Saturday, 25 February 2017

Blogger Recognition Award

Last week I was thrilled to be awarded the Blogger Recognition Award by Katherine @ Blibliomaniac UK - thank you Katherine, I was both surprised and delighted to be included!  You can visit Katherines book review blog @ bibliomanicuk.blogspot.uk or follow her on twitter @Katherinesunde3

 
RULES OF THE AWARD:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
2. Write a post to show your award.
3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
4. Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
5. Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.
6. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide a link to the post you created. 

How my blog started 
Back in 2009 I was actively writing reviews on a consumer opinion site. I reviewed anything from shampoo to places I'd visited but my main passion was writing reviews of the many books I read. Anyway, I was googling an author who I'd recently reviewed and really enjoyed to find out when their next book was out and was stunned to see my review quoted (It was Margaret Leroy's The Drowning Girl if you're curious) and made me feel that maybe more people would be interested in what I thought about the books I was devouring. I'd been reading reviews from Chick Lit Chloe and loved her website, so decided to give book blogging a go. with my first post  in January 2010 

Two pieces of advice to new bloggers 

1. Get involved in the community. I love it when people comment on the blog and chat to me on twitter. People won't find you - you have to put yourself out there. Join and make use of twitter and reach out. yes it's scary, but most of us just want to chat about books too!

2. Keep it fun. Remember this is not your job. It won't pay the bills or put dinner on the table. In the past, I've become overwhelmed with the amount of books I have to read, worrying about whether I'm posting enough, whether I have enough followers. It really doesn't matter. It's ok to take a break, post when you feel like it and always, always read what you want to-when you want to.  You'll burn out otherwise. 

Fifteen Bloggers I'm Passing This Award On To  
A mix of some of my very favourites whose blogs I've followed over the last seven years and some new to me blogs I've been reading recently. I know a lot of these bloggers have already had this award...but hey, I think they deserve it again :)







Thursday, 23 February 2017

Book Review: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

A gripping, provocative thriller about the twisted secrets families keep, perfect for fans of The Girls. Beautiful. Rich. Mysterious. Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl. But you won't when you know the truth. Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family's rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But what she doesn't know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice...(from Goodreads.com

Published 9th March 2017 by Hodder and Stoughton (UK) 

It was the cover of The Roanoke Girls that first caught my eye - pretty yet subtly chilling in equal measures, it hints perfectly at the dark, dark tale inside. After reading the blurb and a couple of reviews I was convinced....I definitely wanted to read this book. 

Fifteen year old Lane has recently lost her mother to suicide. She's left alone in foster care, having spent her life being brought up by her distant and depressive mother. But when she's told her Grandparents want her, Lane hopes that for first time she can find a true family and home. Moving across the country to the huge mansion in the middle of rural Kansas, Lane is welcomed into the home by her vivacious cousin Allegra and her charismatic and doting Grandpa. But a dark secret simmers within the walls of Roanoke, and Lane is being pulled slowly into her family's twisted history. Ten years later, and Lane is again living away from Roanake and hasn't been in contact since she left suddenly. When she gets a call from her Grandpa to say Allegra has gone missing, Lane is drawn back to Roanoke to face the demons she left behind all those years ago. 

To say The Roanoke Girls is a shocker of a book is an understatement. It's quite early in the book when one line, thrown so bluntly by Lane, made me gasp out loud in horror, despite the fact I had my suspicions where this book was going. This is a disturbingly dark story, yet I couldn't tear myself away. Some people are going to find this book too controversial. Personally, despite the horror of what was going on in those pages, I was hooked. 

