Saturday, 31 January 2015

Review: Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye

Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye

Published: January 2015
Genre: Historical fiction, 
Stars: ***** and more if I could

The Blurb

Horrifying and beautiful, Summertime is a fictionalised account of one of the most devastating natural disasters in US history.

Florida Keys, 1935. Hurricane Season.

Tens of thousands of black and white men scarred by their experiences of war in Europe return home to find themselves abandoned to destitution by the US government.

The tiny, segregated community of Heron Key is suddenly overwhelmed by broken, disturbed men with new ideas about racial equality and nothing left to lose.

Tensions flare when a black veteran is accused of committing the most heinous crime of all against a white resident’s wife.

And not far off the strongest and most intense hurricane America has ever witnessed is gaining force.

For fans of The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird, this is the story of the greatest tragedy you've never heard of.

My Thoughts

I was very lucky to receive a set of Summertime books from Orion for the reading group that I run at work. One of the things that really drew me to Summertime was the cover - I love it! Just that touch of a storm approaching and the children sitting on the beach - a picture postcard with perhaps a little bit of darkness to it. I am also a sucker for books set in Florida as it is one of my favourite places to visit although I have not made it as far south as the Keys yet.

Some of you may have also seen a post from a couple of weeks ago where I announced that Summertime was my book of 2014. When you consider that I read just over 150 books last year then I think you will realise just how good I think this book is. It's actually taken me a few weeks to be able to sit & write this review as on finishing Summertime I was left totally stunned unable to put into words my feelings & thoughts about the book. It is one of those books that even having read it a few weeks has really left it's mark on me & I know that others in my reading group felt the same.

I've tried to remember the last time I was so captivated and consumed by a book and it's hard to come up with something perhaps it really was over 20 years ago when I read To Kill A Mocking Bird for my GCSEs. Summertime opens on Heron Key, Florida in 1935 and right from those very few pages Lafaye has you totally hooked, pulling you in & gripping you just like the jaws of that alligator from the opening chapter. The story centres around three very different communities - a group of WW1 veterans let down by their government and forced to camp on Heron Key whilst they work on a government works project. Then we have the black community and the white community that they work for as maids, nannys, handymen, so before the veterans even arrived on Heron Key there was already racial tension and divide bubbling away.

Every 4th of July the islanders have a beach BBQ. Both communities coming together yet still divided with the whites on their side of the beach & the blacks on theirs. This year though the townspeople are joined by the veterans & tensions look set to overflow as some look to settle old scores & new arguements take centre stage. The evening ends with a white women being attacked & left for dead and all eyes looking to the veterans community for the culprit.

Meanwhile off the coast of the Atlantic, a storm is brewing threatening to bear down on Heron Key and ultimately change the residents lives forever. Who will left standing and who won't? 

This book was a pure adrenaline rush, a highly addictive read that I couldn't put down. Lafaye had me absorbed from start to finish and a lot of that is down to knowing that the story is actually a fictional account of a huge hurricane that really did hit the Keys in the 1930s. This adds so much to the suspense and tension that the author builds - at first slowly but as the storm hits the pace picks up.

Summertime is well plotted and well researched. I didn't know anything about the WW1 veterans and the march on Washington, I was given a really fascinating insight into a subject I now need to go and find out more about. I love books that teach me something about history and make me need to go learn more. The other wonderful thing about this book were the character, some you loved & some you despised but there were none I loved more than Missy. Missy works for the Kincaid's taking care of their baby son Nathan and is one of the central characters in the story.

This book really did have everything - a community divided, racial tension, morals, relationship troubles on so many fronts, a little bit of politics,history, class differences, a wonderful location, fantastic characters and so much more. We have the storm brewing out at sea but there really has been a storm brewing for a very long time amongst the locals and it all comes to a head the night of the beach BBQ. Summertime left me totally breathless and I came to the end feeling I had done battle with Mother Nature herself.

An incredible debut that is so well written you feel as that you are there on Heron Key living right through the hurricane. Lafaye picked me up & swept me along like the storm with her beautiful writing and brilliant character development-an outstanding storyteller. I am very much looking forward to seeing where Vanessa Lafaye takes me with her second book.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Review: Acting Brave by Helena Newbury

Acting Brave by Helena Newbury 
(Fenbrook Academy #3) 

Publication date: January 2015
Genres: New Adult, Romance

The Blurb

She’s spent her whole life acting. But is she good enough to make him believe she doesn’t love him?

Three years ago, a terrified girl named Emma fled a world of crime and abuse in Chicago and bought a one-way ticket to New York. She reinvented herself as an actress, enrolled at the prestigious Fenbrook Academy and buried her pain beneath a vivacious new persona. Her new name was Jasmine.

Now she has to pull off the performance of her career.

Landing her dream part in a police show, she finds herself falling for her co-star, Ryan, a real-life cop. If she lets him get too close, he’ll awaken memories she doesn’t want to face and uncover secrets that could endanger them both. But how can she keep a guy at arm’s length when she has to kiss him on camera?

The last place Ryan imagined himself was on a TV show. Blaming himself for the death of his partner, he’s on a downward spiral of rage and guilt. The show is his last chance…but how can he keep it professional when his co-star is a woman he’s crazy about?
As their on-screen and off-screen relationships merge, things go from hot to blistering. But when Jasmine’s old life catches up with her, will a cop be the one person she can’t be around…or the only person who can save her?

