Tuesday 27 May 2014

Celebrating reaching 1000+ Twitters followers

Thank you to everyone who follows on twitter, retweets, takes part in the competitions and of course reads my reviews and takes the time to comment and stop by the blog.

Up for grabs is a brand new Gimble, making reading easy and hands free, see the picture below. Fits and holds paperback books up to 4 CM (over 1 and a half inches) thick.
Competition runs until the end of the month, so only a few days. Enter using the rafflecopter as usual, any problems or issues please let me know. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday 24 May 2014

ARC - The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson

The Unfinished Symphony of You and MeThe Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 4 days

Source - RealReaders

Publisher - Penguin books

Pages - 488 (uncorrected proof)

Blurb from Goodreads

Sally is an incredible singer but she sings only in her wardrobe where nobody can hear her. She'd rather join a nudist colony than sing in public.

That is until she ventures to New York where a wild and heady summer of love and loss changes her forever. No longer able to hide in the shadows, Sally must return home to London to fulfill a promise she cannot break - to share her voice.

But just as she's about to embark on her new life, a beautiful man turns up on Sally's doorstep bearing a sheepish smile and a mysterious hand-written message.

How did he find her? Why is he here? Does he hold the truth to what happened back in New York? And, with him back on the scene, will she still have the courage to step into the spotlight?

My Review

Sally Howlett is our quirky main character, we meet her in the opening chapter with her teddy, after hiding out most of the day in her wardrobe. Sally does that, flees to her wardrobe when she is worried, needs time or is doing her number one thing in the world, singing. Coming from an estate, a family who like no fuss or standing out, it has been hard for her to sing anywhere else but the safety of her wardrobe. However, events have brought us to this moment and Sally is panicking, she has signed up to go to college and sing opera, she has an amazing talent and beautiful voice but has always had to shut it away. After a traumatic event in her past, she is bound by her word to share her talents and pursue it but there is so much in the way. Things from her past she would rather let go, always pleasing everyone but herself, her families utterly against such a pursuit and the biggest of them all, her crippling fear of anyone hearing her sing. Can Sally keep her word and do her diploma at the Royal College of Music, can she utter a note outside her wardrobe? Any why now, of all times, has the man from her past shown up to turn her world upside down. Sally will need to dig deep to deal with all the challenges she is faced with or forever hid in the safety of her wardrobe!

I honestly didn't think reading the blurb that I would like this novel. I was intrigued about the beautiful gentleman from her past but the whole music thing just didn't seem like it would interest me. I was wrong, very wrong! It is funny how you can relate to someone or something in a book that you, at first glance, could never imagine any comparison with at all. Sally grew up in an estate, opera is not something you expect one to be interested in let alone be able to engage with or produce the beauty that it is. Sally has such negative experiences and attitudes by those she loves she must lock it away, almost as a dirty secret. So now as an adult, to embrace it, to do something that goes against her core, pleasing everyone but herself, it is unthinkable. However Sally has depths and is learning and growing whilst having to face some of the most hurtful moments of her past, to deal with her promising future.

This book was a delight to read, there are so many levels to it, self growth, love, hurt, family dysfunction, betrayal, talent and that is only some of the themes. You will find yourself laughing out loud at some of the scenes, especially one or two with the fabulous Jan Borsos, it is naughty, funny, tongue in cheek and despite some mentions of sex, there is a beautiful innocence to some of the story. Sometimes the language they use toward each other felt, to me, a little out of place or young as they are performers, talented, educated and it just seemed like how a younger generation communicate rather than adults. However that said, it does work especially for Sally who is quite innocent despite being the mother role for Fiona, her hell raiser cousin, sister and best friend.

The time frame jumps around so it takes a while to discover what happened with Sally and the beautiful stranger who turns up at her door. To peel through the present day and some of the issues Sally carries with her and why she behaves as she does now. It is quite well signposted so you can follow the jumps in time well and slowly the back story is revealed. I have read this author before and would read her again, you can get your hands on this book from the 19th of June, 2014. Thank you so much to RealReaders for sending me this book, which I would certainly have passed over and missed out on a lovely tale, don't make that mistake and deprive yourself.

