Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Short Story Review - From Man to Man

From Man to Man by David Emrys
Released 14th October 2012
PDF 20 pages
Publisher Four Branches Publishing
Rating 4/5
Source Sent a copy by David.


‘ I've traded my old enemies for just this one…’ The axe thundered home. ‘I miss the old ones.’

Every man has a past, none more so than Draven Reinhardt. Abandoning his old life to settle down as a villager, he struggles to fit in, let alone hold down a job. When opportunity offers the much needed coin, Draven is torn between a promise and a purpose. 

But, what’s one last job if you've already got blood on your hands?

My thoughts…
From Man to Man is the debut short story from author David Emrys. This was another book that was sent to me via links from Twitter, so I started the book completely blind – with no idea what the book was about and certainly no expectations.

The book title and the cover suggested a Robin Hood themed/type story, fitting into the adult fiction genre, with a view at targeting men. While the book does actually tick all of those boxes, I think women will enjoy the book as equally as men.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Draven, a mysterious man with a past. He lives with his wife and young child, but seems to have a tendency to get into fights with the villagers while trying to run away from his past, until he is set a task that brings his old life in to his new life.

The story is quite fast paced, with a few reflective periods throughout that give you the opportunity to explore Draven’s character a little more. One thing I love about this book is the way that everything is described in intricate detail. People, surroundings, tools and even sounds are described in such a way that you can vividly picture it all in your mind and almost hear the twigs snapping.

At this point I would usually complain about the lack of answers to things that happened within the book, but I know that this is just a taster for the novel, so all is forgiven. David has been very clever and has written a brilliant short story to pull you in to the world of Draven and just when you get into it, he stops and tells you to wait for the novel. I for one will now be patiently waiting to read ‘It Began with Ashes’.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Short Story Review - Suddenly Lost In Words

Suddenly Lost In Words by Ahmed Khan, Gregory Marlow, Tyler Hansen, Connor Thomas Cleary, Lisa Cronkhite, Gary Egan, Sara DeGregoria and Kurt Bachard
Released 11th September 2012
Word Doc 36 pages
Publisher Self published
Rating 5/5
Source Sent a copy by Clare

My thoughts…
Suddenly Lost In Words is a collection of seven short stories from the authors listed above. Each story offers something very different – one offers a story of a rather unpleasant teenager, while another about a girl who feeds people to a Werewolf.

The book fits neatly into the Young Adult Fiction genre. It is full of typical teenage stories, but with a twist. Thanks to Twilight and Teen Wolf, Werewolf’s are very “in” and therefore the short ‘The Werewolf Ate My Homework’ is very topical, but it provides a different twist on a familiar story.

Even though the book is targeted at young adults I loved it, even though I am 25! In some way a lot of people will be able to relate to the stories, if it’s not because you don’t feel like you belong like Scarlett in ‘City Speaker’ or you have suffered in the hands of bullies just like, but not as bad as, Sean in ‘ Friday’s Children’, or you know someone who is just a spoilt as the girl is ‘Grandma Silence’. Whatever your age, you will still remember what it is like to be a teenager so it kind of made me feel nostalgic,

Before being contacted by the group Suddenly Lost In Words on Twitter I hadn't come across any of the authors or the book so I didn't have any expectations, but I am pleased to say that I am thrilled that I had the chance of reading this and would highly recommend this to anyone of any age.

The book is available to buy from Amazon now!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Short Story Review - Stephen C Spencer

I have never really given much thought to short stories, I just dismissed them as stories for people who don't have time to read proper books... Then I became a book reviewer and came across Ellie Darkins on Twitter, she posted a link to a short story that she had written and posted on her blog... from the very beginning I was hooked, everything happened to quickly and then it was over leaving my wanting more.

So I decided to explore more short stories and put a hit out on Twitter. This is where the lovely Stephen Spencer comes in.. He very kindly sent me two of his short stories to read Role Reversal and Window of Opportunity. So here is what I thought...

Window of Opportunity
Released 6th March 2012
PDF 12
Publisher Self Published
Rating 2/5
Source Sent by Stephen

My thoughts…
Window of Opportunity was the first short story that I read by Stephen, it is about Paul Mallory, a journalist who is trying to track down a Russian criminal that tried to kill him.

The story does exactly what it needs to do as a short story and that is to move at a fast pace. For me a thriller works really well as a short story as you get to move the story along so quickly, engaging the reader to read on and want more at the end of it, as well as getting to the point quickly as opposed to dragging it out.

