So it took me three months to read but in my defense I've barely been reading for the past 3 months soo... TECHNICALLY, it only took me 2 or 3 days. R...moreSo it took me three months to read but in my defense I've barely been reading for the past 3 months soo... TECHNICALLY, it only took me 2 or 3 days. Right? Totally counts.
Amazing chick lit. You must read it. Romantic, funny, and lots of fun.
I shall hopefully review it soon, but one step at a time. :)(less)
Let's get the genre debate out of the way, as it seems to be in most reviews of this book. Me Before Yo...moreOriginally posted to my blog, Once Upon A Time.
Let's get the genre debate out of the way, as it seems to be in most reviews of this book. Me Before You is a contemporary fiction novel. It features romance, and it certainly could come under the chick lit bracket, but the focus of this novel puts it firmly in the contemporary bracket, for me, anyway, and I believe that was the author's intended genre.
Many people have been telling me to read Me Before You since its' January 2012 release, and when we got to 2013 and I still hadn't got myself a copy, they started telling me off! Then when my GP told me to read it I finally went ahead and picked up a copy from the library and found myself wishing I'd bought a copy at some point instead because I desperately want to reread it. In fact, apparently I was going on about it so much that my fiancé bought me a copy.
Louisa is a girl with a whacky dress sense (glittery green tights, anyone?) who works in a café. Only the café closes up and Louisa finds herself at the Job Centre looking at vacancies in the chicken factory, pole dancing, and care work. As an unemployed person, I can tell you that if it's not your chosen field of work, they can't force you to go for something in the way that they try to with poor Lou but thankfully she isn't there for long as she's shoved in the direction of a 6 month position caring for a young adult quadriplegic male who already has a nurse to deal with the bum wiping bits (as Lou puts it). So she goes for the job and finds herself hating it when Will is cold and nasty, yet she keeps at it because it pays very well and her family need the money.
Her sister pretty much guilts her into it because she wants to go back to college - I can't say I was her sister's biggest fan, overall, but she had her decent moments as well. Lou is still living with her mum and dad, her grandad who needs her mum to look after him because of his stroke, her sister and nephew. With her dad's job in jeopardy, that only leaves her and her sister earning any money for the family. Despite this, they have the tendency to make her feel a bit useless. And her only escape is her boyfriend Patrick who spends so much time training and hanging out with his athletic friends that even on the very very rare occasions they do get alone, there's no intimacy and Patrick bores poor Lou to tears. So perhaps working for Will Traynor could be just the thing to liven up her days. Lou takes it upon herself to try and show Will that there are still things to live for, and he turns out to be a pretty great guy once he lets her in. You actually feel Lou starting to care for Will and watch their friendship building.
A lot of people talk about how romantic Me Before You is, and sure, it is romantic, but I would be lying if I didn't tell you what the book is really about at its' heart. I feel it's important to know going into the book that the euthanasia debate features quite heavily but I also firmly believe that whether you are for or against, you need to read this book. It looks at the debate from the angle of a person who cares deeply about the person who wants it to be over. Morever, though, Me Before You is a book about living your life to the fullest. Not necessarily about going all out with the extreme sports, but in going for things you might be afraid of and it really opened my eyes. It's not often a book comes along and makes you rethink the way you live your life but this is one of the rare few.
Me Before You is a beautiful novel about a girl who just feels a bit lost in life, and a guy who found his life was cruelly snatched out from beneath his feet. It features romance and life and the need for tissues. It is immersive, funny, and heartbreaking. Now, if you excuse me, I need to go reread this magnificent novel and start telling people off for having not read it yet because it truly is a must read.(less)
Well. Okay. So I was excited for The Rithmatist because it was Brandon Sanderson, then I really checked the premise.. chalk magic? What's that about?...moreWell. Okay. So I was excited for The Rithmatist because it was Brandon Sanderson, then I really checked the premise.. chalk magic? What's that about? And read a couple of reviews talking about the prominence of religion in the story and how Rithmatists are supposedly "chosen by the Master" and honestly.. I worried. But then I got in the mood for some young adult fantasy and gave it a go anyway. This is a Sanderson novel. That bizarre premise works because he is the master of what he does. Honestly feels like Harry Potter for the new generation but with one of Brandonbot's signature epic endings which left me desperately wanting to read on. As Xia said in his review, thank god for 'to be continued'.
A full review will be featured in Clockwork Summer, my blog's steampunk feature coming August.(less)
The Masque of the Red Death had been on my radar for a long time. I couldn't tell you if it was th...moreOriginally posted on my book blog, Once Upon A Time.
The Masque of the Red Death had been on my radar for a long time. I couldn't tell you if it was the idea of a Poe retelling, a Victoriana dystopian story, a few fantastic reviews or a combination of all three that initially drew me to it but needless to say, it was on my radar. And then Gollancz Geeks sent over a copy with the new UK cover for review! I almost immediately started it and more or less read the entire novel in one sitting.
The story focuses on Araby, daughter of the most important scientist in Masque's world. The man who created the livesaving porcelain masks people wear to ward off the Weeping Sickness. However, he's kept on a tight leash by the mad Prince Prospero who monopolises the masks and thus only the very wealthy can afford to own them. The reason he can do this? Once a mask has been worn, only that person can use it. Araby spends her time seeking oblivion from a life she feels she doesn't deserve until she meets Will who shows her there is more to life than the privilege of drink and drugs. And then Elliott who seeks to rebel against Prince Prospero, his uncle, to create a fairer society. She becomes swept up by events out of her control with one very sure realisation: she doesn't want to die.
