Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Bridge

16688498
 
The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury
Published October 1 2012 Simon & Schuster
 
I picked this up from the library due to its gorgeous festive cover - and that it is about a bookstore. I've never worked in one but always wanted to - to see the difference between loaning books and selling them.
 
The Bridge is the bookstore - and it builds a bridge between owners Charlie and Donna and their customers, between people and between people and books. However The Bridge isn't doing so well and, following an accident, the local community and customers past and present come together to perform their own Christmas miracle.
 
This is Christian fiction. The first I've come across - I believe this genre is more popular over in America than in the UK. There is prayer, there is faith - but what book doesn't contain a little faith?
 
I'm not going to get caught up in a big religious debate over a fiction novel that was sweet and twee and that had a happy ending. Don't we all wish for a happy ending? I shall not be actively looking for another Karen Kingsbury. For me, the novel lacked some depth. I was not absorbed in what I was reading. 

Throne of Glass

13519397
 
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Published August 2 2012 Bloomsbury
 
Celaena Sardothien is in shackles. Just one of thousands of slaves put to work in the mines of Endovier. Most last no longer than two weeks. Celaena has been there for over a year. Her crime? Being one of the greatest assassins.
 
Crown Prince Dorian plucks Celaena from her prison to compete in a tournament to become Ardarlan's assassin - the King's personal assassin. As well as this, after four years she would gain her freedom. If she fails the tournament (and doesn't die in the process) its back to the mines. Celaena doesn't have a choice - freedom is within her grasp and she is not afraid.
 
Throne of Glass is an exciting YA fantasy novel that had me hooked from the beginning. Celaena is a strong female lead, likeable and tough. The novel has great pace, the fantasy elements are believable and they add to the storyline without overcomplicating. The love triangle between Celaena, Dorian and Chaol (Team Chaol!) is deftly incorporated - not intrusive and just teasing enough to keep the reader guessing.
 
This is the first book in the series I can't wait to read the next! Love it!!

Just One Day

16150043
 
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
Published January 10 2013 Random House
 
I *adore* this book. So much that I put off writing the review in fear I won't do it justice. I still probably won't so my best advice is to read it yourself - beg, borrow (don't steal) a copy, find a nice comfy reading spot, hunker down and absorb it all.
 
Allyson is on a summer tour of Europe. Its a before-college present from her parents. In Stratford-Upon-Avon she does something very un-Allyson like and skips the RSC performance booked by the tour in favour of a guerrilla street performance of Twelfth Night. There she meets Willem, a Dutch actor in the troupe. Eyes meet....smiles are exchanged...and...Allyson continues her tour heading to London.
 
Do you believe in fate? Willem and Allyson meet again on the train to London. She laments missing Paris (there was a strike so the visit was cancelled) so Willem offers to show her Paris on his way home to the Netherlands. And off they go.
 
Their time in Paris is wonderfully descriptive. Every time I read about the city of light I wish I was back there.
 
Allyson and Willem's story changes now and I can't say how as it will spoil it for you.
 
Just One Day is a perfect, heartbreaking romance. It ends on a cliffhanger and I received its sequel Just One Year for Christmas *happy dance*. Fabulous writing from Gayle Forman.

Cupcakes At Carringtons

16106708
 
Cupcakes At Carringtons by Alexandra Brown
Published January 17 2013 Harper
 
Life may be sweet at Carringtons but its sure not for Georgie Hart. Up to her eyebrows in debt and in fear of losing her job in charge of Carringtons' luxury handbag department Georgie's little ray of sunshine comes from her good friend Sam and her fabulous red velvet cupcakes (good call Georgie!).
 
On top of overbearing oligarchs and Maxine - the retail consultant from hell, Georgie has an overdose of male attention in the form of her boss, James, smouldering newcomer Tom and good friend Ciaran who's fiancée Tina is adamant something is going on between them. What's a girl to do? Can Georgie climb out of this catastrophe or will it be Oh Crumbs at Carringtons?!
 
I enjoyed reading Cupcakes for two reasons. Firstly, the book is well written with oodles of fab gregarious characters, wicked dialogue and plenty of laugh-out-loud comedy moments. Secondly, I love looooooove books set in department stores. I don't know why - maybe its a throwback to Saturday trips to Owen Owen with my grandmother. Who knows? Anyway, the descriptions of Carringtons were a delight and just take a moment to appreciate that cover...that's it...scroll back up...it's just perfect.
 
The very good news is that this book is the first in a series and I'm so looking forward to reading more.

Drowning Instinct

17279707
 
Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick
Published February 28 2013 Quercus
 
" Falling for a teacher breaks all the rules..."
 
Jenna is alone. She is miserable. She is struggling to cope. She needs help.
 
Her parents don't notice this. Her brother is not around.
 
Then there is Mr. Anderson.
 
He notices Jenna. He helps. He takes her home when her mother is too drunk to remember. He stands up for her when her father is too weak to face reality.
 
Why then, is Jenna at Mr. Anderson's house and calling the police?
 
This was a very quick read. I enjoyed the character interactions and the story was well paced. There is more to this book than a teacher/pupil relationship. I usually *eyeroll* at 'issues' books but Drowning Instinct didn't seem like it was trying too hard - everything fit, and worked. Twists and turns a-plenty this book will satisfy all YA lovers.
 
