Thursday, 28 February 2013

From The Review Pile (43)


From the Review Pile is a meme hosted by Stepping Out of the Page every Thursday.
The aim of this meme is to showcase books that you've received for review (or if you don't receive review books, any book that you own and really want to read/review) but haven't yet got around to reading, in order to give the book some extra publicity.

I know that a lot of you have a huge pile of books that you want to read/review, but it understandably takes a while to get around to reading them all - here you can give a book (or two!) some of the publicity that it deserves, even if you haven't read it yet!

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This week, I'm going to showcase Birdsong!

I returned from a visit to the Battlefields of France and Belgium this week and I am really eager to read more books that are set during the First World War as it really interests me. I was actually given this book as part of a school history award several years ago, but never got around to picking it up. I loved the TV adaptation and can't wait to have the time to read the book. 


Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Paperback, 518 Pages

Published 1994 by Vintage Books

Published to international critical and popular acclaim, this intensely romantic yet stunningly realistic novel spans three generations and the unimaginable gulf between the First World War and the present. As the young Englishman Stephen Wraysford passes through a tempestuous love affair with Isabelle Azaire in France and enters the dark, surreal world beneath the trenches of No Man's Land, Sebastian Faulks creates a world of fiction that is as tragic as A Farewell to Arms and as sensuous as The English Patient. Crafted from the ruins of war and the indestructibility of love, Birdsong is a novel that will be read and marveled at for years to come.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Honey Queen


The Honey Queen by Cathy Kelly
Hardback

Expected Publication: 1st March 2013 by Harper Collins

My shelves: adult-fiction, arc-or-review, books-i-own, chick-lit, mum-has, read, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

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…

Whilst this was only the second book written by Cathy Kelly that I've picked up, I was very excited to see what it was like. Cathy Kelly has already got a firm place in my mind as an author that I can turn to when I want something that I can really get absorbed into. This is a book that I felt I could unwind with and read all day.

Though this is a book that I could easily relax with, that doesn't mean that it's lacking in substance. Kelly seems to have an ability to hook you in and feel comfortable with her stories, even if she is tackling some very difficult or taboo subjects at the same time. I love books that explore everyday problems and it is great to see them being explored in such a good, well thought out manner. There are a lot of things going on in this book - from one character mourning the death of her husband to the stabilisation of a rocky marriage and even to the issue of past abuse. Most of the characters mentioned are interlinked in some way - relationships understandably play a large part in this book and it's interesting to see how they interact and come together. 

Although I admire the author for being able to create so many well developed and complex characters with their own subplots, this was also, partially, a flaw in the book. Kelly introduced so many characters into this book that the first chapters felt quite confusing and even a little overwhelming - I think that most people will struggle to remember so many names and stories at first. Thankfully, as the book progressed I did find myself being more quickly able to identify each character.  It is certainly worth persisting with this book, even if you do become a little confused at first. Though there are a vast array of characters, Kelly manages to give them all very distinct and multi-layered personalities, which is such an impressive achievement.

I can't say that there was a particular character or story that I connected with most, which is actually quite a great compliment - I connected with each and every character and subplot. Though some of the characters were initially a little more difficult to relate to, I did grow to like them all, each in their own way with their own quirks - including the lesser mentioned supporting characters.

Although I've only read one other Cathy Kelly book (so far!), I would certainly imagine that if you're a fan of hers, you will enjoy this one - it does draw a lot of parallels from others, dealing with similar issues. It is so clear that Kelly is a talented writer and that she has a lot of experience alongside it. I'd certainly recommend this book to any adult who enjoys reading realistic fiction and/or books that deal with real-life problems. 

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday (40)


Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's ReviewsShowcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea.
These memes are a replacement of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox.

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday make a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.


I wassent three books for review in the past week - all for different ages and with very different ideas behind them. The three books were the The Day I Met Suzie, A Cottage by the Sea and Yeti Rescue.

My week was really made when I returned from a trip to find that a finished copy of A Month With April-May had been delivered and that I had been quoted in it! 




