Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

retribution falls

I’ve been binge-reading fantasy lately, and decided to re-read an old favourite from a series that I started but never finished for some reason. Retribution Falls is the first in a series of four books following the misadventures of the Ketty Jay and her crew.

At the helm is Captain Darian Frey, a charming rogue, trying to make his way in the world with a bit of petty thieving and smuggling but struggling to keep his ship afloat and his crew together; then there’s Jez the navigator, Crake the Daemonist (and his golem Bess), Silo the engineer, Malvery the Doctor, Pinn and Harkins the pilots and Slag the feral cat. With the exception of the cat, all of the crew seem to have their own mysterious or tragic background and they’re all trying to out-run their personal demons, yet along the way they learn to work together and develop a sense of camaraderie.

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The gist of the story is that the crew attempt a heist that turns out to be a set-up, and fed up with being pawns in a game of more powerful players, they end up uncovering a conspiracy.

Daemonism is a refreshing alternative to magic as daemons are enthralled to various objects like keys, teeth, cutlasses and golems to give them unique and special powers.

Retribution Falls is an action packed swashbuckler with plenty of twists, suspense, humour, and a lovable bunch of underdogs triumphing against some truly unfavourable odds. Have a lovely week! X

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A New Year’s Day Walk on the Beach

Arran and the Holy Isle

We were up bright and early yesterday for a New Year’s Day walk at our favourite beach, Croy Shore in Ayrshire. We never remember to check the tides before visiting but we were happy to discover that it was out when we arrived giving us an opportunity to meander towards the rocky outcrops that are usually inaccessible when the tide is in.

Strolling side by side with our hoods up against the chill wind and the sun warming our backs, the pale blue skies gave us a perfect view of the Isle of Arran and the Holy Isle. My spouse and I weren’t brave enough to take a dip in the sea, but it was a refreshing walk and felt like we were breathing in all the hope of a new year and letting go of the year before. I always feel inspired by new beginnings, and it’s exciting to think of all the opportunities to meet new people, visit new places, try new experiences, to learn and grow that a new year promises.

This week I’m enjoying a few more days off at home before we put the Christmas decorations away for another year, we return to work and normality resumes. Happy New Year and have a lovely week! X

2018 ~ Looking Back, Looking Forward

End of the Year

We’re in the midst of that peaceful and cosy time between Christmas and New Year when everything seems to slow down and I struggle to remember what day of the week it is.

2018 has been a year full of adventures and experiences for us, and it’s genuinely hard to pick out personal highlights because there have been so many from our roadtrip around Iceland (something my husband and I have been talking about since our first visit to Reykjavik in 2014) to day trips around Scotland, and slowly but surely transforming our garden.

The three most popular posts on my blog this year were:

  1. On the road around Iceland
  2. Pottering around with houseplants
  3. An Unruly Tangle of Flowers

I always find it interesting to see which posts seem to resonate with readers, but I try not to worry too much about likes and followers, and focus on writing about what interests me and what’s going on in our lives.

I was just shy of my reading target this year, which I blame on three books I started but didn’t finish. I’ve accepted that I’ll never read 52 books a year, but a couple of books a month seems like a realistic goal. This week I re-organised my bookshelves (still two rows deep) and I like seeing old favourites rubbing shoulders with new books waiting to be read.

I didn’t share many recipes this year, which was largely due to my husband and I adopting a gluten-free diet as he has suspected Crohn’s Disease. We both enjoy cooking (almost as much as eating!) and make as much as we can from scratch and I’m hoping to share a few new vegetarian and gluten-free recipes soon.

Looking back at our photos and all the memories we’ve made, I’m a little sad this wonderful year is ending, but I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 holds. Wishing everyone a very happy New Year when it comes, and thank you so much to everyone who takes the time to read, like, comment on or follow my little blog. X

Twinkle and Jingle

Curious Mara

There always seems to be a mad dash in December to get everything ready for Christmas, but now that the shopping is done, cards have been posted and presents wrapped, things are finally starting to wind down and we’re very much looking forward to some time off between Christmas and New Year.

My husband and I have been trying to simplify Christmas for a few years now, gradually stripping away the stress, excess and waste to find all the peace, love, joy and wonder that the festive period holds.