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Friday 23 May 2014

Review - Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1 day

Publisher - Phoenix

Pages - 463

Blurb from Goodreads

Who are you?
What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren't made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.

So what did happen to Nick's beautiful wife?

My Review

The tale opens with Nick Dunne, husband of Amy Elliott, on the day Amy goes missing. We have a short chapter covering Nicks morning, the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, before he hears Amy has disappeared. The next chapter is a diary entry, from some years previous, with Amy when she meets Nick for the first time. This is how the story is laid out, chapters going between Nick and Amy, past and present as we get a build up and view of their relationship until both parties are caught up to present day. Amy has gone missing, the house shows signs of a struggle and Nick quickly comes under scrutiny from the police and eventually the press. Amy's diary entries gives the reader a different look at the relationship, from the early days and then jumping through months and years until caught up to the present. Nick is behaving inappropriately and weird for a mans whose wife has disappeared, and there seems to be more to this story than meets the eye.

Despite the tale jumping through time periods and two characters, the chapters are well signposted and the reader can follow what is happening very quickly. Amy seems like a likable character at the beginning of the story however as you get into the meat of the tale, neither Nick, nor Amy are particularly easy to like characters. The pace of the story is set well and the reader is drawn in very quickly, I read this story in one day as I was dying to find out what happened to Amy and was Nick involved?

It is a fabulous thriller, I didn't see the twists and turns coming and think the diary entries from Amy are very well done, although this isn't a format I like normally in stories. This was my first time reading this author and I would read her again. Your interest is captured quickly, your guessing who done it, what happened and keep going for one more chapter in case you find out. The chapter length makes this easy to do so as they are fairly short which also helps you to race through. My only gripe would be considering the pace and depth throughout, the ending was a little weak in comparison however it is still a great psychological thriller worth checking out. 4/5 for me and I will be tracking down more by this author.

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Also this book saw a late night as I wanted to know how the book ended, kitty struggled to stay up

Monday 19 May 2014

Review - Murphy's Boy by Torey Hayden

Murphy's BoyMurphy's Boy by Torey L. Hayden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 3 days

Publisher - Avon

Pages - 324

Blurb From Goodreads

His name was Kevin but his keepers called him Zoo Boy. He didn't talk. He hid under tables and surrounded himself with a cage of chairs. He hadn't been out of the building in the four years since he'd come in. He was afraid of water and wouldn't take a shower. He was afraid to be naked, to change his clothes. He was nearly 16.

Desperate to see change in the boy, the staff of Kevin's adolescent treatment center hired Hayden. As Hayden read to him and encouraged him to read, crawling down into his cage of chairs with him, Kevin talked. Then he started to draw and paint and showed himself to have a quick wit and a rolling, seething, murderous hatred for his stepfather.

My Review

Kevin is 15 years old, cowering under a table when Torey first meets him, called Zoo Boy for the behaviors he exhibits and his self built cage of chairs and tables. He is afraid of everything, assumed to have a low IQ, a sketchy abusive past and talks to no one. When Torey starts to break down the barriers, Kevin begins to become more of a person than "an animal" and allows Torey glimpses of the boy he is. A long and arduous journey begins for Kevin, to face his past and all the things that terrify him and Torey finds herself faced with possibly one of her biggest challenges yet.

I have read a few of Torey Hayden's books and they can be really hard going, abuse, horror, violence and poverty being just a few of the issues. This one is no different and does cover some horrifying subjects however the bulk of the focus is on Kevin and his journey. It is quite emotional to see this poor child transform from an elective mute and try and face his demons. The processes involved and the red tape around establishments, care available and employers homophobic attitudes toward employees, it is really interesting how some systems work.