 GoodReads / Amazon 

My Thoughts

***** 5 Stars

Wow!Wow!Wow! Helena Newbury certainly excelled herself with Acting Brave I was hooked right from the start and it is the perfect addition to the Fenbrook Academy series. I started reading Helena Newbury's books because I signed up for the Acting Brave blog tour. I am someone who likes to read books in a series in order & with Acting Brave being book 3 I had to make sure that I read books 1 & 2 first. I totally immersed myself into the student world of Fenbrook Academy reading all 3 books back to back and each book just kept getting better.

This book centres around Jasmine, she is the flirty, fun & most outgoing one of the Fenbrook girls. An acting student who is looking for her big break, she is such a fantastic actress that no one, not even her friends know that she has only been playing the part of Jasmine for the last 3 years. She is in fact Emma, a lost girl on the run from her abusive past and a father she despises. Desperate to put her past behind her she changes her name, changes who she is & builds walls around herself determined to leave Chicago a distant memory. She manages all of this pretty well until police officer Ryan walks into her life.

Jasmine had been built not on rock or even sand but dark, endlessly - churning waters. 
By the time the semester started, Emma was shrinking, falling rapidly backward down a dark little hole into a secret corner of my mind, her cries getting fainter and fainter. Already, she seemed like a bad dream.
Everything is going well for Jasmine, she lands her dream job on a new cop tv show unfortunately she is not expecting the show to also be using real police officers to play parts. Jasmine & the police just don't mix and she is sent into turmoil even more so when she realises that she her on screen lover will be real cop, Ryan. Ryan has long been dreaming of Jasmine since he had run into her & her friends when one of them was a victim of a mugging a few months previously. Just as Ryan is building up the courage to talk to Jasmine his partner is killed and he blames himself with the guilt sending him into a downward spiral. Full of anger he comes very close to losing his badge unless he agrees to take some time out & work on the cop show to prove that he can handle his issues.
I'd lost all interest in anyone else. Jasmine was like the wobbly tooth your tongue can't stop playing with. I kept being drawn back to her, back to Fenbrook Academy, back to this same damn street and yet, every time I got there, I couldn't say what I needed to say. How do you ask out an actress? 

 What follows is two people fighting to stay in control of themselves. Jasmine battles to keep Emma hidden but when she is around Ryan it seems impossible not to let Emma try to surface. She believes that there is no way that anyone would want to be with her as Emma & that Jasmine is the one all men want. Then we have Ryan struggling with his guilt around Hux's death and trying to deal with the new issue of jealousy when any other man is around Jasmine.

I could feel the walls that formed Jasmine groan and creak , their plaster cracking dangerously, but I was past caring.
He. Doesn't. Like. You. He likes Jasmine. And there is no such person. She was smoke and mirrors and giggles and perfume. Perfectly convincing until he got too close. 

For me the story of Jasmine/Emma's past adds a whole new layer to the Fenbrook Academy series with this book being much more about mystery and suspense. It made that part of me that loves crime fiction very happy. I loved the characters of both Jasmine & Ryan & was so happy to see Jasmine get her own story. In the other books she comes across as very fluffy & a little ditzy but in Acting Brave we get to see what a truly strong & impressive woman she actually is. She is definitely my favourite out of all the Fenbrook girls, I love her how feisty & sassy she is combined with the scared little girl who is struggling to rebuild herself after being so broken.

And as for Ryan. Swoon! He has my vote for hottest guy in the Fenbrook series. What's not to love? He is good looking, sensitive, willing to fight for his woman and he truly loves Emma for who she is not the act that is Jasmine. He is such a tortured soul and really compliments Jasmine quite perfectly.

 "I have loved you," he told me, "from the first time I set eyes on you. You are burned into my mind like a furious fire that can never be put out.'
To sum things up this book was an amazing addition to the Fenbrook series. Helena Newbury in my opinion has created by far the two strongest characters in Jasmine & Ryan, characters that I felt I really connected with and wanted to find happiness. The suspense in the book built perfectly & the secondary characters that we have come to know & love play their part beautifully. A must for fans of the Fenbrook series or a great romantic suspense.

About The Author

I’m a New Adult Romance author who loves writing about what happens when love and dreams collide with the real world. I wrote my first novel, Dance for Me, in daily chunks in a very busy, very noisy coffee shop, which meant I had to order a black Americano every hour, on the hour, to keep my seat and wound up wired on caffeine most days. I hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists in summer 2013. Unlike my characters, I can’t dance.


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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Review: Withering Hope by Layla Hagen with giveaway

 **** 4 Stars

Withering Hope by Layla Hagen 

Publication date:
January 19th 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

The Blurb


Aimee’s wedding is supposed to turn out perfect. Her dress, her fiancé and the location—the idyllic holiday ranch in Brazil—are perfect.

But all Aimee’s plans come crashing down when the private jet that’s taking her from the U.S. to the ranch—where her fiancé awaits her—defects mid-flight and the pilot is forced to perform an emergency landing in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.