Everything seems to twinkle and jingle in December, and I always look forward to the simple pleasure of putting up our Christmas decorations, and especially decorating the tree. I love unwrapping the trinkets and baubles we’ve collected over the years, and reminiscing about where each of them came from. The newest addition to our collection is a wooden nutcracker soldier that I bought from Jólagarðurinn (The Christmas Garden) outside Akureyri in Iceland, a little souvenir from our holiday in April. Our cat Mara also loves investigating the tree, though luckily she doesn’t attempt to climb it or attack the baubles.

My favourite part of Christmas though is spending time with my family, free from the distractions and time constraints that are often present throughout the rest of the year. This Christmas many of our plans will revolve around the older generation of our family, as we try to make things as easy and inclusive as possible for my 92-year-old nanna, and visit another member of the family who might be spending Christmas in hospital. Christmas is a time of love and joy for many, yet it can be tinged with loss and loneliness for others, and I always feel lucky and grateful to be able to share it with the people I love most.

Wishing everyone a peaceful winter Solstice and a very happy Christmas! X

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

I’ve always been an impulse book buyer, easily persuaded by a pretty cover and an intriguing first chapter, so I picked up The Invisible Library on a whim recently, and I’m very glad I did.

The story follows Irene, a Librarian from a secret society known as the Invisible Library, which collects rare and unique books from alternate realities. Instructed to collect a specific version of a text, Irene and her apprentice, Kai, arrive to find the book’s owner has been murdered and the book has already been stolen.

Irene is such a likeable heroine, she’s curious, resourceful and self-deprecating, and I really enjoyed the interplay between Irene and the other characters from her charming and enigmatic apprentice Kai to her femme-fatale rival Bradamant, and the mysterious villain, Alberich.

The Invisible Library subverts a few fantasy norms, instead of the usual battle between good and evil, the librarians try to restore order to chaos-infested worlds; and instead of magic, the Librarians use the Language, which allows them to influence reality with specific commands and instructions.

This is a quirky fantasy-mystery with lots of humour and a few twists; The Invisible Library is a bit different from the epic fantasies I usually read but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Have a lovely week! X

End of the Gardening Year

Winter Preparations

Things are steadily winding down in the garden as temperatures drop, the weather worsens and the daylight decreases, and we’re preparing ourselves for another long, dark and cold winter. I always start to feel a bit reflective in December and as there’s not much to do in the garden, it’s a good time to look back on all the changes we’ve made in our front and back gardens this year.

It’s been a year of stark contrasts weather-wise as it snowed all through January and right into March, so we got off to a late start in the garden, then had to contend with scorching sunshine during the summer heatwave. Yet despite the vagaries of the weather, we’ve still accomplished a lot: cutting down three tall, dark fir trees and replacing them with clumping bamboo along the back fence, planting two apple trees, as well as filling our flower borders with hardy perennials and roses. We’ve also had seasonal successes growing lettuce, rat-tailed radish, courgettes, squashes, rhubarb and various soft fruits.

The growing season is almost over, but we still have winter kale in the raised beds, as well as a few stubborn calendula flowering in the border. Improving the heavy clay soil is one of our longer term aims, but we left it too late to sow green manure seeds in the raised beds and instead we’ve covered them with fallen leaves we gathered that will hopefully mulch down over the winter.

As the garden prepares to hibernate, we’re making plans for 2019, planting spring bulbs, collecting seeds, daydreaming about flowers tumbling out of the borders and harvesting organic vegetables. Our garden may be a work in progress – and very hard work at times – but it gives us a real sense of achievement and joy, and we’re very grateful for it. Have a lovely week! X

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the story of Karou, a teenage art student living in Prague who also happens to run “errands” for her adopted father, Brimstone, a Chimaera that grants wishes in exchange for teeth.

This story had such an intriguing premise and I would’ve enjoyed it much more if it had continued to follow Karou as she tries to figure out why Brimstone collects teeth and her own identity along the way, but unfortunately it abruptly turns into a star-crossed lovers romance between Karou and Akiva, a seraphim soldier, caught up in an endless war between angels and chimaera.

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I’m not at all opposed to romances and I don’t even mind an enemies-to-lovers arc, but I prefer love stories where the couple fall in love over the course of the novel rather than just being pushed together by a combination of physical magnetism and the hand of fate. Daughter of Smoke and Bone had such a promising start, but I was disappointed by the way it developed, and I’m unsure about whether or not I want to read the rest of the trilogy.

Have a lovely week! X