Archive for October, 2012

Self Published Sunday: The Broken Destiny Excerpt

This week Big Book Little Book Welcomes Carlyle Labuschagne as she shares the trailer and excerpts from her book, The Broken Destiny.

An amazing new sci-fi series begins with The Broken Destiny: Book One of The Broken Series.
Ava’s People have been exiled to Planet Poseidon, where through a series of horrific events, Ava discovers that their existence has been fabricated by The Council, And She has a Destiny that could save them. Her Soul is a secret weapon that has been lost to an ancient race. To fulfill her destiny Ava needs to go through a series of “changes” that will reveal her true purpose. Throughout her journey she will become what she hates in order to save the ones she loves. And through it all she will find herself – for that is her Destiny, to rise above the fall.

Prolog
All my life, I had searched for something, something I thought I ought to be. I felt like I was living someone else’s life, waiting for the awakening of my own. I felt like an empty shell burning for life. That was, until the day I lay dying in the prince’s chambers. I could no longer feel the pain from the tear in my gut. The only sensation left was a hollowed-out feeling that I had made a huge mistake in assuming that taking my own life, would have stopped the ancestors’ spirit from raging out. I had given up. I didn’t want to see myself killing the ones I loved. I was the Chosen one, but I threw it all away for what I thought would save a life. Could you end a life to save a life? I did, and I have regretted it ever since. I realized then that things like me are not meant to exist. What had been missing my whole life? It was I. To find myself, I had to lose myself in the worst possible way. The consequences of my actions became the legend of The Broken.

Chapter 7
Wanting

As she pulled the hood over her head to protect her curls from frizzing in the rain, I mirrored her action and let my hood cover my view of her as I turned – covering my tears as we left. It doesn’t matter anyway, seventeen is such an overrated age, I thought. Besides I felt a hundred years old lately. I looked down at the wet ground beneath my feet, water pooling around the soles of my once clean boots. With a slow screech of metal the guards closed the gate behind us. I turned back staring at the huge iron gates, the winged pattern of our military badge spread from one wall to the other, showing me that I was no longer welcome. Sam stood staring as the wind picked up some of her red hair and brushed it across the dark gray sky, like fire against ice. I waved, water darkening the soft material of the gloves Maya had given me, the golden pattern almost fading with each drop. I loved the rain so much, but everything seemed out of place because of it. I will never be happy; our keepers have made sure of that. I kept my eyes on the soaked forest floor. I wanted to feel like this forever – forever gray, forever numb, forever sad. It concerned me that my thoughts were so morbid and indulging, forcing more of these gloomy thoughts to enter my mind. The more negative thoughts I had the worse I felt, and the worse I felt, the more I welcomed the pain and anger that harbored inside me. It was the only part of me I could control.

Carlyle Labuschagne lives in Sunny South Africa , married her highschool sweatheart adn shares her creativity with her two young boys. Carlyle Works as a PR and Marketing Manager by day and writes by every other moment. She holds a diploma in creative writing throught the writing school at Collage SA. Loves to swim , fights for the trees , food lover who is driven by passion for everything fantasy. Carlyle writes for IU emagazine an inspirational non profit magazine that aims at inspiring the world through words.

The Broken Destiny is available to in paperback and ebook buy from Amazon and Barnes and Noble
To learn more about the series visit Carlyle’s Website

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The Girl Who Came Home – A Titanic Novel

Hazel Gaynor

In a rural Irish village in April 1912, seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy is anxious about the trip to America. While the thirteen others she will travel with from her Parish anticipate a life of prosperity and opportunity, Maggie is distraught to be leaving Séamus, the man she loves with all her heart. As the carts rumble out of the village, she clutches a packet of love letters in her coat pocket and hopes that he will be able to join her in America soon.
Seventy years later, in Chicago, 1982, twenty-one year old Grace Butler is stunned to learn that her Great Nana Maggie sailed on Titanic. She sets out to write Maggie’s story as a way to resurrect her journalism career. Neither Grace nor Maggie can know what far-reaching impact the article will have on them both when it is eventually published.