With no way to reach civilisation, being rescued is Aimee and Tristan’s—the pilot—only hope. A slim one that slowly withers away, desperation taking its place. Because death wanders in the jungle under many forms: starvation, diseases. Beasts.

As Aimee and Tristan fight to find ways to survive, they grow closer. Together they discover that facing old, inner agonies carved by painful pasts takes just as much courage, if not even more, than facing the rainforest.

Despite her devotion to her fiancé, Aimee can’t hide her feelings for Tristan—the man for whom she’s slowly becoming everything. You can hide many things in the rainforest. But not lies. Or love.

Withering Hope is the story of a man who desperately needs forgiveness and the woman who brings
 him hope. It is a story in which hope births wings and blooms into a love that is as beautiful and intense as it is forbidden.

My Thoughts

I loved the sound of this synopsis so much that I had to sign up for Layla Hagen's blog tour. What was great about this book is that for the most part it really is all just about the two main characters - Aimee & Tristan. With them being stranded in the Amazon rainforest the focus is all on them and we don't meet anyone else until right at the end. The fact that it is all about the two of them and their blossoming relationship makes for a really powerful read.

So we have Aimee flying out on her fiance's private jet to the Brazilian ranch where she is just days away from marrying her childhood sweetheart & best friend, Chris. Everything is perfect & her head is full of the wedding when the plane develops a fault and the pilot Tristan, has to make an emergency landing in the middle of the jungle. Aimee & Tristan then find themselves forced to spend time with each other in isolation until either help arrives or they are able to make their own way out.

For most of the story we see everything from Aimee's point of view with just a few chapters thrown in to tell things from Tristan's perspective. Tristan is clearly a man in great pain, full of guilt and tortured by something that happens in his past. He is however drawn to Aimee and there is something about her that settles him & brings him peace.

My peace carries her smell and sounds like her voice.                                 It feels like her touch,                                                                       But I have to give up that peace. 

For once, something is happening that will pull me out of that pit - it already does.                                                                                                                                 Someone.                                                                                         And now that I've found her, I can't give her up.
As the story starts out Aimee tries her best to keep her thoughts of her fiance & upcoming wedding at the forefront of her mind and does her upmost to fight her her growing attraction to Tristan. However being with someone 24/7 in a dangerous situation for day after day, week after week means you come to depend on that one person as you fight for survival and so the inevitable happens & Aimee starts to let Tristan in.

Tristan slipped into my soul the way mist travels in the forest after the rain: unseen, unstoppable, and ubiquitous. Our feelings resemble the mist in a way, too. When you're surrounded by the mist you don't see it clearly, though you feel it in the thickness of the air. You know it's there, but you can't touch it or know for sure if it's real.

This book is a wonderful story about survival & fighting the odds, it is both passionate and powerful. At times heartbreaking but with just enough of a glimpse of hope. Layla Hagen is able to build the chemistry between Aimee & Tristan to such an intensity it almost leaves you breathless. She starts out with a small spark but that ignites into something so much deeper, Aimee & Tristan become almost one person. I adored both of their characters, both well written and I could really feel Tristan's pain.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was the amount of suspense Hagen was able to build. Not knowing whether either Tristan or Aimee would make it to the end of the story made sure I was totally immersed. As you would expect being stranded in the jungle threw up so many possibilities of one or the other meeting their fate but this book was about hope & the connection I felt to the characters meant I was willing them both on.

And finally the epilogue of this book is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever read and one of the most magical things about this book. I highly recommend it for fans of romance against all odds & who like a little bit of danger & heartbreak thrown in. Be prepared for a rollercoaster ride & have your tissues handy.

About The Author

My name is Layla Hagen and I am a New Adult Contemporary Romance author.
I fell in love with books when I was nine years old, and my love affair with stories continues even now, many years later.
I write romantic stories and can’t wait to share them with the world.
And I drink coffee. Lots of it, in case the photo didn’t make it obvious enough

Author links:


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Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Published: 29th January 2015
Genres: Young Adult
Stars: ****

The Blurb

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

My Thoughts

This book is such a difficult book for me to review because the subject matter is one that has touched my personally and although it never resulted in such tragic consequences it opened my eyes to just how things could have turned out.

The book starts with Cody finding out that her best friend Meg has committed suicide. She finds out in a letter that is sent via email by Meg herself and the letter starts 'I regret to inform you that I have had to take my own life' . It seems so cold & calculated, so business like and from someone who sounds like they are just resigning from life. This happens on the very first page of the book so is our first glimpse at both Cody & Meg & from page one you just need to know what happened to a) make Meg take her own life & to b) find out how Cody copes with her loss.

Cody is an only child who has grown up being looked after by a single mother who she calls Tricia instead of mum. She had been best friends with Meg for forever & was very much part of the furniture at Meg's house, made welcome by Meg's parents Joe & Sue and her younger brother, Scottie. It is because of the relationship that Cody has with Meg's family that they ask her if she will go to Meg's room at Cascades University near Seattle to bring home Meg's stuff. And so what follows is Cody's journey to retrieve Meg's belongings and her journey into finding out what made Meg do what she did. A journey that makes her realise that just maybe she didn't know her best friend as much as she thought she did.

