7 Dec 2016

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Book Review / Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

Sometimes finding your own voice
is a matter of listening to the heart....

 
Jodi Picoult's powerful novel portrays an emotionally charged marriage that changes course in one explosive moment....For years, Jane Jones has lived in the shadow of her husband, renowned San Diego oceanographer Oliver Jones. But during an escalating argument, Jane turns on him with an alarming volatility. 


In anger and fear, Jane leaves with their teenage daughter, Rebecca, for a cross-country odyssey charted by letters from her brother Joley, guiding them to his Massachusetts apple farm, where surprising self-discoveries await. 

Now Oliver, an expert at tracking humpback whales across vast oceans, will search for his wife across a continent -- and find a new way to see the world, his family, and himself: through her eyes.


Published:     25th March 1992
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Stand-Alone
Source:  Owned


MY REVIEW

What I liked about this story...   This is a reread for me (one of my projects for 2016 and 2017 is to work through re-reading my favourite authors - I will be doing a post on challenges soon...).  I read this first back in August 2010 and had given it a two star rating.  The main reason for starting to read this first this time is mainly because this was the first book written by Jodi Picoult and I wanted to star from the beginning.
I enjoyed this story a lot more than the last time I read it.  Maybe it was the mood I was in at the time of reading or maybe because six years have elapsed and because I am six years older I may appreciate the story in a different way I would have six years ago.

This story does touch on some very sensitive subjects (which is why I know and love Jodi Picoult's writing).  Without giving away any spoilers, I will just say that this story covers aspects of domestic violence and inappropriate relationships.  I found it very interesting to see how Jodi covered these sensitive subjects and reading how she dealt with them. 

What I didn't like about this story...  This story is written so that it jumps between each character in each subsequent chapter.  I would have loved for the story to have been less 'jumpy' and more in a time line that i could follow but that said I can completely understand the 'flash back' chapters when something happened to Jane's daughter. 




Continue reading Book Review / Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult

4 Dec 2016

Month in Review / November 2016

A very interesting reading month with a lot of mixed emotions coupled with the fact that I had a month where I really didn't have much enthusiasm for reading, not for any particular reason - just because.  A couple of favourites this month, I Was Saved by the Bell (biography of the producer of the show) and Penhaligon's Attic (a form of historical fiction). If I had to pick a book that was my least favourite it would have to be Haunt Me, a book that I found very confusing and had a lot of trouble getting into....
BOOKS READ





BOOKS RECEIVED


THE SHADOW OF WHAT WAS LOST
It has been twenty years since the end of the war. The dictatorial Augurs - once thought of almost as gods - were overthrown and wiped out during the conflict, their much-feared powers mysteriously failing them. Those who had ruled under them, men and women with a lesser ability known as the Gift, avoided the Augurs' fate only by submitting themselves to the rebellion's Four Tenets. A representation of these laws is now written into the flesh of any who use the Gift, forcing those so marked into absolute obedience.

As a student of the Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war fought – and lost – before he was born. Despised by most beyond the school walls, he and those around him are all but prisoners as they attempt to learn control of the Gift. Worse, as Davian struggles with his lessons, he knows that there is further to fall if he cannot pass his final tests.

But when Davian discovers he has the ability to wield the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything. To the north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir. And to the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is…


BONE MEAL FOR ROSES
Her mother destroyed her. The garden saved her.

Poppy was six years old when she was rescued from her abusive mother and taken to her grandparents' farm to recover. There, under a wide South African sky, Poppy succumbs to the magic of their garden. Slowly, her memories fade and her wounds began to heal.

But as Poppy grows up into a strange, fierce and beautiful young woman, her childhood memories start to surface. And then a love affair with a troubled older man explodes her world..


PENHALIGON'S ATTIC

1910. Anna Garvey arrives in Caernoweth, Cornwall with her daughter and a secret. Having come from Ireland to take up an inheritance of the local pub, she and her eighteen year-old daughter Mairead are initially viewed with suspicion by the close-knit community.

Anna soon becomes acquainted with Freya Penhaligon, a vulnerable girl struggling to keep her family business afloat in the wake of her grandmother's death, and starts to gain the trust of the locals. As their friendship deepens, and Freya is brought out of her shell by the clever and lively Mairead, even Freya's protective father Matthew begins to thaw.

But when a part of Anna's past she'd long tried to escape turns up in the town, she is forced to confront the life she left behind - for her sake and her daughter's too . . .



THE HONEY QUEEN
To discover the sweetest things in life, you sometimes have to lose your way…

It’s easy to fall in love with the beautiful town of Redstone – the locals wave and chat to each other, the shops and cafes are full of cheerful hustle and bustle. And amidst all this activity, two women believe they are getting on just fine.

Francesca’s boundless energy help her to take everything in her stride, including a husband who has lost his job and the unwelcome arrival of the menopause, which has kicked in – full throttle.

Peggy, on the other hand, has always been a restless spirit. But now, focused and approaching thirty, she has opened her own knitting shop on the town’s high street. It’s a dream come true, but she still feels adrift.

When Australian-raised Lillie finally makes it back home to Ireland, she is drawn right into the heart of Redstone’s busy, close-knit community. But what she thought would be an ending is actually just a beginning – all is not quite as it seems in the picturesque town.

Soon, Lillie’s hard-earned wisdom will be called into play as she helps new friends navigate unchartered territory…


THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?


THE CAVENDON LUCK
Thisis book 3 in a trilogy so far.  Here are details of the series - https://www.goodreads.com/series/156378-cavendon-hall

HOMECOMING
Sometimes the only way forward . . .

