I am not one that usually reads eBooks, but even I couldn't resist a copy of a Christmas read! As you will all know by now, I love seasonal reading an...moreI am not one that usually reads eBooks, but even I couldn't resist a copy of a Christmas read! As you will all know by now, I love seasonal reading and thought that a short story would be a great way to slowly ease myself into the festive spirit! Christmas at the Crescent was a great choice as, though it would be nice to read any time of year, it had just the right amount of festivity.
Christmas at the Crescent is the first book I've read by Veronica Henry and I'm sure it won't be the last. For the most part, I enjoyed the writing and I think that she managed to create some solid characters and a vivid setting very well in such a short story. The pace was leisurely and pleasantly constant meaning that the story held my attention throughout. Although it was very easy to read and understand, at some points I felt as though some of the words that were used were a little grandiloquent and unneeded, losing the fluidity of the writing.
The story introduces to a flat in Pelham Crescent, home to Josie, a single mother devoted to her child, Titus, and baking. Josie is still slightly struggling with coming to terms with living alone since her ex-partner (Giles) left her on their child's birthday to live with the more outgoing and charismatic Rebecca. During this 'noella', we get to explore Josie's relationship with herself, her child, Giles and the man that has been living in the flat above her, Harry the script writer. I really enjoyed reading about all of the characters and exploring the chemistry between them.
Our protagonist, Josie, was a pleasure to get to know. Josie is one of those characters that is simply lovely, she seemed so authentic and I loved her down to earth personality. She is definitely a character that's both easy to sympathise with and to relate to. I wholeheartedly wished her well and was hoping the best for her.
I also had a real soft spot for Harry. I found him to be really interesting - I would have loved to have been able to read more about him and get some proper closure from his character at the end. On the other hand, I realise that this slight mystery is what made him an attractive character and this was a short story, so maybe I'm just being a bit greedy!
Overall, Christmas at the Crescent was the perfect start to my 2013 festive reading. This book is heartwarming, fun and atmospheric. If you're a fan of festive fiction or haven't tried any at all, this would be the perfect introduction. Though I'm sure that this read would be enjoyable all year round, it had that fantastic festive edge and is sure to get you into the Christmas spirit if you read it this December!(less)
How to Fall in Love is a book that, thankfully, has a really exciting blurb on the cover. I openly admit that having read one of Ahern's other books (...moreHow to Fall in Love is a book that, thankfully, has a really exciting blurb on the cover. I openly admit that having read one of Ahern's other books (The Gift) I wasn't overly eager to pick up more of her books, but thanks to the description of this one, I overcame my apprehensiveness and I could not be happier that I did!
I am immediately sold to any book which features characters that are emotionally or mentally troubled, so what could be more appealing than this one? Christine, our protagonist, hasn't had an easy time since she met a man called Simon, a man who she believed she had talked down from suicide until he suddenly shot himself in front of her, leaving him in a coma. From that night, almost everything changed for her as she began to live with a feeling of guilt and as she also decided to change her home life, leaving her husband. What happens next is the main focus of this story - As Christine is walking through Dublin, she approaches the Ha'penny Bridge and sees a man, Adam, about to jump. Christine felt as though she failed with Simon and so she wasn't going to let Adam go. Christine and Adam make a deal, Christine has up until Adam's next birthday (only two weeks!) in order to make him love his life, otherwise, he is free to do as he wishes.
There is a lot of things that I could go into detail about in this book, because there are a lot of things that happen in the two weeks that Christine and Adam have together. A lot of things that they do are in an attempt to try and get Adam's ex-girlfriend, Maria, to fall in love with him again. Adam planned to become engaged to Maria, but was devastated when he found out that his girlfriend and best friend were having an affair. Christine also helps Adam to try and manage his life, sorting through issues with both the family business and family feuds. Christine herself also faces some inner battles, issues with her ex-husband and still finds time to help her friend both cope with a loss and a life-changing revelation.
