Book Review: Lanny by Max Porter

 

IMG_3404

 

 

 

British copy

American copy.  ‘Lanny’ by Max Porter.

 

 

 

bedlam tree 9

“He has tried to lose the memory of Dead Papa Toothwort. Like the last speaker of any language he has had to forget in order to survive, but some knowledge of it lives in his marrow.”

🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂

Young Lanny is a sweet little boy who doesn’t quite fit in with his jaded, street wise contemporaries. Moving to a village outside of London with his commuting father and Actor- turned-crime novelist mother, Lanny dances to a different beat, and has a freshness and naivety/wisdom that nobody can quite fathom. 

.IMG_3404

After his mother requests lessons, he makes firm friends with an ageing artist who loves him for all his quirks and foibles. They often go deep into the woods to draw together, and Lanny creates a bond with ‘Mad Pete’ that he lacks with his own father.

.

Old villages often have a plethora of superstitions, and Lanny’s village is no different. ‘Dead Papa Toothwort’ is held up as a threat to the children by way of rhyme and folktales.

.Spiderweb

The reader casually observes Dead Papa Toothwort as he wades invisible through the village, picking up snippets of conversation as he plows through the earth. He has an interest in the little boy, Lanny, who sees more clearly than others.

.

When Lanny goes missing and the whole village can’t find him, suspicion soon turns to the relationship between Lanny and ‘mad Pete’ the old artist. Dead Papa Toothwort listens in once more as the villagers discuss where the boy may be and the accusations fly.

bedlam tree 7

Ive been working my way through the Booker Prize long list this year, and I began with ‘Lanny’. I was disappointed to find that it was quite a feat to find a copy here in the U.S, and when I finally did, it was because the sales person hunted around for me and finally discovered and then rescued it out of the publishers return pile 😌 

.

In hindsight, I can only blame the synopsis, which I read afterwards, not wanting the story to be spoiled in any way. Unfortunately for those who do read it first, the synopsis tells little about the story, and serves only to pander to some highbrow hint of what is inside (IMHO). 

🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁

.

In part it reads: …’ This chimerical, audacious, strange, and brilliant novel will enraptured readers with its anarchic energy, with its bewitching tapestry of fabulist and domestic drama…’

Pretty words, but picture it being dismissed by half the population.

🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂

.

Lanny is most definitely all of the above but please, 🙏🏻save that for praise section and give potential readers a real synopsis! 

.bedlam trunk 1

I loved the book👌🏻. It was all of the above and more, and yes, I’m sad it didn’t make the shortlist.  But don’t blame the book, blame the marketing- it’s alienated potential readers at first point of contact. Book sellers need to be excited first so they can, in turn, excite their customers by promoting it. In Barnes & Nobel, it had clearly gone under the radar.If I had read the synopsis, I would have abandoned the book and re-shelved it too. This was a book that I discovered through following the Booker prize list. Had I been browsing the bookshelves on a whim, I would have disregarded the book on the merit of the synopsis alone. It’s just trying too hard. And by the way, I hunted in many B&N stores in both Orlando, Florida and various towns in Colorado, along with Books a Million stores. I finally found it but only after a lengthy chase.

🍂🍁🍂🍁🍂🍁

What started out as a gentle paced, little whimsical story, (and a most definitely enchanting read); soon morphed into a thrilling page turner in part two. Throughout the book we share each characters point of view, in alternating paragraphs -along with the lyrical segments that Dead Papa Toothwart hears as he wisps around the village. I’d say it is part modern day fairytale, part thriller, but always riveting.

I will point out, that in parts, there is an unusual format that may rattle traditionalists: When Dead Papa Toothwort is listening in to human conversations, the glimpses we hear are lyrical and dance across the page in a different font (see picture)

IMG_3406

.

But this is only in his segments, and the other parts of the book read traditionally.

 

It is beautifully written. It is sad, happy, nostalgic, scary and beautiful. A paradox of painting with words.

 

 

If you’ve managed to stay with me this long, you’ll know how much this book has impacted me as I don’t normal twitter on this much. Let me conclude by saying I rate this book as a 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read. Max Porter has a unique talent. A total page turner. Don’t let the synopsis put you off reading it.

Advertisements

Book Review: Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler. Bloomsbury Publishing.

