Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Things I'd Miss by Andrew Clover

"If you could change your past, would you?

Lucy is married, she has children, but she is haunted by the feeling that somewhere along the line her life's gone wrong.

One cross, hectic day, she has a car crash, and when she wakes, she is eighteen again and lying beside the man she's always loved - the one she never kissed.

She wants to do it now. She thinks she's in control.

But she's not, and she has far more to lose than she realised."

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book.  I found it to be a quick read, but I had mixed emotions about it.  I liked the concept, and the delivery of the story was fairly unique, but I didn't love it.

The Things I'd Miss starts off in the present, and very quickly turns into a car crash (literally), after which the entire book is a series of memories, occasionally intermingled with present day.  It uses the concept of the soul leaving the body and memories to tell Lucy's past.

I thought briefly that the story was going to have elements of 'the butterfly effect' to it, but it doesn't go down that route.  

Yes, it might be a reminder that you should treasure the things you have and not worry about the past, that the past probably wasn't all it was cracked up to be and that you shouldn't want to change the past as that would destroy your future, but I personally didn't find it that moving.  I didn't have the chance to get to know Lucy in the first instance, and most importantly, come to like her as an adult, and therefore when I was plunged into her past after only a few pages, I found myself feeling slightly detached.

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

""My father still lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn't yet missed a day of letting me down."

In the aftermath of Ireland's financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.

The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant.

Donal Ryan's brilliantly realized debut announces a stunning new voice in literary fiction."

I thought I would love this book, what with it being Irish and all.  If I'm honest, that is the only reason that I chose to read it (along with the fact that it was award winning).  The first paragraph is brilliant, typical Ireland and you can hear the Irish lilt in your head as you read it.  It made me laugh. However, the remainder of the book left me feeling lost and bewildered.

The Spinning Heart has 21 chapters, each told by a different person, and in that respect, reminds me somewhat of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas; a book that I could not engage with in any way and stopped reading after a few chapters. If I'm honest, I wouldn't have got much further than chapter three with this book, had it not been for my mum.  She had read the book previously and wanted me to finish it in order to be able to tell her whether it was just her that felt like she had no clue who anybody was or what had just happened. 

So I persevered....

Having just finished the book, I took to Amazon to read the other reviews, and I see that overall The Spinning Heart gets five star reviews.  I've skimmed down them, and I feel like these people have read a different book to me.  

The Spinning Heart is dubbed as a tale of rural Ireland, following Ireland's crash into recession.  The book indeed touches on that, but for me, doesn't really feel like it is about that.  In fact, it doesn't really feel like it is about anything in particular.

You do appreciate how the same story differs when told from another persons perspective, but the book, for me, didn't delve deeply into any aspect of the plot and as I have said left me feeling lost and bewildered.  There are questions left unanswered, and I still do not know what relevance certain aspects and characters had to the overall story, other than an understanding of the 'difficult times'.

I am sorry to say that I did not find the book either dramatic or engaging.  I spent most of the time trying to work out who on earth this next character was and how they were linked to the story, and perhaps this contributed to my feeling that nothing really happened.

I certainly wouldn't recommend to someone who is not used to the Irish language (which I myself am).  In addition, you have to concentrate hard to piece the characters together and search deep for the thread that links them all, and even then I'm not sure what exactly it is you gain from reading the story.  Although it is only a short book, at around 160 pages, it isn't a "quick and easy read".

That all said, it appears that many people have read this book and felt that it was the work of a genius.  Maybe I am missing something?

Black Box by Cassia Leo

One day a book arrived on my door step, packaged in a black box.  That book was Black Box by Cassia Leo......

"Three fateful encounters... Two heart-breaking tragedies... One last chance to get it right.

Over the course of five years, Mikki and Crush have crossed paths twice. Their first encounter changed Mikki's life forever, but the second left them both buried beneath the emotional wreckage of a violent attack. Mikki is left with more questions and grief than she can handle, while Crush is forced to forget the girl who saved his life.

