Book Review: Behind the Lie – Amanda James


Release Date: 21st April 2017
Publisher: HQ Digital
Pages: 208
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I won a copy of this book on Twitter.

Synopsis:

Who can you trust, when you can’t trust yourself?

Holly West has turned her life around. She’s found a successful and loving husband in Simon and is expecting twins. She is definitely a woman who has taken back control of her future.

Until she gives birth, only for one twin to survive. Holly can’t let it go.

Holly’s world is in a tailspin and suddenly she can’t trust herself or anyone else. No one believes her, not her husband or her best friend. Because she thinks she knows the truth…her son is still alive and she won’t stop until she finds him.

Review:

When I read the synopsis for this I thought it sounded like a really great read, but unfortunately it just wasn’t for me. I thought the plot was a really fantastic premise. If your child had been taken and you couldn’t prove it who do you trust? How do you get someone to believe you when you aren’t even sure yourself? I found parts of the plot a little unrealistic, but overall it was an exciting plot that was well paced.

One of the things about this book was that I guessed the ending almost immediately. This put me off a little bit, as I was pretty much just waiting for a reveal I already knew was coming. I thought the book was written well, but I didn’t enjoy the story as much when I knew exactly what was going to happen. The one other thing that kind of put me off this book was that most of the characters are really unlikeable. I didn’t like Holly at all, or connect with her in any way. Her husband is horrible and  the on again off again boyfriend Jowan didn’t click for me either. I did really like the settings, and the comparison between beautiful freeing Cornwall – where Holly wants to be, and foggy and restrictive London where she has to be.

I think this book definitely has lots of potential, and I know a lot of psychological thriller fans will absolutely adore this. I don’t want to say too much about the story line because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone , but the plot is well devised and there are a few twists along the way that I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy. Overall however, this one just wasn’t for me.


Book Review: One of the Boys – Daniel Magariel


Release Date: 6th April 2017
Publisher: Granta Books
Pages: 160
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Granta kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

The three of them—a twelve-year-old boy, his older brother, their father—have won the war: the father’s term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their Kansas home and drive through the night to Albuquerque, eager to begin again, united by the thrilling possibility of carving out a new life together. The boys go to school, join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. But soon the little missteps—the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters—become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching their father change, grow erratic, then violent.

Review:

This was a really fascinating book that stayed with me long after I’d finished reading it. The book follows the lives of two young brothers as they move to a new town and a new life with their father. This book really doesn’t hold anything back, and shines a light into the deepest parts of this dysfunctional family dynamic. One of the Boys is quite a short read, it’s only around 160 pages, and yet there is so much contained within those pages.

One of the Boys is a wonderfully written book, and the characters are what truly brings the book alive. You definitely get attached, feeling a whole range of things – at times I felt anger, at others pity and sadness. It is a heartbreaking story, and one you aren’t likely to forget. Told from the perspective of the youngest son (the characters are not named), the book is a fast paced and hard hitting read. I read One of the Boys in one afternoon and I think that made the story even more intense, as the tension continued to build and build. If you’re planning to read this one, definitely set aside some time to read it in one go.

This book is by no means an easy read – you question how a father can treat his children that way, and the bleak reality of this story, but nevertheless it is a fascinating read, and one that touches on so many subjects – drugs, abuse and relationships to name but a few. If you’re looking for a book you can read in a single sitting but will stay with you long after, One of the Boys is definitely the captivating book you’re looking for.


Feature: My Chronicle Book Box Unboxing!

My Chronicle Book Box is a new monthly subscription book box available here: https://mychroniclebookbox.com/. There are different options available, and these curated boxes come in either Science Fiction and Fantasy or Crime and Mystery themes. I was lucky enough to be sent a Science Fiction and Fantasy box to review, and I think these boxes are absolutely stunning. The items inside were all beautiful and I cannot wait to order another one! Take a look at what’s inside:

1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Print.

This beautiful print was one of the first things that caught my eye in the box. I love tea and Alice in Wonderland, so this print was absolutely perfect for me and I can’t wait to get a frame for this and have it up next to my bookshelves.

2. Darkwoods Crowtree Blend Coffee

This coffee looks and smells amazing. It says on the cover that it ‘tastes of pure dark chocolate’ and I am absolutely dying to try it and my blogging bud and coffee conasciour Barb at The Coffee Woods, will certainly help me sample this beautiful coffee.