From the first time that Christine and Adam meet, we know that their relationship isn't going to be easy or 'normal' - Christine has agreed to turn the suicidal Adam into someone happier. There is a slight awkwardness between the two of them, a natural awkwardness, something that you would expect to be there, something that feels so real and which adds a sense of authenticity. There are some truly beautiful moments between the couple and it is hard to pinpoint a favourite scene of mine because all of their time together did seem precious, though I did particularly enjoy the more light-hearted and fun times that they had as they began to relax into each others company. The two characters as individuals were well formed, their personalities were both very level and they both seemed very genuine, but when the two characters were together, they both sparked to life - the chemistry between them was incredible, they complimented each other and definitely had one of the best relationships that I've read.
How to Fall in Love is a very appropriate title for this book, this story itself has multiple chapters with 'How To' titles and I really enjoyed the format. At the beginning, Christine is a firm believer that there is a 'How To' self-help book for every topic and for every person - she uses those books as emotional crutches and as guidance for her everyday life and of course, she turns to them when she is trying to help Adam. As Christine helps Adam with each step of his changes, we notice that she is altering both of their lives and the chapter headings cleverly reflect that. The book title is appropriate to both the characters inside and to me, as I most definitely fell in love with both the charming characters and heartwarming story.
How To Fall In Love is undoubtedly one of the best chick-lit books of 2013 and one of the best I've ever read. I absolutely devoured this book, though I never wanted it to end. This is a perfect book to pick up and become lost in - you will find your mind wandering off into the captivating Dublin setting with these two characters, willing them on along their journey. I completely, wholeheartedly fell in love with Christine, Adam and their emotional story and I'm sure that they will stay in my mind for quite some time. Needless to say, Ahern has certainly taught me 'How To Fall In Love'.(less)
It seems like I haven't given five stars to a book for a very long time, because that honour only goes to books that have a profound effect on me, som...moreIt seems like I haven't given five stars to a book for a very long time, because that honour only goes to books that have a profound effect on me, something that really pulls me in and more often than not, leaves me emotionally battered (though thankfully I escaped that this time). This Song Will Save Your Life is one of, if not the best contemporary book that I've read in years.
The book introduces us to Elise, a teenage schoolgirl who never seems to fit in with anyone else, no matter how hard she tries. Elise has gotten so tired of trying and failing at making friends that one night, she decides to attempt suicide, only being saved by a phone call. I knew from the first chapter that I was going to give this book a high rating because something about Elise triggered something within me. Though I won't go into detail in a review, when I was at school, I suffered severe clinical depression and so I could relate to a lot of things that Elise was saying and I could understand why she thought it was logical to kill herself - I had been in the same position, considering the same things. Elise's thoughts really, really struck a chord with me and I think it will with others who have had similar experiences. The writing and thoughts were just so matter of fact and raw and above all, realistic. It really felt like Sales was getting in my head and writing from the heart. I enjoyed sitting back and really absorbing the writing. There is no pretension, there is no elaborate sentences, Sales didn't need to do much more than to state the real, emotional truth to make her impact and leave us with a very quotable book.
On one of her nightly walks, Elise comes across a couple of girls who invite her into their secret club, a place where Elise soon begins to feel some form of acceptance and she seems to make friends with the girl, particularly Vicky, the bouncer of the club, Mel, and the DJ, known as Char or 'This Charming Man'. In the club, Elise realises that there are other people who share the same interests as her, music in particular, and through this, her character seems to open up a bit more and both this and her personality gain her the acceptance that she has wished for. Elise's relationships with Vicky and Char were certainly not straight forward, but the natural awkwardness that you'd expect was there, making them feel genuine. There is a sort of 'romance' between Char and Elise which I enjoyed reading about as I was curious about their chemistry. I loved Char's working attitude towards Elise as he taught her about DJing and all of the things that come with being a popular DJ and a young adult, too.
