Archive for January, 2013

Cover Reveal: Light In The Shadows

Having throughly enjoyed reading A. Meredith Walters’ stand alone New Adult romance, Bad Rep I am delighted to be a part of the cover reveal for her latest book Light In The Shadows.

light in the shadows cover reveal

Isn’t it just gorgeous?!
Light In The Shadows is the follow up to Find You In The Dark. Which, refusing to be outdone by it’s sequel, has undergone a shiny makeover.

find you in the dark cover revealMaggie Young had the market on normal. Normal friends, normal parents, normal grades…normal life.
Until him.
Clayton Reed was running from his past and an army of personal demons that threatened to take him down. He never thought he had a chance at happiness.
Until her.
Maggie thought their love could overcome anything. Clay thought she was all he needed to fix his messy life.
That together, they could face the world.
But the darkness is always waiting.
Sometimes the greatest obstacle to true love is within yourself

Posted by Caroline

Light In The Shadows will be published on the 26th of March 2013, while Find You In The Dark is available to buy now.
To learn more about A. Meredith Walters and her work click on the link to visit her Facebook page or converse with her on Twitter.

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The Declaration

Gemma Malley
the declarationSixteen-year-old Anna should not have been born. It is the year 2140 and people can live for ever. No one wants another mouth to feed, so she lives in a Surplus Hall, where unwanted children go to learn valuable lessons . . . at least she wasn’t put down at birth.
One day, a new inmate arrives. Anna’s life is thrown into chaos. He says things about her parents and the Outside that couldn’t possibly be true . . . Or could they?

The concept for this series, for this is the first in a trilogy of books, is brilliant. Set in 2140, a drug called Longevity has been invented that allows people to live for ever. As a result the population of earth has to be controlled. If you choose to take Longevity you may not have children, you sign a Declaration to promise this. You can opt out, but why would you? Opt outs are seen as very peculiar and despised by society. Children have become something found in the history books. However there are people who break the rules. But if you are caught the consequences are devastating. Your child will be taken away and put in a Surplus Hall, for that is what children have become, surplus. In a society where waste is now the ultimate crime children are a drain on precious resources and very definitely surplus to requirements. But there are parents who want their children back.

Anna has been in a Surplus Hall for about as long as she can remember. She has been taught, in this brutal place, that she must pay for her existence. She shouldn’t be here and to make up for it she must learn to be useful so she can eventually serve the people who are allowed to be here (legals). Anna is a fantastic character. She is such an interesting mixture, she has plenty of fear of her environment, the Outside and doing things differently to the safety that she knows. But she is also brave looking after weaker people when she can. She has a rebellious streak hidden away that comes out in the form of her writing a diary. This is forbidden, a Surplus doesn’t need personal possessions for a start, let alone the opportunity to think for themselves! But she has been well taught, she knows her place and wants to keep her head down and be as useful as she can be.

When Peter arrives at the Surplus Hall he frightens and excites Anna with stories about the Outside, and about her parents. Peter says they love her, want her and want to rescue her. Anna has been taught for so long that her parents were bad people who had children when they should not and have left her to pay for it that she is quite bewildered by Peter’s assertions. She is also worried that Peter is going to upset her plans to be useful and get out of the surplus hall to be a housekeeper. At the same time she can’t understand how Peter keeps telling her and the other Surpluses things about the Outside and yet doesn’t seem to care about his punishments. Punishments at the Surplus Halls are brutal. She begins to ask questions. Even scarier are the feelings she begins to develop for Peter, as he tries to encourage her to escape she begins to believe that it might just be possible.

Peter tells Anna that there are people who don’t agree with Longevity, who believe children are precious and the cycle of life should be preserved. But with people scared to defy the Government and afraid to lose their Longevity drugs if they make their escape they will be on the run, they won’t know who they can trust until they make it back to Anna’s parents.

Verdict: I loved all the issues this story raises. It feels like this is a situation that isn’t too big a step away from our society, always searching for eternal youth. Without being in your face it reflects on our propensity for waste and what we might be heading for if we don’t do something about it. But most of all it really makes you think, do we really want to live forever?