Of course it wouldn't be a Gayle Forman book without a love interest for Cody & he comes in the form of Ben, a guitarist with a band who it turns out that Meg had been in a sort of relationship with. Unfortunately at times the relationship between Cody & Ben didn't quite work for me, it felt a little strained & contrived and the chemistry wasn't always there. I do say at times though because sometimes it worked maybe Cody didn't actually need a love interest maybe we should have just been able to see her finding answers & exploring Meg's life in Seattle without a relationship needing to be thrown in. At times the relationship overshadowed the more important issues surrounding Meg's suicide and perhaps even trivialised it.

The subject of suicide and mental health issues are ones that need to be discussed especially in young adult fiction. From my point of view having lived with someone who has experienced such issues I thought that Gayle Forman tackled the subject matter sensitively. It is all too easy to assume that if someone is suicidal that they will show obvious symptoms of depression, wallowing in their own self pity day after day. My experience of someone who is suicidal is that they are very clever at hiding how they are actually feeling, in fact they can be the life & soul of the party & I think this came through perfectly in Forman's writing.

The relationship between Cody & Tricia was extremely well written & I really enjoyed their scenes together. Cody has obviously had a troubled upbringing but it is clear that her mother has tried to do her best by her daughter. Then right at the end we see just how strong the mother/daughter relationship is. Tricia added an sense of almost light relief to what is a very difficult story to read.

All the slightly negative things aside I did like the book. It was nowhere near on the same level as If I Stay which I adored but it did give an insight into what happens to those left behind after a suicide. We see Cody go through all the stages of grief - sadness, grief, anger! We actually feel her pain more than we do Meg's and this does allow a connection with Cody as a character.

Overall I found the book both heartbreaking and touching, it was a real eye opener and this issue around how Meg planned to kill herself is quite alarming. What I enjoyed most about the book was Cody's journey, she had always seen herself as the quiet one compared to Meg and it was good to see her come from out of the shadows & show such strength in a time of great sadness. Well worth a read.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Review: The Liar's Chair by Rebecca Whitney

The Liar's Chair by Rebecca Whitney

Published: 15th January 2015
Genres: Pyschological, Thriller

The Blurb

Rachel Teller and her husband David appear happy, prosperous and fulfilled. The big house, the successful business . . . They have everything.

However, control, not love, fuels their relationship and David has no idea his wife indulges in drunken indiscretions. When Rachel kills a man in a hit and run, the meticulously maintained veneer over their life begins to crack.

Destroying all evidence of the accident, David insists they continue as normal. Rachel though is racked with guilt and as her behaviour becomes increasingly self-destructive she not only inflames David's darker side, but also uncovers her own long-suppressed memories of shame. Can Rachel confront her past and atone for her terrible crime? Not if her husband has anything to do with it . . .

A startling, dark and audacious novel set in and around the Brighton streets, The Liar's Chair will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the final page has been turned. A stunning psychological portrait of a woman in a toxic marriage, Rebecca Whitney's debut will show that sometimes the darkest shadow holds the truth you have been hiding from . . .

My Thoughts

***.5  3 1/2 Stars

First of all I need to thank PanMacmillan for the ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

This book is a hard one for me to review as everything in the blurb made it sound just like my kind of book unfortunately I read The Liar's Chair straight after reading Paula Hawkin's debut The Girl On The Train meaning it had some large shoes to fill. 

The Liar's Chair is a character driven, psychological debut from Rebecca Whitney that is both dark and disturbing in it's nature. It tells the story of husband & wife Rachel & David Teller who are in a poisonous & pretty much loveless marriage. On the surface they portray a happily married couple as well as business partners who live in a beautiful house with the perfect marriage. Everything does seem perfect until Rachel hits & kills a man on a country lane whilst returning home from a secret rendezvous with her lover. She hides the body & seeks David's help in covering it up. That one tragic incident sends Rachel spiralling and the cracks in her perfect life begin to show. 

Just like Gone Girl this book had characters that you just hated but unlike Gone Girl I didn't love to hate them. In The Liar's Chair I feel that it is David who is the cold hearted character everything he does is very calculated & aimed at protecting himself as a respected businessman. His mental abuse & control of Rachel is quite alarming & Rebecca Whitney does a fantastic job of writing him as a truly vile individual. Rachel on the other hand I have quite mixed feelings on at times I can't stand her & yet at times I feel sorry for her & the situation she has found herself in. Again this is down to how well Whitney has written her as a character. 

Whilst The Liar's Chair is a good read it lacks the pace that I look for when I read a psychological thriller. At times the book is great & the pace does pick up but then it falls flat & I must say that I'm not to sure how I feel about the ending. That said it is a strong debut & I will definitely be looking out for Rebacca Whitney's next book. 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Review: In Harmony by Helena Newbury

In Harmony by Helena Newbury
(Fenbrook Academy #2)

Published: September 2013
Genres: New Adult, Romance

The Blurb

Everyone expects her to succeed...
Karen plays the cello like an angel, and it’s the only thing that makes her truly feel alive. But her father’s dream—for her to join a prestigious orchestra—leaves no time in her life for anything but music...not even love. Trapped on her path, she doesn’t know how to rebel.

Everyone expects him to fail...
Connor plays rock guitar like the devil himself, and his ability has got him all the way from a dead-end life in Belfast to a scholarship at Fenbrook Academy. But beneath his arrogance and charm, he doesn’t believe he has what it takes. He’s spent his time in New York drinking and partying, and the only future he sees is a return to Ireland as soon as he flunks out.

