Saturday, 10 October 2015

Twisted

by Lola Smirnova

Rating: 5/5


21446984

Pages: 314
Publisher:  Createspace
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN:  9781496031013
 
Summary (via Goodreads)


Back in the 90’s, the corrupt post-Soviet Ukraine with its faltering economy, is thrown into a devastating depression. Times are hard. Opportunities are scarce.

Three eager young sisters – Natalia, Lena and Julia - dream of a better life and weigh their options: do they stay and struggle like their parents, or join scores of their compatriots in the sex trade in glittering western European cities, who earn in a night what they’d take several months to earn at home? Naive and tempted by the allure of 'quick' money, the girls set off on an adventure that changes their lives forever...

Can they stay out of trouble enough to fulfill their ambitions?
Can they hold on to their idealism in a world where depravity and danger are constant companions?
How far are they willing to go to make a buck?

Inspired by real-life events, Twisted is a fascinating New Adult SUSPENSE THRILLER about vulnerability, courage and the art of making a living in the sex trade...




Review




I would like to thank both Lola Smirnova for allowing me to review her book and to Book Publicity Services for contacting me in the first place and offering me a review copy or I may never have come across such a captivating and alluring book.


I cannot describe how much I enjoyed reading Twisted, nor how much I cannot wait to read the second book in her series; Craved.


Twisted followed the story of three sisters in their bid to survive poverty and depression in the 90's Soviet Union.


What I loved the most about the book was the language. Smirnova writes in a way rarely seen in most books like this; honest and blunt without overly romanticising the content. The book is neither underplayed nor overdone. It is simply perfectly written to reflect the story.


That may sound over the top on my part but it is my opinion nonetheless. Often I come across books that overplay the sexual nature within their stories, or make the notion of prostitution either too 'rose-tinted' or degrading to the women who work in the profession. Smirnova, on the other hand, shows the sex trade from both sides in equal measure, it can be fun, but it is still the sex trade.


The characters of the three sisters were humorous, sarcastic and incredibly entertaining to read about. I could go on forever about the book, but I do not want to give anything away. All I will say is READ IT! You will not be disappointed. 


I wish to end this review with a quick word of caution. Please be advised that there is an age warning on this book as the content is of a highly explicit nature and therefore is not suitable for young readers. I would only recommend this book to readers above the age of 18!


About the Author: (courtesy of Book Publicity Services)
Lola Smirnova is an author from Ukraine. She loves twisting a suspenseful tale through the dark lens of realism around the sexual underworld, so clocked in secrecy and shame. Lola’s work is inspired by real-life events and is meant for the open-minded readers who are not afraid of a little blood, sweat and semen.


Her debut novel Twisted was released in 2014. The book placed as Honorable Mention in General Fiction Category of The 2014 London Book Festival’s Annual Competition.
Whether you prefer to slide your finger across a touchscreen or turn a paper page, Lola’s thrilling tales will surely shock and surprise you, with both its storyline and its literary value.


Now living in South Africa, Lola is about to release her second novel – a sequel to Twisted – Craved, which proves just how many fascinating stories she has to share about the ordinary women in the global sex industry.


To learn more, go to http://lolasmirnova.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/twistedlolasmirnova

Saturday, 5 September 2015

The Sister Queens

by Sophie Perinot

Rating: 4/5


11459517

Pages: 503
Publisher:  NAL
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 9780451235701
 
Summary (via Goodreads)


Patient, perfect, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. But Louis IX is a religious zealot who denies himself the love and companionship his wife craves. Can she borrow enough of her sister's boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in a forbidden love?Passionate, strong-willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Henry III is a good man, but not a good king. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?

The Sister Queens is historical fiction at its most compelling, and is an unforgettable first novel.


Review


How do you determine the creator of history? Is it just one person or several? Are they male? Female? Both? Who are they?


These were some of the questions I had in the back of my mind when I was reading The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot.


The Sister Queens follows the stories of Marguerite, Queen of France, and Eleanor, Queen of England in the 1200s. What is interesting about the two women is that, not only were they both married to powerful kings, but they were also sisters who would continue a constant bond and correspondence with one another for their entire lives, despite the very different direction those lives would go in.


I had never actually heard of Eleanor or Marguerite, or their other two sisters who would also become queens in their own right. However their story intrigued me. Eleanor and Marguerite were queens to warring kings who, at some points in their lives, resented one another. Despite this, the two sisters worked together to bring peace between their two countries as they attempted to hold their own in a world ruled by men.