I wasn't sure what I thought about Araby and her friend April at first. They're clearly part of the privileged class, travelling to a night out through the poorer distract in April's expensive, flashy steam carriage, while being held up by the body collectors and a young woman unwilling to part with her clearly dead child. It's a tense and dark scene which shows us that Araby, at the very least, cares about other human beings.. but she's quite whiny in the beginning. She seems to think she's worthless and doesn't deserve to be alive so she visits the Debauchery Club with April, drinking and taking drugs to make her forget who she is for a while.. so yes, there's a bit of angst, but it goes away when we meet Will and Elliott because she finally finds something to fight for.
And from there I was lost to the world because of this beautifully gothic dystopian novel. I stopped comparing it to Poe's short story of the same name because whilst I can see where Bethany got her inspiration, it really stops there. The two stories are separate entities. Bethany Griffin's version has such a dark atmosphere and much foreboding that I often pictured night-time in a dark red haze with cloaked figures and leering old men looming around every corner. Everybody has their secrets and you do not know who you can trust. Even now I'm not entirely sure - bring on book two!
Not a fan of love triangles? Don't worry. Me neither. This one didn't bother me at all, in fact, I'm positive you'll find yourself rooting for one or the other boy. Bored of YA dystopias? The Masque of the Red Death doesn't feel like the rest. No, really. I promise you that if a girl who is more or less bored of YA finds this one so unputdownable, it's definitely worth a read. The writing is so fantastic that regardless of whether you think the story is unique or not, you will absolutely love it. It is so easy to find yourself swept up in the narrative. Give The Masque of the Red Death a chance! Yes, this is one of those books I'll be rereading and forcing on others.(less)
I haven’t read or even browsed Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops yet but that doesn’t mean More Weird T...moreOriginally published on Once Upon A Time.
I haven’t read or even browsed Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops yet but that doesn’t mean More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops becomes unreadable as they are after all just books of odd things people say in bookshops, so it is a sequel in very loose terms. This also means that I can’t compare the two, but I can tell you that this is a small book well worth the purchase as you’ll read it in one sitting if you’re anything like me, and find yourself quoting your favourite bits to the nearest breathing creature even if that does happen to be your cat. My particular favourites are the ones kids come out with. Such as:
Young Boy: You should put a basement in your bookshop. Bookseller: You think so? Young Boy: Yeah. And then you could keep a dragon in it, and he could look after the books for you when you’re not here. Bookseller: That’s pretty cool idea. Dragons breathe fire, though. Do you think he might accidentally burn the books? Young Boy: He might, but you could get one who’d passed a test in bookshop-guarding. Then, you’d be OK Bookseller: You know, I think you’re on to something here.
I think we all agree that a dragon who had passed a test in bookshop-guarding could only be a good thing. Would he be any good at home bookshelf guarding though, do you think?
This is just one of those books you need on your shelves to dip in and out of as and when you fancy a giggle. And the drawings by The Brothers McLeod are simply wonderful. I’ll be getting my hands on a copy of the first one when I can!(less)
I picked up Billy and Me after I had finished a fantastic book and was looking for something that could...moreOriginally posted on my blog Once Upon A Time.
I picked up Billy and Me after I had finished a fantastic book and was looking for something that could follow it. I made my usual piles of potentially good reads and started reading first paragraphs when I realised I'd inadvertently read the entire introduction of Billy and Me which pretty much secured it as my next read. Here we have a heroine who grew up with Tiny Tears dolls, Mr Blobby and the Spice Girls but became shy and withdrawn around the age of 11 and found a love of books. This is the kind of heroine I can relate to and I knew right away that I had to read this as I have quite a bit of trouble finding relateable heroines in chick lit.
"Giovanna has burst on to the scene with all the emotional impact of Jojo Moyes and the lightness of touch of Jenny Colgan." Says Billy and Me's press release. How right they are.
Billy and Me is an absorbing tale of romance, friendship, and finding your place in the world. The story follows Sophie May, a young lady who happily works away in Tea on the Hill, a teashop in the small village of Rosefont Hill where she lives. She looks after the quirky old women who frequent the teashop and her best friend is Molly, the lady who owns the teashop and has a heart of gold. One day a movie crew filming a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, one of Sophie's favourite books, sweeps into town and she becomes enamoured with Billy Buskin, the main star, teen heartthrob, and gorgeously sweet guy, after he calms her down from a panic attack.
I found this novel utterly gripping. More than once, my other half would come to bed around 2am and find me still snugged up with my reading light on. I hated having to put it down but in hindsight it stretched the book out a little more which is of course a good thing!
Sophie and Billy are amazing together. Billy worships the ground Sophie walks on and Sophie isn't entirely sure why because she's "just normal" (this is just one of the reasons I wanted to slap some confidence into her but her lack of confidence was a realistic part of her character) and I found myself awwing at Billy almost constantly. He's so lovely! We get to follow as Sophie becomes a part of his life and really doesn't fit in with all the glitz and glamour but is entirely unwilling to be anything but herself. I loved and respected her for that. She always retained herself.
Throughout Billy and Me, Giovanna hints at a great tragedy in Sophie's life through flashbacks, the panic attacks she suffers and how unsteady her mum seems to be. A part of me wished this tragic past wasn't drawn out for as long as it was but the steady reveals taught us a lot about Sophie and it was clear that this event really affected her. And the way in which it was finally revealed was pretty heartbreaking.
In fact, I think my only complaint was the sometimes odd use of exclamation marks where they really weren't needed.
Billy and Me is a delightful chick lit which (while it might be a tad predictable that really isn't the point) throws the usual formulaic chick lit story out the window and gives us a heartbreaking tale of love in which the heroine learns what is important in life. I recommend Billy and Me to everybody who likes a good chick lit with a decent love story, it's such a refreshing read. Just make sure you have the tissues nearby for the bit with the "emotional impact of Jojo Moyes".(less)
Fall of Night, Fall of Night.. not quite as bad as Bite Club, but no where near as good as Bitter Blood. In fact, thi...moreFirst posted to Once Upon A Time.
