Wednesday, 25 April 2018

How to Fall in Love - Cecelia Ahern


Christine Rose is crossing the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin late one night when she sees a stranger, Adam, poised to jump. Desperate to help, she talks him into a reckless deal: if he gives her two weeks – till his 35th birthday – she’ll prove that life is worth living.

But as the clock ticks and the two of them embark on late-night escapades and romantic adventures, what Christine has really promised seems impossible…

A novel to make you laugh, cry and appreciate life, this is Cecelia Ahern at her thoughtful and surprising best.

What did I think?

Christine Rose is either very lucky or very unlucky, coming across two men within a month of each other who are determined to end their lives.  Reeling from the effects of Simon Conway's attempt to end his life, Christine, in her own imitable style, is determined to stop Adam Basil from jumping into the river Liffey.  She has just two weeks to make Adam believe that life is worth living - she can do that, can't she?  Let's hope so, or she's agreed to let him go back to jump off the Ha'penny Bridge on his birthday - eek!

There's something so very comforting about Cecelia Ahern's writing - it flows so smoothly like the Liffey itself and there are many chuckles and sobering thoughts along the way.  I loved the character of Christine and how she had a 'how to' self-help book for every occasion, but she doesn't have time to refer to her books to save Adam...she's just going to have to take a leaf out of the book of life.

I thought Adam was quite a complex character who appeared to have everything but happiness in his life.  It just shows you that money can't buy you everything and happiness can be found in the most unexpected place.

How to Fall in Love is full of Irish heart and humour whilst dealing with the very delicate subject of suicide in such a sensitive way.  It reminded me that life is worth living even when we think that all hope is lost...you just never know what's round the corner on the bumpy journey of life.

My rating:




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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

BLOG TOUR: The Man on the Middle Floor - Elizabeth S Moore


Despite living in the same three-flat house in the suburbs of London, the residents are strangers to one another. The bottom floor is home to Tam, a recent ex-cop who spends his days drowning his sorrows in whisky. On the middle floor is Nick, a young man with Asperger's who likes to stick to his schedules and routines. The top floor belongs to Karen, a doctor and researcher who has spent her life trying to understand the rising rates of autism. They have lived their lives separately, until now, when an unsolved murder and the man on the middle floor connect them all together. Told from three points of view, The Man on the Middle Floor is about disconnection in all its forms; sexual, physical, parental and emotional. It questions whether society is meeting the needs of the fast growing autistic section of society, or exacerbating it.

Thought-provoking and thrilling, The Man on the Middle Floor will leave readers talking.

What did I think?

This was a really surprising book for me; from the cover, I expected a bit of an Agatha Christie-style whodunnit but the reader is party to the murders so we know who did it, we just need to find out why.  We learn a lot more than that along the way in this thought-provoking debut by Elizabeth S Moore.

Each chapter is dedicated to one of the three main characters: Nick, the man on the middle floor; Karen the woman above and Tam the man below.  It was really interesting to delve into the lives of these three very different, but equally flawed, characters who live in the same building but have never interacted before now.

Anybody who has a heart will empathise with Nick who has Asperger's.  I know very little about the condition but I can completely understand his need for routine and having everything clean, tidy and lined up correctly.  His story is heart-breaking and so sad to see how early family life can damage a person beyond repair.

Another family damaged beyond repair is Karen's.  Karen has three children, or at least she gave birth to three children but after her marriage break-up she's quite happy to have no further contact until they are independent adults.  Karen would much rather study people than get to know them and she constantly chooses work over family.  Karen may be studying subjects with autism but, in my opinion, she needs to take a long look in the mirror as I think she could make a study of herself.

Tam has just lost his job as a policeman but old habits die hard and he sniffs out something that's not quite right.  He might have picked the clues up a bit quicker had he not been turning to alcohol to drown his sorrows.  Tam seems drawn to Karen but does he just recognise another lost soul?

I loved the way the story of Nick's life was slowly revealed in The Man on the Middle Floor; I had already started to care about him and felt very protective of him when he started his new job in the morgue.  Autism can be so varied that it has an entire spectrum so I don't think for a minute that this is how every person diagnosed as autistic will act.  What The Man on the Middle Floor did for me, is open my eyes to a world that is either black or white for some people; a world where every action doesn't have a reaction, it's just an attempt to bring everything back to its status quo.