I hope you've all had a great week. Happy reading!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Blog Tour Stop: Grace Grows



I started reading Grace Grows earlier this week, and I am really enjoying it so far! Although it is an adult chick-lit book, I know that it will certainly be a hit with a lot of you young adult fans, too! I truly think that this will be a hit with a lot of you and so I jumped at the chance of hosting a blog tour stop!
Here, author Shelle Sumners shares a piece about her writing process.

Storytelling and Writing
My novel Grace Grows was born in an early morning dream. The dream was brief, a vignette, but so compelling that it startled me awake. These are the basic images and feelings it gave me:
            A man and a woman are together, at a waterfall, watching the water flow.
            He’s a musician.
She wants to help him.
They love each other, but cannot acknowledge it.
I sat up in bed, still half asleep, and grabbed a pen. Further understandings and knowledge of these people and their situation poured through me until I had 18 legal-pad pages of notes. Much of the story outline was already in place.
Before I started writing, I pondered what kind of book this would be. I’d just completed the first draft of my first novel when this idea came to me so unexpectedly. So, as a self-taught, evolving, experimenting novelist, I wanted to try a couple of new things: I decided to tell this story in first person, from my female characters’ point of view; and, having just written a drama, I wanted to see if I could “write funny.”
As you will see when you read Grace Grows, there is another major experimental element: this novel, about a musician, has songs in it. They are real songs, written by my collaborator--real-life singer-songwriter Lee Morgan. Lee is so gifted that the very thought of featuring his creations within my story forced me to try to do my absolute best writing.
No pressure or anything.
Speaking of writing and pressures from within and without to be brilliant, here’s how I generally avoid becoming paralyzed by fear: I think of myself as simply a storyteller first, while getting that first draft on paper. The story is all that matters. In subsequent drafts, when I start analyzing and trying to improve on what I’ve done, start tinkering with the words and the structures, that is when I put on my writer hat.  
Thank you for allowing me to visit, and I hope you enjoy Grace Grows!

Shelle Sumners has held many jobs, among them waitress, actress, administrative assistant, copy editor, educational writer, bookseller, and wedding chapel receptionist. Her debut novel Grace Grows has a companion soundtrack of phenomenal original songs that appear in the story, written and performed by her husband, singer-songwriter and Broadway actor Lee Morgan. Shelle lives and writes in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.


Huge thanks to both Shelle and Allen and Unwin for making this blog tour possible! I hope that this has encouraged you to give this book a go. Keep checking back, as my personal review of Grace Grows will be posted very soon! For more info on Grace Grows and Shelle Sumners, check out the links below!


Twitter: @ShelleSumners

Thursday, 21 February 2013

From the Review Pile (42)


From the Review Pile is a meme hosted by Stepping Out of the Page every Thursday.
The aim of this meme is to showcase books that you've received for review (or if you don't receive review books, any book that you own and really want to read/review) but haven't yet got around to reading, in order to give the book some extra publicity.

I know that a lot of you have a huge pile of books that you want to read/review, but it understandably takes a while to get around to reading them all - here you can give a book (or two!) some of the publicity that it deserves, even if you haven't read it yet!

-----------------------------------
This week, I'm going to showcase Freeing Grace!

If you've been following my blog, you will know that I really enjoyed After the Fall which was published earlier this year. I was also sent Freeing Grace for review alongside After the Fall and I'm hoping that it will be just as good! 
Freeing Grace by Charity Norman
Paperback

Published March 2012 by Allen and Unwin

Warm, insightful and poignant, Freeing Grace tells the story of David, curate of an inner-city parish, and Leila, his Nigerian-born wife. Unable to have children of their own, they're desperate for a family. When they finally hear they've been approved to adopt a baby, Grace, they can scarcely believe their good fortune. 
There's just one problem for which David and Leila cannot plan; Grace's birth family - the enigmatic, charismatic Harrisons. Enlisting their friend, the feckless, charming New Zealander, Jake Kelly - who's half in love with all of them, one way or another - the Harrisons send him on a quest that will force a confrontation. Ultimately, each has a terrible decision to make. 
Everyone only wants what's best for Grace - but who can say exactly what that is?

