Archive for February, 2012

Kevin’s Point of View

Del Shannon

Kevin Tobin is a relatively ordinary 12-year-old dealing with the aftermath of his father’s death in a mountain biking accident near their home in Boulder, Colorado. To escape from his emotional turmoil, Kevin has developed his imagination into a dangerous foil and a powerful ally. While he antagonizes his sister through his superhero antics on an average Wednesday morning, his ability to escape inside a character’s head become critical to his survival after his life is once-again turned upside down a year after his father’s death. A mysterious package arrives in the mail, Kevin and his best friend are hunted down by a ruthless villain set upon world domination, and after enlisting Kevin’s teenage sister and her pizza-delivery boyfriend in a battle for control over time itself, the secret of Kevin’s whole existence is revealed to him by a source we never expected. Del Shannon’s imaginative story, appreciation for the powers of family and the desire of young boys to both escape reality and prove themselves within it, and fast-paced, adventure-filled storytelling style make this a book with wide appeal for readers of all ages.

Kevin’s point of view is a really great book that is about a normal 12 year boy still suffering from the quick, and suspicious, death of his father a year ago, who he loved so very much. He deals with this by wondering deeply into the depths of his talented imagination – separating himself from the rest of the world. A few days before he goes on his school field trip to the Rockies, a strange package arrives mysteriously for him at his home in Colorado. This package was meant to arrive at the home of Devin Talon but since when does anything ever go right in adventure books?!

The content of this important package is something called the I.N.F.L.U.X.I.T.R.O.N. With his friend Toby and his sister along with her boyfriend, a pizza delivery man, they work tirelessly to keep the I.N.F.L.U.X.I.T.R.O.N out of Devin’s desperate hands. But also Kevin has his own needs for this machine: to bring back his dad. They are able to do amazing things all around Colorado with the help of the “Shroom wagon” on their side.

I really enjoyed this book as it was full of danger and suspense all strung together cleverly by Del Shannon. At first I did actually struggle to get into the book as I found it a little confusing, but I persevered and found that this was a really exciting book that would keep me quiet for hours (much to my parents’ pleasure!).

Verdict: I would suggest this book to people who love books which include exciting, full-on action with plenty of fun and easy to understand humour.

Reviewed by Jack (11)

Publisher: Emlenl
Publication Date: October 20101
Format: Paperback
Pages: 402
Genre: Action, Adventure
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Jack (11)
Source: Provided by author
Challenge: None
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The Knife Of Never Letting Go

Patrick Ness

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee – whose thoughts Todd can hear, too, whether he wants to or not – stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden – a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives. But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought.

Escaping the problems of the old world, the pioneers of New World had hoped to carve out a new, simpler, idyllic existence for themselves and their families by farming the land and practicing their faith. Twenty years later, their numbers decimated as a result of the violent war with the natives, the Spacks , the last remaining human settlers of New World cling to survival in their swamp encircled village – Prentistown.

Fatal to all but a few men, The Germ, a weapon deployed by the Spacks, has left the survivors of Prentistown afflicted with The Noise – the audible expression of their every thought, memory and emotion.

“The noise is a man unfiltered and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking”

I was quickly gripped by Todd’s first person account, written as Todd would speak, I found myself floating along with the cadence of Todd’s voice. Filled with spelling mistakes and at times, limited punctuation, you really get a feel for Todd’s limited education, necessitated by the need to survive, and the presence of a new accent amongst the settlers, indicating their separateness from ourselves. Todd is a complex character, at times cruel, thoughtless and proud and yet his also amazingly loyal and brave in the face of his fears.

The animal characterisation was fantastic. Stealing the show from the first page Manchee the dog grew on me in much the same way he did for Todd, at first an amusing diversion, an unavoidable irritation then becoming a valued companion, guide and protector. Ness really captured the enthusiasm, energy and loyalty of man’s best friend. I also enjoyed the comfort and safety of belonging to a herd with The Noise of the giant ox and their song of here, the stupidity of sheep and the general chattering of all the creatures.

