Monday, 28 December 2015

My Favourite Books of 2015

2015 has been another year of ups and downs reading wise.  I have come across some absolute standout titles but I have also failed to be wowed by quite a number of the books I've read this year.  This meant that for once, it was actually pretty easy to pick my top ten books of the year.  Normally I change my mind half a dozen times but these titles really stood out in my mind and quite quickly made my favourites list.      

So without further ado, here's my 2015 top ten list.  These are in no particular order and have not necessarily been published this year.

1. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury
A perfect conclusion to the series.  Sarah J. Maas pulled out all the stops in this final instalment.  I practically devoured this book in one sitting and now can't wait for more future titles by one of my favourite authors.    
2. Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson
Published by Simon and Schuster
I am a huge fan of Sarah Alderson and this book is one of my favourite of her novels.  Exciting, tense and gripping it knocked my socks off.   
  3. Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot
Published by Macmillan
The return of Mia, Crown Princess of Genovia!  It was fantastic getting to catch-up with Mia and Michael and find out what had happened to them after the conclusion of the Princess Diaries books. 
 4. Monster by C. J. Skuse
Published by Mira Ink
There is no doubt that this is a five star read and might actually grab the very top spot in my 2015 list.  I literally could not put this book down and I was gripped by all the twists and turns.  The ending was absolutely explosive and I've since recommended to everyone.  A must read. 

  5. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury
Sarah J. Maas is the only author to have two books in my top ten list.  This is the first title in her new series and was yet another standout.  Her writing is incredible, her characters are fantastic and I'm always left wanting more. 
 6. First Class Murder by Robin Stevens
Published by Corgi
A new series which has become a firm favourite.  I love the Wells and Wong mysteries and it's become the event of the year when a new instalment is published. 
 7. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
Published by Corgi
A superb debut novel.  I really enjoyed 'Everything Everything' which I found thoroughly engrossing and captivating.  This is an author that I will be keeping my eye on in the future.   
 8. Jane by April Lindner
Published by Poppy
This was published in 2010 and I've had it sitting on my bookshelf for a few years.  I finally got around to picking it up and then wished I hadn't waited such a long time before reading it.  A brilliant contemporary retelling of Jane Eyre, I enjoyed every second of this one.  I'm going to track down and buy the whole of April Lindner's back catalogue now. 
 9. The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Published by Atom
Another one that took me years to read!  I recently saw the film, so thought it was about time that I also read the book.  Loved it. 
 10. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Published by Penguin
This book divided opinion among critics and readers.  I'm firmly on the side of those people that deemed it an instant classic.   
Comment and let me know if you've read any of these and what your personal favourites of 2015 were.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

What I'll be reading during the Christmas holiday

Life has been so busy lately that reading seems to have slipped a bit over the last month.  I'm really looking forward to having a two week Christmas break and getting stuck into some of the lovely January releases that I've been sent.  There are some crackers here which I'm very excited about!

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick (published by Electric Monkey on 7th January)
This is my first book by Huntley Fitzpatrick and it sounds absolutely brilliant.  Plus the main character and I share the same first name!

Front Lines by Michael Grant (published by Electric Monkey on 28th January)
A new Michael Grant book is always a reason to celebrate.  I love the plot of 'Front Lines' which reimagines World War II with females fighting alongside men on the front line.

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gaviel Savit (published by Bodley Head on 28th January)
Another World War II novel, this has been described as in the same vein as 'The Book Thief'.  It's also a debut novel which I think is going to be a little gem of a book. 

Waiting for Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill (published by Simon and Schuster on 28th January)
Written by a mother and daughter team, this one sounds incredibly funny.  I think there are going to be lots of giggles in store for readers. 

All the Rage by Courtney Summers (published by Macmillan Children's Books on 28th January)
I'm expecting this to be a powerful and deeply moving read.  I also think it will also throw up lots of challenging questions. 

Oblivion by Jennifer L. Armentrout (published by Hodder on 3rd December)
This is going to be top of my Christmas reading list.  A new novel about Daemon and Katy but from the point of view of Daemon.  I seriously can't wait to get started on this one!  Plus just look at that cover - gorgeous!

How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss (published by Simon and Schuster on 31st December)
'The Year of the Rat' was so good that this title has a lot to live up to.  I'm expecting this one to make me cry buckets. 

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil (published by Stripes on 11th February)
Aussie YA!  The reviews I've read of this book have been positively glowing so I'm sure this will be a brilliant read. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

Review: Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, published by Corgi on 3rd September 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone?

Nicola Yoon's debut novel is an extraordinary book.  The story was so captivating that I read it in one sitting, unable to tear myself away from it's pages.  It's emotional, beautiful, sad and hopeful all at the same time.  It is a book that I will be recommending to everyone I know.  I actually haven't read many books this year which have totally blown me away but this one definitely did.  I absolutely loved it!

The main character Maddy, is an eighteen year old girl unable to leave her house.  Protected by the four walls around her and by her mother and nurse, she has never known any other kind of life.  When new neighbours move in, Maddy forms a life-changing friendship with Olly, the boy next door.  When friendship turns to love, Maddy's world changes and she suddenly has some tough choices to make about her future.  This story definitely posed some interesting questions about love and life which resonated with me a lot and which I found incredibly moving at times. 

The relationship between Maddy and Olly is something special and was beautifully conveyed.  They have an incredible bond which opens both their eyes and makes them consider what really matters to them both.  I felt the intensity which they share and the depth of feeling which lies between them. 

I did not see the HUGE twist coming at the end of the story but it was absolute genius.  It turned everything upside down and posed an interesting dilemma for the characters. 

I loved all the artwork and illustrations that accompany Maddy's story too.  These really enriched the book and were created by Nicola Yoon's husband David.

A stellar five star read which rescued me from a long reading slump!  

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Review: The Complete Peter Pan - J.M. Barrie

The Complete Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, published by Alma Classics on 15th October 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
The boy who wouldn't grow up, Peter Pan has the power of flight and lives on a magical island. But he is fascinated by Mary Darling's bedtime stories for her children and makes covert night-time visits to their Bloomsbury home. One evening he loses his shadow, and after Mary's daughter Wendy helps him reattach it, he invites her to fly away with him on an extraordinary adventure.

This is the perfect edition for any Peter Pan fans' collection.  A truly lovely edition which would also make the perfect Christmas stocking filler. 