Now Mikki Gladstone has decided she's tired of the mind-numbing meds. She books a flight to Los Angeles to end her life far away from her loving, though often distant, family.

Crush has always channelled his blackest thoughts into his music. He decides to fly to Los Angeles to record a demo of the only song he's never performed in public; a song he wrote for a girl he doesn't even know: Black Box. He has no expectations of fame and he's never felt like his life had any purpose. until he meets Mikki in Terminal B.

When their paths cross yet again, neither has any idea who the other person is - until they begin to piece together their history and realize that fate has more in store for them than just another love story."

Do you believe in fate? Do you believe in luck? Do you know what the difference is?

Black Box is the most beautifully tender, soul-clenching story of Mikki and Crush, whose lives were intertwined years ago without either of them knowing who the other really was.  Black Box follows their story in the present day as they meet again, but how long will it take for them to realise who the other is and can they save each other all over again? 

With themes of rape, mental illness, self harm, suicide and murder, this isn't a typical love story but ultimately it is the most romantic tale ever. It makes you realise that love isn't everything, but the question is, at the end of the day, is love enough to stay alive for? 

I read this book in one sitting, in just a matter of hours and absolutely loved it.  It genuinely made me smile, laugh and cry.  The only downside to the book was that it felt like we had to leave Mikki and Crush too soon!

Thank you to Leanne Oliver at Transworld for the review copy in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes (Rose Gardner Mystery Book #1) by Denise Grover Swank

This was another of the amazon top 100 free ebook downloads that I tried for my Kindle.  To be honest, I totally judged this book by it's cover and the fact it was free and in the amazon top 100.  This is what it is about.....

"For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She’s had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone’s toilet’s overflowed, but she’s never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn't enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect. 

Rose realizes she’s wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. She’s well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won’t help with number fifteen-- do more with a man. Joe’s new to town, but it doesn’t take a vision for Rose to realize he’s got plenty secrets of his own. 

Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they’ll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn’t her biggest worry after all."

When I first started reading, I found Rose and her American drawl really quite annoying.  It bothered me; I could really feel the accent coming off the page and didn't really get any other vibe from it.  But I stuck with it, and after a while, I must have adjusted because whilst the story line is totally out of this world ridiculous, I somehow found myself totally addicted.  I just had to keep reading to find out who the new guy living next door is, whether he is a goodie or a baddie, and who the hell is after Rose Gardner and why?  

Having overcome my initial reservation, I found the book gripping, tense and funny.  I will definitely have to delve in to Rose Gardner's next mystery book to see what else could possibly happen to Rose.....and I definitely don't mind paying to do so!

To Catch a Butterfly by T.M. Payne

This was a book that was free from the amazon eBook Kindle store, featuring, at the time, in the "top 100 free books".  Not knowing anything about the book, or the author, I probably wouldn't have read it had I had to pay for the book, but the synopsis caught my eye so I thought I would give it a try.

"Stevie Buchanan's family has a secret. 

Catherine Stone has a secret. 

Stevie knows nothing. Catherine knows everything. 

Set between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, this is the story of an innocent life thrown into the deep. 

When their worlds collide and the real truth is laid bare, no one could have imagined how very dark the secret really is. 

As Stevie grows from a curious little girl into a strong young woman, the secret is revealed. And so her journey begins. A journey that takes her to Catherine's door."

I was captivated by the dramatic start to the book, following which the book immediately jumps forward, leaving you totally clueless about the situation you have just witnessed.  Once the book jumped forward, I found it didn't hold my interest as well.  It jumped between characters, and between locations, and I couldn't keep track of who was who or how the characters were linked to each other.

The author does well to make you love Stevie, and there are some really difficult scenes in the book that made me hold my breath as I read.

I felt more involved in the narrative once the story began to really unravel and the main thread begins to tie in with that amazingly gripping first chapter.  The outcome wasn't at all what I imagined, so in my opinion, not predictable.