Overall I found the book to be interesting to read and the voices of the characters to be captivating. I found myself following the story and, due to my limited knowledge of the history behind the book, guessing at what would happen next.


Both sisters are portrayed as being strong, independent and intelligent women who learned how to achieve what they wanted despite being considered inferior by their contemporaries.


Perinot has really brought the dead back to life in her book and given them their own voices once again.
A Thousand Nights

by E. K. Johnson

Rating: 4/5


21524446

Pages: 336
Publisher:  Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: October 2015
ISBN: 9781484722275

 
 
Summary (via Goodreads)
 
Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.
  

 
Review

My thanks to Macmillan for the review copy of A Thousand Nights.

A Thousand Nights is a beautifully charming version of a classic, a fresh fairy-tale that I couldn't put down!

I have always found stories like Aladdin and Arabian Nights to be of interest, therefore when I read the press release on A Thousand Nights, I jumped at the chance to read a review copy of the book.

A Thousand Nights follows the story of a young woman who sacrifices herself in place of her sister when the king comes to claim his newest bride. determined, strong-willed and brave, the young woman faces Lo-Melkhiin night after night, always wondering if she would see the following dawn.
The woman notices things about her new husband that she was not expecting, moments of kindness that a monster wouldn't reveal. With this in mind she begins to question the reality of her situation and wonder if the man still existed within the demon.


What I found interesting about this book is that the main character, the wife of Lo-Melkhiin, is never given a name. She is referred to as Lady-Bless by the other characters and, for the purpose of this review, I will be doing the same.


Lady-bless is very much a character who goes on a journey of self-discovery throughout the book. In the beginning she believes herself to be plain, ordinary and dull in comparison to her more beautiful sister. However, after leaving her family behind and moving to her new husband's home, Lady-bless finds out that she has her own inner strength that could save not just herself, but everyone in the kingdom.


I found the book to both gripping and well written. The idea behind the book is captivating and tells an interesting take on  the backdrop of The Arabian Nights story where a woman uses her wits and intelligence to survive her marriage to a violent husband. The description of the desert and the it's surroundings allows the reader to become immersed within the story, almost being able to feel the intense heat, taste the sand at the back of their throats.


A Thousand Nights is set for release on 6th October 2015 and I would strongly recommend buying a copy.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Women in Red

By Jordan Rosenfeld

Genre: Psychological thriller

Book Description
Dead-broke single mother Stella Russo, daughter of a world-class prima ballerina, has nearly given up on her own professional aspirations—much less true love—when a dazzling impromptu stunt by a mysterious troupe reminds her just how empowering performing onstage can be. Convincing herself that a dependable gig with such a company just might be the ticket to a better life for her musical-prodigy daughter and now-invalid mother, Stella takes a giant jeté of faith and joins up. But when she lands in the clutches of an enigmatic and demanding impresario bent on making her his star at any cost, has she risked too much? As Stella untwists the troupe’s troubling secrets, she becomes entangled in turns she could never imagine—and is forced to face her own past as well. Women in Red draws readers into the dark, dangerous, and dramatically sexy underworld of the dance—but also into the longing of every living, breathing being for a family of one’s own.

REVIEW
I have not read a book like this in quite a while; it is captivating, relatable, sexy, and incredibly enjoyable to read!

Would you give up every dream you have in order to do what is best for your child?

Women In Red is about a would-be-professional-dancer turned single mother called Stella who battles with the duties of being a mother to her ten-year-old daughter, Izzy. Stella also struggles with her responsibility to her invalid mother and her dreams of being a professional dancer, not to mention hiding from the secrets of her past!

Then, just when Stella has given up all hopes of achieving her dreams, walks in a strange and alluring gentleman who declares that he can change her life, make all her dreams come true (so to speak).

Now Stella needs to decide; does she follow her instincts or her desire to be a professional dancer which for so long she thought never to accomplish?

That's enough about the plot anyway, you need to read it to get the good stuff!

Women In Red is set amongst the backdrop of the glamorous performing world, full to the brim of glitter, PVC, leotards, sequins, make-up and fine champagne. It is the world we dream of because of its alluring and beautiful mysticism. But is it all that we think? Is it really about the parties and the fun of being centre-stage, or is there a darker, more sinister side?

