Monday, 30 March 2015

Review: You Were Mine - Abbi Glines

You Were Mine by Abbi Glines, published by Simon and Schuster on 2nd December 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
In the eyes of the wealthy playboys who frequent Kerrington Country Club in Rosemary Beach, Tripp Newark is a hero. Under pressure from his parents to become a lawyer and lead a conservative, upper-class life, Tripp disappeared from town five years ago to travel the world, forfeiting the opportunity to inherit millions. Yet few know what he was really running from...

Bethy Lowry was unraveling long before her boyfriend drowned in a riptide trying to save her after she'd had one too many drinks--again. A trailer park kid working as a cart girl among the wealthy patrons of Kerrington Country Club, Bethy has always been impressionable. But five years ago, before she earned her reputation as a hard-drinking, easy girl, she had spent a single summer with Tripp Newark that changed her life forever...

This is the book that I think all Rosemary Beach fans were waiting for. The story of Bethy and the elusive and mysterious Tripp. I certainly couldn’t wait to pick it up. Although I was incredibly upset about what happened to Jace earlier in the series, I can finally see now why Abbi Glines made the choice she did concerning his character. 

I loved all the flashbacks to eight years ago when Tripp and Bethy first fell in love. I had an idea about what had happened between them but it was great to have my suspicions confirmed and to actually see play out the chain of events that led up to the two of them ending up apart.   

Bethy has never been my favourite character in the series. She’s had a lot of ups and downs and she has on occasion been flighty and a bit wild.  However, she has also matured a lot and finally starts to get her head and her heart together.  By the end, she had won me over. 

I adore relationships that can endure, even when a substantial amount of time has passed. It always reminds me of 'Persuasion' by Jane Austen which is one of my favourite classic novels.  Tripp and Bethy have certainly gone through a lot and it makes their journey towards a happy ever after even more special. 

I loved seeing the rest of the gang and Della and Woods getting married at last. They’ve all settled down and have partners and babies which is so sweet to see.  It definitely makes you believe in true love!  An emotional and heart-wrenching read, it was also joyous and uplifting and will be a sure winner with Abbi Glines' legions of fans.  



Saturday, 21 March 2015

Review: Arcadia - James Treadwell

Arcadia by James Treadwell, published by Hodder and Stoughton on 26th February 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
All the men are dead - now it's the boys' turn.

On a tiny archipelago, cut off from the rest of the world by a cursed sea, a handful of survivors live a precarious existence, clinging to their memories of the time before magic and their hope that those times will return.

As far as he knows, Rory is the only boy left.

Then the man comes, weaving his tales of a quest to find a powerful ring, and Rory finds himself embarking on a journey through terrors and marvels, once more in the world of men.

I've been really looking forward to seeing how James Treadwell's fantasy series will be concluded.  This is a trilogy which I feel has somewhat flown under the radar with very little pre-publicity buzz.  It is however one which has captivated me, without me being able to put my finger on exactly what it is about the story that has appealed to me so much.   

The author, James Treadwell, has stated that his concept for the series was to imagine what would happen in the modern world if magic was to suddenly return.  How would it affect or change society and what would it mean for certain individuals?  I think the overall sense of the magical and the fantastical is carried along throughout the book, at the same time as there being a gritty realism and an atmosphere of dark danger to the story.

'Arcadia' centres around a young boy called Rory who lives on a tiny island with his mother and a community of other women.  As the only boy there, he is cossetted by the women but at ten years of age he can be rebellious and finds himself becoming entangled with a group of mysterious strangers who are set to change his life forever.  I loved the character of Rory and I enjoyed seeing events unfold around him.

Although I didn't always understand the subtext to some of the things that happened in the book, I honestly didn't feel that this mattered at all.  I just loved the wild, elemental feel of the story and the sense that something epic was unfolding on the page.   

This is the third and final book in the series but I almost think that you could read it as a standalone novel.  It's not until the last few chapters that all the threads start to come together and previous characters return for the conclusion.  Although I've read the whole series, it's been quite a while since I finished the first two books and I was a little hazy on some of the events that had taken place.  Gradually I began to recollect things that had happened but don't let it put you off if this is the first book by James Treadwell that you're picking up.  I'm sure you will enjoy it anyway! 

I highly recommend this to fantasy fans who are looking for that next great read. 


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Review: Arsenic for Tea - Robin Stevens

Arsenic for Tea by Robin Stevens, published by Corgi on 29th January 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Schoolgirl detectives Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are at Daisy's home, Fallingford, for the holidays. Daisy's glamorous mother is throwing a tea party for Daisy's birthday, and the whole family is invited, from eccentric Aunt Saskia to dashing Uncle Felix. But it soon becomes clear that this party isn't really about Daisy at all. Naturally, Daisy is furious.

