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I'm a librarian based in the UK who loves books. I'm happiest when I'm either talking about them, reading them or buying them. This blog is devoted to my addiction to YA fiction.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Review: Nobody But You - Jill Shalvis

Nobody But You by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 29th March 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
After an overseas mission goes wrong, Army Special Forces officer Jacob Kincaid knows where he must go to make things right: back home to the tiny town of Cedar Ridge, Colorado. All he needs to scrub away his dark past is fresh mountain air, a lakeside cabin, and quiet solitude. But what he discovers is a gorgeous woman living on a boat at his dock.

Sophie Marren has nowhere else to go. She's broke, intermittently seasick, and fighting a serious attraction to the dark, dishy, I'm-too-sexy-for-myself guy who's now claiming her dock. Something about Jacob's dark intensity makes her want to tease - and tempt - him beyond measure. Neither one wants to give any ground...until they realize the only true home they have is with each other.

'Nobody But You' is the third book in the Cedar Ridge series, about the elusive Kincaid brother Jacob.  I've heard a lot about him but this is the first time that he's actually appeared in the flesh.  Returning from active service, Jacob is determined to heal the rifts with his family and especially with his twin brother Hud. What he doesn't expect is to fall for sexy redhead Sophie, who has just left her cheating ex-husband and is now living on his boat. 

I really liked Jacob but I definitely found him more of a closed book than either Hud or Aidan.  It took me a lot longer to understand what made him tick and he was certainly very enigmatic.  Saying that, although he kept his feelings close to his chest, it was obvious how much he cared about his family.  However, having left them behind once before, they are wary of him hurting them again.

As well as dealing with family matters, Jacob also unexpectedly finds romance with Sophie.  Hot, hot, hot!  If you like your romance smokin', then this is the book for you.

I love the way that Jill Shalvis intertwines all the characters of Cedar Ridge, showing all the happy couples together.  It makes you want to be a part of their family and community. 

Jill Shalvis's books are the best.  I'm so glad that I discovered her and thrilled that she has such a big back catalogue for me to savour.  Her stories are always a real treat and this was no exception. 

Monday, 11 April 2016

Review: My Kind of Wonderful - Jill Shalvis

My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 22nd December 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Bailey Moore has an agenda: skiing in the Rockies, exploring castles in Europe, ballroom dancing in Argentina. Now that she has a second lease on life, she's determined not to miss a thing. What she doesn't realise is that item number one comes with a six-foot-one ski god hot enough to melt a polar ice cap. She doesn't want to miss out on him either, but Hudson Kincaid isn't the type of guy to love and let go. And as gorgeous as Cedar Ridge is, she's not planning to stick around. As head of ski patrol at his family's resort, Hud thinks he's seen it all. But never has he run into someone like Bailey. She might look delicate, but her attitude is all firecracker. And her infectious joy touches something deep within him that he's been missing far too long. Now he'll just have to convince Bailey to take a chance on her biggest adventure yet . . . something rare and all kinds of wonderful.

Jill Shalvis's books are my happy place.  I adore her writing and they always give me a much needed injection of romance with a guaranteed happy ending.  Her stories are dreamy, her couples are always perfectly matched (even if they don't always realise it!), there are obstacles to overcome which make the resolution even more satisfactory and they always leave me with a smile on my face. 

'My Kind of Wonderful' is the second book in the Cedar Ridge series and is centred around Hudson Kincaid, ski patroller extraordinaire and the Prince Charming to artist Bailey, who arrives in Cedar Ridge to paint a family mural at the ski lodge.  Hud falls hook, line and sinker for Bailey, who has recently determined to live her life to the full, embracing new experiences and taking chances.  After having overcome illness, Bailey wants to grasp her future with both hands and with no holding back.  I adored Bailey's outlook on life.  Now she has been given the all clear by her doctors and is finally healthy, she is determined to really go for what she wants - and that includes Hud.

I loved both central characters and I was rooting for them from the start.  I also enjoyed getting to see all of Hud's extended family again too, particularly Aidan and Lily who featured heavily in the first book in the series.  Gray and Penny always make me laugh, so it was great seeing them as well. 

This book left me feeling all warm and fuzzy.  A perfect read to devour while curled up by the fire in a comfy chair and with a big mug of hot chocolate and marshmallows.  Jill Shalvis has most definitely done it again!  Fans are in for a real treat!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Review: What I Thought Was True - Huntley Fitzpatrick

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick, published by Electric Monkey on 7th April 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Gwen Castle has never so badly wanted to say good-bye to her island home till now: the summer her Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, takes a job there as the local yard boy. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

This is the second book I've read by Huntley Fitzpatrick.  I was expecting something in the same vein as 'Open Road Summer' but I found that this story was quite different.  Rather than being the easy breezy summery read that I was expecting, it turned out to be something altogether more serious, dealing with complex issues involving families and friends. 