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children
Publication Date: December 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Dystopian
Age: YA
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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Geek Girl

Holly Smale
geek girlMy name is Harriet Manners, and I am a Geek, and she knows it; she also knows that peanuts are an ingredient in dynamite. Being a teenager is hard enough and to have a geek reputation… well what’s the point in living? Teenage years hit Harriet like a pink, sparkly sledgehammer and now suddenly if you wear that purple top you like you are seen as a fashion crime and locked up in the world of geeks. Welcome to that world Harriet. It’s not her fault, her family are the ones who watch documentaries on locusts. It seems as if her best friend Nat is the only normal one. It seems as Nat is the only person who actually likes Harriet, everyone else hates her especially Alexa her arch nemesis.

Fashion crazy Nat takes Harriet along to a clothes show to see if she can fulfill her dream of being a model. Suddenly disaster strikes and it’s Harriet who gets spotted by a leading model agency, crushing Nat’s dream of being a model into teeny weeny pieces. As she runs to hide under a table someone else is already there…

Well I don’t want to give any more away but I’m glad to say she gets the happily ever after she needs and I say has definately earned. This book is probably for about 11/12 year olds to about 14/15 year old girls.

Verdict: This book made me laugh, cry and think hard but you should definitely get this book or you will regret getting it for the whole of the rest of your life…ever!

Reviewed by Daisy

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Publication Date: February 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages:378
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age: YA
Reviewer: Daisy (11)
Source: Received from publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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Self Published Sunday: Interview with Sherry Chiger

This week Big Book Little Book is delighted to introduce Sherry Chigerauthor of Beyond Billicombe.
Beyond_Billicombe_Cover_for_KindleSuzanne has come to Billicombe, a faded English resort town on the Bristol Channel, for one simple reason: to find her adored older brother. A recovering addict, Jax had moved to Billicombe after completing rehab, but it’s been six months since Suzanne last heard from him. Her search, however, turns out to be anything but simple. For one thing, Suzanne is a former child actress, well known for her role on a long-running TV series, and she needs to avoid being recognized while exploring Billicombe’s seamy underside. For another, Richard, a local man Suzanne turns to for help, has problems of his own stemming from a car accident that cost him much of his memory. Suzanne’s quest for Jax and Richard’s attempt to put his life back together collide in ways neither could have expected.

Are any elements of your book based on real-life experiences/people?

While the narrative isn’t based on anything I’ve experienced—thank goodness!—I do have a friend who suffered from memory problems similar to Richard’s, though otherwise the character isn’t like him at all. And of course I’ve had friends who struggled with substance abuse, either themselves or within their families. The book’s fictional towns of Billicombe and Boutport, though, were inspired by the towns in North Devon where I worked and lived for three years, Ilfracombe and Barnstaple. Because of the nature of the story, Beyond Billicombe focuses on some of the seamier aspects of the area, but I hope it also reflects my love of North Devon’s beauty and of the friendliness of the people. For the record, I’d move back there in a nanosecond if I had the chance!

What is your writing process?

I prefer to write away from home. I work from my home office most of the week, so a change of venue helps to keep me focused on the story at hand, rather than having my mind wander back to my paying gigs and everyday concerns such as what the hell I’m going to make for dinner or where my daughter’s missing textbook is. Luckily there’s a fairly neglected park, complete with picnic benches, near my house. When it’s not pissing down rain or unbearably hot or cold I head out there first thing in the morning with my laptop and try to get at least a solid hour of writing or revising in before heading back to begin my workday.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Keep writing—unless you’re not enjoying it, in which case, stop. And I’m not talking about one day in which writing is more pain than pleasure. If overall you’re not enjoying relating the story, spending time with the characters, puzzling over the optimal turn of phrase, just stop. There are too many things in life we have to do that bring us no pleasure. Writing shouldn’t be one of them.

What books have inspired you?

So many! Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries and the novels of Richard Price, for illustrating the beauty and poetic possibilities of everyday language. John Wray’s Lowboy, for showing the importance of the quest in plotting a novel. The Three Musketeers and its sequels and Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles for making me want to create characters as vivid and memorable. Wuthering Heights for introducing me to the concept of the unreliable narrator.

If your book had a soundtrack, which artists would feature on it?
The band James feature a few times in Beyond Billicombe, so obviously they would be on the soundtrack, and there are references to Squeeze and Justin Timberlake as well (though for the record, I’m not a Timberlake fan, but one of the secondary characters is). “One for the Road” by Ronnie Lane would appear near the end, as its blend of melancholy and stubborn defiance is perfect for the protagonist Suzanne at certain points—plus it’s one of my all-time favourites.