A good read, but it does have its flaws.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Two Weddings and a Baby by Scarlett Bailey

I love Scarlett Bailey, and hadn't realised until after I finished Two Weddings and a Baby that it features some of the same characters as Just for Christmas.  Just for Christmas is the first Scarlett Bailey book I have missed, and now, of course, I have to go and immediately get my hands on a copy.

Scarlett Bailey is one of my favourite authors, and historically writes Christmas-themed books.  Well Bailey's latest book has nothing to do with Christmas, but it's just as romantic and it's just as fabulous.

"From reluctant bridesmaid, to accidental mother…

Tamsyn Thorne has not been back to her home town of Poldore for five long years.

But now her brother, Ruan, is about to get married and she has no excuses left.

Her plans to arrive in Cornwall looking chic and successful are dashed when a huge storm turns her from fashion goddess to a drowned rat. Worse, she ends up insulting the local hunky vicar – and then finds a tiny baby abandoned in his churchyard…"

Readers will no doubt find Tamsyn slightly irritating at the beginning, but she grows throughout the book and the wedding and the baby allows her to show everyone the person that she really is.  The storyline twists and turns throughout, and I absolutely adored it.  I loved the twins, the hunky vicar, thr bride and groom, the baby.....everyone!

Quite simply, Scarlett Bailey writes the absolute best "chick-lit" and I can't wait for more....

P.s. How did I miss the fact that Scarlett Bailey IS Rowan Coleman??!!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Impossible Things by Kate Johnson

Are they Cursed as well as Chosen?

Ishtaer is a mystery. A blind slave, beaten and broken by her sadistic mistress, with no memory of a time before her enslavement.

Kael Vapensigsson is one of the elite Chosen - a Warlord whose strength comes from the gods themselves. But despite all his power and prestige, he is plagued by a prophecy that threatens to destroy everything he loves. When Kael summons Ishtaer to his room and discovers the marks of the Chosen on her body, including the revered mark of the Warrior, both Warlord and slave seem to have met their match.

But as their lives become increasingly entangled and endangered, Ishtaer is forced to test whether the Chosen ever have the ability to choose their own fate.

I struggled to get into Impossible Things at first - it was based in a world I didn't understand and it just didn't click in those first few chapters for me but as I stuck with it, things became clearer.  I must admit after starting to read this a couple of months ago, I stopped a few chapters in and read a handful of other books before returning to my kindle and realising I hadn't finished this.  It hadn't captured me early on, but as I continued to read I found myself more and more drawn into the story.  By about half way, I was totally and utterly immersed.

Johnson's writing is fantastic and allows you to see the scenery in your mind as you read.  ChocLit books are usually jam-packed with romance, almost from the very first page, but this book is different.  You always have half an eye on the romance, waiting for it to happen, but it doesn't until quite late on in the book.  The focus of this book really is friendship and family, the struggle against who you really are and who you are perceived to be, and it is packed full of action and mystery.

Reckoning by Kerry Wilkinson

The Silver Blackthorn Trilogy

In the village of Martindale, hundreds of miles north of the new English capital of Windsor, sixteen-year-old Silver Blackthorn takes the Reckoning. This coming-of-age test not only decides her place in society - Elite, Member, Inter or Trog - but also determines that Silver is to become an Offering for King Victor.

But these are uncertain times and no one really knows what happens to the teenagers who disappear into Windsor Castle. Is being an Offering the privilege everyone assumes it to be, or do the walls of the castle have something to hide?

Trapped in a maze of ancient corridors, Silver finds herself in a warped world of suspicion where it is difficult to know who to trust and who to fear. The one thing Silver does know is that she must find a way out . . .

I found that this book feels like The Hunger Games on so many levels, including the powerful, supposedly popular, dictator claiming to prevent the word from destroying itself, the offering as a reminder/gift of thanks to said dictator, the female heroine with two potential love interests and not knowing how she feels about each of them.  I've also heard it has similarities to other books, such as Divergent, but I haven't read that so cannot comment.

However, despite any similarities this book might have, it most definitely stands by itself as a highly addictive, well-written, book.  Readers will find themselves willing the next book in the trilogy to come out before they've even turned the last page.