It was so fantastic to see Elise at her element in the club as she gained popularity by learning to DJ - there is a scene in the book where she looks at a photograph of herself in front of the crowd and it is a really striking moment and I felt a lot of pride for her. Music is obviously a big part of this book, so of course it's important to mention that aspect - this book is sprinkled with mentions of singers, bands and songs. I absolutely loved the playlist to this book - I'm a fan of 80's music, probably more so than modern music, so the mentions of songs from the likes of The Smiths, Depeche Mode and Erasure were exciting and even the slightly more modern stuff, such as Born Slippy NUXX livened up that Trainspotting fanatic inside me. The mentions of these artists brought me closer to the characters in the book in the same way that the music brought the characters closer to each other, and that is such an great feeling.
Another important aspect of this book that I don't want to leave out is Elise's relationship with her family. Her parents are divorced, and so she split her time between her parents. Due to the location of the club, Elise starts to spend less time with her father. I think that a lot of the emotion between Elise and both her parents and her young sister were actually left unsaid, but came across very well in just their behaviour and actions. One of the most humbling scenes in the book, for me, was between Elise and her sister towards the end of the book, which really hit me hard.
In my opinion, This Song Will Save Your Life is the best coming-of-age, contemporary book since The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Leila Sales truly captivated me with her fantastic writing and definitely got me thinking about the importance of individualism, the effects of change and the importance of acceptance - accepting who you are and being you, whatever people think. (less)
Okay, first thing first - that cover! Yes, I completely unashamedly fell for the gorgeous vintage-style cover of That Burning Summer before I knew wha...moreOkay, first thing first - that cover! Yes, I completely unashamedly fell for the gorgeous vintage-style cover of That Burning Summer before I knew what the book was even about (though the contents are portrayed pretty well on the cover, actually). I am so glad that That Burning Summer caught my eye after finding out it was set in England during World War Two, I picked it up and absolutely devoured it.
That Burning Summer is set in rural England during the Second World War. We are introduced to Peggy, a sixteen year old, who one day, during her daily chores, stumbles across someone who she does not expect to meet - a young Polish pilot named Henryk. Neither are sure whether or not to trust each other, but they do begin to bond until Ernest, Peggy's younger brother, finds Henryk and becomes suspicious. Not only are there obvious difficulties with knowing who to trust or not during a war, we also sometimes have to wonder whether one family member can trust the family member as there are is also an interesting subplot regarding Peggy and Ernest's father. I believe that the main focus of the story is intended to be the gradual building relationship between Peggy and Henryk, but there felt like there was a lot more to think about or to consider if you weren't actually interested in 'romance'.
Due to the historical setting of the book, it is clear that this is also a big feature of the book, perhaps more so than anything else. It is very apparent that the author, Lydia Syson, has taken a lot of time and care when writing this book, and I really appreciated that, it was great to be reading and to be learning at the same time. I can't say that I knew much about the roles of the Polish in our RAF services during the war, so it was good to be enlightened! Though I did learn a few new things and appreciated the facts that I already knew, I liked how the information was shared - I never once felt like I was being filled full of facts, and I was never bored!
What I loved most about this book was the ease of reading - it was just so lovely to read. I can imagine that this would be great to read in one sitting or as slowly as you like, there is something about it that is so relaxing. To me, it felt like it would have made a fantastic sunday night drama on the TV - an enthralling story with a sweet ending. I really enjoyed this relaxing read and I hope that many others will do too, whether they are older children, young adults or adults. I will definitely be looking out for more books by Syson.(less)
I love a good seasonal read and Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron was my choice of read for Halloween this year. The book is a collection of short...moreI love a good seasonal read and Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron was my choice of read for Halloween this year. The book is a collection of short stories by several well known and talented authors, with all of the stories relating in some way, to the iconic witch hat, witchery or in general, magic.
I don't often read short stories, but with a choice of eighteen tales, I thought this would be a fun choice and I was guaranteed to enjoy at least a few of the stories! I haven't reviewed many short stories, but I thought it'd be easier to give you an idea of each of the tales, and what I thought of them. After an introduction by the editor, I started to take some short notes.