Monday, 18 February 2013

Dance of Shadows

Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black

Paperback, 389 pages

Published 12th February 2013 by Bloomsbury

My shelves: books-i-own, arc-or-review, supernatural, series-or-companions, read-in-2013, magical-realism, magic, better-than-expected, cover-appeal
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

Vanessa doesn’t believe that her sister is a runaway. She wouldn’t leave her family behind without saying a word. The only way Vanessa can discover the truth behind her mysterious disappearance is to follow in Margaret’s footsteps, but to do so she risks her sanity and maybe even her life . . .

Vanessa Adler is one of the talented few to get a place at the acclaimed New York Ballet Academy. Between backbreaking rehearsals for the school’s production of The Firebird she desperately tries to find out what happened to her sister before she vanished. There are rumors that the pressure of performing the lead role, the same role Vanessa is now rehearsing for, drove her mad. Other girls have gone missing too. Can the role be cursed? Vanessa’s new relationship with leading-man Zep only seems to complicate things further. What is he hiding from her and can she really trust him?

Black Swan meets Gossip Girl in this thrilling first book in a new series. Sexy, sinister and full of secrets, readers will be hooked on Dance of Shadows from the first page. Look out for the sequel in 2014.

Dance of Shadows is one of the most highly anticipated books of 2013 and I was one of those who has been waiting eagerly for its release. I can't deny that I mainly wanted to pick the book up just because of the beautiful cover, but yes, the  plot did sound quite exciting too! 

At first, I wasn't completely sold when I read about this book - the story revolves around Vanessa, a student at the  New York Ballet Academy. I'm not opposed to dancing, but it's not something that interests me, it's not something I'd particularly want to read about. However, there was one aspect of this book that really did grab my attention - Vanessa's sister, along with several other members of the Ballet Academy have mysteriously gone missing throughout the years. I do like a bit of mystery and after reading some online material about Margaret, I just had to find out what happened to her. 

I was surprised how much I liked this book when I first started to read it - I thought it may take some getting used to, especially as I'm not into dancing. There, of course, is a lot of dancing and quite a few dance references in this book, but it never became overwhelming, which I was glad of. The dancing is very much the stepping stone for the paranormal aspect of this book and for the search for Margaret - the focus lies on what happens when Vanessa dances, which is something very unusual, something supernatural. I thought that discovering more about the unexplained disappearances was the most interesting part of the book, as I expected it to be - I couldn't predict what had happened to the missing girls. I was, however, pretty disappointed when we did find out what had happened - the revelation all seemed to come too fast and it seemed rushed, especially considering that there will be more books that this could've been more smoothly revealed and explored.

There were a good amount of characters in this book and whilst it was good for establishing the environment and atmosphere at the ballet academy, I thought that they all could have had some more depth. Most of the characters were likeable, but I don't feel that I know enough about them to really relate to them. I did like Vanessa's group of friends as they did seem like a genuinely good group of people. I thought the character of Josef could have been magnificent, he was intriguing and clearly had a past that would have made for fantastic reading. I will say that I was so disappointed about what happens to Josef in the end - simply because I think there was a lot of wasted potential. The romantic relationships in this book were okay - they held my attention but I could sort of predict what would happen in the end between Vanessa, Zep and Justin. I should hope that some sort of more complex relationship between the characters will appear in the future - there is room for development.

Overall, Dance of Shadows was an entertaining book which held my attention.  I think that it certainly has the potential to become a very popular series. The plot was interesting and I am still interested in the missing girls and in Vanessa's search for them. Unfortunately, for me, the book did slightly decrease in quality as it progressed, it seemed too rushed for me to enjoy it, as though the author was cramming things in just before the end of the book and this reflected in the quality of the writing. I will most probably read the next book in this series, and hope that both the plot and the characters deepen. 


Sunday, 17 February 2013

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday (39)


Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's ReviewsShowcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits and Tea.
These memes are a replacement of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox.

Stacking the Shelves and Showcase Sunday make a place to showcase your new books,
whether you obtained them through the post or otherwise.



One review book this week - and it sounds so amazing! I hadn't heard of Pretty Girl Thirteen before it came through the post, but it is something I would jump at the chance to read, it sounds just like my sort of read!