Silver Blackthorn is the focus of Reckoning, but the supporting cast are fabulous and make the whole thing work.  I liked the concept, the fact it is based in the UK and the twists and turns that make you gasp because you simply didn't see them coming.

Reckoning is addictive; it had me willing my train journey not to end so soon so I could read just a few more pages.  Most certainly a strong contender to The Hunger Games - I have a feeling this trilogy will be just as popular and talked about.

Summer's Shadow by Anna Wilson

Her mother's will states that Summer's legal guardian is her uncle Tristan: a man Summer has never even heard of before. Forced to leave her life in London, Summer moves to Tristan's creepy, ancient house in Cornwall. There she is met with indifference from him, open hostility from her cousin, and an aunt who has chosen to leave rather than to tolerate her presence.

Soon Summer comes to believe that the house may be haunted. But is it haunted by ghosts, or by the shadows of her family's past?

Scared and lonely, Summer begins to spend more and more time in the beautiful sheltered cove she discovers nearby. But she's not alone. A local boy frequents it too. Can Summer find first love and the answers to the mysteries of her new home with this good-looking boy who appears to be too perfect to be true?

Even though this is a young adult book, it was one I, as someone in my late twenties, really enjoyed.  I devoured it extremely quickly, before passing it on to my mum, who read it in a few hours and also thought it was a great book.  

Yes, it is light reading but I never really thought of it as a book for teens.  Wilson's writing is sophisticated and had me totally immersed in Summer's story and her new, and intriguing, beautiful surroundings. 

Summer's Shadow follows Summer as she tries to come to terms with losing her mum, and the sudden upheaval of moving away from everything, and everyone, she knows to live with people who are supposedly family but treat her in a very different manner.  Who are these people and how did they know Summer's mum?

I have to say, I wasn't at all surprised when it was revealed how Tristan is related to Summer.  It didn't come as a shock, but this didn't take anything away from the book for me.  I had also guessed a couple of the other "unknowns" along the way, but despite this, I really enjoyed following Summer's story.

Wilson creates the atmosphere and the imagery of this enchanting tale from Cornwall perfectly.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Before You Die by Samantha Hayes

Oh God, please don’t let me die.

It has taken nearly two years for the Warwickshire village of Radcote to put a spate of teenage suicides behind it.

Then a young man is killed in a freak motorbike accident, and a suicide note is found among his belongings. A second homeless boy takes his own life, this time on the railway tracks.

Is history about to repeat itself?

DI Lorraine Fisher has just arrived for a relaxing summer break with her sister. Soon she finds herself caught up in the resulting police enquiry. And when her nephew disappears she knows she must act quickly.

Are the recent deaths suicide – or murder?

And is the nightmare beginning again?

So many other reviewers have been comparing this book to Until You're Mine but I haven't read Until You're Mine so I read this as a stand alone book and have nothing else to compare to.

I found that Before You Die pushes you in right at the deep end of the story and the plot instantly continues to twist, turn and unravel right up to the very last page.  There isn't any respite, as seemingly unconnected threads weave together until it dawns on you that they were always part of the same thread, you just hadn't realised the connection.

I have to say I generally really enjoyed it; I found myself rapidly turning the pages to follow the next knot in the thread that was threatening to be untangled.  I did not guess, or come anywhere close to guessing, how the connections would all link up or who had been involved in which element of the story.

However, ultimately, I personally found there to be a couple of loose ends that were left unresolved, and the epilogue just did not work for me.  I had to re-read it to cement in my brain what had just happened, and the moment I'd done that I found myself online looking for other bloggers' reviews of the book to see how they had reacted to the ending.  I haven't found any other reviewers that feel there were loose ends or the ending wasn't quite right, but for me it just didn't tie into any of the rest of the story line; it came from nowhere.

It's difficult to say anything more without giving away too much of the story but I would love to know what you thought of the ending and whether it worked for you.  Get in touch by commenting below.....