Monday, 31 October 2016

Review: The Trouble with Mistletoe - Jill Shalvis

The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 27th September 2016

Goodreads synopsis:

Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand. He needs a kitty sitter, stat. But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn't even remember her...

He'll get nothing but coal in his stocking. Saddled with his great-aunt's Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else's capable hands. But in spite of the fact that he's sure he's never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him...

Unless he tempers 'naughty' with a special kind of nice... Willa can't deny that Keane's changed since high school: he's less arrogant, for one thing - but he doesn't even remember her. How can she trust him not to break her heart again? It's time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish - and let the mistletoe do its work...

‘The Trouble with Mistletoe’ is another cracker from the pen of Jill Shalvis and the second book in the Heartbreaker Bay series. Featuring cute animals, Christmas mistletoe and a sweet romance, it is the perfect wintery read for romance lovers.

The story centres around Willa, a local pet shop owner and Keane, the high school boy all grown-up, who doesn’t remember who she is. Willa has been scarred by her past and is afraid to let herself love. Keane has also had his own issues to overcome but is entranced by Willa and can’t stay away. The two were both such great characters that I was rooting for them from the very beginning. Willa in particular, radiated warmth from every page. I love the way that she tries to help other vulnerable young women by giving them a fresh start and somewhere safe to work. She and Keane have great chemistry and although their relationship doesn’t get off on the best foot, it doesn’t take long to see that they are made for each other.

It was great to revisit some familiar faces in the story and although it took me longer to fall for Keane the way that Willa does, he soon became part of the gang and was welcomed into the fold. Jill Shalvis has a wonderful way of creating such fantastic communities in her books. Friends become family and they always seem like they would do anything for each other.    

I can’t really say enough great things about Jill Shalvis’s books. If you are a romance fan then you need to discover her for yourself because her stories are the perfect treat tied up with a shiny ribbon on the top. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Review: Thin Air - Michelle Paver

Thin Air by Michelle Paver, published by Orion on 6th October 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
In 1935, young medic Stephen Pearce travels to India to join an expedition with his brother, Kits. The elite team of five will climb Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain and one of mountaineering's biggest killers. No one has scaled it before, and they are, quite literally, following in the footsteps of one of the most famous mountain disasters of all time - the 1907 Lyell Expedition.

Five men lost their lives back then, overcome by the atrocious weather, misfortune and 'mountain sickness' at such high altitudes. Lyell became a classic British hero when he published his memoir, Bloody, But Unbowed, which regaled his heroism in the face of extreme odds.

As the team prepare for the epic climb, Pearce's unease about the expedition deepens. The only other survivor of the 1907 expedition, Charles Tennant, warns him off. He hints of dark things ahead and tells Pearce that, while five men lost their lives on the mountain, only four were laid to rest.

But Pearce is determined to go ahead and complete something that he has dreamed of his entire life. As they get higher and higher, and the oxygen levels drop, he starts to see dark things out of the corners of his eyes. As macabre mementoes of the earlier climbers turn up on the trail, Stephen starts to suspect that Charles Lyell's account of the tragedy was perhaps not the full story...

‘Thin Air’ by Michelle Paver was an atmospheric and chilling read. Described as a ‘ghost story’, it was certainly subtly unnerving. You are never quite sure what to make of the things you see and hear. Are they real or are they signs of madness in the thin mountain air?

The story is about an expedition to scale Kangchenjuna, the world’s 3rd highest mountain. Set in 1935, Stephen, a young medic, along with his brother and a group of other men, set off to follow in the footsteps of those who came before them. A previous expedition in 1906 went terribly wrong when five men failed to return, so the omens don’t look good from the beginning. 

The action unfolds through the eyes of Stephen as he begins to seemingly lose his grasp on reality. The fact that he may not be a reliable narrator, means that the reader has to question everything that happens. Although I found the story quite slow in the beginning and I struggled a bit with the glacial pace, it did pick up as it progressed and the ending was brilliant. 

I enjoyed the details of how the men survive on the mountain and the sense of adventure and the great unknown that Paver creates.  Her writing is always very visual and descriptive and I could quite easily imagine the bitter cold and lack of air that the men have to deal with.

Although I don't think I found it as scary as some ghost stories I have read before, it was still quite spooky and after reading 'Thin Air', I don't think I'll ever look at a rucksack in the same way again!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Review: The Women in the Walls - Amy Lukavics

The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics, published by Simon and Schuster on 6th October 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Lucy Acosta's mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They're inseparable—a family.

When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she's ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother's voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin's sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

‘The Women in the Walls’ was quite frankly terrifying and pretty gruesome. If you are a fan of the horror genre and are looking for a book which will make your skin crawl, then look no further. The release of this title is perfectly timed to coincide with Halloween, although I strongly wouldn’t recommend reading it without all the lights in the house being on and maybe someone to hold your hand!

Personally, I’m not a big fan of horrors and although I enjoyed Amy Lukavic’s debut novel ‘Daughters Unto Devils’, there was something decidedly unsettling about this story which didn’t sit well with me. The story itself centres around Lucy Acosta, who after the death of her mother has grown-up with her Aunt Penelope and Cousin Margaret by her side. Living on a huge estate, things start unravelling swiftly from the beginning. First the Cook is found hanging, then her Aunt disappears into the woods and then Lucy’s cousin starts acting out of character. It almost feels like there is a malicious presence lingering in the house.

Lucy is an interesting character but a lot of the time I couldn’t quite make up my mind whether I actually liked her or not. She has a difficult relationship with members of her family and hides a big secret which gave some further insight into her personality. However, I was never sure whether I could entirely trust her.

This was a fairly short book, so the story started off at a breakneck pace and never really slowed down. It’s not entirely clear what is happening until the second half of the story and by then you just want it to stop (or at least I did!). There are some incredibly gruesome moments in the book and I have to give a nod to Amy Lujkavic for the way that she describes these scenes in such detail that you will feel like every hair on your body is standing on end.

Having had some time to think about it, I feel that it’s probably more the fact that the genre didn’t suit me, than that this is a bad read. When I was a teenager, I never liked the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine either (I think I scare myself too much) so I was always going to struggle a bit with anything like this. If, however, you enjoy a story which will give you the frights then this might be just the one for you. 

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