Thursday, 28 April 2016

Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Bright Blaze of Magic is the third and apparently the final instalment in the YA urban fantasy Black Blade series by Estep.

I am sorry to see it go, I have really been enjoying the Black Blade series. It is energetic, funny, ticks all the boxes for urban fantasy and is suitably YA without being over-the-top candy flossy.

The characters are strong and well-developed, although I have to say for me the real star of the book is the lochnessy monster under the bridge. It definitely steals the spotlight from Lila.

Little Miss Merriweather has come a long way since the first book. From thief, to bodyguard and now she is expected to save the day, the monsters and all the families. No pressure at all then.

Lila and gang have been working hard to thwart Victor Draconi and his nefarious black blade plans. Unfortunately they haven't really thought everything through. The one day of the year when every member of each family is most vulnerable is when you should expect an attack, no?

Their attempt to stop Draconi leads to an escalation, deaths and the possible annihilation of the Sinclair family. Lila sees an opportunity to get revenge for the Sterling family and to save her new family.

In this book Lila makes a connection to an unusual set of allies with the help of her aunt. I wish this had happened sooner, because it has such great potential for a plot. The monsters collaborating with the magically inclined, now that would have made a great fourth book.

As always Estep takes the reader on a wild ride through a world of elemental magic, monsters, mobsters and the occasional fruit throwing tree troll. It's fast paced and highly enjoyable.

Buy Bright Blaze of Magic (Black Blade #3) at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade #1) and Dark Heart of Magic (Black Blade #2)

More of the Estep's Elemental Assassin series here: Spider's TrapPoison PromiseThe SpiderThe Black Widow and Heart of Venom.

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

It starts off fairly innocently, funny even. The town seems to treat their very own personal witch a bit like the oddball auntie you want to hide when the new in-laws in spe come to visit.

Then Heuvelt slowly takes the atmosphere from funny to peculiar and then it starts to get creepy. From that point onwards everything is just downhill from a 'I was expecting a more pleasant experience' perspective.

The horror aspect takes over in such an insidious way that it seems to slither from the pages into your fingers. I felt like having a shower afterwards to wash off the scent and the touch of the witch.

For me it was the whispering, I swear it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Then on top of that the imagery of the sewn up eyes and mouth. Yeh, that's one way to keep people awake at night.

I liked the parallels between the hysteria of the witch trials and the reactions of the modern day townspeople. All in the name of the Good Lord and everything goes to hell in handbasket in a matter of days. Educated, sensible and lenient people turn into scavengers braying for blood.

They want their fair share of the supposed justice. Forget about the fact none of them are living in medieval times, and they seem to have become a small country unto themselves. Governed by myths, hearsay, fear and a council full of backwards thinking individuals.

At the very beginning the Delarosa's make a valid point. The cursed town could try a little harder to keep new people out. Nobody wants to be stuck in the same place forever, subject to the whims of an ancient witch and always on the cusp of death.

Hex seems like your standard horror/supernatural, but Heuvelt doesn't believe in standard or in happy endings for that matter.


Buy Hex at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday, 25 April 2016

The Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

It's intense, creepy and memorable. The girl who got away. Dumped in a grave full of bones and corpses with no memory of why, when, who, what or why.

The killer sits on death row waiting for his final breath, unfortunately Tessa doesn't really think he is guilty, and yet her testimony put him in prison in the first place.

Someone keeps leaving her mementos of the killings. It can only be the real killer, right? Following her around from one house and town to the next. Never letting her out of his sight. Always reminding her of how lucky she is, and yet knowing he can take it away at any moment in time.

Heaberlin has the intimate descriptions, emotions and flashbacks down to a tee. Smells that bring it all back and make her gag. Flowers that remind her of the fact she is one of the Susans, and of the course the Susans themselves. They speak to her, they spoke to her in the grave. The dead, the decomposed and the bones, they speak to her still.

Tessa is torn between wanting to know the truth about what happened and fearing the foggy curtain will lift and reveal things she would rather not know.

I liked the way the author kept the pace slow and steady. Focusing on the fear, the guilt and the aftermath of being the survivor of a serial-killer. Unusual procedural flaws make the solution fairly evident, but that doesn't stop it from being a good read, and a twisted and perverse ending is only to be expected when you take the rest of the book into account.

Buy The Black-Eyed Susans at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Disappearance by Annabel Kantaria

I can't for the life of me put my finger on which writing style or book this reminds me of. There are no real surprises.

It is more like sitting in the garden on a warm summer day and watching the water in the nearby river flow past. Comfortable and cosy.

Throughout the book there seems to be a disconnect between Audrey and the two children. Obviously they lack a blood bond, but after at least 4 decades you would think the three of them would have some kind of close connection.

