Thursday 22 December 2022

Book Review | A Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict | prettylittlewriter

Twelve clues.
Twelve keys.
Twelve days of Christmas.
But who will survive until Twelfth Night?

Lily Armitage never intended to return to Endgame House - the grand family home where her mother died twenty-one Christmases ago. Until she receives a letter from her aunt, asking her to return to take part in an annual tradition: the Christmas Game. The challenge? Solve twelve clues, to find twelve keys. The prize? The deeds to the manor house.

Lily has no desire to win the house. But her aunt makes one more promise: The clues will also reveal who really killed Lily's mother all those years ago.

So, for the twelve days of Christmas, Lily must stay at Endgame House with her estranged cousins and unravel the riddles that hold the key not just to the family home, but to its darkest secrets. However, it soon becomes clear that her cousins all have their own reasons for wanting to win the house - and not all of them are playing fair.

As a snowstorm cuts them off from the village, the game turns deadly. Soon Lily realises that she is no longer fighting for an inheritance, but for her life.

This Christmas is to die for . . . Let the game begin’

I thought this was very cleverly done!

Although it wasn’t festive in the traditional sense, the use of the Twelve Days of Christmas within the game and the addition of a full on snow storm certainly reminded you that it was Christmas!


Each character was intriguing, and I really did feel for Lily, losing her Mother so young and not really knowing the truth surrounding her death most of her life, to then losing her Aunt, who was a second Mum to her, she’d had an extremely difficult life. There were other characters that I really liked too, such as Ronnie and Rachel, but also one that I despised all the way until the end *ahem* Sara. Each of them had their own unique reasons for being at the house to participate in the game, but not all of them were obvious reasons until the end of the story.


The murder aspect itself was quite brutal, with 3 or 4 murders taking place within the story. I went in expecting it to just be figuring out the murder of Lily’s mum, not a bunch of her family members also getting killed off! The only thing I didn’t like with this was the sense of ‘un-urgency’ from most of the characters once the murders started. Yes they couldn’t leave due to the snow (or call anyone), but none of them really seemed that panicked to say that they were being picked off one by one!

It was also very convenient that the house had an ‘ice house’ for the dead bodies that were piling up!


I did manage to guess who the main baddie was quite quickly, as a certain ‘tryst’ gave it away for me. Although it was obvious, it was also saddening as I liked the character!

Although I thought this was easy to guess, it still made for an incredibly interesting read, and I found it thrilling trying to solve the sonnets along with the characters (although I never actually managed that; anagrams aren’t my strong point!). I also loved that Alexandra included a couple of separate games for the reader to figure out along the way too, anything that gets the reader involved is brilliant to me!


Overall an intriguing mystery, with cleverly written sonnets and some great characters. It’s also quite an easy read as the chapters aren’t too long and the writing fairly big so I got through this quickly!

4/5 stars

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Book Review | A Merry Little Meet Cute by Julie Murphy & Sierra Simone | prettylittlewriter

‘Bee Hobbes (aka Bianca Von Honey) has a successful career as a plus-size adult film star. With a huge following and two supportive moms, Bee couldn’t ask for more. But when Bee’s favorite producer casts her to star in a Christmas movie he’s making for the squeaky-clean Hope Channel, Bee’s career is about to take a more family-friendly direction.

Forced to keep her work as Bianca under wraps, Bee quickly learns this is a task a lot easier said than done. Though it all becomes worthwhile when she discovers her co-star is none other than childhood crush Nolan Shaw, an ex-boy band member in desperate need of career rehab. Nolan’s promised his bulldog manager to keep it zipped up on set, and he will if it means he’ll be able to provide a more stable living situation for his sister and mom.

But things heat up quickly in Christmas Notch, Vermont, when Nolan recognizes his new co-star from her ClosedDoors account (oh yeah, he’s a member). Now Bee and Nolan are sneaking off for quickies on set, keeping their new relationship a secret from the Hope Channel’s execs. Things only get trickier when the reporter who torpedoed Nolan’s singing career comes snooping around—and takes an instant interest in mysterious newcomer Bee.