The only puzzling part for me was the ending. If Jenna was in the state she was in before all of that with Mr. Anderson, how on earth would she be afterwards? Be interested to hear your thoughts on that.

Level 2

10861195
 
Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
January 15 2013 Simon & Schuster
 
 
This YA book is a debut and the first in The Memory Chronicles series.
 
Felicia is dead. She 'exists' in Level 2; a hive that is the waiting room between heaven and hell. While waiting, Felicia can 'plug in' to pods that will replay her memories. She has made friends with some of the other girls in her hive and is content, but there is more to Level 2 than Felicia could ever imagine.
 
When Julian breaks her out, she discovers the truth and joins the rebellion. It is a battle between good and evil - and Felicia is stuck in the middle.
 
This book had an interesting premise but didn't quite deliver - for me. There was too much running around identical corridors in this hive that was impossible for me to picture. I had *meh* feelings for the supporting characters and the Beckah scenes seemed...well...pointless. I did finish the book so it wasn't awful. Perhaps it will all come together in Level 3 being published in 2014. 

Golden Earrings

15950473
 
Golden Earrings by Belinda Alexandra
Published 2011 Simon & Schuster
 
I chose to read this as I had many years ago read (and loved) Wild Lavender. I also adore armchair travelling with novels set abroad. Golden Earrings is set in Spain and France so that was another tick in the box before I'd read the first page.
 
Golden Earrings is an epic tale of family, love and betrayal. Paloma is a ballet dancer living in Paris. An encounter with a ghost leaves her with a pair of earrings and a craving to learn of her Spanish heritage. We follow Paloma on her quest to find the truth of her family's involvement in the Spanish Civil War and their connection to La Rusa - the world's most formidable flamenco star.
 
The family and character connections are extremely well written as are the dance scenes. Last year in Valencia I saw an amateur flamenco show - it was breath-taking. The drive and the passion of the dance really come through in Belinda's writing. Ole!

The Virgin Cure

16600271
 
The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
Published September 1 2012 Orion
 
I love reading about social history and this book did not disappoint. Set in and around the tenements of Lower Manhattan, New York in the 1870s, it tells the story of twelve year old Moth.
 
Abandoned by her father, Moth and her mother fight to survive amongst poverty and squalor. The day comes when Moth's fortune-telling mother has nothing left to sell, so she sells her daughter into service for the Wentworth family.
 
Mrs. Wentworth is cruel and vicious; it is not long before Moth must escape, but to what? Poor Moth finds herself at a brothel - Miss Everett's Infant School, where select girls are taught how to please a gentleman. This 'education' could very well be the lowest level of Moth's downward spiral however, Moth has independence in her sights, a lot to gain and nothing to lose.
 
The characters and settings in this book are richly detailed. I particularly enjoyed Doctor Sadie's asides hidden amongst the pages.
 
***The Virgin Cure was believed at the time to be the way a man can cure syphilis - a disease rife at the time.*** 

Pushing The Limits

13560086
 
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Published August 3 2012 Mira Ink
 
 
Echo cannot remember how she got the scars...cannot remember anything about that day. She is encouraged to go to therapy - its supposed to help.
 
Then Echo meets Noah. He helps.
 
But Noah has problems of his own. Can Noah and Echo ever find what they need? Can they push the limits?
 
I enjoyed this powerful YA romance. Echo and Noah are likeable characters and its great to read about a red haired protagonist!  There are many issues tackled within this book and I believe each reader will take something different from it. or me, Echo's story was most poignant. Try it and push your own limits.
 
***The library copy I borrowed classified the novel as TF. I would have said it is OT due to drug use and mild sexual content.***

Love Virtually

8928842
 
Love Virtually by Daniel Glattauer
Published February 1 2011 Maclehose Press
 
I picked this up from the library after reading about it in The Bookseller. It is brilliant! I literally devoured every word and immediately ordered its sequel Every Seventh Wave.
 
Emmi wishes to cancel a magazine subscription and so she e-mails to do so. She misspells the e-mail address and sends her request instead to Leo. So far so rom-com, but its when you start reading their e-mails to each other that you fall in love with the characters and the story. The flaw in this budding romance? Emmi is married. Yet this extra curricular flirtation did not make me dislike her.
 
You will fly through this book, its just...a gem.
 
 
***Fun fact 1: This novel has been translated from German***
 
***Fun fact 2: It was read on BBC Radio 4 by David Tennant *swoon* and Emilia Fox***

The Things We Did For Love

17119881
 
The Things We Did For Love by Natasha Farrant
Published January 3 2013 Faber and Faber
 
 
Beautiful cover on this YA historical fiction novel set in France during World War II.
 
 
Arianne and Luc are in love but their country is at war. It is 1944 and the D-Day landings are taking place. British, Canadian and American troops are moving inland from the coast as German soldiers advance through the French countryside with only the resistance to stop them.  Luc cannot sit back and watch his country being torn apart so he joins the resistance himself...
 