In the end I think Audrey decides she has done her duty and it is time for someone else to do theirs. Instead of being at the mercy of John and Alex she decides to take matters into her own hands. Her choice and her decision.

It must be really frustrating when adult children or relatives decide you are too old and doddery to make your own decisions. In this case it seems to be more about how much they are going to profit from putting Audrey into a care facility.

I would have liked to have seen a little more emphasis on the domestic violence aspect of the book. It was simmering under the surface, and there seemed to be a brief view into the life behind closed doors, but we go from that to his death.

Has the domestic violence influenced the way John and Alex treat Audrey, despite the both of them not having any memory of abuse?

It's a strange one, however I did feel relief for Audrey at the end. A sort of weird satisfaction on her behalf.              

Buy The Disappearance at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi

It doesn't get much grittier or realistic than this. I am sure this will echo with quite a few readers, especially the ones who can relate to Nina's life on a more personal level.

The relationship between Nina and her mother is pivotal. She feels abandoned by her mother, is reluctant to accept the new father figure in her life, but clearly dotes on her baby sister. Their plans revolve around what is best for her step-father and her mother.

Apparently being 17 going on 18 also means you can throw someone out of the nest. Like an animal being cast out of the herd. Of course the truth is age is just a number and doesn't necessarily mean maturity.

Perhaps if Mom had been less involved with herself and her future plans she might have been able to help Nina sooner. In fact she should have asked more questions and been more concerned the day Nina came home in that state in the taxi.

Khorsandi's story is bold. Unfortunately it is a vivid and true image of our society at the moment. One would think that in the 21st century sexual assault would finally be perceived differently, and the reactions to it should be more about victim support and less about victim blaming. Unfortunately that still isn't the case. Something which is painfully clear in this book.

Zoe's reaction is shameful, deplorable and all too common. Instead of questioning the actions of her boyfriend, she sets out to shame her friend. There really is no excuse for putting images and videos of sexual assaults or indecent images of victims online. It should be punished by law and that includes sharing them. If Nina had been under 16 years of age it would be considered to be an illegal offence.

The most interesting part of the story is Nina's reaction to the events. She is quite willing to accept the global view that as a girl she is just out of control. She is easy, she's a slut, she's a whore and hey she is totally up for it. Oh wait I forgot, it is her fault because she had a drink.

Not once does any man/boy say let's not, because you have had a little too much to drink. No one questions why she is clearly out of control or losing the plot. The combination of a genetic disposition, her family history and the events in the alley are all contributing factors in her downwards spiral.

It takes Nina a long time to comprehend what happened to her. To acknowledge the ugly truth about the events in the alley. To take the blame placed firmly upon her shoulders by others and putting it where it belongs, on the shoulders of the abusers.

I wish I could say Nina's situation is just fiction and a great idea for a book. It isn't, this is the reality of sexual assault, rape and abuse in our day and age. A society of people who have no idea what No means, and certainly have no clue that if the woman/man you're with has not given their consent then you're committing rape. Unconscious does not mean yes. Being so drunk you have no idea what is going on does not mean yes.

Be prepared for bare truths and no attempt at candy floss cover-ups. It is a book I will be recommending because of the way Khorsandi doesn't gloss over the truth.

Buy Nina is Not Ok at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

*Thank you to Ebury Press and NetGalley for the ARC of Nina is Not Ok.*

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Initially when I read the premise and the way Miranda decided to approach this, well I was a little sceptical about her being able to keep the suspense and thrill going throughout the book, despite starting at the end rather than the beginning.

Going from Day 15 backwards to Day 1. The reader knowing everything at once and finding out how we got there instead.

It's really an intriguing way to do it, if you can pull it off. So I guess the real question is whether she did or not?

As far as I am concerned, absolutely. The author leads us on a backwards scavenger hunt through time, but instead of a big reveal at the start and the why at the end, she drops clues, hints and little tell-tale signs on every corner or rather in every chapter. Hoping in the end to deceive the reader or lull them into a false sense of security about the solution. It is very cleverly done. My hat off to the author.

Nicolette returns to her home town to help her brother get their parent's home ready for sale. Their father has been in a care home for a year, and they need the funds to pay for his care. His deteriorating mental state is the cause of the resurfacing of buried memories. In particular the memories in connection with the case of a girl who went missing over ten years ago. Nicolette's best friend. There one day, gone the next.

Does one of their close knit group know what really happened? Her brother, her ex-boyfriend, her father or the person who gave them an alibi? Nicolette returns home and then another girl goes missing. Coincidence or part of the bigger picture?

I usually guess the whodunnit part fairly early into a book. I have to admit this one had me going there for a bit, and the end is completely unexpected. There is no such thing as a good guy or bad guy in this book. Just an accumulation of events leading to misconceptions, rumours and false allegations.