The first tale was 'Stray Magic' by Diana Peterfreund. Our protagonist, Malou, is working in a dog shelter when a magical dog called arrives. The dog has lost its owner/master. Malou is only one who can see the magic behind the dog and can communicate with it. Malou and the dog attempt to find the owner as the dog becomes ill without him. Though the short story is resolved, this could have definitely lead to longer story. I thought that it was a well written piece, but personally I didn't find it interesting enough to hold my attention well.
The second tale was 'Payment Due' by Frances Hardinge. Immediately, this story felt modern, the contemporary writing style was very enjoyable.The story starts with our main character's gran having some of her goods reposessed by bailiffs. Our main character then seeks revenge as she trades her body with a cat, invades the bailiffs home and tricking him. The story did leave me a little confused by the end, but it was a fun read.
'A Handful of Ashes' by Garth Nix gave us a new firm setting and a more complex story with a lot of structure. It's clear that we're only getting a sneak peek of a much bigger surrounding and story. The story consists of old magic bylaws, magic class systems and laws. It was quite dense in information and detail for a short story and I think that this will really appeal to people who like having a firmly established setting and history in their stories.
I really enjoyed the next story, 'Little Gods' by Holly Black. It had a contemporary and almost coming of age style to it. We follow a girl, Ellery, who is going on a trip to participate in a ritual with her coven. The ritual is one of passion and is actually very similar to many high school parties! The story appears to be about ghosts, witchery and magic, but really it focuses on friends, lessons and life. It focuses on the little things, and that's what I loved about this one.
'Barrio Girls' by Charles de Lint turns the book in a little more creepy directions as we are introduced to two teenage girls who are on a walk, followed by their friend, Pepé, who usually watches over them. The friends find a Witch as they're walking in the wash and she kills Pepé. The girls look for revenge, finding out how to kill the Witch, and find out that the way is to kill her with kindness. There is a message about being yourself weaved within this story, which I appreciate, but once again, I wasn't all that interested in this story - there was no real excitement for me.
In 'Felidis' by Tanith Lee, there was a romance with a which who is a cross between a human woman and a feline. At first, I found it slightly confusing and the story was certainly peculiar. I can see the intrigue of the feline character, but this one was just too 'out there' for me.
'Witch Work' by Neil Gaiman is the shortest contribution to this book, in the form of a poem. The work was short but effective, with the very vivid scenes that you'd hope for from Gaiman. This piece may have had a small word count, but it still had one of the biggest impacts.
'The Education of a Witch' by Ellen Klages came next, and this was one of my favourite stories in the book. It follows Lizzy, a young child who goes to see Sleeping Beauty but rather than love the 'good' princess as expected, she loves the 'evil' witch character and as her baby sister is is born, Lizzy begins to become even closer to her favourite character. This was a really fantastic story which felt quite like a psychological thriller. I loved the writing style, the slight tension and the good pace. I would have loved to have read more.
'The Threefold World' by Ellen Kushner is next and it is a story of knowledge, faith, legend and magic. It has a lot of substance and it works well. I imagine that it will appeal to many people who enjoy fantasy, journeys and folklore. I am not quite sure why, but I personally couldn't get into this story, it bored me.
Next was another slightly stranger tale, 'The Witch in the Wood' by Delia Sherman. This tale tells of a witch who finds true love -- in the shape of a stag that she shoots! The deer is a shapeshifter, and though I've never particularly enjoyed reading about shapeshifters, I thought that this was a really captivating story. I quite enjoyed the twist of the ending and I would like to know what happened in the end.
My favourite story in this book had to be 'The Carved Forest' by Tim Pratt. This is another story that read like a psychological thriller. The story told is of a witch who has a forest of trees carved into the shape of everyone in her town, and two special carvings of her late husband and daughter. When the main character, Carlos, starts worrying about his sister forming a friendship with the witch, he intervenes. This is a haunting and very intriguing read which really stood out and I loved it.