I haven't been purchasing many books recently, but this week I bought two, both of which have very interesting premises - 172 Hours On The Moon and Deadly Hemlock.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Speechless


Speechless by Hannah Harrington
Paperback

Expected Publication: February 2013 by Mira Ink

My shelves: arc-or-review, books-i-own, contemporary, lgbt-characters, lgbt-maintheme, read, read-in-2013, realistic-fiction, really-good, title-appeal, young-adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she’s ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there’s strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she’s done. If only she can forgive herself.


When I read Hannah Harrington's debut novel, I was left wanting more. When I heard about Speechless, I knew it would be a certain hit with me - the premise is refreshing and it's interesting. The storyline, teamed up with Harrington's clear talent for writing was bound to be a success with me - and I'm very glad to say that it was. 

Our protagonist is Chelsea Knot, a girl who decides to take an oath of silence after making a comment to people at a party, a comment which results in one boy being severely beaten due to his sexuality. Though Chelsea is our main character, we get to learn a lot about the people around her too - something that may not have been so easy if  Chelsea hadn't remained silent. I wasn't too sure how the whole book would work out, what with Chelsea being silent, but it worked out very well - there was no lack of communication with others - simply seeing how others communicated and reading Chelsea's internal monologue was enough - it was a very fascinating and interesting change which certainly made you think about the power of speech. 

I will say that I didn't like Chelsea much to begin with, and I don't think many people would particularly like her on paper, despite her representing so many high schoolers in society today. She was a popular girl who didn't really think before she spoke, mainly interested in the next source of gossip. Throughout the book, we see her develop into a much more mindful and more aware character - aware of herself and of the people around her. I admired Chelsea's vow and it did seem to have a worthwhile impact on the people around her, too. Chelsea, thankfully, realistically develops into a much more considerate character and a much more likeable one too - she is quite a gritty character underneath it all and I liked that side of her. She was much more easy to empathise with and a person that I would want to relate to. I truly enjoyed her transformation.

I loved the secondary characters in this book, as Chelsea befriended Asha and Sam, so did we - we learnt about them at her. Asha and Sam are two pretty average students at the school, but that's not a criticism - they seemed very real.  The friendship that the group formed was remarkable, probably one of the best friendships I have read about, again it was just so authentic. The romance between Chelsea and Sam was just sweet enough, Sam is such a beautiful book boyfriend.

This book brings an important issue to attention and deals with it very well. I love reading about LGBT topics, so this part of the book really interested me, and alongside the rest of the contemporary story, it made for a very fascinating and enjoyable read. Like Saving June, this is a highly recommended book and once again, I can't wait to see what Harrington brings out next!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

From the Review Pile (41)

From the Review Pile is a meme hosted by Stepping Out of the Page every Thursday.
The aim of this meme is to showcase books that you've received for review (or if you don't receive review books, any book that you own and really want to read/review) but haven't yet got around to reading, in order to give the book some extra publicity.

I know that a lot of you have a huge pile of books that you want to read/review, but it understandably takes a while to get around to reading them all - here you can give a book (or two!) some of the publicity that it deserves, even if you haven't read it yet!

-----------------------------------
This week, I'm going to showcase Boy Nobody!

There has been a lot of hype and exciting publicity surrounding this mysterious book, so I will be very excited to finally pick it up and see what it's all about! 
Boy Nobody by Allen Zadoff
Paperback

Expected publication: 11th June 2013 by Little Brown

They needed the perfect soldier: one who could function in every situation without fear, sympathy or anger; who could assassinate strangers and then walk away emotionally unscathed. So they made Boy Nobody-a teen with no name or history. The perfect soldier.Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school, in a new town, under a new name, makes few friends and doesn't stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend's family to die -- of "natural causes." Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, and moves on to the next target. But when he's assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change. The daughter seems so much like him; the mayor smells like his father. And when memories and questions surface, the Program is watching. Because somewhere, deep inside Boy Nobody, is somebody: the kid he once was, the teen who wants normal things like a real home and parents, a young man who wants out. And who just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program's mission.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Blog Tour Stop - Speechless


