of Secrets – Breanna Teintze

42922456._SY475_.jpgCorcoran Gray is an outlaw wizard, on the run from the Mages’ Guild as he tries to figure out a way to rescue his grandfather from imprisonment. When he gets tangled up with fugitive Brix and they both get arrested, things don’t seem like they could get much worse. That is, until Gray realises that Brix could be the key to finding and releasing his grandfather. All they have to do is escape from the Guild, break into an ancient underground temple, and survive a meeting with a deadly necromancer.

To be brutally honest, I don’t know why I read this whole book. I should have DNF’d it after the first few chapters. It isn’t terrible – it isn’t even bad – it just didn’t do anything for me.

There were aspects I enjoyed, the main one being the magical concept in this book: Wizards use magic by writing spells onto themselves, and suffer quite serious side-effects from it. This was an original and interesting concept, which was well developed throughout the book.

I had two real problems with Lord of Secrets which hindered my general enjoyment of the story. First, something about the characterisation just didn’t work for me. From the way Corcoran Gray was introduced, I pictured him as at least middle aged, possibly even quite elderly. I can’t pinpoint exactly what gave me this impression, but it really threw me off when I realised that he was actually meant to be in his early 20’s. Secondly, I absolutely hated the romantic element. The romantic relationship between Gray and Brix felt incredibly forced and rushed (not helped by my image of Gray as a 50-60 year-old) and I didn’t think the story needed it at all. I just couldn’t get on board with them as a couple.

Overall, Lord of Secrets really isn’t a bad book. It just wasn’t for me.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Relic – Bronwyn Eley

46218744._SY475_The Shadow is the personal servant of the powerful Lord Rennard and being the Shadow means certain death, because Rennard possesses one of the rare and extremely dangerous Relics, which slowly poison everyone else in its proximity. When blacksmith Kaylan is summoned to be the new Shadow, she understands that her life is forfeit. What she doesn’t expect is to uncover a plot to overthrow the ruling powers and destroy the bloodlines in possession of the relics.

Ultimately, Relic is a strong debut with a really good fantasy story-line. However, it took too long to really get going for me and could have benefited from a bit more explanation. I loved the idea of the relics and the shadow system, but I would have liked for the whole thing to be explained in more detail, earlier on. I guess the idea was to keep an element of mystery and intrigue surrounding the relics and their true power, but this wasn’t really necessary. The plot should have been strong enough to carry itself without keeping things vague to up the intrigue.

This book also could have benefited from a faster pace. The events laid out in the blurb take almost half the book to actually play out, which made a lot of it very predictable and lacklustre.

That being said, I thought that the world-building was excellent, and the city of Edriast was easy to picture as well as being a brilliant setting. Also, because so much of the story focuses on Kaylan’s daily life, we get to see some really great character development and it was a nice touch to have a main character in a fantasy-rebellion novel who didn’t immediately leap onto the side of the rebels and inexplicably become their leader and figurehead.

I would definitely recommend Relic to fantasy fans who appreciate a strong character focus and aren’t too fussed about seeing much action.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Ruin of Kings – Jenn Lyons

39863237Kihrin is a musician, and a thief. When he is claimed against his will as the lost son of a treasonous prince, he is drawn into the world of a powerful and dangerous family, as good as a prisoner at the mercy of his new family’s ambitions. Told in two simultaneous timelines, this is a rags-to-riches story involving magic, dragons, romance and a lot of action.

I can’t quite decide how I feel about this book, because it had many features that I really enjoyed and that made it really special, but it took me so, so long to read which is not generally a good sign.

I really, really liked the way the story was written, which was interesting. The story is told by two characters, Kihrin and Talon, in alternating chapters following different time periods. As such, the story is very non-linear and we are told two different parts of the same story at the same time. On top of that, the story-telling  exchange between Kihrin and Talon is compiled by another character, whose footnotes are added throughout the book (and I love a good footnote). This unusual method of story telling did make things a little bit difficult to follow at times, but was really unique and refreshing.

Kihrin is a likeable main character, with a lot of sass and wit, while other characters like Talon, Teraeth, Tyentso and more had their own great personalities. However, there were a few too many characters and it wasn’t easy to keep track of who was who and who was doing what, especially across both timelines.

The Ruin of Kings has a lot going on, and it’s well told. I enjoyed the story and I liked the writing style, but I definitely didn’t find it un-put-down-able and it took me a very long time to read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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