There is another child in the story, Charity who is 8 years old, brought to Torey through the big sister project, a little girl with a big attitude and a poor family. Torey splits her time between the two and the reader gets to see the positive influence, love, time and effort can have on two very different children and the impact it can have on them. Whilst some of the story is sad, hard going and plucks a few heart strings it is a story that restores faith in someone who does her job and really cares about the children than come into her care, however brief. Hayden writes very well and covers some horrific topics in a sensitive manner so 4/5 for me this time.

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Saturday 17 May 2014

Review - The Edinburgh Dead by Brian Ruckley

The Edinburgh DeadThe Edinburgh Dead by Brian Ruckley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 3 days

Publisher - Orbit

Pages - 369

Blurb from Goodreads

Edinburgh: 1828
In the starkly-lit operating theaters of the city, grisly experiments are being carried out on corpses in the name of medical science. But elsewhere, there are those experimenting with more sinister forces.
Amongst the crowded, sprawling tenements of the labyrinthine Old Town, a body is found, its neck torn to pieces. Charged with investigating the murder is Adam Quire, Officer of the newly- formed Edinburgh Police. The trail will lead him into the deepest reaches of the city's criminal underclass, and to the highest echelons of the filthy rich.
Soon Quire will discover that a darkness is crawling through this city of enlightenment - and no one is safe from its corruption.
The Edinburgh Dead" is a powerful fusion of gothic horror, history, and the fantastical.

My review

The opening of the story grabs you, experiments and bodies being cut open in a theater in front of the public. Manipulation of the bodies to make them move after death. morbid fascination. Flip on to 1828, there has been a grisly murder and officer Adam Quire is on the case. The mans throat has been torn out and his identity is unknown. When Adam starts digging deeper he uncovers things that don't make sense, can't be possible, supernatural elements and someone with money is not happy with Quire. The investigation will cost him everything if he doesn't relent but for Quire, justice and truth must be followed at all costs, even his life.

Oh the beginning of this story was so good, bodies, experiments and then a murder. However is soon slowed its pace, the word zombie is thrown about however I disagree in that Frankenstein, in my eyes, was not what I would call a zombie. There is occult, spells, black magic, reanimation, murder and downright freakishness within the tale. We also get a glimpse of the war Quire was in which gives an understanding of his character and why he pursues the course of justice, to any cost.

The insight into the police and how they treat each other was quite something although I would need to read some books to see if it is an accurate representation however it made for good reading. The book also has mention of some old famous Edinburgh historical characters which was good and well incorporated into the story.

Despite being quite slow going at parts, other parts really gripped the reader and I felt whilst it wasn't amazing, it was a pretty good tale. 3/5 for me this time and I would read this author again.

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Monday 12 May 2014

Author Interview & Giveaway with Rebecca Mascull

As you know I don't often do author interviews however in this case I am really glad I did, enjoy!

If you haven't heard of her before, Rebecca Mascull is the author of the visitors, her debut novel, you can read my review here http://www.alwaysreading.net/2014/05/arr-visitors-by-rebecca-mascull.html

Where did you come up with the idea for this book?

I worked with deaf students when I was teacher training and read a lot about deafness. I was so interested by the way sign language worked and how beautiful and complex I felt it was. Also, I saw a movie about Helen Keller years ago and it really stayed with me, especially the moment where Helen learns her first word, ‘water’. When I came to write this book, I started with the idea of deafness and then it occurred to me that a huge challenge would be to have my character lose both her sight and her hearing – a challenge of course for her, but also for me as a writer. And I can’t resist a challenge!

When did you decide you wanted to write a book and why?

I’ve been writing stories since I was a little girl. My first attempt at a novel was when I was about 12 and it was a western! My second was a hospital drama! But I started writing seriously when I left full-time teaching and started a Masters in Writing, about 13 years ago. That’s when I knew I wanted to pursue it as a career. But I’ve always loved writing, and now I can’t imagine NOT writing.

Reading my review, it is obvious this book, especially at the start, touched me. How did you decide on the content and focus the first half on the communication aspect?