This was a quick read. The storyline had me engrossed from the start. It is a tragic tale based on  real events that happened in the French village of Oradour-Sur-Glane.
 
Heartbreaking. A must read.
 
For more information on events in this novel go to the Oradour web page at www.oradour.info

Grimm Tales for Young and Old

15849807
Grimm Tales for Young and Old by Philip Pullman
Published September 27 2012 Penguin
 
 
This is a compendium of re-worked fairy tales written originally by the Brothers Grimm.
 
I have a soft spot for fairy tales and reading these took me straight back to childhood . Old favourites are included; Cinderella, Briar Rose, Rapunzel mixed with not so well known (to me anyway) tales; The Donkey Cabbage, Godfather Death and Bearskin.
 
Full of wicked witches, handsome princes and moral goodness, these are stories you shall want to read again and again.
 
I borrowed this book from the library which meant I had to give it back. It had been promptly added to my 'To Buy' list instead.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp For Girls

16156053
 
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
Published June 6 2013 Tinder Press
***Proof Copy***
 
This wonderful coming-of-age novel is set in a 1930s American still in the grip of The Depression.
 
Thea Atwell leads a quiet life in Florida with her doctor father, mother and twin brother Sam. However, events at home lead to Thea being banished to North Carolina - to the exclusive Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. Thea is led to believe it is a summer camp but Yonahlossee is a school and Thea is about to learn some very important lessons there.
 
The locations used in this novel are wonderfully described ad although I'm not a 'horsey' person, I really enjoyed reading about the camp - and the girls there. Upon finishing the book I felt exhausted - it is a very emotional read as we find out just why Thea was sent away to Yonahlossee in the first place.
 
Readers Groups are going to LOVE this novel as it can be discussed for hours - believe me, I have! 

The Savages

17315389
 
The Savages by Matt Whyman
Published June 6 2013 Hot Key Books
***Proof Copy***
 
 
The Savages are your average family unit. Father Titus is a businessman, Mother Angelica, a shopaholic and a bit of a whizz in the kitchen. Grandfather's up in the attic, teenage Sasha has her first boyfriend, brother Ivan is full of mischief and baby Katya just said her first word..."mince".
 
There is nothing the Savages enjoy more than sitting around the table, having a family feast - just be glad you don't get invited! The family have a somewhat peculiar taste in food....
 
When Sasha's boyfriend persuades her to try vegetarianism for a month, the carnivorous clan begin to unravel. Add to this a missing model and a curious private detective and the Savages really are in a stew!
 
This is a darkly humorous YA novel, full of great characters (I especially love Ivan) and laugh-out-loud moments. Hope this review has made you hungry for more!

Zoo

13353667
 
Zoo by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
Published September 3 2012 Century
 
 
This is the first James Patterson thriller I have read and I enjoyed it. It is a standalone so I shall not be trawling through his extensive backlist but I guess its a start!
 
 
Out of the blue, animals start behaving aggressively toward humans. Global brutal attacks and deaths are being reported. Biologist Jackson Oz has a theory - but can he make people listen before its too late?
 
I read this book very quickly. It is action-packed and split into short, punchy chapters so perfect for reluctant readers. Its a thought-provoking novel...lets face it, it could happen. Just glad I don't have any pets!
 
So while Zoo has not swayed me into becoming a die-hard James Patterson fan, I'm glad I read it. I feel it would transfer very well to film...maybe soon coming to a cinema near you! If you can't wait for that to possibly happen, read the book as they are almost always better!

The Reckoning

11785701
 
The Reckoning by Alma Katsu
Published April 2 2012 Century 
 
 
The Reckoning is the second book in the Immortals trilogy. The first, The Taker, I read and adored back in early 2012.
 
Have you ever found yourself lost when reading the next book in a series? Its been a while, you try and place the characters and plot...and fail. That did NOT happen on this occasion. Katsu writes so well, so seamlessly, it felt as though I had just put the first book down and dived straight into the second.
 
Adair is loose and out for revenge. His target, Lenny, is doing all she can to stay off his radar forever but forever is a long time and they are, after all, immortal.
 
No spoilers but I cannot recommend this fantasy series highly enough.
 
 

Secrets & Sapphires

19284979
 
Secrets & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
Published January 3 2013 Hot Key Books
 
 
Secrets & Sapphires is a brilliant debut YA novel set in Edwardian England that tells us of the comings-and-goings at Somerton Court. The story is told both from the upstairs and downstairs points of view and is full of intrigue and scandal! Perfect for Downton Abbey fans.
 
Lord Westlake and his daughters return to England from India to begin a new life following Lord Westlake's marriage. His bride brings children and servants of her own - will they become one big happy family? Don't be silly, where's the fun in that?!
 
This book is the first in the Somerton Saga. Diamonds & Deceit is due out in early 2014 and I am sure I am not the only one who can't wait!

Bracelet of Bones

9691588
 
Bracelet of Bones by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Published March 1 2011 Quercus
 
 
I enjoy Marie-Louise Jensen's Scandinavian novels so when I spotted Bracelet of Bones at the library I thought I would give it a go. It is junior fiction so no deep romance in this one, but you do get a fantastic Viking story.
 
