This includes reviews, giveaways, scavenger hunts and upcoming new books. I love supporting new authors, so be sure to check back for updates.

I’m planning to write a post about my reading goals for this year. I was inspired by Rezina who managed to read 88 years books in 2017! I did set myself a target of 50 books last year, but I didn’t manage to reach it. This year, however, with the help of Tara and her library of eBooks, I am totally gonna smash my goal.

Have you ever read a book and after you read it you felt like your whole life changed? Or you started questioning your existence? Or ultimately just stared into space after reading, wishing that you had the chance to read it all over again for the first time? There have been a few books that have done for me, and these are books that I know even if I read them, again and again, I will never get bored.

Harry Potter Series

Harry Potter had to be mentioned first, especially as J. K. Rowling is the one who inspired me to write. Rowling built the perfect world for me to escape into – witches/wizards, spells, potions, fantastic beasts. She had me wanting to whiz down Diagon Alley, play Quidditch and sincerely hope that I would receive my Hogwarts acceptance letter when I turned 11 (I’m still waiting).

It was always such a joy to follow Harry on his adventures at Hogwarts and subsequently watch him grow up. It wasn’t just the fantasy part that was good; I loved how it tackled relationships both romantic and platonic, those awkward teenage phases, school stress, etc.

Harry Potter is no doubt one of my favourites and I will sincerely miss the feeling of a new book being released.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Image result for captain corelli's mandolin bookI’m going to tell you a secret (well, it’ll no longer a secret once this is published): I had a crush on Captain Corelli. 😂

I remember having to read this book for English GCSEs and I don’t know what it was, but I absolutely adored the character. I even wrote ‘Captain Corelli <3’ in pen on my Converse. I don’t blame you if you’re judging me, right now.

This book was one of the first historical fiction books I read. Before I had mostly been reading YA books, but when I read this book I was immediately sucked in. It has always been the book that stuck out to me whenever I think about books that have changed my life – it left a deep impression on me because of its themes of totalitarianism such as Fascism, Nazism and Communism.

The Color Purple

Image result for the color purple book coverI remember after finishing this book, I was sat on my sofa for a full 10 minutes thinking, “Wow.”

When a book makes me cry, I feel that sadness all the way to the bottom of my heart that sometimes it actually hurts. The relationships that Alice Walker forges throughout the book, specifically the female ones are so strong. I love the female bonds formed to allow women to help each other fight the oppression and dominance by men.

This book spans over 30 years and is told through letters that Celie sends to her sister, Nettie. I like that the point of view is from Celie and because of the letter format, it made the book confessional much like a diary.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Image result for the handmaid's tale book coverI am a big fan of dystopian fiction – The Handmaid’s Tale was the first dystopian novel I read and it’s left a huge mark on me, especially in the current social climate that we are living in. It may have been published 30+ years ago, but it’s still relevant today.

There are many themes that Margaret Atwood covers including gender, class, religion. Just one of them covered is the culture of victim blaming that Offred, the main character, highlights through a flashback – something that still happens now. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of those books that could be served as a prediction – much like George Orwell’s 1984 – which also makes it slightly terrifying. Nevertheless, this book is high on my list of books you must read before you die!

Even though it has been made into a TV series, I’m still cautious about watching it because many a time have my favourite books been turned into live action and just bombed. I’ve heard it’s good so I may give the first episode a try.

The Secret History

Image result for the secret history book coverThis book knocked me out.

It is one of the lengthiest books I’ve ever read, and it took me a while to read – a shock because I usually devour books as fast as I devour my food (0.02 seconds flat), but this is the sort of book that I had to take time to get my head around.

This book isn’t a ‘whodunnit’ but rather a ‘whydunnit’. From the get-go, you know exactly what has happened, but the book delves into the why this happened and weaves a tale of the many complicated main characters. It was hard for me to feel sorry for some the characters, but I think that a writer that skilfully makes you hate a character with the fire of a thousand suns has done well. You can’t like everyone – it’s a reflection of real life.

Half of a Yellow Sun

Image result for half of yellow sun book coverFor someone who didn’t know anything about Biafra, this book opened my eyes and then some.

Centring on twin sisters, Olanna and Kainene, the book not only covers the ruinous effects of war but also love, loyalty, betrayal, and how complicated relationships are. There’s something beautiful in the way Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes that sucked me right in and I felt like I was living in that world in the book I was reading.

