Book review: ‘What the Valley Knows’ by Heather Christie

 

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What the Valley Knows by Heather Christie.

Today I want to share with you my review of Heather Christie’s first book. I was lucky enough to be one of the chosen few, who were given a finished copy to read, in advance of publication, and I am so pleased that I was, as I really enjoyed it. Actually…

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I have to say that I loved this book. Actually I more than loved it.

 

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At first sight, it appears to be a sweet romance between high school sweethearts, and aimed at young adult readers. But this book is so much more. It has hidden depths. It is a beautiful ‘coming of age’ novel which draws you in from the very first page. It is the perfect blend of drama, suspense, and yes, romance. You’re gripping your seat one moment, whilst dissolving into puddles of emotion the next. Here is the book’s synopsis. I will give you mine below it.

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Synopsis:

“Millington Valley is a quintessential small Pennsylvania town: families go back generations. Football rules. Kids drink while adults look the other way. High school is a whirlwind of aspiration and rivalry, friendship and jealousy.

When smart and pretty Molly Hanover moves to town and attracts the attention of the football team’s hero, Wade Thornton – a nice guy with a bad drinking habit, longtime friendships are threatened and a popular cheerleader tries to turn the school against Molly.

The young couple’s future is shattered when Wade, drunk, wrecks his truck and Molly is thrown through the windshield.deer-head

She wakes from a coma to find her beauty marred and her memory full of holes. As she struggles to heal, she becomes sure that something terrible happened before the accident. And there is somebody in the valley who doesn’t want her to remember.’

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The book is written from multiple perspectives, as seen through the eyes of the main characters. This is expertly done, and allows the reader to fully experience the emotions of each character in the lead up to their worlds colliding.

Molly is a sweet only child. Her father died when she was a young girl, and her memories of him are bitter-sweet. She feels guilt as well as grief at his passing, because she blames herself somewhat for his death, for reasons that become clear later.

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Ann is Molly’s mother. She is finally finding her feet after years of fighting to pay bills and keep out of debt, after her husband’s shock death left them almost destitute. Now Ann has an opportunity for a fresh start in a new town, with a super job offer as a paralegal and a beautiful rental home that seems almost too-good-to-be-true. It apparently is…

Wade is the popular kid, and high school football star. His life is a dream. He has a huge bunch of friends, he can take his pick of all the pretty girls, and his future football career seems settled. Wade gets everything he wants, and it comes easy. But he is not happy. A little drink now and again, helps to ‘take the edge off’ and it’s okay, because Wade is in control of it…until he isn’t. When Molly walks into his life, he suddenly feels that he has finally found ‘the one’, someone who loves him for himself and not for his achievements.

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Unfortunately there are some people in town who want something from Ann and Molly that they just cannot give. These people have their own agenda’s and are hell-bent on getting what they want,to such a point that Ann and Molly’s lives are now in serious danger.

One night everything tragically changes, and Molly now has a huge decision to make.

If she reviled her secret, it’s going to cause so much pain to those she loves. If she doesn’t, then other people may be in danger. She meets up with Wade with the intention of sharing her burden, but before she has a chance, they are in a car accident, and Molly is in a coma….

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I love seeing how Christie writes with such  empathy, and draws the reader into the thought processes and feelings of her characters. I understood Molly, I understood Wade, and I understood Ann, and I could see all their differing points of view. The romance was so sweet and the mystery and intrigue kept me on tenterhooks while I stormed through the story.

I found myself constantly dipping in and out of the book through the day, while I was supposed to be busy doing other things, but I just HAD to find out what happened next. Luckily for me, the chapters were not too long, and I could pick up easily where I had left off. However, I wasn’t satisfied until I had turned the very last page!

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I just love it when I find a book that grips me like this. I really can’t wait to read more from Heather Christie, and I will be first in line to buy the next book that she has published. A super read, I wholeheartedly recommend it!