Sherry Chiger has worked for and had articles published in magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom, ranging from Vogue to Chief Marketer. A native of Philadelphia, she lived for three years in North Devon, the area of England where her novel Beyond Billicombe takes place, and where she dreams of returning, although her husband and daughter are quite happy with their current residence in Litchfield County, CT. (The family dog doesn’t much care where he lives, so long as there are treats available.) In addition to Beyond Billicombe, she’s the author of two nonfiction children’s books for Scholastic and a contributor to Walford State of Mind, a book about the long-running British soap EastEnders.

To learn more about Sherry and her work check out Sherry’s Amazon author page,Sherry’s Blog, her Goodreads author page or converse with her on Twitter.

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The Redemption Series Blog Tour

Big Book Little Book is delighted to welcome author Lindsey Grey and host the latest stop on her Redemption series blog tour.
redemptionLife is for living. Afterlife is a chance at redemption. As the only remaining female vampire in existence, Lily attempts to make her way towards her ever after. But with best friend Becca, new beau Ian, human husband Ryan, Archangel Peter, and a host of demons all standing in the way of Lily’s chance at a peaceful eternity, how can she possibly survive?

What do you do when you are not writing?
I spend time with my husband and two kids or I’m reading. I read a lot. Last year was the first year I really kept track of how much I read. Thanks GoodReads! So while writing, editing, publishing, and marketing my own book, I read a total of 59 other books. So you could say I’m almost as passionate about reading as I am writing.

What inspired you to become a writer?
In the sixth grade my teacher gave us an assignment to write a daily journal. My life was not all that exciting at age eleven, so I asked my teacher if I could write stories. He agreed and I fell in love with it. I wrote my first manuscript at age twelve, typed in all caps because I hated to type at the time. It was over a hundred typed pages long and had a pretty good story and plot. I still read that story over every once in awhile to see how far I’ve come.

What was your inspiration for The Redemption Series?
The Redemption Series came from me wanting to write about vampires. I have been borderline obsessed with paranormal, supernatural, sci-fi type stories, movies, and TV shows for as long as I can remember. I wanted to write something different, so instead of the world being over run with the vamps, the world of Redemption has just a few. Lily is the only female vampire and she was the first character I created. Lily was inspired by a song by Robbie Williams,

“Feel”.

Come on hold my hand
I wanna contact the living
Not sure I understand
This role I’ve been given

I sit and talk to God
And he just laughs at my plans
My head speaks a language
I don’t understand

I just wanna feel real love
Feel the home that I live in
‘Cause I got too much life
Running through my veins, going to waste

It totally sums up Lily right in those few words. She wants love and life, but feels it all slipping away at the beginning of the series.

Tell us about your books?
Redemption: Lily is one of only three vampires in known existence. After falling in love with a human, sexy and talented musician Ian, she realizes their love is putting him in mortal danger. She flees from her life in Boston to the solace of her frozen wasteland. 

As her past continues to haunt her, Ian seeks out the only family Lily has ever known. Becca introduces Ian to a world he never thought possible as they embark on a search for Lily, starting in the bowels of a mysterious company called The Manchester Group. 

Will Ian and Becca find her? Or will the reemergence of a long lost love take a hold of their future?

Revisited: As the Redemption series continues, in Revisited everyone’s path leads into one.
Lily Edwards, the last remaining female vampire, is facing a daunting task. She has to find Liam Caldwell, the vampire she was forced to create, and change him back to his human state.

But Lily’s task will not be an easy one as fellow remaining vampires, Filipp and Debir, have been secretly plotting her demise for decades and were the ones responsible for Liam being turned.

While Liam is grateful for Filipp and Debir’s guidance during his transformation into the vampire he felt destined to be, he’s having second thoughts as he learns their whole plan is not what it seems. A handpicked army of humans waits for Liam to change them into vampires at Filipp’s instruction. Adding to the mix is Valentina Pavel, the last member of a Romanian witch coven, who brings forth new challenges of her own. Together, they all have Liam doing the unthinkable, pleading for a way out.