With this being said, as much as I liked the pace in which this story moved, I felt it left out a lot of detail. This is the first book that I have read by Stephen and from the Paul Mallory series, so maybe that is why I didn’t really connect with the book because there are so many before this that would have helped me understand the characters more.

I am not saying that this is a terrible book, but I would recommend maybe readying the Paul Mallory series in order, which is what I should have done!

Role Reversal
Released 9th September 2012
PDF 11
Publisher Self Published
Rating 4/5
Source Sent by Stephen

My thoughts…
Role Reversal was the second short story that I ready by Stephen, from the cover I saw that this was also part of the Paul Mallory series so I wasn't holding out much hope for it. However I am pleased to say that this was completely different to my first experience.

The story revolves around two women who live together and work for the same man as Paul Mallory, they have been invited to mark the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic by going on a cruise of the Titanic route. Both Marie and Fliss are looking forward to the trip, but then Fliss starts to get nightmares. Not remembering what the nightmares are Marie orders her to a hypnotherapy session to get to the bottom of it, with her hunch that it is something to do the Titanic.

As someone who is extremely interested in the Titanic, I love reading, watching documentaries, films and stories about it, and Role Reversal fits in perfectly with one of my interests. For me, this story could be expanded into a novel – exploring the history on both Marie and Fliss’s families and exploring the history of the Titanic.

This isn't really a thriller, like the first, but I still found myself reading at a record speed to get to the end and find out what the outcome would be. If you are looking for something quick to read, then I would definitely recommend this.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Book Review - First, I Love You

First, I Love You by Genevieve Dewey
Released 27th September 2012
Paperback 300 pages

Publisher Smashbox
Rating 5/5

Source Sent a copy by Genevieve.

'First, I Love You' is the first novel in the Downey Trilogy exploring the powerful bonds of family, friendship, and love. After having spent most of his life avoiding his father, Omaha Detective Tommy Gates takes an opportunity to work his first big Federal case in Chicago, the same city where his father, retired mobster Mickey Downey now lives. While battling the increasing meddling of his sister Kiki Downey and his co-workers, Tommy struggles with taking the risk of letting his father into his heart when his world-view is everything Tommy stands against. Just as he is beginning to navigate these issues of family, loyalty and trust, his personal and professional lives collide in a way that could threaten them all.

My thoughts…
The title suggests a love story to me, First, I Love You reminded me so much of Cecelia Ahern’s PS I Love You. However, reading about Genevieve’s passion for organised crime, I figured I was in for a very different kind of story in the first instalment of the Downey trilogy.

The book doesn't quite follow the rules of any specific genre – while the main theme is organised crime intertwined is a story of hatred, love and regret, which pleased me greatly. Some may say that you cannot have a story about warring Mafia families, crime and murder with stories of love thrown in, but I think in this instance it really worked.

The story is told from the viewpoint of six main characters: Tommy, Mickey, Mark, Kiki, James and Ginny. Each chapter is told from the view of a different character with each one following on from where the previous have left off. Each character is introduced at a steady pace allowing you to get to know one before another is added into the mix, instead of just throwing them all in at the beginning. For me all of this worked perfectly, as each character plays a highly important role within the story and by constantly changing the narrative, the story is allowed to move at a much faster pace.

The story is completely believable. You have Mickey, a famous gangster who has an affair which results in the birth of his first son, Tommy. Mary loves Mickey dearly but wants the complete family so she does what she believes is the only way to do this and turns to the FBI. Mickey wants nothing more than to be a part of Tommy’s life, but he must do everything possible to keep his two loves safe and that is to let them go. 20 years later and a “retired” Mickey also have Kiki and Joey to keep safe now while Tommy is a Detective working to bring down one of his father’s associates. With so much history, it is no surprise that things don’t go quite to plan.

I am a huge fan of chick lits and crime thrillers and this book brought my two loves together. On one hand you have two new loves beginning, you have an old one rekindled and you have the love between a father and a son – you then have the nitty gritty child sex ring, gangland murder and Mafia feuds.

One thing that Mary says really stuck with my throughout the whole book, “why did no one never know the answer to these things until after the milk had been spilt?” The book poses so many questions, with some being answered and the others leaving you on the biggest cliff-hanger dying to find out how it will all end.

If you are a fan of Harlan Coben that I would definitely recommend First, I Love You. Such a fantastic debut novel from Genevieve Dewey, I cannot wait to see what else she has in store for us.