 What the Valley Knows will be published in January, but the author has a super preorder incentive campaign running right now. For more details, go HERE FOR DETAILS

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Fabulous Finds for Fright Nite (a.k.a HaLloWeEn

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Hello Peeps,

I hope you are all doing well and having fun planning for Halloween.

I thought I’d pop up a Halloween post for you today, sharing some of my favorite reads, merchandise  and other super treats, old and new.

Let me start by saying that I just LOVE Halloween; and in this house it comes second only to Christmas. We tend to decorate inside the house more than outside, but each year we add more decorations to our growing scary collection.

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What we have discovered is that by being savvy (very strong willed) and only buying AFTER the holiday is over, we get some amazing deals on items that otherwise would be out of our budget. I mean how do you justify spending $200 on a statue that is good for just one day each year?

So by waiting until the day after, or even a couple of days we have snagged some great deals.

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For example, look at these fabulous figures that we picked up last year from Home Depot. Our Hip Witch was originally just under $100 prior to the holiday. We got her for $29 two days later! Our butler, who has animatronics and whose eyes turn red and has spooky sounds started off at $129 then went down to $64 and then he was only $44.50 when we picked him up!

I have my eye on one for next year that I am praying doesn’t sell out.

And of course Halloween is the perfect time to pick up a good horror book to read. I am a great one for horror stories, and don’t need Halloween as an excuse to scare myself silly, but I do love to match my reads to the season, and I have some classic horrors and some super new Witch and magic themed books that I want to share with you today.

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First up is by my favorite author Alice Hoffman. Alice wrote the amazing Practical Magic which was made into a cult movie starring  Nicole Kidman & Sandra Bullock, way back in 1998.

 

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Well Alice has come up with a prequel to Practical Magic, and it’s just as fabulous. This is a perfect read if you want a nice magical story and not horror.

 

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For true horror lovers I would have to recommend the King. Yes, Stephen King. I’ve read just about every book he has ever written and loved every one, but those I recommend most for this holiday are: #drumroll … ‘Salems Lot’, ‘The Shining’ and ‘ Night Shift’. These are my favorite cover designs too. The glossy black covers are gorgeous. I hope they bring every book out with this cover design. I finally had to donate my original King paperbacks to charity as the pages had all begun to turn yellow- I didn’t have the heart to  throw them away.

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Of course the true icons of Halloween/ horror has to be Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Poe’s  collected works. I love these particular copies, both by Barnes & Nobel

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If you’re a #bookstagrammer then you can find some delicious scented candles from the lovely Amanda North Ave Candles easy store. Amanda has candles to match many books,  including her most recent Merlot one which is the perfect companion while you are reading  Dracula.

 

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If you prefer a more contemporary Vampire and Witches story, I absolutely LOVE All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness I have the single editions and also this beautiful boxed set, which is currently $40

 

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If you like the more adult Witch themed merchandise, then how about gifting this set along with some beautiful element candles from Unicorn Manor

 

 

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There is ‘Earth,’ ‘Fire’, ‘Air’ and ‘Water’ along with the ‘Samhain’ one which I light most evenings. These are truly stunning to gaze at, and smell delicious. Perhaps you can cast a romance spell…

 

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If its Art you are really looking for, then look no further than Terri Foss’s Etsy store

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I’ve been collecting Terri’s art for more than a year now. She has hundreds of prints available in many sizes, and all priced perfectly. Terri also regularly has original art pieces in her store, such as the one’s above. But you have to keep checking as they sell out fast. I mean, as soon as she lists them. I snagged these gorgeous ones this year.

 

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So what about some spooky Halloween reads for children? I guess  the most obvious choice would be the Harry Potter Illustrated Editions by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by Jim Kay. Any of these three editions by Jim Kay are beautiful, and really bring the stories to life. I can’t wait to one day have the completed set.

 

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And don’t forget that Amanda also has awesome  Harry Potter candles too

 

 

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If you already own every Harry Potter book, then the  other children’s scary Halloween recommendations that I would strongly suggest, are any of the Goosebumps sets. They are scary fun but not too scary. I’m loving this limited edition vintage style tin of books. This would make a super present. It’s in my cart as we speak! Another by the same author is the Fear Street series by R.L Stine.