3. Northumbrian Candle Works Fresh Green Apple Candle

Oh my goodness this candle smells heavenly. I’ve never smelled a candle that is so exactly like the scent its supposed to be. It’s a strong and delicious smell and I am definitely going to be burning this on one of these cold winter nights. It’s so fresh and beautiful, and I love the clean design the candle has too. I’ve never had a candle from Northumbrian Candle Works before, but I’m definitely going to be trying more of their products.

4. Bookish Mirror

This little mirror is so sweet and charming. It’s got a material back with a lovely bookish design, and it’s the perfect size to pop in a handbag or makeup bag. This little mirror is a fantastic accessory for book lovers and I’ve already had some compliments about how lovely it is.

5. The Really Useful Magnifying Bookmark

I absolutely love this! It’s so quirky (and useful!) It’s very sturdy too, it feels like if I was to have it out and about in my bag and on the train it won’t fall apart easily like a lot of bookmarks do. It’s also great for reading essays with really small print in the footnotes because hey presto it’s magnified.

Inside the box was also this sweet letter with the My Chronicle Book Box wax seal. It’s a really nice touch and adds to the beautiful presentation of the box. The exclusive interview with Joanne Harris was a really interesting read because I love her books, and the letter also gives you information on the items in the box which is really useful now that I want to go and buy more of them!

Now as if all those bookish goodies weren’t enough, this subscription box comes with a whopping three books. For the price I thought this was unbelievable, given they were new books. Each book was beautifully wrapped, which kind of made it feel like Christmas unwrapping them. Here’s what I got:

1. Sweet Dreams – Tricia Sullivan

Charlie is a dreamhacker, able to enter your dreams and mould their direction. Forget that recurring nightmare about being naked at an exam – Charlie will step in to your dream, bring you a dressing gown and give you the answers. As far as she knows, she’s the only person who can do this. Unfortunately, her power comes with one drawback – Charlie also has narcolepsy, and may fall asleep at the most inopportune moment.
But in London 2022, her skill is in demand. And when she is hired by a minor celebrity – who also happens to be the new girlfriend of Charlie’s lamented ex – who dreams of a masked Creeper then sleepwalks off a tall building, Charlie begins to realise that someone else might be able to invade dreams.

2. Strange Sight – Syd Moore

The La Fleur restaurant has a slew of unusual phenomena. Bonnet-clad apparitions pass through walls, blood leaks from ceilings and rats besiege the dining room. Experts from the Great Essex Witch Museum are called in to quell these strange sights. But before Rosie Strange and Sam Stone can do their thing events turn darker. For La Fleur’s chef has been strung up and slaughtered like a pig. More oddly, he only witness, the owner’s daughter Mary, swears blind a ghost did it.
Rosie and Sam must find out what’s happening before Mary takes the fall. But intuitions and tip-offs lead them stumbling into the dark waters of the past, exposing secrets of a wider conspiracy, as well as secrets all Rosie’s own. With strange chills Rosie and Sam learn that seeing isn’t always believing, while thoughts of truth may be just as illusory

3. Proof of A Pocketful of Crows – Joanne Harris

I am as brown as brown can be,
And my eyes as black as sloe;
I am as brisk as brisk can be,
And wild as forest doe.
(The Child Ballads, 295)

So begins a beautiful tale of love, loss and revenge. Following the seasons, A Pocketful of Crows balances youth and age, wisdom and passion and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl.

Only love could draw her into the world of named, tamed things. And it seems only revenge will be powerful enough to let her escape.

I was so excited to get these books, I’m a big a fan of Joanne Harris so I can’t wait to read A Pocketful of Crows, and I’ve heard such wonderful things about the Strange Magic books. This box was an absolute pleasure to receive, it was beautifully presented and very carefully curated. The box gets a big five stars from me and if you’re looking for a new book box subscription, this is definitely one to look at.


Big thanks to Louise at My Chronicle Book Box for sending me a box to review!


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Thankful For

Another Tuesday and another top 10! The topic this week is books that I’m thankful for. I thought this was a bit of a difficult one, but I managed to whittle it down to ten:

1. A Song of Ice and Fire – George R. R. Martin

George R. R. Martin is my favourite author and I love pretty much all his books, but A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings are amongst my favourite books of all time. I’m so thankful for this series that has spanned a TV show that I’m beyond obsessed with, and so much merchandise my house in inundated with it. I’ll always be thankful for such a wonderful set of books.