Jordan Rosenfield has created in Women In Red an intricate story of hope, sex, secrets and murder in this entertaining, sassy story that keeps you guessing and planted firmly on the edge of your seat until the end of the book.

What I enjoyed about the book is how, not only is the reader told events from Stella's point of view, but also from her daughter and mother's. This, for me, allowed me to really get to know not only the personality of the main character but also how that character relates to others within the book itself, particularly between Stella and her mother. Between these two characters exists several conflicting emotions throughout the book; love, gratitude, devotion, but also; resentment, envy, anger and fear.

Stella's mother holds an interesting position within the story. She is seemingly dependant on others and yet she holds information about Stella's past that Stella doesn't want revealing. This conflict of character is something that Rosenfield uses with all her characters  within Women in Red and makes for a more interesting and gripping read as the characters clash.

I found myself wanting to know more about Stella from before the book was based despite the information that is given within the book, about her past and how she had ended up in the position she now found herself in (I personally hope the author may consider doing a prequel)

This book is a must read for the summer and should definitely be placed on the list of books to read in 2015!
 
Author Bio
Jordan Rosenfeld is author of the novels Forged in Grace and Night Oracle as well as A Writer’s Guide to Persistence and three other guides to the art and craft of writing. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post, in numerous literary journals, and on “The California Report,” a newsmagazine produced by NPR affiliate KQED. She lives in Northern California.




Follow Jordan:
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jordanrosenfeld/







 



Saturday, 8 August 2015

The Ice Twins

by S.K.Tremayne

Rating: 4/5


23553419
Pages: 373
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 9780007563036

 
 
Summary (via Goodreads)
 
 A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity—that she, in fact, is Lydia—their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past—what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

 
Review (Warning Spoilers!)

I would like to thank Harper Collins Publishers for a review copy of The Ice Twins.

Imagine that you have two identical children. Not only are they identical twins but they have the exact same hair cut, the same outfit, the same eyes, moles and blemishes on their skin. Do you think you would be able to tell the difference between them?

For Sarah, who has lost one of her perfectly identical daughters, this becomes a matter of urgency when one night her remaining daughter tells her that she got it wrong about who died.

When I first read the blurb on this book I was hooked on the idea of a parent not knowing which child she had buried and which was the one who now remained in front of her and wanted to read it immediately. 

The way that S. K. Tremayne has started the book makes the reader feel that they have entered half way through a story. Lydia has already been dead for over a year and her remaining family are trying to move on with their lives without her. The family is broken, struggling to cope and carry on, especially Lydia's twin Kirstie who has no friends and feels lost without her other half.

The Ice Twins is chilling and suspenseful. I found myself questioning the death of Lydia, trying to work out if I believed Kirstie's claims to be her. The hostile relationship between Sarah and Angus at some points confused me, I wanted to know what had caused the love-hate pull that now existed in the void caused by their daughter's death.

One thing I also liked about the book was that there were pictures included within it at certain stages. For me these gave me a sense of excitement and the feeling like I was reading a criminal file and these were the stages which led to that crime. However I would like to point out this is only my take on it and I have no proof that the images are intended to be interpreted this way.

I would recommend this book to any lover of modern fiction or crime fiction (aged 14+). It was an enjoyable read that had a surprising conclusion.



Saturday, 1 August 2015

Crow Mountain

by Lucy Inglis

Rating: 5/5
25841943
Pages: 368
Publisher:  Chicken House
Publication Date: September 2015
ISBN: 9781910002353

 
 
Summary (via Goodreads)
 
While on holiday in Montana, Hope meets local boy Cal Crow, a ranch hand. Caught in a freak accident, the two of them take shelter in a mountain cabin where Hope makes a strange discovery. More than a hundred years earlier, another English girl met a similar fate. Her rescuer: a horse-trader called Nate.

In this wild place, both girls learn what it means to survive and to fall in love, neither knowing that their fates are intimately entwined.
  

 
Review (Warning Spoilers!)


My thanks to Chicken House for supplying me with a review copy of Crow Mountain.
 
Crow Mountain is one of the best books I have read this year and, as I have already told the author Lucy Inglis, one of my favourite love stories ever!

Do you ever wonder how the past could have shaped the present? I have, and for me this is one of those rare books that I found so captivating and intoxicating I couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting! The way the book was written was easy to read with characters that you fall for.

As mentioned above Crow Mountain  tells the stories of two young couples, Nate and Emily, and Hope and Cal. Their stories are alike in many ways except that they are over a century apart.