They say you can’t go home again, and truth be told, Eleanor Levine never planned to. Yet here she is, back in Ireland after a lifetime in New York, moving her treasured possessions—including her mother’s handwritten book of recipes for living—into a cozy Dublin apartment. With its picturesque Georgian villas, redbrick houses, and central garden, the Golden Square is just large enough for anonymity. At least, that’s what actress Megan Bouchier hopes, when a tabloid scandal sends her fleeing the paparazzi, back to the place she felt safest as a child.

. . . is the road that takes you home.

Rae, manager of the local café, has noticed the lovely, sad-eyed girl. There’s little Rae doesn’t notice, and every customer feels nourished by her food and her kindness, yet Rae’s own secret remains hidden. Connie O’Callaghan—with her fortieth birthday looming—has a secure teaching job, an abundance of blessings . . . and a deep-seated loneliness only her new neighbor Eleanor understands. And as the lives of the four women intertwine, each in her own way is learning about love, letting go—and that finding your way can lead to the last place you expected.



 THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL

Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young widow who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behavior becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of her past.

TENDER IS THE NIGHT AND THE LAST TYCOON
 Tender is the Night is a story set in the hedonistic high society of Europe durinthe 'Roaring Twenties'. A wealthy schizophrenic, Nicole Warren, falls in love with Dick Diver - her psychiatrist. The resulting saga of the Divers' troubled marriage, and their circle of friends, includes a cast of aristocratic and beautiful people, unhappy love affairs, a duel, incest, and the problems inherent in the possession of great wealth. Despite cataloguing a maelstrom of interpersonal conflict, Tender is the Night has a poignancy and warmth that springs from the quality of Fitzgerald's writing and the tragic personal experiences on which the novel is based. Six years separate Tender is the Night and The Last Tycoon, the novel Fitzgerald left unfinished at his death in December 194 Fitzgerald lived in Hollywood more or less continuously from July 1937 until his death, and a novel about the film industry at the height of 'the studio system' centred on the working life of a top producer was begun in 1939. Even in its incomplete state The Last Tycoon remains the greatest American novel about Hollywood and contains some of Fitzgerald's most brilliant writing.





Continue reading Month in Review / November 2016

2 Dec 2016

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Blog Tour Book Review / Penhaligon's Attic by Terri Nixon



1910. Anna Garvey arrives in Caernoweth, Cornwall with her daughter and a secret. Having come from Ireland to take up an inheritance of the local pub, she and her eighteen year-old daughter Mairead are initially viewed with suspicion by the close-knit community.

Anna soon becomes acquainted with Freya Penhaligon, a vulnerable girl struggling to keep her family business afloat in the wake of her grandmother's death, and starts to gain the trust of the locals. As their friendship deepens, and Freya is brought out of her shell by the clever and lively Mairead, even Freya's protective father Matthew begins to thaw.

But when a part of Anna's past she'd long tried to escape turns up in the town, she is forced to confront the life she left behind - for her sake and her daughter's too . . .





Published:    1st December 2016
Publisher:  Piatkus
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Book 1, Penhaligon's Saga
Source:  Review Copy from Publisher




MY REVIEW

The one thing I love about trying new authors is that a story comes along that you just can't stop reading until the very last page.  This was one of those stories for me.  I picked this up on a rainy Sunday late morning and finished it early that evening.  To then discover that this is going to be a Saga, I can't cant wait to read more...

There are so many parts of this story that I loved but to name a few...   Firstly, there is the story of Freda who lives in Caernoweth at first with her mother and father.  Her father being a fisherman and a drunk until one night when Freda nearly died when he completely changed.  We get to watch Freda and her family as they evolve throughout the years and become close despite the fact that Freda's mother took her away to London for a short time while her father cleaned up her act. 

You then have Anna who arrives in Caernoweth with her daughter.  They have a secret that you don't get to find out until very near the end of the book and I have to admit that this was not a secret I was expecting.  I love it when that happens. 

You then have a mix of the two stories, which I won't go into too much detail on this because I don't want to spoil the story for you.  All I will say is that this story is a roller coaster of emotion and I enjoyed every minute of it.








Continue reading Blog Tour Book Review / Penhaligon's Attic by Terri Nixon

28 Nov 2016

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Book Review / Caitlyn's Christmas Wish by Laura L Walker

Just when former model and single mother Caitlyn Drevier Reel has finally put her life on track after a divorce and six-month stint in rehab, she is surprised to receive an invitation from her ex-in-laws to spend Christmas with the family. 

After all, she reasons, her ex-husband Grant is constantly on the road with his band and it's only fair to allow them to get to know her young son, Brody. What Caitlyn isn't prepared for, however, is the spark of attraction she feels toward Ridge, Grant's older brother, or the sense of belonging to their wonderful family once again. Ridge, who is recovering from his own personal heartache, seems to feel the same about her. 

As they work together to ensure the success of the Winter Festival his parents have organized for their small Wyoming town, Caitlyn begins to envision a bright future. But will Grant's unexpected arrival keep her Christmas wish from coming true? This inspirational novella will have you grabbing a cup of hot cocoa as you get in the holiday mood.

Published:     15th November 2016
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Stand-Alone
Source:  Review Copy





MY REVIEW

What a great read to pick for my first Christmas book of this year!  At 123 pages it is a quick easy read but it is sure packed with a lot of Christmas spirit with a few twists and turns along the way!  What I liked the most about this story is the fact that the main character Caitlyn was essentially split between two men; her former boyfriend and her former boyfriend's brother.  I liked that clash of characters and personalities.  

