Book review of Beautifully Burned by C J Burright

Beautifully Burned (The Dreamcaster Series Book 2)

This was an interesting new kind of supernatural.  Ella, the heroine, is a dreamcaster.  Daxen, the hero, is a V’alkara.  These two different species (?) need each other, as they develop a symbiotic relationship.  A dreamcaster has uncontrollable nightmares.  Uncontrollable, that is, except by a V’alkara.  A V’alkara can manipulate nightmares and therefore turn a nightmare into something less disturbing.  In turn, the nightmare sustains the V’alkara.  Without nightmares, the V’alkara will slowly go mad.  And so too would a dreamcaster, caught in a never ending cycle of nightmares.  So they need each other.

Ella has been warned that V’alkara are the bad guys, so she doesn’t want anything to do with them.  She’s struggling to survive a relatively normal life while enduring horrific nightmares every night.  Her only remaining family, after a house fire, is her sister who is in a mental institute.

Daxon is currently using Kalila and her nightmares to sustain him, but Kalila is already bonded to Lydon, and Lydon does NOT like sharing.

When Ella is targeted, Daxon is one of those who goes to help her.  Ella eventually learns more about the V’alkara, and Daxon shows her how he can help her nightmares and how they can work together to control her dreams.  But they won’t defeat their enemies easily, and when their enemies target Ella’s sister, things get even worse.

I found this story quite fascinating.  It’s such a unique concept.  It’s not just about the dreams sustaining Daxon, but he can use facets of the dreams in real life, to fight their enemies, etc.  It’s both disturbing (in a nightmare-come-true kind of way) and intriguing.

I didn’t read the first book in the series, but it didn’t seem to affect my enjoyment of the book.  I found Daxon to be easily likeable, and all the characters were multi-dimensional.  Within the first chapter we’re already introduced to the fact that Lydon is both capable of murdering in cold blood and loving to the point of desperation, and he’s just a secondary character (although he’s the hero of the first book in the series).  Ella is the one we relate to, being more like a regular human, living a regular life but dealing with all the terrible things life throws at us.

The book is well written and easy to read.  Definitely worth checking out.

Book review of Rended Hearts by Riza Curtis

Rended Hearts

This book is centered around Gabriel, who is a witch, and Simon, who is the alpha of the local werewolf pack.  Gabriel is a loner and doesn’t associate with any other witches.  But Gabriel has something that the other witches want, so they start to wreak havoc, trying to scare Gabriel into giving them what they want.  They target the wolves, and Gabriel has to decide if he is prepared to risk the wolves’ safety or if he gives the witches what they want.

We first meet Simon when he is attacked by a witch.  He is the alpha of his pack, but he doesn’t come across as strong or confident.  Several times the author speaks of his strength and his alpha-like characteristics, but I never saw them.  Simon came across as sweet, but definitely beta.  It was a classic case of ‘Don’t tell us, show us!’ but the author never did.  This was easily my biggest gripe with the book.

Gabriel is a healer, utilising both magical and traditional methods.  We meet him when he is brought to the pack house to heal Simon after the initial attack.  Gabriel is quiet, a loner, and is content with his lot but doesn’t dare hope for happily ever after.  As the book proceeds, we see Gabriel grow in magical strength and self-confidence.  By the end of the book, I really wanted Gabriel to get the happily ever after he deserved.

There is an aspect of insta-love, on Simon’s part, as of course, there is the True Mate thing of the werewolves.  Simon falls early and hard, whereas Gabriel slowly comes to the same place (which is much more satisfying).

There were interesting twists I wasn’t expecting which kept me turning the page.  I thought the magic was well explained (while still retaining an air of mystery) and the motive for the attacks seems plausible.

Overall, I thought Gabriel was well written and a character I enjoyed reading about.  Simon let the story down, and I really felt like he needed to be stronger.  Or more interesting.  Or more…something.  He was definitely lacking something!

Candle making

Last weekend, we had another of our creative days and made candles.  This time around, it was my mum, my mother-in-law, my daughter and her friend, and a colleague from work and her daughter.  We ended up with four adults and three thirteen-year-old girls (or almost, my daughter turns 13 in June).

Although I wasn’t sure how hard it was going to be, it was ridiculously easy.  We literally melted the soy wax on the stove (we put the wax in an empty tin can to avoid ruining a good saucepan) and then sat the can in a pot of water.  A similar process to melting chocolate really.  Then we added fragrance to the melted wax, and poured it into a container which had a wick set in it.  Leave to set, and voila, you have a candle!

They didn’t take long to make, but the most fun part was definitely playing with scents, and mixing and matching to get the combinations we wanted.  I really enjoyed it.  And because each candle didn’t take long to make, it felt productive.  I guess the soap making was quite productive too.  The chocolate day felt less productive even though I think that was the longest day so far out of these creative days.