In 1867, Emily was on the way to meet her future husband when a freak accident, or fate, intervened and, rather than at her wedding, Emily finds herself in the secluded mountains with a strange man who's every trait is against her own upbringing. Despite the social differences Emily finds Nate intriguing and, as she learns more about him, wonders how she will ever return to her old life. Set around the backdrop of the Indian's vs railroads confrontations Lucy Inglis brings the horrors of history to life.

Meanwhile in modern day Montana Hope is going on holiday with her mother and meets Cal, a handsome boy who seems apprehensive to get too close to her. Once again an accident leads to Hope and Cal being trapped with only each other for company and support. Hope finds Emily's diary and realises that she needs to do something to stop the events of the past repeating itself once more.

Having read books all my life I find that I rarely find books now that make me physically react however in Crow Mountain not only could I not put the story down, but I also found at times I was sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation, trying to predict the ending.

Unfortunately I cannot say everything I want to about the ending to Crow Mountain as I don't want to give it away. Therefore all I can say is that is was perfect for the book and very well written and my favourite part of the book.

Crow Mountain is truly a fantastic read with a beautiful love story where fate and the past become intertwined with the present. At times it was so heart-breaking to the point where I wanted to scream "No, you cant do that!" But in the end when I closed the cover I found that I wanted to start it again from the beginning, to hear the stories of Emily and Nate and Hope and Cal once again.

I cannot recommend this book enough - go and get yourself a copy!

Crow Mountain is due for release on 3rd September 2015




Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Darkmere

by Helen Maslin

Rating: 5/5

25209891
Pages: 368
Publisher:  Chicken House
Publication Date: August 2015
ISBN: 9781910002346

 
 
Summary (via Goodreads)
 
A castle. A curse. A dangerous summer. Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together - but instead, she's drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all.
 
Review (Possible Spoilers!)

My thanks to Chicken House for supplying me with a review copy of Darkmere.
 
Darkmere follows the story of two young women; Kate and Elinor, as they experience adventure, love, heartbreak and fear...the only thing is that they experience it two hundred years apart!
 
Elinor is the youngest daughter of a privileged and well respected family who finds herself forced into a marriage with the alluring Mr St Cloud. Mr St Cloud is handsome, rich and full of charisma but when Elinor travels to his newly built castle, Darkmere, she suspects that her husband is hiding a terrible secret.
 
Kate on the other hand is the new girl at school trying to fit in. When she is invited to Darkmere by the coolest guy at school she is thrilled and excited only to find disappointment and apprehension when greeted by the castle's stone walls. Darkmere is now a derelict ruin covered in dust and secrets and Kate is convinced something...or someone...lurks in the shadows.

I found Darkmere  to be a very interesting and captivating story which I couldn't put down. I usually find ghost stories to be a bit cliché but was happy to find this one kept me guessing. I  think this is due to the characters who had more depth to them than the typical school-kids-get-scared-to-death characters you get in movies.

Kate, for me, was a relatable character who tries to use logic to explain away the scary scenarios she found herself in as she uncovers the secrets of Darkmere and its master.

Elinor was my favourite character however because of her strength and determination and I feel that, as a character, Elinor makes the biggest journey within the book.


Maslin has created in Darkmere a refreshing and alluring ghost story where past and present collide into one form. There is so much that I would love to include in this review but I feel it would be revealing too much and, after all, the best thing about a mystery is figuring it out!

With this in mind I want to end this review by expressing my thanks once again to Chicken House and stating that I would recommend this book to any YA (above 14 years), NA and Woman's Fiction enthusiast!



Saturday, 4 July 2015

The Vanishing Witch

by Karen Maitland

Rating: 3.5/5


21353509



Pages: 597
Publisher:  Headline Review
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 9781472215017

 
 
Summary (via Goodreads)


The reign of Richard II is troubled, the poor are about to become poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets. It's a case of every man for himself, whatever his status or wealth. But in a world where nothing can be taken at face value, who can you trust? The dour wool merchant? His impulsive son? The stepdaughter with the hypnotic eyes? Or the raven-haired widow clutching her necklace of bloodstones?

And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it's time to fight back, it's all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn.

 
Review

My thanks to bookbridgr for sending me a review copy of this book.

