Archive for May, 2013

The Dream House

Rachel Hore

the dream houseKate Hutchinson and her husband Simon are Londoners, performing the balancing act of raising two young children in a cramped terraced house whilst holding down stressful full-time jobs. When everything starts to come apart at the seams they decide to uproot and move to the Suffolk coast. Sacrificing her career, her friends and her independence, Kate battles to make a new life for the family under her mother-in-law’s roof – while they search in vain for the perfect home. Months later, with Simon still working all hours and the strains of living with his mother beginning to tell, Kate is questioning the wisdom of their move. Then one evening, out walking, she stumbles upon the house of her dreams, a beautiful place, full of memories – but tantalizingly out of her reach. It belongs to a frail old lady, Agnes, and the two women become close friends. As Kate unravels the dying woman’s story she is amazed to discover how much it echoes her own. And as past and present intertwine, Kate is given the strength and inspiration to reforge her own life

I discovered Rachel Hore’s work through my Book Club and am now working my way through her works! This is her latest novel and yet again I couldn’t put it down.

This is the story of Kate And her family as they decide to quit the rat race for a peaceful life with more family time in Suffolk. However it will come as no surprise to know that the path to tranquility doesn’t run smooth. This ideal, placed under a microscope with added stresses and strains certainly is shown to be a bit of a mirage. Giving up one life for the dream of another is difficult and requires hard work and a bit of luck to make it come true.

But this is not even a straight forward move to the country. Maybe it would have been had Kate not come with so much baggage. She has had a difficult life since her sister died when they were both teenagers and her parents shut down. The impact of this is still rippling through Kate’s life. She struggles to deal with what happened and the repercussions it continues to have on her.

Once the family have arrived in Suffolk and settled living with Kate’s mother-in-law, cracks Kate has never realised exist begin to show. As Kate tries to get to grips with her new life, and the changes in her families life now they are away from London, she finds help and solace in a few places but in one particularly unexpected one as she meets Agnes. Agnes turns out to be a distant relative and, quite literally, lives in Kate’s dream house. Kate has dreamed about it and it is the complete picture of her perfect house. As Kate gets to know Agnes she learns to deal with some of the tragedies in her life whilst solving the mystery of Agnes’ own troubled life.

The two stories intertwine well with the narrative moving between the past and the present. There are quite alot if co-incidences in this story, but as Rachel writes strong, intelligent and relatable characters I was willing to overlook this. The air of mystery that pervades the book helps with this. It all feels as though it wil work out the way it is ‘meant to be’. At the same time, although elements of the story are what you might think of as predictable there was certainly enough for me in there that was not. Also when a novel is written with prose that paint’s a picture in your mind then I feel I can be even more forgiving.

I was really rooting for everything to work out for Kate and I enjoyed the fact that her journey wasn’t straight forward. There is a good cast of supporting characters too, and it was of particular note that Kate’s mother-in-law is one of the best and not cast according to stereotype. This time I was more gripped by the story in the present than of that in the past, but Agnes story was truly heart rending in places.

Verdict:Yet again Rachel Hore has produced an intriguing tale spanning two totally different lives and times that still shows how, in so many ways, the issues we face through our lives don’t really change with the passing if time. People still try and sometimes fail, love and sometimes suffer and battle and sometimes give everything to reach their dreams.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher:Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: Nov 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 480
Genre: Contemporary romance, Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
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The Shark in the Dark

Peter Bently and Ben Cort (illustrator)

shark in the darkWill the flustered fish become saltwater snacks, or can they come up with a plan to teach the mean, greedy shark a lesson he’ll never forget? With atmospheric underwater scenes and a terrifically toothy villain, this captivating rhyming story is perfect for reading aloud.
Tremendously funny – with a biting twist

This is a great story that starts off a little scarily, reminding us just how scary that big ol’ Shark is and then switches to the fish, scared and terrified and not wanting to be eaten today, thank you very much! As the shark turns up for his tea the fish all try to swim away as fast as they can and seek refuge with the Squid, who gives them some wise advice and helps them to save themselves.

Told in rhyme, with some very funny lines this is a great little story that has kept my boys’ attention as they are desperate to find out what happens and to watch the shark get his comeuppance!