I loved the concept of The Noise and I thought that it was an amazingly original idea. The presence of The Noise made for an uncomfortable read and ramped up the tension. You know that Todd and his companions are in a no- win situation. They are unable to out run the army they can hear gaining on them, and it’s impossible to hide with Todd’s noise announcing his position. Yet you are sat heart in mouth, rooting for a solution. The way noise was expressed on the page, as a jumble of different thoughts in different sized texts and fonts, gave a taste of the distracting, ugly chaos of Todd’s world.

While I understand that a cliff hanger is an important tool to wet your interest and ensure you will check out the next instalment of a series, there are times when it feels like you have been sucker punched. You’ve invested in these characters for the duration of the novel and BOOM! everything is left up in the air. This is definitely one of those times. Ordinarily I would find this immensely frustrating and feel hacked off, however the advantage of reading an older book is that the series is complete and I can feel smug in the knowledge that I have the rest of the trilogy sat on my book case.

Verdict: Reserve, borrow or buy the entire trilogy before you even think about starting The Knife Of Never Letting Go.

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: October 2008
Format: Paperback
Pages: 479
Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Oldest Book
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Tag! You’re it!

Reviewer: Caroline

When I was tagged by Laura, the blue-haired dynamo responsible for Sister Spooky: Book Fangirl , I thought that it was a great way to get to know a little bit more about my fellow bloggers.

The Rules

  • Answer the eleven questions that were asked of you by the person who tagged you.
  • Make up eleven new questions and tag eleven new people to do the meme!
  • Let them know you tagged them!

Laura asked:

What is your favourite dessert?
I’m a fan of all desserts but my most favourite is Key Lime Pie.

What’s the last book you read that completely knocked your socks off?
I hope that you’re not seriously expecting me to pick just one!
I’ve recently finished Department 19 by Will Hill, which was totally gripping and fast paced and I can’t wait to read the sequel Department 19: The Rising.
I Love  all of Maggie Stiefvater’s  work but my favourite of hers has to be The Scorpio Races. My signed, doodled copy is probably my favourite bookish possession.
The book that totally knocked me off my feet, on to the floor, a left me a snot covered wreck was Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma.

What’s your snack food guilty pleasure?
The most shame full thing that I enjoy eating is Pot Noodles. I don’t have to be drunk or hungover to partake in  reconstituted soya-protein goodness.

When you were little did you have a favourite toy and what was it?
My bike. In the school holidays my siblings and I would be sent off in the mornings, with a packed lunch, expected not to return while it was still light. We would spend all day riding our bikes and exploring the surrounding woods and fields.

Is there any skill or talent you wish you had but just don’t?
I really wish I could speak another language. I learnt German and French at school but I can’t remember any of it now.

What kind of music do you like? Any recommendations?
I like lots of different types of music and will download anything that catches my ear.

What was the last movie you saw at the cinema and what did you think of it?
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. I have to say that I squirmed in discomfort for the first 15mins. What was the cheesy elevator music about? Over all I enjoyed the film and I plan to watch the final instalment.

What is your dream job?
At around eleven or twelve I had to acknowledge that, growing up in the UK with terrible vision and a phobia of physics, a career as an astronaut was perhaps a tad unrealistic!
I’m happy to report that I discovered a new passion and I’m currently working in my dream job as a midwife.

What is your favourite kid’s TV show ( now or when you were a kid)?
I LOVE Pepper Pig, which is a good thing considering it’s a big hit among the smaller members of my household.

Favourite ice cream flavour?
Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food- YUM YUM YUM!

Thisby?

If you could visit any place in the world where would you go and why?
I would visit Thisby, in November to watch the Capailli Uisce race and munch on some November cakes.
If your insisting on an actual place in the real world! I would have to say New Zealand. I’ve never visited and it looks like such an amazingly beautiful country.