2.  The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

There are so many classics that I adore – Tess of the D’ubervilles, Wuthering Heights and Turn of the Screw to name but a few but The Picture of Dorian Gray has got to be my ultimate choice. Reading Oscar Wilde got me into reading so many other classic authors and no matter how many times I read it, I always find The Picture of Dorian Gray a stunning book. I now currently own four editions but I’m always on the lookout for more!

3. The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings series is probably what got me into the fantasy books I love so much today. It was also a big bonding moment for me and my mum – we went to the cinema to see the films and we read the books at the same time so I definitely feel thankful that Tolkien wrote these magnificent books.

4. Sabriel – Garth Nix

I was OBSESSED with Gath Nix books as a child. (Who am I kidding, I still am.) I loved Shade’s Children so much, but Sabriel will always have a special place in my heart. I have a signed and very dog-eared copy that I will always treasure.

5. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Somehow I had never read a Margaret Atwood book until I went to University. I was assigned two of her books to read – The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace – and was completely swept away by them both. I’m so thankful that my lecturer introduced me to such a wonderful writer.

6. The Northern Lights – Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials were the first children’s books I read that I felt were really grown up and I was proud of myself for reading them. I still think they’re magnificent books, and they gave me the encouragement to read bigger and more complex books.

7. Interview with the Vampire – Anne Rice

Let’s be honest, Anne Rice is the Queen of vampire books. Twilight might be immensely popular, but for me nothing will ever beat Lestat. I love The Vampire Chronicles (hence this blog name) and I love that the series is still going on today.

8. Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo

I’ll never forget picking up Shadow and Bone in my local Blackwell’s because I thought the cover was pretty and it sounded like an interesting read. I was completely hooked and it is definitely one of my favourite books. Getting to meet Leigh at LonCon was also a massive bonus and I’ve loved every one of her books so far (Wonder Woman: Warbringer, I am still not over you oh my goodness).

9. Half a King – Joe Abercrombie

It was difficult to pick which Joe Abercrombie book to put on this list, but Yarvi is one of my favourite characters of all time. It was because of this series that I got into book blogging in the first place, so I’m immensely thankful for this amazing series and to the folks at HarperVoyager that gave me a proof at LonCon.

10. The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

This is the most recent book that I’m thankful for. I read this book right at the start of the year and I still think about how bloody good it was. I now have book two at the top of my TBR shelf, and I absolutely cannot wait to dive in. Full of magic and mystery, this book took my breath away.

Special Mentions: (I just couldn’t limit myself to 10!) Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, everything written by Cate Tiernan, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas and anything by Neil Gaiman.

Thanks for checking out my top 10 Tuesday, and always be sure to stop by the lovely host The Broke and the Bookish!


Book Review: The White Hare – Michael Fishwick


Release Date: March 9th 2017
Publisher: Zephyr
Pages: 192
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I won a proof of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Synopsis:

A beautifully written coming-of-age novel from an acclaimed literary voice.

A lost boy. A dead girl, and one who is left behind.

Robbie doesn’t want anything more to do with death, but life in a village full of whispers and secrets can’t make things the way they were.

When the white hare appears, magical and fleet in the silvery moonlight, she leads them all into a legend, a chase, a hunt. But who is the hunter and who the hunted?

In The White Hare, Michael Fishwick deftly mingles a coming-of-age story with mystery, myth and summer hauntings.

Review:

This book is a quick and interesting read that touches on that difficult topic of grief. The book follows Robbie, a young boy who’s dealing with the death of his mother and the remarriage of his father. The book is a short one – under two hundred pages and most likely you’ll get caught in this fascinating story and read it in one sitting.

The White Hare is a bit of a strange book, it is at times eerie, and I wasn’t always 100% sure what was going on, or where the plot was heading. I enjoyed the mixture of folklore, magic and realism, but I did feel like the ending left me with quite a few questions. That being said, it is a lovely read, watching the characters grow as they deal with the grief of losing their loved ones – Robbie’s friend Mags is dealing with a death also.

I really liked the characters in The White Hare – Robbie who acts out because he misses his mum, best friend Mags who knows more than anyone else about the white hare myth, and Robbie’s dad who’s just trying to do his best. They are very realistic characters, each trying to deal with their grief in the best way they know how.

I loved the idea of the white hare legend – which I won’t say too much about so as not to spoil the story – but I would have loved to know more about this myth and where it all started. I thought The White Hare had a really nice satisfactory ending, and overall the book is a good read. If you’re stuck in doors on a wintery Sunday this month, The White Hare is that perfect magical and heartwarming read to get caught up in.