Solveig wakes up one morning to find her father, Halfdan, gone. He promised he would rejoin an fight for Harald Hardrada (he of Stamford Bridge fame) in Miklagard (Constantinople). Solveig had always known her father would leave one day but he had sworn to take her with him, so Solveig follows him, from her home in Norway and it is her journey that is told in wonderfully rich detail within these pages.
 
I love that a Viking novel has such a strong female protagonist and the book includes an incredibly useful glossary of characters, list of Norse Gods and Goddesses and a map of Solveig's route.
 
Bracelet of Bones is the first book in Kevin Crossley-Holland's Viking Sagas and I am looking forward to reading about Solveig's next adventures.

Monday, 30 December 2013

The Mill River Recluse

16127800
 
The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan
Published November 22 2012 Sphere
 
"After sixty years, the world will know her secret..."
 
I picked this book at the library due to its large bold "The love story that has touched a million hearts" banner headline on the front, and it is a great love story - just of a different sort to what I expected. Yes, there is romance but the love is deeper, more pure.
 
The story is set in the small community of Mill River. Small town = great characters and a real getting-to-know-you feel as we join them going about their daily lives. Up on the hill is a large marble mansion; home to Mary McAllister the Mill River recluse.
 
This is a story of love and friendship, hope and heartbreak. Everyone who reads it will take something different away from it. Although I guessed parts of the plot correctly, it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the novel. Try it and see for yourself!

Dancing to the Flute

17263462
 
Dancing to the Flute by Manisha Jolie Amin
Published March 28 2013 Alma Books
 
I greatly enjoyed this book and having never before read fiction set in India - I shall look out for more in future. I found the descriptions of the country, its traditions and people fascinating.
 
Dancing to the Flute is a heart warming coming-of-age novel following Kalu who was abandoned as a child in rural India. A stranger hears Kalu playing music - on a leaf flute  and encourages him to practice further. To believe he can change his future through music and find his place in the world.
 
The friendship's Kalu builds are told with warmth and this book is brimming with really interesting information about Indian music - specifically flute playing and Indian raag.
 
Malti, Ganga Ba, Guruji and Bal all add a richness to the novel. Amin seamlessly weaves their stories in and out of Kalu's
 
There is a very useful glossary included in the novel. This is Manisha's first novel and I am excited to read more.
 


Thursday, 5 December 2013

From Essex to Chelsea With Love

16128081
From Essex to Chelsea With Love by Millie Conway
Published 22 November 2012 Headline Review
 
TOWIE meets MIC in this upbeat chick-lit romance.
 
Tallulah Caston-Jones has been dragged into planning her brother Persimmon and his fiancée Edwina's wedding at Highdrow Castle as part of her mother's as-good-as-the-Middletons party planning business. Edwina wants the wedding of the year but with just eight weeks until the day, will Talli manage to pull it all together?
 
Talli needs all the help she can get but instead gets a tall, fit, muscular distraction in the form of Zac Parker - brother of Lena and Minx, stars of hit reality TV show Lovin' Essex.
Zac is secretly dating Kiki Spooner - number one (in her eyes) of Lovin' Essex with big hair, big boobs and the biggest ego. When Kiki starts receiving hate mail and death threats Zac feels he must protect her but is Kiki really the one he cares about?
 
Sparks fly as Talli and Zac begin to work closer together in order to make Edwina's dreams come true.
 
Sex, drama and designer clothes - its all happenin' babes!!   
 
There is so much drama in from Essex to Chelsea you'll be well jeal to miss it! The book is fast funny and feisty. If you need your reality TV fix, this is the read for you.
 
 


The Catastrophic History of You and Me

11387392
 
The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg
Published 2012 Razorbill
 
This wasn't as catastrophic as I thought it would be.
 
In the first few pages of this YA novel we discover main character Brie has died of a broken heart. Yes....really.
 
It happened just after her boyfriend Jacob told her he no longer loved her and now she is stuck in some sort of Pizza Palace limbo with a swoonable 1980s guy named Patrick, trying to explain that there's been a terrible mistake and that she needs to go back - that she's not really dead at all.
 
Except she is. Patrick keeps her company as she moves through the five stages of grief.
 
Its teen fluff, could've been worse though it did lose me a little towards the end.

Deadly Hemlock

13024972
 
Deadly Hemlock by Katheen Peacock
Published 5 July 2012 Simon Pulse
 
"Beware the wolf within"
 
Mac's friend Amy was murdered during a spate of werewolf attacks in the town of Hemlock.
 
Lupine Syndrome has been officially recognised by the Government and numbers of infected are on the rise. Trackers - an extremist group - are determined to capture and detain every 'fleabag' by all means un-necessary and they've just rocked in to Hemlock.
 
Mac wants nothing to do with the vigilante trackers and so investigates Amy's murder herself. The more secrets she uncovers, the closer she gets to the killer...
 
I found Deadly Hemlock a very readable TF novel. Yes, I guessed the identity of the killer, and quite early on but the sub-plots still kept it entertaining. Good were-fic. 
 
 


Little Bones

13118712
 
Little Bones by Janette Jenkins
Published 5 January 2012 Chatto & Windus
 
Compelling Victorian historical fiction.
 