The story is told from Lane's point of view, both during the long, hot summer as a naive fifteen year old and ten years later, when she returns to Roanoke bitter, cruel and damaged. I liked the contrast between Lane's character in each section of then or now, which we're given in alternating chapters. Amy Engel creates the perfect atmosphere of oppression and dark secrets, from the eerie setting of Roanoke itself to the claustrophobic and searing heat of the Kansas summer. The cast of characters are damaged and flawed, trapped into the disturbing cycle of the Roanoke family...creepy in their own knowing silence. Added to this, there's an occasional chapter from each of the fated Roanoke Girls who came before Lane. Sprinkled throughout the book like ghosts, the horror at the extent of this family's disturbing and twisted history builds with each one.  

The Roanoke Girls isn't exactly a thriller, there is the mystery of what has happened to Allegra, although my suspicions early on were right here and the author makes the secret of the Roanoke family clear within the first few chapters. This doesn't mean it's without its shocks and twists - it's full of them and I was gripped throughout, holding my breath and unable to look away. This is a dark, disturbing and chilling read, often uncomfortable but twistedly fascinating. I read it in two sittings, only breaking to sleep. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, its dark and taboo subject matter not being easy to stomach, but if you like your books tense, shocking and compulsive with evocative and atmospheric writing and deep, dark family secrets, then I'd recommend it. I thought it was fantastic, even though I sometimes felt I shouldn't! 

(I read an advanced ebook proof supplied by the publisher through Netgalley)

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Book Review: Eyes Like Mine by Sheena Kamal

It's late. The phone rings.

The man on the other end says his daughter is missing.

Your daughter.

The baby you gave away over fifteen years ago. 

What do you do? 

Nora Watts isn't sure that she wants to get involved. Troubled, messed up, and with more than enough problems of her own, Nora doesn't want to revisit the past. But then she sees the photograph. A girl, a teenager, with her eyes. How can she turn her back on her? 

But going in search of her daughter brings Nora into contact with a past that she would rather forget, a past that she has worked hard to put behind her, but which is always there, waiting for her . . . 

In Eyes Like Mine, Sheena Kamal has created a kick-ass protagonist who will give Lisbeth Salander a run for her money. Intuitive, not always likeable, and deeply flawed, Nora Watts is a new heroine for our time. (From Goodreads.com)

Published by Bonnier Zaffre 9th February 2017 (UK)

As soon as I started reading Eyes Like Mine, I realised it was going to be very different to other other thrillers I've read lately. The tone, style, prose...it was sharp and edgy and very easy to become quickly gripped by.

Nora Watts is a tough, world weary protagonist. She's seen the worst of human nature in her life, and this is reflected in her attitude. She's aloof, suspicious and constantly looking over her shoulder. She keeps herself to herself, squatting in the basement of her employers office and keeping in the shadows of the violent and corrupt world she inhabits, the mangy stray dog who, for some reason latched onto her, the only company she has. But this lady can take care of herself, she's had to. Nora is fiesty and strong, and Eyes Like Mine is a fast paced, action packed thriller throughout.

Nora isn't a likable character. She's an ex-alcoholic, almost vagrant and distrusts most people she knows. She goes out of her way to keep everyone at more than arms length. As her story is revealed throughout the book, I understood why. Nora knows violence and betrayal. She's come to expect nothing less. She appears cold, even when the call about her missing daughter, adopted at birth, comes in. The author never lets Nora's guard slip, even for a second, but there are glimpses of what lurks underneath Nora's iron exterior, just enough to make the reader care what happens to her without slipping into sentimentality or smulch. For this, Nora is utterly believable.

There are some violent scenes in this book, with the setting being the dark and corrupt world of private investigation and billionaire business. It's edge of your seat fast at times, with car chases, gun fights and an ever present sense that danger lurks right around the corner. I did loose my way a little bit regarding Nora's investigation into the Canadian mining business, it got a little to technical for me and I started loosing track of who was who and how it was all connected-however, my confusion wasn't that long lived and is probably down to me not having any idea about billion dollar mining business and  the Canadian setting (there seemed to be a political undertow? It's just not something I know anything about). There's also one thread early on in the book which I kept expecting to resurface, and when it didn't I wondered what the point of it had been. On reflection though, I think it was to show there is a softer, human and empathetic side to Nora.