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I love all the retro style covers.

 

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Moving on to really scary books based on true stories.

I would suggest that The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty is a must read! I bought my copy as a scratch and dent from the Book Outlet, but I see they don’t have any left so you can find it HERE

And finally in books, I will recommend the only book that ever gave me real actually nightmares for two nights in a row (I never get nightmares). This is The Soul Collector This is apparently a true story, and it gave me the total creeps. When I say nightmares, I mean waking up in a cold sweat thinking there are Demons in the room. I shook with fear! Read it at your own risk!

So…

Moving on to some Halloween Merch.

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For some cute Halloween gifts for friends and family, how about these cute PocketBac Sanitizers from Bath and Body Works

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And these matching hand creams

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halloween witch 6They are priced so well too! Right now you can pick them up reduced to $3 for the hand creams and packs of five hand sanitizers for around $5

 

 

 

So what other merchandise can we add to our gift boxes for our Halloween loving friends and family?

Well, I figure that some spooky Halloween themed Funko POPS

IMG_0682Funko’s are usually priced between $9.99 and 12.99, although larger one’s can be more expensive. These are a few of the one’s that I have collected over the last two years. Freddie is my favorite! (Though Rowens Ghost is a close second.

 

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This has turned out to be a long post. I hope you have enjoyed it, and hopefully have discovered some new ideas to make your own Halloween rock! there are still a ton of things that I’d love to share with you, and if I find time in the next couple of days, I’ll add another post showing my collection of Tarot cards. I collect so many and I’d love to share some of them with you.

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So until next time, thanks for reading. If I don’t talk to you before..Have a happy and safe Halloween xxx

Love Sally

Happy Birthday to me…Birthday Haul part one!

 

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Hi everybody, I hope you are all well and that life is good!
I’m so sorry that it’s been so long since I last posted, time has just slipped away from me. I have had words with myself and I promise to do better in future.

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So much has been happening lately; from Hurricane Irma, to vacationing in Colorado; life has been crazy busy here. But I’m back, and I have so much good stuff planned to post.

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But first, I wanted to share with you some of the goodies that I’ve hauled recently. It was my birthday last week and I was gifted so many lovely things that I can’t wait to share them with you. Also, I’m sharing goodies that I’ve recently treated myself to, as I know you’ll be interested, as many are bookish themed.
So lets get right to it shall we. I’ll link as many as I can, so you can treat yourself too, if you like them.

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So first off, I want to share with you two gorgeous new planners that my husband bought me. These were from Kikki.K I got to choose though. I chose the large lemon planner for all my home organization files. This can be left on my desktop and can be referred to by either of us, when we want to check up on home or work appointments. This one here is perfect, and it was also in the sale. He even had my initials monogrammed on the cover

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The baby blue one is also gorgeous, and has a fine gold polka dot pattern all over it. Find it HEREplanner blue close up

 

I’ll be able to pop this one in my purse and carry it around with me, and I can add appointments and update throughout the day, and then I can sync it with my large planner every evening (the old fashioned way).I do have planner apps too but I just love stationary and the feel of real paper and decorative accessories. It’s kind of like reading real books versus e book readers. It’s just a preference of mine.

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The accessories that I chose are the planner zip-lock decorated pockets, pastel bull dog style clips for adding any magazine clippings that I want to save. I love the page holder notes, and I added an Inspiration kit to add interest to the pages and to keep me motivated! Finally I purchased so bullet planner stencils and  Huhuhero fine liner pens from Amazon. So I’m totally set up!

I can’t wait to start playing with these.

