Y.A. New Releases: Non Spoiler Book Reviews

‘The Upside of Unrequited’ by Becky Albertal

‘The Hidden Memory of Objects’ by Danielle Mages Amato   and

‘Between Two Skies’ by Joanne O’Sullivan

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This month I received three book subscription boxes with Y.A. fiction new releases and I really enjoyed all three.

 

I’ll start with ‘The Upside of Unrequited’ by Becky Albertal and published by Balzer and Bray.

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Here’s the synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love- she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness- except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back. There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolken superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

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QUOTE: ” I texted with Mina for four hours last night” she says as soon as we step outside. It tumbles out of her mouth like she’s been bursting to tell me.

“Wow”

“I know”

I feel Cassie looking at me, and I can tell she wants me to say something.Or ask something. Maybe it’s twin telepathy- I can just feel her excitement. It’s like it has a pulse.

Somehow, I don’t think this is about finding me a boy-friend….’

 

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So first of all I have to give this book five stars just for the amount of diversity it includes. It has everything!

I liked just about every character too, which is rare for me. I love that Molly is a crafter and enjoys to make beautiful things. I love that she is so sweet and untainted with her view of the world. I love her sister Cassie who seems more confident and worldly wise to Molly, yet who also has insecurities of her own. I love the guys, each different yet all loveable. Most of all I ADORE the grumpy grandma who has loud opinions of everything and everybody and doesn’t care who knows it; she made me laugh out loud! This is an amazing contemporary coming-of-age read, that has you laughing, crying and everything in-between, but most of all, you GET Molly. You are inside her head. You know how she feels and why. I have to give this book a solid 4 stars. My only critique is the cover design- yes really! It annoys me. It’s a beautiful blue but it the graphics just come across as having had zero effort in design. Sadly, if I had not received the book in a subscription box, I most likely would have walked right past it on the shelf because it doesn’t grab my interest at all. Please pick it up; it’s a super story.

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Next I’m moving on to ‘The Hidden Memory of Objects’ by Danielle Mages Amato and published by Balzer and Bray

The synopsis:

 

‘Megan Brown’s brother Tyler, is dead. But the cops are killing him all over again. They say he died of a drug overdose, potentially suicide- something Megan cannot accept. Determined to figure out what happened in the months before Tyler’s death, Megan turns to the things he left behind. After all, she understands the stories objects can tell- at fifteen; she is a gifted collage artist with a flair for creating found-object pieces. However, Megan now realizes that her artistic talent has developed into something more: she can see memories attached to some of Tyler’s belongings- and those memories reveal a brother she never knew.

Enlisting the help of an artifact detective who shares her ability and specializes in murderabilia- objects tainted by violence or the deaths of their owners- Megan finds herself drawn into a world of painful personal and national memories. Along with a trusted classmate and her brother’s charming friend, she chases down the troubling truth about Tyler across Washington DC, while reclaiming her own stifled identity with a vengeance.

Danielle Mages Amato’s extraordinary debut is a story of how the things we leave behind continue to shape our memories and identities ling after we are gone.’

 

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QUOTE:

‘As I spun the dial on the lock, the overpowering smell of flowers made my stomach turn, and I felt another headache coming on. The lights overhead seemed to get brighter and brighter, and I struggled to see Tyler’s locker combination on the little slip of paper the Vice Principal had  given me. Just as I opened the door, a group of guys pushed past me to get to their lockers.

One of them was Tyler…’

I’m a great crime/ mystery lover so this book was of immediate interest to me. I also love anything with spiritual undertones too, so I knew I’d love this story on both counts and I wasn’t disappointed. We have so many thrilling elements in this book that keep the story moving forward, yet we also have time to see the characters change and grow too.

First and foremost, Megan is grieving. She is shell-shocked and stunned. Her brother may have committed suicide, he may have had a drug problem, and she had no idea that he was going through anything at all. He was the popular kid. He was thoughtful, kind, talented and basically everything that Megan aspired to be. What went wrong?

Her parents are also grieving and each trying to cope in their own way- so this leaves Megan pretty much alone. As she struggles to come to terms with her brothers death, she turns to two friends for help, and between them, they try to unravel Tyler’s last weeks of life.

As Megan picks up her brother’s belongings from his school locker she finds herself jolted into his memories, experiencing them from his point of view. This unnerves her badly but she is so determined to solve the mystery of her brother’s death, she is willing to do whatever it takes to discover exactly why her brother was in a deserted building in the middle of the night, alone.

I felt so sorry for Megan as she tried to absorb so many shocks so soon. Her brother died, she misses him, her parents aren’t coping well, and she has tapped into a psychic talent that she had never experienced before. But this girl is kick-ass! She takes it all on the chin and picks herself up after every punch and tries again- she will not be beaten by this!

I think I enjoyed this book the most. It’s another contemporary, but it also has elements of mystery and mysticism too. It covered so many bases for me. The pacing was good, the characters were very human and understandably flawed, and Megan’s character was admirable and courageous in face of all the elements against her. Another four star read. Possibly a 4.5 if we can split hairs.