I have always had an interest in the idea of witches and the incredible lengths people used to go to in order to find and prevent witchcraft;

"If a witch tries to bewitch you, spit on her so that the spittle lands between her eyes. that will break the spell." (quote from The Vanishing Witch, Karen Maitland)

The Vanishing Witch tells a story from several viewpoints, including a ghost! Each character is alluring and interesting to read on their own, but when put together the reader is left with a book rich in murder, betrayal, anger, fear and conspiracy that is addictive to read.

Set in the backdrop of a poor and struggling Lincoln the characters are each trying to make the most of what is left to them, whether it be a slowly drowning business, the saving of a long dead marriage or the irrespirable temptation of a lover. Robert, a proud and respected man finds himself the centrepiece between a suspicious son, an alluring woman he cannot ignore and a step-daughter so strange and whimsical that trouble travels with her.

For me the most intriguing character and the one I found the most perplexing. the ghost gives the definition to people-watching!

I found I was asking who is this person? Why are they watching the other characters?

The book is well written and despite the presence of several story arcs, is easy to follow as the book progresses.

Maitland has created a book that spans a story of surprises and characters that keeps you guessing until the drama packed end! 







The Lady of Misrule

by Suszannah Dunn

Rating: 4/5


22694743


Publisher: Little Brown Book Club
Publication Date: 2015
A SIN: B00LM9S9GU

 

 
Summary (via Goodreads)

Every girl in England, now, under the circumstances, made sure to be a good Catholic girl. Except her, of course. And, if only she knew it, me.

Escorting 'nine days queen' Jane Grey across the Tower of London from throne room into imprisonment is Elizabeth Tilney, who surprised even herself by volunteering for the job. All Elizabeth knows is she's keen to be away from home, she could do with some breathing space. And anyway, it won't be for long: everyone knows Jane will go free as soon as the victorious new queen is crowned. Which is a good thing because the two sixteen-year-olds, cooped up together in a room in the Gentleman Gaoler's house, couldn't be less compatible. Protestant Jane is an icily self-composed idealist, and catholic Elizabeth is... well, anything but.

They are united though by their disdain for the seventeen-year-old to whom Jane has recently been married off: petulant, noisily-aggrieved Guildford Dudley, held prisoner in a neighbouring tower and keen to pursue his perogative of a daily walk with his wife.

As Jane's captivity extends into the increasingly turbulent last months of 1553, the two girls learn to live with each other, but Elizabeth finds herself drawn into the difficult relationship between the newlyweds. And when, at the turn of the year, events take an unexpected and dangerous direction, her newfound loyalties are put to the test.

 
Review
 
Firstly may I thank Netgalley for allowing me access to this book.

Now...to the review...

How would you react if you were locked up in a confined space with a stranger? What if this person was not only a stranger to you but also someone who has come from a completely different walk of life to you? Awkward doesn't begin to cover it.

When Elizabeth volunteers to be locked in the tower alongside Jane Grey she has no idea what is in store for her, all she thinks about is how she wants to run away from her secrets and the lies she has told.

On meeting Jane, Elizabeth finds herself on the backdrop of one of the most historical conspiracies against Mary Tudor just after she became queen. Jane Grey is plain and only interested in her books, generating a very difficult relationship between the two girls as they learn to co-exist with one another.

I have read several of Suzannah Dunn's books in the past and have never found her a disappointing read. Her books always tell history in an exiting way and often from the viewpoint of a background character, The Lady of Misrule being another example of this.


By telling the story through Elizabeth's eyes the viewer travels through Jane Grey's story in a less subjective way. I found myself wondering what would have been going through Jane's mind as she waited to discover her fate with only her books to keep her distracted. Did she miss her husband? Was she lonely? Was she angry with her parents for proclaiming her a queen? These are the type of questions that anyone would have wondered at the time, especially if they were forced to live with Jane day in, day out.

I don't want to give too much away about the ending but I will say that it came upon me by surprise, I was expecting more and wanted to know more about Elizabeth's life when she left the tower and returned to normal society. However I think the fact the book finished so suddenly worked well as someone who had been in Elizabeth's shoes would have felt disorientated on trying to go back to her normal life before Jane. I think the ending reinforces this.

I would highly recommend this book.





Friday, 8 May 2015

The Boy in the Book

by Nathan Penlington

Rating: 4/5

21721765

Pages: 320
Publisher:  Headline Publishing
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 9780755365708

 
 
Summary (via Goodreads)

As a boy Nathan Penlington had loved Choose Your Own Adventure novels. So when he came across a set of the first 106 volumes for sale on eBay, he snapped them up. Picking up the first, The Cave of Time, he was looking forward to a nostalgic trip back to his own childhood. What he discovered instead would send him off on adventure all of his own.