I’d wanted to make a candle for my sister who lives in the UK.  I thought I could take it over when I went over to see her in July.  So I was trying to think of what scents I could combine to make a New Zealand scented candle.  I bought these scents:
– Pennyroyal
– Wood smoke
NZ fern
Wild Piha.

The pennyroyal was my favourite.  It reminded me of freshly mown grass.  So nice. The wood smoke one was so strong (in the bottle) that I couldn’t bear it.  Ugh.  Like sniffing an ashtray almost.  Overwhelming.  The NZ fern fragrance is hard to describe, but it kind of smelled like plants and fresh air.  I guess it really did smell like NZ ferns!  Ha ha!  Piha is a beach near me.  It’s a surf beach, with quite dangerous waters for swimming, and black volcanic sand.  It’s surrounded by native bush. The scent is apparently fresh air, salt, wood, flax, palm, cannabis and wood smoke.  I didn’t like this one as much.  I’m pretty sure I could smell the cannabis in it.  *Rolleyes*

So I combined them, with just the lightest touch of the wood smoke, about half a teaspoon of all the others, and a full teaspoon of the pennyroyal.  It worked perfectly.  It smells like home.  Like the farm, minus the usual smells of cattle.  *Wink*  The main scent is obviously the pennyroyal, but beneath that, it smells…green.  It really does remind me of home, of the farm I grew up on.  I hope it does the same for my sister.  I actually liked it so much I made another one to keep for myself.2018-04-07_16-02-46_723

A year or two ago, I used to have a candle from Columbia Candles called ‘The Secret Library and Writer’s Den’.  It was a lovely, subtle scent, that reminded me of chocolate but without being too sweet.  I’d seen a few scents out there that made me think I could try and recreate it in a way, maybe as a ‘Gentlemen’s Library’ scent.  So I bought these scents:
whisky
Italian leather
– wood smoke (okay, I didn’t buy a second bottle of this, it’s the same as the one above!).

The problem was, the whisky scent was a little smokey too, and they were all strong, pungent scents.  When I combined them, in roughly equal measures, all I could smell was this incredibly pungent smokey smell.  It was awful.  I tried to dilute it with extra wax, and even added some beeswax to try and lift the scent a little, and then I had enough for two candles.  I tried to add some more top notes, and added apple and cinnamon to one, and orange to the other.  I could still only smell smoke.  I was just dumping scents in, really, trying to get rid of the smoke, to no avail.  My mother and mother-in-law said they weren’t as bad as I was making out, so I told them to take one each.  I didn’t want them.  I made another one, and left out the wood smoke scent.  That worked better, but leather and whisky on their own don’t actually make a nice smell.  So I dumped the rest of the apple and cinnamon scent in it, and then added some cinnamon and vanilla too.  It ended up quite nice, with a sort of apple pie smell, with just enough depth to keep it being too sweet.

My colleague made beach linen scented mini candles, and her daughter made white tea scented mini candles. We’d been told to leave them for two weeks for maximum effect, but my colleague told me this week she’d already started using hers, and she was really pleased with them.

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My daughter combined apple and cinnamon and cinnamon and vanilla to make a lovely apple pie scented candle.  She was really pleased with it.  She also combined Madagascar spice and dragon’s blood to make a really interesting incense-y smelling candle.

Mum made coconut lime scented candles that smelled so good I had to make one for myself. She also made a Madagascar spice one.

My mother-in-law used up scraps of existing candles that wouldn’t burn anymore, melting them down and adding scent to them.  One of the scraps was red, giving her candle a lovely pink tinge.  She went for a citrus combination, with blood orange, and I think maybe citron and mandarin.  I was inspired by this idea of melting down old candles, so I melted one I had that wouldn’t burn anymore and poured it into a smaller container with a new wick.  That was one I’d bought at Typo called ‘Calming AF’.  It was a sweet vanilla-y scent. My mother-in-law also made a dragon’s blood scented candle.

I had a ‘romance blend’ oil that was left over from an aromatherapy party I hosted about fourteen years ago.  Seriously.  It has a really strong smell, so if I use it in an oil burner, I only need a couple of drops to fill the house, so it’s lasted ages.  I used that to scent a candle, and although my mother and mother-in-law both said they didn’t like it, it was my husband’s favourite of the day.

So I ended up with a candle for my sister, two candles I gave to my mother and mother-in-law, and five candles to keep.  Plus, two candles that my daughter made.  Like I said, a very productive day!

When my mum got home, she said that not only did her car smell nice (from taking her candles home), but the one I’d given her smelled pretty good.  My sister (who hadn’t been with us) said all of Mum’s candles, including the one I gave her, smelled good.  Maybe I had wood smoke on my hands or something and that was all I could smell?  I’ll have to go to Mum’s and see what it smells like now that my whole house isn’t overpowered by overlapping scents.