Then one of their party falls seriously, mysteriously ill - and everything points to poison.

With wild storms preventing anyone from leaving, or the police from arriving, Fallingford suddenly feels like a very dangerous place to be. Not a single person present is what they seem - and everyone has a secret or two. And when someone very close to Daisy looks suspicious, the Detective Society must do everything they can to reveal the truth . . . no matter the consequences.

This book was exactly my cup of tea!  Set in 1935, it's a detective story with a difference.  The difference being that the detectives are teenage girls, Daisy and Hazel, who along with their two friends are determined to solve a crime which is committed in Daisy's own home.  Of course, you know that they will leave no stone unturned in their quest to find the guilty party and solve the case. 

I haven't read the first Wells and Wong mystery, 'A Murder Most Unladylike' but I'd heard enough about the series to know that I desperately wanted to read it for myself.  I didn't really matter that I hadn't started with book one because this was a standalone story and it took me no time at all to become acquainted properly with the characters.  Daisy is impetuous, quick thinking and clever, whereas Hazel balances out her spontaneity by being more of a think before you act kind of detective.  However, you always know that she will stand by Daisy's side through thick and thin.

I loved the setting of the novel.  Britain in the 1930's is one of my favourite periods so this appealed to me immensely.  I also liked the fact that it was set at Fallingford, Daisy's home, with such a fabulous set of unusual characters staying at the house - Lord and Lady Hastings, eccentric Aunt Saskia, Uncle Felix, Daisy's brother Bertie and his friend Stephen and new governess Miss Alston.  Everyone is under suspicion when a fatal crime is committed and it reminded me of a murder mystery party, where the culprit must be found before anyone is allowed to leave.

I thought that the narrative, told from Hazel's point of view, was brilliant.  It drew me into the story instantly and I couldn't put the book down for a second.  There were lots of exciting and important clues to be discovered and I loved following the girls' sleuthing.  It was a bit like a really exciting game of cluedo! 

There were so many things about this book which appealed to me and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries but is also looking for a mystery with a twist. The next book in the series is going to be called 'A First Class Murder' and I for one, can't wait to read it!   

Monday, 16 March 2015

Review: The Shadow Cabinet - Maureen Johnson

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson, published by Hot Key Books on 5th February 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Grieving, shaken, and feeling very much alone, Rory's life as a member of the Shades of London has changed irrevocably. It's only been a matter of hours since Stephen was taken from her, possibly for ever. Her classmate Charlotte is still missing, kidnapped by the same people who tried to take Rory. Rory is no longer a schoolgirl haplessly involved in the dealings of a secret government unit. She is their weapon in a matter of life and death.

With hardly a moment to think for herself, Rory is back to work. Charlotte must be found -- as must Stephen, if he is even out there. Lines must be drawn and forces rallied. Something is brewing under London, something bigger and much more dangerous than what has come before. The Shadow Cabinet holds the key to everything, and it is up to Rory to unravel its mysteries before time runs out...

‘The Shadow Cabinet’ is the third book in the Shades of London series. I thought this was the concluding part but judging by the ending, there is still more in store for Rory and co. I do think that the overall storyline could have been wrapped up in three books but Maureen Johnson obviously has more twists and turns up her sleeves. 

The story picks up after the events of ‘The Madness Underneath’, with Stephen in hospital and Rory expelled from school. Things begin to get very strange as she starts to unravel the truth about what is going on beneath the streets of London. It was strange not seeing Rory at school and actually I missed that a lot in this book. I always enjoyed seeing her trying to maintain a normal school life with her newfound abilities and I felt that this offered an air of reality about proceedings. It took a bit of getting used to not having that feature as part of this instalment. At the same time, I did enjoy following Rory through the streets of London and visiting some very familiar landmarks. 

Now, it’s a long time since I read the previous books in this series, so I felt like I needed a recap at the start and that’s just what I got. That helped to ease me back in and caught me up with everything I needed to know about the plot and the characters.  I will admit that I got a little lost at times with some of the paranormal elements of the story but Maureen Johnson did a good job of steering things back on track and sucking me back in again.  

Lots of terrible things happen in the book and the characters don’t always get what they want but I think this is reflective of life in general.  It also helped to keep me on the edge of my seat because I had no doubt that just about anyone could meet a sticky end if the plot called for it.   

The ending packed a real punch and definitely left me wanting more.  I honestly have no idea what will be thrown at the characters next but it's exciting waiting to find out. 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Review: Bodyguard: Ransom - Chris Bradford

Bodyguard: Ransom by Chris Bradford, published by Puffin on 1st May 2014 

Goodreads synopsis:
With a successful high-profile assignment under his belt, Connor’s services are now in great demand. Maddox Sterling, the world famous Australian media mogul, hires him and fellow bodyguard Ling to protect his two children, Ella and Lilly.