It might seem as if I am being a wee bit evasive with the details, which is really not my style. If you've ever read my reviews before you'll know I have a tendency to discuss, tear apart, mutter and contemplate the books I read. Any details in this case will probably lead you straight to the answer, and I wouldn't want to spoil the ride.

Buy All the Missing Girls at Amazon UK, Amazon US or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Thank you  to NetGalley and Simon&Schuster for my ARC of all The Missing Girls.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

I'm Keeping You by Jane Lark

Rachel faces an inner battle every day, actually make that two battles. Being bipolar is like riding an emotional roller-coaster. Ups and downs, from manic episodes to deep dark pits of depression.

The other daily fight is choosing between being medicated and feeling like a walking zombie, and not taking the meds and feeling like her normal self.

Her euphoric self nearly kills her son, which triggers concerns about her capabilities as a mother. Her ex raises his ugly egotistical head and threatens the happy family life Rachel has with Jason.

As is often the case Declan the ex is more interested in revenge rather than the welfare of the child.

Jason is an interesting character, he has this strange kind of co-dependant relationship with Rachel. He likes the zany, the crazy and the impetuous side of Rachel, aka her manic episodes. On one hand he wants her on the medication, and on the other he really misses the other non-medicated Rachel. This has got to send out mixed signals to the poor woman.

I'm Keeping You is the fourth in the Starting Out series. It is a mixture of romance, steamy bedroom antics and mental health issues.

Buy I'm Keeping You at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Blog-Tour: The Chic Boutique on Baker Street

Let's kick off the Blog-Tour for this lovely book, The Chic Boutique on Baker Street by up and coming author Rachel Dove. Get ready to be charmed by her characters and her delightful story.

About the author
Rachel Dove is the proud winner of the 2015 Flirty Fiction Competition with Prima Magazine and Mills & Boon. Ecstatic to have her novel chosen out of 300 others, Rachel is now a full-time writer and looks forward to writing her next book. When she is not writing, she can be found raising her sons or curled up under a blanket with a book.


Connect with Rachel on:
Twitter @writerdove
Facebook Rachel Dove -Author
Blog racheldoveauthor.wordpress.com
Goodreads Rachel Dove
Follow the #ChicBoutique Tour with @MillsandBoon@writerdove@mm_cheryl and my fellow bloggers
Buy The Chic Boutique on Baker Street here


Review

City girl Amanda has literally escaped London and fled to the wilds of Yorkshire. Ok, wilds might be a slight exaggeration, but hey sometimes life in an English village can often  be a little like living in a jungle. An eccentric and very pretty jungle, but a jungle nevertheless.

She is looking for a completely different kind of lifestyle. Not the restrictive mapped out lifestyle her parents insist she lead. She more or less stumbles over the attractive vet next door, who doesn't think much of her or her strange shop. Once an outsider always an outsider.

The village women make it their personal goal to play matchmaker for Ben and Amanda. They are really subtle at it as well, not. Luckily the two of them don't seem to mind the meddling very much.

The Chic Boutique is a charming tale of mistakes, regret and believing in new beginnings. Happiness isn't always being the most powerful with the most money and living in an apartment overlooking the epicentre of a pulsing city. Sometimes happiness is finding inner peace, regardless of whether it is in city or in a quaint village.

This story is about Amanda asserting herself, taking charge and living a life she wants, as opposed to living one someone else thinks she should be satisfied with. Fortunately for her she happens to find two balls of fluff and a strong shoulder to lean on, as she stumbles (boy does she stumble a lot) her way to independence/

Dove mixes the oddity of village life with memorable characters and budding romance to create a very enjoyable read.

Buy The Chic Boutique on Baker Street at Amazon UK, Amazon US or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

A Man of Genius by Lynn Rosen

Let me start out by saying that Samuel is a narcissist, a megalomaniac, an ephebophile and an all-round jerk. He likes to control the people around him and his environment, especially the women.

His wife, Catherine, dances to his tune, despite the fact it is to her own detriment. She lies to herself about the reasons for her complacency.

She is the real reason for his success. Without Catherine the world will discover the fraud of his apparent genius.

He does rattle on about what a genius he is, almost to the point of bringing tears to my eyes. I admit I would find it hard to put up with such an elitist attitude, and I certainly wouldn't bow or cow to it.

The question is whether he really is one, because technically he seems incapable of creating his designs in a visual or written manner. He relies on Catherine to interpret his visions.

He controls her, he controls his mistress and in the end he is still trying to control both of them and his second wife from the grave. All in an attempt to keep up the pretence.

This story is more an analysis of Samuel's character, his manipulations and how the people around him react to his power games. The plot does involve a murder or two, but in essence it is all about a power hungry ego driven man still trying to drive the car from within his coffin.