In addition to the novel Peter and Wendy, this edition also includes Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and the play Peter Pan. Plus, it features lovely illustrations by Joel Stewart.  I hadn't actually read the Kensington Gardens story before so it was nice to read something new about such a classic tale. 

I have read Peter Pan itself so many times before, but it was super to hold such a fine edition in my hands and revisit the wonderful world of Neverland.  I never tire of reading about Peter's adventures with the faithful Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys by his side and I'm sure this book will introduce many more children to such a classic tale of adventure.  

Monday, 23 November 2015

Review: These Shallow Graves - Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, published by Hot Key Books on 27th October 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Set in gilded age New York, These Shallow Graves follows the story of Josephine Montfort, an American aristocrat. Jo lives a life of old-money ease. Not much is expected of her other than to look good and marry well. But when her father dies due to an accidental gunshot, the gilding on Jo’s world starts to tarnish. With the help of a handsome and brash reporter, and a young medical student who moonlights in the city morgue, Jo uncovers the truth behind her father’s death and learns that if you’re going to bury the past, you’d better bury it deep.

'These Shallow Graves' is a Victorian murder mystery, featuring feisty young heroine Josephine Montfort, or Jo as she likes to be known.  Jo's father dies at the beginning of the story and she takes it into her own hands to find out the truth about his death, helped along the way by handsome journalist Eddie. 

The setting for the story is New York, 1890.  I thought that Jennifer Donnelly did a really good job of incorporating a sense of the atmosphere of the period.  Women did not have many rights beyond working if they were poor and marrying if they were rich.  Jo subverts the line between the two by coming from a wealthy and privileged background, but she also wants to pursue her own dreams which are far greater than simply being a wife.  She is an interesting heroine because she is incredibly ambitious for the time and refuses to stop throwing herself into the path of danger if it means she will discover answers to the elusive questions the story poses.   

I enjoyed the way that Jo peeled away the layers of mystery and intrigue to gradually piece together the truth about her father and what really happened to him.  I love a good murder mystery and this one kept me on my toes. 

This was quite a long book at nearly 500 pages.  I found it quite slow in places at the beginning and I'll admit that I nearly gave up on reading it at one point but it picked up considerably as the pieces of the mystery began to come together.  I do think that the plot could have been tighter and there were some elements which didn't altogether work for me but there was a lot I liked to.  I don't feel that this was a very memorable read but if you enjoy historical murder mysteries then it's definitely worth a try. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Blog Tour: Dangerous Lies - Becca Fitzpatrick

Becca Fitzpatrick has stopped by A Dream of Books today to provide some advice for teens. 

On being a teen or advice for teens

In my writing I tend to draw, at least in bits and pieces, on my own teen years. In Dangerous Lies I based Chet Falconer, the story's hero, on my high school boyfriend. I had a great high school boyfriend. He was kind, smart, athletic, good looking. At the time, I wondered why he was with me. Girls would come up to me at school and say things like, “Is he really with you?” and it made me more insecure. I think teens can be really hard on themselves. We're very critical of every perceived flaw. Recently, a friend from high school contacted me and said, “You had everything. I wanted to be you.” I was baffled.

Moral of the story: Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Focus on your good qualities, because someone out there sees them.

Becca's new book 'Dangerous Lies' (published by Simon and Schuster) is out now. 

Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.  After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.  As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the stops on the 'Dangerous Lies' blog tour. There are some great posts still to look forward to. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Review: Can We Live Here? - Sarah Alderson

Can We Live Here? by Sarah Alderson, published by Blink on 6th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
In 2009, Sarah and John Alderson quit their full-time jobs in London and headed off, with Alula, their three-year-old daughter, on a global adventure to find a new home. For eight months, they travelled through Australia, the US and Asia navigating India with a toddler in a tutu, battling black magic curses in Indonesia and encountering bears in North America asking themselves one defining question: Can We Live Here?

Inspirational, hilarious and fascinating this is an unforgettable travel memoir and a unique guide to quitting your job, following your dreams and finding your home in a far-flung paradise.

Sarah Alderson's first non-fiction title charts her escape from the rat race of London to a new adventure, trying to find a home somewhere in the world with her husband and young daughter.  As they travel through places such as India, Bali, Singapore and Australia, she contemplates finding the perfect place to settle in and put down new roots. 

I am not a big traveller myself and I definitely don't have the travel bug but what I could identify with in the book was Sarah's musings on escaping the trappings of day to day life and believing that there is something more out there - a simpler and less complicated way of living.  A life away from the routines, complacency, bills and the never-ending cycle of work that threatens to sap out spirit.  Sarah was brave enough to make the plunge into the unknown, which I really admired. 

I enjoyed reading about all the places she and her family ended up visiting and the new and unusual experiences that they have.  Some of her anecdotes are absolutely hilarious, such as in Malaysia, when a bus and a bottle are involved.  I did have to laugh.

It was also interesting to discover more about Sarah herself and to find out her path to becoming a published author.  I found it quite incredible how luck seemed to land in her lap, although she obviously had a talent for words all along and since then has worked incredibly hard writing lots of fantastic young-adult novels to keep all us readers entertained. 

Overall, an enjoyable travel memoir for those looking for a glimpse of a simpler way of life. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Review: George - Alex Gino

George by Alex Gino, published by Scholastic on 25th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.

George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Alex Gino’s debut novel is a moving and hopeful story about a boy called George who believes that he is really a girl inside (I’ll refer to George in the female tense from now on).  Even though George is only ten years old, she knows who she truly is but how can she get anyone else to see her for who she is meant to be.   When she gets the chance to be part of the school play of Charlotte’s Web, she becomes convinced that if she can only play the part of Charlotte, then she will finally be able to show her true self. 
George is a loveable character and one who you warm to immediately.  I liked the friendship she has with her best friend Kelly, who is incredibly supportive and provides the hand to hold that George so desperately needs.  It was also interesting to see how George’s relationship with her mum evolves, as this is obviously a tough situation for any parent to react to and know how to handle.    
This is an important book for young people to read, as it shows how we need to be accepting of others and not judge people for who they are.  I haven’t read a lot of LGBT books, but this is one that should really find a place on school library bookshelves.  

Monday, 2 November 2015

Review: Dangerous Lies - Becca Fitzpatrick

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick, published by Simon and Schuster on 10th November 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.

After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.

As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks.