Lily’s adopted daughter, Becca, is also preoccupied with a few dilemmas of her own. Discovering that the angel, Sam Fleming, is her biological father presents her with a choice to accept the powers of her birthright, or continue her human existence. She must find the answer while continuing to fight the feelings she has for fellow angel, Abe North, and her missing new love, Ian Holt.
Ian’s world has been turned upside down now that the body-stealing demon, Gideon, is controlling him. Ian struggles as Gideon’s decisions cause them both mental and physical pain. The only thing they agree on is their insatiable need to be with Becca at all costs.

Friends-now-turned-enemies struggle for their eternity, while enemies-turned-friends fight side by side. Will Lily’s past give her the answers she needs to reach the future?

What research did you do for these books?
I did a lot of language research. For “Redemption”, I was up to my elbows in ancient Sumerian. For “Revisited”, it was Romanian. The series takes place all over the world so I did a lot of research into where everything takes place like Boston, Iceland, London, Bucharest and Rome.

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on the third and final instalment of the series, “Resolution”. I’m also starting another series of fairy tales with a twist called “Grimm Twin Tales”. Along with those, I have a paranormal political thriller entitled “Deliver Me” and two other strictly romance projects.

What is your writing process?
I write when I can, usually very late at night or on the weekends. When the ideas strike and I can’t sit down and write, I grab a scrap of paper and write it down, or jot down a note into my phone. I used to write everything out by hand, but then I found myself getting so bored when typing it up. Now I write exclusively on my MacBook Pro. I haven’t tried writing on my iPad yet, but that maybe something I try soon.

Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process? Coffee? Chocolate? Music?
I write much better when I have my ear buds in and listen to my favourite playlist. Chocolate does help at times, but coffee is a big no. (My stomach can’t take it, unfortunately.)

Why did you choose to write adult fiction?
At this point, I have too much of a dirty mind and mouth to curb it for younger readers. For my next series, I am attempting to keep it in check as I delve into the YA universe.

How did you choose the genre you write in? What inspired you to write it?
I grew up watching “Doctor Who” and “Quantum Leap”. Those shows got my creative juices flowing, and then when “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer” and “Charmed” came along I got the paranormal itch. At some point in time I would like to do a time travel series or even a stand-alone novel, but the paranormal itch is pretty bad right now and I don’t see it going away anytime soon.

What books have inspired you?
The Harry Potter series, The Twilight series, and even Dr. Seuss.

What was your favourite book as a child/teenager?
My favourite book may be an odd choice, but it was “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is the reason one of my characters in “Revisited” is named Nathaniel. I was just really drawn to the strength of Hester Prynne and how she struggled to make a life for her child. Strange, but it just got to me back then and I read it over and over.

What are you currently reading?
It depends on the day because sometimes I can read a book in a day. I just finished “Fallen Too Far” by Abbi Glines, which I loved. I’m now on to “What’s Life Without the Sprinkles?” by Misty Simon.

What was the last book you recommended to a friend?
I think I recommended the Fifty Shades series to most of my friends before it became the huge success it is. My publisher originally published it and I had the pleasure of getting to know Ms. James. It helped me understand the story a bit more and I was able to explain to my friends it wasn’t all whips, chains, and bondage. It’s an amazing adult tale with elements that I’m sure have helped rejuvenate many relationships.

What/Who inspired you as a reader?
I’ve been inspired by several of my fellow TWCS authors such as Sherri Hayes, Michael Schneider, and N.K. Smith. I’m also a fan of JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer as well as too many others to list.

Just for Fun!

Paper, Audio or eBook?
I love paper, but since I got my Kindle I’ve been reading more eBooks than paper ones.

If The Redemption Series was made in to a film which actor(s), past or present, do you envision in the lead role(s)
For the part of Lily I have visualized Jewel Staite. You might not recognize her name, but you know her face. She stared in Joss Wedon’s “Firefly” and “Stargate: Atlantis”.
As for Lily’s adopted daughter, Becca, I see Sarah Lancaster who played Chuck’s sister on “Chuck”.
Another character that I’ve visualised since the moment I thought of him was Michael McMillian as Peter. Some of you “True Blood” fans would know him as Reverend Steve Newlin. Not that he would remember me, but he and I were actually in a musical together back in our high school days. He was such a talent even back then and I believe he would be perfect as Peter.