Buy A Man of Genius at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

And After Many Days by Jowhor Ile

At first I didn't think twice about the cover. It's a little indistinct, and seems to be a bit of an understatement.

The blurred and featureless face represents all the unnamed victims of Nigeria's war torn and politically corrupt landscape.

The more emotional personal story gets a wee bit buried by all the politics, but then that is and was the reality of Nigeria.

The corruption of government and the way they walk hand in hand with the oil companies. and now with terrorists. with no regard for people or landscape.

At the time of Paul's disappearance the country is in a state of unrest. People disappear into thin air without any trace.

In the end the solution and reason for his disappearance has become irrelevant. The family just need and want to know whether or not he is dead or alive. All the assumptions and theories they have tossed around over the years. The guilt, the despair and all the unanswered questions. The truth comes as a relief.

There seems to be a disconnect between the emotional side of the story and the bulk of factual information. It interferes with the flow of the story. I think if the author irons out this articular wrinkle he could produce a poignant and memorable piece of work.

Buy And After Many Days at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Stolen Child by Laura Elliot

A parent's worst nightmare in every sense of the word. Someone takes your child and you probably never know what happened to him or her. The worst thing being the not knowing.

That's the situation Carla and Robert find themselves in. Their two-day-old baby has been taken and there are no clues to her whereabouts or who might have taken her.

Simultaneously the reader gets to hear the kidnappers side of the story, and as the years go on they also get to know the missing child. Sue commits an act of sheer desperation. I would like to say in a moment of confusion, but the fact is she planned the who and how.

She knew exactly what she was doing when she stole Isobel/Joy. A part of her can never resign herself to the facts and the guilt. There always seems to a barrier between her emotions for the child and being able to love her properly.

It's fascinating to see the way the child and the pseudo mother find it hard to bond, however later when the kidnapper is gone the child is devastated.

People who steal children don't just steal a child, they steal their lives and those of their real parents. They steal the memories they could have made and the bonds that should have been built. The Stolen children return as strangers and find it hard to reconnect to their real parents. No one can give you back missing years.

The premise is ok, but the writing style can do with little more finesse.

Buy Stolen Child at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Upcoming Blog-Tour: The Chic Boutique on Baker Street by Rachel Dove

How exciting! I get to kick off the Blog-Tour for the fantastic The Chic Boutique on Baker Street by Rachel Dove on the 18th of April. There will be Q&A's, reviews and guest reviews.


So you can follow the Tour and read what my fellow bloggers have to say about The Chic Boutique on Baker Street I have included links to their blogs. Follow the author on Twitter @WriterDove @Millsandboon or follow Rachel Dove on Facebook, you can also follow her on Goodreads

18th mmcheryl.wordpress.com and here

19th authordesignstudio.wordpress.com

20th gobookyourself.info

21st onemorepage.co.uk and
hannahreviewingbooks.blogspot.co.uk

22nd josbookjourney.wordpress.com and lozzasbookcorner.blogspot.co.uk

23rd albainbookland.com and thebookmagnet.blogspot.co.uk

24th thereaderlines.blogspot.co.uk

25th bookishjottings.wordpress.com

26th nayusreadingcorner.blogspot.co.uk

27th onmybookshelf.blog.pl

28th erins-choice.blogspot.co.uk

29th brizzlelass.wordpress.com

30th shazsbookboudoir.blogspot.co.uk

Hope to see you here on the 18th for the start of the Blog-Tour and for my review!


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Pax by Sara Pennypacker


This book is for readers aged 10 years and upwards.

The story is complimented by the lovely illustrations by Jon Klassen. Although it is written for younger readers it has themes that everyone can identify with. Those topics range from the bond between a child and their pet, abandonment, PTSD, war and moving on in life.

Pennypacker lets the reader see the topics through two sets of eyes, those of Peter the boy and Pax the fox. It gives an overall view of the world through the eyes of the humans and through the eyes of the animals.

The story starts with Peter being forced to dump his hand-reared fox in the woods. Pax is his best friend and his pet. Peter realises that being hand-reared means possible death to the animal, and sets off to find him. He feels guilty for abandoning his friend and for not standing up to his father.

Meanwhile Pax is re-introduced to his natural environment and to other foxes. They perceive him as the enemy because he smells like, and I quote, 'Stinky-Human.'

The animals communicate and talk about the humans and their wars. Pennypacker gives the animals more than just a voice, she gives them conversation, opinions and insights.

The story is very subtle, you feel a sense of peace and feel a part of the forest. I think the story of Pax the fox is a lot stronger than that of his human. At the same time Peter's story is also poignant. His encounter with the veteran, the discussion about PTSD, the debate on war (even the animals get in on that). There was also an interesting parallel made between the aggression in his father and behaviour passed on from generation to generation.