The book for me is a history lesson but something that I can get behind because the way it is written is so much more immersive and engaging.

I developed such an emotional investment in the characters, that I was really sad when the novel came to an end. I found myself flipping the pages with vigour, wanting to know what was going to happen next now now now. I would highly recommend you read this book as it not only educates you but because of the passion behind it, as well.

Have you read any books that have changed your life? Let me know in the comments below! 

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I was inspired by Amy’s post recently on her year in books and thought it’d be a good idea for a post, as well! As an avid reader, I have been slacking these past few years when it comes to reading. When I was younger I used to go through books like water, but these days with work and other social commitments (I’m really just talking Netflix here, btw), I’ve found I don’t read as much.

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It has taken me slightly longer than usual to put this post up, as I have been extremely busy (dealing with rubbish companies and work related stuff), but here is my review of John Darryl Winston’s ‘IA: Initiate‘.

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STEAMPUNK CARNIVAL By Cassandra Leuthold

Genre: Science Fiction/ Steampunk

Katya Romanova gave up everything to work at the one-of-a-kind Steampunk Carnival – her family, her home, her reputation. She wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.As a guide to the guests, Katya enjoys more freedom than most. She makes time to gossip with her best friend, Magdalene.

She basks in the elaborate costumes that bring her awed attention, hoping they might also win her a husband. And no man pays her more attention than her boss and carnival owner, William Warden.

But in the summer of 1887, death threats against Mr. Warden break the spell. Katya knows he might be as underhanded as he is charming, but who would
actually want him dead?

When Katya finds unexpected evidence about the carnival’s true origins, the stakes jump even higher.

Not sure whom they can trust, Katya and Magdalene work to unravel the carnival’s mysteries. Who really invented the innovative rides?

Is Mr. Warden protecting his employees or only himself from the looming violence? And will Katya cling to the better side of his nature or eventually turn her affections for him into a powerful rivalry?


Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Cassandra Leuthold

Cassandra grew up in the small town of La Porte, Indiana, exploring wooded parks and sparkling lakes. Making South Bend her home, the scenery hasn’t changed much – inspiring trees and a long, winding river. From the time she started writing in second grade up to the projects she works on now, the nature, history, and people around her inspire the stories she tells. You can find her work listed under many different genres, but the heart of each story remains the same. What keeps us together, and what pulls us apart? She lives with her writer husband and their moody cat, Gaia, in a house three sizes too big. She holds a Bachelor’s in Liberal Studies and a Master’s in English. When she’s not writing, you can find her sewing, enjoying nature, listening to music, researching family history, and watching TV.




“What I Wouldn’t Do,” She Swings, She Sways

The first chapter of Steampunk Carnival is different than the rest of the book. It’s narrated by someone whose name isn’t revealed for several chapters. The reason he’s obsessed with filling a journal with his ideas isn’t clear until we find out who he is, but the song gives insight into his situation. He’s a man driven by longing, loneliness, and desperation. It adds extra layers and emotions to what’s shared at that point in the book.

“Kill The Lights,” The Birthday Massacre

I’m a big fan of the movie “Moulin Rouge.” In the director’s commentary, Baz Luhrmann talks about the interesting difference between points of view in the climactic scene when Satine dies after the big, pulse-pounding performance. The audience applauds. They loved what they saw. But what they missed was a murder attempt, and what they can’t see after the curtain closes is Satine’s heartbreaking death. This song represents that for Steampunk Carnival. All the guests see are beautiful costumes, spectacular rides, fun games, and delicious treats. They don’t know about the death threats, the violence, and the arguments. They never find out the games are rigged.

“Common Reaction,” Uh Huh Her

As the story unwinds, Katya finds herself in deeper and deeper trouble. She acquires more to lose – friends, her safety, a boyfriend – and realizes there are fewer things she can be sure of. A lot she took for granted isn’t true. This song expresses Katya’s confusion and caution. She doesn’t know how much to trust her boss, William Warden. She hopes everything will work out all right, but she knows any ending is possible.

“Hold My Hand,” Mister Heavenly

This song reminds me of Maddox’s approach to Katya in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. If Maddox has one thing going for him, it’s persistence. He tries several different tricks to get Katya to go out with him, and she turns him down several times. She’s not easily persuaded to trade her love of money for appreciation of simple fun.