Of course there is a happy ending and no fish are eaten in the making of this story! The fish play a great trick on the Shark and manage to keep him away. My boys enjoy the illustrations by Ben Cort and this has become a recent favourite on our book shelf.

Verdict: A recent favourite on our book shelf

Reviewed by Lesley

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publication Date: May 2009
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture book
Age: Picture book
Reviewer: Lesley
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Monkey Wars

Richard Kurti

monkey warsWhen the Langur monkey troop rises to power on the dusty streets of Calcutta, it is at a price. A brutal massacre drives the Rhesus troop out of the place they called home and forces them to embark on a dangerous journey. But one Langur monkey, Mico, is prepared to stand up to the tyrannical Langur regime and fight for truth, friendship and love. As Mico uncovers the secrets and lies at the heart of the corrupt Langur leadership, he quickly realizes he is playing a dangerous game. And when monkeys turn on each other, there can be no survivors…

The author has a flair for spectacular set-pieces and drama, honed during his time as a screenwriter. This is clearly on display in the opening chapter where a troop of Langur monkeys invade the cemetery where a peaceful group of Rhesus monkeys live, killing most of the residents leaving just a handful of refugees.

The first part of the book alternates between the experiences of Papina, a young Rhesus girl and Mico, a young boy in the militaristic Langur troop. Papina’s story tells of a small group of survivors, trekking the city to find a new home where they will be safe, and to pick up the tatters of their life. Mico is the runt of his family, far smaller than his brother, but with a sharp mind. By chance, he witnesses some of the Langur soldiers brutally kill a lone Rhesus, yet their leaders are claiming that the Rhesus are the aggressors leaving him conflicted and unsure who to trust. Langur boys all do military training, so he joins up and tries to fit in.

Papina sneaks into her old home through a secret entrance and meets Mico on a training exercise. They form an uneasy friendship, her stories of the Langur attacks contradicting the official reports he’s been told, adding to Mico’s doubt. Mico’s clever mind is noticed by Tyrell, one of the Langur leaders and he is promoted to the Intelligence Division.

In the middle section of the book, the Langur go on an all-out war against all the rest of the monkeys in Kolkata, with Mico stuck between following the orders of the increasingly paranoid Tyrell, and protecting Papina and her friends. The rest of the Langur, bred from an early age not to question orders, and fed with misinformation, revel in their bloodlust. There are certainly some shocking events in the book, though the book never gets too gory for the intended audience.

The novel also avoids melodrama, the fast pacing meaning there’s no time for characters to wallow in self-pity and introspection, or at least when they do it is implied and not on the page. The darkest character is probably Fig, a Rhesus mother who has lost everything from her life. Despite only being a minor character, she plays a crucial role in the story. I think an adult book may have fleshed out her depression more fully, though this is not really a criticism.

The world building is well done too, the descriptions of the locations around the city feel like real places, and are teeming with life (both human and animal).

Verdict: I really enjoyed this book, it is fast-paced throughout, constantly inventive, and my usual complaint of poor endings in novels doesn’t apply (a solid ending, with a few deliberate hanging threads). A great introduction for teens to the machinations of politics and complexities of war.

Reviewed by Keith

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date:May 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 400
Genre: War
Age: YA/Teen
Reviewer: Keith
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book, Debut Novel
(previously a screenwriter)
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Cordelia Codd

Claire O’Brien
cordelia coddOne day, I, CORDELIA CODD, will be glamorous. I’ll take taxis everywhere, have a ridiculous-looking, floppy little dog, and Wednesdays will be manicure day.
But for now, I’m stuck with a 50% reduction in parents
two mean ex-best friends
rubbish day Wednesdays
and a mum with a broken heart.
Dad has GOT to come home and help me out…

I read this book with my Mummy and I’m glad I did. I didn’t quite get all of it, because I am in year 4 and Cordelia is in year 7 but I still enjoyed it. Half way through reading it at bed time, my big sister (Daisy) who is in year 7 started to listen in and she was hooked! She enjoyed hearing it so much that she borrowed the book and read all the chapters we had already read so she could then join in and listen to the rest of it.