My questions:

  1. It’s your round at the pub and I’ve asked you to surprise me. What drink would you buy me and why?
  2. If you had to spend the day as a character in a book who would you be and why?
  3. What was the last thing you read/watched that made you cry?( Real tears, preferably with snot bubbles!)
  4. They say that you learn something new every day. What was the last thing you learnt?
  5. Marmite: Love it? Hate it?
  6. Which Literary love interests would you snog, marry and avoid.

  7. What’s your usual order from Starbucks/Costa?
  8. What is your oldest memory?

  9. Paperback, Hardback or Kindle? Which of these is your favourite reading format and why?

  10. What is your favourite quote/saying?

  11. If you could bring back any TV show for another series what would you pick and why?
I’m Tagging:
Lynsey Newton (Narratively Speaking)
Sarah (Feeling Fictional)
Kirsty( The Overflowing Library)
Grete Evans (Book Thing)
Amie Salmon (Welcome To My World)
Caroline (Portrait Of Woman)
Susan Mann
@Book-Geek-Says (So many books, so little time)
Momo (Books Over Boys)
Chris (Wicked Awesomology)
And last but by no means least Lesley from Here!
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The 13th Horseman

Barry Hutchison

Drake Finn has just met the Horsemen of the Apocalypse but is that really the end of the world? Pratchett meets Python in this dark comic fantasy with plenty of action, perfect for 11+ boys Drake is surprised to find three horsemen of the apocalypse playing snakes and ladders in his garden shed. He’s even more surprised when they insist that he is one of them. They’re missing a Horseman, having gone through several Deaths and they think that Drake is the boy for the job. At first he’s reluctant to usher in Armageddon but does being in charge of Armageddon have to spell the end of the world? An apocalyptic blend of riotous comedy, heart-stopping action and a richly imagined fantasy adventure.

I now have a new favourite book and I shall be telling all my friends about it! The 13th Horseman is full of humour, action and suspense. This book is about Drake, a very normal school kid. Unfortunately, he gets expelled from school for the very silly reason that he blew up two toads, along with the top two floors of the school as well! It was all just an accident of course, but it means he had to move house in order to start a new school. He then discovers a shed in the garden – that bizarrely only he can see. Drake finds three of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse inside the shed playing snakes and ladders and to his surprise they decide that as they are short of a Horseman, and he was able to find them, Drake must be one of them too. He then finds himself becoming the 13th Horseman – the new ‘Death’!

Battling against the former ‘Death’, who is trying to end the world early, he finds his best friend Mel’s life is at stake… along with the world! One of the funniest parts for me was when yet another ‘Death’ has been travelling across the galaxies to find the garden shed – the meeting place of the Horsemen. He keeps cropping up during the book on his quest and when he finally gets there…well you will have to read it to see, but it really made me laugh out loud. I have enjoyed this book incredibly and would recommend it to anyone who loves a humorous adventure story. I now really REALLY hope there will be another book by Barry Hutchinson. This is the sort of book that would make a really good movie!

Verdict: A brilliant book, really good fun and very humorous.

Reviewed by Jack (11)

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Publication Date: March 2012
Format: ARC
Pages: 368
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Age: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Jack (11)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British Book
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Love Books Will Travel: Patrick Ness and Jim Kay

Who: Patrick Ness and Jim Kay(illustrator)

What: Book discussion, signing and art exhibition

Where: Foyles
Charring Cross Rd
London

Why: To promote the paperback release of A Monster Calls: 

The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming. . . This monster, though, is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Connor.
It wants the truth. Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final story idea of Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, A Monster Calls is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

Patrick Ness comes across as very confident and personable and if I’m honest, pretty easy on the eye 🙂 I left the talk feeling very envious of those lucky enough to have attended his lectures on creative writing and looking forward to reading, ‘A Monster Calls’.