Jane Stretch was born with a disability - her bones twisted and out of shape. Sharing a nomadic upbringing with her wastrel father, drunken mother and elder sister, the family finally abandon her at the home of a doctor.
 
The doctor and his wife keep Jane and in return for her bed and board, she is to assist the doctor with his work, fetch and carry and accompany him as he tends his patients - poor desperate girls who have got themselves into a condition they need assistance in being released from. Yes, this is Victorian England and he is performing abortions.
 
All is well for Jane and her employers until one of the doctor's customers is found dead and the police are on their tail.
 
Poor Jane Stretch is a true character, a real gem in this novel. A great historical read, if you like your Dickens, give this one a try! 

The Paris Winter

16173305
 
The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson
Published 11 April 2013 Headline Review
 
"A dark and opulent tale of deception, betrayal and revenge in Paris,1909."
 
This is one of my favourite books of 2013. The hugest of thank you's to H for sending me a copy. It is dark, it is opulent and it is completely wonderful. Writing this review makes me want to re-read it all over again!
 
The setting is perfect. I have been to Paris and felt almost homesick whilst reading the evocative descriptions of Parisian streets and parks, gardens and galleries. If I ever get to visit this wonderful city again, The Paris Winter is coming with me.
 
The story is highly appealing. Struggling art student trying to make her way in Paris, barely making ends meet. Guardian angel who leads her to well-paid respectable employment as a companion to a young lady. All is well until the student begins to learn a little too much about the young lady and her brother. A confrontation...a struggle....the freezing cold waters of the Seine.
 
This very clever plot kept me reading late into the night. Imogen Robertson is a new author to me and I am looking forward to reading more from her.
 
The Paris Winter is a fantastic read, especially at this time of year - curled up on the sofa in front of the fire with a glass of cognac and a macaron. Read it! You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Sea of Whispers

17118904
 
Sea of Whispers by Tim Bowler
Published January 3 2013 Oxford University Press
 
Hetty lives with her grandmother on the remote island of Mora.
 
She has always thought of herself as...different. Hetty sees things - mysterious shapes in pieces of sea glass she finds along Mora's many coves and beaches. However, the shapes never seem to mean anything - that is until the day of a great storm, a shipwreck, and a woman is washed ashore. A stranger in Mora.
 
The woman is the image Hetty has been seeing in the sea glass, and even in her weakened state, she seems to recognise Hetty too.
 
Many of the islanders are not so accepting of the stranger's arrival however. The Elders see her as an ill omen - a jinx, who not only created the storm but wrecked their boat. Soon accusations of witchcraft are flying and Hetty finds herself fighting to protect the sea glass stranger, with extreme results.
 
I found Sea of Whispers mesmerising. Its so lyrical. I flew through this novel. The islanders' hostility was very powerfully depicted. Its a novel that certainly reaches the reader's emotions.
 
One aspect I loved is that the reader is unaware of the time setting for this novel. The remote community is very self-sufficient with no mentions of technology. It could be of an ancient people or it could be more recent. I like my history so I prefer to think of Mora at an Iron Age sort of time (no roundhouses though!).
 
Sea of Whispers is the first Tim Bowler novel I have read, and I am looking forward to reading more.

Itch

15843377
 
Itch by Simon Mayo
Published March 1 2012 Doubleday
 
"The explosive adventures of an element hunter."
 
Wow. Lets just take a moment to appreciate THAT cover! POW! Such an attractive design that will grab JF-YA readers of both genders. Their first question (and mine): What is an element hunter?
 
Itchingham Lofte is science obsessed. When he is not causing small explosions in his bedroom, he is tracking down elements from the periodic table. So far his growing collection has been stored under his bed but after losing his eyebrows in an 'experiment', Mum insists it is all bound for the shed.
 
After accidentally poisoning his class at school, Itch thinks it might be time to take a break from his elements but then something comes to him that changes everything...he buys a rock. A very special, highly-prized RADIOACTIVE rock.
 
The rock takes Itch and his cousin Jack on a race against time culminating in a fight for their lives.
 
An interesting, action packed, edge-of-your-seat, pulse-raising read. Science in fiction? Brilliant!
 
If you loved this, the adventures of Itchington Lofte continue in Itch Rocks! - out now.
 


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Songs of Willow Frost

18297372
 
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
*PROOF*
Published 13 September 2013 Allison & Busby
 
WARNING: You may need tissues when reading this book
 
William Eng was left at the Sacred Heart Orphanage in Seattle when he was seven years old. As a Chinese-American boy in the 1930s, he had no hope of adoption but plenty of memories of his mother; his ah-ma.
 
On a birthday trip to the movies, William sees on screen a beautiful Chinese actress named Willow Frost and is convinced she is his mother. Determined to find her, William runs away.
 
Ford deftly weaves the past and present together to form a very touching, poignant novel about love, loss and family. It is a wonderful portrayal of life for Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans at this time.
 
Songs of Willow Frost is a very special novel.   

Friday, 30 August 2013

The Absolutist

13635076
 
The Absolutist by John Boyne
Published 5 July 2012 by Black Swan
 
I like to read historical fiction and John Boyne has produced a stunning First World War novel encompassing the horrors of war and the fragility of humanity.
 