Like many people, I have about of a fascination for the Titanic story and all those details of the people who sailed on her. I loved the film (albeit flawed in some ways) for bringing that period to life and trying to get across the bravery and the mistakes of that terrible night. I was interested in this novel for the same reason and also because it promised to show a little of what happened afterwards, which is something I know less about.

The narrative follows the story of Maggie Murphy leaving Ireland for a new life with her Aunt in America. We get a full picture a her feelings about it, the hope that lives ahead for her and others sailing with her and also her sadness at those she is leaving behind, in particular her sweetheart Seamus.

Fourteen people leave Maggie’s village for a new life over the water all of them steerage passengers, so we know from the start their chances of survival are slim! Through their eyes we see the huge Titanic with the best steerage accommodation a ship can have, even down to crested cutlery. Part of the novel is also written from the point of view of Harry Walsh, a steerage Stewart and gives insight into what it was like to work on this great ship. We even get to see the upper decks when Harry has to go and walk the dogs of the elite!

Obviously the Titanic story is known, Hazel adds more interest through her characters and making the most of the lives they leave behind and their relationships. One girl travelling has a sister waiting to meet her in New York and there is the excitement felt by her followed by the confusion and worry as different reports come on about what has happened to the ship and its occupants. The fact that there were a group of 13 people who left on the Titanic only adds to the sense of tragedy.

We know that Maggie survives the shipwreck from the novel’s title! Hazel uses this to set part of her story in the 1980’s as Maggie begins to want to tell her story and shares it with her great grand- daughter. Maggie has never really shared her story before, having had such complex feelings about being a survivor. But as she is now pretty old she feels she doesn’t want her story to die with her. The things she experienced on the voyage and particularly that night have shaped her whole life, not least as she could never set foot on a boat again, meaning she never did return to her sweetheart. You’ll have to read the story to find out what happens to them both!

Maggie’s decision to share her story has huge implications for Grace her great grand-daughter. She lost her father a couple of years ago and has dropped out of college (studying journalism) to help her mother keep it together. In the process of dealing with her own grief Grace has destroyed her relationship with her boyfriend. Maggie’s tale inspires her to re-engage with her own put aside dreams and aspirations. Maggie’s decision to return to Ireland as an old lady adds an extra spin to it all as well,

Verdict: This was an enjoyable take on a well-known event with a great eye for detail and the human interest.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
Publication Date: March 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 282/641KB
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Debut Author
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The Assassins Curse

Cassandra Rose Clarke
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.
And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

The daughter of high ranking pirate clan leader, Ananna is no Disney princess waiting for a handsome prince to come and sweep her off of her feet and in to a hasty teen marriage.

Born and raised with deck underfoot, the wind in her hair and salt spray on her skin, Ananna’s plans for the future are filled with adventure, freedom and the dream of commanding her own ship of cut-throats and thieves.

Betrayed by her parents, who bargained her freedom for strategic advantage, facing a life of control and restriction with a man she doesn’t trust or respect and with her hopes slipping like sand through her fingers, Ananna utilizes her skills as a pirate princess and makes her bid for freedom on the back of a bedraggled camel!

I was first attracted by the uniqueness of the cover. Conjuring images straight out of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights and hinting at the swashbuckling adventure within. A peruse at the synopsis (Pirates and Assassins! Who could resist?) placed the book firmly at the top of my wish list!

The Assassins Curse certainly lived up to its promise. On the one hand you are flung at break neck speed in to a world of magic, dominated by an organized hierarchy of pirates and a shadowy brother hood of hired assassins. Racing from one heart pounding action scene to another, fighting for survival and personal freedom.

Simultaneously Clarke hands the reader a gorgeous meandering, and at times deliciously awkward, story of loyalty, trust and growing friendship between two outwardly strong characters whose spiky shells mask cores of vulnerability.