Fall of Night, Fall of Night.. not quite as bad as Bite Club, but no where near as good as Bitter Blood. In fact, this is a Morganville novel of two parts. The part where Claire is alone in this new town, and the part where everybody suddenly appears. The first part was just kind of boring.. sorry, but Morganville without Myrnin and Eve et al just isn't the same. But then the second part woke up and we have a Morganville book that is once again fast paced and unpredictable and that made up a bit for the first half.
The thing I love most about the Morganville books is how easy to read they are. No matter what mood you're in, how tired you are, they are easy, fun reads that are readable where many other books aren't at certain times and I will always love them for this.
At the end of Bitter Blood, Amelie releases Claire, allowing her to leave Morganville to seek out more at MIT. Oliver is exiled for the part he played in her potential downfall, despite him being under the control of Naomi at the time, and Shane is most definitely in Claire's bad books after seriously believing that she would cheat on him with Michael. I was pretty excited to see where all of this would lead in Fall of Night and I was under the impression that Shane would be going with Claire. I was wrong. She decided that she needed some space to get over the hurt he did her and somewhat teach him a lesson that she wasn't so weak as to just forgive him. I thought she was being a little bit stubborn but at the very least, she stood her ground. Good girl. Still, I found her whiny and ridiculous, more so than usual.
There's a whole host of new characters. Claire is to be roomates with her old best friend from high school, Liz. Though the moment we meet her, something is wrong. She's high maintenance and thus very difficult to be around for Claire, especially as she is trying to be something she evidently isn't, and seems to be very up and down with her moods. Claire can tell something has happened to this girl in the time Claire was in Morganville, and this guy stalking her isn't helping matters. There's the professor lady Claire's to be working with who was once an assistant of Myrnin's also. She seems pretty trustworthy, which let's face it, doesn't mean a thing in a Morganville book. Then there's Jesse and Pete who are an awesome pair of characters, who help professor lady and work in the same bar Shane does. Yeah, that's right. Shane ignored Claire's wishes and followed her to keep an eye on her. Kind of sweet, also kind of wrong. I'm still not sure what I think of this.
We start hearing talk about the Daylight Foundation, who I'm unsure about. Sure they are the ultimate bad guy for the vampires, but I don't think they'll be any where near as interesting as Bishop or the Draug in my honest opinion, though they're pretty ruthless.. which is in their favour as a bunch of scary bad guys. At the end of the day, this is the last Morganville book before the grand finale and even if it's not the best instalment so far, you absolutely must read it before Daylighters, which is going to be all kinds of epic if that massive cliffhanger at the end of Fall of Night reveals anything. Oh and what was with that vicious dog bite of Shane's? It's referred to throughout the book but nothing is ever really revealed about it. Is he a were-dog now? Some kind of super vamp killer? Was it just a rapid dog? What? I felt that storyline just kind of floundered, and sure, if it's going to be looked at later on but it needed something a little more in this book for all of the build it got.
As I said on here when I finished reading Fall of Night, and I quote, "Hmm. The first half wasn't as good as usual but then it all started happening and it got pretty intense and.. blam. I just. CLIFFHANGER. Gah."(less)
So The Wish List came through my door one afternoon and immediately sat there calling out to me to read it. I al...moreOriginally posted on Once Upon A Time.
So The Wish List came through my door one afternoon and immediately sat there calling out to me to read it. I almost caved but no, I was reading something else, and then I had to get started on book three of Song of Ice and Fire- oh dear. I started it. Whoopsie! This was my first Jane Costello novel and my first experience with reading it was while I was stood at the bus stop back in my dad's Leicestershire village waiting to head into town after having missed the previous bus. Any passing cars would have seen me burst into laughter many times.
This is definitely a light read, great for enjoying a good day or cheering yourself up after a bad one, but I couldn't help but find myself a little frustrated with our heroine, Emma. For the most part she's a fun girl. She works in children's entertainment as a writer for the kid's show "Bingbah" and has just come out of a relationship with a gorgeous man because he proposed to her and she didn't feel it. Or did she? She's not so sure, you see. Maybe she did love him after all? I mean.. how do you know if you've never been in love, right? Oh I wanted to pound on her a little bit when it came to her relationships with men. More than once she flung herself at a man because why not? Without even properly thinking about her dignity or what she actually wants. And there was a little bit at the end that nearly saw me throw my book at the wall, but thankfully it was just a moment and my book remained safe and sound.
Overall, the story of The Wish List was good. Hardly stop-the-press unique, but good. We have a twentysomething is turning 30 and hasn't even touched the "things to do before turning 30" list that she and her friends wrote when she was 15, and so she ends up on some whacky adventures to complete these goals within the space of about 6 months. The list contains such things as have a one night stand, learn how to play Polo, see the Northern Lights, eat in a Michelin starred restaurant.. all sorts, basically. And I can imagine how much fun Jane must have had researching this novel! Of course Emma gets into some silly situations and it's lots of fun. I really loved her determination and how she ended up trying so many new things which ultimately changed her life. And I must mention her friends because I don't believe I have ever read a chick lit with such well fleshed out side-characters. They all came with their own stories, quirks and problems and I wanted to see their happy endings as much as I wanted to see Emma's.
I also really liked the short chapters which make you feel as though you're progressing through the book a lot faster, and okay, they do cause a case of the "just one more chapter"s but when is that a bad thing really? Yeah okay, I suppose at 3am!
Go out and get The Wish List if you like romantic comedies. I guarantee you'll enjoy it.(less)
The Liberty Tree was a bit of a risk for me as I hadn't read a memoir before and usually stick to the fantastical or humorous, yet I took the risk and...moreThe Liberty Tree was a bit of a risk for me as I hadn't read a memoir before and usually stick to the fantastical or humorous, yet I took the risk and accepted this memoir about the relationship between an alcoholic and the husband she's not entirely sure she's in love with.. and do you know what? I loved it. It was completely outside of my comfort zone and I could hardly put it down.
