Book Review: Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell


Having grown up on the quiet island of Guernsey, Betty Dean can't wait to start her new life in London. On a mission to find Clara Pickle - the mysterious beneficiary in her grandmother's will - she arrives in grungy, 1990s Soho, ready for whatever life has to throw at her. Or so she thinks...

In 1920s bohemian London, Arlette - Betty's grandmother - is starting her new life in a time of post-war change. Beautiful and charismatic, Arlette is soon drawn into the hedonistic world of the Bright Young People. But less than two years later, tragedy strikes and she flees back to Guernsey for the rest of her life.

As Betty searches for Clara, she is taken on a journey through Arlette's extraordinary time in London, uncovering a tale of love, loss and heartbreak. Will the secrets of Arlette's past help Betty on her path to happiness? (from Goodreads.com)


I'd probably site Lisa Jewell as my favourite author and have thoroughly enjoyed every single one of her books. Before I Met You is no different.

The book has a duel narrative, one from Betty in the 1990's and the other from Arlette in the 20's. Lisa proves she is just as comfortable with an historical setting as a modern one and I loved both ladies stories.

Like many of Lisa's book there's a theme of looking for something/someone that runs through the story, and with evocative descriptions of both past and present Soho brought wonderfully alive it's easy to become fully immersed in both eras. I love the way Lisa Jewell can describe a feeling or thought, without being dramatic or flowery, so perfectly I can conjure the feeling myself when reading.

I also love how her characters are real, flawed, strong and interesting. I adored the relationship between Betty and Arlette. It's sweet without being sappy. Both are feisty, slightly prickly characters and it's a mutual respect that draws them together.

Before I Met you is different to any of Lisa's other books, but I think that's certainly often the case with this author who grows with each new novel. Fans and new readers alike shouldn't be disappointed with Before I Met You and I recommend it highly!

Published July 2012 by Century (UK)
My copy was a proof received from the Amazon Vine program for review purposes


Book Review: Blackwood by Gwenda Bond


On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

Blackwood is a dark, witty coming of age story that combines America’s oldest mystery with a thoroughly contemporary romance (from Goodreads.com)

With so many books cramming under the YA paranormal/fantasy genre it takes something with a stroke of originality to stand out. Gwenda Bond's Blackwood certainly has that. Whilst unfamiliar with the centuries old mystery of Roanoke Island, I was intrigued by the synopsis and idea of a creepy island where so many people can just vanish into seemingly thin air.

And Blackwood is very creepy. Right from the beginning Bond creates a tense and sinister atmosphere that has the hairs standing up on the back of your neck. It reminded me a little of the Lois Duncan books I read years ago. As a story it grips you, giving very little information and keeping the reader firmly in the dark which results in the 'one more page' syndrome. 

Gwenda Bond's characterisation is pretty spot on too. I really like Miranda who is genuinely strong, brave and compassionate. I liked how the author wasn't afraid to give her flaws, for instance her feelings towards her father were believable and human considering the circumstances. It could have seemed cold, but I think we're given enough background to empathise with Miranda and understand her feelings. It was fascinating to see Miranda come to terms with her ancestors history and thus understand herself. I also quite enjoyed the romance in this book, which seemed to develope rather than just happen. You got the impression that the chemistry between Miranda and Phillips had history without it being spelt out. And as far as villains go, Blackwood has a good one with an authentic motive.

So, mainly I really enjoyed Blackwood. However I have one small quibble. I was left a little confused a couple of times...in particular with Phillips and his 'gift'. He apparently hears voices of the dead, but in no coherent manner and ends up being pretty useless from what I could tell. I'm not convinced that it was wholly necessary the way it was executed.  I also found the switching narrative a little annoying and jumpy. Usually I love this technique but it didn't work as well for me this time. Maybe it's just me who failed to fully concentrate or maybe it was the formatting of the e-book proof I read...in which case is no fault of the book itself.

Overall Blackwood is a great, unputdownable read and the occasional confusion was far outweighed by the good. With a tantalising combination of witchcraft, alchemy, legend and a quest for eternal life, it's a book to keep you up late into the night. If you're looking for an original, creepy book then you won't go wrong with Blackwood.

Published by Strange Chemistry (UK) September 2012
My copy was an e-book arc sourced from Netgalley.

Lu Reviews: Goddess Girls- Athena The Brain by Joan Holub / Suzanne Williams

Lu's Reviews is a new feature where my almost eight year old daughter and I talk about the books we're reading together. Some are bought, some may have been sent to myself from publishers for review. In all cases they have been pulled down from the book shelf by Lucy herself and read for no other reason than she wanted to. 


Athena has always been above average. She has never quite fit in at Triton Junior High, but who would've guessed that Athena is actually a goddess? Principal Zeus's daughter, to be exact.

When she's summoned to Mount Olympus Academy, Athena thinks she might actually fit in for the first time in her life. But in some ways, school on Mount Olympus is not that different from down on Earth, and Athena is going to have to deal with the baddest mean girl in history: Medusa! (from Goodreads.com)


First Book in the Goddess Girls series
Age Range 8-11 years
Published May 2012 by Atom (UK)


Lucy says: 

Why did I choose this book?: It sounded good from the title and I liked the picture of Athena on the front. 