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So, moving on to candles now. Now my favorite upmarket candles are most definitely those from Unicorn Manor If ever I want to truly indulge myself, I head right over to Emi’s store and pick a new candle. But luckily for me, Hubby gave me some birthday money to choose a whole bunch of candles for my birthday, so I was in candle heaven!_BirthdayQueen_0024_25

 

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I mean just LOOK at all this loveliness! #sigh

Let me show you some close ups. So first of all I took advantage of Emi’s offer to make a custom candle for me. I requested a candle to promote healing as I’m sick right now and waiting on surgery, so I hope to light it every day after my surgery to encourage fast healing. So Emi created this one for me.

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It’s stunning and smells delicious. She created a tailored crystal candle with her signature rose scent (like her love spell candles) infused with certified organic pink and red roses, certified organic Aussie grown lavender, cherry blossom, homegrown bay leaf, Rose Quartz and magic. If only you could smell it!

Now as I have quite a sweet tooth, I also feel madly involve with her new limited edition candles in conjunction with Daisy’s milk bar. Wait until you see these!

First we have the salted caramel candle  which is infused with tiger’s eye crumble, rose and of course, her magic. It totally blows me away. It smells good enough to eat. Definitely a beautiful caramel aroma.

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Next I had to order this adorable candle which is based on a childhood favorite cereal, fruit Loops  This one is infused with amethyst crumble, rose and magic. This smells really sweet, and exactly like candy.fruit loops candle

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The next one just has to be my favorite of all as it’s raspberry and I just LOVE raspberries. Infused with rose quartz crumble, rose and Magic!

 

 

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Finally I bought a Love spell candle, because I love it. this has the rose quartz, rose magic, and also jasmine. I purchase this one in the wax melts version too.love spell wax melt

If you are on a budget, these wax melts are perfect for treating yourself without feeling guilty afterwards. And if you want to REALLY indulge yourself, then light these beautiful candles around your bath and add some of this magical Bath crumble into your bath. This is infused with sew almond oil, rose absolute, cerfified organic rose, lavender, jasmine, rose quartz and of course MAGIC. Perfect for pampering. I can’t wait.

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So that’s it for part one of my birthday haul. I’ll continue with part two next week and share with you some more of my gorgeous girly gifts. I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing in my fun. Have a super week, lots of love, Sally x

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Thrillers: ‘Never Look Back’ by Clare Donoghue.

 

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This week on my Instagram feed I’m going to be devoting my reading time to thrillers.

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I’ll be posting a brief round up of the latest books that I’m reading in this genre, along with my recommendations for the best thrillers to pick up if you want a good scare. Not to be confused with Horrors (which I will be tackling very soon), thrillers are fast-paced roller coaster rides that should leave you feeling breathless with your heart beating like its outside of your chest because, it could happen to you!

So today on the blog, I want to focus on Clare Donoghue  and her 2014 debut thriller ‘Never Look Back’ which is  published by Minotaur Books. Paperback version HERE

 

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‘NEVER LOOK BACK”

 

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‘Three young women have been found brutally murdered in South London, their bodies discarded in plain view, the victims only yards away from help during each attack. And each time, the murderer gets a little bolder.police hand cuff (2)

Detective Mike Lockyer is the head of homicide on the south London police force, and with three bodies on his watch and a killer growing in confidence, he and Detective Sergeant Jane Bennett are frantically trying to find the link between these seemingly isolated incidents. Slowly, the case is also invading Lockyer’s life outside the office, and the fact that his daughter matches the victim profile is putting a painful strain on their already fragile relationship. Meanwhile, Sarah Grainger has a shadowy stalker following her every move.police robber mask

Once an outgoing London photographer, Sarah has begun locking herself away, almost too afraid to leave the house. Now her stalker’s actions are escalating. He’s desperate to tell Sarah a secret…a secret that Lockyer needs to know.’

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This author debuted in 2014 with this book, which I am pleased to discover, was the first in a series featuring Detective Lockyer and his investigation team.

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I really enjoyed this read. It was fast-paced, and action led, but still managed to create an empathy in the reader for the characters. Donoghue expertly manages to build up suspense as the book follows the story of Sarah, a victim of a stalker, and Lockyer and his police team as they investigate a serial killer; and leads their paths to converge in a dramatic final showdown.