Tristan Sandler travels to Norwich to deliver a pack of letters to Marion Bancroft, sister to his comrade Will. The year is 1919.
 
In 1917, Will Bancroft laid down his gun in the trenches of Northern France and declared himself not just a conscientious objector to the war, but an absolutist. He was shot at dawn.
 
This novel is fierce and powerful, heart-wrenching and tragic. A must read.

Whisper

15717281
 
Whisper by Chrissie Keighery
Published 1 July 2012 Templar
 
Whisper is a YA coming-of-age novel with a difference.
 
Demi contracts meningitis as a teenager. She recovers but she is left profoundly deaf. Her life is changed forever.
 
The novel focuses on how Demi learns to communicate again, to cope with a new school and make friends in a silent world. Alongside witnessing Demi's struggle, we see the affect of this life changing event on her family and friends.
 
Chrissie is Australian and a few Aussie expressions do creep into the novel which brought back afternoons of Home & Away! I felt it helped with the setting and the character's voice. I felt an emotional tie with Demi as I read her story.
 
Whisper is a very readable novel. I would recommend this book for a leisure read but it would also work well as a PHSE tie-in in the classroom.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase

13555073
"Hauntings are our business..."
 
Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase
*PROOF*
Published 29 August 2013 Doubleday
 
I have two confessions...
 
1) I have NEVER read a Jonathan Stroud book before. I am aware this is a shocking error and shall have to be rectified before I end up in library purgatory.
 
2) I am a complete scaredy cat and do not read ghost stories.
 
So, when I received a review copy of Lockwood I was...unsure to say the least, but I thought give it a go - expand your reading horizons, and I am SO glad I did.
 
Ghosts are real. The Problem is widespread with many reports of Visitors and fatal cases of ghost-touch. In order to deal with The Problem, agencies started springing up, staffed by...well...children to assist the haunted. One such agency is Lockwood & Co. The book follows the Lockwood team on several of their cases.
 
I loved loved loved this book! It is exciting and unputdownable. The writing is utterly brilliant and so engaging I was drawn into the story from the start. The characters are fab, each with their own talents and strengths and equally needed to succeed as a team. I particularly like the charismatic Lockwood who I see as a young Cumberbatch!
 
The book was scary, with several scenes that left me wincing with quite vivid mental pictures - but as I said, I'm a big softy. I cannot wait to read more in this series, Lockwood is one of my best books of the year.
 
Thank you for the review copy, I'm off now to seek out Bartimaeus!
 

 


Friday, 23 August 2013

Langdown Manor

15878297
 
Langdown Manor by Sue Reid
Published 6 September 2012 Scholastic
 
After Penelope's mother dies, her father sends her away from India to stay with relatives in England.
 
Terribly homesick, Penelope soon realises only her small cousin Clemmie is keen to know her. Her aunt is cold and cousin Arabella is spiteful. Penelope finds solace in riding her horse, Starshine and soon finds herself falling for groomsman Fred.
 
Set in alternating chapters - one for the upstairs goings on and one for the downstairs servants, this historical Downton-esque teen fiction is a good read and shows well the social difference between the family and staff, the rich and the poor.
 
I look forward to reading what happens next. 

America Pacifica

11375155
 
 
America Pacifica by Anna North
Published 4 August 2011 Virago
 
A new ice age has come.
 
The world is freezing.
 
People are dying.
 
A new island is discovered hundreds of miles off America's coast, unaffected by the freezing conditions gripping the planet.
 
Ships set sail, making for the island of America Pacifica and a new life there under the governorship of Tyson, but not everything is how it was imagined in this dystopian thriller.
 
Darcy's mother, her protector in this harsh world, is missing. Will Darcy find out what happened? Will she find her mother? Or will Darcy be forced to face life on America Pacifica alone?
 
I really enjoyed reading America Pacifica and hope there will be a continuation to this gripping novel. A terrific debut from Anna North.  

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A Higher Call

15808816
 
A Higher Call by Adam Makos with Larry Alexander
Published 15 August 2013 Atlantic
 
"Can good men be found on both sides of a bad war?"
 
On December 20, 1943 in the skies over Germany, an American B-17 bomber and her crew are trying to make it back to England after a raid on Bremmen. The plane, 'Ye Olde Pub' has suffered severe damage, to the wing, nose and engines. Half of her rudder has been shot away and most of her guns have jammed. Inside, the crew aren't faring much better. One gunner, Ecky, is dead. Another, Russian has been shot and radio operator Pechout has frostbitten hands. Pilot  2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown knows their chances of making it back are slim and so offers his crew the option to jump. Being POWs would at least mean survival rather than ditching into the North Sea. None of the crew jumped. "The Quiet Ones" as they were known, stayed together; Charlie, Pinky, Frenchy, Pechout, Blackie, Russian and Ecky.
 
Lieutenant Franz Stigler was walking across his airbase at Jever when the labouring bomber flew low over them. The German's couldn't believe the crew's audacity. Stigler was a fighter pilot, and a very successful one. He needed just three points - a bomber victory - to be awarded the Knights Cross, a sign of honour. The B-17 was his.
 