 

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Finally, last but not least is ‘Between Two Skies’ by Joanne O’sullivan and published by Candlewick Press.

The synopsis:

‘Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; wise beloved Mamers; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that comes only when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s.

And then the storm comes. And everything changes.

Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru- a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline’s aching heart.

This novel asked compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But perhaps, above all, this is a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.’

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QUOTE: “You have to quit moping” says Chase one afternoon while he’s driving me home. “Look, when I got kicked out of the best music school in the country, I felt like a huge disappointment to everyone in my life. But it’s temporary. Something else is coming for you. Right now, You’re in what we call a fremata in music. A long pause. You have to hold that note for a while longer. But then you go on to the rest of the composition. Just wait it out.” …

 

Oh gosh, where to start with this one… We have all heard about Hurricane Katarina and the devastation that it incurred in its wake, but have we ever really thought past the news stories and concerned ourselves with the lives and futures of the people who lived through it? This story focuses on one girls life and future and how it is wiped out in seconds.

For many of us, we want to live bigger lives and often try to accomplish this by leaving our hometowns for college and not looking back; but what if you were completely content with your life? Evangeline is smart and has what it takes to lead a big life in a big City but has no interest in leaving her hometown. Her parents are encouraging her to think about college, but she wants to spend her life following in her father’s footsteps, fishing, and living life by the water. Her mother runs a diner in town with a reputation for good food that is second to none, and life is gentle but good.

Hurricane Katarina arrives and suddenly it not only wipes out the whole town, taking with it her family’s home and income; but it also threatens to destroy relationships too.

Evangeline’s family have to leave the state and stay with relatives, trying to build up their lives again in a new place with nothing but the clothes on their back. Missing friends, a new romance and people around her, crumbling under the pressure, have Evangeline knocked from pillar to post as she tries so hard to take control of her life once again.

This was beautifully written and I was drawn into the book at the first page. I was actually annoyed at my household interruptions while reading because I so wanted to read this in one sitting!

I think O’Sullivan handled every aspect of this girl’s story with great empathy and compassion, which made me feel a little guilty for not thinking deeper at the repercussions that this kind of natural disaster brings. Evangeline grows up overnight, and has to plot a new future for herself but she does it admirably, finding anchors in new friends and adapting to the ‘new normal’ around her. Her resilience is amazing, yet when she falters, we are there with her, wanting to hold her hand and reassure her that she will get through this.

This book is bittersweet, no doubt about it. You will be forced to face things you would rather not, but I think you will be a better person for reading it. I’m giving this five stars. It’s a haunting read. It will linger.

 

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I hope you find these reviews helpful and that you pick one of these books up. Even if you are not a big fan of contemporary fiction, or don’t normally read young adult books, please give them a try.

 

What new releases have you read recently? Which do you recommend?

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‘The Eye of the Storm’ (Or My Prayer for Manchester) by Sally Ford

 

 

 

GlitterPoppies_0015_2I’ve always loved to sit outside in the rain.

The torrential torrent or the tickle of a trickle,

It’s all the same to me.

Cleansing, refreshing, soothing;

Like a portable font to baptize the world,

God watches all.

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Last night we had our first storm of the year

Lightening flashing, clouds crashing;

Our house was locked up for the night,

But I was pulled outside.

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I stepped outdoors and lifted my face,

The heavens opened and blessed me

With a steady stream of tears…

Crying for Manchester, England.

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I closed my eyes and my tears mingled with Gods’,

I sent my prayers wrapped around the pieces of my fractured heart,

Thinking of the parents whose child had been lost,

The child whose parent had been lost;

The City whose faith was ricocheting in the wind,

Of the helpers, (‘Always focus on the helpers!’) who opened their doors and their hearts’ to the lost and the lame.

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Crickets sang, and the sky danced in time with them,

Rain bounced off the floor and poured through gutters.

The distant hum of traffic that I tuned in and then out,

But mostly the sound of nature: pure beautiful, raw nature,

I wanted to sit and wash away the sins of the world,

Standing in the peaceful yard, of my comfortable home, four thousand miles from Manchester.

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The downpour eventually ceased and the night sky darkened once more,

I stepped back over my threshold and closed the door – my buffer against the world-

And carried my weary heart upstairs to bed,

There a T.V set blasted news into my room; about casualties, terrorists, and pain.

My wounded heart accepting that there is no escape from the hurt that is life-

only brief interludes of diluted peace;

Just fleeting moments where we can appreciate the beauty of the rain and ignore the clashing of the clouds before wondering once more,

Whose turn will it be next to sit in the eye of the storm.

 

 

 

‘Caraval’ by Stephanie Garber – Spoiler free Book Review.

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Hi Guys, it’s time for another book review, and don’t worry, it’s a spoiler free one, as always!

Today I’m reviewing Stephanie Garber’s ‘Caraval’.

I’ve got to tell you that I was so excited when I finally got my hands on a copy of this book! I mean it has been so hyped on social media that I was a little nervous as to whether it could live up to my expectations.

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Here’s the official synopsis:

 

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

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Sounds exciting, right?