I’m so glad it touched you – thanks for saying so. It just seemed the logical place to start, with Liza’s early experiences. I liked the idea that the Visitors were with her right from the beginning, so that’s why I decided to start with her birth and have them there, watching her. Also, she is born with little sight and I wanted to convey that too, as well as the loss of her hearing and sight in her first years. I read about Keller’s early years, yet I read even more about a girl called Laura Bridgman – I wrote an article about it here: https://www.hodder.co.uk/Articles/THE%20VISITORS%20and%20Deaf-Blindness.page She was the first deaf-blind child to be formally educated in America. I read a wonderful account of her education, written by one of her tutors. The process of teaching her finger-spelling, then reading, then writing was so fascinating to me, I wanted to convey this to readers. I hoped they would find it as interesting as I did.

Did you mean for it to have an impact upon your readers?

Gosh, yes, I certainly hoped it would. I was very moved by what I read, particularly by Laura’s determination and astonishing progress – not only in her ability to communicate, but her journey to becoming a full human being. Liza has a different character and a very different outcome to Laura, but they share that ferocious drive to learn. I admired her and Keller so very much, and wanted my character to have a similar impact.

Which authors inspire you?

I have a very mixed taste, but I must admit I do read mostly historical fiction, and much of it written in the past. Until recently, I rarely read contemporary novels, but now I’m in the publishing world I’m open to a lot more influences and have discovered some fantastic current novelists, which has been a joy. As for particular authors, my influences include Charles Dickens, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Hardy, Daphne du Maurier and John Fowles. My favourites at the moment include Amy Tan and Isabel Allende – I’d read just about anything by those two. Great, sweeping novels and very entertaining.

Who did you read growing up and do you feel they inspired you?

My earliest memories of books were those wonderful Ladybird Well-Loved Tales from the 60s, with the beautiful paintings by artists like Eric Winter. As a kid, I read a lot of escapist stuff about other worlds – loads of Enid Blyton (the fairy/toy books more than Secret 7 etc.) and my absolute favourites were the Doctor Dolittle books – I read and reread them over and over, longing to escape on a boat and travel to distant lands, as he did. I also was a massive Star Wars fan! And even tried to write a sequel to The Empire Strikes Back, with my brother! We were very annoyed when George Lucas beat us to it… Later, I read a lot of English, American and Post-Colonial classics at university – the Brontës, Hardy, Blake, Wordsworth, Denis Potter, Jean Rhys, Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner – as well as Spanish and South American literature e.g. Federico Garcia Lorca, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, some of which used magic realism. I also read The Lord of the Rings in my final year, when I should have been revising. All of these influences – as well as the many movies and TV drama series I’ve watched over the years – mixed up like a delicious soup and hugely influence my work now, in unexpected and mysterious ways.

Were you trying to get a message across in your book and if so why?

Ooh, that’s a good question. Uh, I’m not really sure! I guess I was just interested in the different aspects of Liza’s condition, her friendship with Lottie and the power of first love, and the mystery inherent in the Visitors. When I researched the Boer War, I was surprised by a lot of what I learnt – particularly about the concentration camps – and so I felt the reader might find that informative, but also a good part of the story. But really I wanted Caleb to grow up and become himself, and his wartime experiences in Africa and meeting Maria did that for him, and ultimately freed Liza to be herself too. If the book has a message, I’d guess it would be not to underestimate anyone, based on their circumstance or situation – that one can overcome adversity and achieve almost anything, with determination and self-belief. It’s also a story about the power of friendship, something very close to my heart.

What’s next for Rebecca Mascull?

Well, I’ve just finished my next novel and was thrilled to be offered a two-book deal by my publisher Hodder and Stoughton, for that novel and the next one I’ve yet to write. The new one is about an C18th orphan girl who becomes a scientist and makes a remarkable discovery. It’s presently in the editing process and is due to come out in 2015. As for the next one, I am bound to keep that under wraps! Suffice to say, it is likely to be set in the early decades of the twentieth century, but that’s all I can say about that right now! In the meantime, the paperback of THE VISITORS is due out on July 18th. It has a gorgeous cover, have you seen it?! Thanks so much for great questions, Lainy. It’s been a pleasure.