You can buy the book from Amazon now. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Book Review - Sign of the Times

Sign of the Times by Susan Buchanan
Released 16th March 2012
Paperback 373 pages
Publisher Self Published
Rating 3/5
Source Sent a copy by Susan.

Twelve people. Twelve star signs. 

Sagittarius - Holly, a travel writer, visits Tuscany to research her next book. Seeking help when her car breaks down, she gets more than assistance when Dario, a vineyard owner, puts temptation in her path. Disappearing without explanation, he proves elusive. Bruised, Holly tries to put it behind her until a chance encounter brings her feelings to the surface again.

Capricorn – Holly’s fiancĂ©, Tom misses her while she is in Italy and turns to an internet chat room for solace. His construction business is under threat, but could foul play be at work?

Gemini - Holly’s sister, Lucy, a serial man-eater finally meets her match, which puts her long-term relationship and career in jeopardy. Cheating she discovers, can have devastating consequences.

Libra - Holly’s uncle Jack, an eminent prosecutor, juggles a difficult teenage son with his high profile career and finds himself lacking. When his son’s school work starts slipping, he decides he needs to take control, but it’s not long before the balls all come tumbling down and Jack finds his family on the wrong side of the law.

One event binds them all…

My thoughts...

I hadn't heard of Susan Buchanan until she contacted me via Twitter asking if she could send me a copy of her book – of course I accepted! I didn't know a whole lot about the book or Susan’s history, so I just got myself stuck into the book with no expectations.

This is a hard review for me to write, I Susan a great deal for her hard work and determination – however I always promised myself that I would review all books honestly and for me this book really didn’t work.

At first, I loved the idea of this story – being told by 12 different people, with different star signs, different personalities and different outlooks on life. It was a new idea, and rather adventurous, but a really interesting idea.

However, in reality I found that there were far too many characters for the story – along with the 12 main characters; you have their family and friends which added far too many complications to it. The first chapter focused on Holly and then it was Tom, followed by Maggie, Jennifer and Ben and then you had Oscar, then Lucy and Carl, then Maria, then Antonia and Jack and finally Czeslawa.

Each of the characters fit together somehow – a bit like in Love Actually. Holly and Tom are engaged, Lucy is Holly’s sister and lives with Carl. Jennifer is friends with Holly, as well as Maggie and is girlfriend to Ben. Antonia is another friend of Holly’s and is married to Jack who is going into business with Oscar. Maria is Holly’s book launched and wedding planner and Czeslawa works for her.

Along with all of these you have various wife’s, ex-wife’s, children, brothers, sisters, husbands, mothers, fathers, neighbours, employees, friends, colleagues, a mistress, hotel owners and her children, and so many others.

Each chapter focuses on one particular character and looks at what is going on in their life at a particular moment. I really liked reading the story from each characters viewpoint and you really got to see this when Maggie and Jennifer went away from the weekend and Jennifer met Ben. You got to see how Jennifer felt for Ben and him for her, plus the outsiders perspective.

Aside from the volume of characters, another aspect of the book that really confused me was the timeline – each new character started at a different point in time and you never really knew where you were with the story. I found the narrative particular confusing when Antoina’s chapter ended with a police officer arriving at her door to discuss her son and with Jack working on a case about an illegal immigrant. Then Jack’s chapter started several months/weeks earlier with him working on a completely different case with Felix booking their family holiday. His did eventually reach the dinner party and I did find out why the police officer was there, but in getting to that it took a lot to figure out exactly where in time you were.

As for the ending, for me there were a lot of loose ends and those that had been tied up were done in a rush. Lucy’s chapter ended with her seemingly in a car accident, in the final chapter the aftermath of this was explained but I felt it was skimmed over. The same with Anotina, Jack and Felix’s situation, the fallout from the police visit was cover over a few sentences. I would have likes to have followed the characters through each of their situations as opposed to briefly touching on it. Yes, it would have made the book longer, but it would have made the story more complete.

I know I sound very negative in this review and I really don’t want to, because aside for the points above, this really is a lovely story. With a view finishing touches or even a second book, the story could be rounded off with all characters getting the ending that they deserve. I think Susan was very adventurous with this story, and maybe she didn't pull it off but, credit where it is due, she did a very good job in trying. As her debut novel, I am looking forward to seeing her develop with her forthcoming projects.

If you are a fan of the film Love Actually, this will definitely appeal to you.