Cordelia is a film loving, costume designer 12 year old who has a happy life until a bad thing happened which affected her and her mum very badly. As a result of that, she did some bad but quite funny things. I’m not going to tell you any more stuff, although it does involve a boxing glove and some paint! You’ve got to read it yourself. I think this book is aimed at kids over 9 definitely as there is one or two bad uses of language but over all I loved it!

It kept all of us listening, sometimes it made me feel sad but sometimes it made me feel grateful for what we have in our family. I really wanted to be Cordelia’s friend.

Does it have a happy ending? Read the book and find out!

Verdict : I can’t wait to read the next one, ‘Cordelia Codd, Frankly Ruby I don’t give a Damm’ (secretly my Mum can’t wait to read it either).

Reviewed by Izzy (9)

Publisher: Orchard Books
Publication Date: June 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
Genre: humour
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Izzy (9)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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The Lovely Bones

Alice Sebold

the lovely bones 2012My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer. This is Susie Salmon. Watching from heaven, Susie sees her happy, suburban family devastated by her death, isolated even from one another as they each try to cope with their terrible loss alone. Over the years, her friends and siblings grow up, fall in love, do all the things she never had the chance to do herself. But life is not quite finished with Susie yet . . .

Ok, confessions first, seeing as the story is triggered by a crime! I saw the film first, even though I’d been told continually how much better the book was. (Score 1 Hollywood) But if I’m completely honest I wouldn’t have bought a copy if I hadn’t seen the film (score 1 Literature) Also I’m not a complete film-adaptation snob, Lord of the Rings had a similar effect, and I was even able to finish all 6 books before the end of the Hollywood franchise made it to the screens! Anyway, I feel a burden has been lifted, so back to the book in question The Lovely Bones is not my normal theme of choice, as murder stories of children aren’t something I’m particularly drawn to. But I knew (thanks to the film makers) that the brutal murder would take place early on and that the story as a whole is deeper than a whodunit.

So for those that haven’t sold out and seen the film (!). This story begins with the tale of Susie Salmon a 14 year old girl who is cruelly ripped from the centre of her family by their twisted serial killer neighbour. (Don’t worry, I didn’t put a spoiler alert here because the killer’s identity is revealed within the first few chapters.

You are drawn into the story immediately, and the character Susie is so charismatic you want to be right beside her throughout her limbo voyeurism on her friends and families. Also Sebold plots the timing of Susie’s horrific demise perfectly to engulf us in an enormous fog of sympathetic love for Susie. She is at the age where the noble Britney Spears would tell us she is ‘Not a girl, not yet a woman’. Susie is at the exploratory stage in life where she is full of enthusiasm, uncertainty and curiosity. And as a result is the perfect narrator to the experiences of her family and friends following her sudden departure from their lives. It is through her insightful narration that the story takes grip of you as we see relationships weaken, strengthen, kindle, break and rebuild following the loss of child/sibling/peer.

Susie’s family consists of; her parents, Jack and Abigail who were childhood/college sweethearts full of youthful aspirations who fall into parenthood and married life with two daughters and then unexpectedly a son; her gifted and sporty and rather spirited younger sister, Lindsey; her baby brother Buckley who is forced to deal with the loss of his sister at a very young age; and finally her Grandmother, Grandma Lynn who is a force to be reckoned with whist balancing a freshly poured glass of her favourite tipple.

We are also follow a handful of other people impacted by Susie Salmon. First and foremost there is the creepy neighbour Mr Harvey who we discover has a haunted history of luring, sexually abusing and ultimately fulfilling his thirst by ending their lives. Although she has never met, Len Fenerman in her lifetime, Susie oversees the troubled Detective Fenerman’s interaction with her family throughout the investigation of her murder. Singh, Susie’s first and only kiss, originally fingered as Susie’s killer by the community which doesn’t help the English/Asian immigrant feel less of an outsider. And finally, creative Ruth Connors, who only ever had a few fleeting encounters with Susie, another stranger to the social norm and finds her final brush with Susie has an everlasting imprint.