This was such a fun read and a great one to pick up at this time of year!
Continue reading Book Review / Caitlyn's Christmas Wish by Laura L Walker

26 Nov 2016

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Book Review / Haunt Me by Liz Kessler



Joe wakes up from a deep sleep to see his family leave in a removals van. Where they've gone, he has no idea. Erin moves house and instantly feels at home in her new room. Even if it appears she isn't the only one living in it. Bit by bit, Erin and Joe discover that they have somehow found a way across the ultimate divide - life and death. Bound by their backgrounds, a love of poetry and their growing feelings for each other, they are determined to find a way to be together.

Joe's brother, Olly, never cared much for poetry. He was always too busy being king of the school - but that all changed when Joe died. And when an encounter in the school corridor brings him face to face with Erin, he realises how different things really are - including the kind of girl he falls for.

Two brothers. Two choices. Will Erin's decision destroy her completely, or can she save herself before she is lost forever?



Published:     6th October 2016
Publisher:  Orion
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Stand-Alone
Source:  Review Copy by Publisher


 


MY REVIEW

Honestly, this story confused me.  I liked it but I didn't and I can't quite figure out the middle ground.  Basically, this is the story of a girl who falls in love with a ghost but meets the ghost's real life brother so she has a chance at normal but she is not sure what she wants to do.  The ghost being Olly who died in his bedroom and his ghost is stuck there despite the fact that his family moved away and a new family (including Erin) moved in.    Honestly, I wished there was more to the story than the paranormal love story type and I would have loved to have followed Olly and his family more, learning about the past etc.

This was an OK story to me but the writing was really good.  I had previously read Read Me Like A Book, Liz's previous book, and enjoyed that also.  I look forward to seeing what comes next from this author. 



Continue reading Book Review / Haunt Me by Liz Kessler

25 Nov 2016

Blog Tour Author Interview / Amanda Brooke


A shocking story about a fifteen-year-old girl and the man who took advantage of her

“You might as well know from the start, I’m not going to tell on him and I don’t care how much trouble I get in. It’s not like it could get any worse than it already is.

I can’t. Don’t ask me why, I just can’t.”

When Nina finds out that her fifteen-year-old daughter, Scarlett, is pregnant, her world falls apart.

Because Scarlet won’t tell anyone who the father is. And Nina is scared that the answer will destroy everything.

As the suspects mount – from Scarlett’s teacher to Nina’s new husband of less than a year – Nina searches for the truth: no matter what the cost.







1. If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
I must admit, I’ve never really considered the possibility of collaborating, but working on a joint project is a tempting idea. I think I’d want to try something different and because my books tend to be emotional reads, perhaps I’d venture into comedy. I’d definitely want to work with someone I could have a laugh with, so I think I’d pick Dawn French. I’ve heard she writes everything longhand, so maybe my job would be limited to typing up her notes and doing my best to absorb some of her talent.

2. What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
The simple answer is that I don’t know what a typical writing day is anymore because I’ve only just started writing full time. I’ve worked in ‘waste,’ for the last thirty one years and spent the last five fitting in my writing around the day job. I do have a pretty good idea, however, of what my writing day should look like. I’ll get up early and spend the first hour writing on my treadmill. I know that must sound strange, but I was conscious of how sedentary my life could become so I’ve had a small desk fitted to my treadmill so I can write and walk at the same time. After breakfast, I’ll move to my study upstairs and if I can, I’ll aim to have most of my writing done by early afternoon, which gives me the rest of the day to mull over what I’ve written and come up with ideas about what should happen next.

3. What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
Up until recently, it was finding the time (see answer above!) Next on the list is finding the ideas as I’m now publishing two books a year – in fact because of the early release of The Affair as an ebook, I’ve managed to have three novels published in 2016. It means I’m constantly on the lookout for new ideas and it can be frustrating at times because inspiration can’t be forced. I’ve become adept at watching the world around me and constantly wondering ‘What if…’ Occasionally it pays off.

4. When and why did you first start writing?
I wasn’t someone who always wanted to be a writer, in fact I was in my late thirties before I took any real interest in writing and it was at a time when I was dealing with a nightmare rather than pursuing a dream. My son Nathan was twenty one months old when he was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2004, and I found writing poetry and keeping a journal helped me remain strong for both my son and his older sister Jessica. When he died in 2006, writing was a way for me to process my grief. At first I wrote about my son, but once all of those precious memories were committed to paper, I found I wanted to carry on writing. Yesterday’s Sun was my first attempt at women’s fiction and was inspired by my experiences of motherhood. The story not only secured my first book deal, but was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club in 2012. I’m slightly stunned to be publishing what will be my seventh novel, with another two in production, and all because of one little boy who has left such an amazing legacy.

5. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
With some of my books, I have a very clear memory of where I was when I had that first flash of inspiration but the idea for The Affair was one that developed slowly, then morphed into something completely different. I can remember visualising an opening scene where a young teacher walks out on her class and her career, leaving her students stunned. She was meant to be my main character but that all changed following some long and interesting chats with my editor. The Affair is almost unrecognisable from the synopsis I pitched originally, in fact the only element that has remained is the schoolgirl I had imagined watching her teacher’s life fall apart. That schoolgirl was Scarlett.

6. Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
I think it’s incredibly important to read if you’re a writer, although I don’t consider it a chore and hopefully now that I’m giving up the day job, I’ll have more time to read. I’m currently reading Finding Martha by Caroline Wallace, partly because she’s another local author and partly because it’s a fabulous and quirky story set in 1970’s Liverpool. I’ve lived in Liverpool all my life and many of my books are based here because I know the place so well. I should quickly add that The Affair is based in a fictional town called Sedgefield, mainly because I didn’t want to scandalise a real school.

7. Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
My advice to any aspiring writer would be that it’s never too late to start. If anything, age and experience can be a distinct advantage. That being said, if you do think you want to tackle a novel, make sure the story is something that you absolutely want to write. Don’t write because you want a book published but because you’re desperate to read this fantastic book that you’ve started to create in your mind. That way, when you’re ready to create your masterpiece, it will be a page turner for you too even though you’re the one putting in those long hours to fill the pages.







Continue reading Blog Tour Author Interview / Amanda Brooke

22 Nov 2016

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Book Review / I Let You Go by Clare Macintosh






In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .







Published:     3rd May 2016
Publisher:  Berkley
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Stand Alone
Source:  Owned

 


MY REVIEW

What I liked about this story...  This story was such a rollercoaster of emotions for me, unfortunately the scale weighed on the negative side more than the positive side but I'll talk about the negative section below.  Now, some of the positives.  There were a few parts of this story that I found interesting to read.  I say interesting rather than good because of the nature of the story line (which I won't go into because of spoilers but let's just say that there is a very sensitive subject tackled as one of the main points in this story).  I also particularly liked following the police side of the story where they are investigating the main crime in question in this story.  Its not often that I come across a detective story where the detectives are down on their luck with investigating a particular story they may have to close the case without solving it.  I found that interesting to read about and follow the detectives on how they deal with that.  For me, the best part of the story was the last bit which was jam packed full of action. 

What I didn't like about this story... Unfortunately now for the parts of this story that I wasn't too keen on.  Firstly, the storyline.  This is one of those stories that takes a while for the story to build up before you get to something that really makes you perch on the edge of your seat.  For me, that point came about three quarters of the way through so I have to admit that I was getting a bit bored at the beginning of the story.  There was also the back story of the main detective on the case that  I didn't particularly enjoy.  At certain parts of the story we saw glimpses of his home life with his wife who he struggles to get on with because he works so much to his son who is clearly having a lot of issues and is acting up.  To me, that part of the story was completely unnecessary.  Apart from a pivotal point where something happens with his son which it makes the detective realise something about the case that he was working on, I didn't think that part was necessary.
Continue reading Book Review / I Let You Go by Clare Macintosh

21 Nov 2016

Author Interview / Miranda Sherry






Her mother destroyed her. The garden saved her.

Poppy was six years old when she was rescued from her abusive mother and taken to her grandparents' farm to recover. There, under a wide South African sky, Poppy succumbs to the magic of their garden. Slowly, her memories fade and her wounds began to heal.

But as Poppy grows up into a strange, fierce and beautiful young woman, her childhood memories start to surface. And then a love affair with a troubled older man explodes her world...









  1. If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
    There are loads of authors that I admire, hugely, and would love just to be in the same room with, let alone write with. However, because I can’t actually imagine writing a book with someone else, my ideal writing partner would most likely be the master of the screenplay: Joss Whedon. Working together on the script of a TV series or a film would be an incredible experience, and I imagine I’d learn loads. Perhaps if I just hung around with him for a bit, some of his genius would fly off and glue itself onto me.
  1. What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
    I start my day by writing. Before I even get out of bed. It’s a habit I got into when I was trying to fit my writing around a full-time job, and I discovered that committing to the work first thing, before all the other daily-life stuff had a chance to intrude, was the best way to ensure that my writing came first. I keep my laptop beside the bed, and pick it up as soon as I manage to switch my brain on (and sometimes before).

    For the rest of the day, I write in patches, in shortish sessions in between my other work (I freelance), any meetings I may have, or doing promotional stuff (like writing this very article). In the evenings, I try and end off my working day with another, solid writing session. I generally write in a comfy chair with the laptop balanced on an old foam yoga brick on my lap. Regardless of how the writing is going, I consume indecent amounts of Earl Grey tea whilst doing it.
  1. What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
    Keeping going, day after day, despite the fact that there are no guarantees that what I’m working on is worth anything. When I’m writing a book, it’s hard to step back far enough to gain any real kind of perspective on it.

I find writing action sequences easier than quiet scenes that deal with self-reflection or realisations. The action tends to carry me along, whereas it’s really difficult to explore the internal landscape of a character, to follow the flow of their dawning realisation, for example, without being dull. I find I have to work hard to ensure that I get the emotional truth of the character across without being repetitive, or ending up with a chunk of dead boring text.

  1. When and why did you first start writing?
    I’ve been writing since as far back as I can remember. I wrote stories in old school books that had empty pages left over at the back. Alongside the weird, rambling tales I was trying to tell, I wrote bad song lyrics and awful poetry. I stopped when I finished school, believing that I didn’t really have what it took to be a real writer. It took decades to drum up the courage to try again. I’m glad I did.
  1. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
    I kept being plagued by this image of a girl in an isolated garden. For some reason, I carried her around with me for years before I began to see her clearly enough to weave her into a story.