 

51SANwLEReL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler

 

 

Hi my lovely peeps. I have another book review for you, I’ve just closed the final page on this Stella read, and I’m now struggling to focus on anything else. I feel a huge book hangover coming on, one that I really wasn’t expecting! Here is the official synopsis:

galaxygirlblonde

From the author of national bestseller The Book of Speculation, a poignant, fantastical novel about the electric combination of ambition and wonder that keeps us reaching toward the heavens.

Eleven-year-old Nedda Papas is obsessed with becoming an astronaut. In 1986 in Easter, a small Florida Space Coast town, her dreams seem almost within reach–if she can just grow up fast enough. Theo, the scientist father she idolizes, is consumed by his own obsessions. Laid off from his job at NASA and still reeling from the loss of Nedda’s newborn brother several years before, Theo turns to the dangerous dream of extending his living daughter’s childhood just a little longer. The result is an invention that alters the fabric of time.

_BirthdayQueen_0003_4

Amidst the chaos that erupts, Nedda must confront her father and his secrets, the ramifications of which will irrevocably change her life, her community, and the entire world. But she finds an unexpected ally in Betheen, the mother she’s never quite understood, who surprises Nedda by seeing her more clearly than anyone else. Decades later, Nedda has achieved her long-held dream, and as she floats in antigravity, far from earth, she and her crewmates face a serious crisis. Nedda may hold the key to the solution, if she can come to terms with her past and the future that awaits her.

Light from Other Stars is about fathers and daughters, women and the forces that hold them back, and the cost of meaningful work. It questions how our lives have changed, what progress looks like, and what it really means to sacrifice for the greater good.

 

star-cluster2

I was luckily enough to be sent an advance reader copy of this book from the lovely folks at Bloomsbury publishing, so while I had the house to myself yesterday, I picked it up and began to read…and finally closed the last page this afternoon. I couldn’t put it down.

 

 

Water Ice Planet

I

 

always give you an honest review, so I need to admit right up front, that the opening pages didn’t grab me as I’d hoped they would. My problem is this: we are immediately thrown into a space mission that Nedda is on. We see that there are complications happening, and tension mounting, but as this is our first introduction to  Nedda, we do not have an affinity with her yet, as she is an unknown quantity. So whatever is happening, the reader is initially one step removed. Similarly, the synopsis shows that being an astronaut is her life long dream, and within the first page, we see that she has achieved it. my first impressions suggested that there was not much more that I was going to learn.

 

However, I was wrong and I’m not too proud to admit it!

I did choose to read on, and I’m so pleased that I did, as what I discovered was a beautifully rich story which is both a multi-layered and potent tale of love in all it’s varied forms. Swyler’s writing is both lyrical and enchanting, as the story volley’s back and forth between Nedda’s childhood and her space mission, colliding eventually in a magnificent ending that took my breath away!

star-cluster1

The genius of this book for me, is not the plot, but the characters growth and change -in most unexpected ways. The lesson is in their evolution, arising out of secrets from their pasts, and the revelations that later haunt them.

 

I love reading about flawed characters who act on good intentions. For example, Nedda’s father used to be a scientist for NASA until he was laid off. Now, when he is not teaching, he is locked in their basement, running experiments that he hopes will lead to an invention that will give his daughter more time with him. But of course, the paradox is that he is actually stealing from their time together, while he searches.

 

Her mother, Betheen, comes across as somewhat of a cold character, who also has little time for Nedda, as she throws herself into her baking obsession. However, during the course of the book, we learn the many reasons for this, and we begin to see much more depth in her character as time moves on.

Abstract Green Planet.png

And talking about time…

 

The book raises some questions: While we all wish that we had more time to spend together, would you really wish to make time stand still?

And is it better to look forward or back?

 

I’m giving this read four stars. It may have taken me a couple of chapters to warm up to it, but after that I was riveted. The story was anything but predictable. It flowed beautifully, had real emotional depth and a solid plot line;  the lyrical writing was a joy to read.

 

I’ve so happy to have been sent this lovely book. I know there are so many hidden gems of books that I would never have discovered if I had stuck to reading only what I thought I would like ( Stephen King’s Dark Tower series being the latest case in point). This is where #bookstagram, #booktube and #bookblogs come into their own, right? Thanks to everyone sharing their reads, we can all find the key to worlds that we may never have found otherwise. I hope my review will entice you into this one too.