But what no one expects...
When Karen’s duet partner is injured, the bad boy guitarist and the shy, sheltered cellist are forced to team up. Neither likes the idea, but what begins as anger and distrust slowly spirals into love...and lust. If they can face up to their feelings, they might just have a chance together. If Connor will allow Karen to stop his fall, maybe he can show her a life she never thought possible...

This New Adult Romance is recommended for readers 17+

My Thoughts

**** 4 Stars

I enjoyed the first book in this series so much that I couldn't wait to get started on In Harmony and leapt straight into reading it as soon as I had finished Dance For Me. This time the book centres on Karen, a musician who plays the cello who dreams of playing for the New York Philharmonic. Karen is friends with Natasha from Dance For Me & we get to see all of the secondary characters from that book back again.

Karen Montfort is an extremely talented but shy & introverted musician with an extremely over protective & over bearing father who is determined that his daughter will achieve her dream. Unfortunately he wasn't planning on Irish bad boy guitarist, Connor Locke appearing on the scene to mess with Karen's head. A boy who is just a breath away from being kicked out.

Karen is the ultimate in dedicated student except things start to fall apart for her when her duet partner for her final recital injures his hand and is no longer able to play. She needs to find another partner quickly but her choice is limited in that Connor is the only student still partnerless. She plays cello, he's a rock guitarist - how on earth are they going to make it work?

In my opinion this book was better than Dance For Me - there was more intensity & I found myself more absorbed by the storyline. The chemistry between Karen & Connor was amazing & it was great seeing Karen come out of her shell. Connor helps Karen find her fight & makes her see that she is something special, a person who shouldn't be hiding behind her hair. In turn Karen softens Connor around the edges and exposes his true self. A scared boy who hides between a brash persona.

Once again we have the fantastic cast of secondary characters who add another layer to the story. I would have so loved being at somewhere like Fenbrook when I was younger. Karen needs her friends around her & I love how they especially Jasmine help her shine.

I love a good story where total opposites attract & I most certainly found that with In Harmony. Helena Newbury certainly cranks up the heat level in this book as it is far steamier than Dance For Me. The chemistry between Connor & Karen just spills over the pages as their relationship builds through their music. Newbury really makes the music come to life through her writing - it added a real energy to the book.

It was great being back at Fenbrook Academy with this book & I can't wait to book 3 in the series which tells Jasmine's story.

Review: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
(The Bone Season #2)

Published: 27th January 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal prison camp of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the survivors are missing and she is the most wanted person in London...

As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on the dreamwalker, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city's gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take centre stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner. Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided.

My Thoughts

I read & loved The Bone Season the first book in this series with my reading group last year. The verdict of the group was those that got to the end absolutely loved it but a few didn't even make it half way through. I totally got that at the time as the first book did take a while to get into, I remember being at 50% on my Kindle before I actually thought here we go. The trouble with The Bone Season is that Samantha Shannon is introducing us to a whole other world, a London & Oxford not as we know it & in order to do so there was a lot of scene setting & explanations so I would urge anyone who gave up with The Bone Season try again it will be worth it.

I was really pleased to be approved on NetGalley by Bloomsbury for an early copy of book two in the series The Mime Order, excited to be able to go back into Paige Mahoney's world again & to see what happened to her after she fled Sheol I. We are immediately thrown into the story with the survivors of the penal colony escape on a train back to London. Some are caught & some make their way undetected into London's underworld. Paige ends up back with her mime-lord Jaxon Hall & his Seven Seals but she has a price upon her head and is desperate to work out how to rise up against the Rephaim. The biggest question of all is what has happened to the Warden?

This book is really hard for me to review without giving away any spoilers and because it was really just so totally awesome so I am going to keep it short. Samantha Shannon has you hooked right from the start, with The Bone Season it was all about setting the scene but with The Mime Order we are propelled into a storm that is brewing in the underworld and with Paige not knowing who she can trust. 

The Mime Order is well paced, well plotted & full of action, Shannon was able to draw me into Paige's fictional world and when I got to the end of the book I wasn't quite ready to leave. I can't remember the last time I was so desperate to get to the end of a book to see what happens, at times I was holding my breath especially as the book neared it's conclusion with a bloody battle to the death.

Paige's character really develops in this book and we see just what a fighter she has become having had her eyes opened to her true potential as a dreamwalker. She has so many different sides to her and I am so looking forward to continuing her journey. And what can I say about the Warden? I just love the Warden and there is just something so endearing about his relationship with Paige. We are left with a major cliffhanger right at the end of the book that I guess I should have anticipated but it caught me totally off guard.

I love the use of so many interesting and intriguing secondary characters they really helped to build a fantastic picture and understanding of gangs & cohorts that make up London. As I am from London I also get a little bit of a kick out of seeing places I know & recognise mentioned and how they are portrayed in the story. I really am in total awe of Samantha Shannon's writing skills and her ability to create such a complex world out of somewhere that is so close to home. 