    I was drawn to the idea that a haven, a sanctuary of solace and healing, could ultimately become a kind of a trap, a landscape of nightmares. If you were utterly alone, would it be possible to look within for the tools and the strength to escape? That notion just fascinated me.
  1. Are you a big reader? If so, wßhat are you reading now?
    I am never without a book. I read constantly! Right now, I am reading
    Circles Around the Sun by Molly McCloskey. It’s a riveting non-fiction work about a boy who develops schizophrenia, and the journey his sister undertakes to try and understand what has happened to him.
  1. Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
    Stephen King, in his book,
    On Writing, advises that you should never tell anyone the story you want to write, because if you do, you no longer NEED to write it. I agree. Actually finishing a book is so difficult that I find I need that sense of urgency in order to get it done.

    Finishing your work is essential, because without something complete, you’ve got nothing to sell. Finish it, and then rework it. I find that a piece is seldom ‘great’ unless a whole lot of editing and crafting has gone into it









Continue reading Author Interview / Miranda Sherry

18 Nov 2016

Interview / Elise Hahl


Life is tough, but so are you!

Learn how to work through life’s trials with advice from popular youth speakers who have endured a few challenges of their own. This encouraging book will help you see trials as essential stepping-stones to becoming the person you’re destined to be.


1.  If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?
David McCullough. I went to an event where he spoke about The Wright Brothers and it was awesome--so inspiring. He tells history by concentrating on characters, which makes his books so much fun to read. David McCullough also grew up in Pittsburgh (where I live now) so that's a bonus.

2.  What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?
I'm a stay-at-home mom to five young kids, but every once in a while, a writing project comes along that really excites me (like You've Got Thisand then I arrange for a cousin or nanny to come help me for a couple of months. Writing happens at my desk while the older kids are at school, and I take breaks during the day to do little things with the younger ones. When the older kids come back on the bus, my writing day is over. (Of course, sometimes my childcare runs out before the project is over, and then I have to work during the "graveyard shift" -- 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. That happened a few times with You've Got This. I don't recommend it!)

3.  What is the hardest part of the writing for you?
Staring at a blank screen at the beginning of a project is the hardest part for me. I find myself suddenly doing a lot of online shopping.

4.  When and why did you first start writing?
I think I realized how much I liked writing on my mission in Brazil. Writing in my journal became an opportunity to make myself laugh about the day, especially if it hadn't gone very well.

5.  How did you come up with the idea for your book?
I can't take credit for You've Got This; a publisher approached me with the idea of creating a book for youth about overcoming challenges. What cause could be better, though? I said yes. I wanted this book to be accessible and fun, but I also wanted it to teach profound lessons. The contributors to this book -- Al Carraway, Hank Smith, the "Sistas In Zion," Dallas Lloyd, Whitney Laycock, Chad Hymas -- they really came through. I couldn't have asked for more.

6.  Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?
With five kids, I'm a big reader of Dr. Seuss, for the most part. Still, I'm currently reading Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton, which is fantastic. It helps that I've memorized most of the lines to the rap battles from the Broadway musical, of course.

7.  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?

Become a grammar expert. Learning how words and phrases work will empower you to create the effects you want with your writing. I recommend Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale for some light reading!
Continue reading Interview / Elise Hahl

17 Nov 2016

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Series Review / Hush Hush Series by Becca Fitzpatrick


A SACRED OATH
A FALLEN ANGEL
A FORBIDDEN LOVE


Romance was not part of Nora Grey's plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life.

Published:     2009
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Hush Hush Series
Source:  Owned


MY REVIEW

What I liked about this series...  It was back in 2010 when I first picked up this book and I remembered that I really loved it so I thought it was about time that I picked up the rest of the series and I am so that that I did.  Despite the fact that this series would probably still work if it was a duology, I found this series really fun to read, especially the interactions between Patch and Nora.

What I liked the most about this series was more the world-building and the aggravation between the different 'characters'.  I use that word loosely because I don't want to spoil the story for those who have not read this series yet.  You have a great good guys and bad guys storyline in this series and it was great fun trying to figure out who was who.  OK so there's nothing really complicated with this but I just went into this to have some fun and I most certainly did. 

What I didn't like about this series...    I would have loved to have had more surprise in this series.  I had already anticipated how the story would go before I got there at every turn.   I would have loved for something to have been unexpected to completely throw me off my place.  I had hoped it might happen but that hope did not come to much I am afraid.  There were times also that I got a bit frustrated with the main character Nora.  Despite the obvious actions that need to be taken at certain points, she seems to do the exact opposite and get herself in even more trouble than she was before and she could have avoided it completely if she had thought about what she was doing before she did it.












Continue reading Series Review / Hush Hush Series by Becca Fitzpatrick

8 Nov 2016

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Book Review / I was Saved by the Bell by Peter Engel

Peter Engel, one of the most prolific producers in television with more than 1,000 episodes produced under his banner, single handedly created the teen sitcom with Saved By The Bell, which he executive produced through all of its many incarnations, and which led to his many other teen series. As if defining and conquering the teen arena wasn't enough, Peter produced the iconic Last Comic Standing, enabling the discovery of an entirely new, fresh generation of comedians.

Peter’s work was inspired by his own personal journey that took him through the injustices of the 1950s; meeting JFK and working for his election in 1960, with the catastrophic letdown that followed; his dream in the 1970s of making “important” television; his loves, marriages, family, and faith; and, in the 1990s and 2000s, finding his greatest success where he least expected it. Along the way, Peter encountered some of the most iconic personalities of his times.