Tea or Coffee?
Tea

Slippers or barefoot?
Slippers

Shower or Bath?
Shower

Email or postcard?
Email

Redemption blog tour large button

To find out more about Lindsey and her work simple click below to visit her blog, Facebook page, Twitter, The Writers Coffee Shop author page, Amazon authors page or You Tube.

The Redemption Seriesis avaliable to buy now from: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Lulu, iTunes and The Writers Coffee Shop Publishing House.

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You Had Me At Hello

Mhairi McFarlane
had me at helloWhat happens when the one that got away comes back? Find out in this sparkling debut from Mhairi McFarlane.
‘Think of the great duos of history. We’re just like them.’
‘You mean like Kylie and Jason? Torvill and Dean? Sonny and Cher?’
‘I think you’ve missed the point, Rachel.’
Rachel and Ben. Ben and Rachel. It was them against the world. Until it all fell apart. It’s been a decade since they last spoke, but when Rachel bumps into Ben one rainy day, the years melt away.
They’d been partners in crime and the best of friends. But life has moved on: Ben is married. Rachel is not. Yet in that split second, Rachel feels the old friendship return. And along with it, the broken heart she’s never been able to mend.

I picked this up as a bargain e-book and it was a 99p very well spent! I loved this book, easy to read, good characters, funny writing and a plot that managed to keep me guessing. I usually feel with chick lit, romance type stuff that you know the main character will get her man in the end, the fun is in reading how it happens, however in this story I really began to doubt that this would happen. It is a good writer that can do this and you will have to read it to find out what does happen in the end.

Rachel and Ben met at Manchester Uni and had a strong bond. Their story is revealed through flashbacks, and it is obvious from when they first meet that their relationship is special. Unfortunately Rachel is dating someone else and can’t admit to her true feelings. Ben is a serial monogamist and they go through University as firm friends. As we eventually find out they did get their shot but due to their insecurities and some unfortunate timings things don’t work out. Ten years in the future Rachel is in the process of ending her relationship when Ben re-appears in Manchester but he has a wife in tow too.

Meanwhile Rachel has stayed with her boyfriend Rhys from Uni, they are now engaged but all is not rosy and Rachel finally breaks off the engagement. She finds a plush flat to house sit and moves out. As she and Rhys have been together for 13 years this is a huge deal for Rachel. She has been putting up with things for so long it is now time to figure out what she actually wants from life and whether she is going to have the courage to go out and get it. This is true in her professional life too where she is a court journalist for a local newspaper. She has been doing this for a long time and enjoys it, but is she going stale? Has she missed her shot at the big time? When she has to mentor the new girl on the block Rachel’s ideas and ideals are all put to the test. The lessons Rachel learns at work as well as in her personal life through the novel take her on a real journey. Even though she is already around 30 it feels a bit like a coming of age tale too.

Rachel engineers a meeting with Ben and over a few false starts they begin to grow close again. She has to deal with the fact that he has moved on and accepts an invitation to a dinner party at his house with his new wife and another insufferable couple. This provides a chance for plenty of embarrassment and humour and for Rachel to meet a potential date, as well as get a good look at Ben with his wife. The wife is, of course, beautiful, clever and has lots of money! But Rachel can’t escape the feeling that Ben isn’t really happy with her, and she convinces herself that she can be just good friends with him anyway. So what’s the problem?! Ben is committed to his marriage, it has its rocky moments but he wants it to work out. It does get difficult to see that there is any way that things will bring Ben and Rachel back together as anything more than friends.

But this is more than a ‘will they won’t they’ story. There is a great ensemble cast of characters. Rachel has a great group of friends who are all fully three dimensional people having their own ups and downs through life. They have all been friends since Uni and are not afraid to speak their minds to each other, sometimes with rather funny and dramatic results. They are certainly not afraid to advise Rachel in moving on with her life and in not getting too close to a married man. We also get Rachel’s take on their relationships. Theirs was such a believable friendship, and some of the antics between them had me laughing out loud.