'Dangerous Lies’ was probably the best book I’ve read by Becca Fitzpatrick so far.  I’ve had a bumpy track record with her books, some I’ve loved and some I haven’t enjoyed, but I thought this was a great read.  It wasn’t a five star standout but it had a good plot which featured a hot guy (it always helps!) and there was an exciting turn of events which kept me hooked until the end.
At the beginning of the story, Stella Gordon enters the witness protection programme which leads to her relocating to the middle of nowhere, or Thunder Bay, Nebraska to be more specific.  Although upset to be apart from her boyfriend and her old life, she finds that there are some things to enjoy about life in a small town, local boy Chet being one of them.  I thought that the idea for the plot was great – teen hides out alone from bad guys in a small town.  I kept wondering if Stella was really as safe as she appeared to be and this kept me on my toes throughout the book, as I was constantly looking for danger around every corner.  Not only does Stella have some pretty dangerous people to watch out for, she also has to deal with local bad boy Trigger McLure.  I have to say that I didn’t quite understand why Trigger hated Stella as much as he did but he was one very bad piece of work.
Chet on the other hand was wonderfully dreamy!  He has had a lot put on his young shoulders but he copes with things admirably and I could easily see why Stella began to fall for him.  He has a lovely personality and is gorgeous too!
Although Stella wasn’t my favourite heroine, she grew on me throughout the book and I enjoyed finding out about the secrets she is hiding at the end.  There were some good twists and turns and a dramatic conclusion which had me on the edge of my seat.  More like this please Becca Fitzpatrick!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Review: A Thousand Nights - E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 22nd October 2015

Goodreads synopsis:

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village, looking for a wife. When Lo-Melkhiin - a formidable king - arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. Desperate to save her sister from certain death, she makes the ultimate sacrifice - leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man. But it seems that a strange magic flows between her and Lo-Melkhiin, and night after night, she survives. Finding power in storytelling, the words she speaks are given strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. But she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king ...if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster.

I was really looking forward to this book. A retelling of ‘A Thousand and One Nights’, I was expecting this to become a firm favourite. I’m always on the lookout for clever retellings of classic tales and from all the hype surrounding this title, I thought it sounded like exactly my kind of book. Although I had a proof copy, the finished cover art is absolutely gorgeous and would definitely make me pick this title up if I saw it in a bookshop. Sadly, for me, the contents didn’t match the packaging. I did finish this one but my attention had sorely wandered by the time that I came to the last page which is such a shame because I had high hopes for ‘A Thousand Nights’. 

The story begins with an introduction to the character of Lo-Melkiin. He marries young girls and only ever picks one from each village or town, but none survive beyond sunrise. The nameless narrator of the story is certain that when he visits her village, he will choose her beautiful sister for his bride. Determined to stop this from happening, she makes herself look more attractive so that he will be drawn to choose her instead. I loved the way that she protected her sister from certain death at Lo-Melkiin’s hands and the way that the strength of the bond between the two siblings so obviously came across throughout the book.       

After she becomes Lo-Melkiin’s wife, she stays alive by telling him stories at night, while suspecting that there is something dark living within him. I didn’t feel any chemistry between the two leads so the romance aspect of the story fell completely flat for me. I liked the fact that our heroine was courageous and brave and more than capable of standing alone but I also wanted her to have more of a drive to safe Lo-Melkiin because she felt some sort of love for him.

About a third of the way through the book, the story became very fantastical and there was a definite increase in the amount of magic and fantasy that was woven into the plot. I’m afraid this didn’t particularly appeal to me and it seemed to throw the story off-kilter. 

I suspect that this is a book which some people will love but unfortunately I didn’t fall into that category. If my expectations hadn’t been so high at the start then I suspect I probably wouldn’t have persevered with finishing it.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Review: Angel Dares - Joss Stirling

Angel Dares by Joss Stirling, published by Oxford University Press on 1st October 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Angel is impulsive. Disguising her savant ability to control water doesn't come easily to her. Then she meets the broodingly handsome Marcus at a music festival where they're both performing, and finds herself all at sea. For when he sings, her soul answers with its own music. Like the tide, their mutual attraction cannot be held back, but Marcus's mistrust of Angel's gift is even stronger. How can they ever be together if Marcus is unable to accept who Angel is or what they could mean to each other? And with the net closing in on the Savant community it's time for everyone to choose a side.

Joss Stirling's SoulFinder series is one of my favourites.  I love the whole idea of the Savant community and the fact that all these couples are destined to be together but have to find each other first. 

'Angel Dares' was another terrific addition to the series.  The main character Angel, meets Marcus, a fellow musician at a festival and is drawn to him through their music.  He is originally distrustful of her gift and refuses to believe in the savant community which makes their relationship extremely difficult.  Angel however, is such a positive person that she won't be deterred and tries to get him to change his mind, with often mixed results I might add.

I have to say that as much as I love this series, I am a little disappointed that the direction of the stories has shifted away from the Benedict brothers and instead has focussed on some of the younger characters.  I would have loved to have seen the whole book based around Will and his personal search for his soulfinder but this was relegated to being nothing more than a sub-plot.  I realise that some of the brothers are slightly older, so I can only imagine that they were deemed too old to be the central focus of a young-adult series.  All the same, I miss seeing them at the heart of the story. 
There were glimpses of them in the book though which did keep me very happy.   

I thought the plot was good, especially the inclusion of the threat which hangs over the heads of the savants.  This led to a really dramatic conclusion which was both exciting and gripping. 

Hopefully the next book in the series will be about Victor Benedict who has always been one of my favourites.  I'm hoping that he will eventually be lucky in love! 

Monday, 5 October 2015

Review: Edgewater - Courtney Sheinmel

Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel, published by Amulet Books on 21st September 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Lorrie Hollander used to be a rich girl who spent her money on boarding school and equestrian camp. But that was before. It’s been twelve years since Lorrie’s mother skipped town and left Lorrie and her sister in the care of her unstable aunt Gigi. Together they live in a decaying mansion called Edgewater, the eyesore in a town of extraordinary wealth and privilege.

While Lorrie is desperately trying to keep her family from collapse, she meets Charlie, the son of an esteemed senator. Terrified that he will learn the truth about her, she holds him at a distance. But Charlie’s family is hiding something, too. And Lorrie could never have imagined how their secrets, and their lives, are inextricably bound.