Overall it is definitely literary fiction I would recommend for both younger and older readers.

Buy Pax at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer,

The Daughters of Red Hill Hall by Kathleen McGurl

McGurl certainly does love to combine history, genealogy, the past and the present in her stories.

In The Daughters of Red Hill Hall the reader follows two stories. Gemma and Nat in the present, and Sarah and Rebecca in the past. The four of them have a lot in common. It's almost like a repetition of history.

Rebecca and Sarah have been close friends for many years. They have grown up together in the same house and are like sisters. Rebecca is the daughter of the house and Sarah merely the daughter of a servant.

Rebecca's father treats them both as equals, which causes feelings of jealousy and envy. Sarah has built up a lifetime of anger against her 'sister' and anyone who doesn't fit into her plans. She will literally do anything to get what she wants. The two of them become rivals, and their animosity towards each other ends in disaster.

Meanwhile in the present best friends Gemma and Nat have a similar unequal relationship, or at least one of them thinks so. Jealousy leads to rash decisions and betrayal.

A old case with two duelling pistols connects the four women like a cold withered hand reaching from the past to grab the present to pull two more into the dark curse of Red Hill Hall. Question is whether it will end with another disaster.

There is a legal inconsistency, but that is actually pointed out by Charles towards the end and sheds a light on how powerless women were in that era in regards to having no voice and no rights. McCurl focuses on the relationships and emotional turmoil, and allows for a flexible interpretation of the era she writes in. As always a spirited read.

Buy The Daughters of Red Hill Hall at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @KathMcGurl  @HQStories @HQDigitalUK

Visit kathleenmcgurl.com

Read The Girl from Ballymor by Kathleen McGurl
Read The Emerald Comb by Kathleen McGurl.
Read The Pearl Locket by Kathleen McGurl.
Read about Kathleen McGurl here.

Monday, 11 April 2016

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone

This was quirky and fun in a geeky kind of way. It is actually quite witty here and there.

I think to really appreciate this story you have to able to understand the world of online gaming, and more specifically the online world of the massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).

The contributors are like a big family all unto themselves. They share a common denominator, the virtual worlds and characters they inhabit.
The online funeral is one of my favourite moments.

The way everyone takes it so seriously, as if they were actually really the online characters. That's how much they invest in their virtual online games. Of course I'm pretty sure a RL funeral wouldn't have vicious battle pirates or spider demons on display either.

It isn't even as bizarre as it sounds, as I found out myself a few months ago, when my youngest told me he and his friends had planned and held a funeral in a game for an online friend. Their own special way of saying goodbye.

It's a fun murder mystery that is definitely YA. Expect to be charmed by the geek factor, the odd characters and the sheer eccentricity of the story. By the way Charice is far too criminally inclined, just saying.

Buy The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig

This is the second in the Fire Sermon series, a dystopian tale set a few hundred years after the nuclear destruction or devastation of earth.A DNA mutation caused by the radiation of the initial blast has caused a splintering of the population.

Each pregnancy is a set of twins, one of which is born with some kind of mutation, ergo the lesser of the two. They are called the Omega and the perfect twin is called the Alpha.

The twins are connected via a life-bond. If one dies the other automatically dies the same way. The Alphas reject their twins, and so does society. I'm sure if it wasn't for the pesky 'if I die you die' element of their sibling relationship, the majority of the Alphas would just kill their Omega sibling. Instead the Alphas have found a variety of nefarious methods to rid themselves of their 'broken' other halves without actually killing them. Might as well be though.

The Omegas have built a network of resistance across the country, and despite the really bad odds are still trying to outwit the Alphas. They are also trying to find out whether there is anyone else out there in the big world. Literally in the Elsewhere.

Cass is still reeling from the shocking revelations about Kip and his demise. As a seer she is both a pariah to her peers and a beacon of hope. They need her to have visions, but are frightened of them at the same time.

The Fire Sermon series is an eclectic mix of post-nuclear devastation, dystopian world-building and the usual YA tropes. Some of the topics sail pretty close to what could become a reality if we are ever faced with a nuclear disaster on a major scale. Underground bunkers, the aftermath of the destruction the inevitable changes or mutations caused by radiation.
A good read.

Buy The Map of Bones at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Sneak Peek: Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here

This short review is based on the Sneak Peek of Scarlett Epstein Hates it here.

It just didn't do it for me at all. YA, especially teeny YA can be entertaining, funny and memorable. It can also be quite prolific at times. This was none of that. It was messy. loud, disjointed and not at all funny.

Scarlett spends most of her time imagining herself in the middle of her favourite tv show. Her life revolves around her inner world of fantasy. Real life friends are allocated screen or character names depending on their personality traits, which could be a wee bit awkward of they ever found out about them.