And now, you can win a signed copy of The Visitors and a bookmark, this competition is only up for one week as I have two other running until the end of the month. As always you can enter with the rafflecopter below and any problems just email me or tweet and I will sort it out. PLEASE NOTE, the book cover uploaded below is of the paperback version of The Visitors, the cover of the book you are entering the competition for is the one shown on my review.

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Saturday 10 May 2014

ARR - The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull

The VisitorsThe Visitors by Rebecca Mascull
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1 day

Pages - 247

Publisher - Hodder & Stoughton

Blurb from Goodreads

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95 · rating details · 56 ratings · 19 reviews
Imagine if you couldn't see, couldn't hear, couldn't speak... Then, one day, somebody took your hand and opened the world up to you.

Adeliza Golding is a deaf-blind girl, born in late Victorian England on her father's hop farm. Unable to interact with her loving family, she exists in a world of darkness and confusion; her only communication is with the ghosts she speaks to in her head, whom she has christened the 'Visitors'. One day she runs out into the fields and a young hop-picker, Lottie, grabs her hand and starts drawing shapes in it. Finally Liza can communicate.

Her friendship with her teacher and with Lottie's beloved brother Caleb leads her from the hop gardens and oyster beds of Kent to the dusty veldt of South Africa and the Boer War, and ultimately to the truth about the Visitors.

Rebecca Mascull's first novel is the tale of a wonderful friendship, but it is also a thrilling adventure, a heartbreaking love story and a compelling ghost story.

My Review

The story opens with our main character, Adeliza (Liza) Golding and takes us from the moment she is born up to and throughout her adult life. After birth she describes seeing the visitors, which turn out to be ghosts although she doesn't cover too much detail here. We are then told about how she comes to be deaf and blind and how this affects her behavior as she is growing up. She is angry, aggressive and almost feral in her frustration and loneliness until she is 6 years old and a chance encounter with Lottie changes everything. Lottie teaches Liza how to communicate which impacts upon her quality of life and opens up a new world for her. The book is then focused upon her becoming an adult, the war and how this affects her life and relationships.

The first part of this book moved me, if you have a family member or friend who is blind or deaf I think you may feel the same. Having someone who is so isolated and being helpless to do anything about it, I could appreciate how that must be for Liza's father although that isn't heavily featured in the book. How Lottie manages to change Liza's whole life, with patience and giving her the means to communicate was beautiful. Her experiences and how everything changes through having access to talk to others and seeing the character bloom was just wonderful.

The next part focuses on her interactions as an adult, her character growth, war and the visitors. As a child she meets and is taken with Caleb, Lottie's twin brother. As war is coming he is caught up in that and writes home to Liza and Lottie about what he sees and experiences which takes the novel down a darker path. Whilst the letters gave a stark look at the horrors seen whilst out in the field during war and they were interesting, they were a world away from the style and theme of the beginning of the book. I think some readers may like this contrast however for me I would have preferred it to be delivered maybe in a different format?

The ghost aspect is quite different, Liza isn't sure how she can see them when others cannot. What is the purpose to it, why her? Some questions are answered but not all and whilst this generally irks me when I am reading, I didn't mind the unanswered questions as you discovered answers along with Liza and accept her view point on it all, well I did.

I think this is a well written debut novel and can't describe how, on a personal level, watching the beginning of a new world opening for Lottie warmed me. It was a delight to read and I don't think I have read anything like it before. This writer has so much more to share with the reading world and I hope she continues to write, I will certainly be looking for any new material from her, 4/5 for me this time.

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Thursday 8 May 2014

Review - The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Shining GirlsThe Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1 day

Publisher - HarperCollins

Pages - 399

Blurb from Goodreads


The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own."

Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.

Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.

At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He's the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable-until one of his victims survives.

Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth . . .

THE SHINING GIRLS is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

My Review

I don't think I opened this appreciating it was a time travel book so I was really confused for a good bit of it. Reading other reviews I don't think it sounds like it was clearly highlighted although I read it on the kindle and very rarely these days do I read the blurb. Harper Curtis is our killer, the book opens with him in the 1930s visiting one of his future victims. He calls them his shining girls and always goes back to meet them when they are children and visits again to murder them as adults in the future. The book bounces between the 1930s and the 1990s, there are a few characters and each chapter has their name at the top so you know who it is about. Kirby should be dead, she is one of the shining girls who Curtis took care of, or so he thought. A game of cat and mouse begins when he realizes she is still alive and Kirby knows, despite details not making any logical sense, that her would be killer is out there and she means to stop him.

This book took a while to get to grips with, it was interesting enough although the time and character jumps took a bit of getting used to and sorting through. Once I realized what was going on I got on a lot better with the story. Harper is driven to contact and then later, through time gaps, kill them as they are the shining girls and have to die. Anyone who gets in his way is also in peril however they are his main focus. He isn't a particularly crafty killer, barring the fact he can time travel but the murders themselves are hideously brutal and gorey.

I think the idea for this book is a really good one, I read one by Joe Hill that was a similar theme, chosen ones to die and time travel however this one needs something more. I think had there been an explanation up front of why they are chosen and everything that follows after then the book would have, for me, been much more enjoyable. I don't like when I have to come up with the hows and whys, I know some readers do, I also don't like to be left with questions and hanging. That said, the way the characters and events are linked is done well which is why the rating for this one is 3/5. I had never read her before and whilst I would try her work again, I won't be rushing out to buy them all up. I believe she has a new one coming out in July, 2014 so will keep an eye on the reviews for that one.

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Wednesday 7 May 2014

Review - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 2 days

Publisher - Bloomsbury Publishing

Pages - 1006

Blurb from Goodreads

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England—until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

My Review

The book is set in and around 1800s, in an altered version of England about two magicians, Mr Norrell and Jonathan Strange. A group of theoretical magicians often meet up and discuss magic but no one ever practises it any more, apart from Mr Norrell. The magicians reach out to him to get him to show that practical magic can be done, debating whether it should or should not be done. What follows is Mr Norrell being the only practical magician until Mr Strange comes along. The magicians each contribute to efforts in the war and make a name for themselves whilst initially working together in partnership then veering away from each other. The magicians could not be more different in their attitude to magic, personal approach and outlook. Their relationship breaks down and everything they hold dear close is at risk.

This is a very well written debut novel, the world Clarke creates with spells and enchanted stories is spectacular. There is a lot of footnotes throughout the novel, if the characters refer to a story or a person a footnote usually follows. Some spread over a page or two, sometimes longer and whilst they were really interesting different stories or explanations I did find them quite distracting after a while.

The magic that is performed is impressive and would be wonderful to see on the big screen. The characters are so well carved out you get a good feel and impression, very early on. Throughout the book there is also quite a few drawings which I thought was a wonderful touch and I haven't seen anything like that before. Overall a good read, albeit I honestly felt had there been so many different stories within the footnotes that were good but had more time been invested with Mr Norrell & Mr Strange it would have been more than a three star for me. I would love this author to do a follow up novel to see what the magicians are doing now and how their story unfolded. 3/5 for me and I would definitely read a follow up if she ever created one.

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Review - It's Raining Men by Milly Johnson

It's Raining MenIt's Raining Men by Milly Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1 day

Publisher - Simon & Schuster UK

Pages - 480

Blurb from Goodreads

A summer getaway to remember. But is a holiday romance on the cards…?

Best friends from work May, Lara and Clare are desperate for some time away. They have each had a rough time of it lately and need some serious R & R. So they set off to a luxurious spa for ten glorious days, but when they arrive at their destination, it seems it is not the place they thought it was. In fact, they appear to have come to entirely the wrong village…

Here in Ren Dullem nothing is quite what it seems; the lovely cobbled streets and picturesque cottages hide a secret that the villagers have been keeping hidden for years. Why is everyone so unfriendly and suspicious? Why does the landlord of their holiday rental seem so rude? And why are there so few women in the village?