Here’s my take:

 

Scarlett and her sister Donatella live on the Island of Trisda, where nothing exciting ever seems to happen. Their Mother apparently deserted them when they were tiny, and they have been raised by their angry and physically abusive father ever since. The only hope they have of having some fun in life is if the wandering Caraval show would visit there and put on a show. So for seven long years, Scarlett has been steadfastly writing to the Master of Caraval, Legend, begging for tickets for her and her sister, but never hears back from him.circus 7

Scarlett never gives up hope but is desperate to get off the Island and run away from her abusive father, so when he arranges a marriage for her with an important but unnamed Count from overseas, she reluctantly accepts that this may be her only chance of leaving the Island and her Father’s control.

 

Then one day, an invitation finally arrives for the sisters, and if they can only sneak away from their father, they will most certainly find the excitement they have been yearning for, for all of their lives. The normally sensible and diligent Scarlett has to decide whether to throw caution to the wind and embark on this great adventure, or stay home and wait to be wedded to the Count. The Caraval lasts for only five nights. Will it be possible to get there and back in time for the wedding? Nothing bd could happen could it? I mean, It’s just a game, and it’s not like one of them could be kidnapped or anything?… What would YOU do?

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Okay, so I LOVED this story! After a gentle introduction to the characters and their life on the Island, we are suddenly thrown into a rip-roaring ride where truth is fiction and fiction is truth, left is right, and down is up; and everything that you have ever known is shredded into pieces, and you are breathless and longing for more. It really is a roller coaster ride and a total page-turner for me.

The book sets up riddles and we go on a journey to follow the clues and solve the mystery in order to gain the ultimate prize of one wish.

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My first thoughts after finishing this book was that it NEEDS to be made into a movie! All the events that happened in the story would be so cool in a movie. I later learned that it the movie rights have been sold, so I’m estatic to say the least.

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I’ve read a few reviews myself about this book and the biggest critisism seems to be that readers don’t quite feel as attatched to the characters as they would like, and on this point I do feel that I can agree. Sometimes it seems that the action takes over and the book is so fast paced that the characters seem to be  a little one dimentional. There is romance and friendship and sibling rivalry, and sibling love and many more elements in the story, but I never felt truly invested in the people themselves. I cannot pinpoint exactly why but something was lacking here. Maybe it is because the Caraval characters are all playing a part and you never know what is true or false, so therefore I didn’t fully trust the emotions of the other characters in the story?

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However, I loved the journey, the mystery, the riddles and the action. I love that this is just the first book and that the story will continue. Each time I thought I’d guessed an outcome, the story would twist, and I’d be thrown off course again as the explanation was something completely different, and I’d suddenly fine myself pulled in another direction. This book cannot be accused of being predictive!

I also want to discuss the physical book because it’s just so gorgeous. The smart design and marketing people were so on point when they sent this book into the world. The dust jacket design features a stunning starburst design that catches the eye immeadiately. Thanks to social media, I chose to order the U.K copy because it featured five different gold embossed cover designs, and Amazon U.K who offer global delivery. But you can buy the U.S. version HERE.

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Look at the stunning book covers! I mean, I just HAD to collect them all. Tesco U.K stocks the exclusive top hat design.

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Moving on to the inside, where I adore the map that first greets you, and how every chapter has a beautiful wreath design. This truly is a beautifully designed book. So, Yes I would wholehearteldy recommend it and I cannot wait for the next installment as I want to be a part of the game all over again.

 

  

Welcome to my #soaksunday week 7

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Hi Guys, and welcome to my 7th Soak Sunday post.

I’ve just arrived home from an awesome Disney Cruise to the Bahamas and I have to tell you I’ve been dreaming of my soak this week. Showers just don’t cut it after a long day in the sun. But there’s not much room in a ships stateroom for a bath, so I had to be content with quick showers to cool off at the end of the day.

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But now I’m home and I can pull out all my pamper products and just soak myself silly for a couple of hours. Yes really!

So I begin by setting the scene for total relaxation by first lighting one of my favorite bookish candles. These are made by the lovely Amanda at North Ave Candles etsy store I have never met one of her candles that I didn’t like. Every candle has a unique fragrance that you can easily identify, and a scent which lingers deliciously afterwards To me, there is nothing worse than a diluted scent, am I right? Well Amanda’s candles have a price point that is very affordable and I also LOVE the fact that she dispatches FAST! I am so tired of waiting four to six weeks for candle deliveries. It’s my pet peeve. Kindly pop over to her etsy store where you can sigh over all her lovely products. And she’s even given me a discount code to pass on to you: Use code BCC10 at checkout for 10% off your first order!

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For this week’s soak I stuck completely with Lush products. They are my absolute favorites. There is so much choice. There is a bath product for every mood. I wanted something luxurious yet invigorating today, because all that lying around in the sun made me need a zing of something uplifting to wake me up and prepare me for stepping back into my real life.

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The cocktail I decided upon was a combination of Brightside  bubble bar along with some of my lemon macaroon style bubbleroon bar that I had left over. I didn’t go too crazy, but I topped it off with the Honey Bee bath bomb from the Lush Kitchen

 

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You have to take my word for it that this bath smelled intoxicating and my skin felt so wonderfully soft afterwards.