Once I'd finished reading The Liberty Tree, I noticed that I was the only person who had added this book to my Goodreads so of course I had to fix this and proceeded to recommend it to as many of my friends who I thought might possibly enjoy reading it as I could, and if I missed you: I recommend this book. Here's why.
If you enjoy the kind of writing that draws you in and makes you feel as though you know the people you're reading about deeply, you will love The Liberty Tree. And it's not a misery-fest either, as much as you might expect from the blurb. Suzanne has written this memoir to her children to tell them what their dad was like before they came along and I think this has a lot to do with the charm of this book, but don't think that this is a memoir for children either. This is a book about the paranoia and behaviour caused by drug taking and hard partying, about alcohol abuse, and fundamentally about suicide and how it turns your life upside-down. The way Suzanne describes this portion of her life absolutely blew me away.
I found myself utterly swept up by the narrative only to find a couple of hours had passed. I've learned a lot about addiction, the effect of drugs, and how easy it is to miss something so huge. And I genuinely enjoyed reading about Suzanne and Leo's relationship. Keep your eye out for this one. I'm off to find more memoirs.(less)
3.5-4 stars. There was something lacking in this one, it didn't have the BOOM ending that I've come to expect from Soul Screamers books. Sure it had a...more3.5-4 stars. There was something lacking in this one, it didn't have the BOOM ending that I've come to expect from Soul Screamers books. Sure it had a good ending, but it didn't grab me like others have. Did make me cry though, but not sure if that's because I was already a bit emotional.
It just didn't feel like very much happened. And I really got bored of certain things being lightly skipped over purely to build suspense. And so often.
I.. didn't like this book as much as I thought I was going to. It was good, I loved the world and the demons and the magic system (if you c...more3.5 stars.
I.. didn't like this book as much as I thought I was going to. It was good, I loved the world and the demons and the magic system (if you can call it that) and the characters for the most part and there were events that broke my heart, others that made me laugh, and cheer the characters on. I love Leesha, and Rojer. But it felt linear. There didn't feel like much jumping off the beaten path to explore something you completely didn't expect. And my word Arlen is a whiner. Sorry but.. running away from the people who love you with barely a goodbye is not cool. I'm not a fan of his character. Anyway, it did feel much like a prequel rather than a book one, a build up book. Let's see where we go next, I have the next two to read.
The Black Company was first published in 1984 and one of the first of its' kind, influencing such fantasy authors...moreFirst published on Once Upon A Time.
The Black Company was first published in 1984 and one of the first of its' kind, influencing such fantasy authors as Steven Erikson. Yet somehow, I hadn't heard of it until it was chosen as the Fantasy Faction Book Club's book of choice for February. As it's described as being a dark and gritty epic fantasy, as well as such an influential novel, I went ahead and found a decently priced second hand copy of the omnibus to join in.
It is a story about a company of mercenaries called 'The Black Company' who do what they are paid to do, and in this case end up in commission to the so called bad guys, the Ten Who Were Taken led by the enigmatic Lady. It twists black and end epic fantasy on its' head, making us wonder if good and evil are really quite what they seem. The members of the Black Company are men running away from their pasts and prefer to keep these unfortunate histories to themselves. They are very human. They get bored, cold, uncomfortable, stuffy. They aren't superheroes able to ride horses for days on end, cooking up a stew in the space of about half an hour. They struggle. And there's this unspoken camaraderie which makes you root for them.
Dat Writing Style I found the writing style immediately jarring which made it quite difficult to get into as it felt as though many things were being skipped over, and there is no real flow to the prose. In fact, if this weren't a book club read I might have put it down but thankfully the story picked up in chapters 3-4 so it is worth sticking with it. And once you get used to the style, it feels as though Croaker, our protagonist, is telling you all about this section of the Company's history in a very direct and to the point way.
There were many twisting revelations towards the end which cemented The Chronicles of the Black Company as a series I will keep reading because I now need to know what happens next. Though the final battle really fell flat with this no-nonsense prose style, it just felt boring. The Black Company's strengths lie with its' characters and their relationships with each other.
Characters Worth Mentioning Croaker is our main guy. The Company's Physician and keeper of the Annals, the histories of The Black Company. And he more or less writes Lady fan-fiction. Nobody sees her apart from the Taken and as she is so mysterious, Croaker finds himself garnering quite an obsession with her. While he wasn't the most interesting of characters, we stick with him regardless as he sees so much more than anybody else in the Company.
One-Eye and Goblin are two of the Company's wizards and we can often find them bickering and pulling epic pranks on each other, constantly trying to one-up each other. While I have seen a few say that this annoyed them, I found it a nice excursion from the Company's boredom, and it's pretty funny as well in an otherwise dark novel.
Raven is an immediately interesting character, promising to do away with his past issues before joining the Company. Once he has done so he is oddly quiet, always fiddling with his knives and being friendly with the Captain. It's almost as though he doesn't wish to become too close to the Company, keeping his ruthlessness to himself.
Soulcatcher was perhaps the most interesting of the Taken. Covered from head to toe and speaking with many different voices, we don't know if Catcher is a man or a woman or something else entirely. Most intriguing is those voices. It is said that they are the voices of all of the souls Catcher has taken but it is never quite covered. All in all, an enigma of a character and the member of the Ten who most seems likely to side with the Black Company.