 

Light From Other Stars was published on May 7th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: THE STORY WEB

THE STORY WEB BY MEGAN FRAZER BLAKEMORE.

 

Once upon a time ….

…there was a story that stole my heart. It was a story that was filled with magic, mystery, and moral lessons that middle grade readers will love.

 

rug

The story is set in the small town of Independence, Maine, where everybody knows everybody, and Alice Dingwell is discovering that this is not necessarily a good thing. It’s already tough enough growing up, without having everything falling apart around you too.

 

ModernMom_0019

 

Alice feels invisible. Her former friends don’t want to hang around with her any more, she feels awkward around her best friend, Lewis, and nobody is talking about the bad thing that happened with her Dad. robin4-1

Alice adores her Dad. She used to live for his stories, how he made the world feel like such a magical place, how he wove tales that entranced her. He made life bigger, brighter and more beautiful. But now he has gone away, and nobody wants to talk about what happened; least of all, Alice.

018

So Alice keeps her head down. She no longer wants to play Ice Hockey with the town team, even though she is a talented player. She’s too busy punishing herself for her Dad’s absence, even if it means hurting her best friend Lewis.

 

Lewis is confused. He has no idea why Alice has been cool with him. He blames himself. He thinks he could have been a better friend. But Lewis is patient and waits for Alice to figure out what she needs.

 

AutumnFairytaleClips_0027_1

 

Melanie, is also invisible. The niece of the strange woman who lives in what is known as ‘The Bird House’ to the locals, Melanie has a hard time making friends. The town rumor is that her Aunt is a Witch, just because she keeps herself to herself. And so, Melanie has no friends, and instead, focuses on her love of animals.When Lewis begins to hang out with her, Melanie is happy but reticent.

 

When Alice was young, she wandered into the forest and found a huge spiderweb. Her Dad explained that only certain people could see this gigantic web, and he called it the Story Web, explaining that each of the strands on the web were stories that hold the fabric of our world together. If people stop telling stories, the web, and our world will fall apart.

Now, when forest animals begin to appear around the town, and most surprisingly, in front of Alice, she realizes that they are trying to tell her something.

deer-head

Could it be that the story Web is in danger, and if so, is the world falling apart. Alice needs to figure out what she can do to stop this, and in the meantime, she also learns some important lessons about life, friendship and family.

bedlam bear

This is a most heartwarming tale of love and loyalty, during those difficult years of transitioning into a teenager. Written with wit and whimsy, Blakemore weaves a beautiful tale that will keep your middle grader (and you) turning the page, long after it should be ‘lights out’

The Story Web will be published  by Bloomsbury Books on June 4th 2019. Be sure to save the date!

book blue

Best Books I read in 2018!

GlamNYEClips_0012_13

 

Happy (almost) New Year Everybody!         _BirthdayQueen_0028_29

Are you as excited to  begin 2019 as I am!

Have you any New Year’s resolutions ready?

I’m determined to make this year the year that I take control of my health and fitness.

_BirthdayQueen_0029_30

I know it’s a cliche, but for me this is a priority. Every day is a gift to me now, and I want to take advantage of every moment and squeeze as much joy out of it as I can!

 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.

Did you get any new books?

lvebksstack

I had a lovely Christmas. It was a quiet one with my husband and our boys this year. They’re getting older now so we don’t have all the preparation for santa’s visit, or the early mornings to contend with, so it was a lovely relaxing one, with no rush, no appointments, and no stress. Perfect! aqua-bath-flower1

Believe it or not, I didn’t open  a single book for Christmas this year. My husband waited until the day after and then dropped me off at my favorite Barnes and Nobel store, and let me immerse myself in the luxury of being able to choose whatever I wanted. I bought a wide selection of both novels and inspirational reads, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

What’s your favorite book of 2018?

I had a fabulous reading year, and pretty much enjoyed every book that I read. So I thought that I’d share some of my favorite reads of the year with you today. I could do a countdown, but I just can’t wait. Lets just get straight to it. Drum roll….The most outstanding book of 2019 for me, was N0S4R2 by Joe Hill.