I found this book very slow.  I got about half-way through and then realised that nothing had really happened yet.  Although I've seen some great reviews for this title and it did sound promising beforehand, I have come to the conclusion that it just wasn't for me. 

The story is about a teenager called Lorrie, who used to live a life of privilege and riches before her family end up losing all their money.  Abandoned by her mother, Lorrie and her sister live with their Aunt Gigi in their now crumbling family home, Edgewater.  Lorrie is desperate to hide their downfall from her friends and especially handsome Charlie, the son of a senator. However, secrets long buried, begin to rise to the surface and it's only so long before everyone begins to find out the truth. 

The blurb of this book made it sound so good and I really wanted to like 'Edgewater' but in my opinion, it needed more drive and impetus.  It was so slow that I found it hard to stay engaged with the story and I didn't particularly care about any of the characters.  The most interesting character in the book was actually the crumbling Edgewater itself which has been left to sit and decay.  Most of the first half was centred around Lorrie reiterating her money problems but I wanted and needed something else to happen and I was left feeling disappointed with this title. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Chasers of the Light: Poems From The Typewriter Series - Tyler Knott Gregson

Chasers of the Light: Poems From The Typewriter Series by Tyler Knott Gregson, published by Penguin on 8th October 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
One day, while browsing an antique store in Helena, Montana, photographer Tyler Knott Gregson stumbled upon a vintage Remington typewriter for sale. Standing up and using a page from a broken book he was buying for $2, he typed a poem without thinking, without planning, and without the ability to revise anything.

He fell in love.

Three years and almost one thousand poems later, Tyler is now known as the creator of the Typewriter Series: a striking collection of poems typed onto found scraps of paper or created via blackout method. Chasers of the Light features some of his most insightful and beautifully worded pieces of work—poems that illuminate grand gestures and small glimpses, poems that celebrate the beauty of a life spent chasing the light.

This review is short but heartfelt.  Read this book.  Buy this book.  Share this book with a friend.  If you want to have your heartstrings tugged and your emotions scattered all over the place, then read these beautiful poems.  Typewritten on scraps of paper and interspersed with Tyler Knott Gregson's own photography, this collection of poetry has been woven into a gem of a book.  I have been dipping in and out of it ever since I first picked it up and my copy is now stuffed with scraps of people, marking all of my favourite poems.  I will be reading these over and over again because they are just beautiful and they speak to me in a way that leaves me feeling like someone has just looked into my soul.      

Monday, 28 September 2015

Review: Tempting the Best Man - Jennifer L. Armentrout

Tempting the Best Man by Jennifer L. Armentrout, published by Hodder on 13th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Madison Daniels has worshipped her brother's best friend since they were kids. Everyone thinks she and Chase Gamble would make the perfect couple, but there are two major flaws in their logic. 1) Chase has sworn off relationships of any kind, and 2) after blurring the line between friends and lovers for one night four years ago, they can't stop bickering.

Forced together for her brother's wedding getaway, Chase and Madison decide to call a truce for the happy couple. Except all bets are off when they're forced to shack up in a tacky 70’s honeymoon suite and survive a multitude of "accidents" as the family tries to prove their "spark" can be used than for more than fighting. That is, if they don't strangle each other first…

'Tempting the Best Man' is the first book in the Gamble Brothers series, featuring the utterly irresistible Chase Gamble.  You have been warned ladies!

I knew I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it, even though it is an adult, rather than a YA title.  Jennifer L. Armentrout is one of my absolute favourite authors and having her write an adult romance with a sexy hero, definitely ticked all my boxes.  The romance scenes were actually a little tamer than I was expecting, although things did get pretty steamy at times. 

The heroine of the story, Madison, has loved Chase ever since they were little.  Having grown-up together, she has seen his good side and his bad (not that there is very much bad about him!) and she loves him still.  If only she can made him see her as something other than his best friend's little sister.  At her brother's wedding she gets the perfect opportunity to show him the new grown-up Madison, although there are plenty of obstacles in her path.

I enjoyed every single second of reading this story and the only negative thing I have to say about it, is that it was far too short.  I wanted it to go on and on.  It was so fab!  Jennifer L. Armentrout writes such fantastic romances with couples who you absolutely fall in love with.  I was rooting for Madison and Chase from the start and I enjoyed seeing the dynamics of their relationship change as they spent more time in each others company.

Next in the series is 'Tempting the Player' which features Chase's brother, Chad Gamble.  I need to get my hands on it asap.       

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Review: Monster - C.J. Skuse

Monster by C.J. Skuse, published by Mira Ink on 24th September 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits. As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school – run wild. Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive.

This book blew me away!  I started it on a two hour train journey and became so engrossed that all I wanted to do was stay on the train, travel home for another two hours and finish it.  Like it's aptly named title, it crept up on me slowly, enveloping me in a cloud of intrigue and suspense.  I felt like my heart was stuttering along with the frayed nerves of the main characters, as foreboding wrapped itself around me.  After the first few chapters, I thought that this was going to be a pretty good book and then suddenly it turned into dynamite in my hands.  No one could have shaken me from the spell I was under.

Now I'm telling myself that I must be mad not to have read anything by C.J. Skuse before.  Have I been living under a rock?!  I have a burning need now to go and buy all of her other books and have a mini-marathon.

I should have known from the tagline 'Malory Towers meets I Know What You Did Last Summer' that I was going to fall hook, line and sinker for this story.  The book suggests that there is a monster living inside all of us - although with some it is let out by choice and with others by necessity.  I am also a sucker for stories set in boarding schools and Skuse presents such an appealing view of this one (monsters aside).  Bathory School for Girls is set in a picturesque location.  There are wonderfully long summer days with trips outside, games and swimming.  There are Hogwarts style houses and secret hidey holes.  It also has it's very own legend stalking the grounds - the Beast of Bathory. 

The main character Natasha, or Nash as she is known, hopes to become Head Girl.  She and a small group of others are left behind at the school for Christmas.  Nash's parents are unable to come for her because her older brother is missing abroad.  A blizzard means that they are trapped at the school, but although they can't leave, something or someone wants to get in. 

