Posted in Book Review

Tempests and Slaughter – Tamora Pierce – 3* Review

The legend begins.

In the ancient halls of the Imperial University of Carthak, a young man has begun his journey to becoming one of most powerful mages the realm has ever known. Arram Draper is the youngest student in his class and has the Gift of unlimited potential for greatness . . . And of attracting danger.

At his side are his two best friends: clever Varice, a girl with too often-overlooked, and Ozorne, the ‘leftover prince’ with secret ambitions. Together, these three forge a bond that will one-day shape kingdoms.

But as Ozorne inches closer to the throne and Varice grows closer to Arram’s heart, Arram realizes that one day – soon – he will have to decide where his loyalties truly lie.

In the Numair Chronicles, fans of Tamora Pierce will be rewarded with the never-before-told story of how Numair Salmalín came to Tortall. Newcomers will discover an unforgettable fantasy adventure where a kingdom’s future rests on the shoulders of a boy with unimaginable gifts and a talent for making deadly enemies.

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My Thoughts…

Easy to read, although the setting and culture are harder to grasp. This book is a prequel, and like ‘Star Wars’ if you have prior knowledge of the world and the characters in this story, it’s more enjoyable.

‘Tempests and Slaughter’ sets the scene for what is to come.  Slow paced it provides detailed character profiles, the action is low key, but life with the three main characters is informative with lots of vivid description.

The three main characters Arram, Ozorne and Varice are linked by destiny and reading this book does make me want to know what the future holds for them. There are obvious similarities with other magical dynasties, but this world is closer to ‘Game of Thrones’ than ‘Hogwarts’. Arram has an undeniable resemblance to Merlin and Harry Potter.

If you enjoy epic fantasy with a magical twist, this story will appeal, especially if you fall within the young adult audience.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Voyager – Harper Collins UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

BlogTour: Darcie Boleyn- Love at the Northern Lights – Guest Post – 4*Review

 ‘Climbing out the window in her dress and tiara wasn’t exactly how Frankie imagined her wedding day…’

Runaway bride Frankie Ashford hops a plane to Norway with one goal in mind – find her estranged mother and make peace with the past. But when a slip on the ice in Oslo lands her directly in Jonas Thorsen’s Viking-strong arms, her single-minded focus drifts away in the winter winds.

When it comes to romance Jonas knows that anything he and Frankie share has an expiration date – the British heiress has a life to return to in London that’s a world away from his own. But family is everything to Jonas and, as the one man who can help Frankie find the answers she’s seeking, he’ll do whatever it takes to help her reunite with her mother.

Now, as Christmas draws closer and the northern lights work their magic, Frankie and Jonas will have to make a choice…play it safe or risk heartbreak to take a chance on love.

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Guest Post – Darcie Boleyn – The Inspiration Behind Love at the Northern Lights

Do you ever wonder where you’ll be ten years from now? I certainly do and have done throughout my life.

Growing up, I had many deep conversations with my dad about the future and about what we’d like to do. He wasn’t just my dad; he was one of my best friends. We planned on travelling together – with any (understanding) future partner and children I might have – and we had a bucket list of places to go and things we wanted to see.

Twenty years ago, he was still around, and we took a trip to Orlando, Florida. It was a fabulous week, and we laughed a lot. Sixteen years ago, I had my daughter, and my dad was delighted to be a grandfather. His plans for what we would do grew even more exciting and adventurous, and he was so enthusiastic about where we would take my daughter and how well travelled she would be.

Norway was one of the places we talked about visiting. With its mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords, it sounded perfect. There would be the chance to see authentic Viking ships in Oslo’s museum, to take a cruise on the Sognedfjord – Norway’s longest and deepest fjord – and to hike and ski. And, of course, there would be the opportunity to visit Tromsø, to ride on a sleigh through the snow, and hopefully witness the magnificent Aurora borealis.

Sadly, my dad passed away in 2004, when he was just fifty-eight, and my daughter was eighteen months old. My world fell apart, and it seemed that my dreams did too.

However, my dad was a man who seized life, who lived every day and who would have hated for me to give up. As I gradually came to terms with my loss, I grew stronger and began to enjoy life again. Fourteen years on, I still miss him every day, but I have so much to be grateful for and so much to live for. With my loving husband, two beautiful children and three funny dogs, there is much to smile about. I’m also living my childhood dream as an author, something that would have made my dad very proud indeed.