Despite the strange atmosphere, the three friends are determined to make the best of it and have a holiday to remember. But will this be the break they all need? Or will the odd little village with all its secrets bring them all to breaking point…?

My Review

Three friends, May, Lara & Clare who, despite working in the same company don't get to see each other very often so they decided to have a holiday away. A beautiful ten days in an expensive spa, rest, relaxation and chat, what could go wrong. They end up in Ren Dullem, the wrong village, no spa in sight and the locals are very hostile. The girls are all going through some personal issues and the last thing they need is aggression and rudeness. However, the more time they spend in the village the more they notice. There aren't many females, the locals seem to be on edge and there is more to this wee village than the girls could have imagined.

I do enjoy reading Milly Johnson, she is definitely the kind of author you can just race through the story. The women are good friends although initially they are reluctant to divulge the recent changes in their relationships and put a face on to have a good holiday. The villagers are mostly hostile and rude to the girls which, I think, most of us can relate to from at least one of our past holiday experiences. Clare bonds with one of the elderly residents within the town and slowly discovers some of the town secrets.

There are other characters who play different important parts to the story but, as I don't do spoiler reviews it is hard to go into any kind of depths with them. It is a good paced story with lots of wee shocks, secrets and revelations along the way. If your looking to try a new author I would recommend Johnson, light, easy to read but has substance even though it would be filed as a chick lit and this is as good a book to start with as any. 4/5 for me this time and I will be reading more of this author.

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Review - Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

Tales of the City (Tales of the City, #1)Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1.5 days

Publisher - Black Swan

Pages - 269

Blurb from Goodreads

San Francisco, 1976. A naïve young secretary, fresh out of Cleveland, tumbles headlong into a brave new world of laundromat Lotharios, pot-growing landladies, cut throat debutantes, and Jockey Shorts dance contests. The saga that ensues is manic, romantic, tawdry, touching, and outrageous - unmistakably the handiwork of Armistead Maupin.

My Review

Mary Ann Singleton has came from Cleveland to San Francisco, it is 1976. She is an innocent young secretary and she is bored, she wants to catch up with her old friend and see what life is like on the other side. She meets Michael, homosexual and fabulous, his best friend Mona who works for a big company and her boss is a slave driver. Mrs Anna Madrigal, their landlady and person who knows everyone and has a few secrets of her own. Her newest lodger, Norman is quiet and secretive and has a bit of an attraction and pull for Mary Ann who is finding this new fast life hard. Beuchamp is married to his bosses daughter, he is a bit of a player and has a chip on his shoulder. There are many other characters and each has some link to the other or brought into each others path which is quite an interesting link within the story.

There is secrets, sex, drugs, mystery and love to name but a few. I read this book years ago and knew I liked it but couldn't remember it all. After getting it for World Book Night I decided to reacquaint with it, I am glad I did. I will be finding the rest of the series as I can't wait to find out what is happening with the rest of the characters.

It is a very easy to read book, it has a bit of a trashy pull to it as it is full of gossip, lies and secrets and you love or hate the characters very early on so are eager to read more. I could have read this through in one sitting to be honest and it has very short chapters which is always a bonus. 4/5 for me and I will definitely be reading more of this author.

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Tuesday 6 May 2014

Review - The Countess: A Novel of Elizabeth Bathory by Rebecca Johns

The Countess: A Novel of Elizabeth BathoryThe Countess: A Novel of Elizabeth Bathory by Rebecca Johns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 6 days

Pages - 287

Publisher - Broadway Books

Blurb from Goodreads

Was the “Blood Countess” history’s first and perhaps worst female serial killer? Or did her accusers create a violent fiction in order to remove this beautiful, intelligent, ambitious foe from the male-dominated world of Hungarian politics?