Once Franz was airborne, he quickly caught up with the bomber. As the gun turrets swung towards him, he aimed his guns back at the American plane - but neither fired. Franz couldn't understand why the bomber made no defence against his lone 109 fighter. Franz took a closer look at the bomber and realised how badly damaged she was. "Every foot of the bomber's metal had silver holes where the bullets had entered...". He saw the crew, the injured and the dead and he saw the course they were flying on - the quickest way out of Germany yet a line of defence stood in their way.
 
Rather than obey orders, rather than get his three points and his medal, rather than attack, Franz protected the B-17 and her crew by flying at her wing, over the line of battery gunners who were both taken by surprise and concerned not to hit their own fighter. He escorted them out to sea, signalling to the pilot to fly for Sweden and neutral territory. Charlie and his crew couldn't understand the German's actions and were aghast when they saw Franz salute them, and fly back towards the German coast. He had let them go. No, more than that, he had protected them and saluted them. It was an act of honour.
 
A Higher Call is the story of American 2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown and German Lieutenant Franz Stigler. It tells of their growing up, their time in the forces and the harrowing missions they completed, and of their lives afterward. It is a truly remarkable story and one I am glad to know. At the time of the incident, "their heroism was being swept under the rug."Thanks to Adam Makos and Larry Alexander, that is no longer the case.
 
This book was sent to me for review. I have never read military non-fiction before and I know, with the amount of books I have yet to read, I would not have picked A Higher Call up from the shelf. Although interested in History, my family's contributions in World War II were for the Army - not the Air Force so I have no knowledge of planes, flying, ranks and operations. I do now. I am so very glad to have read these brave inspiring young men's stories. I found I was completely immersed in their experience. The book contains maps and photographs that helped me understand more of the mechanics and geography of the war in the air. The best part were the photographs of Franz, Charlie and the rest of the pilots that appear in the pages, to see those brave selfless young men.
 
Lest we forget. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Longbourn

17612893
 
 
Longbourn by Jo Baker
*PROOF COPY*
Published 15 August 2013 Doubleday
 
Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books. It is witty and sharp and full of marvellous characters. I have re-read the book many times and am always on the lookout for more - the sequels, the what-if books that have been written in their dozens.
 
Longbourn is different. If, like Lady Catherine De Bourgh you think "I know it all!", think again for this is the servants story. It tells of Mr and Mrs Hill, Sarah, Polly and newcomer James. Of cleaning and cooking, sweeping and mending. Of love and desire and secrets and loss.
 
I really enjoyed this book - the scenes of domesticity and seeing the Bennet family though the eyes of the help.
 
Thank you so much for the proof, Longbourn is a welcome addition to my bookcase and I hope it shall be for yours.

New England Rocks

17606712
 
New England Rocks by Christina Courtenay
Published 14 August 2013 Choc Lit Rocks
 
I have always had a soft spot for Choc Lit publishers and was thrilled when they announced the launch of their new YA imprint Choc Lit Rocks.
 
New England Rocks is the first title for this imprint, itself the first in a series by award-winning author Christina Courtenay.
 
I love reading about New England and was excited to read this novel. It has a very cool contemporary cover featuring main character Rain.
 
Rain has been expelled from her British boarding school for bad behaviour and, in order to teach her a lesson, her titled father demands she attend the high school local to their home in New England, USA. Rain is furious and determined she won't be staying, but a few encounters with high-school-hottie Jesse just may change her mind.
 
Now for the painful part. New England Rocks did not rock my world. I read a lot of YA fiction and there is a need for more contemporary romance in the market. Authors like Simone Elkeles and Jennifer E. Smith can't do it all on their own! I finished it, but this novel seemed too coincidental...too contrived. I can't see a titled, educated and successful man like Rain's father interrupting her top-level education by sending her to a local high school to do home economics.

I find Jesse mediocre. His description fits the hot rock star persona but his demeanour just doesn't cut it - he's not bad enough! With his family situation on top you'd expect him to be more angry loner, determined to succeed on his own terms. Rain herself I found a contradiction. She has no qualms in downing tequila and driving the 'Lambo' without a licence but then she's looking for someone to cover for her while she goes to see the band. Doesn't add up.

Lastly, the New England thing was disappointing. The Fall foliage is mentioned towards the end of the novel but other than that the book could have been set in Anywhere, USA. No covered bridges, clapperboard houses, trips to the Cape or mentions of Harvard.

Overall, New England Rocks didn't quite work for me.   

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Disgrace of Kitty Grey

The Disgrace of Kitty Grey
 
The Disgrace of Kitty Grey by Mary Hooper
(Proof Copy)
Published 9 May 2013 Bloomsbury
 
 
I am a huge fan of Mary Hooper's historical teen fiction so when a friend passed this proof on to me I was thrilled.
 
Kitty is a dairymaid in the 1800s. She loves her work and her cows and her sweetheart Will, the local ferryman.
 
When Will disappears leaving his little sister with Kitty, she is furious - sure he has abandoned them to make his fortune in London. When her mistress askes Kitty to collect Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice from a bookshop in London (nice tie with the P&P 200th birthday!), Kitty is only too happy to oblige. Just how hard would it be to find Will in London and reunite him with his sister? Poor country Kitty has no idea.
 