Love at the Northern Lights is dedicated to my dad and to the dreams we shared. The story isn’t about him, or me, but it was inspired by our conversations and our bucket list.

I don’t know where I’ll be ten years from now, but I know where I want to be and what I’d like to do.

One day, I will get to see the northern lights, and when I do, I’ll be holding my dad in my heart.

My Thoughts…

A  story of mothers and daughters, injustice and second chances in scenic Norway and fashionable London and romance that will last longer than the festive season.

A lovely, romantic tale with a festive twist. Frankie runs away from her wedding and her controlling grandmother and decides to find the mother who walked out on her when she was a baby.  Her only clue a postcard her mother sent from Norway.

Norway is full of surprises and possible romance until a call from London means she has to go home. The relationship between Frankie and her mother is poignant and realistic and there is lots of simmering romance amid the snow and the Northern Lights.

An easy to read festive tale which will make you smile.

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

Darcie Boleyn has a huge heart and is a real softy. She never fails to cry at books and movies, whether the ending is happy or not. Darcie is in possession of an overactive imagination that often keeps her awake at night. Her childhood dream was to become a Jedi, but she hasn’t yet found suitable transport to take her to a galaxy far, far away. She also has reservations about how she’d look in a gold bikini, as she rather enjoys red wine, cheese and loves anything with ginger or cherries in it – especially chocolate. Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.    Twitter       Website

Posted in Book Review

The Labyrinth of the Spirits – Carlos Ruiz Zafon – 3* Review

Barcelona, 1957. Daniel Sempere runs the Sempere & Sons bookshop, is happily married and has a son. No longer the child who discovered the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, he is still haunted by the mysterious death of his mother when he was six years old. Meanwhile, his best friend and accomplice, Fermin, is about to marry the love of his life. But something appears to be bothering him. One morning, when Daniel is alone in the shop, a mysterious figure enters and buys a precious copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. Then, to Daniel’s surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words ‘To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future’.

That night Fermin confesses that he was once in prison and that he had to fake his own death to escape. Now his former cellmate has reappeared with a possible key to the hidden treasure. But is it a trap? And why is Daniel’s wife meeting someone in secret? And who was the sinister figure Daniel’s mother went to meet on the night of her death…

The Labyrinth is a stunning Russian doll of a novel, an addictive story that will lure you into a world of plots within plots, where even the shadows have a story to tell…

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Amazon

My Thoughts… 

Although it states you can read this book as a standalone, I found it difficult to get into the story and empathise with the characters. The sheer length of the book demands that you feel something for the characters and I couldn’t. The language and imagery are noteworthy, but it isn’t enough if you can’t grasp the plot and what motivates the characters.

So this is one I didn’t finish. If you’re familiar with the author’s other books you should enjoy reacquainting with some characters and the storyline and style may appeal. It’s not a story you can dip into you need to be a fantasy fan, and the fantasy created by the author needs to be one you can relate to, I wasn’t able to.

I received a copy of this book from W&N Orion Publishing Group in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

Blog Tour: Guest Post -Moonlight on the Thames – Lauren Westwood – 5* Review

Christmas is a joyous time, but not everyone is merry and bright. Nicola is a star at the top of the corporate ladder, but her personal life is a disaster. Her office affair has run its course, and the last thing she wants to think about is Christmas. A night of cancelled trains and festive Christmas carols at Waterloo Station is the last straw… Dmitri loves conducting his pop–up choir during the festive season, meeting people, and spreading joy and cheer around London. But he carries deep secrets from his past that robbed him of his dream to become a concert pianist. Can two lonely hearts and souls be unlocked by music and moonlight and will they discover the healing power of love?

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 Guest Post – Music, Moonlight and Inspiration – Lauren Westwood

As a writer, I’m often asked where I get my inspirations from. The simple answer is that inspirations come from everywhere! For me, usually, a book will start out with just a simple idea or image, or some kind of trigger event from real life. For Moonlight on the Thames, the opening scene was inspired by a real choir who were performing last year at Waterloo Station during the Christmas season, and a real delayed train. I’m happy to say that unlike my main character, Nicola, I did not create a scene (nor, unfortunately, did I meet the love of my life as a result). But thanks to that night and that choir, my book was born.