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Donoghue’s writing style is a ‘no-frills’ approach so don’t expect much descriptive along the way, but this is more than made up for in the action and suspense which keep you turning the pages long after your bedtime. This first book in the series would have made an excellent stand alone, but it also manages to set the foundation for the future books, so that we can see the development of the main characters and their personal growth. I give this a solid 4 stars and a good recommendation.

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Further books in this awesome series can be found HERE and HERE

 

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Summer Y.A. Contemporary Reading recommendations: ‘Where You’ll Find Me’ by Natasha Friend.

 

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Don’t you just love summer?

I love the long days and lazy evenings; kicking back in the backyard at the weekend with the grill fired up, retro songs on the turntable outside and a cool refreshing drink in my hand and a plate full of doughnuts beside me. This is what I call perfection! Of course it’s even better if there’s a book in my other hand too, but I try to be sociable.

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I always find that I turn to contemporary books in the summer. I like to be able to dip in and out of a read during these lazy days when quite often friends will drop by and linger, with us on the patio, or we will load up the car and head to the beach. My favorite reads for these days are YA contemporaries. They fill the gap in the days quite nicely and as a bonus, usually their dust jackets are a feast for the eyes too.

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So this week I wanted to pull up a few of the books I’ve read and enjoyed so far this summer. I’ve discovered some fabulous authors that are new to me and of course, some super characters to root for as they navigate their way through life. I hope you enjoy them too. Let me know if you’ve read them, and why not add a recommendation of your own too?

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Okay, so first up, today we have ‘Where You’ll Find Me’ by Natasha Friend  Published by Farrar Straus Giroux.

Here’s the official synopsis:

‘The first month of school, thirteen-year-old Anna Collette finds herself…
DUMPED by her best friend Dani, who suddenly wants to spend eighth grade “hanging out with different people.”
DESERTED by her mom, who’s in the hospital recovering from a suicide attempt.
TRAPPED in a house with her dad, a new baby sister, and a stepmother young enough to wear her Delta Delta Delta sweatshirt with pride.
STUCK at a lunch table with Shawna the Eyebrow Plucker and Sarabeth the Irish Stepper because she has no one else to sit with.

But what if all isn’t lost? What if Anna’s mom didn’t exactly mean to leave her? What if Anna’s stepmother is cooler than she thought? What if the misfit lunch table isn’t such a bad fit after all? With help from some unlikely sources, including a crazy girl-band talent show act, Anna just may find herself on the road to okay.’

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 My take:

Don’t dismiss this book as the lighthearted synopsis suggests, it tackles some deep issues, but handles them delicately and empathically. While I would say that this book is aimed at a middle school audience, it is also a super good read for all ages above this.

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Our protagonist, Anna is thirteen, and has hung out with her best friend Dani since Kindergarten. Her life is safe and predictable, but then it isn’t. Out of the blue Dani no longer wants to hang out with Anna. She feels that they’ve grown apart. Dani wants to be more popular, and Anna is no longer cool enough. Okay, so Anna is confused and upset, but she thinks Dani may change her mind and come running back, if she gives her time. As we read this, we assume that the story is going to be cute and sweet, but it does get much darker as we read on.

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Anna’s parents have recently divorced, but within months, her father has remarried and his just -out-of-college new wife has given birth to a baby girl. Anna is struggling to cope with her new place in his world, and having to divide her time between his new house and her home with her mother. Unfortunately things go from bad to worse when Anna’s mother attempts suicide, and leaves her reeling, and with no other choice than to move in with her father and his new family, while her mother recovers. donut girl book 1

This book touches on many different issues throughout: Divorce, remarriage, the birth of a new sibling, depression, loss of friendship, and grief. It offered much more than I anticipated, and I thought that the author handled these issues well. Anyone over age thirteen will certainly have experienced at least one of these issues, and I’m sure they will relate.

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I empathized with Anna as she was pushed from pillar to post, but I enjoyed seeing her character grow through these pages.

I’d give this a solid four stars for a sweet, Ya read.