Eyes like Mine proved to be more action packed, gritty and perhaps political, then what I'd usually choose. I'm not usually drawn to books about corruption, however having read this, I'm glad I did. I raced through it in a couple of sittings and was gripped throughout.

(I read an advanced readers copy from the Amazon Vine Program)

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Sunday Wrap Up - 19th February 2016

 
Woohoo...on Friday I finished work for half term, and although I really love my job, the last few weeks have been intense for various reasons. I was also pretty ill over the Christmas holidays so didn't feel I'd had a proper wind down before going back in January. So for the next week my plans are to read, sort some stuff around the house, read, catch up with some TV and read some more. I've also started doing a bit of blog organising...making some small tweaks to the template, adding in links and general tidying. I need to work out the best way to organise my review A-Z. There's so many reviews here now, I don't think the long list works. I'm thinking of maybe separating by genre also...what do you think? Last night I also began jotting in ideas, plans and schedules in my diary. I'm going to keep this organised this time. Promise!  


Last Week On The Blog 

I reviewed these two fantastic but very different books (you can read my reviews by clicking the images) 


New Books This Week 

I got some fantastic book post this week. 
(clicking on the titles will take you to Goodreads for a summery)

 


Currently Reading  




Hope you all have a wonderful week 

I'm linking this post to the Caffeinated Book reviewers Sunday Post Meme


Saturday, 18 February 2017

Book Review: Sealskin by Su Bristow

Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous, and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives—not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies—seals who can transform into people—evokes the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set. ( From Goodreads.com)  

Published 15th February 2017 by Orenda Books (UK)

I knew, as soon as I read the synopsis for Sealskin, that this was going to be my kind of book. I love re-tellings of old legends and myths and a hint of magic realism. Having read some wonderful reviews and followed the author's fascinatingly interesting blog tour, I couldn't wait to read it for myself.   

Sealskin is set on a Scottish Island in a small fishing village and Su Bristow captures the essence of the rugged landscape and sea beautifully - harsh, raw and at times violent combined with a breathtaking beauty, purity and etherealness. And it's those same qualities which transcend into this exquisite story and the lives of its characters. 

The story begins with Donald, a lonely and often ostracised member of this close knit community, who while out fishing late at night witnesses something magical, something only a few humans have ever seen. His reaction is shocking and uncomfortable, a violent act in contrast the purity of the magic he has just seen. It was difficult here to accept Donald's actions, and I worried that my distaste and anger at what Donald does was so great, I wouldn't be able to enjoy the rest of the book. 

But this where Su Bristow's skill as a master story teller shines. Sealskin is a fairytale-not the watered down, happy ever after ones we're accustomed to nowadays, but of the traditional variety. Dark themes, flawed characters, naivety and wisdom mixing together with a message of hope, learning and overcoming both real and personal demons. I could imagine this story being told by candlelight hundreds of years ago, while remaining as enchanting and relevant to a modern reader.  

I loved the character of Mairhi. She is written with such care that the feelings of calmness and healing she shares with those in the book seep from the page. She doesn't speak, but the lyricism of her aura and eyes expressing her needs and feelings is written so evocatively, I could feel and imagine it myself. Indeed, Su Bristow's prose throughout, from her depictions of characters to descriptions of the stunning scenery and nature, are so mesmerising and vivid, that I truly became lost in the story. While reading, my own surroundings blurred away and I had a feeling of coming out of a dream when looking up from the pages, needing a few seconds to anchor myself back in my own world.  

I went into Sealskin hoping that I would love it, and I did. Every word of it. For me, reading Sealskin was reminiscent of my experience of reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern or The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. There aren't many books I can think of that have had this all encompassing effect on me while transporting me to another world, which stays with me so vividly for years to come, but I'm adding Sealskin to that list.