To create the two main characters, I also drew on my past. Nicola is a high-powered investment banker, and over the years I’ve dealt with a lot of those in my day-job as an in-house lawyer. I thought it would be interesting for the heroine to be the ‘alpha’ character in the book, though this was somewhat risky. She’s not instantly likeable, but I’m hoping that she’s interesting and different enough for people to stick with her, find out why she is like she is, and see her story unfold.

In contrast, Dmitri is more likeable upfront, but he too has secrets from his past that adversely affect his whole life and forced him to give up his career as a concert pianist. Many years ago, I studied music at university, and though I was not suited for a life as a performer, I did encounter some brilliant musicians who inspired me to want to write about music. There is truly an agony and ecstasy about being a musician, and it takes a very particular personality type to be able to achieve the focus and sacrifice that is required.

The piano music that Dmitri plays in the book was also an inspiration for the tone of the book and also some of the scenes. It was great fun trying to search out the perfect pieces that evoked the mood and emotion that I was going for. And while it is hard to ‘describe’ the effect of music in words, I have put together a playlist to accompany the book that hopefully allows the music to speak for itself. The link is here: http://www.laurenwestwoodwriter.com/playlist.

Finally, I also drew inspiration from a trip I took twenty years ago to Russia. There is something incredibly poetic about the country, its past, its people, its music and literature, that resonates with me. Growing up in America in the 70s and 80s, we were brainwashed into thinking of Russia as ‘the evil empire’ governed by dictators whose fingers were on the red button (hmm, who does that sound like nowadays?) So, it was interesting to travel there myself, form my own opinions, and meet some of the people. I also really like Russian literature, and I have a lovely illustrated book of Russian fairytales with lacquer box designs that inspired the retelling of the Firebird that is in the book.

So, all in all, Moonlight on the Thames was a fun book to imagine and write, and I really hope that readers will enjoy it. I am grateful to Aria for the lovely cover, and also for believing in my somewhat dubious interpretation of an ‘escapist Christmas romance’ that also covers many darker, more serious issues.

If you do read Moonlight on the Thames, please do leave a review or a rating where you purchased it. This helps so much to spread the word to people who might not otherwise find the book.

Most of all, best wishes for the rest of the year and the holiday season.

My Thoughts…

‘Moonlight on the Thames’ is not the lighthearted festive read the title suggests but it does have romance, a fairytale quality and a Christmas message.

Nicola’s successful career masks an empty life and deep, damaging secrets that seem worse at Christmas time. Dimitri’s giving nature is especially evident at Christmas, but he is finding it increasingly difficult to hide the despair and guilt he feels. The couple’s meeting is festive, and Nicola is more ‘Scrooge’than ‘Santa Claus’, but their serendipitous meeting makes them both look at their empty lives.

Poignant and romantic this festive tale focuses on those less fortunate at this time of the year. Dimitri and Nicola’s life are both blighted despite their outward success, and this story explores their inner turmoil and seemingly unlikely romance. Both protagonists are authentic and flawed and carry a damaging amount of emotional trauma but their courage and need to find more in their lives lets both characters develop in a believable and heartwarming way.

Music in all its forms underscores this story and gives it a uniqueness not usually found in festive reads. There are no sugar-coated platitudes in this story, just two people trying to make the best of shattered lives but the outcome makes all the angst worthwhile and leaves an important message in the readers’ minds.

I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

Lauren Westwood writes romantic women’s fiction and is also an award-winning children’s writer. Originally from California, she now lives in England in a pernickety old house built in 1602, with her partner and three daughters.  

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Posted in Book Review

A Path to the Lake – Elizabeth Crocket – Author Interview and 4 *Review

Kate Browning longs to experience a life of her own again after caring for her parents the past two years. However, her sister Heather’s escalating depression threatens to thrust Kate into the role of family caregiver once again.

 Hungry for companionship, Kate begins a relationship with Frank Fetiscina, who was there when she and Heather needed him.
 A part-time writer, she is offered an opportunity writing an inspiration column for the local paper by the editor, Tom Smythe. Kate is instantly attracted to him, and they begin a flirtatious and sexual relationship with no ties between them.
 While Kate is on a date at the bistro with Frank one evening, Tom walks in unexpectedly. Tired of the expectations Frank places on her and the lack of commitment from Tom, Kate tells them she is done and storms out, realizing it’s time to take charge of her own life again.

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Author Interview – Elizabeth Crocket

What are the inspirations behind your story ‘A Path to the Lake?’