The story is set on Seashell Island - a picture perfect place where the main character Gwen Castle lives with her family.  Gwen is trying to forget her 'big mistake', when he turns out to be the new yard boy for the summer on the island.  Suddenly Cass is everywhere and impossible for Gwen to avoid any longer.  From the start of the book, it is made obvious that something happened between the two characters which they have not been able to properly move past.  I guessed what it might be but I think the truth should have been dealt with sooner, rather than being strung out until nearly the end.  The revelation wasn't as big or as shocking as I was expecting it to be, even though it did seem out of character for Gwen. 

Gwen and Cass are both quite mixed-up, stumbling over mistakes they have made and uncertain of how the other person really feels.  I thought that they were interesting characters but I didn't feel any great warmth towards either of them.  I actually found the relationship between Gwen's cousin Nic and her best friend Viv much more intriguing, as they try and face up to the decisions they have to make about their future and how these will affect them as a couple.  Everyone is adjusting to what awaits them around the next corner and facing great uncertainty about their next steps.

I did struggle with the extremely slow pace of the story and the fact that nothing really substantial actually happens until very near the end.  At that point, I have to be honest and say that I had almost lost focus by then on what was actually going on.  I was disappointed that I didn't enjoy this book more but I'll keep my fingers crossed for Huntley Fitzpatrick's next one. 

Monday, 4 April 2016

Review: Bullet Catcher - Joaquin Lowe

Bullet Catcher by Joaquin Lowe, published by Hot Key Books on 4th February 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
In the small town of Sand, populated by gunslingers and surrounded by endless desert, Imma washes dishes and grieves for a life she never had. She and her brother, Nikko, dreamed of escaping to become bullet catchers, a legendary band of outlaws who can deflect bullets with their hands. But they were wiped out years ago, Nikko with them. And leaving is impossible when walking into the desert means certain death.

When she sees a stranger catch a man's bullet and turn it back on him, Imma knows it can only mean one thing: the bullet catchers live on, and this is her way out. Determined to follow him, Imma starts a journey that will take her to her physical extremes and force her to question just what family means and who she really is: bullet catcher or gunslinger; hero or monster.  

'Bullet Catcher' was a brilliant read, based around a unique plot which was totally different to most of the other Young Adult books around at the moment.  Very refreshing.  It was gritty and exciting, placing the characters in life and death situations where there was no easy way out.  As I was reading it, I couldn't help but think that it would make a fantastic book-to-film adaptation.  A western for teens with a strong female heroine. 

The story unfolds with the main character Imma, longing to escape her pitiful existence in the small town of Sand.  When she sees a chance for a different future for herself, she grabs it and follows a mysterious bullet catcher out of town and across the desert.  Her fate inexplicably linked to his, she has no idea that difficult choices await her as she starts out on a journey that she can't turn back from. 

I loved the idea of bullet catchers - people who can catch bullets and turn them back on those who fired them.  How cool is that?!  The concept is so original and different.  Imma has to choose between this life and that as a gunslinger.  It's great that these roles are not barred from females, who can equally do everything that a man can do.   

Joaquin Lowe has ensured that the reader stays gripped from start to finish.  Family ties are forged and broken, alliances are made and forgotten as everything is put on the line in the fight for survival. This was a fantastic read which I would definitely recommend to male and female readers alike. I haven't heard anything about a sequel but the story was left open-ended, so I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that there will be another book in the series very soon. 

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Review: When We Collided - Emery Lord

When We Collided by Emery Lord, published by Bloomsbury on 7th April 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.

Vivi and Jonah couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility for his family ever since his father died. As summer begins, Jonah resigns himself to another season of getting by. Then Vivi arrives, and suddenly life seems brighter and better. Jonah is the perfect project for Vivi, and things finally feel right for Jonah. Their love is the answer to everything. But soon Vivi's zest for life falters, as her adventurousness becomes true danger-seeking. Jonah tries to keep her safe, but there's something important Vivi hasn't told him.

This is the second book I’ve read by Emery Lord. The first was ‘Open Road Summer’ which I thoroughly enjoyed so I was looking forward to more of the same. The first thing I realised is that ‘When We Collided’ is very, very different. It deals with some heavy themes and the feel of the book is much more serious. Mental health is a big issue in the story. This is something which I don’t think is explored enough in YA novels, so a big hurrah to Emery Lord for showcasing this in her book. The main character Vivi is bipolar and is still trying to come to grips with this. We know that something happened in her past which she doesn’t want to talk about, but it’s not revealed what this is until near the end. Vivi has glorious highs and terrible lows but she is learning to manage on a day to day basis. What’s most important to her though is that she is able to feel, rather than have her emotions blunted.

When she and her mother move to Verona Cove, she meets local boy Jonah who will literally make you swoon. He’s cute, he’s kind and he bakes. What more could you ask for?! Jonah is dealing with his own problems when Vivi comes into his life. He is helping to take care of his siblings and his grieving mother, as well as trying to figure out what he wants to do next. The two are almost complete opposites but are also just what the other is looking for. Their relationships helps them to make more sense of their lives. Whereas I loved Jonah on sight, I’ll admit that it took much longer for me to warm up to Vivi. She is pretty full on when we first meet her and I didn’t necessarily find her impulsiveness appealing at the start. I did however think that her character was depicted really well. Although I didn’t want to make her my instant new best friend, Lord has done a good job of presenting her. She flares brightly and then burns out – an accurate depiction of the highs and lows that she experiences.