Verdict: So read this if you like a romance with twists and turns, an ending that keeps you guessing until the end.
Read it if you like a laugh and witty writing and read it if you like characters that come off the page they feel so real.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: November 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 465/641KB
Genre: Chick Lit, Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Altered

Jennifer Rush and Casey Holloway (Narrator)
AlteredWhen you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?
Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.
Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.
Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

I first came across Altered over the summer on a Waiting on Wednesday post written by fellow UK book blogger Lynsey (read her fantastic blog, Narratively Speaking here). The synopsis immediately captured my attention and I added Altered to my 2013 wish list. To be honest I forgot all about the book until perusing iTunes for my latest audiobook selection the striking cover caught my attention and tugged at my memory. Realising that I’d come across one of my wish list reads on audiobook, and that it was available almost two months before the UK hardback release, I immediately downloaded this intriguing debut.

Not only is the cover striking enough remind me of my intention to read Altered, almost five months after my initial interest, but it also represents the book perfectly. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the cover features a beautiful male torso but beyond the eye candy (some ladies like abs, I am definitely a back girl!), the positioning of “Sam” within the cover, facing away with his face only partially visible, hints and the mysterious nature of his character. The branches, which cover the majority of the cover, are representative of the tattoo which covers the majority of Sam’s back and plays a pivotal role in the storyline and the uncovering of Sam’s earlier life. Even the disjointed lettering, represents the Branch’s manipulation, the incompleteness of the characters through the loss of their memories and the puzzle the group will need to piece together.

I can’t go any further without confessing that I actually disliked the reader of this audiobook. I found her voice irritating with its unnatural, robotic like cadence. However that didn’t stop me being totally absorbed in the storyline and finishing it in less than 48hrs – the book is just that good.

Fully engaged from the very off by the intriguing set up described in the synopsis, I couldn’t wait to find out just why Anna’s dad had four boys in the basement and what plans the sinister sounding “Branch” had in store for them. The adrenaline fuelled cat and mouse chase, the unraveling of the characters mysterious past, unanticipated twists and a fledgling romance ensured that my attention was held until the very last second.

I enjoyed meeting all of Rush’s characters, not a difficult task when presented with four super hot, intelligent and protective boys, each with their own distinctive characters, but Anna was by far my favorite.

Initially unsure if we would get along, Anna appeared to be either especially naive or self-serving, never truly questioning the boys captivity and only considering their freedom in relation to her own romantic fantasies of Sam. As the story progressed I realised that home schooled and socially isolated Anna was just as much a prisoner of the lab as the boys. Finally free of the farmhouse and flung out in to the world, Anna’s character development truly begins.

Although I very much enjoyed the sci-fi elements of Altered, it was Anna’s naturalness and realism of reactions, which made the book for me. I began to bond with her character when her eyes are finally opened and she is horrified to discover just what the boys are truly capable of, she doesn’t just unquestioningly follow her crush’s pretty back out of the lab and away from the only life she has ever known. I loved that although physically inferior to these paragons of GM perfection, she determinedly holds her own, winded and sweaty, fighting along side them and running ten paces behind them.

The first of a series, I steeled myself for the inevitable agonizing, cliffhanger, but it never materialised. Instead, to my immense relief and satisfaction, Rush brought the story to a close beautifully, tying up this first installment, while leaving me keen to learn more about the sinister activities of the Branch , and spend more time with Anna and the boys.

Verdict: A fabulous, fast paced debut. I can’t wait for book two, although I think that I will pass on the audiobook in favor of pre-ordering the hardback.

The UK hardback of Altered will be published on the 28th of February by Little Brown Young Readers.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Hachette Audio/Audible.co.uk
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 7hrs 58 mins
Genre: Sci Fi, Mystery
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Debut Author
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Elmer

David McKee
elmerElmer the elephant is bright-colored patchwork all over. No wonder the other elephants laugh at him! If he were ordinary elephant color, the others might stop laughing. That would make Elmer feel better, wouldn’t it? The surprising conclusion of David McKee’s comical fable is a celebration of individuality and the power of laughter.
Elmer the elephant, a colorful character because of his patchwork hide and sense of humor, tries to blend in with the herd, but soon realizes that he’s happiest just being himself.

I love Elmer, it is such a fun story and a real classic. My youngest daughter, nearly 3 years old, has just discovered it and it’s her current favourite bedtime read. To begin with I don’t think she really got the story but she did love the pictures of the elephants. She liked finding the big ones, small ones, ones with different ears and so on. She loves looking at all the colours on Elmer and pointing out which ones she knows and finding the animals Elmer walks past on his journey and naming them too. Her favourite page is when all the elephants dress up in different patterns at the end and choosing her ‘best one’. The pictures are great, lots of colour, lots of elephants and in this case a real aid to helping understand the story.

