About Me

My photo
United Kingdom
I'm a librarian based in the UK who loves books. I'm happiest when I'm either talking about them, reading them or buying them. This blog is dedicated mainly to my addiction to YA fiction but you will also find some adult and non-fiction book reviews as well.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Review: Secrets in the Snow - Michaela MacColl

Secrets in the Snow by Michaela MacColl, published by Chronicle Books on 4th October 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Jane Austen's family is eager to secure her future by marrying her off. But Jane is much more interested in writing her novels, and finds every suitor lacking—until the mysterious Mr. Lefroy arrives. Could he be the one? Before Jane can find out, she must solve a murder, clear her family's name, and face a decision that might cost her true love.

This book has a beautiful front cover which drew me in, along with the fact that the story draws on the life of Jane Austen who I am a massive fan of.  'Secrets in the Snow' is a fictionalised account of a moment in Austen's life when she meets Irishman Tom Lefroy and solves a murder in the process.  It was an interesting mix of fact and fiction which is something that Michaela MacColl does really well.  I thought that the character of Jane Austen was brilliantly written and I felt that her personality had been captured beautifully.  She came alive on the page and I particularly liked how witty and insightful she is, as well as being incredibly observant of everything and everyone around her.

The story draws parallels with 'Pride and Prejudice', suggesting that Tom Lefroy and his family may have served as inspiration for the well loved tale of the Bennett sisters.  It is an interesting link to make and while we will never know if it is true or not, it was an intriguing angle to explore.  Incidentally, if you do want to read more about Jane and Tom, then 'Becoming Jane' is a fantastic book and looks at their relationship in more detail.   

MacColl's plot delves into a mystery surrounding Jane's cousin Eliza who is suspected of helping the French, England's enemy.  When a body is discovered, events take an even more serious turn but Jane is never one to back down and plunges headfirst into solving the case.  While the mystery itself may not have been terribly complicated and was fairly simple to figure out, the treat was in seeing how a determined Jane goes about getting answers, not letting any of the menfolk stand in her way.

This was another great book by an author who weaves together fact and fiction wonderfully well.  I would recommend to other Austen fans.    


Thursday, 10 November 2016

Review: Passenger - Alexandra Bracken

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, published by Quercus in 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
In one night, Etta Spencer is wrenched from everything she knows and loves. Thrown into an unfamiliar world, she can be certain of only one thing: she has travelled not just miles, but years from home.
Captain Nicholas Carter is tasked with delivering Etta to the dangerous Ironwood family. They are searching for something - a stolen object they believe only she can reclaim. But Nicholas is drawn to his mysterious passenger, and the closer he gets to her, the further he is from freedom.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by a desperate thief. But as Etta plays deeper into the Ironwoods' game, treacherous forces threaten to separate her not only from Nicholas, but from her path home - for ever.

A huge book at nearly 500 pages, this is one that I'd wanted to get my hands on for ages.  I was super excited to get a copy and dived into it immediately.  I can't believe that it actually ended up taking me ages to finish reading it though.  I picked it up and put it down over and over again, reading a single chapter here or there until finally finishing it.  I'm amazed that I managed to persevere with it because I kept thinking that it would suddenly grab me and hook me in and yet it never did.

I found the story very unusual and quite different to the subject matter I was expecting.  It was essentially about time travel and so was set in lots of different countries and different time periods such as New York 1776, Damascus 1599 and Paris 1880.  I personally found that this made the plot hard to follow and unnecessarily drawn out.  I think the main issue I had with the book was that I just didn't buy into the relationship between the two main characters, Nicholas and Etta.  Their journeys are linked as they search for an elusive missing object and as they begin to learn more about each other, they grow closer together.

I don't think that I will be continuing with the series as it was a relief to finally get to the end of the book.  It's such a shame because I had high hopes for it and it came with a stunning recommendation on the front cover from one of my favourite authors, Sarah J. Maas.  I have since read mixed reviews of 'Passenger' and the majority of them have been very positive, so if you like stories about time-travel then maybe give it a go.  Sadly, it wasn't for me.     

Monday, 7 November 2016

Review: The Amateurs - Sara Shepard

The Amateurs by Sara Shepard, published by Hot Key Books on 6th October 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
When Aerin Kelly was eleven, she idolised her seventeen-year-old sister, Helena, and they did everything together. But when Helena went into senior year things started to change. Rather than being Aerin's inseparable sister, she started to push her away. Then, on a snowy winter's day, Helena vanished.

Four years later, Helena's body is found. Wracked with grief and refusing to give up on her sister, Aerin spends months trying to figure out what exactly happened to Helena and who killed her. But the police have no leads. A young, familiar officer named Thomas wants to help and suggests she checks out a website called Case Not Closed. Hesitantly, she posts, and when teenagers Seneca and Maddox show up on her doorstep offering to help investigate she accepts in desperation. Both have suffered their own losses and also posted to the site with no luck, so they are hoping this case might be the one they crack. But as their investigation begins, it seems that maybe it's no accident that they are all together, and that maybe the crimes have something - or someone - in common.