Jane, I was sitting on a bench by the lake one day, when a very large man lumbered by walking his dog. We engaged in some small talk that led to an enjoyable conversation. He was kind and lovely, and the character of Frank Fetiscina was born. I already had an idea of who the protagonist, Kate Browning, would be and once Frank entered the picture, the story started to come to life for me.

Do you have a set writing process? If so, can you describe it to us, and say why it works for you?

When I started writing A Path to the Lake, I became consumed with it. I started writing at my kitchen table and went back to it at every opportunity. I have written two more novels since A Path to the Lake, and quickly became consumed each of them, too. I suppose I can say that it worked for me, just because I finished all three. I sometimes wonder if my sense of urgency had anything to do with having had a really challenging cancer journey a few years before. Or maybe it’s just my personality!

How do you create your characters, are they from real life or are they purely a product of your imagination?

One or two of the characters in my books may initially have characteristics of people I have known, but quickly the characters all take on a life of their own. The things some of my characters do, surprise even me. They become people that I can visualize, who are completely separate from me.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

If I am reading a book to relax and enjoy, it’s women’s fiction. I have also read many autobiographies over the years, and of course, a book of Japanese short form poetry or contemporary poetry is always on my coffee table.

I know you also write poetry. What made you decide to become a writer and what made you write a novel?

I have always written, in one form or another, whether it was writing poetry or journaling at the end of the day. Writing a novel was a personal goal for me.

What’s next for Elizabeth Crocket? Are you writing another novel?

I recently found out my second novel, Full of Grace will be released this fall or next spring. My third novel, The Smell of Roses, is due out sometime in 2019. All three of my books are women’s fiction, and all have a strong romantic element. 

Thank you for this interview, Jane. I am honoured to be a part of your wonderful blog!

My Thoughts…

It’s lovely to read something different, and this story is like a breath of fresh air.

Kate has spent the last few years as a carer for her parents when her mother loses her battle with cancer, the only light on the horizon is the prospect of getting her life back, but her sister’s mental health deteriorates, and she finds herself in the caring role again.

Kate’s story is poignant, heartwarming and complex. She experiences love and friendship and a creative new career as she forges a new life.

The relationships are typical of any small town, but the dialogue is unique to North America and takes a little getting used to but remains authentic and informative.

The story is peppered with short poems and inspirational quotes, which add depth to the story, and insight into Kate’s motivations, personality and thoughts.

An insightful tale of coping with illness, the importance of family and friends and giving something back.

I received a copy of this book from the author and Crimson Cloak Publishing in return for an honest review.

Elizabeth’s short-form Japanese poetry has been translated into several languages and published internationally. Her chapbook, “Not Like Fred and Ginger”, published by Red Moon Press, was shortlisted for the prestigious Haiku Foundation Touchstone Distinguished Book Award. Her chapbook “Extra Candles” was also published by Red Moon Press.

Elizabeth has had short fiction and poetry widely published online and in print. Samples of her work can be found on her website, elizabethcrocket.wordpress.com. She has a diploma from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Elizabeth is married, has grown children, and six grandchildren.

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A Little Bird Told Me – Marianne Holmes – 4*Review

Besides, if you were one-half evil, wouldn’t you want to know about the other half?

In the scorching summer of 1976, Robyn spends her days swimming at the Lido and tagging after her brother. It’s the perfect holiday – except for the crying women her mum keeps bringing home.

As the heatwave boils on, tensions in the town begin to simmer. Everyone is gossiping about her mum, a strange man is following her around, and worst of all, no one will tell Robyn the truth. But this town isn’t good at keeping secrets…

Twelve years later, Robyn returns home, to a house that has stood empty for years and a town that hasn’t moved on, forced to confront the mystery that haunted her that summer.

And atone for the part she played in it.

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 My Thoughts…

Told from Robyn’s point of view as a child and a young woman this mystery of family secrets, relationships, friendships and violence plays out in the historic heatwave of 1976 and reprises twelve years later when Robyn and her brother Kit return to the town where that life-changing Summer took place.

The characters and setting are realistic and vivid if you lived through the 70s and 80s the ethos and events will be recognisable. The childhood characters make this story memorable. Significant events are glossed over, and smaller ones assume prominence through Robyn’s eyes, adding to the mystery and suspense of this family drama.

Parts of the story is slow and confusing, but this is intentional, to reflect the child who is living through and observing adult behaviour that she doesn’t fully understand. The mystery once revealed is tragic if not entirely unexpected, and there is a good resolution of most of the questions this story raises.