So ensconced in Clarke’s world building and accepting of Ananna’s voice I didn’t question Ananna’s worldview and her pride in her ethically challenging heritage. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of cut-throat pirate with honest narrator, compassionate human being and loyal protective friend.

I adore Ananna. A free spirited, feisty and independent heroine with a sharp knife and even sharper tongue, she didn’t wait around in her ivory tower for a prince charming to rescue her, and she used all of her experiences and resourcefulness to save herself and her unlikely companion, Naji.

Ahhhh, Naji! Who can resist a bad boy, and I doubt you could choose much worse than a black magic wielding, tattooed assassin, who’s been hired to kill you!!

I have a soft spot, for the bad boy with a troubled past, a dark secret and a hidden soft center. The YA genre is liberally sprinkled with these brooding, over protective, and at times almost chauvinistic male protagonists.

The enjoyment of these characters, for me is a guilty pleasure. The guilty element comes from the uneasily feeling I get as I wonder what the behavior of these “romantic” leads is teaching our daughters about relationships, dependence and acceptable behavior. I loved how Clarke took the archetype of possessive protector and turned it on its head.

I am very glad that a blogging friend fore warned me that The Assassins Curse was in fact a part of a series and not a stand-alone. While the book doesn’t conclude with a traditional cliffhanger it has certainly left me desperate for more.

Verdict: Marooned in the middle of Ananna’s story and desperate to read the conclusion, I wish I could fashion a raft and paddle until the 2013 release of A Pirate’s Wish is in sight.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: October 2012
Format: eARC
Pages: 350
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Debut Author
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The Magic Princess Dress

Gwyneth Rees

New from the wonderful Gwyneth Rees, an irresistible series about the power of wishes and imagination. When Ava enters Marietta’s dress shop on the hunt for her missing cat, she has no idea how magical it will be – but before she knows it, she’s trying on a beautiful Princess Bridesmaid dress, only to be whisked away to Fairytale Land – where Cinderella is about to get married, and her Fairy Godmother is about to turn Ava’s cat into something a lot less cute and fluffy. From the award-winning and bestselling author of the FAIRY DUST books comes this exciting new series that no little girl will be able to resist.

This story is about a young girl who discovers that fairy tales are real and are not always what you expect. As a child I loved all those princess stories and had favourites among the different versions of them. I was always intrigued that there were so many ways of telling the same tale. Now as an adult I appreciate those twists in a tale, the ways in which you can take what is so familiar and turn it into something new and fresh. This story is just like that.

Ava has to go and stay with her Dad for the holidays. A fact that she is not too impressed about. She takes her beloved cat, Cindy, with her and when she goes missing Ava is desperate to find her. Her search draws her to a strange shop (it made me think of Mr Benn for those who remember him!). The sign on the window tells her the cat had been found and is there and Ava is only made more eager to go in by the fact that her father so evidently doesn’t want her to!

Inside she meets the mysterious Mariette and goes into the back of the shop where lots of beautiful dresses are found. She tries on her favourite, a perfect fit! But then things start to get really weird as Marietta tells her that her cat has disappeared to a magical land through one of the magical mirrors and Ava will have to work out which one and follow Cindy through the mirror to get her back. Finding this a little too much Ava runs for home but is later drawn back and is even more surprised to find her Dad there too. It turns out her Dad and her Aunt (who is the owner of the shop) can travel to different worlds through the magic mirrors and Ava sets off through one to find Cindy. Once there she discovers a fairy tale land of Cinderella, arriving the night before her wedding to the prince. The Ugly Sisters are there and truly horrible, the Fairy Godmother too is highly unpredictable and Ava discovers a host of other characters that are never mentioned in her fairy story books. She befriends a mistreated girl called Tilly who has her own Cinderella type story and helps her to pursue her dreams and she goes about finding Cindy and trying to get a glimpse of Cinderella herself. Lots of drama ensues and Ava learns there is a lot more to Cinderella than meets the eye. She also learns a lot about herself and her family, through experiencing the reality of a fairy tale and in helping somebody else.

