Out Today: The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker #BookReview #HappyPubDay

lastdogTitle: The Last Dog on Earth
Author: Adrian J. Walker
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details: September 7th 2017 by Del Rey
Genre(s): Science Fiction; Dystopia; Humour
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free, advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Every dog has its day…

And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can be.

Reg, an agoraphobic writer with an obsession for nineties football, plans to wait out the impending doom in his second floor flat, hiding himself away from the riots outside.

But when an abandoned orphan shows up in the stairwell of their building, Reg and Lineker must brave the outside in order to save not only the child, but themselves…

Review

Do you ever request a book on Netgalley and then weeks later wonder why? That’s what I did with this book. I don’t like dogs and I hate football so what possessed me to request a book about a dog called Lineker and his 90s-Football-Mad owner is beyond me.

But guess what? This book was brilliant! Maybe a higher power was at work there.

The Last Dog on Earth is set in the near future, after London has been desecrated by a war. A lot of people died and the rest moved away from the hostile city leaving Reg, a recluse and his dog Lineker practically alone in Peckham. Reg can’t imagine moving. He hates change and doesn’t see any need to leave. The fact that everyone else has left is just a bonus.

Lineker loves Reg more than anything. His aim in life is to make Reg happy, but he definitely misses all his old friends on Peckham Rye.

The Last Dog on Earth is written from Lineker’s perspective and mainly in diary format from Reg’s. I think it worked perfectly. Lineker has a penchant for rhyming slang and loves a good rant. I thought he was hilarious. And it really reads like the mind of a dog; I thought it was a genius stroke by Walker. Even a self-confessed dog-hater (OK that’s a bit strong but sue me, I’m cat lady all the way) like me instantly fell in love with him.

You’ve always been a busy lot, you Sapiens. Climbing, foraging […], crossing oceans. Waging wars. Looking up. Looking down. But thinking – that’s what you do the most. You gaze up and drift away and none of us can guess where you go. F***ing Einsteins the lot of you. Take away all that thought and replace it with smell. Yeah, that’s the nearest I can get to describing how it is to be a dog.”

There is so much good stuff in this book, I want to throw a million quotes at you. The story really takes the reader on an immersive journey and actually the events themselves are pretty horrific but the humour lifts it immensely. It’s a book that makes you think, and that’s what surprised me the most I think.

What I probably should mention is the language. Lineker is a Class A potty mouth, and pretty vulgar at times. I loved it, but some readers might have issues with it. In fact, the only thing I can criticise about this book is that I wanted more narration by Lineker. As the story went on we get Reg’s POV a lot more and that slowed down the pace of the book for me. But I still couldn’t put it down.

Overall, TLDOE is a pretty bleak look at humanity, and a timely, poignant tale considering the world’s current political climate, but it’s extremely entertaining too. I laughed so much!

Oh to be a dog…

“Then there are the more confusing smells; the ones that are hard to categorise. Like fox. If I get wind of a fox I don’t know whether I want to cuddle it, f*** it or pull out its guts and eat them in front of it. It’s extremely confusing for me.”

 

“Now and again, once in a blue moon, maybe once or twice in your life, you will meet somebody who makes you wonder, seriously, how bad a life sentence would be. […] You want to take every nerve in their body, every fibre, every atom, and collect them together into a nice neat box so that none of them can escape, and then you want to piss all over them. […] That’s cats that is.”

TLDOE gets ALL THE UNICORNS because there wasn’t anything I disliked about it! I’d love to know what Lineker would make of Unicorns…

unicorn rating

 

 

 

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Strawberries at Wimbledon by Nikki Moore #BookReview #MiniReview

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Title: Strawberries at Wimbledon
Author: Nikki Moore
Series: Love London #5
Format: Kindle Edition, 40 pages
Publication Details: May 14th 2015 by HarperImpulse
Genre(s): Romance; Short Story/Novella
Disclosure? Nope! I bought it (even thought it was free!)

