Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Bridge

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.