After a few readings we began to talk more about the story. Elmer is a patchwork elephant, so different to all his friends. He is also the life and soul of the party but one day he tires of being different and disguises himself as an ordinary elephant. When he comes back is friends don’t recognise him and Elmer finds things a little dull. He makes all the other elephants jump and surprises them, then they realise he is actually Elmer. This is a lot of fun and it was great to see Sienna on the day she realised that the grey elephant was Elmer dressed up. As I said the pictures really helped with this. As Elmer stood in the rain and you can see half of him patchwork and half grey the penny finally dropped. “that’s Elmer”!

With a slightly older child there is so much to get out of this too, about being yourself, being different and it’s not what you look like but what you are like that counts. But this isn’t told in any kind of moralistic way.

Verdict: It is a lively funny story that you can read over and over and get loads out of. Brilliant!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Andersen
Publication Date: September 2007
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book, Preschool
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British Book
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Thursday’s In The Park

Hilary Boyd
thursdays in the parkJeanie has been a loving wife to George for over thirty years, a devoted mother to their daughter and, recently, an adoring grandmother – all this despite the fact that several years ago, George withdrew from their marital bed with no reason given. At first Jeanie was determined to confront him, but days rolled into weeks, then years, and still she has no idea why it happened. Did she do something wrong? Is he in love with someone else? George won’t talk about it. Every Thursday, Jeanie takes her granddaughter to the park, and there she meets Ray, who performs the same weekly duty for his grandson. Ray seems to be everything George isn’t – a listener, easy to talk to, open-minded – and sexy. Suddenly Jeanie feels attractive again and, against her will, finds herself falling in love with him. She knows all too well that her new passion threatens everything she holds dear. She must make a choice. Family ties, dramas, secrets and lies all weave their way though this beautiful and insightful first novel written by an author who has the perfect experience to write it.

This was another of those dirt cheap ebook buys that was so worth it. Jeanie has been married to George for years when for some reason he refuses to explain, he leaves her bed and sleeps in the spare room. Ten years on this is still the case. Jeanie just gets on with life and still cares for George but when a chance meeting with Ray in the park blossoms into friendship she begins to question many things in her life.

Jeanie runs a health food shop that she loves and is heading towards 60, which she doesn’t! George wants to move to the country for a new start, Jeanie doesn’t but no one is listening to her. Jeanie and George have a daughter, Chanty, and she and George both seem to think they know what is best for Jeanie. Jeanie is frustrated but not able to get them to take her views seriously. There is a lot going on in this story. It is certainly not a simple boy meets girl and girl leaves husband for new happy life tale! This is what made it so good. There is a lovely slow growing romance between Ray and Jeanie, brought together by their grandchildren in the park. But it comes with all the complexities of life. Jeanie cares for George, for her daughter and her family. She doesn’t want to hurt people. She is trying to work out what she wants and what she can actually have. She doubts her relationship with Ray too. Does he really love her? Is he in this for a quick fling? Although it is worth noting here that they actually don’t fall into bed with each other, Jeanie is faithful to George in many ways for a long time. Jeanie knows that although she has these feelings for Ray she has never felt before she has a lot to lose from her life if she acts on them.

I also enjoyed the very three dimensional characters in the book. Particularly as this is a romance involving an older person (Jeanie would hate me saying that!) all the characters have a ‘past’ and the influence on them is obviously huge! As their back stories come out we begin to understand them at a deeper level and get how they have become the way they are. It was also interesting to see how the effects of George’s history in particular plays out in the present as he finally faces things he has long not dealt with. The repercussions for everyone are far reaching. I can’t spoil it for you by explaining any more, you’ll have to read it. It really puts Jeanie’s happy ending in jeopardy, she is so torn between doing what she wants and what she feels is the right thing.

As well as the three main characters being fully rounded I also liked best friend Bea who adds humour and someone who wants Jeanie to out herself first! Chanty and her husband Alex were great characters too, their marriage has not been easy and Alex is a selfish man! It was good to have other characters in the novel who were having ups and downs and learning lessons as well as the main protagonists. It gave it more of a family saga feel too and definitely gives it a very well rounded appeal.