In 1611, Countess Erzsébet Báthory, a powerful Hungarian noblewoman, stood helpless as masons walled her inside her castle tower, dooming her to spend her final years in solitary confinement. Her crime—the gruesome murders of dozens of female servants, mostly young girls tortured to death for displeasing their ruthless mistress. Her opponents painted her as a bloodthirsty škrata—a witch—a portrayal that would expand to grotesque proportions through the centuries.

In this riveting dramatization of Erzsébet Báthory’s life, the countess tells her story in her own words, writing to her only son—a final reckoning from his mother in an attempt to reveal the truth behind her downfall. Countess Báthory describes her upbringing in one of the most powerful noble houses in Hungary, recounting in loving detail her devotion to her parents and siblings as well as the heartbreak of losing her father at a young age. She soon discovers the price of being a woman in sixteenth-century Hungary as her mother arranges her marriage to Ferenc Nádasdy, a union made with the cold calculation of a financial transaction. Young Erzsébet knows she has no choice but to accept this marriage even as she laments its loveless nature and ultimately turns to the illicit affections of another man.

Seemingly resigned to a marriage of convenience and a life of surreptitious pleasure, the countess surprises even herself as she ignites a marital spark with Ferenc through the most unromantic of acts: the violent punishment of an insolent female servant. The event shows Ferenc that his wife is no trophy but a strong, determined woman more than capable of managing their vast estates during Ferenc’s extensive military campaigns against the Turks. Her naked assertion of power accomplishes what her famed beauty could not: capturing the love of her husband.

The countess embraces this new role of loving wife and mother, doing everything she can to expand her husband’s power and secure her family’s future. But a darker side surfaces as Countess Báthory’s demand for virtue, obedience, and, above all, respect from her servants takes a sinister turn. What emerges is not only a disturbing, unflinching portrait of the deeds that gave Báthory the moniker “Blood Countess,” but an intimate look at the woman who became a monster.

My Review

I must admit, I have never read anything about Countess Bathory but I have heard of her and the story of murdering her staff and bathing in blood. She is an interesting figure and I was delighted to get this off of a friend to read.

The book opens as a letter from a priest, he does not believe the Countess is innocent however, he finds these letters written by her, from her prison and passes them on. We follow the story from the Countess being imprisoned and then she recalls back from her early childhood, to events and happenings in between, up until her death.

The book is fairly slow going, until just about halfway I would say, how she finds herself being sent to live with her future mother in law. Her brief encounters with her to be husband and his polite, cold, disregard for her. This continues through their marriage until he witnesses her cruelty to one of their staff, which bonds them together. After this the pace picks up and there is some torture although there is nothing close to a gore fest some people may be expecting due to the details usually surrounding Bathory.

Otherwise is was an interesting tale, the writer has a talent and she paints quite a vivid picture giving you a feel for the times the novel is set in. This was my first time reading this author and I would read her again, I feel I would like to read a factual book on the countess and learn what evidence they actually had. 3/5 for me this time.

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Saturday 3 May 2014

Mays giveaway is The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

This is a brand new book, the competition is open only to the UK however you can check the WBN giveaway (2 copies up for grabs, open to all).

I read a kindle copy of this on holiday, my review is here http://www.alwaysreading.net/2014/05/review-shining-girls-by-lauren-beukes.html. As always the competition will run until the end of the month and you can enter via the rafflecopter below.

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WBN competition - Tales Of The City by Armistead Maupin x2 copies

I am a bit late so apologies, this was meant to run the day after World Book Night (WBN) however with the exam and holiday, WIFI wasn't great there, it got a bit behind.

This is the first book in a series, I liked it so much that when I read it the first time I went off and bought up the others, as well as watching the show. I reread it on holiday and, with my tons of others, you can find my review here http://www.alwaysreading.net/2014/05/review-tales-of-city-by-armistead-maupin.html

There are two copies to give away and I haven't restricted it to the UK so anyone can enter. I have set it to run to the end of the month and the same rules apply as with the pre-loved giveaway. I will also get that listed asap so bear with me and good luck people. a Rafflecopter giveaway

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