Perfect for those who appreciate literary fiction and enjoy authentic characters and settings.

I received a copy of this book from Agora books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

Posted in Book Review

The Anniversary – 5*Review – Hilary Boyd

Is the one you tried to forget the one you can’t live without?

Stella once thought that if she never saw Jack again, it would be too soon.

But life has other plans for her and her stubborn, handsome ex-husband.

Looking after their daughter in a time of need, Stella finds herself unwillingly reunited with the man she shared the best years of her life with – followed by the worst.

Where tragedy once tore them apart, now Stella and Jack are being drawn back together. But each of them has a new partner and a new life.

Should they fight temptation?

Should the past remain the past?

Or are some loves simply meant to be?

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My Thoughts…

Stella and Jack are soulmates, or so they believe, but when they suffer a terrible loss, it changes them and their relationship. Grief and mourning are unique to the sufferer, and if two people are raw with the pain of loss, they fall together or fall apart. Stella and Jack fell apart and have gone their separate ways until their daughter needs them both and they have another chance to talk and maybe find out if their love is worth saving.

Realistic and poignant this a gentle story of life and its tragedies and how it can destroy or cement familial relationships. The family interactions are believable and the quandary Stella and Jack find themselves authentic. A tale of love, loss and life that is easy to read but resonates in your heart.

I received a copy of this book via Penguin UK – Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

The Little Paris Patisserie – Julie Caplin – 5*Review

 

Posted in Book Review

4* Review – Nick Louth – The Body on the Shore

A killer is at work in the supposedly-safe commuter belt.  DCI Gillard needs answers, fast…

Promising architect Peter Young is shot dead at his desk. DCI Craig Gillard is quickly on the scene, looking at what appears to be a brutal and highly professional hit: two bullets, fired with ice-cold calm.

Gillard knows that the most crucial question in solving the crime is one word: Why? Two weeks later, on the Lincolnshire coast, another body is found on a windswept beach. In this case, there is no identity for the young man, just a curious brand burned into his neck….

As the mystery deepens Gillard is plunged into a case without answers, finding himself up against dark forces, people who believe in only two things: blood and a warped code of honour. This time lives are on the line, children’s lives – and his own.

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My Thoughts…

An intricate, well-paced police procedural with an engaging detective and an absorbing plot.

Intrigue and mystery beckon from the start of this story and intensify as it progresses, with three seemingly unrelated serious crimes. DCI Craig Gillard has to try and solve them, keep his bosses happy and avoid an international incident with the help of his dedicated team of detectives, colleagues from the past and his keen intuition.

The crimes are shocking but not overly graphic in description, the conspiracy that surrounds them gives the story a menacing ethos and the final twist is thought-provoking and somewhat poignant. I liked the authenticity of the story and the all the characters are believable. The settings are vividly described and add to the story’s suspense.

A worthwhile read for anyone who likes police crime fiction.

I received a copy of this book from Canelo via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

You Let Me In- 5* Review- Lucy Clarke

Nothing has felt right since Elle rented out her house . . .

I’M IN YOUR HOUSE

There’s a new coldness. A shift in the atmosphere. The prickling feeling that someone is watching her every move from the shadows.

I’M IN YOUR HEAD

Maybe it’s all in Elle’s mind? She’s a writer – her imagination, after all, is her strength. And yet every threat seems personal. As if someone has discovered the secrets that keep her awake at night.

AND NOW I KNOW YOUR SECRET

As fear and paranoia close in, Elle’s own home becomes a prison. Someone is unlocking her past – and she’s given them the key…

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My Thoughts…

I’ve read so many ‘psychological thrillers this year, but this is one of the best.

What I like about it is authenticity, I believe in Elle, the situations she finds herself and the ending, while surprisingly is entirely believable.

The story moves from Elle in the present and then to a past time when her life changes irrevocably, this is where you are sure you know who her present tormentor is but are you right? The third voice in the story is the person who once let into Elle’s life won’t let go.

The novel abounds with paranoia, as Elle appears to become increasingly irrational, even to herself. There are many blind alleys, and part reveals before the dramatic conclusion. The atmosphere is key to this book’s impact, and it builds to a crescendo of menace. The setting is vivid and a character in itself, emphasising the storyline, to significant effect.

If you think you’re tired of this genre, this story may change your mind.

I received a copy of this book from Harper Fiction – Harper Collins UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.