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I must be honest- the bath bomb…well, bombed! It didn’t do much at all. I wanted a show, a performance, and ‘plink, plink, fizzzzz. Never mind. It was a silent soak, and the nutrients and skin softeners still worked magnificently. Maybe I was expecting too much after all the Disney firework shows?

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The book I chose for this weeks’ bath and book, was by Jenny Han. I took her ‘Summer I turned pretty’ trilogy with me, as it was perfect summer beach reading material. I finished the last book on Sunday night. I love Jenny’s writing style. It’s so sweet and sassy in equal measures.

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I hope you have had a lovely relaxing weekend too. Don’t forget to check out my Instagram posts for more #soaksunday pictures and I always post videos on my story.

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Have a wonderful week. I will be popping up another post very soon.

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Lots of love, Sally xxx

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‘Given to the Sea’ by Mindy McGinnis Spoiler free book review.

 

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This is my first book by Mindy Mcginnis and I received it in my ‘Fairyloot’ April monthly subscription box. I do love the fantasy genre, and I had just completed a book when this arrived, so I figured that I would choose this as my next read and avoid the agony that I normally go through as I peruse my book shelves to search for my next choice.

 

Lets start with the book’s synopsis:

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KHOSA was born to be fed to the sea. To prevent the kind of wave that once destroyed the Kingdom of Stille. She can’t be sacrificed until she produces an heir, but human touch repels her…except for the touch of the Indiri.

 Dara and Donil are the last of the Indiri, a native race with magic that’s seductive- a force of nature- but dwindling since the Pietra slaughtered their people.

 Witt leads the Pietra, the fierce warriors who are now marching on the Kingdom of Stille. The stone shores of Witt’s Kingdom harbor a secret threat, and to ensure the survival of his people, he’s prepared to conquer every speck of Stille’s soil.mermaid 4

 Vincent stands to inherit the throne of Stille, but has no wife to share it with. When the beautiful and mysterious Khosa arrives without an heir, Vincent knows that his father will stop at nothing to make sure she fulfills her duty. Torn between protecting his Kingdom and protecting the girl whose face is tied to its very existence, Vincent’s loyalty is soon at odds with his heart.

 While royals scheme, Pietrans and the Indiri struggle to survive, the rising sea calls for its Given, and Khosa is destined to answer.’

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Firstly I will have to say that I most likely would not have picked this book up myself after reading the synopsis. It appears too ‘busy’ too many characters and too many agendas vying for attention, and that usually puts me off.

However, I was certainly drawn in by the stunning book jacket design by Cliff Nielson and Maria Fazio.

 

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This is a story told from multiple perspectives. Khosa’s chapters are the only ones written in first person, so I initially assumed that she was the main character with the others as supporting cast. However, as I read on, I felt this was not the case. Here is my own synopsis:

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Khosa was conceived to be a sacrifice to the sea, as was her mother before her, and all female ancestors. Born out of superstition and fear, her life is a gift from the people from the Kingdom of Stille to the sea. They believe that by sacrificing ‘The Given’, to it, the sea, the sea would be assuaged from eating up the last of the diminishing land that it has been nibbling for generations. Khosa has been bred for this reason only, and her ‘keepers’ have succeeded in brainwashing her to yearn for this, without fear. As such, she has no hopes or ambitions other than waiting for her fate to be sealed. However, she needs to first choose a mate, and she is loath to do so as she is repelled by human touch. The people in the Kingdom are getting restless, as she cannot be sacrificed until she has produced an heir. Only then can she be taken to dance on the sea.

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We soon meet the kind and honorable Vincent, who at the beginning of the story is third in line to the throne, and sees a dark future for himself of waiting in the wings forevermore, before fate finally calls him to become King. He is not particularly impatient for the throne, but he feels completely unmoored, drifting from day to day, just waiting for the day to arrive when he is able to perform the role that he was conceived to fulfill. Both Vincent and Khosa are victims of generations of fate and tradition; until the day they meet, when they see a true reflection of themselves in each other. It is only then that they begin to truly question their futures and whether the end can justify the means.

 

 

 

 

Add to this a cast of characters from different tribes with competing ambitions, and motivations, who are now put into situations where they have no choice but to question their own fates. The reader watches as the earth shifts beneath them all, and eons of tradition and rituals begin to be questioned by all. Is the future really set in stone?

 

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I found this book to be well written, and I had no problem with the flow, despite the constant changing of perspectives and very short chapters. McGinnis deftly picks up the story from character to character as the perspective shifts, and she slips easily into the soul of the next person. Each chapter is headed with the characters name, to further assist, and avoid confusion.

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I felt that the story was well executed, and I think it had a well-defined logic with an ending that wrapped it up nicely but could not be accused of being twee or predictable. Technically it was very good, and there lies my only problem with it.

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I have to reiterate that while the story is very well written, I felt that it didn’t have as much soul as I would have liked. I felt that McGinnis didn’t delve into the characters hearts quite as deeply as I would have prefered. Or perhaps she did? Maybe none of the characters were capable of any feelings other than negative ones. But what I would have given for a happy moment or two in this book!