Overall, I liked it. It's not a new favourite by any means but I would definitely recommend The Black Company to epic fantasy readers.(less)
Just a short story following Sophie, Kaylee's cousin around. I won't reveal the plot because of spoilers but glad I read it before Before I Wake as an...moreJust a short story following Sophie, Kaylee's cousin around. I won't reveal the plot because of spoilers but glad I read it before Before I Wake as an eye opener.(less)
Historical fantasy mixes with steampunk, a little paranormal, and a generous helping of world travel in A Conspiracy of Alchemists. A well rounded sto...moreHistorical fantasy mixes with steampunk, a little paranormal, and a generous helping of world travel in A Conspiracy of Alchemists. A well rounded story that has left me craving more!
Look out for my review in The Clockwork Carnival coming this August! :D(less)
Spoiler Warning: The following review and/or blurb may contain or does contain spoilers for previous books in the series.
What happens when just about...moreSpoiler Warning: The following review and/or blurb may contain or does contain spoilers for previous books in the series.
What happens when just about every enemy that cowed the vampires has been defeated and as your last act, you piss them off? Well of course you lose favour with the most powerful vampire in Morganville and go back to square one, but worse. Living in fear of what lurks in the dark. And the light. See, Eve and Michael's marriage at the end of Black Dawn didn't just annoy the vampire population who see a human rising above her station but also the human population who see a human resorting to the lowest thing possible. Siding with them. So once again, the residents of the Glass House have a problem, and as a result Bitter Blood is non-stop. So much happened in this book it was impossible to put it down. We have mayoral elections, chipped ID cards, free hunting passes for vampires, a ghost hunting show in town at the wrong time, and an almost bearable Monica who is running for mayor alongside a new Captain Obvious. Oy. "Only Monica could think Vote for me or I'll break your leg is a decent campaign slogan." Morganville has become a distinctly darker place and it's better than ever.. for us at least.
We still see the story through the different character's viewpoints which, while handled much better than in Bite Club, I'm still unsure about. I did enjoy seeing inside the mind of Myrnin and really seeing how crazy he is and a little bit of why, but I don't know. I suppose I like to be kept guessing about some things. Still, Bitter Blood is fantastically written and I don't exactly fault it for its' different viewpoints I'm just a little bemused as to why Claire's narrative is in third person and everybody else's in the first.
Yet again, a fantastic Morganville installment. I know I keep saying this, and I might say it for Fall of Night too, but Bitter Blood really is the best yet. By the time I'd finished reading I just couldn't read anything else.(less)
Looking back through my notes I realised that I really didn’t take many notes while reading A Winter Flame because I was too engrossed in the story wh...moreLooking back through my notes I realised that I really didn’t take many notes while reading A Winter Flame because I was too engrossed in the story which is oh so festive! *sighs happily* I had a little tear in my eye by the time I closed the book.
Eve is a bitter workaholic who hates Christmas so you can imagine her shock when she inherits one half of her dear Great Aunt Evelyn’s Christmas theme park in her will. A theme park that nobody had known existed. The catch? The other half was left to a man named Jacques Glace who Eve knows next to nothing about and becomes the bane of her existence. We also get to meet her cousin, Violet who readers of Milly’s White Wedding will recognise, and there’s a whole cast of side characters who really flesh out the population of A Winter Flame excellently. I was just as sad to leave Winterworld’s Santa Claus and Effin the Welshman with the most colourful insults I may have seen as I was to leave Eve, Jacques and Violet.
I fell in love with Jacques something silly. He’s such a delightful character with his mysterious past, his joie de vivre and his Spongebob phone sock that I think he may have been one of the reasons that I didn’t like Eve as much as I could have. I found she was clinging on too much to a life that she never got to live which, if anything, was befouling her Great Aunt’s memory who didn’t start living until the tail end of her life and didn’t wish that on anybody, least of all Eve. I found myself begging Jacques to melt her heart and will admit that I needed to see this happen. Eve is just so bitter and jaded. I wanted her to live! So while I wasn’t fond of her so much, she was an amazing character because you genuinely want to see her happy.
As for Violet, we’ve met her before so we know her story. I wouldn’t worry about not having read White Wedding (though it’s very good so you should anyway) because A Winter Flame is a standalone novel but we do see a continuation of her story and how her past relationships have shaped her confidence.
And of course, the Christmas theme park. Just.. wow. I feel like I’ve been there! I can picture so clearly the little train that keeps going too fast, the adorable quiet reindeer with her two little ones, the snow ponies, the enchanted forest, the carousel… If I close my eyes I imagine it so clearly, it’s just like I’ve actually visited Winterworld. Plus I think their really is Santa. He’s real, you know? I bet Milly had tea with him to research his character.
This is a book about finding yourself when you realise that things aren’t always as they seem and the idea that it’s never too late to discover the spirit of Christmas and to live. A Winter Flame is a light read that explores serious issues and it melted my heart, never mind Eve’s, and it cemented Milly Johnson as one of my very favourite chick lit authors.(less)
First and foremost When I Fall in Love, though you’d definitely think as much from the very festive and lovely cover art, is not a Christmas themed bo...moreFirst and foremost When I Fall in Love, though you’d definitely think as much from the very festive and lovely cover art, is not a Christmas themed book. In fact, not a single part of it is set in December. What it is is a gorgeous story about moving on from a great loss and discovering life and how to love once again, and it definitely has that magical feeling. When I Fall in Love is the kind of book that can be read and enjoyed at any time of year and as such would make a perfect Christmas present for chick lit readers.
When I Fall in Love is actually the first of Miranda Dickinson’s novels I have read but I’m definitely a convert. The warmth of her writing is simply amazing and her sense of humour makes me feel right at home. She also happened to get something in my eye once or twice.. how that happened is beyond me. It was just dust I swear.