I Was Saved by the Bell is the chronicle of Peter’s amazing journey. His stories will make you laugh, cry, and want them never to end. Together, they are a master class on life from the perspective of a man who grew up during a time of great uncertainty and came of age in an era of hope and promise. With the ups and downs of the decades as a backdrop, Peter opens his heart and shares the experiences of his own good times, bad times, reflection, redemption, and, ultimately, joy and satisfaction of a life lived the only way he could—with passion.


Published:     15th November 2016
Publisher:  Top Hat Words
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Stand Alone, Non-Fiction
Source:  Review Copy from Publisher

 



MY REVIEW

First of all I have to admit that I am completely bias when it comes to Peter Engel, not that I know him or have met him in any way but purely by the fact that two of my favourite TV shows of all time are Saved by the Bell and California Dreams, both of which I would have never known had it not have been for Peter Engel.

I always find it fascinating when reading about other people's lives that it never usually is how you  think it is.  I had thought that a big time producer would have had all the best luck and quite a happy live but sadly that was not always the case for Peter Engel.  There were parts of Peter's story that I found heartbreaking but equally I found parts to be really uplifting, especially when he has a change of perspective on life and religion.  I also liked the fact that even though the main reason I picked this up was because of Saved by the Bell this book didn't concentrate on it longer than it needed to be.  It was interesting to learn more about the producer of the show rather than the show itself. 

For fans of any of his shows including Saved by the Bell, California Dreams, Hang time, City Guys and many more, this is a book not to be missed.  



Continue reading Book Review / I was Saved by the Bell by Peter Engel

6 Nov 2016

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Book Review / Tragidoodles by Ben Cameron


Ben Cameron’s tragidoodles have been hailed as “the most upsetting doodles in the world” (Mirror) and as the work of “an artist with a knack for pulling on the internet’s heartstrings” (Buzzfeed).

This first-ever printed collection brings together Ben’s most popular, heartbreaking, bittersweet and endlessly witty cartoons, combining his viral creations with brand new, never-before-shared illustrations. Flip through and witness the dinosaurs’ final moments on Earth, a melting candle facing its all but certain demise, a hedgehog who’s just looking for love, an existential bear and a host of other creatures who are just trying to make it through the day.

Packed with 101 illustrations that will make you sad, make you laugh, and then make you feel bad for laughing, Tragidoodles is a must-have collection and the perfect Christmas gift.



Published:     3rd November 2016
Publisher:  Unbound
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Stand-Alone
Source:  Review Copy from Publisher


 



MY REVIEW

Despite the tragic nature of this book, it really was great fun to read and adore the doodles and the pictures are that, doodles.  There's nothing complicated about the pictures, I appreciated them for what they were and the messages they stood for.   For me, not all of the doodles were tragic.  Some were sad and some just made me laugh out loud.  

This would be a great book to pick up as a gift, especially for Christmas as it is just around the corner :-)










Continue reading Book Review / Tragidoodles by Ben Cameron

3 Nov 2016

Month in Review / October 2016

My reading for October has been a lot more relaxed than other months but with the books that I chose to read they really deserved to be read at a slower pace than I usually do.  If I had to pick a favourite for this month I would really struggle to choose just one.  For starters I finished the Ransom Canyon series, which I loved and can't believe that it's over! There needs to be more in that series!  Then there is The Day I Lost You which was truly heartbreaking with a very interesting twist to it.   The other favourite of mine was Apprentice in Death.  Even though I didn't start from book 1 in this series (which is something I nearly never do) I have loved every instalment I have been able to get my hands on.  One of these days I will start from book 1 but as this is a series that has over 43 books in it,  that may take a while!

BOOKS READ




BOOKS RECEIVED
 

GOOD PEOPLE
It's late 1938. Thomas Heiselberg has built a career in Berlin as a market researcher for an American advertising company.

In Leningrad, twenty-two-year-old Sasha Weissberg has grown up eavesdropping on the intellectual conversations in her parents' literary salon.

They each have grand plans for their lives. Neither of them thinks about politics too much, but after catastrophe strikes they will have no choice.

Thomas puts his research skills to work elaborating Nazi propaganda. Sasha persuades herself that working as a literary editor of confessions for Stalin's secret police is the only way to save her family.
When destiny brings them together, they will have to face the consequences of the decisions they have made.


EVERYWHERE I LOOK
Spanning fifteen years of work, Everywhere I Look is a book full of unexpected moments, sudden shafts of light, piercing intuition, flashes of anger and incidental humour. It takes us from backstage at the ballet to the trial of a woman for the murder of her newborn baby. It moves effortlessly from the significance of moving house to the pleasure of re-reading Pride and Prejudice.

Everywhere I Look includes Garner's famous and controversial essay on the insults of age, her deeply moving tribute to her mother and extracts from her diaries, which have been part of her working life for as long as she has been a writer. Everywhere I Look glows with insight. It is filled with the wisdom of life.



SAINT DEATH

A potent, powerful and timely thriller about migrants, drug lords and gang warfare set on the US/Mexican border by prize-winning novelist, Marcus Sedgwick.

Anapra is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Mexican city of Juarez - twenty metres outside town lies a fence - and beyond it - America - the dangerous goal of many a migrant. Faustino is one such trying to escape from the gang he's been working for. He's dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding and now he's on the run. He and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they're as good as dead. Watching over them is Saint Death. Saint Death (or Santissima Muerte) - she of pure bone and charcoal-black eye, she of absolute loyalty and neutral morality, holy patron to rich and poor, to prostitute and narco-lord, criminal and police-chief. A folk saint, a rebel angel, a sinister guardian.