The event showcased the genius pairing of Patrick’s penmanship and Jim Kay’s engaging illustrations whilst also paying homage to Siobhan Dowd, the award winning author, who dreamt up the initial premise of, ‘A Monster Calls’ but unfortunately passed away from cancer before committing her story onto paper.

It was clear from the talk that Patrick has a lot of respect for Siobhan’s books and his passion has encouraged me to seek out her works. He was also insistent that he had to write, ‘A Monster Calls’ his way as he wouldn’t have done the story justice by trying to second guess how Siobhan would have written it. Instead he allowed the process to be much more organically driven which has resulted in a truly remarkable book that I’m sure Sinead would have approved of.

During the talk, we were given the chance to admire original prints dotted around the room featuring artwork from the book. Jim Kay described how he completed the project, solitarily working 20hr days whilst staying in Scotland. A country not known for its warm climate at the best of times was being particularly cruel as he found himself in sub zero temperatures and reliant on very dodgy heating.

An image will remain with many of us of him trying to stay warm by wrapping an electric blanket around himself, held tight by gaffer tape. An interesting albeit not recommended way of staying warm. Especially when he had to greet the postman in thus set up and, whilst trying to reserve some shred of dignity, having the hidden plug fall to the floor from between his legs…I can so picture both of them looking down, staring at the plug and neither quite knowing what to say! But…as cruel as it sounds, his discomfort may, rather selfishly be our gain as the artwork is so dark and intense and filled with brooding menace, making you pause at each illustrated page to savour the finer details created by unique and experimental tools such as breadboards and obliging beetles leaving their ink stained footprints on the paper(beetles do have feet right?).

It was also apparent to me that he is such a perfectionist, explaining to us which pieces of artwork he’s not happy with and what he would have done differently even though his artwork on this book has been shortlisted for the ‘Best Art’ award from the BSFA (British Science Fiction Awards)

Verdict: Patrick and Jim Kay were engaging and down to earth speakers and I would happily make the effort to see either of them again.

Post by Karen

Waiting in line to meet Patrick Ness and Jim Kay


 

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Just for the Summer

Judy Astley

Every July, the lucky owners of Cornish holiday homes set off for their annual break. Loading their estate cars with dogs, cats, cases of wine, difficult adolescents and rebellious toddlers, they close up their desirable semis in smartish London suburbs – having turned off the Aga and turned on the burglar alarm – and look forward to a carefree, restful and somehow more fulfilling summer. Clare is, this year, more than ready for her holiday. Her teenage daughter, Miranda, has been behaving strangely; her husband, Jack is harbouring unsettling thoughts of a change in lifestyle; her small children are being particularly tiresome; and she herself is contemplating a bit of extra-marital adventure, possibly with Eliot, the successful – although undeniably heavy-drinking and overweight – author in the adjoining holiday property. Meanwhile Andrew, the only son of elderly parents, is determined that this will be the summer when he will seduce Jessica, Eliot’s nubile daughter. But Jessica spends her time in girl-talk with Miranda, while Milo, her handsome brother with whom Andrew longs to be friends, seems more interested in going sailing with the young blond son of the club commodore. Unexpected disasters occur, revelations are made and, as the summer ends, real life will never be quite the same again.

This book is a real favourite of mine and even though it’s not new, I felt it deserved a mention, especially now Christmas is past and we start wondering about where our summer holiday will take us this year. I have both the paperback version, well read, and very dog-eared, and as it’s almost fallen apart, I have recently bought it on Kindle.

As you get to know the three main families in this book you can’t help but smile as you know that ‘their’ situations are going on all around you in real life. They are all fairly comfortably off, middle class families and although they live reasonably closely to each other in London, they only meet up when they are on holiday. They are the ‘second homers’ as opposed to regular tourists renting cottages/houses and as such are tolerated by the villagers rather than liked. Although they attempt to be part of village life, they really just stick together and bring all of their ‘up country’ snobberies with them.