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On the whole I felt it was a very sad and haunting tale. However, I felt it coasted along for at least three hundred pages before any action began, but it still managed to keep my interest until the end.

There were times when I did wonder how the author was going to bring this ship to shore satisfactorily in the diminishing pages that were left, but I have to concede that she did it with aplomb, and I didn’t close the book with any regrets, although I do have to say, that I did feel an overall air of depression threading right through the story, that was hard to shake.

 

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I’m not familiar with Mindy McGinnis’ earlier works so I’m not able to compare and contrast it with them, but I’m trying to be as fair as possible. Perhaps I need to pick up another of her books to discover if the maudlin tone runs through all her work or if this was just accrued as part of this story.

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This is my personal honest review. I’d be very happy to hear your own opinions of this book in the comments. I’d give it 3.75 stars for sure. It would have hit the 4 star mark if only there had been more lighthearted moments scattered throughout the pages.

 

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this book review!

lots of love, Sally xxx

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Alice in Wonderland themed Giveaway!

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Hi guys,

As promised, I’m just popping up this post for you so you can see what goodies are included in my Instagram  #bookscupsandcandles8k giveaway. I do love to host a giveaway, and I think I get just as excited as my participants do. I was thrilled to see that the winners of my last giveaway, which was Beauty and the Beast themed, were from  different countries. I sent prizes to Sunny colorado here in the U.S and then to Italy and to France. I’m just hoping the European ladies get theirs soon. I can’t wait to hear from them. Anyway, here are some pictures of this giveaway, I’ll include details at the end of the post on how to enter .

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My giveaways always include a book, a cup and a candle of course, but I have fun looking for cute items that fit the theme that I have chosen. so firstly the book. I am giving you a choice of either the Hardback edition with the black and red cover or the U.K paperback edition. Your choice!

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The hardback here is shown without its cover as my copy was from a subscription box. Yours will be new. Or you may prefer to choose the book on the right,the U.K paperback copy 

 

 

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I have also included a stunning Alice themed coloring book. It’s really lovely. The cup is a really sweet mug designed by Evie Bookish. I chose the black and white monochrome design with the script on it as I think it matches so beautifully with the checkered tablecloth and also the Heartless book cover when the jacket is removed.

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I’m also including a new funko Pop Alice. There is a fridge magnet ‘We’re all mad here’ and this adorable library style bookmark which has kindly been donated by Amanda from North Ave Candles.  Also, in honor of my #soaksunday bath posts, I have added a Unicorn rainbow bath bubble from Lush.And what about these darling little props. These are a Disney set (yours will be new in box) that make super cute photo props. They are glittery and sparkle so nicely.

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There are more in the set. Alice is included, but I think she’s gone visiting today. 😉

They’re really cute. I think Disney make these sets for just about every movie that they made. I’d love to collect more.

 

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I mustn’t forget the cushion cover/pillow case that I waited so long for. It is such a good size too. I’m very happy with mine. Yours is new in packet and is sealed. Again, I have chosen to keep to the monochrome colors.

 

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Cute right? There are also magnetic Alice themed bookmarks included, and I’ve added some pins/ badges to the haul. Finally I am so grateful to Amanda from North Ave candles. She has also donated March’s candle of the month ‘The March Hare’ It smells delicious!

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I really love Amanda’s candles, and she is the sweetest person you ever could meet. I remember placing my first order with Amanda and putting it to the back of my mind because I was so used to candle makers taking 3-6 weeks to deliver. I was totally stoked when my order arrived less than a week later! It was so refreshing! And I fell madly in love with her bookish themed candles immediately . They smell SO GOOD! You must try them.

 

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Well, I think that’s all the prizes listed. Now the details of how to enter. It closes 10th April – thats tomorrow night from this post going up. You will also get two extra entries if you like and comment on this post =)

To enter, just follow my link to the original Instagram post which I will list at the end.

You will need to:

  1. Like the original post
  2. Follow my feed @bookscupsandcandles
  3. Tag 3 friends who may be interested
  4. repost the original picture with the #bookscupsandcandles8k   (screenshot it and crop and repost

ALL STEPS MUST BE TAKEN or entry is void.

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I can’t express how important this is. On so many of my giveaways, a persons name comes up and I check their feed and they haven’t reposted or followed, so I move on and draw another name. It’s sad really. They would have won. I don’t think it’s a lot to ask. It helps me to grow my feed and at the end of the giveaway you can delete your picture!

Rules: Obviously I’m not affiliated with Instagram or any of its sister companies.

  1. Must be a public account
  2. must repost, follow, like, hashtag etc
  3. no giveaway accounts

Not many rules as you can see. Finally follow this link for the post: Bookscupsandcandles

I’ll be drawing the winner on the 17th April. One week from closing date.

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The next giveaway is Harry Potter themed and will start shortly after to celebrate my 9K. However, I’m heading fast towards 10K now so there will be yet another giveaway when I reach that milestone. That will be huge because 10K is such an achievement for me.

Thank you guys so much for following me. I love books and reading so much, I really love this community and all the friends I have made along the way.