HAUNT ME
Joe wakes up from a deep sleep to see his family leave in a removals van. Where they've gone, he has no idea. Erin moves house and instantly feels at home in her new room. Even if it appears she isn't the only one living in it. Bit by bit, Erin and Joe discover that they have somehow found a way across the ultimate divide - life and death. Bound by their backgrounds, a love of poetry and their growing feelings for each other, they are determined to find a way to be together.

Joe's brother, Olly, never cared much for poetry. He was always too busy being king of the school - but that all changed when Joe died. And when an encounter in the school corridor brings him face to face with Erin, he realises how different things really are - including the kind of girl he falls for.

Two brothers. Two choices. Will Erin's decision destroy her completely, or can she save herself before she is lost forever?





Continue reading Month in Review / October 2016

2 Nov 2016

Cover Reveal / The Beauty by Lindsay Mead


Can love thrive in a kingdom of secrets?

Rumors of King Aleksander abound, sowing seeds of fear and doubt among the populace. Worse, there’s only so much Belle can do to repair the damage caused by the former Bishop’s fear-mongering. With challenges and new enemies threatening, the couple will have to prove the strength of their love.

Of course, a cure for the king and his cursed people could solve everything. It may be as simple as reaching out to the right scientists, or maybe it’s all beyond the ingenuity of man. Tensions mount as old foes refuse to stay dead and unexpected revelations leave the future uncertain. But ultimately, it’s the half-truths that could lead to heartbreak.

The Beauty is the second book in The Hunter Legends, a re-imagining of the infamous love between a beauty and a beast.

Continue reading Cover Reveal / The Beauty by Lindsay Mead

1 Nov 2016

Book Review / IT by Stephen King



To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live.

It was the children who saw - and felt - what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one's deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .

The adults, knowing better, knew nothing.

Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.





Published:     15th September 1986
Publisher:  Hodder & Stoughton
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Stand-Alone
Source:  Owned

 


MY REVIEW

What I loved about this story...   IT has been a story that I have loved for years but have only followed it by watching the movie.  I cannot tell you the amount of times I have watched it, it must be going into triple digits now.  The one thing I realised that I hadn't done is actually read the book and I know exactly why I haven't.  At 912 pages long, with the font smaller and closer together than usual, I found this book to be very daunting to read; not to mention heavy to hold for long periods of time.  I decided to pick this up as an audio book and I am so happy that I did.   The audio book was narrated by Steven Weber and although I am not an expert in audio books, Steven Weber by far was the best narrator I have ever listened to.

What I love and have loved since the very first time I watched the movie is the main characters, watching them form a bond when they were children and watching them coming back together after nearly 30 years apart but seeming like time has never flown by.  Friendship conquers all, including evil...

What I didn't like about this story...   What I didn't like is probably the very thing that stopped me from wanting to pick up the book to read it in the first place - the length of the book.  This story is incredibly long with masses of description in every scene.  I don't know whether the fact that I watched the movie first has affected by perspective on this but I just felt that a lot of the descriptions were really unnecessary.  If this book was cut down to a 500 page book, losing some of the description, it would still be fantastic, in my opinion. 


Continue reading Book Review / IT by Stephen King

Book Review / Reckoning by Magda Szubanski


 Heartbreaking, joyous, traumatic, intimate and revelatory, Reckoning is the book where Magda Szubanski, one of Australia’s most beloved performers, tells her story.

In this extraordinary memoir, Magda describes her journey of self-discovery from a suburban childhood, haunted by the demons of her father’s espionage activities in wartime Poland and by her secret awareness of her sexuality, to the complex dramas of adulthood and her need to find out the truth about herself and her family. With courage and compassion she addresses her own frailties and fears, and asks the big questions about life, about the shadows we inherit and the gifts we pass on.

Honest, poignant, utterly captivating, Reckoning announces the arrival of a fearless writer and natural storyteller. It will touch the lives of its readers.





Published:     23rd September 2015
Publisher:  Text Publishing
Goodreads :  Click here
Series or Stand-Alone:  Stand Alone, Non-Fiction
Source:  Review Copy from Publisher

 
 MY REVIEW

I have to be honest and say that I had never heard of Magda until reading this book.  The main reason for wanting to read it was the description on the back.  It sounded like Magda was an interesting person to read about and I was right, she is.  

What I found the most fascinating is actually the story of her childhood and her family, especially her father's story.   I also liked the fact that despite Magda being a comedienne her story was not always told with a hint of humour, there are sad parts, happy parts etc..

This was an interesting read that I would highly recommend to both those who have heard of Magda and for those who haven't.  I am definitely going to be checking out more of her work.


Magda Szubanski is one of Australia’s best known and most loved performers. She began her career in university revues, then appeared in a number of sketch comedy shows before creating the iconic character of Sharon Strzelecki in ABC-TV’s Kath and Kim. She has also acted in films (Babe, Babe: Pig in the City, Happy Feet, The Golden Compass) and stage shows.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 

In conversation about her new memoir Reckoning on:

Wednesday 2 November @ 19:00 Waterstones Brighton
Tickets: £5

Thursday 3 November @ 19:00
Tickets: £5

Saturday 5 November @ 16:00
In conversation with Georgina Godwin, Books Editor, Monocle 24
Tickets: £12-15

Monday 7 November @ 18:30
Tickets: £5
Continue reading Book Review / Reckoning by Magda Szubanski

31 Oct 2016

GUEST POST / Andrew Joyce




Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage written about actually took place. 

The historical figures that play a role in this fact-based tale of fiction were real people and the author uses their real names. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century. This is American history.