I really liked Ava, she tells it how it is and feels very normal in what is very definitely not a normal situation. I also liked the way there were parallels between her life and Cinderella’s story and the stories of other characters all blended well and drew out different threads from the story we all know so well. There was a good balance on the issues faced by Ava in both her real life and the magical world. There is plenty of humour too and plenty to keep you turning the pages.

Verdict: Any girl who has loved princesses and fairy tales will enjoy the twists and turns of this well- crafted story. My girls are too young for it but I will be keeping it for when they are old enough. The story is left open for sequels but I haven’t discovered any. I hope there are more as this was a highly entertaining and clever read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication Date: May 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 272/1142KB
Genre: Fairytale retelling
Age: Middle Grade book review
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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The Savage Garden

Mark Mills

Behind a villa in the heart of Tuscany lies a Renaissance garden of enchanting beauty. Its grottoes, pagan statues and classical inscriptions seem to have a secret life of their own – and a secret message, too, for those with eyes to read it.
Young scholar Adam Strickland is just such a person. Arriving in 1958, he finds the Docci family, their house and the unique garden as seductive as each other. But post-War Italy is still a strange, even dangerous place, and the Doccis have some dark skeletons hidden away which Adam finds himself compelled to investigate.
Before this mysterious and beautiful summer ends, Adam will uncover two stories of love, revenge and murder, separated by 400 years… but is another tragedy about to be added to the villa’s cursed past?

Having read Mark Mills’ The Information Officer for Book Club and having heard that this was better I thought I’d give it a try, and I have found it gripping! It has been one of those books where you sneak off for five minutes just to read a bit more.
Adam Strickland is looking for a thesis subject and one of his tutors sends him off to Italy to research a memorial garden. The garden has never been examined like this before and is full of statues, layers and mysteries. Adam is soon under its spell but as the garden begins to reveal itself to him he begins to find it is hiding more than he bargained for. On top of this the Docci family who own the garden and Villa to which it belongs begin to toss up a few mysteries of their own. As Adam gets more intrigued he becomes more and more enmeshed in what could be a very dangerous situation.

Set in Italy in 1958 the backdrop for the story is beautiful and often pivotal to the plot as the countryside and Florentine Art speak to Adam. But even more interesting was the way in which Mark Mills used other stories to inform his own narrative. Adam finds that Dante’s Inferno seems to have special significance and hunts through Dante’s work for clues to the gardens secrets. As he discovers the memorial garden is put there to commemorate a murder, not just a death, he is desperately searching for clues as to what happened, and of course who did it. It is not often that someone might be on the verge of resolving a 400 year old crime but this is so intelligently written that it is very plausible.

Alongside this is the puzzle of the Docci’s. The top floor of the Villa is sealed off following the death of the oldest son at the end of the war in tragic circumstances. Adam realises the very people he is working for have hidden depths and secrets and he can’t leave it alone! The unfolding of the events in the present day is what brings the air of menace and the feeling of danger to the story. Although for me I wasn’t scared by it, I did really want to know what had happened and how it would all turn out. This feeling was increased by the interesting characters, they are very believable with many sides. There is always more being revealed about the people, not just about the mystery.

On top of all of this, the plot twists and turns cleverly, building up to a myriad of them in the last quarter of the tale and, it has to be said that, many of them I just didn’t see coming. As you journey with Adam and see through his eyes this means that despite his brilliance in figuring out many things he doesn’t work it all out either. I really liked the flawedness of him as a character. I also liked his brother Harry who added a little light relief and the enigmatic Signora Docci who always keeps you guessing.

Verdict: So overall, the great use of myth, history and older writings combined with great characters, a little romance and a little humour come together to create a complex, multi-layered crime novel with a difference.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: July 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Genre: Mystery, Historical fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge:None
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Temptation

Karen Ann Hopkins

Your heart misleads you. That’s what my friends and family say. But I love Noah. And he loves me. We met and fell in love in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview, while we rode our horses together through the grassy fields and in those moments in each other’s arms. It should be Rose and Noah, forever, easy. But it won’t be. Because he’s Amish. And I’m not.