“Shake It Out,” Florence & the Machine

This song provides the perfect backdrop to the night Katya finally gives in to spending time with Maddox. She leaves her fear, her distrust, and her rigid ideas about dating behind. Katya and Maddox ride three attractions at the carnival, which thrills Katya more than she anticipated. But more importantly, they’re finally able to share more about themselves and build a solid foundation for their relationship.

“Baptized by Fire,” Spinnerette

The lyrics and driving guitar in this song mirror what Katya and her friends are feeling by the time they confront the forces conspiring against them. Katya has seen William Warden’s inner nature, and she doesn’t like it. His security guards, allegedly hired to keep the employees safe, have been watching Magdalene like a hawk for weeks. Katya’s tired of meeting in secret, worrying about how the carnival’s reputation will survive the truth about its origins. But true to the song, with going to battle against powerful rivals comes a new beginning for all of them.


1. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Doing hours and hours of research. Even though I wanted to create an alternate history for the book and the Steam World series, I wanted almost everything else to be historically accurate. This meant researching numerous layers of clothing, whether women wore makeup, which turns of phrase they used, what occupations women typically had, and the old street names of 1880’s Indianapolis. But all of this reading and map checking was an enormous labor of love. Delving deeper into my family history in the last few years gave me a solid sense of respect for immigrants and their children, who make up many of the characters. It made the story much more personal for me.

2. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

The most surprising thing I learned while researching the 1880’s was how similar the Victorians were to us living in the 21st century. A lot of the same social questions were being asked then as now. Some people condemned birth control, and others found ways to get it anyway. People scrutinized the personal lives of politicians and organized smear campaigns. People debated labor laws and the rights of children. The more I saw Victorians as relatable and personable, the more I wanted my book to come across that way to readers. Some people might not think life was very interesting 130 years ago, but I disagree. And I hope my book proves that.

3. Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice is to do the simplest, hardest thing a writer can do, which is write. An aspiring writer on Goodreads asked an author for advice on what he should do, and the author said Write. Don’t aspire – write. And I think the same holds true for authors at any stage, from aspiring to veteran. Editing’s hard work, and it means making a lot of choices, some of which will be seen by readers. I compare editing to using sandpaper, smoothing the edges of my rough drafts. But writing means creating something from the ideas in your head, and most authors know how intimidating a blank page can be. My advice in full would be write, read, observe life, and learn to edit well, but sometimes beautiful things spring out of just the one verb that describes what we’re known for: writing.


War Kids Book Blitz | Banner

War Kids Book Blitz | Cover

Quote #5

“Suffering has gone beyond all boundaries. There is no safe place left. Syria has become a battlefield. Every aspect of human rights, freedom, and citizenship, are lost from view and no one cares. Entire villages have been cleared off the map. Innocent children are being massacred, and a whole generation is being erased. For what? I pray every single moment that the government and all political parties around the world will engage with the rebels. The rebels are capable of engaging in dialogue, because if they do not, the blood of the innocent is on their hands. All of their hands.”


When fourteen-year-old Jada wakes up in a hospital, the last thing she thinks is that her life has completely changed forever. But when the very real civil war forces her to flee from every open space, she must use the firearm skills her father taught her to reunite with him and protect herself.

Armed with a single gun and a key to an unknown locker, Jada crosses Syria on a journey with a group of children called the Fearless Freedom Fighters.

With the leader, Zak, they mount a plan to rescue their fathers while they try to cope with the merciless murders of their families. As Jada and Zak lead the group together, love blossoms, but with soldiers hot on their tail, they need to stay vigilant in the face of war.

Genre: YA

Book Links


Also available on Amazon UK



Author Bio

War Kids Book Blitz | AuthorHayley Lawson is the author of War Kids. She has written a young adult contemporary novel set in Syria; a story about the Syrian Civil war though the eyes of children.

She was born in Lancaster, England. Growing up in a single parent household with five other siblings; was hard, and also character building.

As a young child she found a passion for drawing, and continued this into adulthood, graduating from the University of Central Lancashire, England with a BA(Hons) in fashion design.

At aged twenty seven, Hayley and her husband packed up their belongings for a lifelong dream to move to California. Her America dream was complete with the birth of her daughter. Her love for traveling, continued after the birth of her daughter traveling around America with the family, and the best travelled dog.

A new job positioned opened up New York, and the family decide to relocate to Long Island, NY, which is where she currently resides.

On August 21 she was moved by the images of the Syrian conflict, and embarked on an unlikely journey of writing her first novel.

Author Links


Twitter – @hjlawson1




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