The Mime Order was both an exhilarating & consuming read, I was absorbed from start to finish, fighting sleep and being late for work just so I could get to the end us quickly as a possible. I will now be eagerly awaiting book 3 in the series and forming my own opinions on who should play who in the film franchise. This book gets a massive 5 stars from me & is a must for all fantasy fans. I urge you to add it to your to read piles, in fact I urge you to read it straight away only after reading The Bone Season of course.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Review: Dance For Me by Helena Newbury

Dance For Me by Helena Newbury
(#1 Fenbrook Academy)

Published: June 2013
Genres: New Adult, Romance

The Blurb

Natasha is one of the most promising ballet dancers at the prestigious Fenbrook Academy of Performing Arts and she’s just landed a life-changing audition. But no one knows the guilt she carries...or the damage it makes her inflict on herself when she’s alone.

Darrell is a multi-millionaire designer at 25. But past traumas have pushed him into isolation and the intense pressure of his work has brought him to the edge of burnout. Seeking inspiration, he sees Natasha dance and hires her as his muse.

As she dances for him, the two become entwined in a passionate but troubled relationship. He starts to see the pain inside her and helps her gradually lower her defenses...but Darrell has demons of his own. Can two broken people save each other? Or will the darkness they’re hiding consume them both?

This New Adult Romance is recommended for 17+ due to mature themes, sexual situations and language.

My Thoughts

**** 4 Stars

Dance For Me is Helena Newbury's debut novel and it tackles some really heavy topics. Natasha is a talented ballet dancer at the prestigious Fenbrook Academy in New York but she is battling to keep a guilty secret from her past to herself. She punishes herself everyday for what she has done and her dancing is one of the only things that keeps her in control of both her body & her mind. Unfortunately her big audition, the one she has always dreamed off doesn't go quite to plan when a mysterious man crashes into the room whilst she is performing.

That mysterious man is Darrell a millionaire designer who is looking for inspiration for his latest project, inspiration that he thinks he will find in watching ballerinas. Darrell has his own demons from his past that he is fighting to put behind him & he is instantly drawn to Natasha as soon as he sees her dance. He is so drawn to her that he offers to pay her so that she will dance for him in the privacy of his workshop in order to inspire him with his latest design project. A project that he is determined to keep under wraps from Natasha.

As the attraction between the pair becomes more intense and they become closer both of their pasts look set to derail their blossoming relationship.

I'm not sure if it is the right thing to say that I enjoy this type of book - 2 damaged souls finding each other whilst trying to avoid the tragedy of their past but this book was a good read. As a mother of a daughter who has self harmed I thought that Helena Newbury tackled the issue really well and it gave me a better insight into how my daughter might have been feeling.

I was drawn to the 2 main characters and cared about what had happened to them and what happened to their future. Willing them to both overcome their demons in order that they could find a future together. Dance For Me was both absorbing and captivating and I loved the setting and the way the secondary characters become involved in the story.

The heat level was just right for me and I was glad that it didn't overshadow the relationship and storylines of both Natasha & Darrell.

Overall a great read, both powerful and at times heartbreaking - a fantastic start to the Fenbrook Academy series.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Review: Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner

**** 4 Stars

Lisa Gardner is one of my favourite crime authors & I always look forward to reading any new book by her. Crash & Burn is book 3 in the Tessa Leoni series. I was really pleased to be approved by Headline on Netgalley so I could read Crash & Burn early. 

Out 3rd February 2015

The Blurb

My name is Nicky Frank. Except, most likely, it isn’t. 

Nicole Frank shouldn’t have been able to survive the car accident, much less crawl up the steep ravine. Not in the dark, not in the rain, not with her injuries. But one thought allows her to defy the odds and flag down help: Vero.

I’m looking for a little girl. I have to save her. Except, most likely, she doesn’t exist. 

Sergeant Wyatt Foster is frustrated when even the search dogs can’t find any trace of the mysterious missing child. Until Nicky’s husband, Thomas, arrives with a host of shattering revelations: Nicole Frank suffers from a rare brain injury and the police shouldn’t trust anything she says.

My husband claims he’ll do anything to save me. Except, most likely, he can’t.

Who is Nicky Frank, and what happened the night her car sailed off the road? Was it a random accident or something more sinister given the woman’s lack of family and no close friends? The deeper Wyatt digs, the more concerned he becomes. Because it turns out, in the past few months, Nicky has suffered from more than one close accident. . . . In fact, it would appear someone very much wants her dead.

This is my life. Except, most likely, it’s not. Now watch me crash and burn.

My Thoughts

Whilst part of a series this book is billed as a standalone & having read the other books in the series I feel people would have no problem starting with this book. In fact whilst book 3 in the Tessa Leoni series we don't actually see a huge amount of her. 

The books blurb makes it sound like an exciting read, full of unanswered questions & full of the great plot twists that I have become used to from Lisa Gardner. Crash & Burn starts well with the opening line 'I died once& we are immediately introduced to Nicky Frank as her SUV crashes into a ravine. 

Nicky who has suffered two concussions in the last 6 months is thrown into total confusion as she pulls herself from the wreckage frantically looking for a little girl named Vero. What follows is a fruitless search for a missing child but when Nicky's husband turns up it becomes apparent that there is perhaps no child. Thomas Franks informs Sergeant Wyatt Foster that this is his wife's 3rd accident in recent months and the first two have left her with severe trauma. 