His daughter Ella has already been a kidnap victim and Mr Sterling will spare no expense in securing their safety. Colonel Black promises a watertight operation, but Connor knows twins mean twice the trouble!

Teenage bodyguard Connor Reeves is back in a new and exciting adventure. ‘Ransom’ sees him assigned to protect the twin daughters of a media mogul. But this time he has to put his protection skills into action at sea and away from any kind of back-up.

I loved the first book in this series and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a new instalment. Exciting, fast-paced, gripping and a real thrill-ride, it’s everything and more I look for in a book! The whole idea of teenage bodyguards or buddyguards, as they are known, is fascinating and I enjoyed seeing all the training they have to do to ensure that they are up to the job. Although Connor initially questions himself, he is definitely more than capable of protecting those in his charge.  

I thought setting the story at sea was a nice change too and meant that we got to see Connor learning a whole new set of survival skills. It kept the story fresh and original and presented new challenges which our hero had to overcome. I’m a huge Connor fan and I think male readers in particular will really like and admire him. He always seems to be able to keep a clear head and he’s not one to back down from a challenge, however difficult it may be.  

Brilliantly paced, extremely exciting and packed full of adventure, danger and intrigue, I loved it. I can’t get enough of this series. The next book, ‘Ambush’ is out in May 2015.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Review: Can't Look Away - Donna Cooner

Can't Look Away by Donna Cooner, published by Electric Monkey on 1st January 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
There's no hiding in the spotlight. Torrey Grey is famous - at least, she is on the internet. Thousands of people watch her beauty vlog for tips on how to be popular and pretty. But when Torrey's sister is killed in an accident her world implodes, especially as she feels partly to blame. And that's when the trolling starts...How can Torrey mourn her sister in private, when her bubbly public persona is all over the web? Then she meets Luis, whose family owns the local funeral home, and he challenges all that Torrey thought she knew about love, life, and loss.

This is the second book by Donna Cooner, following on from last year’s debut ‘Skinny’. I wasn’t a huge fan of the latter but I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed ‘Can’t Look Away’ a lot more.

The story centres around teenager Torrey, known as Beautystar215 – a popular vlogger for beauty and fashion news, who is used to living out her highs on peoples’ computer screens. After her younger sister is killed in an accident, she and her parents move to a new town for a fresh start. Although she no longer has to face her old friends, she does have to face the online comments that she just can’t run from.

Dealing with themes of bereavement and loss, plus the grief of having to go on living without someone you love, this book packs an emotional punch. It’s hard to imagine life after the loss of a sibling and I thought Donna Cooner did an excellent job of portraying Torrey’s feelings and emotions and her struggle to make sense of her relationship with her sister. Torrey and her parents relationship has also been fractured by events, but I enjoyed seeing them gradually start to come together and live again.

Torrey begins to make new friends in her town and local boy Luis becomes a key figure in helping her to learn about death and the on-going struggle of living with loss. Torrey and Luis’s friendship was one of my favourite things about the book. They at first appear to be complete opposites but they are brought together by a common bond and eventually learn a lot from each other.

The book also contains an important message about appreciating your real, rather than your virtual life, as well as the people you have around you on a day to day basis. Torrey spent so much time online that she seemed to have forgotten about everything else around her but this is something that is put into perspective by events in the story.

I really enjoyed ‘Can’t Look Away’ and I would recommend it if you are looking for an emotional and moving teen read.  In my opinion, it is Donna Conner's best book so far.   

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Blog Tour: Crow Moon - Anna McKerrow

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for 'Crow Moon' by Anna McKerrow. The book is out today and is published by Quercus. 

Anna has written a wonderful guest post on Crow Moon and the Devon/Cornwall landscape. 

I don’t know how old I was but an early Cornish seaside memory was standing with the waves up to my knees, looking out to the horizon, talking to the sea in my mind. I don’t remember what I said, or what it said back, but it was a kind of a respectful gesture: acknowledging its greatness, its power, and feeling myself small and insignificant but enthralled with it nonetheless. Since then I have continued to love the magic of sea and ocean on the shore; thrilled with sea salt wind in my hair, storms crashing on cliffs; cold, bright days collecting sea-washed stones and white shells.