Book Review: Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods – Tania del Rio and Will Staehle

Series: Warren the 13th #2 (See my review of book one here!)
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pages: 224
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Quirk Books kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

This sequel to Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye begins soon after the first book’s conclusion.Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his beloved hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles. Once again, you can expect stunning illustrations and gorgeous design from Will Staehle on every page along with plenty of nonstop action and adventure!

Review:

I recently read Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye in one sitting on Halloween. I loved it so much I dived straight into the second book in the series, Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods. In this instalment Warren and his friends are back, this time in their moving hotel. All the favourite characters are back, including my new favourite Sketchy the monster. Like the previous book it is absolutely beautifully illustrated, and the overall design is stunning. I loved the red theme than ran through the All-Seeing Eye, and now the green for The Whispering Woods.

Whilst this story has plenty of action and excitement, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the previous book. It is a fun and charming read, but didn’t hook me in the same way. That being said I still think it’s a fabulous story, and a wonderful series for children and adults. This book has a much more witch centred theme than the All-Seeing Eye, and I loved the illustrations of the nasty witches and the evil Witch-Queen.

With Warren wandering around in the woods this book is very reminiscent of old fairy stories, and this was something that I really loved about the book. The book has lots of themes that I think appeal to little ones and not so little ones, like friendship, loyalty and bravery. If you’re looking for a fun read this winter, the Warren the 13th books are the gorgeous books you need to snuggle up with at bedtime.


Feature: Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Want My Future Children to Read


This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is books I want my future children to read. This is a really hard one! I had a think about books I loved when I was little (they were pretty much all series right enough) so here they are!

1. The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien

I have been obsessed with Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit since I was little and so this would definitely be the one I’d want my children to read. It’s a beautifully written book and I still read it again and again!

2. The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis

I have this beautiful hardback edition of The Chronicles of Narnia that is stunningly illustrated and combines all the books together. I wanted to be Lucy when I was little so I would definitely pass this gorgeous edition down to my own kids.

3. The Secret Seven – Enid Blyton

When I was little I was pretty much addicted to books by Enid Blyton. Although The Secret Seven were my favourite, I’d pass on The Famous Five, Mallory Towers and pretty much all of her books – I think I might need to buy some new copies though, might are a bit dog-earred!

4. A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

I remember getting the first two books of A Series of Unfortunate Events for my birthday one year and I was hooked, I don’t think I spoke to anyone for the rest of the day. I love this series (and the new Netflix adaptation!) so this one had to go on the list.

5. The Harry Potter Series – J. K. Rowling

I think Harry Potter will be on a lot of people’s top 10. This magical series has touched so many people, I’d definitely share it with a new generation of readers.

6. Sweep Series – Cate Tiernan

This series is one of my favourites and I think really underrated. The 15 book series follows a young woman who finds out she’s descended from witches. It deals with all the usual high school and teenage dramas all with a magical setting.

7.  Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

I still love Alice in Wonderland today. This fantastic story is one I read over and over as a child. It has pretty much everything. What’s not to like?

8. The Northern Lights – Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials was one of the first series that I felt were quite grown up books even though I was still a child. I loved the complex layers of magic and the fantastic settings, I’m so excited to read The Book of Dust and see what’s been happening in Pullman’s fascinating world.

9. The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter

These books are so sweet and fun and I’ve kept my battered copies since I was a little girl I even have stuffed Peter Rabbit teddies. These books are perfect for little ones so I’m definitely going to pass them on.

10. Eragon – Christopher Paolini

And last but not least! Eragon was one of the first really really big books that I read,  I felt so impressed with myself by managing to finish all the books in the Inheritance Cycle. They are such fantastic books and full of dragons and magic, I couldn’t put them down!

So that’s my top 10! Which books would you want your future children to read? Let me know in the comments!


Book Review: The Mother of All Questions – Rebecca Solnit


Release Date: May 25th 2017
Publisher: Granta Books
Pages: 176
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Granta kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Following on from the success of Men Explain Things to Me comes a new collection of essays in which Rebecca Solnit opens up a feminism for all of us: one that doesn’t stigmatize women’s lives, whether they include spouses and children or not; that brings empathy to the silences in men’s lives as well as the silencing of women’s lives; celebrates the ways feminism has shifted in recent years to reclaim rape jokes, revise canons, and rethink our everyday lives.