Friday, 12 October 2012

eBooks vs (actual) Books

I recently found out that my parents plan to buy me a Kindle for Christmas. They know that I love reading and am slowly running out of space to store my huge collection of books so thought that this would solve the problem. At first I thought it was a brilliant idea - I wouldn't have to sit at funny angles and squint so I can read in the evenings. But, the more I think about it, the more I am going off the idea. I am currently reading an eBook that an author has sent me and have been using an iPad to read it, and as good as it is I miss the feel of paper! Sales for Kindles and other eBooks are huge, and I really feel like I am missing something! I do understand that the 'invention' of eBooks has allow so many more authors to get their material out their as it doesn't cost anything to publish your novel on Amazon. A friend of mine has spent the last year taking his book to various different publishers and didn't get anything back from them, so he has taken it upon himself to publish it himself through Amazon, and so far it is doing very well. So I thought I'd do a little poll so that I could see what you lovely people think, maybe you can change my mind :-) Leave your votes in the comment box below... Looking forward to seeing what you all think!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Book Review - The Rose Petal Beach

The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson
Released 30th August 2012
Paperback 416 pages
Publisher Quercus
Rating 5/5
Source Purchased

Every love story has a dangerous twist. Tamia Challey is horrified when her husband, Scott, is accused of something terrible - but when she discovers who his accuser is, everything goes into freefall. Backed into a corner and unsure what to think, Tamia is forced to choose who she instinctively believes. But this choice has dire consequences for all concerned, especially when matters take a tragic turn. Then a stranger arrives in town to sprinkle rose petals in the sea in memory of her lost loved one. This stranger carries with her shocking truths that will change the lives of everyone she meets, and will once again force Tamia to make some devastating choices...

My thoughts...
I am a long standing fan of Dorothy Koomson, from The Cupid Effect to My Best Friends Girl to Goodnight Beautiful. Her latest offering, The Rose Petal Beach is in true Dorothy style and did not disappoint one bit.

The story focus’s around Tami, a wife and mother who has a seemingly perfect life – two beautiful children, a stunning home, gorgeous husband, her dream job and a life that she had always dreamed of. Then one day, all that she knows about her life comes crumbling down around her, with dire consequences, where nothing will ever be the same again.

The tale is told from various different angles – Tami, her best friends Mirabella and Beatrix and newcomer Fleur. Mirabella and Beatrix both live in the ‘close’ – Mirabella works with Tami’s husband Scott and Beatrix is like a member of the family and Tami’s oldest friend. And Fleur pops up out of the blue one day, revealing secrets to Tami about one of her best friends, but is it too late to change things?
Tami, like so many of Dorothy’s leading ladies, is a strong, fiery, heroic woman, a true protector to all of those that she loves and someone that I think so many people can relate to. If I were faced with situations like Tami, I would hope that I could be just like her and handle the grief, betrayal and deception with that much dignity.

The Rose Petal Beach does fit into Dorothy’s usual genre of ‘Chick Lit’ but with the fast pace, edge of your seat, page turning, roller coaster that you get from a crime thriller. The chopping and changing from character to character really keeps the story going and left me wanting more after each chapter, I even stayed home on Saturday reading until I had finished the book as I needed to know how it ended!

One thing I love about Dorothy is her ability to create such interesting characters. In this book each of them change, some more dramatically than others, however they are all believable. She develops them over time and in a way that you can believe. Take Scott for example – he starts off as a kid from the wrong sort of background, he grows up and takes a different direction from his family, he is then a loving husband and father who would do anything to make his family happy, he then becomes a career focus, his ego takes over causing his marriage to suffer and the rest you will find out about in the book. Scott goes from one extreme to the other, but I didn’t think at any point that it had been taken too far.

The ending isn’t all happy and jolly, where everyone kisses and makes up, like most chick lit’s, but it is fair to all of the characters. It must have taken a lot of time to decide what to do with each of them, but I think it was fitting and believable.

I cannot recommend this book enough, The Rose Petal Beach is a story that be read by both men and women and I can really see that being made into a TV drama.

I LOVED this book and cannot wait to read more from the lovely Dorothy Koomson.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Book Review – Black Heart Blue

Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid
Released 10th May 2012
Paperback 288 pages
Publisher Penguin
Rating 4/5
Source Purchased

'They tried to make me go to my sister's funeral today. In the end I'd had to give in ... I'd been walking in her shadow for sixteen years and I liked its cool darkness. It was a good place to hide.'

How would you feel if your twin sister died suddenly? Particularly if she was the beautiful one and you were horribly disfigured.

And how would it feel to be alone now if you and your sister were the only ones to know the truth about what takes place behind closed doors at home?

And what would you do if it was your parents who brought danger and terror into your life? Would you dare reveal how your sister died?