I hope this review has been helpful to you. I’ll be back later with another summer Y.A book recommendation.

 

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with love, Sally xxx

 

 

 

 

Welcome to my Soak Sunday Week 8

 

 

aqua bath grl 3Hi guys, I hope you’ve all had a super weekend, I did! My husband had to work both days but I got to go to the mall and treat myself to some pamper products and new clothes, and then we went out to eat together both days. Then this afternoon we did something that we promised each other we would do one day; and that was to go on a bike ride!

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He bought me a new retro style bike that I had fallen in love with and we coasted through our subdivision. I loved it! especially the feeling of the breeze through my hair. It was so relaxing. But I was more than ready for my bath tonight.

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This week’s #soaksunday is all about summer. Right now I’m reading through my contemporary novel shelves, and some of these covers are simply good enough to eat.

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I haven’t been very diligent about with posting my Sunday soaks recently and I apologise. I’ve had my family over from England and we’ve been spend the last three weeks seeing all the attractions and the beaches here in Florida, and when we arrived home I just was too exhausted to pull out the camera. I’d just soak and try to sty awake. But it’s back to business as usual now and I hope to be able to supply you with some bath eye candy to wrap up your weekend.

So today I chose Jay Asher’s book ‘What Light’. Isn’t the cover gorgeous?

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Here is the synopsis:

“A beautiful story of love and forgiveness.”
—Stephen Chbosky, New York Times bestselling author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

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Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

What Light is a love story that’s moving and life-affirming and completely unforgettable.

 

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For the bath I chose a cocktail of these products:

Firstly I used Lush shower gel in Yummy Mummy I followed this with a strainer of crushed Lush Candy Mountain and Unicorn Manor’s Bath crumble. If only you could smell how delicious these scents were together, they were heavenly. I added a bath bomb from Hip Modern Soap, in ‘Carnival’ and then I was ready for a luxurious soak with a great new read.

 

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The candle I used is a new one from Amanda at Northavecandles which is so gorgeous. It’s ‘Cherry Trees & Apple Blossom and the title speaks for itself. I really love it! If you would like to save ten percent on your first order, just use the code: BCC10 at checkout. How cool is that?! Amanda is one of my favorite candle makers, along with Unicorn Manor, and I use their candles daily; so its a pleasure to showcase their products.

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My bathroom smelled so floral and sweet, like I was bathing in a candy store.

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I feel so much more relaxed after my soak and I think I’m going to go on more bike rides now, they’re so much more relaxing than runs but still a super way to keep toned. Maybe I’ll alternate! I hope you’ve enjoyed my eighth soak Sunday post, and I hope it inspire you to create your own. If you do please tag me @bookscupsandcandles won’t you.

Lot of love, Sally xxaqua-grl-turban

Non-spoiler book Review: The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

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I was delighted to receive an advance reader’s copy of ‘The Bedlam Stacks “ by Natasha Pulley to review, along with her first book: ‘The Watchmaker of Filigree Street’ from Bloomsbury Publishing.

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I have to say that I really enjoyed both books, but today I have just finished ‘The Bedlam Stacks’ so I will focus on a review this book first while it is so fresh in my mind.

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The synopsis:

bedlam leaf large 2        ‘In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall, England, with an injury that almost cost him his leg. On the sprawling, crumbling grounds of the old house, something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pine explodes, and his brother accuses him of madness.bedlam leaf large

When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch Quinine- essential for the treatment of Malaria- from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.

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Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merricks grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.’

My strongest reaction after reading this book is how beautiful the author writes. To me, it is reminiscent of reading a classic, in both language and description. The story is set in 1859 and by goodness Pulley transported me there within the first chapter. This really was a book that I couldn’t put down!