Goodreads 

Purchase

The one that got away?

Sipping Pimms and eating fresh strawberries at Wimbledon are the perfect start to the British summer for Rayne. Immersed in her career as a journalist in the City, she’s been too busy and distracted to give men – or other outside interests – much of a chance lately. That’s something her friend Lily thinks she should correct, coming up with the perfect ‘sex with an ex’ solution – much to the amusement of the crowd on Centre Court!

When Rayne runs into old flame Adam, former good guy who is now all grown up with a hint of bad boy about him, it’s a tempting thought. But is that such a good idea, when she knows that four years ago, she broke his heart?

Back from travelling the world and settling into running the family business, Adam never expected to see his university girlfriend again. And he definitely didn’t think he would still be angry with her for running away, or that she would still have the same stunning effect on him. But she does, so maybe the perfect way to get her out of his dreams and from under his skin, is to have a hot sex-filled night with her? The only trouble is, one night might not be enough…

First love – can you ever go back? 


Review

Strawberries at Wimbledon is the fifth in a series of short romances set in London. I haven’t read any of the previous stories but they stand alone nicely. I love tennis, especially Wimbledon so that’s what drew me to this one.

The story is about journalist Rayne who is invited to Wimbledon by her best friend for a girls day out. What they didn’t bank on was bumping into Rayne’s ex, and first love Adam.

I enjoyed this light-hearted short read. It had lots of cute moments and enough backstory to make it interesting. I’ve been to the Wimbledon Championships a lot and I think the author did a good job in evoking the atmosphere of it. It did come across as a bit outdated however, as the queuing system and other things mentioned have moved on a bit in recent years, but it really didn’t impact on the essence of it.

I can only speak for this particular story, but I reckon the Love London series on the whole is a perfect read for summer. If you’re looking for something flirtatious and fun to read in the sun, then look no further!

unicorn rating 4

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig #BookReview

thegirlwhosavedxmasTitle: The Girl Who Saved Christmas
Author: Matt Haig
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 272 pages
Publication Details: November 3rd 2016 by Canongate Books
Genre(s): Children’s; Christmas
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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JOURNEY TO THE EDGE OF MAGIC

If magic has a beginning, can it also have an end?

When Amelia wants a wish to come true she knows just the man to ask – Father Christmas.

But the magic she wants to believe in is starting to fade, and Father Christmas has more than impossible wishes to worry about. Upset elves, reindeers dropping out of the sky, angry trolls and the chance that Christmas might be cancelled.

But Amelia isn’t just any ordinary girl. And – as Father Christmas is going to find out – if Christmas is going to be saved, he might not be able to do it alone . . .

Review

This is the second Christmas Children’s book by  Matt Haig, the first being A Boy Called Christmas (which I haven’t read) so I almost didn’t request this one when I saw it on netgalley – I’m so glad I did. It’s a completely separate story.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas is a light-hearted tale set in Victorian London. Chimney-sweeper Amelia, once wrote a letter to Father Christmas which was so full of hope it boosted the magic of Christmas. But that was the year the trolls attacked, and almost ruined Christmas. Santa was a little preoccupied.

One year on and poor Amelia’s wish never came true, and her mother died, forcing Amelia to give up her beloved cat, Captain Soot, and enter Mr Creeper’s workhouse. Elsewhere in Elfhelm where Father Christmas is preparing for this years’ journey, but the spirit of Christmas is dwindling. Will the trolls attack again? Will his sleigh fly with such little hope in the air?

There is only one person who can help – the girl with the most Christmas spirit he has ever known, but little does he know that she has spent a year in a filthy workhouse, and is now in a dungeon after trying to escape. Can Amelia get her hope back and help Father Christmas save Christmas once more?

Of course she can!