I think there'll be a lot of debate about The Man on the Middle Floor, and I think Elizabeth S Moore has taken a very brave step to put the subject of autism on the table - so let's talk about it.  The Man on the Middle Floor is a perfectly crafted story that I think everyone will be talking about this year.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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About the author:

Elizabeth S. Moore has worked as a journalist since she won the Decanter Young Wine Writer of the Year at seventeen. She has written columns and articles on restaurants, politics, South Africa and all things foodie. She comes from a family that has given her a lot of writing material and is currently finishing her second book, having written the first after completing the Faber Write a Novel course and being approached by fourteen agents after reading an excerpt of her novel to industry professionals. Elizabeth lives in London with her South African husband and has three daughters and a son as well as two lazy Labradors.

You can follow Elizabeth on Twitter: @LizzyMoore19








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Monday, 23 April 2018

The French Adventure - Lucy Coleman


Suddenly unemployed and single, Anna escapes to her parents' beautiful house in France for a much needed recharge – and to work out what she wants to do next with her life now her carefully mapped out plan has gone out the window.

Anna gives herself 6 months to recuperate, all the while helping renovate her parents' adjoining gites into picturesque B&Bs. But working alongside the ruggedly handsome Sam on the renovation project, she didn't expect for life to take an unexpected, if not unwelcome, twist...

What did I think?

What a perfect cover for this heart-warming book; we usually expect amorous couples in a clinch on the cover of chick lit books so it just shows that The French Adventure is setting out to be something that little bit different from the rest.  

I loved the character of Anna - she is strong, talented and, after the first few chapters, single.  Anna knows her own heart and mind, which is why she never responded in kind to the many 'I love you's' that Karl, her soon to be ex, seemed to say so effortlessly.  Feeling betrayed by Karl when he doesn't admit to their boss that they are in a relationship, Anna needs to get away from it all and she has got the perfect location with her parents living in France.

Not one to sit idle and mope over the love she has lost, Anna throws herself into helping to renovate her parents' properties and improving their digital presence.  Anna also has the perfect medicine to get over Karl: working alongside handsome, but deep as the ocean, Sam.  Sam is clearly suffering from heartbreak but any attempt to get close to him seems to push him further away.  Anna's not one to give up easily though and she's as determined to fix Sam as she is to fix up the gites.

This book was a real surprise; there's sunshine and romance but also a bit of mystery and adventure.  I felt as if I was in France with Anna; as I was reading I could almost feel the sun on my face and Ziggy winding herself around my ankles and purring contentedly.  The French Adventure is the perfect summer read.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Thursday, 19 April 2018

BLOG TOUR: Rebellious Spirits - Ruth Ball

I reviewed the beautiful hardback of Rebellious Spirits in 2016 and you can read my review here.  I'm absolutely over the moon to open the paperback blog tour with an extract on how to make your own bootleg gin and a fabulous giveaway (UK only) to win your own copy of this excellent book.  I'd love to have a go at distilling my own alcohol although 20 gallons (just shy of an eye-watering 91 litres!!!) is a bit too much for me so I think I'll stick to the pre-bottled version of mother's ruin.





Bootleg Gin Extract – taken from Rebellious Spirits by Ruth Ball

With illegal gin sold from under a stranger’s skirt, you couldn’t be sure what you were getting. Gins had fancy names like White Satin, Blue Ruin, Cuckold’s Delight, King Theodore of Corsica, Flashes of Lightning or The Cure for the Blue Devils, but they were usually more turpentine than juniper. Even the less dodgy recipes for gin – those involving real juniper – were full of toxic ingredients. They were used in all kinds of food and drink at the time because their toxic properties just weren’t known. It wouldn’t be safe to try a truly authentic recipe for bootleg gin, but I have managed to put together a cocktail that should give you some idea of the taste without any of the nasty side effects.

BOOTLEG GIN: THE ORIGINAL
For twenty gallons of gin
Seventeen gallons of spirits one to five under proof. Take one penny-weight and three quarters of the oil of vitriol, one penny-weight and three quarters of the oil of almonds, half a penny-weight of the oil of turpentine, two penny-weights of the oil of juniper berries, mixed with lump sugar and spirits of wine, as before; add to it one pint of lime-water, and one pint of rose-water; use the whole. After you dissolve five pounds of lump sugar, in two gallons and a half of water that was boiled, as before directed, fine it down with the proportioned quantity of allum and salt of tartar.