GOOD LUCK GUYS!

lots of love, Sally xxx

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Welcome to my #Soaksunday week 6

 

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I don’t know what has gotten into me lately, I think I have a touch of Spring fever. I’m organizing and cleaning, I’m laundering and sorting and falling back in love with my house all over again, even though we are still contemplating moving. Maybe it was the dark nights of winter finally passing, maybe its because the Florida heat is just right- not to hot and not too cold for me. Whatever the reason, I’m bouncing around with a big spring in my step right now. However, that is all well and good but that means that I am also throughly exhausted by the end of the day, and I’m so ready for a long soak in a hot bath.

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So while this is my #soaksunday post, I’ve actually been soaking all week! You see, to me, a morning shower is fine, but I am not personally a shower person. I’m in, washed, and out in less than ten minutes.It is to cleanse only. But I can stay in a bubble bath for the longest time -a couple of hours sometimes.

 

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So this week it’s been morning showers and evening baths. I take my current read in with me (at present I’m reading the Gisha trilogy and loving it), a nice drink, (usually tea but I’m on a little health kick right now ready for my upcoming  Disney cruise in six weeks: EEK! So I’m overdosing on juices) and either play something relaxing on Amazon’s Alexa or watch a movie on my laptop by candle light. It really resets me.

 

This Sunday I used a combination of Lush products and a bath bomb by ‘All of the book things’ It was a lovely combination. I used ‘The Joy of Jelly’ shower jelly by Lush Kitchen, and ‘The comforter’ by Lush USA. It made for a lovely bath cocktail.

 

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Once the water was really running I added the ‘Red as Dawn‘ bath bomb for a final flourish. It has a spicy dogwood and ginger scent, and gives a clean, perky scent, which is perfect for renewing your energy levels.

 

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My read for today is the last of the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. I’m reading ‘Ruin and Rising’ and it’s SO good. I cannot wait to see how it ends. I’m sure there are many more twists and turns to come. You can get your copy of this series ( starting with ‘Shadow and Bone’ from Amazon  You will not regret it!

 

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If you’re like me and love collecting bookish merchandise , how about this perfect candle by The Melting Library

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It smells delicious!

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Thank you for joining me this week. I hope you enjoyed this post.

Please check in this week as I’ll be uploading detailed pictures of my latest  Instagram giveaway, which is Alice in Wonderland  themed. You’ll be able to earn extra entries with your blog comments. And who knows I mean even give an extra prize for my blog commenters like I did last month.

Take care,

lots of love, Sally xxx

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Crushing on Classics.

 

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I have just spent a lovely week reading and enjoying the classic book: ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte. It is a book that I have wanted to read for the longest time and I am so happy that I finally picked it up, because it was everything that I expected it to be and much more. I think that it has actually become my new favorite classic.

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Only a few months ago I picked up ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte for the first time too, and it knocked my socks off. It was certainly a most contentious book for the age, and I was rather impressed with the risk that Ms. Bronte had taken in sending it for publication back in 1846. Even though she used the male pseudonym of ‘Ellis Bell’ as author, it was still considered very risqué for its time. Did you know that Charlotte Bronte told her father that she had written her first book (Jane Eyre), only after it had been published and received its first glowing reviews? Or that the Emily and Anne Bronte did not dare actually tell their father that they too had since become published authors (especially as ‘Wuthering Heights’ created such a maelstrom of gossip!)

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(I will write a post focusing on the Bronte family very soon, but today I want to encourage you to pick up a classic book yourself.)

 

You see there is something magical in the classics that appear to be sadly lacking in much of today’s literature. They display a different style of writing completely from contemporary literature, that beautifully encompasses the culture of those times.

 

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And necessarily so. For example, the pace of life was much more sedate; so most of the stories are a slow burn of passion, intrigue and/ or danger, unlike today’s fast paced plots where, it can be argued, we expect to be held breathless on some rollercoaster of a ride within the first ten pages, or we want our money back!

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Likewise, it appears that those authors of the past, (see Dickens and Austin too) invite us into their protagonists’ head far more often than those of the present; we hear their thoughts and feelings as they constantly echo off the page, signaling to the reader all the ‘why’s’ before we even have a chance to ask. Contrast this with modern literature and these questions of motivation are often left unanswered until the last possible moment- when all is revealed- or not!  It’s a different format for a different age.

 

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Furthermore, with the classics, one can notice that the authors tend to focus immensely on the descriptive’; painting a portrait of each scene in almost intimate detail. The wait can be agony for the reader who wants to know ‘what is going to happen next?’ because they are forced to slow down and match the pace of the time with that of the author, and invest themselves into the story fully and deeply, whether they want to sacrifice their time or not.

It is non-negotiable.

Consider this:

 

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From Jane Eyre, a description of her meeting acquaintances of her master for the first time, while she was working as a Governess at his home. Their station is above hers:

 

‘There were eight; yet, somehow, as they flocked in, they gave the impression of a much larger number. Some of them were very tall; many were dressed in white; all had a sweeping amplitude of array that seemed to magnify their person’s as a mist magnifies the moon. I rose and curtseyed to them: one or two bent their heads in return; the others only stared at me.