The characters in the novel really make the story what it is. Miranda has written side characters with as much life as the heroine, including characters that make just a small cameo, and without overburdening us with too much information either. They really give us a well rounded story and I loved every moment of Cher’s dating exploits and ice cream experiments in her little retro ice cream café, Woody’s bizarre quips and speeches but ever-present minuscule fanbase from his 15 minutes of fame in the 80′s, and Torin’s sporadic appearances. I did find the way Elsie treated Torin quite annoying, if I’m honest. Every time they met, he was nothing but kind but she would take something the wrong way and an argument would ensue but I have to admit that I loved the other part of Elsie that we saw whenever she was around him. To everybody else she was nothing but sweet but he brought out her passion. And I couldn’t stop laughing at Elsie and her sister’s trip to ‘that European furniture store’. I’m not saying why though, that would spoil the fun, but I had to mention it.
While there are some sad parts, that’s inevitable with a story about recovering yourself from a great loss, When I Fall in Love is altogether an uplifting novel that I’d be happy to read by the fire or on the beach. Elsie is a lovely character and I just wanted the best for her all along. I’m also very tempted to see how many items from The List I can complete before my fiancé completely disowns me for being an embarrassing weirdo.(less)
Victoria Lamb has tackled a period of history with very little factual detail, Queen Elizabeth I’s visi...moreOriginally posted to my blog, Once Upon A Time.
Victoria Lamb has tackled a period of history with very little factual detail, Queen Elizabeth I’s visit to Kenilworth Castle in the Summer of 1575, and produced The Queen’s Secret. A novel that seeks to join the few facts there are with speculation and her own creations and she has done a fantastic job with it.
The Queen’s Secret is a novel of forbidden romance, an assassination plot, and the innocent young girl at the heart of it all, Lucy Morgan. Lucy is a young black court entertainer who encounters much racism because of her skin colour, constantly pushed to the back and hidden so as not to ‘frighten her majesty’. This is in fact how she meets Tom, also black, one of Lord Leicester’s stable boys. They are fascinated by each other, and it is Tom she is with when Leicester asks her to sing for the Queen, to become a part of her inner circle.
I felt as though the novel had a slightly slow start but knowing me that could easily have been because I needed to get my head around the lack of werewolves and magic. It had been a long time since I had read a historical fiction novel and the last one I read was a Philippa Gregory which really lacked in flow. Well, once The Queen’s Secret got going, I couldn’t help but compare it. Victoria has none of those yawnworthy information dumps Philippa Gregory seems to love so much and has such a great flow to her prose that I barely noticed I was reading a novel with multiple perspectives. And her descriptions bring Kenilworth Castle to life and set the mood for the period perfectly.
One of these character perspectives we get access to, aside from Lucy’s of course, is Elizabeth’s. History has immortalised her as a great Queen, so it’s easy to forget that she was also human. Victoria reminds us that she was a woman with needs and wants, that she wasn’t heartless, she did love, but she was also jealous with a short temper just like her father even though she strived to be different from him. She has been painted here as a selfish, churlish character who was generally dislikeable and I really liked this way of looking at her.
Robert (Lord Leicester) and Lettice’s forbidden romance is very sweet, but I also found their sneaking around despite everybody else to be a bit selfish so it was a dilemma for me whether to side with Lettice or disregard her as a cheater. It took me a while to decide whether I thought Lettice was just a selfish piece of work or a woman in life looking for something good, but by the end I’d quite firmly landed on her side. Her husband mistreats her horribly and she’s desperately in love with Robert, while the Queen just comes across as insecure and spoiled. Maybe you’ll think differently when you read it. And then there’s Robert with his vastly extravagant and colourful royal welcome, inviting along top performers and putting on shows and fireworks displays in an attempt to woo the Queen once and for all to marry him, yet quite pompously, he continues sneaking around with Lettice Knollys and dragging poor Lucy in the middle. He’s quite the rogue.
Then of course we have the assassination plot afoot that Goodluck, Lucy’s delightful guardian and spy for the crown, is trying to help Elizabeth’s spymaster uncover and stop. This plays off the romance very nicely, giving the story more meat. Lucy finds herself involved in this too when she’s just trying to stay on everybody’s good side but becoming completely overwhelmed because there is so much more going on in the Tudor courts than she ever could have imagined, much of it quite dangerous when all she wanted to do was sing. She may be young, but she’s not stupid. While her decisions might not always be right, she believes in them. She’s a strong character that I’m eager to see more of.
If you enjoy a good historical novel, particularly you Tudor history lovers out there, I’m positive that The Queen’s Secret is one for you.(less)
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Devil’s Bargain knowing it was very early Rachel Caine and reading through a large chunk of the novel that felt more...moreI wasn’t sure what to expect from Devil’s Bargain knowing it was very early Rachel Caine and reading through a large chunk of the novel that felt more thriller than urban fantasy didn’t help me feel much more confident, but a little over halfway through the paranormal aspect of the story kicked in and I realised that this was another of Rachel Caine’s urban fantasy greats, as well written and addictive as her others.
My biggest issue with Devil’s Bargain was the lack of much of a paranormal aspect for the first half of the novel. This is very much a personal problem because regular thrillers are not my thing but it did spoil the read a little for me. My other issue was Jazz’s antagonistic attitude. She seems adamant to push people who can genuinely help her away and I know this is a common character flaw in many urban fantasy heroines but I just can’t understand the appeal. I mean, her first conversation with Lucia ends with both of them hanging up on each other because of it, yet later on we see them working together very well. It’s such a dislikeable quality.
Once the novel goes into paranormal territory, I saw that Devil’s Bargain is just as good as any of Rachel Caine’s later novels. Jazz gets into a lot of trouble, and also gets herself out of it. I became so gripped that I couldn’t put the book down for long enough to remember to take notes so excuse me if my review is missing anything but the good bit was really good. It is fast paced and even a little bit scary, particularly that ending. That sent goosebumps down my spine. You’ll see.