I love the humour in this book and have giggled away happily even though I’ve read it several times now. The characters are very ‘real’ and you either love them or hate them! Not many of us have the luxury of spending an entire six weeks away on holiday but these families do and over the course of their summer we see their issues and angst over varying situations all come to a head.

Judy Astley, the author, lives in both London and Cornwall and her knowledge and understanding of both the area and the local cultural differences comes across well and I for one am transported down to Cornwall in my mind very quickly when reading this. It probably helps that I love Cornwall very much and go there often too! This book is delightfully funny and one to add to the holiday pile, wherever you may be planning to journey this year!

Verdict: A wonderful, light-hearted and enjoyable summer read!

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Transworld Digital
Publication Date: June 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 351KB
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Love Monster

Rachel Bright

Everybody loves cute, fluffy things. You know, like kittens and bunnies and puppies. But nobody loves a slightly hairy, I-suppose-a-bit-googly-eyed monster…do they?

Ok time to ‘fess up. In our house we are definitely fans of the googly eyes. Any craft activity which involves the stick on variety is always a winner! So it is fair to say the Love Monster had an unfair advantage of securing a place in our hearts and on our book shelf when it unexpectedly landed on our door mat.

Love monster is in the uncomfortable position of being the only monster in a world full of cute and fluffy beings. Feeling unloved, Love monster decides to take matters in to his own hands and go out in to the world and search for someone to love him. Monster suffers many disappointments on the road to finding love but it is while his journey is at its bleakest that he sees a glimmer of light and hope shines through.

While the central premise of the story is that sometimes, when you least expect it, love will find you. I also felt that there was a very clear message; that no matter who you are or what you look like you deserved to be loved, just the way you are. Although I can’t help feeling that this message would have been even stronger had Monster found love with one of the “cute fluffy things” rather than with another monster.

As with any good picture book the illustrations reveal as much of the story and the main characters personality as the text. It is through the bold and vibrant illustrations that we learn that Love monster is dedicated to and well prepared for his search for love; he has read self-help and travel guides, made numerous to do lists and has even packed an emergency doughnut!

Verdict: A warm and uplifting tale with a very loveable main character. Who can resist those big, sad googly eyes?!

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Publication Date: January 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Picture Books
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British Book
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While I’m Still Myself

Jeremy Mark Lane

A passionate December love affair.
The meeting of an unexpected traveler.
The consequences of protecting a young new acquaintance.
A journey into an unknown past.
In the stories of While I’m Still Myself, Jeremy Lane eloquently describes the life changing impact of the brief encounter, showing that life and love are not shaped by an entire lifetime, but by the fleeting moments with unexpected people in unexpected places.

I am not usually a great fan of short stories. I always want to know more about the characters and their stories however I really enjoyed reading these! This set of stories focuses on the moments that change a person’s life, whether or not they want them to. After these moments, none of these people will be the same again, some for the better, some not so, but always they are changed. Those pivotal moments do make for interesting reading, and with these stories I was content to leave it at that, or just to imagine for myself what might happen to the characters later on.

Partly, I think, this was because Lane uses some pretty big topics in his stories. The huge spectrum includes, drug abuse, racism, child abuse, mental illness, lost love and loss of innocence. These themes make for sobering and thought provoking reading. There was enough in each story to make you think about the subject and its impact on people, but not so much that you got bogged down in the sadness of what these people might be going through.

In many ways the tales examine change, the changing essence of who we are, of still being who we are in the face of adversity or difficult circumstances, the fact that we are all ever changing by our encounters with others, with our world and what it throws at us. Often the people in the stories do not want to change, but it is forced upon them by circumstances. We can all identify with that, even if our circumstances are not as traumatic as those of the characters.

The setting for all of the stories is Texas, a place I have never been, but I enjoyed the well painted descriptions of the landscapes and the different people who survive in some tough places. You could almost feel the heat and smell the dust, even on a wintery day in South East England!