This book was lots of fun and had a mixture of traditional Christmas tropes such as the sleigh needing hope/spirit to fly and also completely unique ideas which made it a lovely read. I loved the magical world that Haig has built here with the different kind of pixies and trolls in contrast to the bleakness of a Dickens-esque (the man himself even makes an appearance) Victorian London. It feels like an instant Christmas classic to me.

Amelia was a great protagonist with gusto,who never gave up. And I completely fell in love with Captain Soot, of course. The elves and pixies all had their own personalities and stories too, and they brought a lot of fun to the story. But the thing I loved most was definitely the illustrations. The simple pen drawings were amazing.

Haig’s humorous narration also shines through the pages of this story. There is a hint of sadness to his humour, but that’s what makes it so relatable.

unicorn rating 4

 

 

The Dark Heroine: Dinner with a Vampire by Abigail Gibbs

darkheroine
Title: Dinner with a Vampire
Author: Abigail Gibbs
Series: The Dark Heroine #1
Edition: Paperback, 549 pages
Publication Details: October 11th 2012 by Harper Voyager
Genre(s): YA; Paranormal Romance
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it second hand.

Goodreads // Purchase

One moment can change your life forever…

For Violet Lee, a chance encounter on a darkened street draws her into a world beyond her wildest imaginings, a timeless place of vast elegance and immeasurable wealth – of beautiful mansions and lavish parties – where a decadent group of friends live for pleasure alone. A place from which there is no escape…no matter how hard Violet tries.

Yet all the riches in the world can’t mask the darkness that lies beneath the gilded surface, embodied in the charismatic but dangerous Kaspar Varn.

Violet and Kaspar surrender to a passion that transcends their separate worlds – but it’s a passion that comes at a price…

Review

It’s been quite a while since I read a vampire book, the last one was The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – which was A-Mazing – so Dinner with a Vampire had a tough act to follow and while it didn’t even come close, it was entertaining!

On a night out Violet Lee gets separated from her friends and witnesses mass murder on Trafalgar Square. It doesn’t take long for Violet to figure out that the murderers are not altogether normal. They’re fast and strong, and dress a bit odd, and of course they can’t let her go because she’s seen too much – you know the deal.

She is basically captured and given the choice to become one of them or become their food…

It’s not the most original plot, let’s face it, but to say it’s only about that would be an injustice, there is quite a lot of other, interesting stuff, going on as well.

I was really torn with this book to be honest. I couldn’t stop reading, but so many things infuriated me along the way. Violet is this feisty, smart-mouthed girl, who doesn’t seem to care a great deal that she’s being imprisoned by vampires, or that she’s away from her sister who is suffering with cancer. It made it hard to warm to her.

One of the first things she does after she’s captured is steal all of Kaspar’s (the vampire prince) condoms because she’s sick of hearing him have sex every night. It was obviously supposed to show her feisty side and the first signs of jealously or something, but it was just a bit odd, and felt quite juvenile in terms of plotlines.

This is also a book in which things don’t quite ring true at the time, and you just think the author is a bit crazy, but eventually it does all come together and make sense. I applaud Gibbs for doing that well, it was one of the reasons I couldn’t stop reading but it was so frustrating.

I found Gibb’s writing a bit hit and miss too. She sets the scene very well, and I loved the descriptions of the vampires and the hunters at the beginning, but it definitely got a bit muddled in places, mainly because of the alternating points of view. I really didn’t think we we needed Kaspar’s narration!

However, I liked the whole prophecy thing, and the romance was pretty hot, apart from a major anti-climax towards the end – I mean, I won’t give away spoilers but just know that something really pissed me off!

Meh, I don’t know if I’ll read the next one…maybe if I find it in a charity shop like I did this one.

unicorn rating 3

Friday Feature: 16 Library Bars in London (Buzzfeed find)

librarybars

I know this is a bit of a cheat as far as my usual Friday Features go, but I wanted to post something today despite having no time to write one.