When Hannah Harrington released her debut novel Saving June last year, I loved it and was eager for her to release her next novel. That time has come  - Speechless is out now and is everything I expected, perhaps even more! The concept of the book is a very interesting one, with the protagonist spending most of the novel silent. Very luckily, I got to ask Hannah Harrington some questions about her new novel and here are her responses:

What provided your inspiration for Speechless?
I had this thought about someone taking an oath of silence. And then I started thinking about why someone would do that, and the type of person who would have the most challenging time dealing with being unable to speak—a teenage gossip queen seemed like the obvious answer! The story really built itself around that one idea.

What was your own high school experience like? Did you face the same pressures that Chelsea does?
Chelsea is very, very different from how I was in high school. I wasn’t very concerned with social status or cliques or anything like that. I had a pretty low drama level in my friendship circles, and I was lucky not to be harassed or anything like that. I generally had bigger concerns outside of school. It was interesting for me to try to put myself in the shoes of a character so different from myself.

A really poignant part of the book is when Chelsea visits Noah in the hospital and he forgives her? Was this hard to write?
It wasn’t difficult, because it felt like the right time to do it in the story and a rather natural conclusion. Figuring out how to write Noah’s perspective was probably the most difficult. I wanted him to be a good person, and a strong person, but I also wanted him to be human rather than just some manifestation of benevolence, so I tried to show the awkwardness of his situation and how the trauma he’d experienced wasn’t something he’d be able to sweep under the rug immediately—like most characters in Speechless, his story remains a work in progress even at the end.




My thanks go to both Hannah Harrington and Mira Ink for their time and for inviting me to participate in this tour.

Speechless is available to purchase now!


To find out more about Speechless, check out the following links:

Friday, 8 February 2013

Blog Tour Stop - Born Wicked



Born Wicked is a book that I've been anticipating for a while and now I am happy to share an exclusive music soundtrack or 'playlist' of songs that relate to the themes in the book. Like a lot of other people, as well as reading, I love music and so I always love finding songs that relate to or remind me of my favourite books. 

Here are the songs that Born Wicked author, Jessica Spotswood, has chosen as a soundtrack to her novel:

 Adele: “Turning Tables”

Next time I’ll be braver / I’ll be my own savior

I feel like this applies to lots of the girls in the book and how powerless they feel in a world controlled by the Brotherhood. 

Florence and the Machine: “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”
You made a deal, and now it seems you have to offer up/ But will it ever be
enough? (Raise it up, raise it up) /  It's not enough (Raise it up, raise it up)

Here I am, a rabbit hearted girl / Frozen in the headlights / It seems I've made the final sacrifice

I must become a lion hearted girl /  Ready for a fight /  Before I make the final sacrifice

This reminds me of Cate’s difficult choices as she tries to protect her sisters and outwit the Brothers and Elena. She continually feels like no matter what she does, it’s not right or it’s not enough. I think a lot of us can relate to feeling that way.

Mumford & Sons: “Sigh No More”

Love; it will not betray you / Dismay or enslave you / it will set you free / Be more like the man you were made to be

This is such a lovely lyric; it reminds me of Cate and Finn. I think Cate’s always imagined being a wife and mother to be a cage, but the possibility of marrying Finn doesn’t feel that way to her. 
           
Snow Patrol: “You Could Be Happy” 

You could be happy and I won’t know / But you weren’t happy the day I watched you go / And all the things that I wished I had not said / Are played in loops til it’s madness in my head

You could be happy, I hope you are / You made me happier than I’ve been by far

This is another Cate-Finn song, from Cate’s POV.  

Snow Patrol:  “Open Your Eyes”

Get up, get out, get away from these liars / ‘Cause they don’t get your soul or your fire / Take my hand, knot your fingers through mine / And we’ll walk from this dark room for the last time

            And a final Cate-Finn song, from Finn’s POV.

Many thanks to both Jessica and to Penguin for allowing me to participate in this tour and providing such a great post (I particularly love the choice of a Florence and the Machine song)!

Born Wicked is available to buy now!

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