What I liked about this book: I really liked Athena because she was very talented and how she thought she wouldn't win the invention competition but she did. I liked her school because it had lots of strange teachers. I liked Pallas because she was funny and liked Poseidon. It made me laugh when Athena found out her mum was a fly. I liked finding out about Ancient Greece.

What I Didn't Like: I didn't like that some of the words were very hard to read.  

Would I Read It Again?: No because it was a bit hard to read and I didn't like the way people talked.

Would I read the next book in the series?: Maybe when I'm 10

I score this book: 3. It was ok. I liked a some of it but didn't like the hard words.

Mum says: 

Goddess Girls was a fun introduction to Greek Mythology...although it did seem to presume kids would already know something of characters such as Zeus, Aphrodite, Medusa, Persephone and Ancient Greece itself. Lucy had a LOT of questions while reading this book and I'll be looking for a kids non fiction book on the subject. The names in particular caused a bit of frustration, Lu's a very capable reader for her age...but even I struggle with some of them! This book is probably better suited to a slightly older child, as Lu say's 10 would be perfect. The age old favourite Boarding School setting with a new twist definitely caught her imagination though.

We received this book from the publisher for review purposes.

Book Review: 666 Park Avenue by Gabriella Pierce


What if your mother-in-law turned out to be an evil, cold-blooded witch . . . literally?

Ever since fabulously wealthy Malcolm Doran walked into her life and swept her off her feet, fledgling architect Jane Boyle has been living a fairy tale. When he proposes with a stunning diamond to seal the deal, Jane can't believe her incredible luck and decides to leave her Paris-based job to make a new start with Malcolm in New York.

But when Malcolm introduces Jane to the esteemed Doran clan, one of Manhattan's most feared and revered families, Jane's fairy tale takes a darker turn. Soon everything she thought she knew about the world—and herself—is upended. Now Jane must struggle with newfound magical abilities and the threat of those who will stop at nothing to get them. (from Goodreads.com) 

This book only came to my attention last week, when I spotted it at a train station on the way home from visiting family. I'd only gone in to look (you know how it is...there's a shop, it sells books...you can't NOT pop in) but I was drawn to the cover (and the word Witches which I zoned in on straight away...nothing's going to grab my attention like Witches at the minute) Alas I was pretty poor and had to leave it sitting prettily on the shelf, but once on the train I called up Amazon on my phone to add it to my wishlist and found it was currently only 99p on Kindle. Win!

666 Park Avenue is like an old fashioned bonkbuster mixed with the supernatural. You have the orphan girl wooed by a charming, rich and sexy guy. But he doesn't come alone, his family are old socialites of New York, filthy rich, influential and feuding with other wealthy family dynasties. And they're all witches. Seriously, I don't know if anyone's mixed the two before (I generally don't read adult paranormal romance...maybe I should) but what a PERFECT match. It makes for an addictive, guilty pleasure read and I enjoyed every word!

Lynne was by far my favourite character...she's EVIL! Gabriella Pierce may clichĂ© the characters a little, but it works perfectly and she gives the reader exactly what you want from this type of book. It's fast, glamorous, and full of shocking revelations about the family. Because the two themes went so well together, I had no problem with accepting witchcraft in this story...it's done very well in my opinion. It's quite subtle in the detail but powerful in the execution!

It isn't the most life changing book you'll come across, but it's fun from beginning to end. It's also quite steamy at times, so one for the grown ups I think! This is the type of book you'll enjoy when you need some good old comfort reading...accompanied by wine and chocolate to make a perfect evening of indulgence. With a cliff-hanger ending, I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel, released in September!

Published by Canvas UK July 2012
My copy was purchased by myself in e-book format.

Book Review: The Age Of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

'It is never what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophies are always different - unimagined, unprepared for, unknown...' 

What if our 24-hour day grew longer, first in minutes, then in hours, until day becomes night and night becomes day? What effect would this slowing have on the world? On the birds in the sky, the whales in the sea, the astronauts in space, and on an eleven-year-old girl, grappling with emotional changes in her own life..? One morning, Julia and her parents wake up in their suburban home in California to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth is noticeably slowing. The enormity of this is almost beyond comprehension. And yet, even if the world is, in fact, coming to an end, as some assert, day-to-day life must go on. Julia, facing the loneliness and despair of an awkward adolescence, witnesses the impact of this phenomenon on the world, on the community, on her family and on herself. (from Goodreads.com) 


This is an incredibly difficult book to review and give a definite opinion of. On the one hand I flew threw it and fully appreciated the beautiful writing. Seriously one of the best I've read this year. In that respect it's a massive success. The problem perhaps lies with the marketing. I picked up this book expecting an end of the world dystopia. The premise is intriguing and the implications fascinating. I didn't get it.

Instead, this is a coming of age story of a twelve year old girl, with the earth slowing only a background, and at times a very vague one. It is beautifully written. The author captures exactly the pain and awkwardness of it's main character Julia. BUT this could have been just as easily achieved in a normal setting, because the stand out moments are those of a childhood friend drifting away, a first crush and the realisation that our parents aren't perfect.