I saw this great post on Buzzfeed and…oh my! How have I not been to any of these bars (probs because they’re too posh, but still)!?

I’m going to make it my mission to visit at least one of these places this year! You can click on the image to view the post.

Have you been to any of these, or have a favourite?

[Image courtesy of Buzzfeed]

Lazy Saturday Review: Dark Satanic Mills by Marcus & Julian Sedgwick

dark
Title: Dark Satanic Mills
Authors: Marcus Sedgwick & Julian Sedgwick
Illustrators: John Higgins & Marc Olivent
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 176 pages
Publication Details: November 2013 by Walker Books
Genre(s): Graphic Novel; Dystopia
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it.

Goodreads
Purchase

Set in a near-future Britain, Dark Satanic Mills tracks a young girl’s journey from the flooded landmarks of London to the vast, scorched and abandoned hills of the north. Framed for a murder she did not commit, the innocent and beautiful Christie has no other choice but to run for her life. Both a cautionary tale and a rip-roaring road trip, Dark Satanic Mills is altogether an intelligent, captivating and thrilling ride – The Wizard of Oz for a new generation, told in exhilarating shades of light and dark.

I’m not a regular graphic novel reader, but I’m a huge fan of Marcus Sedgwick so I was intrigued to see his work in this format.

Dark Satanic Mills is set in future Britain and whilst on the run, protagonist Christie happens upon a document that could unravel the hold the True Church – a kind of religious fascist dictatorship – has over the entire nation.

With the help of do-gooder Thomas, Christie heads to the north, through dark, desolate streets and violent gangs, to spread the truth about the True Church.

I loved almost everything about Dark Satanic Mills. The story was dark and full of action, and I loved that I knew all of the locations in the book, being a northerner myself. The artwork was gloriously grim, and I loved the William Blake references (it’s based on his poem Jerusalem).

The only thing that I didn’t like was that I was left wanting more. Much more! It didn’t feel like a complete ending, which is fine if they continue with the story but I don’t know if that’s on the cards.

This graphic novel will take you on a journey through a scary, broken Britain. A journey to discover the truth. Don’t forget your helmet!

unicorn rating

Dark Satanic Mills is available from Waterstones now.

Preview: The Hamstead & Highgate Literary Festival, Sept 15th-17th

The Hamstead & Highgate literary festival is now in its 5th year. I managed to catch a few events at last year and really enjoyed it so I thought I’d highlight some of the great things coming up this September. The festival takes place in Ivy House, London NW11 7SX and you can book online or call 020 8511 7900

Top authors and celebrities scheduled to appear include Ruby Wax, Nick Ross, Maggie O’Farrell, Tracy Chevalier, Sathnam Sanghera, Gill Hornby, Marcus Burkemann, Shelina Permalloo, Miles Jupp, Charlotte Mendelson, Mark Billingham, Countess of Carnarvon, Daisy Waugh, Kate Figes and Baroness Gillian Shephard, to name but a few.

Returning author Tracy Chevalier said; ‘Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival has the feeling of a local event, yet with national players. I am very pleased to be returning.’

Here is my pick of events:

Sunday 15th Sept:
16169852
Like Mother Like Daughter
Deborah and Lottie Moggach talk to John Crace
£7

Deborah Moggach’s new book, Heartbreak Hotel is a warm, wise and funny romp in the Welsh countryside, which will appeal to the legions of fans who enjoyed the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Lottie Moggach’s Kiss Me First is a moving coming of age story hidden within a harrowing mystery. While Lottie explores a lot of dark territory-suicide, alienation, innocence betrayed–she has also written an unexpectedly warm-hearted novel.