This is a gloriously twisty who-dunnit.  One of my favourite kind of books to read, as I have so much fun attempting to unravel the mystery.  In this case, the puzzle of who killed Helena, Aerin Kelly's big sister and why.

Sara Shepard has followed in the footsteps of her hugely successful Pretty Little Liars series and written a story with the same sense of mystery and intrigue.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep readers on their toes and there are lots of tiny clues thrown in which you need to watch out for.  I love stories like this which keep me glued to the pages. 

Initially, I'll admit that I wasn't entirely sold on some of the characters.  There's Aerin herself, who desperately wants to find her sister's killer, Seneca who thrives on solving cold cases, plus Maddy, Brett and co.  They all grew on me however and I liked the way that they bounced ideas off each other and everyone helped to piece all the clues together.  They each had different motivations for wanting to investigate the case and it was interesting learning more about them as individuals and their own dark pasts. 

The second half of the book was even better than the first as secrets start to get spilt and peoples' true characters come to light.  The ending was a stroke of pure genius and was brilliant because I never saw it coming.  'The Amateurs' was a super read and I'm thrilled that there will be another instalment in the series next year.  There's no doubt that I will be lining up to get my hands on it.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Review: For Better or Worse - Lauren Layne

For Better or Worse by Lauren Layne, published by Headline Eternal on 30th August 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
When small-town girl Heather Fowler finally gets promoted from assistant to actual wedding planner, she's determined to make it as one of Manhattan's elite Wedding Belles. Unfortunately, her first client demands an opulent black-tie affair at the Plaza...in five months' time. Heather's days quickly become a flurry of cake tastings, dress-fittings, RSVP cards, and bridal tantrums. But what she's really losing sleep over is the live music blaring from her playboy neighbor's apartment all night.

Five years ago, Josh Tanner was an up-and-comer on Wall Street, complete with the penthouse and the migraines. But a grim diagnosis made him realize there is more to life than the corner office. If only he could convince his pretty, workaholic neighbor to let loose, too. As Heather lets down her guard, Josh is surprised when he starts falling for the sweet, vulnerable woman hiding beneath those power suits. Soon, it's Heather's turn to convince Josh to take the biggest risk of all: love.

‘For Better or Worse’ by Lauren Layne is the second book in the Wedding Belles series. I really enjoyed the opener to the series so I was excited about starting this one. The focus this time around is on Heather, who has always dreamed of living in New York. She is planning a wedding for a big name reality star and she is working towards what she hopes will be a much sought after promotion.

I thought Heather was a fantastic character. She is smart, witty and ambitious and very single-minded.  She is determined to achieve her goals and ambitions and achieve all of her hopes and dreams. Looking to side track Heather along the way is her next door neighbour Josh. I adored the banter between the two of them. Their first encounter is a fiery one and paves the way for sparks to literally sizzle every time they are near each other.

After their rocky start, I liked the way that Heather and Josh were first and foremost friends. The attraction that they share is obvious to see but they are good friends before something more in the way of romance develops. They gradually become entwined into each other’s lives and families but Josh is hiding a big secret about his past and you just know it’s going to throw things all out of kilter when it is revealed. 

The ending of the story is spectacularly good. It couldn’t have been more perfectly written and left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.   

I can’t wait for the next book in the series about Alexis and Logan. This is the one I’ve really been dying to read. Lauren Layne has struck gold with the Wedding Belles series and her winning formula is sure to win her lots of new fans, as well as please all of her old ones.  

Monday, 31 October 2016

Review: The Trouble with Mistletoe - Jill Shalvis

The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 27th September 2016

Goodreads synopsis:

Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand. He needs a kitty sitter, stat. But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn't even remember her...

He'll get nothing but coal in his stocking. Saddled with his great-aunt's Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else's capable hands. But in spite of the fact that he's sure he's never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him...

Unless he tempers 'naughty' with a special kind of nice... Willa can't deny that Keane's changed since high school: he's less arrogant, for one thing - but he doesn't even remember her. How can she trust him not to break her heart again? It's time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish - and let the mistletoe do its work...

‘The Trouble with Mistletoe’ is another cracker from the pen of Jill Shalvis and the second book in the Heartbreaker Bay series. Featuring cute animals, Christmas mistletoe and a sweet romance, it is the perfect wintery read for romance lovers.

The story centres around Willa, a local pet shop owner and Keane, the high school boy all grown-up, who doesn’t remember who she is. Willa has been scarred by her past and is afraid to let herself love. Keane has also had his own issues to overcome but is entranced by Willa and can’t stay away. The two were both such great characters that I was rooting for them from the very beginning. Willa in particular, radiated warmth from every page. I love the way that she tries to help other vulnerable young women by giving them a fresh start and somewhere safe to work. She and Keane have great chemistry and although their relationship doesn’t get off on the best foot, it doesn’t take long to see that they are made for each other.