Review:

This is the first book by Rebecca Solnit that I have read. I’ve heard such fascinating things about Men Explain Things to Me so I jumped at the chance to read the follow up. In this selection of essays Solnit touches on a number of different topics, including silence, rape jokes and the way in which rape victims are often seen as partly to blame.

The essays were intelligently written and I found them very enlightening. My one issue with this book is that there is quite a bit of repetition. Some of the essays reference previous essays in the book and provide a summary of what I have just previously written. I’m aware that this is because the essays featured in different places before they were collated, but I found it a tad grating to have so much repetition.

The writing is easy to follow, it isn’t too overly complex and really breaks down our society and drills at the heart of many of the problems we face. I particularly enjoyed “Men Explain Lolita to Me” and the discussions around books that women should not bother reading. I definitely think this book is essential reading for any feminist, and I’m definitely planning on picking up some of Solnit’s previous writings. This book is passionate, thought-provoking and definitely the best non-fiction book I have read in 2017.


Book Review: Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye – Tania del Rio & Will Staehle


Series: Warren the 13th #1
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pages: 224
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Quirk Books kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Meet Warren the 13th, a cursed 12-year-old Victorian bellhop who’s terribly unlucky . . . yet perpetually optimistic, hard-working, and curious. Orphan Warren’s pride and joy is his family’s hotel, but he’s been miserable ever since his evil Aunt Anaconda took over the management. Anaconda believes a mysterious treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye is hidden somewhere on the grounds, and she’ll do anything to find it. If Warren wants to preserve his family’s legacy, he’ll need to find the treasure first—if the hotel’s many strange and wacky guests don’t beat him to it! This middle-grade adventure features gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page and a lavish two-column Victorian design that will pull young readers into a spooky and delightful mystery.

Review:

This beautiful hardback book has been on my TBR shelf for a little while now, so when I ended up with a day off on Halloween, I knew it was the perfect time to start on this terrific series. I must say that the illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning, and the layout and design is just terrific. It makes for pure enjoyment reading Warren the 13th, and I am hooked on his story. ~

The book is the perfect children’s/Middle Grade story. There’s plenty of adventure as Warren looks after his hotel, and the story is chalk full of magic and mystery. There’s witches, strange creatures and fascinating contraptions. The story moves along at a good pace, and it’s exciting to see Warren complete all the tasks in order to save his home. I loved the setting of this strange Victorian hotel, it was beautifully described and illustrated, and it certainly put me in a spooky Halloween mood!

I also adored the characters. Aunt Anaconda is a perfectly evil villain that both adults and children will love. I particularly liked Warren’s tutor, the old Mr Friggs who hides himself in the library. Our main protagonist Warren is a magnificent main character, a young man trying to look after his family legacy, and protect those he cares about. If you’re looking for a fun and charming read this autumn, I guarantee you’ll love Warren the 13th from start to finish. The book comes to a satisfying ending, but this is only the beginning on Warren’s tale. I for one can’t wait to find out what’s next in store for Warren and his friends in Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods!


Book Review: Seeing Red – Lina Meruane


Release Date: August 3rd 2017
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Pages: 170
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I obtained a copy of this book from ReadersFirst

Synopsis:

Lucina, a young Chilean writer, has moved to New York to pursue an academic career. While at a party one night, something that her doctors had long warned might happen finally occurs: her eyes haemorrhage. Within minutes, blood floods her vision, reducing her sight to sketched outlines and tones of grey, rendering her all but blind. As she begins to adjust to a very different life, those who love her begin to adjust to a very different woman – one who is angry, raw, funny, sinister, sexual and dizzyingly alive.

Review:

This was a bit of an unusual read for me. This isn’t the kind of thing I would normally pick up, but they eye catching cover definitely stood out, and after reading the first impression on ReadersFirst, I dived right in. The book is very beautifully written and explores some really interesting things – when your life is altered so completely, how do you cope? It was fascinating to what Lucina as she attempted to adjust to life as almost blind.

The book is an intense read, and packs a lot into the small 170 pages. The one thing that really stuck out for me is the effects that Lucina’s blindness has on her relationships – friends, family and her partner all become altered in the face of her disease.

The book is at times harrowing and sad, Lucina is a really fascinating character and the stream of consciousness style of the book really lets you inside her thoughts and feelings. She’s angry and funny and determined, all things that make for a wonderful protagonist.

The book is broken up into very short chapters – only a few pages at a time and I did find these short chapters that then often jump to different locations and times a little jarring, but overall this semi-autobiographical novel is a beautiful and intense read that I enjoyed immensely.