 They dispersed about the room, reminding me, by the lightness and buoyancy of their movements, of a flock of white plumy birds. Some of them threw theirselves in half-reclining positions on the sofas and ottomans: some bent over the tables and examined the flowers and books: the rest gathered in a group around the fire: all talked in a low but clear tone which seemed habitual to them.”  (P171)

 

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Note the contrast between the descriptions of one person 150 years ago (above) walking into a room full of strangers, with another, published this year:

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From Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo:

 

 

“Genya led me to the same domed room where we had gathered the previous afternoon for the processional. It wasn’t nearly as crowded today, but there was still a lively buzz of conversation. In the corners, Grisha clustered around samovars and lounged on divans, warming themselves by elaborately tiled ovens. Others breakfasted at the four long tables arranged in a square at the room’s center. Again, a hush seemed to fall as we entered, but this time people at least pretended to carry on their conversations as we passed” (p121)

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In today’s writing we don’t waste words!

 

But that is the very attraction of these classic books to me. Sometimes I want to focus less on plot and more on character driven novels. ‘What’s going through his/her mind?’ ‘Why is he/she acting like that?’ Etc., etc. We are forced to consider every circumstance, every viewpoint and to take nothing at face value. By the end of the book, the reader has a thorough understanding of how each character is driven.

 

 

Having said all this, I don’t think I could spend my days only reading classic books.-I’m also a product of our times and sometimes I do want to run rather than ramble through the pages of a good read. But my point is this:

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There is wonder and enchantment in strolling through a book from another age. We are given a threefold gift, as we not only absorb a good story, but we learn history, and some culture along the way. It may be true that you need to have some patience to fully appreciate a classic book to its fullest extent, but the rewards are wonderful. I strongly advise you to pick up a classic book soon. Put aside some time and treat yourself to a wonderful story from almost forgotten worlds. Clear your calendar, and create a niche of time just to absorb all the nuances and magic that these books hold.

You will see a different world, you will step back in time and experience the world of our ancestors. You will exit them a changed person. Now that’s why I’m crushing on classics.

 

 

lots of love, Sally xx

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World Book Day: What was your favorite childhood read?

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I have been a voracious reader for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, any book I could get my hands on, I would read. I could never get enough. However, if you asked me as an adult what my favorite book  was, my answer would change day by day because they’d always be something newer on the horizon that might just be ‘The one’.

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However, back when I was around age seven, I was given a dog-eared copy of C.S. Lewis’ book ‘The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe’ and yes- I’m going to say it – it changed my life.

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This was ‘The One’ – my first love affair with a book. I inhaled it from cover to cover in one read. I cried intermittently at various stages of the story and wept buckets at the crescendo; wanting to step inside and take control of the story because I just couldn’t bear to be a witness of  events that were out of my control-yet paradoxically, neither could I step away from it  for more than the moment  it took to take a steadying breath, in order to fortify myself  because I just had to know whether things would become better. I still vividly remember my shaking hands as I turned each page, catching myself holding my breath and finally praying my hardest for the happily ever after that I had to have.

 

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That book both nourished me and yet traumatized me in ways that I cannot adequately describe, and it stayed with me and will stay with me for my lifetime. narnia-19

I cannot isolate one particular reason for why this book touched my soul in the way it did. I guess I feel it was a perfect blend of elements: the four child characters of which little Lucy was the main protagonist maybe? I had three older brothers and I felt her pain at not ever being taken seriously enough. Or perhaps it was the winter setting? Winter had always been my favorite season. The battle of good versus evil? For sure, that was an element because I was hoping against hope that good would win out in the end. But whatever the reasoning of the head, this book touched my heart in so many wonderful ways that day, and I have reread it a couple of times since. And each time, it still hits the spot.

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Now I know this book is part of the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series. I have read the first book ‘The Magicians Nephew’ and also  the third book ‘The Horse and his Boy’, but iI have yet to complete the rest. I have the set waiting patiently for me to pick them up, and I know I will eventually. Just not yet, but I will.

Now if there is a person the this big wide world who has not yet heard of, or read the ‘Chronicles Of Narnia’, or ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ in particular, here is the official synopsis:

‘NARNIA…the land beyond the wardrobe door,  secret place frozen in eternal winter…a magical country waiting to be set free.

Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the Professor’s mysterious old house.At first, her brothers and sister don’t believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund, then Peter and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. In Narnia they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the Great Lion, Aslan, they realize they’ve been called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witches sinister spell.’

I do hope that I can entice at least one person who reads this blog, to either pick up this book for themselves or buy it for a child that they know would love it. There is not a book on earth that I would offer a higher recommendation for than this!

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So moving on to my adult favorites I have my own story to tell…

I once applied for a job in a bookstore back in England while I was at college. I had a great interview and everything was going really well until I was asked the $60,000 question: ‘What is your favorite book?’