To sum up? Devil’s Bargain is a fast paced urban fantasy thriller that will have you unable to remove yourself from the world of Jazz Callender and friends. But then you knew that – it’s a Rachel Caine novel after all.(less)
This series is a fantastic example of indie authors who do it right. It feels as polished as any traditionally published novel. Oh and if you've been...moreThis series is a fantastic example of indie authors who do it right. It feels as polished as any traditionally published novel. Oh and if you've been wondering what happened to all the dirk and dirty vampiric urban fantasy after the Twilight implosion - here you go.
Pretty When She Kills begins with the resurrection of Bianca, another of the Summoner's progeny, and Rachon's (the Summoner's most loyal offspring) need to kill her before she wreaks too much havoc as a newborn vampire. Except when she finds the ghostlike girl has Necromantic powers she can't bring herself to do it and so decides to bind her to her. Already we find ourselves glued to the pages as it starts with as much of a bang as Pretty When She Dies.
There is a lot of character growth in Pretty When She Kills, which might well be why I much preferred it a little to Pretty When She Dies. The major player in my opinion being Samantha who I found incredibly annoying before. She's just a little lost and afraid and I just want to hug her! She has her own stuff to deal with now and relationships of varying types to entangle, romantic and non, and I really respected her and the way she embraced how crappy life can be and decided to kick it's arse. After despising her so much before, she has definitely become my favourite character. How's that for character growth? Amaliya, as well, had some growing to do. As we already know she has a tendency to want to run when things get hard and she hasn't changed, but she also embraces a few things and I felt even more sympathy for her than before. She's still very human at her core.
"It really is different for you, isn't it? Being what you are?" Amaliya gave her a brief nod.
We also meet a few new characters in Pretty When She Kills who provide even more interesting side stories and funny quips but I shan't spoil these for you because they're fun to meet on your own.
Even the bad guys are intriguing. Some are just straight-forward nasty, like the Summoner in Pretty When She Dies, but some have another side to them which really leaves us questioning: how bad are they? This is an aspect of Rhiannon's writing that I adore. The fact that nothing is simply black and white. This along with her fab way of setting up an atmosphere that really puts you in the moment. And there are a few twists in the story. You know, just to keep it interesting. Not once did I find the novel getting 'samey', I pretty much loved it throughout. It's freaking epic and book three is only going to be better.
Pretty When She Kills is a definite improvement on Pretty When She Dies which I thoroughly enjoyed, I just adored this one a little more. It felt more polished and was fast-paced throughout. If you're not sure whether or not to pick this one up - do. I promise it's worth it. Ooh, and we meet a few new supernaturals in this one..(less)
Warning: May contain spoilers for earlier books in the series.
Well now. I wasn't expecting that. At the end of Misfortune Cookie we saw Hannah make a...moreWarning: May contain spoilers for earlier books in the series.
Well now. I wasn't expecting that. At the end of Misfortune Cookie we saw Hannah make a break from Sam who was just too hurtful to her. Yes! That was a great thing! I was so happy to see her liberate herself but then between then and The Twelve Days to Christmas, I don't know how this happened, but suddenly Sam is going with her to meet her parents and she is positive that he's going to propose but wants to be sure before he asks her dad's permission so proceeds to try to convince him in various hilarious ways (the trip to the Chinese sex shop was my personal favourite) to propose beforehand so that she knows how she will react and not waste a journey.
It's a very quick read being a novella at only 120 pages long and features a strongly happy ending which every Christmas book needs. I enjoyed reading it a lot and felt the rewritten 'Twelve Days of Christmas' lines at the start of each chapter really added to it. Not only do they provide a festive feel that I wasn't sure I felt with the main story, but they made me giggle.
I am quite sad that there won't be any more books in the Single in the City series but I am glad that we saw more of Hannah than just what we saw in Single in the City. There are too many chick lit standalones that leave me longing for more so thank you to Michele for that! And The Twelve Days to Christmas progressed and wrapped up Hannah's story fantastically well.
The Twelve Days to Christmas can be read without having read the first two in the series, in fact if you look towards the end of the post I have linked a review from somebody who has done this, but I honestly think that this series is best as a whole and you'll enjoy it much more if you've read all of Hannah's expatriate adventures.(less)
Howl's Moving Castle was a gift from Dan when he went into town and I had decided to stay home. A really lovely gesture! So when I was bumming around...moreHowl's Moving Castle was a gift from Dan when he went into town and I had decided to stay home. A really lovely gesture! So when I was bumming around complaining that I didn't know what to read and Dan said, "read Howl's Moving Castle." I did just that.
For the first chunk of the novel, it is pretty much exactly like the Studio Ghibli movie of the same name, it wasn't until a little later on when something I entirely didn't expect happened and then the events of the novel went off on a completely different tangent. I think I personally prefer the Ghibli adaptation to the novel's story of events, however, it is an absolute delight to read and I adored it all the same.
I know there are two others after this one but I honestly think Howl's Moving Castle was wrapped up well enough that you can get away with only reading the one.(less)
What a great gem of a chick lit Single in the City is! I've had this book on my wishlist for yonks and I finally got hold of a copy of it when Michele...moreWhat a great gem of a chick lit Single in the City is! I've had this book on my wishlist for yonks and I finally got hold of a copy of it when Michele offered Misfortune Cookie to myself for review (and I absolutely have to read in order) and I am so glad I finally got around to reading it!
Single in the City is such a delightful read. Written in a fun and very comical style, vaguely reminiscent of the likes of Kinsella herself, I found it entirely unputdownable as I laughed from one of Hannah's exploits to the next. My favourite absolutely had to be the cultural discovery of British men generally being uncircumcised, which I honestly didn't realise was a thing in America. I was caught in the midst of a good old guffaw several times while reading, that one in particular being cause for running in to tell my boyfriend all about it.