Tense, nail-biting and with one hell of a twist, 'Monster' was my kind of book.  It had an ending that left me wide-eyed and open-mouthed and was deliciously dark and scary.  The suspense kept being ramped up and up until I almost couldn't bear to find out what was going to happen next.  A book hasn't left me on the edge of my seat like that for a long, long, time.  Sheer brilliance and one of the best YA thrillers I've ever read.  Don't hesitate to grab yourself a copy of 'Monster'.  You won't regret it. 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Review: Daughters Unto Devils - Amy Lukavics

Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics, published by Simon and Schuster on 8th October 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner fears she is losing her mind. When her family move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, Amanda hopes she can leave her haunting memories behind: of her sickly Ma giving birth to a terribly afflicted baby; of the cabin fever that claimed Amanda's sanity; of the boy who she has been meeting in secret...

But the Verners arrive on the prairie to find their new home soaked in blood. So much blood. And Amanda has heard stories - about men becoming unhinged and killing their families, about the land being tainted by wickedness. With guilty secrets weighing down on her, Amanda can't be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or within her soul...

I will read just about anything and everything but I'll admit that I'm not normally a big fan of the horror genre.  I think it's partly because I have such an overactive imagination that horror is often too much for me to stomach.  However, I wouldn't say that 'Daughters Unto Devils' is out and out horror - or at least not until the very end, when yes, you will need to ensure that every light in the house is on.  Or better yet, read it in broad daylight and not just before bed.  You will most definitely regret it otherwise.

Sixteen year old Amanda and her family live in a small cabin in the mountains.  Cooped up with her siblings and parents, during a long and tough winter, Amanda none the less has a secret of her own -  a boy she has been meeting without their knowledge.  When the family uproot and move to the prairie, it is a fresh start for Amanda, but something is out there and evil lurks everywhere. 

The tension ramps up from the very beginning of the book.  I knew something terrible was going to happen but I didn't know what and I didn't know when.  That was enough to keep me on the edge of my seat throughout.  The evil when it came, crept under my skin.  There is one scene in particular which totally crept me out.  I wanted to look away but I was glued to the page with horror.  You'll know the moment when you get to it. 

Amy Lukavics's debut novel is a great read, which I've seen described as Little House on the Prairie meets The Crucible.  This is the perfect spooky Halloween read, although if you are of a nervous disposition then beware.  This book is not for the faint hearted!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Review: Black Cairn Point - Claire McFall

Black Cairn Point by Claire McFall, published by Hot Key Books on 6th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Heather agrees to a group camping holiday with Dougie and his friends because she's desperate to get closer to him. But when the two of them disturb a pagan burial site above the beach, she becomes certain that they have woken a malevolent spirit. Something is alive out there in the pitch-black dark, and it is planning to wreak deadly revenge.

One year later Heather knows that she was very lucky to escape Black Cairn Point but she is still waiting for Dougie to wake from his coma. If he doesn't, how will she prove her sanity, and her innocence?

This was a super creepy read with one hell of a twist at the end.  Just when I thought that the story was about myths and pagan legends, it turned out to be something else entirely.  I loved the fact that it kept me on my toes and challenged my perceptions.  I really want to read it again now because it will be like seeing the characters and their actions in a whole new light.

Heather, along with her best friend Emma, Emma's boyfriend Darren and their friends Dougie and Martin, head off together on a camping trip.  The story alternates between the events that transpired during their excursion and current day Heather, one year on and still seemingly recovering from her experience.  She tells of an evil spirit that seems intent on wreaking havoc on their small group but the question is, will anyone believe her?

It is not often that I can be completely surprised by a book, but Claire McFall definitely managed that.  'Black Cairn Point' was creepy, chilling and wonderfully thrilling and I enjoyed every second of the story.  Normally I like to race through to get to the big finale, but I took my time reading this book and enjoyed savouring every bump in the teens' journey.  I was most definitely on the side of Heather throughout the story, as she tries to convince her Doctor that she is not crazy and she was not responsible for what happened to her friends.  I really sympathised with her and I liked her as a main character, which made the ending even more brilliant. 

A highly recommended read and I will be looking out for more by Claire McFall in the future.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Review: The Blackthorn Key - Kevin Sands

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands, published by Puffin on 3rd September 2015 

Goodreads synopsis:
London, 1665. Fourteen-year-old Christopher Rowe is apprenticed to master apothecary Benedict Blackthorn. In Blackthorn's shop, Christopher learns the delicate secrets of transforming simple ingredients into powerful medicines, potions and weapons. His beloved master guides him with a firm, steady hand - instilling him with confidence and independence that prove increasingly vital as Christopher learns of a mysterious cult preying on the most learned men in London. The murders are growing closer and closer to home and soon Christopher is torn from the shop with only a page of cryptic clues from his master and the unambiguous warning: 'Tell no one'.

Helped by his best friend, Tom, Christopher must decipher his master's clues, following a trail of deceit towards an unearthly secret with the power to tear the world apart.

If you are a Percy Jackson fan looking for your next read, then 'The Blackthorn Key' may well fit the bill perfectly.  It is a story with plenty of twists and turns, some dark secrets to uncover and fiendish clues to crack.  Although I don't often read a lot of middle-grade fiction, this one appealed to me a lot and proved to be a fantastic read.

One of the things I particularly liked about it was the main character, Christopher Rowe.  He is a apprentice apothecary to Benedict Blackthorn, who is more like a father to him than an employer.  Christopher finds himself in deep trouble when a series of murders are committed and he is caught in a web of secrets more dangerous than he could ever realise. 

Set just before the plague in London, during 1665, the story hurtles ahead at breakneck speed, taking the reader along for the ride.  You are plunged straight into the adventure, as Christopher has to solve a series of cryptic clues.  The story is like 'The Davinci Code' for a younger generation of readers and I loved it. 

If mystery and murder are your kind of thing, then you will definitely enjoy 'The Blackthorn Key' which will take you on an adventure you will never forget! 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Review: As Black As Ebony - Salla Simukka

As Black As Ebony by Salla Simukka, published by Hot Key Books on 6th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Lumikki has a new boyfriend - easygoing, gorgeous Sampsa - but she is unfaithful in her dreams, longing for the electrifying touch of her ex, Blaze.

Then the threats start arriving, from someone who seems to know Lumikki intimately. Sharing her fears risks deadly consequences; now she is more alone than ever.

When Blaze suddenly reappears, Lumikki is torn. She can't deny the chemistry between them, but can she trust him? To stop the killer, Lumikki must uncover a dark secret that has haunted her family for years.