As he turned the pages, there was another story being written - in the margins were scribblings by the little boy who had originally owned them, a boy called Terence. There were hints on the coming adventure and jokes, but also something darker. Terence wrote about being bullied at school, the things he hated about himself, of a desperate need for friends. Later Nathan came across a few pages of diary:

Stole money from parents, bought airline ticket, ran away to Scotland.
Saturday - detention x2. Left school with intention to kill myself.
Drugs... Guns?


Even though it must have been twenty years since Terence wrote those words, it was clear that they were a cry for help. Nathan decided to answer that call: to find Terence, or at least find out what happened to him.

Nathan's search for Terence is at once funny, moving and more than a little quixotic. There would be dead ends and crossed wires, and along the way Nathan would have to face his own childhood demons. It is a story about the dark places that can exist in any childhood, but also of the sanctuary to be found in books. And at the end of his adventure Nathan would find one more surprise: a friend

 
Review
 
Firstly may I thank the author and Bookbridgr for allowing me to read a review copy of this book.
 
The Boy in the Book is the first book by Nathan Penlington that I have read and I have to say I was not disappointed.

What drew me to the book was the element of child suffering and how this apparent devastating history had been documented in the form of a diary.

The book is about obsession, and how this can impact every aspect of our lives. On finding some scribbled notes inside his Choose Your Own Adventure books, Nathan Penlington finds himself on a curious real-life adventure where his need to find out the truth leads him to meet surprising people and learn more about himself.

I have always been interested in diary's and have kept one myself since the age of thirteen. Through a diary we reveal our inner most secrets, our dreams, our fears and our general outlook on life. One of the most famous examples of this being the diary of Anne Frank.

With this in mind I eagerly began my journey through Nathan's Penlington's book, exited about what I would learn. What I  didn't expect was for the book to be so personal to the author, telling me about his issues in his own youth, the medical trauma's he had faced over his life and how, on finding Terence Prendergast's diary, Nathan had faced his own childhood.

I don't want to reveal to much about the plot of the book as I feel that in order to fully appreciate the story told, one needs to experience it themselves. However I will mention that what I have found the most interesting and what has prompted me to re-read my own diary is the way in which so much can be discovered about a person from merely what they write down in a book. As Nathan himself mentions, diary's are personal, people who write them do not usually expect them to be read by others, at least not in their lifetime, because of this no reserve is used when keeping a diary, people are truly honest.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in history, non-fiction and detective work. You will not be disappointed.

 





Wednesday, 18 March 2015

 
The Originals
by Julie Plec
Rating: 3/5
22716079
Pages: 352
Publisher:  HQN Books
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 9780373788897
 
 
Summary (via Goodreads)

Family is power. The Original vampire family swore it to each other a thousand years ago. They pledged to remain together always and forever. But even when you're immortal, promises are hard to keep.

Arriving in New Orleans in 1722, Original vampire siblings Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah Mikaelson believe they've escaped their dangerous past. But the city is lawless, a haven for witches and werewolves unwilling to share territory. The siblings are at their mercy…especially after Klaus meets the beautiful and mysterious Vivianne. Her impending marriage is key to ending the war between the supernatural factions—and Klaus's attraction to her could destroy the uneasy alliance. As Elijah works toward securing a piece of the city for his family, and Rebekah fights her unexpected feelings for a French captain, will Klaus's volatile desires bring their world crashing down—and tear them apart for good?
 
Review (warning spoilers)
If, like me, you are a fan of The Vampire Diaries or The Originals, then you will most likely be in love with Klaus Mikaelson and the other members of the original family.
 
 
The Originals by Julie Plec tells the unknown story of the original vampires and what happened when they first came to New Orleans in the 1700s. Any fan of the show will know that Julie Plec has worked closely with the television show since the beginning and therefore it makes perfect sense for her to be the author of the new series inspired by everyone's favourite bad guy.
The book takes place in 1722, New Orleans and the rest of America are beginning to blossom as the world opens up to it. Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah are living a somewhat peaceful existence under the rule of the witches and werewolves whom have set aside their differences to begin a new alliance through the marriage of a beautiful and determined woman, Vivianne....what could possibly go wrong??
Enter Klaus...besotted by the young woman and determined to have her, no matter the cost. Typical Klaus really.
Anyway, that's enough spoilers. On to the review...
Overall the book was enjoyable and I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series. I think that the literary representations of Rebekah and Elijah to be spot on in their portrayals. my only slight disappointment was in Klaus as at times I felt he was too sentimental and not 'Klaus' enough. I have to admit that I prefer Joseph Morgan. Who could say no to that face???
 