My mind went blank. I stuttered and stammered, and came up empty. My only answer was “I haven’t found it yet’. I asked what their most popular book was. The answer was ‘The Davinci Code’. I hadn’t read it. How embarrassing. You see there was so much hype when that book was published that like ’50 Shades’ the whole world went crazy buying it. So I didn’t.Just because I didn’t want to be a sheep. #fool

I mean, it was still selling millions back then, even though it had been published several years before my interview, but I was my own worst enemy and refused to jump on that bandwagon. To my own expense. I did not get offered the job, despite the fact that I was reading four or so books per week. Maybe he had other better contenders, but personally I think I blew it on that one question. And so, I went right out and bought that Dan Brown book.

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I read it cover to over pretty much overnight. And guess what? It’s the best book I’ve ever read.


I finally met ‘The One, and  although it was much too late to swing that job. But then I’m an optimist, and so the moral of the story is that I realize that if I hadn’t had that interview, I would never have read that book- or everything else that Brown wrote after.

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I am still looking for my next favorite book.

I’m hoping that it will be the one I am writing. That would be so cool.

In the meantime, if you are already a fan of Narnia, I can totally recommend these two literary critiques:

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Inside Narnia by Devin Brown  ‘Longtime fans of the Chronicles as well as newcomers to the series will find this book both insightful and informative’ _ Jerry Walls

And also The Magician’s Book by Laura Miller

Lots of love, Sally xxx

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Book Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

 

 

 

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Outlander is first and foremost a time-travel story. Claire Randall, a young married combat nurse in 1945, is whisked away,back in time to the Highlands of 1740’s Scotland. She and her husband were visiting Inverness for their delayed honeymoon. The war had interrupted their new marriage and prior to this they had barely seen each other in five full years. The honeymoon was planned as a relaxing vacation and time away for Claire and her husband Frank to reconnect, but it became a place of almost complete disconnection instead, in ways that neither of them could ever have imagined.

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During an outing alone, Claire is thrown into a time before cars and planes, before tanks and machine guns, before antibiotics. If women had little voice in the 1940’s they had none in the 1740’s! Within moments of arriving, breathless and confused, she faces imminent danger and she is whisked away from her arrival point, not knowing if she can or will ever find it again. We follow her life as she is forced to adapt to her new surroundings, and meet new people, making the best of her situation but making enemies as well as friends along the way; as she is a ‘Sassenach’ – an outsider with an English accent, who may never truly ‘fit in’ or be fully trusted by the born Scots.

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When she meets James Fraser, an unlikely friendship begins, and the most unlikely (yet somehow believable) romance follows. The book synopsis states that: ‘James Fraser shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire- and two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives’ I have to agree and couldn’t put it better myself!

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Will Claire ever get home again? Will she still want to? These questions and more followed my path through the pages and kept me spellbound until the end. I thank goodness that it took me so long to discover this series, as I don’t think I could cope with not knowing how the story would progress in future installments. Imagine reading the first book and having to wait a year before you could find out what happened next?

 

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It took me several attempts to get into ‘Outlander’ I have to confess, but I’ve learned since then that quite a few readers also suffered teething problems with this first book. However, once I was ‘in’ I couldn’t pull myself away from it, so I’m so pleased that I persevered. My problem was that these books demand your full attention. I couldn’t read them whilst the T.V was competing in the background, or when people were distracting me. Usually this never bothers me and I can tune out background distractions easily, but with these books, I found that I needed total peace in order to fully immerse myself into them. Once I had, the rewards were great.

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Gabaldon’s writing is very detailed. She can take pages and pages to describe a scene that would be only short moments in ‘real time’. Yet her talent lies in those details. In my opinion, her ability to describe every aspect of a scene is nothing short of alchemy itself. Perhaps that is why I needed total silence and zero distractions while reading her books. I needed to focus on the words completely and needed to be fully relaxed in order to sink into the story and permit myself to be fully captivated by it.

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Be warned, these books are not for snacking on. Starting at 627 pages long, (Outlander Hardback) they are a full meal; in fact they are a veritable banquet. Outlander is packed full of meaty conflicts between clans, brawls between the British and the Scots, and the tenderest morsels of romance too. There is never a dull moment.

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True, some critics complain that there is an overindulgence in sexual violence, and at times I think it can shock; as details are brandished about in all their Technicolor glory, (or perhaps that is my own imagination working overtime?) and we are never in any doubt about ‘what exactly happened’; but then others have argued that this is only Gabaldon painting a very clear picture of those brutish times – and Gabaldon is nothing if not authentic in her details.

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I felt the heartburn acutely by the last page. In fact I’d say that I suffered indigestion for the full two days that it took for Amazon to whip out the desert to me: Dragonfly in Amber- hardback at 743 pages.

In that day before delivery I was suffering from a severe book hangover, and I found myself manically scouring my bookshelves for something light and fluffy to cleanse my palette between courses. A quick sip of silly later, I was fortified once more and couldn’t wait to crack open the next installment of this huge Scottish saga.

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And so when I open the first page of Dragonfly in Ember and discover that I am back in Inverness, I gasp. When I note that it is now 1968, I am now shaking. What? When? How?…. Claire?

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To find out, I strongly suggest you pick up this series soon.

Lots of love, Sally xxx

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