It was great to revisit some familiar faces in the story and although it took me longer to fall for Keane the way that Willa does, he soon became part of the gang and was welcomed into the fold. Jill Shalvis has a wonderful way of creating such fantastic communities in her books. Friends become family and they always seem like they would do anything for each other.    

I can’t really say enough great things about Jill Shalvis’s books. If you are a romance fan then you need to discover her for yourself because her stories are the perfect treat tied up with a shiny ribbon on the top. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Review: Thin Air - Michelle Paver

Thin Air by Michelle Paver, published by Orion on 6th October 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
In 1935, young medic Stephen Pearce travels to India to join an expedition with his brother, Kits. The elite team of five will climb Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain and one of mountaineering's biggest killers. No one has scaled it before, and they are, quite literally, following in the footsteps of one of the most famous mountain disasters of all time - the 1907 Lyell Expedition.

Five men lost their lives back then, overcome by the atrocious weather, misfortune and 'mountain sickness' at such high altitudes. Lyell became a classic British hero when he published his memoir, Bloody, But Unbowed, which regaled his heroism in the face of extreme odds.

As the team prepare for the epic climb, Pearce's unease about the expedition deepens. The only other survivor of the 1907 expedition, Charles Tennant, warns him off. He hints of dark things ahead and tells Pearce that, while five men lost their lives on the mountain, only four were laid to rest.

But Pearce is determined to go ahead and complete something that he has dreamed of his entire life. As they get higher and higher, and the oxygen levels drop, he starts to see dark things out of the corners of his eyes. As macabre mementoes of the earlier climbers turn up on the trail, Stephen starts to suspect that Charles Lyell's account of the tragedy was perhaps not the full story...

‘Thin Air’ by Michelle Paver was an atmospheric and chilling read. Described as a ‘ghost story’, it was certainly subtly unnerving. You are never quite sure what to make of the things you see and hear. Are they real or are they signs of madness in the thin mountain air?

The story is about an expedition to scale Kangchenjuna, the world’s 3rd highest mountain. Set in 1935, Stephen, a young medic, along with his brother and a group of other men, set off to follow in the footsteps of those who came before them. A previous expedition in 1906 went terribly wrong when five men failed to return, so the omens don’t look good from the beginning. 

The action unfolds through the eyes of Stephen as he begins to seemingly lose his grasp on reality. The fact that he may not be a reliable narrator, means that the reader has to question everything that happens. Although I found the story quite slow in the beginning and I struggled a bit with the glacial pace, it did pick up as it progressed and the ending was brilliant. 

I enjoyed the details of how the men survive on the mountain and the sense of adventure and the great unknown that Paver creates.  Her writing is always very visual and descriptive and I could quite easily imagine the bitter cold and lack of air that the men have to deal with.

Although I don't think I found it as scary as some ghost stories I have read before, it was still quite spooky and after reading 'Thin Air', I don't think I'll ever look at a rucksack in the same way again!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Review: The Women in the Walls - Amy Lukavics

The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics, published by Simon and Schuster on 6th October 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Lucy Acosta's mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They're inseparable—a family.

When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she's ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother's voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin's sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.

‘The Women in the Walls’ was quite frankly terrifying and pretty gruesome. If you are a fan of the horror genre and are looking for a book which will make your skin crawl, then look no further. The release of this title is perfectly timed to coincide with Halloween, although I strongly wouldn’t recommend reading it without all the lights in the house being on and maybe someone to hold your hand!

Personally, I’m not a big fan of horrors and although I enjoyed Amy Lukavic’s debut novel ‘Daughters Unto Devils’, there was something decidedly unsettling about this story which didn’t sit well with me. The story itself centres around Lucy Acosta, who after the death of her mother has grown-up with her Aunt Penelope and Cousin Margaret by her side. Living on a huge estate, things start unravelling swiftly from the beginning. First the Cook is found hanging, then her Aunt disappears into the woods and then Lucy’s cousin starts acting out of character. It almost feels like there is a malicious presence lingering in the house.

Lucy is an interesting character but a lot of the time I couldn’t quite make up my mind whether I actually liked her or not. She has a difficult relationship with members of her family and hides a big secret which gave some further insight into her personality. However, I was never sure whether I could entirely trust her.

This was a fairly short book, so the story started off at a breakneck pace and never really slowed down. It’s not entirely clear what is happening until the second half of the story and by then you just want it to stop (or at least I did!). There are some incredibly gruesome moments in the book and I have to give a nod to Amy Lujkavic for the way that she describes these scenes in such detail that you will feel like every hair on your body is standing on end.

Having had some time to think about it, I feel that it’s probably more the fact that the genre didn’t suit me, than that this is a bad read. When I was a teenager, I never liked the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine either (I think I scare myself too much) so I was always going to struggle a bit with anything like this. If, however, you enjoy a story which will give you the frights then this might be just the one for you. 

Related Posts with Thumbnails