And if Bee and Nolan can’t keep their off-camera romance behind the scenes, then this merry little meet cute might end up on the cutting room floor.’

This was an unexpected read. I picked it up seeing the gorgeous and cutesy cover, thinking it was going to be the perfect romcom for the holiday season. And then I read the blurb. Pornstars. It contains pornstars.

Now, there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with pornstars or books about pornstars, it was just NOT what I expected from the cover at all!


The storyline itself is actually very well done and a refreshing take on the adult industry, showcasing that adult film actors are real people after all, with real feelings. There was a lot of body positivity too, which I thought was wonderful. The MC Bee being plus size is very inspiring, and I loved that although they touched upon her having a lot of assumptions about her and a lot a body-shaming too, her size wasn’t mentioned that often. For example, during the sex scenes with Nolan, there was no mention of her size whatsoever, which is how it should be. Bigger women are women at the end of the day, and size shouldn’t matter. (I’ve seen a couple of reviews on goodreads stating they mentioned the plus size stuff too often, but I don’t agree).


Nolan is a lovely character, a real sweetheart just trying to do his best for his family. Although he had a wild side when he was younger, and in boyband INK, it seems it was all just normal young guy stuff that he got himself into, and he was still a good guy throughout (the Duluth scandal truth came out and proves this).

I did however, think that the mention of him being bi-sexual quite a lot wasn’t needed. It was often mentioned in specific terms that he was bi, whereas it could have just been a simple mention of a hook up with certain people (which may or may not have included his former band members).


For a book that is about the adult industry, there actually wasn’t a lot of sex involved. There were a couple of wonderful sex scenes between Bee and Nolan, but it definitely wasn’t an overload of sexy moments, which I had expectations for after reading the blurb.


I was happy with the outcome of the novel, and I did enjoy the read and the characters, however, I will say that I didn’t feel connected to the characters that much, unlike other romcoms I’ve really enjoyed. Maybe because I’m an ordinary person, not an aspiring actress or former band member.


Overall, a very festive and romantic story, with a little sprinkling of spice, and it was enjoyable, but just didn’t give me many feels. There also wasn’t a meet cute, so the title is a little misleading!


3/5 stars

Tuesday 13 December 2022

Book Review | Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar | prettylittlewriter

‘There’s nothing Marietta Stelle loves more than ballet, but after Christmas, her dreams will be over as she is obligated to take her place in Edwardian society. While she is chafing against such suffocating traditions, a mysterious man purchases the neighbouring townhouse. Dr Drosselmeier is a charming but calculating figure who wins over the rest of the Stelle family with his enchanting toys and wondrous mechanisms.

When Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate set for Marietta’s final ballet performance, she discovers it carries a magic all of its own. On the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, she is transported to a snowy forest, where she encounters danger at every turn: ice giants, shadow goblins and the shrieking mist all lurk amidst the firs and frozen waterfalls and ice cliffs. After being rescued by the butterscotch-eyed captain of the king’s guard, she is escorted to the frozen sugar palace. At once, Marietta is enchanted by this glittering world of glamorous gowns, gingerbread houses, miniature reindeer and the most delicious confectionary.

But all is not as it seems and Marietta is soon trapped in the sumptuous palace by the sadistic King Gelum, who claims her as his own. She is confined to a gilded prison with his other pets; Dellara, whose words are as sharp as her teeth, and Pirlipata, a princess from another land. Marietta must forge an alliance with the two women to carve a way free from this sugar-coated but treacherous world and back home to follow her dreams. Yet in a hedonistic world brimming with rebellion and a forbidden romance that risks everything, such a path will never be easy.’

This is an absolutely beautiful story. Kuzniar has created this wonderful magical world full of hope and desire, with some dark and twisted secrets. The Nutcracker meets Hansel and Gretel & The Lion the Witch & the Wardrobe vibes.  