There seemed to be a bit of a disconnect between the fanfic and her actual life. There is more emphasis on her family life and social interactions than on the fanfic angle, which seems a bit of a shame. The whole fanfic community, their oddities and zealous fandom is probably an amusing angle to explore further.

In all fairness, I need to repeat the fact I have only read the Sneak Peek, which means I have no idea whether I would feel the same about the entire book. However based on the Peek I don't think it is my particular cup of tea.

Buy Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here at Amazon UK or go Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Blog-Tour for The Good Mother by A.L. Bird

Today is my turn on the Blog-Tour for The Good Mother by AL Bird. Not only do you get to find out about her psychological thriller, A.L. Bird has also been generous enough to reveal her inspiration for her book. A very interesting read indeed. To top this exciting post off is my review.
About the author
AL Bird lives in North London, where she divides her time between writing and working as a lawyer. The Good Mother is her major psychological thriller for Carina UK, embarking into the world of ‘grip-lit’. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London, and is also an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course, which she studied under Richard Skinner. She's also a member of the Crime Writers’Association. For updates on her writing, you can follow her on Twitter, @ALBirdwriter, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ALBirdwriter or by visiting her website, at www.albirdwriter.com


Inspirations behind The Good Mother

When I was a child I was terrified of being kidnapped. I’d think through exactly what I’d do if someone tried it – the kicking, the screaming, the ‘you’re not my mummy.’ Or how I'd try to jump out if someone drove off with me in the back of the car.

If someone had told me that grown-ups can be kidnapped too, I’d have been horrified.

In The Good Mother, Suze awakes to find she has been kidnapped. She doesn’t know where her daughter is. But then she realises that she is being kept in the room next door. Just separated by a wall. And so we begin.

But it wasn’t only my early, deep-rooted fear that inspired The Good Mother. I didn’t want to write just a kidnap book, or recreate Room by Emma Donoghue. I had another agenda. When we visited Berlin a couple of years ago, I was struck by the stories of families so suddenly and unreasonably kept from one another by the Berlin Wall. The powerlessness in the face of a self-declared authority over your freedom and liberty. The frustration at being so close to your loved ones but so cruelly kept apart. The tantalising feeling that if you could just reason a little harder, shout a little louder, you’d be reunited. I wanted to transplant that wall into an analogous domestic setting, to understand how an individual could be cut adrift from their family. Since I started writing the book I had my own child – I understand for myself now that the horror of something like that keeping us apart would be too disturbing to bear.

That entrance into motherhood also provided new inspirations for the book along the way.  There were new things I wanted to explore. The claustrophobia of living with a newborn baby and feeling of being trapped (while attempting feeding/ sleeping/ changing/ learning to co-exist), separated from your usual world, helped me to find the deprivation of the senses that Suze experiences in her captivity.   But it also showed me the fierceness of love and anxiety you have about your own baby. So small, so precious, so demanding. Suze knows all about that. And she also knows about the exacting standards we try to set ourselves as mothers. Which ones matter, which ones don’t. The lengths we would take to uphold them.

Of course, apart from these thematics, I set out to keep readers guessing. I like to be hooked and I like a twist – my current Kindle highlights include Disclaimer, Reconstructing Amelia, and The Husband's Secret (and of course, the various girls – Gone, On a Train…). When I hear that people have been up all night reading The Good Mother, and that they can’t stop thinking about it, I’m delighted, because that’s exactly what I look for in a book.

Because a good psychological thriller that really gets under the skin isn’t just about twists. It’s about exploration. A route into a different set of minds. Often warped, flawed, or damaged minds. But always interesting. In The Good Mother, the relationship that Suze has with her daughter through that wall, with The Captor outside, and with herself, allowed me to delve into the darkest, most destructive parts of the human psyche. Yet it is also an exploration of some of the most awe-inspiring parts – the power of the bond between mother and child, the force of the human spirit to preserve itself, and what we will do for the people we love. As a writer, I'm always teetering on the edge of the wall between the two. I like to see how close my characters can come to falling down.

A.L. Bird, 3 April 2016
Review

I wasn't expecting the wicked twist at the end. Seems a strange way to start a review, but it confirmed the uneasiness I felt about Susan the whole way through the book.

I have to hand it to Bird, she hasn't made it easy to like any particular character. Their actions and the overall scenarios make it difficult to feel empathy for any of them.

The kidnapper is nothing short of creepy with a strong fixation on Susan, but hey if he can't have her there is always the daughter, right?  Why doesn't he just take what he wants and get it over with?

Susan is both relieved and terrified when she realises that her teenage daughter has also been kidnapped. Their connection becomes a lifeline for the two of them. It drives Susan to try the most desperate things to get the two of them out of there. I suppose she does what any mother would do to save her child.