As Hannah (great name by the way) comes over to London and fumbles her way through the unexpectedly different culture, we get the privilege of seeing her first observations of Londoners through her eyes. As a Brit myself, I already knew many of the things Hannah is learning throughout the novel so it was a lot of fun to gauge the reactions of somebody who isn't at all used to British norms. From something as simple as ordering a sandwich:
"Salad?" I don't see any salads. "No, no salad." He closes the sandwich and starts wrapping it. "Uh, can I please have some tomatoes?" The lady next to me is staring at me like tomato is a dirty word. "You didn't want salad." "That's right, no salad. I want tomatoes."
To the idea of liquid lunches and London's public transport system. All the while, Michele details the Americanisms for us Brits in the form of footnotes and boy do I love them. There are many things I've learned from watching American TV but there were still many things for which I was most grateful for an explanation!
I did have a little issue with the non-existent scene breaks which often broke up the story a little. When you're happily reading along and suddenly it's two days later, you just have to stop and get your bearings for a moment. It breaks the flow and I just wished there were more scene breaks but that was my only real issue with it.
Hannah herself comes across as being a little bit shallow. She's big into fashion and labels and almost missed a chance with a great guy because of this. However she's a wonderfully quirky character, spontaneously moving to London with a nonrefundable and expensive ticket on a drunken dare without a plan and improvising her way through London life. As such she ends up going through all sorts of hilarious dating exploits, work issues and accidentally falling into a life she comes to adore and I love her. I really do. She has taken life by the horns and ran off with it, which is an admirable thing.
So guys, Single in the City is a great book with a warm ending. By the end you'll be pining for more so if you're into chick lit and haven't read this one yet - do so!!(less)
Misfortune Cookie allowed Michele’s readers and Hannah’s fans to decide the direction the story would take and oh what a beauty they chose! After movi...moreMisfortune Cookie allowed Michele’s readers and Hannah’s fans to decide the direction the story would take and oh what a beauty they chose! After moving to Hong Kong to be with her boyfriend, Sam, Hannah has come to realise that there is in fact trouble in paradise. Sam is away in Vietnam for work more often than he’s home and they aren’t living together. At all. On top of that she is positive that he’s cheating on her.
Where Single in the City was published by Penguin in the UK, Misfortune Cookie was self published and I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. Michele is a fantastic writer who has done a fine job of bringing Hannah and her surroundings to life in the minds of her readers. I felt immersed into the Hong Kong culture alongside Hannah because the descriptions of the locale and the colours made it feel all that much more real. It definitely helped that Michele did her research by living there, in Hong Kong, for a time. What dedication! And as well as the immersion into a different culture, we get, once again, to follow Hannah as she fumbles along and explores it in her own unique way.
I think I would have liked a new romantic interest for Hannah just to mix things up a little bit but I didn’t feel as though anything was lacking in the story because there is so much else going on that it didn’t really need new men. I guess I just wanted to see her happy. I loved exploring the culture through her eyes, and I loved that this time she had her best friend along for it! One thing I learned that I adore about Hannah while reading Misfortune Cookie is how perfectly imperfect she is. She’s not skinny and she’s not athletic but she’s entirely comfortable with herself and visibly grows up during the course of Misfortune Cookie, and she loves her friends.
While Misfortune Cookie can be read as a standalone novel, I would really recommend you get a hold of Single in the City as well to fully enjoy Hannah’s story, and if you enjoy fun chick lit in which the heroine explores different cultures to her own, you’re going to want to experience it in full.(less)
This was my first Alexandra Potter book despite having a couple of her others on my chick lit shelf for a little while now and I must say that I was d...moreThis was my first Alexandra Potter book despite having a couple of her others on my chick lit shelf for a little while now and I must say that I was delighted. I didn’t go in knowing what to expect from her, and I honestly didn’t have a clue what I was going to get short of girl makes wish, wish comes true, zany things happen. Of course it has the usual chick lit formula but personally, I think this is what I love most about chick lit. The plot is safe. It’s like a warm snuggly blanket and you know you’ll leave the book with a warm feeling and a smile on your face and Don’t You Forget About Me did just that.. though I wish we saw a little more of the ending!
The premise promises a fun little chick lit magical realism and this is exactly what you get. Tess makes a drunken wish on New Year’s Eve and spends the next couple of days truly believing that she has gone mad as nobody can remember Seb or her having a relationship with him. It isn’t until the diary she kept while with her ex turns up that she realises something must have happened and figures that hey, why not try again? This time she can fix everything she did wrong, right? This is the part where alarm bells go off in my head, as they often do in chick lit novels, and I want to shout at the protagonist for caving to manipulation and self-doubt. I think I disliked Fiona’s trying to be somebody she isn’t even more. Putting on a posh accent and trying to impress a group of self-important Chelsea girls.. I just couldn’t get my head around the whys of this but then Tess wasn’t much better, trying to be somebody she wasn’t to impress Seb and then judge Fiona for doing the same thing. It made for a good ending but Christ it annoyed me while reading.
I also found it quite annoying that rather than just not swearing, she would go all.. “that thing he does with his… *interruption*” Or the one that really got me: vajayjay. It felt a little immature to me. Very teen. Either use swears and ‘dirty’ words, or don’t, there’s really no need to hint.
Despite my annoyances, the fun of this book really was in watching Tess and Fiona try to be people that they just aren’t and the resulting mess they found themselves in. It was a lot of fun to read and I did find myself giggling away a fair bit and by the end of the book I had tears in my eyes and a feel good feeling. I felt that the things that annoyed me were worth it for that ending. And at the end of the day, the worse she feels trying to be somebody else, the sweeter the ending when everything comes together.(less)