19_Charlotte%20Mendelson-Almost%20English
Almost English
Charlotte Mendelson talks to Claire Armitstead
£7

In a tiny flat in West London, sixteen year-old Marina lives with her emotionally delicate mother and three ancient Hungarian relatives. Imprisoned by her family’s crushing expectations, traditions and un-English pride, she knows she must escape. But at Combe Abbey, an English public school, she realises she has made a terrible mistake. Man Booker nominee Charlotte Mendelson talks about her perfectly balanced observations of human nature captured in all its hideous glories to Guardian Books and News Editor, Claire Armitstead.

Monday 16th Sept
Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath & life before Ted
Andrew Wilson talks to Henry Kelly

£7
Fifty years after her death, Andrew Wilson explores the life of Sylvia Plath before her marriage to Ted Hughes, in an intimate portrait of the brilliant and tragic literary enigma based on her early poems, letters and diaries. Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century’s most popular and enduring female poet.

17307082
The Complexities of Motherhood and Family Life
Gill Hornby & Hilary Boyd talk to Lisa Jewell

£7
Gill Hornby’s The Hive is wickedly funny, but is also a fascinating and subtle story about group politics and female friendship. In Hilary Boyd’s Tangled Lives a happily married woman in her early 50s, with three grown children, guards a dark secret. And in Lisa Jewell’s new novel, a tragedy tears a family apart but something happens that calls them back to The House They Grew Up In …

16129334
The Detective
Mark Billingham & Robert Ryan

£10
Complex individuals both alienate and inspire those around them. In the Sunday Times, best-selling author Billingham’s, The Dying Hours, Detective Tom Thorne, having stepped out of line once too often, is back in uniform and he hates it. Patronised and abused by his new colleagues, he is forced to investigate alone. In Robert Ryan’s new book Dead Man’s Land, Dr John Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick, is finally forced to take centre stage. Ryan’s Watson must for once step out of the shadows and into the limelight if he’s to solve the mystery behind inexplicable deaths.

Pics - Kidsfest jpg
This year the organisers, the London Jewish Cultural Centre in partnership with the Ham&High, have also added a Kidsfest on Sunday 15th September with a host of ‘kid for a quid’ events and activities designed to engage and entrance young readers from 6+.

Here’s my pick:.

Ruby Redfort and Other Friends
With Lauren Child

Kid For A Quid – £1
Adults – £5
Age range: all ages
Bestselling author Lauren Child talks about her latest creation – Ruby Redfort, the thirteen year-old, super smart secret agent who is always cool in a crisis, as well as some of her other favourite characters, including Charlie and Lola as well as Clarice Bean.

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Horrible Histories Paradoxical Panel
with Neal Forster, Laura Crowe & Ben Willbond

Kid For A Quid – £1
Adults – £5
Age range: 7+

Meet the producer and performers of both the stage and screen shows of Terry Deary’s much loved Horrible Histories. Hear how these stories are brought to life; the challenges of turning facts into fun and the different techniques used in adapting them for screen and stage.

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Judith Kerr’s Creatures
Judith Kerr celebrates her life & work with Julia Eccleshare, tea & jam sandwiches!

Kid For A Quid – £1
Adults – £10
Age range: 8+
In celebration of her 90th birthday, Judith Kerr, author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and many other iconic books, talks about her life and work with Guardian children’s book editor, Julia Eccleshare.

Through her lavishly illustrated new retrospective, Judith tells her own story, and of the ‘creatures’, that spring to life from the pages of her books.

All of that and loads of creative writing workshops to boot. If you live in London I highly recommend it. Visit the website here.

Thanks to Sara Miller at the LJCC

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it: The Secret Keeper – Kate Morton

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During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, discover the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined.

The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths people go to fulfill them, and the consequences they can have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers, and schemers told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world. Image and synopsis from Goodreads (Click the Image to go there).

The Secret Keeper is another winner from Kate Morton. She has found a definitive style that suits her perfectly and creates beautiful, engrossing drama and decade-spanning mysteries. So, if it’s not broke don’t fix it right?