The novel is well paced and wonderfully descriptive - I flew through this book reading of all of Kitty's trials and tribulations. The character of Kitty is very likeable. She's a good girl so her desperate plight was distressing in places.
 
As always, Mary Hooper's historical settings are magical and the novel includes some historical notes on Newgate Prison and transportation as well as a butter-making method perfect for your inner dairymaid!
 
 
 

 
 
 


Monday, 5 August 2013

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Z by Therese Anne Fowler
 
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Published 11 April 2013 Two Roads Books
 
 
This book is almost required reading for me and so thank you Lisa for the ARC. I adored The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - the story of Hemingway's hard-done-to wife Hadley and so when I read about Z, it went straight onto my TBR list. I was not disappointed.
 
Z is the story of the first flapper, Zelda Sayre, later Fitzgerald. It begins in Montgomery, Alabama with a very young, bold, effervescent Zelda living life just the way she wants to. She has beau's a-plenty and is the life of the party when she meets Lieutenant Scott Fitzgerald - and the rest, as they say, is history.
 
The Fitzgerald's are the glitterati, the glamour, the champagne fizz - everyone wants a piece. They live in an exhausting New York whirlwind of gaiety but alongside this is Scott's competitive struggle to go one better with his writing. To be the best, the one, celebrated and Zelda was right there - his muse, his accompaniment, his co-star and lastly, his wife.
 
As they travel through Europe and even to Africa, meeting Hemingway, Stein, Porter, Pound and Picasso we see the Fitzgerald elastic stretch and eventually snap.
 
Zelda's frustration, need and helplessness make Z a very emotional read. As I was reading I would think she's only 23, 25, 28 years old. What a life, a sad life.
 
Z is a love story, a tragedy, a wonderful novel. Upon finishing it I felt exhausted - but I loved it. Well done Therese for giving Zelda Fitzgerald a voice.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Island Wife

Island Wife, Judy Fairbairns, front cover
Island Wife by Judy Fairbairns
Published March 28, 2013 Two Roads Books
 
 
A fascinating memoir of Hebridean family life.
 
Judy and Alex meet and marry. Judy goes from being a nineteen year old city girl to a busy wife and mother on a successful farm when the opportunity arises to move to Tapsalteerie - a Hebridean estate - and Alex and Judy take it. 
 
 
Now an island wife, she has "...a full hand and no mistake..." with a husband, five children, Granny-at-the-Gate and numerous animals let alone the hundreds of visitors to the family's B&B, whale watching business and recording studio. We read about their lives throughout the coldest Winter on record...and beyond.
 
Told with candour and humour, this book holds marvellous descriptions of a beautiful, rugged, untamed landscape - I had to keep Googling flora and fauna!
 
Amusing one minute, heartbreaking the next - Island Wife is the story of one woman's struggle to find happiness on what must have felt like the edge of the world.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
 
Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
*PROOF COPY*
Published August 1 2013 Atlantic Books
 
 
Before I begin, I feel I must first point out that this review has not been written in Gerritszoon font. I am sorry.
 
I was sent a proof copy of this novel under absolute secrecy. It arrived at work and was, thankfully, labelled Open in Secret! thus avoiding any awkward conversations with colleagues.
 
When I did get to a suitable spot and opened the pages - what a joy! Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is such a clever novel. Original, multi-faceted, a real gem that mixes tradition with technology in a fascinating way that challenges the way you think about books.
 
I cannot say too much. If you should happen to acquire this book, guard it well. Read it, enjoy it, and although you shall be bursting at the seams to discuss it, carefully speak of it only to trusted parties.
 
Festina Lente
 
*Thank you Atlantic books for the proof. Love the post-its and the FLC logo stamp!*


Monday, 29 July 2013

The Testing

The Testing (The Testing, #1)
 
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
(PROOF)
1 August 2013 Templar
 
I was very excited to read The Testing (thank you so much Templar) as it is marketed as a MUST for Hunger Games fans - a statement that proved to be true. It is a brilliant dystopian YA thriller. Action, adventure, romance - everything is packed into these unputdownable pages!
 
I was sorry to finish The Testing - its definitely a re-readable book and one of my best books of 2013.
 
Cia Vale is graduating. More than anything she wants to be chosen for The Testing and win a place at university, like her father, so she can help rebuild the war ravaged world. So when it transpires se has been; through tears and goodbyes, her father tells her the snatches he remembers of his time at The Testing and the nightmares that followed. It's not a lot, but it's all he can do for Cia now and his revelations leave her chilled to the bone.
 
As she begins The Testing, it soon becomes apparent that a candidate either makes it through or they never make it out alive. The Government must have the strongest, most intelligent practical leaders to re-build the planet. It is an honour to be chosen from your Colony to take part. The process is not optional. Can Cia and her friends survive The Testing?
 
I could not put this book down, it engaged me on all levels and I felt huge disappointment when I did reach the end - what happens now??? I really can't wait for more. You will adore it.
 
So, candidates, prepare yourself for The Testing...its coming for YOU 1 August 2013. Remember, attendance is not optional.