ABOUT THE AUTHOR





Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until decades later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written five books, including a two-volume collection of one hundred and fifty short stories comprised of his hitching adventures called BEDTIME STORIES FOR GROWN-UPS (as yet unpublished), and his latest novel, YELLOW HAIR. He now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, tentatively entitled, MICK REILLY.

GUEST POST



My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. Debra has been kind enough to allow me a little space on her blog to talk about my latest, Yellow Hair.
Yellow Hair documents the injustices done to the Sioux Nation from their first treaty with the United States in 1805 through Wounded Knee in 1890. Every death, murder, battle, and outrage depicted actually took place—from the first to the last. The historical figures that play a role in my story were real people and I used their real names. I conjured up my protagonist only to weave together the various events conveyed in my fact-based tale of fiction. Yellow Hair is an epic tale of adventure, family, love, and hate that spans most of the 19th century. It is American history.
The inspiration for the book came to me when I was reading a short article and it made reference to the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862. It also mentioned that the outcome involved the largest mass execution in the history of the United States. That piqued my interest.

When I started my research into the incident, one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was documenting the entire history of the Sioux, who are also known as the Dakota, vis-à-vis the relationship between them and the United States.

Because the book exists only because I read the phrase, “the largest mass execution in the history of the United States,” I’ll tell you a little about that. What follows is an extremely abbreviated version of events.

The Dakota signed their first treaty with the United States in 1805 when they sold a small portion of their land to the Americans for the purpose of building forts. It was right after the Louisiana Purchase and President Jefferson wanted a presence in the West. At the time, “the West” was anything on the western side of the Mississippi River.

In the treaty of 1805, the Dakota sold 100,000 acres to the Americans. The agreed-upon price was $2.00 per acre. But when the treaty came up before the Senate for ratification, the amount was changed to two cents per acre. That was to be a precursor for all future treaties with the Americans. There were subsequent treaties in 1815, 1825, 1832, 1837, and 1851, and basically the same thing happened with all those treaties.

In 1837, the Americans wanted an additional five million acres of Dakota land. Knowing it would be a hard sell after the way they failed to live up to the letter or spirit of the previous treaties, the government brought twenty-six Dakota chiefs to Washington to show them the might and majesty that was The United States of America.

The government proposed paying one million dollars for the acreage in installments over a twenty-year period. Part of the payment was to be in the form of farm equipment, medicine, and livestock. Intimidated, the Indians signed the treaty and went home. The United States immediately laid claim to the lands—the first payment did not arrive for a year.

The significance of the 1837 treaty lies in the fact that it was the first time “traders” were allowed to lay claim to the Indians’ payments without any proof that money was owed . . . and without consulting the Indians. Monies were subtracted from the imbursements and paid directly to the traders.

By 1851, the Americans wanted to purchase all of the Dakota’s remaining lands—twenty-five million acres. The Sioux did not want to sell, but were forced to do so with threats that the army could be sent in to take the land from them at the point of a gun if they refused the American’s offer.

If we sell our land, where will we live?” asked the Dakota chief.

We will set aside land for the Dakota only. It is called a reservation and it will be along both banks of the Minnesota River, twenty miles wide, ten on each side and seventy miles long. It will be yours until the grasses no longer grow,” answered the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

The Dakota were offered six cents an acre for land that was worth at least a dollar an acre. The payment would be stretched out over a twenty year period and was to be made in the form of gold coins. One year later, in 1852, the Americans took half the reservation, the seventy miles on the north side of the river. The Dakota were now reduced from a nation of fierce, independent people to a people dependent on hand-outs from the ones who stole not only their land, but also their dignity.

The Dakota were forced to buy their food from the traders who ran trading posts at the Indian Agency the U.S. Government had set up on the reservation. All year long the Dakota would charge what they needed. When the yearly payment for their land arrived, the traders would take what they said was owed them. Subsequently, there was very little gold left for the Dakota.

By 1862, the Dakota were starving. That year’s payment was months late in arriving because of the Civil War. The traders were afraid that because of the war there would be no payment that year and cut off the Dakota’s credit. The Indian Agent had the power to force the traders to release some of the food stocks, but refused when asked to do so by the Dakota.

After they had eaten their ponies and dogs, and their babies cried out in the night from hunger, the Dakota went to war against the United States of America.

They attacked the agency first and liberated the food stock from the warehouse, killing many white people who lived there. Then bands of braves set out to loot the farms in the surrounding countryside.

Many whites were killed in the ensuing weeks. However, not all of the Dakota went to war. Many stayed on the reservation and did not pick up arms against their white neighbors. Some saved the lives of white settlers. Still, over 700 hundred whites lost their lives before the rebellion was put down.

When the dust settled, all of the Dakota—including women and children, and those people who had saved settlers’ lives—were made prisoners of war.

Three hundred and ninety-six men were singled out to stand trial before a military commission. They were each tried separately in trials that lasted only minutes. In the end, three hundred and three men were sentenced to death.

Even though he was occupied with the war, President Lincoln got involved. He reviewed all three hundred and three cases and pardoned all but thirty-eight of the prisoners.

On a gray and overcast December morning in 1862, the scaffold stood high. Thirty-eight nooses hung from its crossbeams. The mechanism for springing the thirty-eight trap doors had been tested and retested until it worked perfectly. At exactly noon, a signal was given, a lever pulled, and the largest mass execution to ever take place in the United States of America became part of our history.






Continue reading GUEST POST / Andrew Joyce