P. Boyle, The Publican and Spirit Dealer’s Daily Companion (Sixth Edition, c. 1800)

THE ALCHEMIST’S VERSION
1 part vodka
½ part retsina
¼ part amaretto
¼ part neat sugar syrup
part rosewater
½ part water
1–2 drops of juniper oil

Simply mix and serve. But how? With tonic? While this gin would be really lovely with tonic, that wouldn’t be authentic. Tonic wouldn’t be introduced to Britain for more than another hundred years; so while you could drink it with tonic, it would be a little like going to a re-enactment wearing a digital watch. Chilled or with ice? Although this gin would also be excellent shaken over ice with a splash of vermouth and served in a well-chilled Martini glass, historical authenticity will not allow.

Drink it the authentic way. Just add a little water and drink at room/street temperature. If possible, try to throw some mud at an MP, or anyone who looks like they might be rich or important, at the same time. That’s the eighteenth-century way!


- - -


If you like the sound of this book (and who wouldn't?), you can click HERE to buy a copy from Amazon or enter my giveaway to be in with the chance of winning a copy - you've got to be in it to win it!



GIVEAWAY

Win a paperback copy of Rebellious Spirits by Ruth Ball courtesy of Elliott & Thompson.  The giveaway is open to entrants in the UK only and is open for 3 days from 19th April 2018 to midnight on 21st April 2018.  One winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email on 22nd April 2018.  If the prize is not claimed within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.  GOOD LUCK!




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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Riot (Saul Marshall Thrillers Book 3) - Richard Davis


Saul Marshall arrives in Atlanta in the wake of a shocking incident: a cop with a pristine record has inexplicably massacred peaceful protesters occupying the iconic CNN Center. But Saul, exhausted from months on the run from the law, fails to put up his guard. 

But when he is visited in the dead of night by a street gang, deploying extreme and seemingly unprovoked violence, Saul is forced to either get his guard up, or perish. And when he discovers that this same gang has already targeted two of his team-mates from his days serving in the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, striking back against the gang becomes not just a matter of survival, but revenge. 

But once Saul realizes that someone else is calling the shots – a deeply unhinged video-game addict, known only as Red, obsessed with inciting mass civil unrest – he quickly learns there’s a whole lot more at stake.


What did I think?

I'm a huge fan of the Saul Marshall books by Richard Davis and I'm completely honoured to have a character named after me in Riot, the third book in the series.  I've never met the author but, aside from being a robot scientist (how cool), the character he created does surprisingly bear an uncanny physical resemblance to me.  I just want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Richard Davis for bestowing such an amazing honour on me.  So enough about my immortality in print, lets see what Saul Marshall is up to in this third instalment.

Saul, Greg and Thom were all members of the elite FBI unit HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) and when Thom is killed, the two remaining members become targets.  Saul teams up with Rosa, Greg's ex-wife, who works for Homeland Security when riots sweep the USA.  The riots are all being masterminded by uber-gamer, Red, who is manoeuvring people like pawns on a chess board as he turns virtual reality into reality.  Red is after a certain prize: an antique gas mask last seen in Thom's possession, putting anyone who knew Thom in immediate danger.  The question is: can Saul and Rosa stop Red before it's game over?

It actually gives me goosebumps just thinking about events in Riot.  We hear so much on the news about shootings and knife attacks influenced by computer games so I wouldn't be surprised to find the events in Riot replicated in real life at some point.  Or perhaps they already have been...

Riot is a very clever book, but I have to say that it was sometimes a little bit complicated - it's quite technological so anyone who likes gaming and computers will positively love it.  I know my fair share of computer coding but I've never been one for computer games so I did find it hard to engage now and again.  Fortunately, Saul Marshall is such a well-developed character that he maintained my interest when the story sometimes got a bit geeky and with Saul around there are always going to be a multitude of heart in the mouth moments to raise my eyebrows and drop my jaw.

Richard Davis is a highly talented author and I am frequently recommending the Saul Marshall series to other readers.  Riot can definitely be read as a standalone but it will make you want to read the other two books in the series to find out Saul Marshall's back story, so my recommendation would be to read them in order to get the most out of them.  Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to seeing what happens next in the colourful, crazy and unpredictable life of Saul Marshall.  Riot is so shockingly true to life that I defy anyone to read it without getting goosebumps.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Monday, 16 April 2018

BLOG TOUR: Ghost - Helen Grant

I'm delighted to co-open the blog tour for Ghost, the latest novel by Helen Grant.  I'm releasing my review for the blog tour and I think this is a book that will appeal to so many people, especially those with a penchant for gothic tales.