Verdict: I read this really quickly! It was a book I struggled to put down and anyone who likes romance with a twist and great characters will love this.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: August 2011
Format: eBook
Pages: 353
Genre: Chick Lit, Contemporary fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Black Spring

Alison Croggon
black springBlack Spring takes the passionate story of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and re-imagines it in a fantasy nineteenth-century society set in savage lands sustained by wizardry, where its people live by the vengeance code of vendetta. Like Wuthering Heights, it’s a story within a story, featuring the brooding young Damek, who is swept along by his emotions. The object of his affections is Lina, daughter of the village lord, whose magical powers make her a witch and witches are not tolerated in this brutally patriarchal society. When Lina is sent away and forced to become a servant, Damek promises revenge and, like Heathcliff, spends a lifetime securing and refining it.

When I heard that someone had decided to write a re-imaging of Wuthering Heights I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or horrified! Bronte’s classic is such an iconic book it is a huge step to undertake to look at it in a fresh light. Cathy and Heathcliff have such strength of personality you wonder if anything could expand on that and their tragic, obsessive love is unique in literature. Having said all that, although I can appreciate Wuthering Heights, it is not one of my favourites so I was ready to see what someone else could do with it.

The story in Black Spring sticks pretty closely to the original, particularly in the beginning when Hammel visits the north to escape illness and a broken love affair (just as Lockwood does). He meets Damek (Heathcliff) an embittered and angry man living in an awful household and treating his young wife abominably. When Hammel returns to his rented house Anna (the maid, aka Nelly) tells him the story of Damek and his lost love Lina (Cathy).

Damek comes to live with Lina when they are both children. Until this point Anna has been Lina’s closest friend despite the barrier caused by Anna being the daughter of a servant and Lina having come from the royal line. Damek and Lina spend as much time as they can together, both have a restless and wild nature and they literally run off and leave everyone else behind whenever they can. As they grow up Lina’s father dies and due to the disfavour with the king his house and land is given to Maseko, an awful man who forces Damek to live as a servant and eventually causes Lina to leave when he assaults her. Damek too leaves and Lina then marries and has a daughter. Then Damek returns and the consequences for everyone are devastating.

The biggest departure from the original is the addition of the fantasy element. Lina is a witch and there are wizards who have a lot of control over the villages and land they live in. Wizards have control, witches are often executed. Then there is Vendetta. This was a really fascinating part of the story, Vendetta is mentioned a few times before it is fully explained. When it is explained you get an idea of the full horror of it and of the power of the wizards who declare it or finish it. Simply put if someone is killed in the village their honour must be avenged. This happens through the eldest male in their family killing the perpetrator of the crime. However this means that the death of the next murdered man must also be avenged and so it goes on, effectively killing off the entire male population of villages as they take vengeance on each other through the family line, cousins and so on are all included. It may sound gruesome, and in many ways it is, but there was a whole ritual behind it of doing things in a precise way at certain times. I would really have liked Alison to spend more time on this idea and in developing it, along with the whole witch and wizard scenario. Anna is affected by this as her father has to become a part of it and she subsequently loses him. Her feelings about the matter and its impact on the family are obviously enormous and yet a lot of it remained unexplored. In the end I was more interested in this than in Damek and Lina’s story (possibly because I roughly knew what would happen to them!) I hope Alison will write another novel and focus more on this idea.

The novel is beautifully written. The prose is easy to read but not at all simplistic. Although much more contemporary it had a flavour of a book written longer ago with some of the language that the characters use. As the book is set in a historical time this adds to the gothic darkness that pervades it. In addition Alison captured the brutal quality of Wuthering Heights really well in this tale. The families and some of the additional characters are really barbaric at times. I felt that in this story more of the brutality came from external influences whereas Cathy and Heathcliff’s obsessive love brings about much of the brutality in the original. In fact I think that this, for me, is where this story was lacking. The relationship between Damek and Lina just didn’t have the impact that the original protagonists had. That is not to say that they don’t have a fiery and strong bond, but the punch seemed to be missing.

Verdict: So, after all that (!), I did enjoy this book and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of a passionate gothic fantasy. However I think it is better not to think about the connection to Wuthering Heights and just read it as a novel in its own right. I think I would have enjoyed it more reading it that way, and if you want to know about Wuthering Heights just read that!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 288
Genre: Fantasy, re-imagined classic
Age: YA
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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