IMG_6006

THAT BOOK! It was not only my favorite read of 2018, but it has even hit a high place on my all time top ten reads EVER! If you love a good horror story, go and pick it up. I don’t want to say too much about it, because I think it’s good to go in without a map. But lets just say that if you take a creepy old man who drives around in his antique car, abducting young children, and promising to take them to ‘Christmas land’; it’s going to be a book that you cannot put down.

GlamNYEClips_0017_18

This year I’ve made a special effort to  pick up work from authors that are new to me. I don’t know about you, but I’m a creature of habit, and tend to stick with the same pool of authors that I’ve read for years. Thats the beauty of Bookstagram- I learn about different authors and new works that I may have otherwise overlooked in a book store.

GlamNYEClips_0016_17

One outstanding author that I turned to this year was Wilbur Smith. Growing up, he was my dad’s favorite author, and he bought Smith’s books as soon as they came out. There was no Instagram back then, and so I always thought they were ‘men’s’ books- aimed at a male audience. So I didn’t venture as far as picking one up back then. AutumnFairytaleClips_0002_1

however, a few weeks ago I was in a book store and I noticed the Wilbur Smith books winking at me from the shelf, so I picked one up out of nostalgia and curiosity. They’ve updated the covers and they’re just beautiful. Just holding the book set off many happy memories for me of my Dad, and I figured ‘why not?’

key

I decided to buy some, thinking of it as a wonderful way of connecting with him across time and space. I chose the Egyptian series since I love anything to do with ancient Egypt.

The first book was ‘River God‘ and was centered around the life of the  slave Taita in ancient Egypt, and his relationships with his mistress and the Pharaoh. It is an epic story, that is made so much more interesting as it  has so much fact woven in with the fiction. The second book ‘The Seventh Scroll ” jumps forward to more contemporary times, and to an expedition to find the lost treasures of the aforementioned Pharaoh and the slave Taita based on the story of the first book. Both books were fantastic reads with action and adventure along with great historical interest and lots of mystery and suspense woven in. I loved them. There’s actually six in the series and I am so excited to pick up book number three.

IMG_6014

Smith has written so many books and so many series that I’m now really looking forward to reading. I hope you give him a try!

_BirthdayQueen_0005_6

Anther notable author for me this last year was Grady Hendrix. He seems to have exploded onto the horror scene with a slew of amazing books. My first read of his was ‘ My Best Friend’s Exorcism‘, followed by ‘Horrorstor” and of course his non fiction catalog ‘Paperback’s From Hell‘. I am looking forward to reading ‘We Sold our Souls. Hendrix’s writing style is really unique in the genre. He manages to scare the bejeebas out of you and yet give you warm fuzzies at the same time. His work is part nostalgic, 1980′ s vibes, and part supernatural suspense. Whatever you want to call it, it works.

 

Other outstanding books that I’d recommend this year are:

GlamNYEClips_0015_16

Dracul by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker . Get it HERE

IMG_6019

Broken Promise by Linwood Barclay . Also from HERE 

IMG_6018

For children’s books, I’ve finally discovered Mary Downing Hahn books which they LOVED. These are all suspense and spooky books but not too scary. Click to follow the links.

The Ghost of Cratchfield Hall

One for Sorrow

The Doll In The Garden

and Closed For the Season 

GlamNYEClips_0016_17

So, to highlight some of my best reads this year. Here are some of the others that I read this year and loved. I’ve tried to include lots of different genres here, so that there’s something that might take your eye:

Best Vintage book has to be Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon

IMG_6010

Best Biography Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

IMG_6012

and I also loved this YA Biography of Mary Shelley ‘The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s creator Mary Shelley by Catherine Reef

IMG_6017

Best Debut YA book Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

IMG_6013

Best Historical Fiction The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.

IMG_6011

 

I could go on and on, because I read so many superb books in 2018. If you want to see more, then just pop across to my Instagram feed which is linked on the right, and see if you agree with my thoughts on the books I have read.

Do you have any you want to recommend to me? drop me a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

Have a wonderful new year, stay safe. Remember to stick with a friend if you’re out partying. Male or female, you’re safer in a group.Charge up your phone, wrap up, and have fun!

Lots of love and best wishes for 2019 xxx

GlamNYEClips_0013_14

Harry Potter Giveaway!

harry potter 2.png

 

Guys it’s been SO LONG! I’m sorry!