In the past, the people living on our land considered the between-places like beaches and marshes sacred; the places where the elements of water and earth met, where water represented the entrance into an otherworld. King Arthur threw Excalibur into the sacred lake that in those days surrounded Glastonbury Tor – still a marshy, mystical land today – to return the symbol of his earthly kingship back to the magical power that bequeathed it to him in the first place. So coastal areas are magical too, because they are the boundary between our world and the otherworld – the place of magic, dreams and enchantment. Tintagel in particular is a spectacular location for stories (as the King Arthur myth attests – he is supposed to have been conceived at Tintagel Castle), with the remains of a castle up on a high rock island surrounded on all sides by the turquoise Cornish sea. Under the rocks, deep sea caves suck the waves in and out, and at low tide you can enter these strange sea-chambers, still slick from the departing tide.

So when I found myself writing a story about a pagan community living on the land, ruled by witches, I knew for me it couldn’t be set anywhere but Cornwall; I added Devon partly for scale – I wanted the Greenworld to be sizeable – but also to include Devon’s magical landscape of lush, remote moorland and stone circles, burial mounds, long barrows which are also so full of magic. Having both counties, each with their own particular “feel”, enabled me to provide a slight contrast between Danny’s home village of Gidleigh and Scorhill circle inland, and the crashing grandeur of Tintagel on the coast – and so the communities that live in both.

Devon and Cornwall also have a rich heritage of witchcraft, so it wasn’t too much of a push to reimagine a country existence that respected the local wise woman, herbalist and practiced folk magic. The Witchcraft Museum at Boscastle, just down the coast from Tintagel, is a fantastic place to go and learn about the old folk practices of witches in Cornwall, ranging from protecting houses, curing illnesses and selling charms to sailors for a good wind, to more modern practices. Witchcraft is also still alive and thriving in the south west, as it is everywhere, with old and new traditions honoured, and the wonder of our British landscape respected, protected and loved.

The dramatic, breathtaking landscapes of Devon and Cornwall are also an ideal setting for a story that mixes magic and romance, strong emotions and action. Making landscape reflect and interact with emotions and motivations is a useful tool as a writer, and it’s easy to ramp up tension or romance against the backdrop of waves crashing on cliffs, lonely moors and quiet streams, ancient monoliths and full moons, nights full of stars, away from pollution.

These Celtic parts of our country – Cornwall, Ireland, Wales, Scotland – are special, deep places woven with myth, rich in enlightenment and legend. The Celtic myths and legends – and the gods and goddesses in them – are a very British spirituality, a British pantheon of power that grew out of our ancestors’ observations of the land, the sun and the moon. Therefore the heritage of Cornwall as a Celtic region formed the belief system of the Greenworld in Crow Moon, tying the beliefs and the lives of the characters firmly to the land in what is both a story about magic and love, but also about land, heritage and protecting the environment.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Blog tour: Oksa Pollock: The Heart of Two Worlds

Today I'm taking part in the blog tour for 'Oksa Pollock: The Heart of Two Worlds' by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf.  Without further ado, I'm going to hand over to Sue Rose, the translator of the Oksa Pollock series. 

Translating is fun! When you get it right, it’s as satisfying as completing a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku. It’s not easy, though. You have to work very hard at getting all the right words in the right places – translating literally, which is when you substitute each word in French for a word in English as it appears on the page, is not an option.
What I particularly loved about translating the Oksa Pollock books was the huge number of fun names for creatures, spells and powers, which often worked as puns or wordplays in French. I had to find translations that worked in the same way in English as they did in French – which meant often doing something new, so that I was translating the idea behind the words and not the words themselves. Your mission as a translator, should you wish to accept it, is to move so stealthily that you become invisible, like a Ninja warrior. If you’re seen, you’ve failed.
This great Translator’s pack will give you some idea of what it means to be a translator and some of the difficulties that we face. Good luck, Ninja masters – over to you!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Blog tour + UK Giveaway: Haunt: Dead Wrong - Curtis Jobling

I'm hosting a stop today on the blog tour for Curtis Jobling's new book 'Haunt: Dead Wrong'.  Read on for an extract from the book and a fabulous UK giveaway.       

Will and Dougie are still adjusting to the slight change in their friendship dynamic. . .

Will's dead but Dougie can still see him. Weird, admittedly, but there are some positives: solving a murder mystery (with the help of former living best friend), becoming a local hero and getting the girl of your dreams are pretty big perks.

But what happens when the girl is Will's crush too? The first (and last!) girl he ever kissed? And why has Dougie's dad been acting all weird ever since Will died? Just as things are beginning to go right for Will, it seems he couldn't have been more wrong. .

UK Giveaway - win a copy of 'Haunt: Dead Wrong'.
As part of today's blog tour, I have one copy of Curtis Jobling's new book to giveaway.  You must have a UK postal address to enter.  Just leave me a comment on this post with your email address to be entered into the giveaway.  This will end on 13th March. Good luck!
Don't forget to also check out the other stops on the blog tour.   
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