Oh, and I definitely want to do this again and make more candles.  Check out these scents:
Christmas tree
Christmas hearth
Gingerbread and warm gingerbread
Brandy Snaps
Feijoa and lime meringue
Fresh bread
Kiwi pavlova
Warm bread pudding

Ha, while I was checking out new scents, I realised there was a whisky, wood smoke and leather scent. Dammit, I could have just bought one scent instead of playing with three! Ha ha!

Book review of More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer

More Than We Can Tell (Letters to the Lost #2)

Man, you know it’s a good book when you care enough about the characters to cry when they’re hurting.  This book made me cry.  More than once.  And I couldn’t put it down.  I was up until after midnight last night, my husband fast asleep beside me, and I couldn’t stop reading.  Thank god I could sleep in this morning!

The main characters are teenagers who are attending high school.  Their actual ages confused me because I’m not used to the American high school system, but I eventually worked out that they’re about 18 and 17 respectively.  With this in mind, this is not a steamy book.  If you’re after sex, find another book.  And yeah, there’s plenty of angst, but don’t panic, this is no Twilight.

Rev and Emma are two very different characters.  Rev was adopted after being abused as a child by his natural father.  I say abused, but it seems ‘tortured and mind fucked by a religious fanatic who has gone off the deep end’ would be more apt.  Seriously, tortured.  He’s been through things that most people couldn’t imagine.  The kind of things that leave scars on the outside and scars on the inside.  The kind of things that leave you wondering how you can move on to be a normal human being.

‘I’ve wondered how my father turned into the man he was. The man he is. I know about the cycle of abuse, and I’ve spent a lot of hours wondering when I would start to change.’

Rev is a truly believable character, and I think that’s what makes this book so powerful.  It’s not ridiculous over-the-top dramatics, it’s moments of self-doubt that the author puts into context.  The introduction of Rev’s foster brother, Matthew, also works really well.  We see Rev’s protectiveness, his fear, his compassion and his self-doubt, and they’re all highlighted by this other boy who has his own issues going on.

I’m trying really hard not to give too much away, so forgive me if I am being too vague!  I don’t want to ruin the story for you!

Emma is a gamer.  More than that, she’s a coder.  She wrote her own game.  At first, her worries and concerns are very relatable.  They’re the kind of concerns every teenager goes through.  Mum is too critical and doesn’t want me wasting my time on a hobby that’ll never turn into a dependable and secure income.  Dad never has time for me because he’s always working.  My friend and I are growing apart because we’re interested in completely different things.  Those kinds of things.  Even when her parents announce their divorce, this is all still within the realm of normality.  This helps balance the book somewhat because for most of us, Rev’s issues are not relatable, but we can relate to Emma and thus to her interactions with Rev.

‘He’s wearing dark jeans and a hoodie, and the hood is large enough to put his entire face in darkness. I feel like I’m talking to a Sith lord.’

There were times when I felt like slapping her for the way she spoke to her mother and her best friend, but this may have something to do with the fact that she’s the same age as my son.  Emma’s real drama starts when she encounters a troll in the game she built.  This, too, is something that many people can relate to.  I certainly can.  People who either outright bully you online, or people who pretend to be your friend and then screw you over when you least expect it.  I’ve encountered both, and the latter are heartbreaking.  Emma’s dad tells her that trolls are a matter of life in the gaming community.  Truth.  Rev tells her that the behaviour of the troll is in no way right or acceptable.  Also truth.

One of the things I liked about the book is that it acknowledges that Rev and Emma’s troubles aren’t on the same level, but that ‘it’s not a competition’.  Just because Emma’s troubles aren’t instigated by someone who literally tortured her for years, doesn’t make them trivial or less real.

The drama is not all in their heads, and there is plenty of real action and interaction, but I don’t want to give too much away.

There is definitely a romance between Rev and Emma, but by the time I was halfway through the book, I couldn’t have cared less if this was a romance or just a YA drama.  I was invested in the characters and just wanted everything to work out for them.  Rev seriously tugged at my heart strings.  I thought his parents were great too.  I know they were a little too perfect, as a foil for Rev’s natural father, but that’s okay.  It kind of felt like he deserved them after everything he’d been through.  And we know that people like them do exist.  Amazing people who do everything they can to help an abused child find safety, peace and happiness.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s definitely worth the five stars I gave it.  Sure, I could see a couple of things that could use improvement, but when I was reading at midnight with tears streaming down my face, I couldn’t have given a crap about them.  It’s a powerful read, and despite everything, it leaves you feeling like there are good people in the world, and we can be one of them.  It makes you want to reach out and give someone a hug.  Read it.