The third and final part of this series definitely reached the heady heights of the first book.  It was a spell-binding conclusion to the trilogy and had me utterly gripped.  There is something so refreshingly different and original about these books which I can't quite put my finger on but which makes them impossible to put down. 

Lumikki is such a fantastic protagonist - one of my all-time favourites.  She does not conform to the usual traits of female characters but that does not make her any less of a heroine.  In fact quite the opposite is true.  She is somewhat of a loner, she lets few people into her life and she is introverted but she is also incredibly brave, determined and will never back down from a fight. 

I thought that the series had a little dip with book two but 'As Black As Ebony' reeled it back in and was totally entrancing.  Lumikki is back on home soil with a new boyfriend, but is still convinced that her parents are hiding a big family secret from her.  She also has a new threat to face from someone who seemed to know about all of her own secrets but she has no idea who is behind the threatening letters she starts to receive.  The elusive Blaze, her ex-boyfriend, is also back on the scene, causing her romantic complications. 

This story was brilliant.  So many questions were finally answered and threads that had been planted earlier in the trilogy were unravelled, spilling secrets left, right and centre.  It's a little bit of a shame however that everything was wrapped up so quickly at the end, because I think that after a big build-up, more could have been made of the final end scene.  That aside, this was a compulsive and thrilling read which was a real nail-biter.  I wish everyone would read these books.  They are terrific!

Monday, 31 August 2015

Review: First Class Murder - Robin Stevens

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens, published by Corgi on 31st July

Goodreads synopsis:
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are taking a holiday through Europe on the world-famous Orient Express. From the moment the girls step aboard, it's clear that each of their fellow first-class passengers has something to hide. Even more intriguing: rumour has it that there is a spy in their midst.

Then, during dinner, there is a bloodcurdling scream from inside one of the cabins. When the door is broken down, a passenger is found murdered, her stunning ruby necklace gone. But the killer is nowhere to be seen - almost as if they had vanished into thin air.

Daisy and Hazel are faced with their first ever locked-room mystery - and with competition from several other sleuths, who are just as determined to crack the case as they are.

Wells and Wong are back in their third detective adventure.  They are an unstoppable double act and one of my favourite sleuthing duos.  What could be better then than setting their latest mystery on-board the famous Orient Express.  When a murder is committed on the train, you know that Daisy and Hazel will be hot on the case, uncovering clues and hunting a killer, as they determine to crack the locked room mystery.

I love, love, love this series so much!  I am a massive fan of the detective genre (particularly when like here, it is brilliantly done) and really like the fact that these books are set in the 1930s. They have a classic period feel, but also a freshness and immediacy about them.  Hazel and Daisy are quite an intrepid pair and leave no stones unturned when they start to investigate.

I like the fact that it pays homage to Agatha Christie's original Murder on the Orient Express, and the setting is just fantastic.  I would love to go on this train and it reminded me a little bit of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes.  The guilty party is on the train but the girls do not yet know which one of the passengers can not be trusted.  The fact that no one can get off without raising suspicion, lends an air of claustrophobia and danger to proceedings.

I had no idea who the murderer was but I enjoyed seeing Daisy and Hazel untangle all the clues, along with some red herrings.  I read this book in a flash and it was my favourite of the series so far.  Bring on more of the detective society immediately!  Five stars.        

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Review: Second Chance Summer - Jill Shalvis

Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 30th July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
What do you do when you run into the man who broke your heart? Lily's been back in Cedar Ridge for less than ten minutes when she bumps into Aidan, the former love of her life. So much for sneaking back into town unnoticed. And thanks to frizzy hair and armfuls of junk food, she's turning his head for all the wrong reasons. No one knows why Lily is home after ten years, and she's determined to stay no longer than the summer. But Cedar Ridge and Aidan have other ideas. As they set about persuading Lily to give them a second chance, she finds herself falling under the spell of the Colorado mountains ... and the one man she could never forget.

Jill Shalvis's Lucky Harbor books are my go-to series when I'm in the mood for a generous helping of romance.  'Second Chance Summer' is the first title in her new Cedar Ridge series which didn't let me down.  It gave me lashings of romance, as well as hot sparks flying around left, right and centre.  Well it does feature firemen.  Yes, that's right firemen!

What I love about Jill's books, is the way that she creates a whole community of wonderful characters who you instantly care about and want to see more of.  This time, it's the Kincaid family who live and work on Cedar Ridge and are determined to make a success of their family business at all costs.  Although Aidan is one of the main characters, I also really loved his older brother Gray and his domineering and feisty wife Penny, as well as his younger siblings Hudson and Kenna.  My favourite thing about them all is that you know they are always watching each other's backs.  Although they joke and fight with one another, there is no doubt in your mind that they will stand together through thick and thin. 

When Aidan hears that local girl Lily Danville is back in town after a ten year absence, his heart can't help skipping a beat.  Lily was the girl that got away and now that she is back, he won't let her escape so easily next time.  However, Aidan and Lily are both carrying their own burdens of guilt and until they can leave the past behind, they won't be able to move on with their futures together. 

I absolutely adored the setting for the story too.  Cedar Ridge sounds picturesque with it's beautiful mountains and hiking trails.  First, I wanted to live at the beach and now I'm thinking that the mountains sound right up my alley!

This was a super read which swept me away on a tide of romance.  I'm most definitely eager to read the second book in the series now which will be centred around Hudson.   

Monday, 24 August 2015

Review: Reawakened - Colleen Houck

Reawakened by Colleen Houck, published by Hodder on 13th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification.

And she really can't imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe to find his brothers and complete a grand ceremony that will save mankind.

But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.

I have not read Colleen Houck's Tiger series, so she is a brand new author to me.  I really liked the sound of 'Reawakened' because I can't think of another YA series that I have read which is set in Egypt and leans heavily on Egyptian mythology.  It is always nice to discover something fresh and original and the plot sounded fantastic. 

There was a lot to like about 'Reawakened'.  The story was quite unique and I enjoyed the way in which Colleen Houck interwove the elements of Egypt and the Gods but with a modern setting.  At times, I thought that there was a lot of dense information given to the reader all in one go, which did help to build the mythology but was a lot to get your head around all at once.  I did love the myths and legends part of the book though.