'Burning Castles' by M. Rickert had a sense of ambiguity about it - we don't know exactly what is going on between the witch and who appears to be her child. The realism with hints of a haunted spirit world was effective. The story was drark and powerful despite being so short and it was good in the way that you could use your own imagination to fill ing the blanks.
Isobelle Carmody's 'The Stone Witch' was next, following a woman on an airplane flight, disappointed to be sat next to a child. The plane starts to crash and the woman starts to dream. The child and a witch both appear in her dream, the witch threatening their lives. The woman and child both go on a quest in hope of saving their lives. Both characters have flashbacks which were effective and which added another good, strong dimension to this story. I did enjoy this story though to be honest, I think I would have preferred it without the magical/fantasy aspect!
The next tale, 'Andersen's Witch' by Jane Yolen was a very brave move by the author! This is a tale of both Hans Christian Andersen and an ice witch. I think and hope that fans of Andersen will enjoy the fairytale like quality of this story.
'B is for Bigfoot' by Jim Butcher was next. This story starts with a professional wizard being called upon by a bigfoot who needs help as his scion (half human, half supernatural) son, Irwin, is getting bullied at school. The wizard gets into the school and attempts to help the problem but ends up getting caught up in it whilst Irwin and the other kids manage to sort the problem out themselves.
The penultimate tale in the book was 'Great Grandmother in the Cellar' by Peter Beagle. It is a story of family, present and past, and focuses on relationships, with a very spooky skeletal great grandmother at the centre of it all! Unfortunately this was another story that just didn't do anything for me, and I had to stop myself skimming through the pages.
The last tale, 'Crow and Caper, Caper and Crow' by Margo Lanagan was about a character meeting her magical grandchild. The story was a nice ending to the book as this story had very high quality writing and I wanted to read more of this tale.
Overall, this book had both high and lows, and I can't deny that at points, I really struggled keeping with it as I did feel bored or I just wanted to get onto something more exciting. However, there were also some stories that really stood out in a positive way, namely The Education of a Witch and The Carved Forest, and I appreciate the book for allowing me to sample some fantastic authors. Though this wasn't one of my favourite books, it is something that I would recommend to anybody who likes young adult fiction, especially of the fantasy genre, as there should be something for everyone in this book.(less)
Having heard about the creation of Hurt, I was so eager to get my hands on a copy as soon as it was released. I have only read one of Suzuma's previou...moreHaving heard about the creation of Hurt, I was so eager to get my hands on a copy as soon as it was released. I have only read one of Suzuma's previous books (A Voice In the Distance), but I really enjoyed it and I admired the way she tackled a difficult subject. It seems like that is this author's speciality - tackling those real-life, gritty subjects that really do need to be addressed. I'm certainly not one to shy away from these issues and so I couldn't wait to pick it up.
Our main character is Matheo, a diving champion, who we first meet in his bedroom, in a confused mess the night after his attack. Mattheo doesn't remember much about what happened to him the night before and it's slowly revealed to us as he himself begins to recall the events and starts opening up to his girlfriend, Lola. Personally, I didn't really connect to the characters in this book. At first, they're simply displayed as your cliché private school kids, then we later (sort of) get to see how they handle Matheo's secret. The other significant other than Matheo was his girlfriend, Lola, who I didn't not like, but who I didn't really warm or connect to - she didn't really seem to have much of a personality and I didn't know who she was, apart from being Matheo's partner. Saying that, we don't really get to know much about any of the characters, just how they react to a certain situation.
Hurt is a book that tackles an emotional subject - one that I won't name as it is clouded in mystery until it's revealed quite late in the book. I predicted what had happened to Matheo very quickly - whilst I didn't know exactly how he came to be in the situation he was in, or who the other party was, I thought it was blindingly obvious what had happened to him. I think that this was a major flaw of the book for me. I spent a lot of this book just waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more just to read what I already thought. A lot of the book relied on tension and build up to the revelation of the event, but to me it was just so obvious and so any tension just fell flat for me - I sort of just wanted the author to get on with it, get to the point, and to face up to the issue, to do something about it, something that packed a real punch. I won't deny that I didn't guess everything, there was a twist that I wasn't expecting, but unfortunately it came a little too late for me.