I felt that the book was well written and the character plots thought out and easy to follow. I actually would like to see some of these storylines come into the actual series as it would be interesting to know more about what happened when The Originals were in New Orleans and how they gained power the first time round.
 
I would recommend this book to any fan of Klaus and The Original family.
 





Monday, 9 March 2015

The Courtesan and the Samurai

by Lesley Downer
Rating: 3.5/5

10423241

 
Pages: 480 pages
Publisher:  Corgi
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN: 9780552155328


Summary (via Goodreads)

1868. In Japan's exotic pleasure quarters, sex is for sale and the only forbidden fruit is love ...

Hana is just seventeen when her husband goes to war, leaving her alone and vulnerable. When enemy soldiers attack her house she flees across the shattered city of Tokyo and takes refuge in the Yoshiwara, its famous pleasure-quarters.There she is forced to become a courtesan.

Yozo, brave, loyal and a brilliant swordsman, is pledged to the embattled shogun. He sails to the frozen north to join his rebel comrades for a desperate last stand. Defeated, he makes his way south to the only place where a man is beyond the reach of the law - the Yoshiwara.

There in the Nightless City where three thousand courtesans mingle with geishas and jesters, the battered fugitive meets the beautiful courtesan. But each has a secret so terrible that once revealed it will threaten their very lives ...

 
Review

The Courtesan and the Samurai is full of lust, adventure, danger, war, betrayal, fear, love and above all, loyalty, not to mention revenge. The book tells the story of Hana, the humble wife of a Samurai who, when confronted with death finds the courage to fight and survive which leads her on a journey of self discovery down a dark and dangerous path from which there is no return.

Then, just when Hana fears that her life will take a turn for the worst she meets Yozo, a handsome young man running from his own demons. Together they confront their pasts and fight for their freedom.

Overall I found the book to be interesting and enjoyable to read. I felt that Downer created the characters well and made them all stimulating individually as well as a collective without which the book would not be as successful. The wider characters within the book, particularly on Yozo's side, helped to make the book more interesting and bringing warmth and humour the story.

I have to admit that I found Hana's storyline more interesting to read about than Yozo's but this was more influenced by personal preference than a reflection on the book's content as Yozo's storyline was necessary in order to fully comprehend Hana's.

I did find certain parts of the book to be predictable but this did not hinder my enjoyment of the book overall whatsoever, if anything it made me anticipate the eventual ending all the more.

I would recommend this book to any lover of forbidden love or Chinese fiction.
 





Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Land of Dragor: The Gift of Charms
by Julia Suzuki
Rating: 4/5


23219020

Pages: 288 pages in paperback
Publisher:  Dino Books
Publication Date: 2014
ISBN: 9781782199243


Summary (via Goodreads)


In a secret land, far away from the habitation of man, dwell the world's remaining dragons -- hoping the dragsaur beasts have vanished forever. Here they try to live their daily lives, but all is not well and their talents are fading.

Things change, however, when, from a strange egg, Yoshiko is born - a dragon with a unique destiny.

Great adventure lies ahead as many challenges must be overcome, leading to a dangerous mission to the human world in attempt to return to the clans their missing magic!

Can Yoshiko make it in time?  



Review (Possible Spoilers)

Okay so I don't normally review books designed for younger audiences but I decided to make an exception when I got a twitter notification from Julia Suzuki asking for volunteers to review her book. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Dragons so The Gift of Charms intrigued me.

The Land of Dragor is not completely dissimilar to our own. Dragons live there peacefully, now separate to humans. Yoshiko is a young dragon with a big secret he is truing to hide from his fellow younglings (young dragons)...he can change colour. Yoshiko meets an older Dragon who doesn't think his abilities to be a curse, but a gift, a gift that will help all Dragons. Through his lessons Yoshiko learns his true abilities and realises his mission, a risky mission he was literally born to achieve.