Verdict: An interesting and challenging set of stories, they made me get quite philosophical, one for a thoughtful moment!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Tate
Publication Date: February 2012
Format: eARC
Pages: 182
Genre: Short Stories
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by author
Challenge: None
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Our Baby

Tony Bradman and Lynn Breeze

A toddler takes pride in all the things that he can do – get out of bed, use a potty, do up buttons – and baby can’t. He is especially pleased with himself when his parents can’t stop baby crying – but he can.

The beauty of this book, is the service it provided to my daughter when she struggled to cope with the change in family dynamic when her baby brother arrived. On particular days when she was obviously frustrated that her brother seemed to be getting more attention than her. She would often request that I read her this book.

This is because the book follows a simple premise of highlighting daily activities that a baby can’t do, but a toddler can. The activities are, getting out of bed, using the potty, washing, dressing, getting down from the table, climbing stairs, being restrained in a stroller and playing with older toys. Okay it may be viewed as ‘smug’ but when you’re so young, it’s surely a good thing to be reminded that being a baby ain’t all it’s cracked up to be and being the older sibling can be pretty darn cool.

Verdict: Admittedly it’s a tad too simplistic and niche to be a book guaranteed to be, ‘loved by all’. However, if you know of a young child about to become an older sibling and come across this book, it may help them to adjust and feel better about themselves just like my daughter did

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Collins
Publication Date: May 1995
Format: Paperback
Pages: 24
Genre: Picture book, family, Issues
Age: Picture Books, Early Readers
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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One Perfect Night

Rachael Johns

Peppa Grant’s fellow employees may call their new CEO Mr. McSexy, but she’s also heard that he’s aloof and distant. Cameron McCormac certainly seems cold toward Christmas when she meets him at the company’s annual party…but he’s also the sexiest man Peppa has ever seen. And when he offers to forgive the damage she accidentally caused to his expensive car in exchange for accompanying him to his family’s holiday get-together she agrees. Cameron needs a date to the family party to get his matchmaking relatives off his back. Their chemistry is instant and undeniable, leading to an incredible one night stand. But Peppa wants love and family, while Cameron’s only interested in temporary pleasure. When their relationship takes an unexpectedly serious turn, will he run the other way – or will he give love a second chance?

Peppa is a bubbly likeable character who is in a bit of a pickle. She has managed to side-swipe her boss’s vintage Lamborghini as she arrives at work to do a favour, by dressing up as a fairy for the firm’s annual party for children. She knows she has to confess and when she does, her boss lets her off of having to pay for the damage, as long as she accompanies him to his family’s Christmas get together as his ‘girlfriend’. The chemistry is there from the beginning and Peppa has pretty much fallen for Cameron before they even get to the party. Once there, Peppa is well and truly welcomed in by Cameron’s family – still dressed in her fairy outfit – and throughout the evening the sparks continue to fly.

After spending the night together they embark on a passionate love affair and I found myself rooting for them and keen that everything should work out between them. However they both have had a lot of pain in their lives due to previous relationships and Peppa has health issues that have left her heartbroken. I was surprised at how quickly I connected with Peppa and Cameron and I liked them very much. Their characters had depth and they were both struggling to come to terms with previous events in their lives and the issues that were preventing them from moving forward and being able to have proper relationships again. Cameron is smouldering, sexy and Peppa is fun and determined.

Considering that this is only 100 pages long, there was a lot packed in and honestly, I could have carried on reading about Peppa and Cameron. I really enjoyed seeing their relationship move from an initial lust driven night of passion into a relationship that works through the pain they’ve suffered and into a place of trust and love. I’d certainly be interested to read anything else by Rachael Johns in the future.

Verdict: A lot of book for its size! A great read with really likeable characters.

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: December 2011
Format: eArC
Pages: 245KB
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: British book
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