The idea of a mummy coming to life and just happening to be a handsome guy who sweeps the main character off her feet, sounds pretty fantastical, but that is pretty much what happens.  I really liked the Egyptian Prince Amon and his quest to find his two brothers, although I was not as keen on his female counter-part Lily.  She comes across as spoilt and selfish at the start of the book but she grew on me a lot throughout the story and had matured a lot by the end.  I would have liked to have seen more romance between the two leads but this often takes a backseat to everything else that is going on.

The second half of the book was absolutely packed full of adventure and excitement, with one obstacle after another lying in the path of Amon and Lily's quest.  There was hardly time to catch my breath as they are thrown into one dangerous situation after another.     

I originally thought that this title was going to be a stand-alone, but judging by the ending I think that this could be the first in a series.  There is a lot still to sort out and it would be good to see more of Amon's two brothers in the future.  This is definitely a series that I will be following. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Review: One - Sarah Crossan

One by Sarah Crossan, published by Bloomsbury on 26th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:

Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.  And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

I have read several of Sarah Crossan’s books now and it is clear to me that she has a very powerful way with words. Every sentence that she writes and every word that she uses is carefully crafted and thought out. This lends a lyrical quality to her stories which are often written in free verse. Her new book, ‘One’ is no exception, with a poetic form which captivates the reader.

The story itself centres around sixteen year old conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi, who are about to go to a real school for the first time. Now I will admit that I was slightly apprehensive when I first heard about the subject matter of Sarah’s new book. It’s not normally the sort of thing that I would pick up and read but I had confidence in her writing and I had heard nothing but good things about it from fellow readers. I’m glad that I didn’t let it put me off because I would have missed out on a great read.

Grace narrates the story and provides insight into the challenges that conjoined twins face. I like the way that the two come across as separate people with different personalities, but always with a special bond between them. They have each other to lean on through thick and thin. As money is tight at home, they decide to allow a film-maker to shoot them for a documentary which provides outsiders with the opportunity to learn more about them. I’m glad that we also got to see the impact that living with conjoined twins has on the rest of their family and how their mother, father and younger sister cope with this.   

The ending was not necessarily unexpected because I predicted quite early on what was going to happen but that didn’t mean that it was any less moving or emotional. I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to find out more about this subject, as it presents several difficult ethical questions to the reader.

Another winner from the pen of Sarah Crossan.  

Monday, 17 August 2015

Review: Gray Mountain - John Grisham

Gray Mountain by John Grisham, published by Hodder on 2nd July 2015 

Goodreads synopsis:
One week ago, Samantha Kofer was a third-year associate at New York City's largest law firm. Now she is an unpaid intern in a legal aid clinic deep in small-town Appalachia. When Lehman Brothers collapsed, she lost her job, her security, her future. As she confronts real clients with real problems, she finds herself a world away from her past life of corporate fat cats and fatter bonuses. This is coal country. Meth country. The law is different here. And standing up for the truth means putting your life on the line.

I’m a huge John Grisham fan and I always look forward to his new releases. Luckily, he writes quickly so there’s always a new book on the horizon!

‘Gray Mountain’ was not my favourite of his novels and I think it was lacking a little in drama but overall it was still a very good book and an enjoyable read. It focuses on the issue of coal mining and the devastation that strip mining causes to families and communities. It also looks at the destruction to the land that this causes. It is a depressing and quite bleak topic because what came across is that there is often little hope in trying to fight these huge companies.  At the same time, I think it is an important issue to explore and one which I enjoyed finding out more about. 

The main character is New York City lawyer Samantha Kofer, who at the start of the book loses her job and ends up taking an unpaid position at a legal aid firm in the middle of small town Appalachia. The cases she starts to take on teach her about the struggles of real people and show her what being a lawyer is all about – helping those in desperate need of someone to stand up for them and fight their corner or their cause. Along the way, she meets Donovan Gray who is fighting the coal companies in court. 

About half-way through the book, there was a massive plot twist which I never saw coming. It did surprise me because in some ways it totally changed the direction of the story and was quite a bold choice to make. I’m still not sure I agree with the route that Grisham took but I can see the benefits of this. 

My main issue with ‘Gray Mountain’ was the pace of the story which seemed to meander along at times. It felt to me like it needed more drive. I did like however, the way the reader sees things through Samantha’s eyes as she matures into a damn good lawyer and becomes part of a new community which is always ready to rally round those in need. 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Review: Lying Out Loud - Kody Keplinger

Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger, published by Hodder Children's Books on 2nd July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Sonny Ardmore is an excellent liar. She lies about her dad being in prison. She lies about her mom kicking her out. And she lies about sneaking into her best friend's house every night because she has nowhere else to go.  Amy Rush might be the only person Sonny shares everything with— secrets, clothes, even a nemesis named Ryder Cross.

Ryder's the new kid at Hamilton High and everything Sonny and Amy can't stand—a prep-school snob. But Ryder has a weakness: Amy. So when Ryder emails Amy asking her out, the friends see it as a prank opportunity not to be missed.

But without meaning to, Sonny ends up talking to Ryder all night online. And to her horror, she realizes that she might actually like him. Only there's one small catch: he thinks he's been talking to Amy. So Sonny comes up with an elaborate scheme to help Ryder realize that she's the girl he's really wanted all along. Can Sonny lie her way to the truth, or will all her lies end up costing her both Ryder and Amy?

Kody Keplinger is the Queen of High School YA fiction.  She always seems to be able to perfectly capture the authenticity of teenagers learning life lessons about love, family and friendship, while surviving the rigours of the school environment.  I will read anything that she writes!
‘Lying Out Loud’ is about Sonny Ardmore and Amy Rush (sister of Wesley from The Duff).  Sonny is having problems at home and goes to live with Amy and her family but can’t bring herself to tell them the truth about what is going on.  Fact: Sonny is an excellent liar but her lies are about to get her into a whole heap of trouble. 
When Ryder Cross starts at Hamilton High, boy troubles are most definitely on the horizon.  Will he be the reason that Amy and Sonny’s friendship falls apart?
Although the story is told from Sonny’s point of view, at times I actually identified more with Amy.  I didn’t like the way that she let herself be pushed around by Sonny, so it was good to see her standing up for herself more by the end and developing a new sense of confidence.  It just goes to show that you can have a privileged lifestyle with a bright future in front of you but you can still struggle with self-confidence issues.    
As this is a kind of companion novel to 'The Duff', it was great seeing Wesley and Bianca in the story.  They are still together and although they seem like complete opposites at times, they just work.   
I loved this book.  I sped through it so quickly because it was an amazing read.  Kody Keplinger is on my auto-buy list.  I’ve loved all of her books so far and I’m excited to see what she will write next.  