Wyatt is determined to find out what caused Nicky to run off the road last night- was it an accident or does someone want Nicole Frank dead? As he begins to dig deeper he begins to uncover secrets that had long been buried. He calls upon his girlfriend Tessa Leoni(whose security firm had previously been in contact with Nicky) to help him find out Nicky's true identity & just why have Nicky & Thomas been travelling from state to state, city to city never staying in one place for more than two years.

After such a powerful opening chapter I must confess I was a little bit disappointed with the slow pace that followed. It didn't feel like I was reading a Lisa Gardner book & at times I found myself confused by the plot. However at some point which I can't put my finger on everything changed the twists began to come & the pace picked right up. After finishing the book I actually wondered if the slow & confusing start had been intentional by the author so that you felt somewhat connected to Nicky's plight.  

The relationship between Nicky & her husband Thomas is well written & really adds to the atmosphere and the plot twists in the book. You end up not knowing who are the good guys and who are the bad - why is Nicky so confused about her feelings for her husband? 

I love him. I fear him. I need him. I resent him. I pull him close. I push him away. 
This book is very different from Gardner's normal type of story which tend to be more police procedural based especially the D.D Warren series which I love. Incidentally D.D Warren makes a small cameo appearance in this book which leaves us wondering where Gardner is going to take her story next. This book places much more focus on Nicole Frank & her mysterious past.

Overall I enjoyed the book despite it getting off to a rocky start, it is just the type of dark psychological thriller that I love with plenty of twists & turns. It is a very complex mystery of a woman who can't remember her past but as her memory starts to return we are hurtled head-on into a final showdown.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Review Challenge

I love reading, it is one of my favourite things to do. I also love being able to share what books I have read with people which is great in my job as a library manager as I get to tell people everyday face to face about wonderful books. 

What I struggle with is keeping on top of my reviews once I have a read a book? I dive straight into the next book & then the next & before I know it I have a huge pile of books waiting to be reviewed.

With so many books waiting to be reviewed I was so happy to see a Review Challenge mentioned on Twitter created by by Sophie from Reviewed The Book & Suze from Librarian Lavender . The aim is to set yourself a target for how many reviews you intend to write between 23rd January and 2nd February.

So I intend to write up at least 12 reviews between now and the 2nd February, more if I have the time but with work, family and time to read new books I will be very happy with 12.

A big thanks to Sophie & Suze for creating the challenge.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Book Blitz: Q&A with C.J.Lake author of A Hot Winter

A little bit from author C.J.Lake about her latest book A Hot Winter. Find out more about the book here
What was the inspiration for A Hot Winter?
I didn’t originally intend to write this story, but Matt and Emma seemed to have instant chemistry in my first book, Constructing Us, so I was compelled to explore them as a couple.  They ended up being perfect for each other (though it’s a ride to get there!).

What makes Matt & Emma such a great couple?
There’s a current of attraction between them when they first meet, but neither knows who the other is.  Once they discover the connection (to Tragan and Andy), they try to dial it back--especially once Matt begins work on Emma’s house.  But it’s virtually impossible not to be aware of each other or to keep their distance.  That initial attraction is always there--and building every time they’re together, despite Emma’s determination to keep things platonic.  Something that works in their favor is that while Matt is four years younger than Emma, he is strong and responsible, with a maturity and a protective nature--exactly what she needs!

If you had to choose, what is your favorite scene?
Well, here’s a very short excerpt from it:
“Jesus, Emma,” Matt rasped, pulling back just enough to look into her eyes.  “Why do you torture me?”
Gazing into those intense, dark eyes, Emma became overwhelmed by a longing that was almost painful.  She reached up and brushed her lips across his.  “I didn’t mean to,” she said softly, and it was the truth.  “Don’t go,” she whispered, digging her fingers into his hair and keeping him close.  Lightly she bit his lower lip.  “Don’t go…”
>>I love this whole scene; it’s erotic and emotional and represents a major turning point for Matt and Emma.  Also, it’s literally just the beginning of their first intense night together…

Can you pick a favorite quote?
Hmm…maybe this:
“Being with Matt did something to her.  It brought back a younger version of herself, a younger time in her life.”
>>This is a theme that’s played implicitly throughout the story and a concept that Emma wrestles with and embraces at the same time.  She’s only twenty-seven, but has responsibilities that make her feel older and more settled than that.  Matt taps into her youthful, fun-loving spirit and almost makes Emma forget the reasons why they shouldn’t be together…

Did you have a music play list for this book?
Yes!  My “soundtrack” for A Hot Winter includes songs that fit Matt & Emma so well.  Like “Teenage Dream” (Katy Perry), “Safe and Sound” (Capital Cities), “Am I wrong” (Nico & Vinz), “Everybody Talks” (Neon Trees), “Green Eyes” (Coldplay), and “Everything Has Changed” (Taylor Swift). 

What else should readers know?
  • A Hot Winter is set in one of my favorite places: snowy Boston!
  • Tragan & Andy, along with other familiar faces from Constructing Us, are back.
  • Though my books have overlapping characters, they are all standalone novels--no cliffhangers!

What’s next?