Each chapter alternates between the narrative of Vivi and Jonah. Jonah’s chapters were my favourite! I loved seeing his huge family and the way he looked after his younger siblings. He has had to take on a huge amount of responsibility after the death of his father, but he is doing a great job holding everything together. At times, I wasn’t sure if Vivi really was the best thing for him, but I’d changed my mind by the end.

‘When We Collided’ was a different book to the one I was expecting. It dealt with a difficult subject matter but in a positive way. It showed that even people struggling with mental health issues, can still experience life to the full. I wish that I had liked Vivi more, as this would be my only fault with the book, but I’m sure there are a lot of readers who will love her attitude to life. I really enjoy Emery Lord’s writing and I will definitely be looking out for more by her in the future.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Review: Jolly Foul Play - Robin Stevens

Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens, published by Puffin on 24th March 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have returned to Deepdean for a new school term, but nothing is the same. There's a new Head Girl, Elizabeth Hurst, and a team of Prefects - and these bullying Big Girls are certainly not good eggs.

Then, after the fireworks display on Bonfire Night, Elizabeth is found - murdered.

Many girls at Deepdean had reason to hate Elizabeth, but who might have committed such foul play? Could the murder be linked to the secrets and scandals, scribbled on scraps of paper, that are suddenly appearing around the school? And with their own friendship falling to pieces, how will Daisy and Hazel solve this mystery?

I was beyond excited to start reading ‘Jolly Foul Play’ by Robin Stevens. I’ve been on a bit of a crime kick lately and this series is one of the best. Wells and Wong return to investigate another crime, but this time they have their friends on hand for assistance. The setting of the book is glorious. Deepdean Boarding School is their home away from home. It’s the place where they can enjoy midnight feasts and tuck boxes filled to the brim with an assortment of sweet treats. It’s also, unfortunately, the scene of the crime. I love, no make that adore, stories which are set in boarding schools, so I was really pleased to see Robin Stevens revisiting the place where Hazel and Daisy’s detective society adventures first started.

A lot has happened since those early days. The two girls have solved crime in Daisy’s own home, as well as on board the Orient Express. They have formed a close bond, which this time is tested by another of Hazel’s friendships. Can they still manage to stick together through thick and thin to bring justice to Deepdean? It was interesting to see friction developing between the girls. They are very different characters but their personality traits have always worked well to complement each other. Hazel often has to take a bit of a backseat to Daisy who is more impulsive and headstrong but she has her own unique gifts which often have helped them to crack a case open. Although they are my two favourites, I really enjoyed getting to see their other friends become involved in helping them with the mystery too. Beanie is so sweet and good and Kitty and Lavinia are great side-kicks to have. They all have an important role to play in catching the guilty party.

As the story unravels, all the clues are laid out for the reader to follow. One of the things I enjoy the most is seeing if I can piece everything together and come up with my own theory about what happened and who was involved. Sometimes, I’m right but usually I’m way off the mark. It doesn’t matter though, it’s all part of the fun! There are lots of twists and turns and red herrings as the gang try to eliminate suspects one by one. As Society secretary, Hazel keeps comprehensive notes of the case and these always make great reading, as well as being extremely helpful.

Robin Stevens has done it again with another truly fantastic instalment of the Murder Most Unladylike series. I cannot get enough of these books and seeing the way the story ended, I have a feeling that the next one is going to be another rollicking ride. I can’t wait to join Hazel and Daisy again!          

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Review: Rebel of the Sands - Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, published by Faber on 4th February 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

This is the first in a trilogy by debut author Alwyn Hamilton.  I wanted to love it so much!  The pre-publicity buzz has been stellar and it sounded exactly like the sort of story that I usually enjoy - a YA story with a strong female character at its centre, magical djinnis, a desert setting and an epic romance.  It should have knocked me off my feet...but sadly it didn't.

I know so many other readers have enjoyed this book, so I think that I'm among the minority that didn't.  The first chapter got off to a great start and thinks were looking good, but it didn't push on from there.  I found that the first half was extremely slow, there were too many fantasy elements layered together and I failed to feel any romantic sparks at all between the two leads. 

The main character Amani, wants to escape her home of Dustwalk and the fate that awaits her there.  She is tough and fierce and determined to find a new life for herself whatever it takes.  Set in the swirling desert, Amani flees with a mysterious foreigner by her side.  Danger and adventure lie ahead of them. 

Sadly, although the premise sounds great, fantastic in fact, this one just wasn't for me.  It promised so much but failed to deliver the knockout punch that I was looking for.  Admittedly, it did pick up a little right at the end, but I'm not sure that I have much interest at all in reading the sequel.   
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