I’ve always been curious about the Amish and their way of life. I envy their simplicity whilst knowing I could never really live that kind of life, especially with all those rules and restrictions! So I leapt at the chance to read newly published ‘Temptation’ a story of forbidden love between Amish boy Noah and ‘English’ girl Rose. Rose is sixteen and her mother has passed away during the last year. Along with her father, a busy doctor, and her two brothers, the family move away from the city and out into the countryside for a fresh start and move to Meadowview, near an Amish community.

Rose and Noah meet almost straight away as they are neighbours and their attraction is instant. I very much liked Rose and Noah. Their characters were well developed and I found myself rooting for them although it seems like a hopeless situation, and being annoyed at them occasionally too! It was interesting to seeing the situation from each of their viewpoints as the chapters are told alternately by each of them. Rose is sixteen. She is young, headstrong and passionate and yet naive and simplistic in her understanding of the complexities of the Amish community. Noah, at just a couple of years older seems more mature than his years, having had to grow up and take on responsibilities from an early age.

I enjoyed learning about the Amish way of life and following Rose and Noah as they navigate their way through their forbidden romance, sneaking off to see each other and agonising over how it will work out. It got difficult for both of them as Noah believes there is no other way than for Rose to become Amish and join their community, but Rose believes that she can persuade him to ‘turn English’ i.e. to leave the community for a life of freedom. They have high expectations of each at times, their overwhelming desire to be together seems to throw common sense out of the window and I kind of wanted to shake them a bit. I didn’t expect their story to work out the way it did. I’d imagined it was all going to go horribly wrong – and certainly lots does but even at their tender age true love seems to win through…or so we think. There is a sequel to this book coming out so we can follow Rose and Noah’s story.

Verdict: I really enjoyed this and look forward to reading the sequel when it comes out.

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: June 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 383
Genre: Romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Provided by author
Challenge: Debut Author
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Fudge-a-mania

Judy Blume
Fudge is five – and he’s driving his older brother Peter mad, as usual.
Going on holiday with Fudge – and baby Tootsie, Turtle the dog, and Uncle Feather the bird – means disasters every day. Even worse for Peter, disgusting Sheila Tubman is staying in the same house.
Will it be Peter’s nightmare holiday?
One thing’s for sure – it’s going to be fudge-a-mania all the way

I have read the Fudge series so much that I probably know each book off by heart. It starts off by Fudge telling his older brother Pete he is getting married…. There are three problems with this; Fudge is only 5, he is supposedly marrying Pete’s arch nemesis, the ‘queen of cooties’ herself, disgusting Sheila Tubman and, he hasn’t actually asked Sheila yet. Then they set off on a10 hour car drive to Maine for a family holiday with a noisy bird, a barking dog and a crying baby.

When they eventually arrive, the Tubmans are there already! Fudge makes new friends, teaches his pet bird to speak Spanish, writes a book about himself, turns himself blue and is a ‘ring bearer’ at his grandma’s wedding. A lot goes on in Fudge’s world and not a lot of it makes sense (except to fudge!)

These books have been around for years and years and have stood the test of time. My mum read these when she was younger and has read them to all the classes that she has taught. All the pages are falling out of our copies because they are so well thumbed. I recommend the whole series including: ‘Tales of the fourth grade nothing’ (first published in 1972 and the first in the series), ‘Superfudge’, ‘Fudge-a-mania’ and ‘Double Fudge’. There is also a spin-off story called ‘Otherwise known as Sheila the great’.

Verdict: When we read these books together even my dad comes in to listen and more than once we’ve laughed so much we cant go to sleep because we are so excited.

Reviewed by Daisy (11)

Publisher: Macmillan
Publication Date:July 2003
Format: Paperback
Pages: 176
Genre: Humour
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Daisy
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None