In 2015, look for Sky High (Book 3 in The Attraction series).  Sky High is a fast-paced, romantic and sexy New Adult romance, featuring Jamie from Books 1 & 2.  Stay tuned for more updates, both on Amazon and Twitter (@brightbluesurf) -- plus, readers can email me at:

Monday, 19 January 2015

Book Blitz: A Hot Winter by C.J.Lake with giveaway

A Hot Winter by C.J. Lake 

Publication date: December 2nd 2014
 New Adult, Romance


*Story contains explicit/steamy scenes that are intended for mature readers.

**All books in C.J. Lake’s Attraction Series are standalone novels with NO cliffhangers.

It was supposed to be a simple job.  A favor for a friend, nothing complicated.  But that was before I realized who Emma was.  I knew I wasn’t imagining the tension between us–still there and getting stronger every second.  She wanted to keep things professional now.  I suppose we’d have to try–because if we gave in…once would never be enough…

I never thought I’d see Matt Winter again, and now here he was.  Working on my house!  Making me nervous, flustered, and almost breathless.  Disarming me and making me feel things I haven’t even considered since my husband died four years ago.  No, I don’t want to want him.  My life was in order before he came, and I’m leaving Boston anyway.  Forget Matt.  It’s the only logical option.  So…why can’t I stay away from him?



C.J. Lake is a storyteller who is passionate about art, surfing, and skiing/snowboarding. Residing near the coast of Massachusetts, C.J. is working on a new book that will feature Tragan Barrett's friend, Matt Winter. Readers can get in touch via email (, or follow C.J. on Twitter @brightbluesurf.

US Only
  • A $15 gift card to Amazon + a signed copy of C.J.'s first book, Constructing Us.

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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Book Blitz: Withering Hope by Layla Hagen Excerpt with giveaway

Withering Hope by Layla Hagen 

Publication date: January 19th 2015 
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

The Blurb


Aimee’s wedding is supposed to turn out perfect. Her dress, her fiancé and the location—the idyllic holiday ranch in Brazil—are perfect.
But all Aimee’s plans come crashing down when the private jet that’s taking her from the U.S. to the ranch—where her fiancé awaits her—defects mid-flight and the pilot is forced to perform an emergency landing in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.

With no way to reach civilisation, being rescued is Aimee and Tristan’s—the pilot—only hope. A slim one that slowly withers away, desperation taking its place. Because death wanders in the jungle under many forms: starvation, diseases. Beasts.

As Aimee and Tristan fight to find ways to survive, they grow closer. Together they discover that facing old, inner agonies carved by painful pasts takes just as much courage, if not even more, than facing the rainforest.

Despite her devotion to her fiancé, Aimee can’t hide her feelings for Tristan—the man for whom she’s slowly becoming everything. You can hide many things in the rainforest. But not lies. Or love.

Withering Hope is the story of a man who desperately needs forgiveness and the woman who brings him hope. It is a story in which hope births wings and blooms into a love that is as beautiful and intense as it is forbidden.


Amazon: no pre-order available. Purchase link will go live on January 19th 


(Aimee’s POV)
I wake up covered in cold sweat and something soft that might be a blanket. I can't tell for sure, because when I open my eyes, it’s dark. When I try to move, a sharp pain in my temple makes me gasp.
"Tristan." The word comes out almost like a cry. In the faint moonlight coming in through the windows, I see him leaning on the seat in front of me, hovering over me. I imagine his dark brown eyes searching me worriedly.
"Are you hurt?"
"Just my temple, but I'm not bleeding," I say, running my fingers over the tender spot. I assess him next. It’s difficult given the dim moonlight. His white uniform shirt is smeared with dirt, but he appears unharmed. I turn my head toward the window. I can't gauge anything outside in the darkness.
"Where are we?" I ask.
"We landed," Tristan says simply, and when I turn to look at him he adds, "… in the rainforest."
I nod, trying not to let the tight knot of fear in my chest overtake me. If I let it spiral out, I may not be able to control it.
"Shouldn't we … like… leave the plane or something? Until they rescue us? Is it safe for us to be inside?"
Tristan runs a hand through his short, black hair. "Trust me, this is the only safe place. I checked outside for any fuel leaks, but we're good."
"You got out?" I whisper.
"I want—” I say, opening my seatbelt and trying to stand. But dizziness forces me back into my chair.
"No," Tristan says, and he slumps in the seat opposite mine on the other side of the slim aisle. "Listen to me. You need to calm down."
"How deep in the forest are we, Tristan?"
He leans back, answering after a long pause. "Deep enough."
"How will they find us?" I curl my knees to my chest under the blanket, the dizziness growing. I wonder when Tristan put the blanket over me.
"They will," Tristan says.
"But there is something we can do to make it easier for them, isn't there?"
"Right now, there isn't."
"Can contact someone at base?" I ask weakly.
"No. We lost all communication a while ago." His shoulders slump, and even in the moonlight, I notice his features tighten. His high cheekbones, which usually give him a noble appearance, now make him look gaunt. Yet instead of panic, I’m engulfed in weakness. My limbs feel heavy. Fog settles over my mind.
"What happened to the engine?" I whisper.
"Engine failure."
"Can you repair it?"
“There is really no way to send anyone a message?”
“No.” As if in a dream, I feel Tristan put a pillow under my head and recline my seat.

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