Marietta is a wonderful character, full of passion and love for Ballet, desperate for a chance to break free from her ‘gilded cage’ within society. When she meets the wondrous Dr Drosselmeier and his magical inventions, both Marietta and her family are taken in by him. That is until he shows her his true colours after she declines his marriage proposal. Marietta escapes his grasp by locking herself inside a grandfather clock that he has created for her Sleeping Beauty performance on Christmas Day, but instead of being trapped inside a small wooden structure, she finds herself wandering into a new world, which is full of wondrous magic, sweet scents and complicated characters.


This world might have Marietta in awe at the start, but there are some dark and scary parts of Everwood, especially the forest, so when she is found stumbling around the woods by soldiers, she is taken to the palace and greeted by King Golem. If you thought Drosselmeier was bad, prepare yourself for the wrath of King Golem.


Every description of Everwood is incredibly lyrical, and I genuinely could picture almost everything that was described, from the pools with toffee scented bubbles, to the dresses covered in frosting and walls made from peppermint.

It felt so magical and without the terribly scary parts/people, I think it would be a wonderful place to live.


The storyline had me hooked very quickly, my empathy for Marietta and her plight, alongside her brother Frederick, kept me praying they would both escape their makeshift prisons.


When Marietta met Captain Legat and the other soldiers, I was expecting her to fall for one of them, but Legat himself was not the initial character I expected. But as the story progressed, I hoped so strongly that they would be able to be together, waiting with anticipation for them to have their first kiss.


Marietta also made some incredibly wonderful friends in Dellara and Pirlipata, and I was in awe of their friendship and protectiveness towards each other.


The only thing I was a little sad about was the ending. It wasn’t the magical romantic happy ending I was hoping for (I was very invested in Marietta’s love life by the end) but I was very glad that Marietta had her own solo happy ending.  


I won’t go into any further details, as I don’t want to spoil too much, but I would honestly recommend this book 1000% to anyone that love YA fairytale-esque stories, it truly was a wonderful read and I really hope that Maria delves back into this world again!


5/5 stars

Thursday 8 December 2022

Book Review | With This Kiss by Carrie Hope Fletcher | prettylittlewriter

From the outside, Lorelai is an ordinary young woman with a normal life. She loves reading, she works at the local cinema and she adores living with her best friend. But she carries a painful burden, something she’s kept hidden for years; whenever she kisses someone on the lips, she sees how they are going to die. But she’s never known if she’s seeing what was always meant to be, or if her kiss is the thing that decides their destiny. And so, she hasn’t kissed anyone since she was sixteen.

Then she meets Grayson. Sweet, clever, funny Grayson. And for the first time in years she yearns for a man’s kiss. But she can’t… or can she? And if she does, should she try to intervene and change what she sees?’

I really enjoyed this book! It was such a light and easy read, with the writing quite simplistic to keep things flowing well and just makes you want to keep on reading.

I loved the characters of Lorelie and Grayson, and also her brilliant friend Joanie, who was there for her through Lorelie’s worst moments (even when she blows up at her in frustration).

Riggs is a character that had a brilliant arc, seemingly having the worst breakdown but then picking himself back up. Although I wasn’t best pleased that his assault on Lorelie was passed off by him as ‘I’m drunk, sorry’.


One thing I found incredibly frustrating was how often Lorelie chopped and changed with how she wanted to act around Grayson. One minute she couldn’t possibly let herself like him, then she was leading him on, then she was saying yes let’s try it, and then she was running away! Make up your mind woman, either see how things go, practice the kissing/predictions thing and see if things change, or don’t, and leave the poor man alone. It was infuriating! Especially when she’d had a practice run already with James, and she knew that it was possible to change what she had seen.

When she did finally kiss Grayson and she saw his death, she should have straight away told him not to get on a plane, but instead she ran away (again!) with no explanation for him, even though she’d told him she would explain things. I just found myself getting very annoyed.


I did however, also find myself chuckling away too. Carrie has created some very loveable characters, especially Joanie and Grayson, and their humour was brilliantly done.


I was also quite disappointed that nothing evolved with Lorelie’s pursuit of her dreams to be screenwriter. Carrie started off making a big deal about how much Lorelie loved to write book to movie adaptations, and that it was her dream etc, but then it never goes anywhere, and we don’t see Lorelie get anywhere near her dream.