I'm going to come back to something I mentioned at the beginning. The fact I couldn't connect to the mother. Something about her felt unnatural, something about the interactions with Cara didn't quite feel right. I think Bird lets the doubts enter into the plot like an invisible layer. She wants you to question your instincts, because she is the one messing with them in the first place.

This is a dark psychological thriller with quite a few unexpected twists and turns. Some more unexpected than others. Everything you assume will probably be proven wrong and any outcome you expect, well you might as well just toss it in the bin.

Buy The Good Mother at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @ALBirdwriter and @HQDigitalUK

Read Don't Say a Word by A.L. Bird

Friday, 8 April 2016

The Summer We Danced by Fiona Harper

Pippa's story is about perseverance in the face of diversity. Made to look a complete fool in front of the whole nation by her twerp of a rockstar husband, she has become lost in her embarrassment and grief.

The loss of her husband, reputation, home and her figure, all at the same time.That's enough to make anyone a wee bit depressed.

In an attempt to get back into the swing of life Pippa heads back to her old dance school. and even older dance teacher.

Pippa finds herself battling with old body issues and insecurities. All of that is exacerbated by the fact her old flame Tom has also turned up.

It's unfortunate that many younger generations will never know the charm, magic and experience of watching a black and white movie of the Golden Age of Hollywood. The beautiful dance routines of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and you truly haven't seen anything until you've watched the two of them literally glide and hover across the floor.

You can feel the same kind of magic within the pages of this book. When Pippa and Tom dance cheek to cheek, everything and everyone around them disappears just for a minute or two.

The Summer We Danced is about moving on, putting the past behind you and discovering that when one door closes another one opens nearby. It's romantic and fun with a bit of nostalgia thrown in for free.

Buy The Summer We Danced at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @FiHarper_Author@HQStories or @HarperCollinsUK

Read The Other UsThe Doris Day Vintage Film Club or The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams by Fiona Harper

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

Brennan's inspiration for this piece is The Tale of Two Cities by Dickens.

This happens to be one of my favourite stories by Dickens, so I admit to being interested in her interpretation or rather how the inspiration unfolds in the story.

Aside from the opening sequence/quote the similarity isn't really evident throughout the book, aside from the rebellion between Light and Dark, until the very end. Perhaps because a lot of dystopian stories are based on the core element of oppression, rebellion and uprisings.

Not many readers will think of equating that to a novel by Dickens or the French Revolution for that matter.The plot of Tell the Wind and Fire is strong enough and good enough to do without the link at all.

Lucie feels empathy for the doppelgänger Carwyn. They both share the Darkness and have connections to the Light. I wonder if given the chance whether she might have connected to him and loved him instead of Ethan.

Carwyn was definitely the most interesting character, far more intriguing and appealing than weak Ethan. In the end he shines as brightly as Sydney Carton did, he is devastatingly sad, filled with righteousness and a sense of justice.

It's a good read with complex world building.The ending doesn't leave much space for further development, which makes me wonder whether this was always intended to be a stand-alone, and if so, why?

Buy Tell the Wind and Fire at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

The style of the story is reminiscent of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and the subsequent Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

Arthur is grieving for his wife. His story is about processing the grief and coming to terms with the woman she was with him and the woman she was before he come into her life.

Isn't that true for all of us or at least the majority of us? There is always an element of ourselves and our lives we keep hidden from our spouses and/or life partners. The life, friends, adventures and experiences before you settle down, and sometimes even after you've settled down. Secret lives and the unknown facets of the person you love.

This is exactly what happens to Arthur. He finds an expensive charm bracelet in a small box hidden in a shoe in his wife's cupboard. A trinket he has never seen before and knows nothing about.

The charms end up leading him on a lifetime of adventures. He discovers so many new things about Miriam, things he couldn't have imagined her ever doing. Ex-lovers, trips to exotic places and even living in India for a while. It makes him doubt the life they had together and the love they had for each other.

In the end this is a story of how Arthur emerges from the darkness and the depths of his grief. How he reconnects with life and in a way with the Miriam he used to know and most importantly the Miriam he knows now.

It's a lovely tale of sorrow, loneliness and despair, which is replaced by curiosity, happiness and a zest for life.

Buy The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Head over Heels Geek Girl by Holly Smale

This is book 5 of the Geek Girl series.

First and foremost I have to say I am with India, the whole way. I might be by myself when it comes to that, but I totally get her attitude towards Harriet and her controlling behaviour.

The random facts, figures and tidbits of information were amusing. I now know many more random things I might need one day.

I think young readers will like the energy and especially enjoy following her life through various awkward stages in life.

In this book she and her friends are in college. Harriet still lives in a world of excessive micro management, unfortunately she also expects her friends to live up to her own personal expectations. She sets the bar really high for herself and everyone around her.