There is very little explanation of the cause and solutions of the slowing and even the implications such as food production, gravity and the effect on human sleep rhythms or behaviours are only very vaguely touched upon. Even the cover of this book gives a sci-fi feel. It's absolutely NOT. Interestingly, the US cover has a very different cover suggesting more of a contemporary feel. 

I did enjoy this book, but couldn't help feel that it just wasn't what it promised. Fortunately I was able to appreciate it for what it actually was and can absolutely see that Karen Thompson Walker is an author to watch in the future. However, not everyone is going to be as accepting as I am and I think it's only fair to warn you that this book may not be what you think.  

Published by Simon & Schuster UK June 2012
Copy received from the publisher for review purposes

Book Review: Revived by Cat Patrick


As a little girl, Daisy Appleby was killed in a school bus crash. Moments after the accident, she was brought back to life.

A secret government agency has developed a drug called Revive that can bring people back from the dead, and Daisy Appleby, a test subject, has been Revived five times in fifteen years. Daisy takes extraordinary risks, knowing that she can beat death, but each new death also means a new name, a new city, and a new life. When she meets Matt McKean, Daisy begins to question the moral implications of Revive, and as she discovers the agency's true goals, she realizes she's at the center of something much larger — and more sinister — than she ever imagined. (from Goodreads.com) 

Last year I read and raved about Cat Patrick's debut novel, Forgotten (my review here if you're interested!) So when second book, Revived, landed on my door mat recently I was excited. Especially when I saw myself quoted in the front pages! I picked it up as soon as I finished the book I was reading and settled down.

Like Forgotten, Revived is fast paced, page turning and original. Cat Patrick definitely has a style of writing which immediately pulls you into the story and keeps you there until the very end. Her writing just flows from page to page, making them one sitting books. You really need to make sure you have a spare few hours when you pick up one of Cat's book...you've been warned!

I loved the idea behind Revived, sadly though I did think it was a little vague and under explored. The sci-fi element to this book is very much the back story here, and there is a more contemporary feel to this book which focuses more on Daisy's relationships. While I did really enjoy this it made the premise somewhat unbelievable and left me with far too many questions as I was reading.

I did really like Daisy's blossoming romance with Matt, which was incredibly sweet and touching. However it wasn't Matt who got my heart fluttering...but Daisy's fake 'Dad' Mason! Don't judge though until you read....secret agent type is all I'll say :P I really want to read HIS story!

Revived was a book of mixed feelings for me. On one hand I felt very let down and under-whelmed by  the story of  Revive and wanted so much more. On the other-hand, I was surprised at how touching, sweet and at times sad (really, tear-makingly sad at one part) the more 'contemporary' elements were. This book could have almost stood up without the Revive storyline at all. So while it didn't match up to the brilliance of Forgotten by quite a mark, it's still an enjoyable enough read to pass a few hours.

Published by Egmont UK July 2012
Copy recieved from the publishers for review purposes.


Book Review: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

A captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922, and the summer that would change them both. Only a few years before becoming a famous actress and an icon for her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita to make it big in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle is a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip. She has no idea what she's in for: Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous blunt bangs and black bob, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will change their lives forever. For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might prove an answer to the question at the center of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in a strange and bustling city, she embarks on her own mission. And while what she finds isn't what she anticipated, it liberates her in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of the summer, Cora's eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive (From Goodreads.com) 

I don't think there's any other period in time as enticing as the 1920's, and that's certainly what drew me to this book. I hadn't heard of Louise Brooks (a real actress of the period who this fictional story is centred around) but I was looking forward to reading about the glamour of New York during this exciting time.

What was surprising is this isn't what the book is about. I was expecting stories of Flappers and Speak-easies, glitz and glamour. Instead, this is a very quiet yet thoughtful book about a woman's journey in finding herself in a time when the very essence of the society she has grown up with is changing at lightening speed.

Told through the eyes of Cora, the actresses 36 year old chaperone, we see through her eyes the changing attitudes in both her small town in Kansas and New York with themes including class division, poverty, women's rights, racism and homophobia. I love the way Cora developes throughout this book, from typically narrow-minded to a pioneer and champion of the underdog. It's all very quiet and subtle, and spanning decades rather than set in only in the 1920's you really get a feel of the shifting changes. I think in this respect, Laura Moriarty really grasps and evokes history.

So, was I disappointed in the lack of glamour of the roaring twenties? Slightly...I must be honest. After all, that's what I went into the book expecting. I also thought the book lacked a little drama at times and lost pace in the middle, with the final third spanning fifty years a little too quickly. Nonetheless once I finished it, I did have plenty to think about and in turn appreciate it. The Chaperone is a story of one woman's journey of acceptance, both of herself and others. Who without people such as her, we wouldn't have the far more accepting and diverse world we have today. She's a normal woman, who does nothing particularly heroic...but she's quietly brave in her fight against repression and I very much enjoyed her story.

Published by Penguin UK April 2012
My copy was an advanced readers copy from the Amazon Vine program.

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