I did also guess quite quickly that Lorelie wasn’t going to be the only one in the family that had her ‘gift’.


Overall, I did really enjoy the book, there were just some frustrating parts to it and I was a little sad that her relationship with Grayson had only just begun at the end of the novel, so we didn’t really get to see their relationship in action.


3.5/5 stars

Thursday 1 December 2022

Book Review | Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman | prettylittlewriter

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic...’

This was a very hard-going novel. Not because it was bad per-say, but because there were NO CHAPTERS. The book had sections, and within those sections, there was maybe one or two parts where the section had a ‘pause’ between each paragraph, but otherwise, they were complete full longass paragraphs that are SO hard for me to end with, I like to finish reading once I’ve completed chapter. Therefore, this book has taken me a long time to finish (I did read another book in-between as I had a book tour review to do also).

I don’t often say this, but this was definitely a case of ‘prefer the movie to the book’! I don’t know for sure if it’s because I’ve been watching the movie religiously for years every spooky season, but the movie is a lot less harsh on the characters, and I found myself disliking certain characters within the book too that I actually really like in the movie.

For example, Sally’s children. We don’t really see a lot of them in the movie, and when we do they are very sweet and kind characters, and quite young. Within the novel however, Antonia is a bitch throughout to her younger sister Kylie, and Kylie also turns into a bit of a bitch as she starts treating both her Mum and Aunt by pranking Gillian when she gets a boyfriend (out of spite and jealously) and verbally abusing her mum constantly.

One thing that was really prominent throughout is how much emphasis is put on beauty within the novel. Each character have moments where they do not think they are good enough because of their beauty, they have either made a change, or because they aren’t getting attention from a man they are no longer good enough. It was quite difficult to read some of these parts as it made me quite angry!

In the movie, we all knew Gillian was beautiful, with her doe eyes and stunning hair, but it wasn’t what the whole story was about, they made it more about what had happened to Gillian in the hands of Jimmy, and learning to grow and find love again, especially with Sally after losing her husband.

This was another thing that I was really upset about within this novel. We were introduced to the curse on the Owen’s love life, as Sally’s husband died with the beetle around, but then the curse was never mentioned again; but Gillian fell in love and got married again, and then Sally also eventually fell in love with someone again too. At least within the movie, it seemed that Sally broke the curse once she met the man that she had wished for as a child, the man that she created that shouldn’t have existed, but did. There just seemed to be no explanation and no rhyme or reason for the curse the exist if it wasn’t going to be broken.

I was however, pleased that Gillian found love again within the book, and Ben seemed like the perfect man for her. We also didn’t really get much from the relationship between Sally and Gary. We did get certain parts of the novel from Gary’s POV and his attraction to Sally, but the development of their relationship after their first two interactions was very sparce.

The book is actually very dark compared to the movie, with some quite upsetting scenes, including unwanted sexual advances towards a child, so this surprised me as the movie feels to me like a cup of warm cocoa on a cold autumn night. It makes me feel cosy, and happy, whereas reading this book, I was often quite upset for the characters, and furious.

The book was very well written, with some great descriptions of the characters and their surroundings, I felt like I could see Sally’s home quite clearly in my mind, and also Jimmy’s oldsmobile. You could feel the magical elements of the novel emanating from the book, like magic was absolutely everywhere and you could turn away from the book with your own magical powers, which was a very beautiful feeling.

I think Alice is a very talented writer, and I’m sure a lot of people absolutely adore this book, especially if they haven’t watched the movie, however, I just can’t get on board with it. It’s too different, I love the movie way too much, Gillian was a spoilt brat throughout the novel, and although she was a bit wild and a free bird in the movie, at least she was likeable and you felt sorry for her!

So overall, personally, I did slightly enjoyed the novel, certain parts of it were good and I liked having a little more depth to the characters, but personally, I love the movie way too much to really rate this more than a 3 star, and I felt there were lots of really dark and harsh parts within the novel that I didn’t really enjoy.

3/5 stars