And would you be brave enough to find an escape of your own?

Black Heart Blue is a powerful novel about the domestic horrors that can unfold within a small community - and one girl's quest to stand up for the truth.

My thoughts…
When picking up this book I had never heard of the author let alone the book and simply picked it up a) because I was drawn to the cover and b) there was an offer in my local supermarket of three books for £10 and I needed one more to make up my three. Given that, I began the book with no expectations.

The story revolves around twin sisters, Rebecca and Heph. Rebecca narrates the story from after the death of her siblings, while Heph narrates up until her death, giving the reader the opportunity to get to know both sisters. Heph is the beautiful and popular twin, while Rebecca, who has Treacher Collins Syndrome, is treated like a disfigured outcast and they both have very different outlooks on life. They live with their parents in a small town, their mother a housewife and their father a deeply passionate vicar.

The love that these siblings have for each other is clear throughout and, despite everything, it leaves you feeling uplifted that no matter what they go through, what happens to them and what is done to them, they will always love and support each other. In a book that if filled with themes ranging from sexual abuse, domestic violence, death, mental and physical abuse of children and so much more, it is a credit to the author that she has managed to write a book that gives you a positive feeling at the end, while pushing these themes in your face and forcing you to really think about it all.

I don’t want to go into the story too much as it will spoil it for you. I believe that this book isn’t for the fainthearted and does contain things that can be very hard to read at times, even though it is classed as being in the ‘young fiction’ genre. Yes, I know Twilight and The Hunger Games also fall into this genre and they too are dark and emotional, but Black Heart Blue isn’t a fantasy it is about real life events that could have happened to anyone or could be happening to anyone right now.

With that being said, this is a truly fascinating book and I was gripped from start to finish. If you are looking for a gritty and emotional story then I would highly recommend this book to you.

I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing what else Louisa Reid has in store for us.

Until next time, keep reading x

Monday, 1 October 2012

Book Review - This Charming Man

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes
Released 5th March 2009
Paperback 912 pages
Publisher Penguin
Rating 4/5
Source Borrowed


Lola has just found out that her boyfriend - charismatic politician Paddy de Courcy - is getting married. To someone else. Heartbroken, Lola flees the city for a cottage by the sea. But will Lola's retreat prove as idyllic as she hopes?

Journalist Grace wants the inside story on Paddy de Courcy's engagement and thinks Lola holds the key to it. Grace knew Paddy a long time ago. But why can't she forget him?

Grace's sister, Marnie, might have the answer but she also has issues with the past. Her loving loving husband and beautiful daughters are wonderful, but they can't take away memories of her first love: a certain Paddy de Courcy. What will it take for Marnie to be able to move on?

Alicia Thornton is Paddy's wife-to-be. Determined to be the perfect wife, Alicia would do anything for her fiancé. But does she know the real Paddy?

Four very different women. One awfully charming man. And the dark secret that binds them all...

My thoughts...
Marian Keyes is one of best selling female authors and is the person who inspired me to write. I heard her say once "Everyone has it in them to write a least one novel." However, in all these years I had never got around to reading any of her books until a friend let me borrow This Charming Man. 

Given her reputation I expected a classic 'chick lit' story, and I am pleased to say that I wasn't disappointed.

The story focuses around four very different women and their relationships with Paddy de Courcy. Lola, Grace, Marnie and Alicia have all been captured by politician Paddy's charm, only to be tossed aside when he got bored leaving them all scarred and tormented. For each of the women, Marian took on a different writing style, if that is the right way to put it. You could instantly tell which character was currently narrating the story by the way in which it was being written. 

So many different authors tell a story from different character angles, but very few will change the writing style so dramatically. For me, this is a skill that so few have and one that really made this book work.

I will admit, that I did struggle to get into the book at the beginning. I can't quite put my finger on why, it could just have been me, but once I sat down and concentrated I literally couldn't put it down. 

The story has so many twists and turns, that it is impossible to even attempt a guess at how it will end. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that even I had it completely wrong as at one point I likened Paddy to Christian Grey from the Fifty Shades trilogy. With his obvious sex appeal, charming mannerisms and interest in kinky sex, how could you not link them? As the story develops there is more to Paddy than meets the eye and I will guarantee that you will be left shocked, and thats without even mentioning the "trannies"!

If you are looking for a page turning chick lit book, then this is for you. I am so pleased that I have been introduced to Marian Keyes and I cannot wait to read more of her books, from what I can see, I have missed a lot.

Until next time, keep reading x