But guess what?… I have a giveaway running on my Instagram account. Have you entered it yet? You can win a ton of Harry Potter themed goodies, and it’s INTERNATIONAL!!! I’m also adding a few Harry Potter themed candle to give away at random afterwards to you if you stick around.

harry potter 3.png

You know, up until a couple of days ago, I had only read the first and last book of the series. Shock, horror! So at the end of last year I made a promise to myself to read the whole series from start to finish. I just finished the last book and OH. MY. GOODNESS. I am in pieces! I’d heard that this series was an emotional rollercoaster, but I still wasn’t prepared for how many up’s and down’s there would be. But I am SO pleased that I read the books because the movies cut out so much stuff.

harry potter 12

I mean, Ginny, for instance! In the movies you barely see her, but in the books she’s a fully formed character. And a couple of the Weasley older brothers are either cut out completely or have a cameo. Not cool! So you NEED to read the books to get the full picture.

harry potter 15I find it almost impossible to choose which book is my favorite. Once I think that I’m reading my favorite, then I pick up the next one and it changes again. Like magic! It’s probably easier to pick my least favorite. I think that would be ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’. I saw the movie and was so confused in many parts. It seemed to skip bits,  (which of course was true, huge chunks were missing) yet I had no idea what it was skipping, because I hadn’t read the books. So when I finally got around to reading it, I was kind of spoiled. I wish they’d done a two parter like the last movie.harry potter 4

But now that I’ve finally read the series, all I want to do now is pick up the first book and start all over again! It was phenomenal !

So, to my giveaway…

You can win so many lovely Harry Potter themed goodies but you need to be quick. to enter, just pop over to my Instagram account and follow me. Then tag two friends who may be interested in winning too, and repost the giveaway picture with the tag: #bookscupsandcandles10K  . Full details are on the post.

HarryYou could win:

* two anniversary edition house books in Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.

*a butter beer candle from @northavecandles

*a Ginny funky pop – the new design on a broomstick

*A book sleeve with in monster theme

*a pack of magnets for your fridge

*a Hufflepuff woolly scarf

A Syltheryn tie

*a demented repellant kit

*a Harry Potter badge/ pin

*Some Wizards brew Tea & candle from @acourtofcandles

And MORE!

And I’ve just posted my 100th post so I’ve also added a fabulous scarf!

IMG_5009

So don’t miss out. It’s closing soon. I’m accepting entries up until 14Th April 2018, so HURRY.

Have a super magical day guys, and I’ll be back real soon.

harry potter 16

lots of love, Sally xx

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

 

day off 6

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…

redpeony

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

 

valley19

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.

valley18

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.’

valley14

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.

kawaii 01

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.

ben-roethlisbergerpng

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….

018

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!

classics 11

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

valley11

Thrillers: ‘Never Look Back’ by Clare Donoghue.

 

bloodyhand

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

police-gun2.png

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

 

IMG_8225

‘NEVER LOOK BACK”

 

London-10

‘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.’

police glovesuntitled.180

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.

bloody splatter4

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.

police perp mask

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.

police hat

 

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

 

SaveSave

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

 

donut-girl

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.

donut-pink

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.

donut chair white

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?

donut girl book blue

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.’

donut cat

 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.

donut set-coffee-cup

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.

donut glasses

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.

donut-chocolate

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.

 

donut girl 8

 

with love, Sally xxx

 

 

 

 

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

bedlam fern 1

bedlam staskc photo

bedlam leaf 3

 

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.

bedlam leaf 8

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.

parrot 4

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.

jungle Monkey

bedlam leaf 9


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!

bedlam lamp 1

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.

jungle Cheetah

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.

bedlam axe 2

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.”

bedlam pinecone 1 

 

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.

bedlam trunk 1

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.

 

jungle Giraffe

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.

bedlam tent

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!

bedlam paw print

‘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.

bedlam fire 1

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

bedlam leaf 9

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.

bedlam fern 1

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

lvebksallvignette

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.

lve bks cffee

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?

 lvebksbow

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….’

 

lvebksbow

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.

lvbksstackvingette

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.’

 

lvebkschoc2

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.

 

lve bks glasses

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.’

 lvebksstack

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.

 

lvebkssmudge

 

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?

lvbksgrlwreath