I won't go into any more detail as I don't want to give too much away. So now for the actual review. I have to admit that initially I wasn't sure about this book. The reason for this was due to the fact the Dragons seemed too domestic (eating with spoons and bowls, going shopping.etc). My problem with this was that for me Dragons are always imagined to be like there are in The Hobbit, Eragon and even in Merlin. However, after getting past this I began to give way more to the story.

I found the characters to be intriguing in how each represented a different "breed" of Dragon. Julia Suzuki is very clever in this aspect of her book as the story now took on a new undertone in terms of how we react to someone different. Yoshiko wasn't like any other Dragon, therefore was marginalised and made to feel like he had to hide his secret from everyone else, even his parents for fear of  being called names and bullied. This undertone isn't resolved in this book, but is something I assume is carried on into the next one. However what A Gift of Charms does achieve is the acquirement of self-worth. Yoshiko learns to appreciate himself for his differences rather than hating them.

I would recommend this book to younger readers, or lovers of young fiction due to the fact not only is it an imaginative story, full of fantasy and wonder but also shows that being different should be celebrated. Suzuki has invented a world that is incredible. Hope you enjoy it!







Saturday, 17 January 2015


The Arab Season
by Alisa Ahlam
Rating:  3/5

12982488


Pages: 296 pages (kindle edition)
Publisher:  ISILINO
Publication Date: first published in 2011
ASIN: B00608T6RE


Summary (via Goodreads)



Secrecy is their byword, family honour, their cross to bear.

If you were a Muslim girl wanting to keep family honour, but loving Western ways, how would you play it? With one foot in each culture, Hani thought she and her friends knew how. They enjoyed what they shouldn’t. They paid a price. One of them paid with her life.

Zuleka’s father, an Imam, keeps his household of girls under strict rule. All have to wear the hijab with abaya or other forms of loose fitting, modest clothing. To him, Zuleka is the epitome of a dutiful daughter. She dreads him discovering her other life.

Hamdi has the most freedom, abandoned by her mother and discounted by her father; she’s loose cannon with attitude.

Ayan manages her life well, respecting her faith and culture, whilst enjoying some light relief.

And, Hani? She can trick her hypochondriac mother, but her radical brother poses her problems.

They enjoy life, but are on a crash course to disaster!



Review


The Arab Season is a story that follows the lives of four young Muslim women: Hani, Ayan, Hamdi and Zuleka, as they take on the challenges and issues facing modern Muslims in contemporary London.

Starting as carefree, untroubled and free to enjoy themselves the girls quickly learn that their rebellious antics have consequences with Zuleka quickly finding herself abandoned and isolated from her community. I actually found her character to be the most interesting personally based on the long journey she takes personally within the book, trying desperately to keep a firm grasp on her dreams when all else is against her.

All four characters develop and change within the book, with each representing a different aspect of not only Muslim culture but also of female culture in itself. Ayan is traditional, the good girl who follows the rules. Hamdi is rebellious, the polar opposite of Ayan, forever trying to be individual and break away from the crowd. This leaves Hani and Zuleka, both living in the middle of Ayan and Hamdi, who despite some differences in the beginning, find themselves clinging to one another by the end of the book, pushed together more by understanding and pain.

The relationship between the four girls develops and changes throughout the book and for me personally is what I find the most interesting area to read. As a non-Muslim, this book was an insight in the incredibly intricate faith and culture of Muslim people, mainly in this case the female side of it. I would recommend this book happily to anyone interested in learning a bit more about this. Although the story is based on contemporary faith, the book still reveals a great deal about how deep routed Muslim culture is for it's followers, something that I believe is most likely relevant for many other cultures, if not all of them. But for Muslim culture in particular, I think this book shows clearly the battle some girls in contemporary life are going through, wanting to express themselves without crossing the line of shaming their families and culture. I think the writer portrays this message beautifully.

My only issue with this book has nothing to do with it's literary content, but rather with the editing of the book which is the only reason I couldn't mark it higher. Whilst reading I found various issues in terms of grammar and punctuation which I felt I needed to mention in order for this to be a fair review. However I would like to mention that despite the errors I didn't feel I couldn't enjoy the book. On the contrary I actually really enjoyed this book and found myself wanting to keep reading to find out what happens in the end, only to be shocked by tragedy. I have a close relationship with a couple of friends myself, so for me, the ending hit home.

So, to finish this review I would say;

I definitely recommend The Arab Season as it portrays a story that encompasses friendship, love, betrayal, sorrow, tragedy and newfound hope. Everything you could possibly want in a book.