Usually I’m not a huge fan of shifting timelines but Morton does it so well. We start in the 1960’s when our protagonist Laurel is a teenager and witnesses her beloved mother stabbing a random man. We’re then propelled foward to the present where poor mum is approaching her 90th birthday and on her deathbed. With Laurel back to take care of her she aims to find out for once and for all what exactly happened that day. The mystery emerges bit by bit in true Morton style – by following Dolly (Laurel’s mum), through War-time London and beyond.

This is a hard book to review without just relaying the story. So much goes on but so little of it seems important without seeing the bigger picture, so it’s hard to pick out certain elements. One of my favourite things though was the description of London during the raids. The characters weren’t fazed by it because they’d become so accustomed to it. It’s funny how you can just get used to something so awful. They almost seemed immune to death and destruction which definitely helped put Dolly’s story in perspective. I also really enjoyed the family dynamics, especially Gerry, he was a lovely, complicated and quirky character.

I can’t say I was gripped the whole way through, but I certainly was for the most part. On numerous occasions I thought I knew exactly where the story was going and what the secret would be and whilst part of it was easy to guess, the final blow definitely wasn’t which made for an excellent read.

If you’ve never read any Kate Morton, I definitely recommend her work. I haven’t read every single one of her books on account that they sound so similar to each other, but the ones I have read have been really pleasant surprises.

Details:Paperback, 602 pgs. Published May 9th 2013 by Pan Books.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Unicorns
Is it a keeper? As much as I enjoyed it, I know I’ll never read it again so no. I have added it to my Book Swap List. (UK only, soz!)
If you liked this try: The House At Riverton

The Verdict: Soulless – Gail Carriger

Cheap clothing is no excuse for killing a man! Click to view on Goodreads

Cheap clothing is no excuse for killing a man!
Click to view on Goodreads

Synopsis: First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire – and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

As I mentioned before, I don’t really know anything about Steampunk. Other than the fact that it’s everywhere at the moment, I like the clothes but would never be able to pull it off and that there seems to be a whole lot of what I can only describe as gold binocular type goggles and mechanical Blimps, or Glassicles and Dirigibles as I now know them to be (see, learning). That being said, I actually really enjoyed that element of the story. It brought a new dimension to your average ‘Paranormal Romance’ genre.

Soulless is basically a sort of Victorian mystery-cum-paranormal-romance in which Miss Alexia ‘I’m the one with no soul’ Tarabotti accidentally kills a feral, unregistered vampire with her parasol. Oh, how very uncouth! This results in her spending more time with Lord Maccon of BUR – The Bureau of Unnatural Registration – whose job it is to investigate such improper occurrences. Chaos and an unlikely romance ensues. Obviously.

After the initial LOLs from the almost farcical “Victorian” language Carriger uses,(can you image a vampire saying ‘she is trying to make a funny’? No, me neither) there’s actually a lot to like in this book. Lord Maccon for one. Hot, Scottish (‘of all barbaric places’) Werewolf type who I like to picture as Simon from Biffy Clyro:

Simon 'Sexy Jesus' Neil AKA Lord Maccon.

Simon ‘Sexy Jesus’ Neil AKA Lord Maccon.

AND we later come across a character named Biffy! Coincidence? I think not!

The fact that pale girls with some flesh on their bones are the desirable ones is also a confidence booster, good work Victorians. And well , it’s all pretty funny really. I’m still not entirely sure if I was laughing at it, or with it. Probably a bit of both, but either way it brought a smile to my face.

I made some really in-depth review notes for your perusal:

Don't call him your mistress!!!

Don’t call him your mistress!!!

Excellent Vocab!

Excellent Vocab!

Angry-sticking-up-for-his-but-not-his-woman-hot-Werewolf-action!

Angry-sticking-up-for-his-but-not-his-woman-hot-Werewolf-action!

I’ll definitely have a go on the next in the series! I give it 4 Unicorns. (Out of 5 Unicorns, BTW)

Soulless is published by Orbit.