Langlands House is haunted, but not by the ghost you think.
Augusta McAndrew lives on a remote Scottish estate with her grandmother, Rose. For her own safety, she hides from outsiders, as she has done her entire life. Visitors are few and far between - everyone knows that Langlands House is haunted.

One day Rose goes out and never returns, leaving Augusta utterly alone. Then Tom McAllister arrives - good-looking and fascinating, but dangerous. What he has to tell her could tear her whole world apart.
As Tom and Augusta become ever closer, they must face the question: is love enough to overcome the ghosts of the past?
In the end, Langlands House and its inhabitants hold more secrets than they did in the beginning...


What did I think?

I was really looking forward to reading Ghost; the mysterious key on the cover alone gave me goosebumps so I prepared myself for some spine-tingly reading.  It's an unbelievably addictive book; at only 10% in my Goodreads status shows that I found it 'intriguing and spine-tingling' and as the mystery unravels it gets even more interesting.

Augusta is living at Langlands with her Grandmother, Rose.  As a young child, Augusta couldn't pronounce her name correctly so the name of 'Ghost' stuck.  Rose keeps Ghost hidden from outsiders for her own protection as it's 1945 and there's a war on.  When there's some damage to the roof (from German bombers, as Ghost thinks), Tom McAllister arrives with his father to do the repairs.  Ghost secretly communicates with Tom, who thinks that she's the Langlands ghost of the spooky kind...at this point I thought that she very well might be as something wasn't quite right.

When Rose goes into the village one day and doesn't return, Ghost gets completely railroaded when reality hits.  Everything her Grandmother told her is a lie and she is determined to fit all of the missing pieces of the jigsaw together to find out the truth.  Luckily, Tom returns to Langlands to give Ghost the help she needs and we get to experience the purity of first love as Ghost and Tom grow closer together.  For reasons that become clear, I thought Ghost might think about leaving Langlands and it's shady history behind, but it's the only home she has ever known and Langlands has its own hold over Ghost.

One thing that really struck me was how well Langlands had been portrayed through the vivid descriptive writing of Helen Grant.  It felt as if the house itself was a dark and brooding character with hidden secrets.  People from the village stay away from Langlands and its ghost but perhaps Langlands itself is the ghost, it's certainly a shadow of its former colourful life.

Hauntingly beautiful, spine-tingling and eye-poppingly surprising, Ghost is a completely unique and intriguing mystery that shocked and thrilled me.  I'm definitely going to look out for Helen Grant's back catalogue whilst I await her next book.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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About the author:

Helen Grant writes thrillers with a Gothic flavour and ghost stories. Her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, was shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and won an ALA Alex Award in the US. Her other books include the exciting Forbidden Spaces trilogy. 

Helen's latest novel Ghost (Fledgling Press 2018) is set in Perthshire, where she has lived since 2011. When she is not writing, Helen loves to research the lost country houses of Scotland and to visit the sites where possible. Her experiences of exploring these fascinating places inspired her to write Ghost. 

Follow Helen on Twitter: @Helengrantsays 




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Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Book of Mirrors - E.O. Chirovici


MEMORIES CAN BE DEADLY
A brutal murder
It’s been thirty years since Professor Weider was found dead in his stately home. With little evidence to convict a suspect, the case has never been solved.
A buried mystery
Now, a partial manuscript has been discovered that reveals three people were at the house that night.
All three clearly remember what happened. But someone is lying…

What did I think?

I was intrigued by the premise of The Book of Mirrors and true to form it started off quite well but unfortunately it failed to hold my interest.  It's unheard of that I would ever give up on a book but I almost gave up reading The Book of Mirrors.  I persevered but didn't find it very rewarding so I can only come to the conclusion that this book just wasn't for me.

I liked the idea of an unsolved murder and an unpublished manuscript that may hold clues to what really happened that night in Professor Weider's house - a jealous rage, a work-related disagreement or a burglary gone wrong?  The story is told from three different perspectives but each story only adds a little extra snippet to the story we already heard in the first part of the book.  I actually think the third voice of the retired detective would have proven to be the most interesting, however, I had lost the will to live at this stage.

The writing is of a very high standard but it felt too caught up in the little details and it failed to draw me into the story.  I didn't empathise with any of the characters and I found the pace very slow and tedious.  The Book of Mirrors didn't make an impression on me at all and sadly I found it instantly forgettable.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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