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We are initially introduced to our protagonist Merrick, while he is back living in a tumbledown Country Manor house, which was inherited by his elder brother, Charles. Merrick was forced to give up his life as an explorer and an expert on botany, after he suffered an accident, which inhibited the use of one of his legs. Charles enjoys playing Lord of the Manor and seems to have little time for Merrick. He appears to enjoy pointing out all of Merrick’s perceived shortcomings. Merrick however, puts up with this treatment with little resistance, preferring to mind his own business and focus his attention on immersing himself into assisting the remaining gardening staff with the care and keeping of the grounds.

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After stumbling upon the old neglected greenhouse that his grandfather installed many years prior, Merrick takes refuge there and finds comfort away from his brother’s bullying and his own feelings of uselessness culminating from his leg injury.

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I loved Pulley’s description of the Manor and grounds. I could easily picture the dilapidated Mansion with the hole in the roof.

 

“Now there was a little carpet of pine needles over the middle of the floor. I twisted round to see upward. Although there were, on my side, three floors to the house, on this side it was just galleries off the staircase. The ceiling was the roof. Being windowless, it was usually gloomy, with deep shadows between the vaults of the rafters, but now there was quite a big hole. Right above it was a rotten branch still attached, just, to the old pine tree. It had been defying gravity for months.”

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Merrick seeks refuge in his greenhouse, and once there, he notices that a statue that was watching over his father’s grave has moved. This has happened more than once but nobody believes him since the statue is much too heavy to be pushed or lifted by any person or persons on a whim. On this particular day Charles joins him in the greenhouse, and when Merrick ponders out loud over the moving statue, Charles suggests that Merrick is showing signs of madness and comments that he ought to have him committed to an asylum! This is not a comment to be taken lightly, since Charles had their mother committed several years earlier.

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So when an old friend and colleague visits him later with a proposal he can’t refuse- to take Merrick with him on another expedition, this time to Peru; Merrick agrees, despite his disability. Thus begins a chain of events that will see Merrick face action and adventure, mystery and magic; and find friendship in unexpected places, all the while growing as a person. Merrick discovers that he has untapped strengths despite his leg wound, and his only limitations are those that he chooses to see as such.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away so I’ll stop sharing the story here, but let me tell you that this is just the beginning of a super story that will stay with you long after the last page is turned.

 

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I love that Pulley doesn’t rush the story. She takes us step by step with Merrick through the Amazon and into danger. She builds up the atmosphere page by page, and gives us a slow burn of mystery and intrigue with a generous dose of magic mixed in.

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I liked Merrick so very much. He was only in his late thirties yet I pictured him as being much older due to his mannerisms and thought processes. Whether this was because of his limitations of mobility or just his old fashioned ways, I can’t be sure, but he was immensely likeable from start to finish. I was routing for him at every moment. It seemed that he was the type that people like to bully, and the reader has to watch helplessly as his friends and family members push him against his grain in order to suit their own agendas.

 

This is not a fast paced adventure; so don’t expect instant gratification. Read it like a classic, enjoying the nuances of the language, the broad descriptive and the journey rather than the destination.jungle Elephant

However, when you arrive at the destination, you will not be disappointed!

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‘The bedlam Stacks’ was a fully immersive read for me, into the culture and history of Peru from the point of view of an upper class Englishman who had fallen on hard times and had been offered one more chance at adventure and redemption.

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Pulley writes so convincingly as a man that I have to applaud her.

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While this book is a stand alone, I can see plenty of scope for it to become a duology. I feel there are still some outstanding questions that I would like to see answered, and I believe there is more room for development left open- or perhaps that is wishful thinking on my part!

 

If I had one criticism, and to be honest I don’t -but lets just invent one and put it out there anyway for sake of balance- I would say that I wanted more chapters of the English home after the Peru adventure. Any further description of life in a sprawling English Country pile is heaven for me.

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I unreservedly recommend this book. I wouldn’t ever have imagined that I would be interested in Peru as a setting if you had asked me in advance; yet, I thoroughly enjoyed every part of the journey through the Amazon. I would so LOVE to tell you about the magic (oh the magic) but it would break the spell, and we can’t do that.

 

The Bedlam Stacks is due for release in August 2017. Please put it on your #TBR

 

 

 

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.