Harriet and her Dad are just too cute, like two peas in a pod. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I wonder what Tabitha will be like when she is older. Based on the little tikes adventures in this book, she seems to fit comfortably on the Manners tree.

Eventually Harriet has to acknowledge that part of growing up is being able to conform, accept change and to be a little more flexible with her friends and family.

Head over Heels is fun, fast-paced and delightfully eccentric.

Buy Head over Heels at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Blog-Tour: The Good Mother by A.L. Bird

The Blog-Tour for The Good Mother by A.L. Bird is already well underway and I am looking forward to hosting a great piece by A.L. Bird on the inspiration for her novel, and my review of course.


So you can follow the blog-tour and see what my fellow bloggers have to say about The Good Mother and to read features by A.L. Bird, here are the links to their blogs.

5th April 
bytheletterbookreviews.wordpress.com
6th April
cancersuckscouk.ipage.com and bookishwonderland.co.uk
7th April
acrimereadersblog.wordpress.com and havebookswillread.wordpress.com
8th April
hannahreviewingbooks.blogspot.co.uk and jaffareadstoo.blogspot.co.uk
9th April 
mmcheryl.wordpress.com and here
10th April
thebookreviewcafe.wordpress.com

Hope to see you here on the 9th of April for my turn on the Blog-Tour!

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

I absolutely loved this book. It has been long-listed for the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction, and I have to say it not only deserves to be listed, but also to win.

I admit the last few pages made me cry. Tends to be my reaction to things or works of art of great beauty. Music, art and yes, even great and beautiful fiction.

Some authors write well and others are just natural storytellers, the combination of the two can make for a spectacular read. Copleton does both really well.In fact if I didn't know any better I would swear Amaterasu was not a fictional person at all, and wrote this story herself, that's how realistic it is.

The title doesn't really do the story any justice, however I do believe it emulates the subtlety of the tale. Within the subtle weaving of emotional turmoil is the fragile spider-web of family dynamics. Those elements are off-set and enhanced by the intricate details of the bombing of Nagasaki.

I also really enjoyed the passages at the beginning of each chapter. The information about Japanese traditions, phrases and etiquette gave an extra level of understanding to the story.

The main focus is on the relationship between Amaterasu and her daughter Yuko. The way Amaterasu interferes to change and determine Yuko's path in life, how she deals with her guilt, and how her past casts a long shadow over her entire life.

Simultaneously Amaterasu has to deal with the possibility that her grandchild may not have been killed at all. When the alleged grandson turns up at her door after many decades, everything she has resigned herself to for so many years is torn apart by doubt. Her resistance to the possible truth is fascinating. as if the burden of guilt is bigger than the joy at being wrong all those years.

Irrespective of the actual ending or the truth, I think Hideo's true identity becomes irrelevant at some point. He is merely another victim of an unnecessary tragedy and atrocity. Does it really matter whether he is Hideo or not?

As for Amaterasu, I understand the meddling and the manipulation. She is a mother and only wants what is best for her child. Unlike Yuko she has the full picture and all the information, perhaps if she had been honest Yuko may have made different choices in regards to Sato.

This story is captivating and emotionally moving. It is literary fiction at its finest. Copleton manages to capture the horror and the aftermath of Nagasaki in a way that makes the reader feel as if they are right there. The family dynamics and relationships fit snugly around the pikadon. Family and man-made atrocity go hand in hand to create a truly wonderful read.

Buy A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

The Yoga of Max's Discontent by Karan Bajaj

I kind of love the pun in the title. Other than that the story has nothing to do with Steinbeck or Shakespeare.

This book might not be everyone's cup of tea, but for others it may be a door to a certain level of understanding.

I suppose that will depend on how much a reader has contemplated spirituality, self and/or life.

What is it about? Enlightenment and self-discovery. A trip to discover the meaning of self and life.

You don't need extensive knowledge of yoga or meditation to read this, although it might add an extra element of understanding if you do.

Max comes to a crossroads on his personal path in life. Perhaps it is the death of his mother that brings everything to a head. His past, present and future flashes before his eyes and suddenly he knows it's now or never.

He leaves everything behind him, after a conversation with a lightly clad man in the middle of cold city. Viveka sees a kindred spirit in Max and says something life-changing to the young man. Max leaves family, friends, a high-paying job, his apartment and his country soon after.

On a personal level I really enjoyed the deep insight into the yoga and meditation, especially the yoga. It made me look at it from a completely different perspective. Not just relaxation, exercise or plain old balance.

You can tell the story is also a personal journey for the author, which makes the insights so much more enlightening and approachable, despite the surrounding fictional story. An unusual and different kind of read.

Buy The Yoga of Max's Discontent at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.