Monday, 27 July 2015

Review: Emmy and Oliver - Robin Benway

Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway, published by Simon and Schuster on 16th July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. But now Oliver is back, and he's not the skinny boy-next-door that used to be Emmy's best friend. Now he's the boy who got kidnapped. A stranger - a totally hot stranger! - with a whole history that Emmy knows nothing about.

But is their story still meant to be? Or are they like the pieces of two different puzzles - impossible to fit together?

Emmy and Oliver’ is a wonderful contemporary YA novel from an author who is fast becoming a firm favourite of mine.  I thought from looking at the cover art and reading the blurb, that this book was going to be a romance.  It was in part but it was largely a book about friendship and family.  It is about learning to understand and accept each other for who you are, not what someone wants you to be.  It is about learning when to let go and when to hold on.  There are a lot of poignant messages and themes in the story which struck a chord with me.
The characters were brilliant, particularly Emmy who I loved from the start, as well as her two best friends Caro and Drew.  Their friendship was epic!  I would have loved a close-knit group like that when I was growing up.  It took me a little longer to warm up to Oliver but that was okay because a bit like Emmy and co, I needed some time to learn more about who he was and to understand the different sides of his personality.  He had definitely won me over by the end of the book. 
I adored the small town setting, close to the beach and the sea.  I would love to live in a seaside town like this.  I think the setting helped to illustrate how hard it is for Emmy to follow her own dreams.  She is more than ready to leave behind the protection of her parents but doesn’t want to hurt them in the process.    
I enjoyed the story immensely.  It’s quiet and moving and creeps up on you.  It teaches the importance of having good friends and how a good friend can be in your life forever, even if you are not physically together.  I would highly recommend this book.  

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Review: Kit - Marina Fiorato

Kit by Marina Fiorato, published by Hodder and Stoughton on 16th July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Dublin 1702...and Irish beauty Kit Kavanagh has everything she could want in life. Newly married, she runs a successful alehouse with her beloved husband Richard. The wars that rage in Europe over the Spanish throne seem a world away. But everything changes on the night that Richard simply disappears. Finding the Queen's shilling at the bottom of Richard's tankard, Kit realizes that her husband has been taken for a soldier.

Kit follows Richard's trail across the battlefields of Italy in the Duke of Marlborough's regiment. Living as a man, risking her life in battle, she forms a close bond with her wry and handsome commanding officer Captain Ross. When she is forced to flee the regiment following a duel, she evades capture by dressing once more as a woman. But the war is not over for Kit. Her beauty catches the eye of the scheming Duke of Ormonde, who recruits her to spy upon the French. In her finery she meets Captain Ross once again, who seems just as drawn to the woman as he was to the soldier. Torn between Captain Ross and her loyalty to her husband, and under the orders of the English Crown, Kit finds that her life is in more danger now than on the battlefield. Of all the dangers that she faced, the greatest was discovery...

‘Kit’ is the new title from the pen of Marina Fiorato. I always enjoy her books because she brings to life her characters so brilliantly and writes vividly about many different periods of history. After I’ve finished her books, I’m usually left feeling inspired to find out more about all of the history. ‘Kit’ is based on the true story of a woman who disguised herself as a man to try and bring her husband back from the wars. In the novel, the character of Kit, ends up risking her life in battle and unexpectedly finds her heart becoming entangled with her commanding officer, Captain Ross (who cuts quite the dashing figure!).

I thought that the story had something of a Shakespeare-esque element about it. Marina Fiorato possibly drew on some of Shakespeare plays, where the female character frequently disguises herself as a man to avoid detection. It was interesting to see the lengths that Kit had to go to in her quest to hide her gender and the way that she goes undiscovered for such a long time. Kit herself is a really feisty and fierce main character. She has many predominantly male characteristics and it’s intriguing to see how these aspects of her personality develop when she is disguised as the opposite sex. I loved her growing bond with the Captain and the way their relationship develops throughout the story.   

Fast paced and with a gripping plot, I thought that ‘Kit’ was a great book. I have to say that I didn’t love it quite as much as some of Marina Fiorato’s earlier novels but nevertheless it was an enjoyable read, set during a fascinating historical period. I didn’t know a lot about the European wars which took place during the eighteenth century but I’m a lot more educated on the subject now.

Historical fiction fans will lap this up and if you’ve yet to discover Marina Fiorato’s books then what are you waiting for!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Review: Forever and a Day - Jill Shalvis

Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 2nd April 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Grace never thought she'd be starting her life over from scratch. Losing everything has landed her in Lucky Harbor, working as a dog walker for overwhelmed ER doctor Josh Scott. But the day his nanny fails to show up, Grace goes from caring for Josh's lovable mutt to caring for his rambunctious son. Soon Grace is playing house with the sexy single dad...

With so many people depending on him, Josh has no time for anything outside of his clinic and family - until Grace arrives in town. Now this brainy blonde is turning his life inside out and giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "good bedside manner". Josh and Grace don't know if what they have can last. But in a town like Lucky Harbor, a lifetime of love starts with just one day...

This is the 6th book in the Lucky Harbor series.  I am falling more in love with this series with every new instalment that I read.  I looked forward all day to getting home from work so that I could pick this up and catch up with all the Lucky Harbor ladies and their handsome guys. 

Grace and Dr Josh in this one weren't even my favourite couple (although don't get me wrong, I still really liked them) but what I did love about this book so much was the circumstances that were set up to bring the two of them together.  Josh's five year old son Toby is so cute (little kids always melt my heart), as is his new dog Tank.  I loved seeing Grace become more and more like a mother to him, without her even really realising it.  She has a very open heart and a lot of love to share, not only with Josh but his family too. 

Grace and Josh both have to deal with the responsibilities placed on them and in Grace's case, the fear of not living up to the expectations of her perfect parents.  It was nice to see them both learning to do some things for themselves, rather than always trying to please the people around them.  The similarities and differences they share make them the perfect couple. 

Fans of the series will love 'Forever and a Day' and if you haven't yet discovered any of these books yet, then you could still pick this one up and read it as a stand-alone. A heart-warming, romantic and brilliantly written story to pull at all your emotions.   Romance fans out there, this one is for you! 
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