The book was well written for the most part, I liked Suzuma's descriptive style and it was initially enjoyable to read, but after a while, it did begin to feel repetitive and the amount of description was on the line of becoming tedious. There was not enough substance to the first part of this book in order to make it exciting or easy to connect to. I admire Suzuma for writing about an emotional subject, but unfortunately, for me, there was not enough personal depth to the characters in order to make it work. I am definitely not saying that this is a bad book, but rather that it was a predictable one and that's why, for me, it wasn't an entire success.(less)
Amelia Grey's Fireside Dream is one of those books that I just looked at and sighed - for positive reasons! As soon as I saw the gorgeous seasonal cov...moreAmelia Grey's Fireside Dream is one of those books that I just looked at and sighed - for positive reasons! As soon as I saw the gorgeous seasonal cover with the shiny autumnal covers and the soothing mention of a fireside, I knew that this would be a perfect book to read as the nights started drawing in.
This book introduces us to Amelia, our protagonist, who has, after years, grown tired of her urban home and lifestyle. Amelia isn't completely unhappy though, as she lives with her long-term partner, lives nearby to some close friends and has a job that she's passionate about, teaching kids at St. Catherine's school. Amelia Grey's Fireside Dream is about Amelia making her 'Fireside dream' come true, as she moves out of the city and into the countryside with the aim of having a more relaxed, rural life. As always in life, unfortunately not everything can be perfect, and we follow Amelia as she works hard to make her newly-bought, but rather outdated, country house into a home.
Amelia is a wonderful protagonist because she is simply human - the author doesn't make any attempts to make her a particularly remarkable character in any way, which is exactly why she is so easy to connect with - Amelia is certainly not perfect, but she tries her best and makes an effort in what she does, she's ambitious but somewhat cautious and yes, she makes quite a few mistakes. What I liked reading about most in regards to Amelia was her relationships - those with her friends, her partner and her family. Amelia's two best friends, Carly and Sunita, live in the city and I really liked reading about their close friendships, there was a real sense of comfort and trust between them which was really comforting to read about. I liked reading about Amelia's relationship with her family too, her parents, but mostly her sister, Mirabel who is a bit of a teenage rebel, but who Amelia manages to really take under her wing.
A large part of this book is focused on Amelia's relationship with her long term partner Jack. Initially, Jack isn't completely sold on moving to the countryside, but despite that, they take the leap and purchase a house which needs a lot of work. As there is so much to do with the house and as Jack has a lot on at work, things become stretched. Their relationship was certainly not perfect, there were some quite significant flaws and weaknesses, but again this really made the book feel realistic. Despite the issues, it was very clear that there was chemistry between the couple and I could see that the two had a loving relationship. I was torn with what would become of the couple as the book progressed - I really couldn't predict what would happen with them or if their relationship under the new circumstances.
I also can't forget to mention that there is a fantastic subplot to this book where we are introduced to some mystery items which have been left in the house by the previous owner - I became so excited at these parts, wondering who they belonged to, what the story was behind the letters and items. Though everything was tied up at the end, I do wish that there was even more exploration of this subplot as it did have me on the edge of my seat.
As this is a book about restoring and redecorating an old country house, any of you who are interested in interior design, homeware, crafts and/or Pinterest will definitely have a soft-spot for this book! Many of the chapters in this book start with mood boards, conjuring up Amelia's dream designs for her home and it will definitely get your imagination going, if not making you want to start handcrafting things for your own home!
Overall, this was a really pleasant read which I enjoyed and would recommend to anyone who is wanting something that is easy to read and relax with. The pace of this book is relaxed though never boring and you will find the time slipping away without you noticing as you keep turning page after page. Highly recommended!(less)