So, what does Susie see from her limbo viewpoint? Well, she is led into setting up her own world with her guide and then friend Holly, where they can dip in and out of the lives of the above who were left behind. We are initially shown two very different reactions to grief by Susie’s parents. Jack becomes obsessed with the investigation and very suspicious of Mr Harvey, which leads him into meeting different people and some rather hard situations. Ultimately his search weakens him both emotionally and physically almost to the point when his wife, Abigail, leaves it has little impact on him. What never lessens is his love for his children, both living and deceased, I was particularly touched by the advice he gives Lindsey about shaving her legs for the first time in the absence of her older sister and mother, for me it showed a loving father’s attention to detail and attempt to be there when in other circumstances it wouldn’t be his place. The love between Susie and her father is so strong that perhaps between pure determination perhaps help along by us willing it! a connection is made and ultimately after many years Susie has to decide when it’s time to let her father go.

Susie’s mother, Abigail, is also devastated by her loss, but contains with her grief much more inwardly. Abigail is creative and very pensive by nature and this is reflected in her oceanic eyes which was captured by a photograph taken by Susie. Abigail struggles to deal with her surviving family and falls into a brief affair with another man and ultimately abandons them all to really run away from everything. It is interesting how sympathetic Susie is towards her mother’s action in comparison to her siblings, who are both equally angry with Abigail when she returns years later from her vacation of discovery.

Lindsey is a feisty character, and through her Susie experiences falling in love and the transition from girl to young woman which she missed out on. She watches Lindsey fall in love with her childhood sweetheart Sam and how they evolve into a mature loving couple. This is whilst simultaneously dealing with being compared to her murdered sister and the feeling of being whispered about. She deals with the whispers or typical sympathetic comments with a rather angry retorts, but manages to not allow Susie’s death to define her, and you can feel the pride of Susie as she sees this. Lindsey also has a strong bond with her father and when he is physically unable to ‘investigate’ Mr Harvey, she willingly picks up the baton and takes a big risk to uncover evidence which ultimately links Harvey to Susie’s killing.

Susie’s brother Buckley is only 3 or 4 years old at the time of the murder, and finds himself regularly shipped out to a neighbour to shelter him from the pain. However as with young children they will eventually need answers and for Buckley it’s rather confusing as it becomes evident he is able to see Susie as she looks in on her family. We are shown Buckley growing up in a motherless, yet loving environment and his response to the re-introduction of his mother to the family home shows this.

Outside the immediate family Susie shows us how her last touch on earth (as a spirit) on young Ruth Connors helps bring Ruth and Ray together as outsiders with a common interest, Susie. I found this relationship an interesting one, it’s almost both forced and natural at the same time. I guess you could call it a supernatural one! However their developing relationship also helps Susie discover elements of ‘grown up’ love and she is able to connect with Ray again one more time, which is a strange and sweet scene. A little bit like Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore/Whoopi Goldberg , a Potter’s Wheel and The Righteous Brothers.

Also whilst in limbo Susie meets and connects with a long list of girls and women all sadly on George Harvey’s list of victims, and we discover where his bloodlust begins. As we are taken through his journey of destruction of the innocent, we’re shown how his evil mind meticulously plots his plan of death and there is are little if any redeeming features about him. There are levels of intrigue about the skill of his intelligence of how he weaves stories of a deceased wife (usually named after his previous victim) in order to quash suspicions of a single man who makes dolls houses. He is indeed a nasty character who we slowly await his just desserts, and I let you decide whether you think Susie had any help in serving it!

Verdict : I feel like I’ve rabbitted quite a lot about this story, but it is an amazingly complex web of characters, some I’ve had to leave out for you to discover yourself, who all drawn together through the life of Susie Salmon. Although her departure rocked them all I really enjoyed how this story focuses on how it makes them all too. Even after experiencing such deep sorrow and tragedy these characters are able to build themselves and each other back up again. There is also the question about life after death, and I found Susie answering that by basically watching over her family and friends lives fuelling that spiritual desire within telling us no matter where our loved ones have gone they are still there when we need them.

I’ll give it 9/10 and agree with all the book first purists that yes the book is of course twice as good as the film (final score Literature 2, Hollywood 1).

Reviewed by Sam

Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: February 2012
Format: ebook
Pages: 335/566KB
Genre: Crime, Mystery
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Sam
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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Nantucket Blue

Leila Howland

NantucketBlue-HighResFor Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.
Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.
When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.
But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on–most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits–that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.
A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

When it comes to selecting my holiday reads I’m attracted to books that are uplifting, set in interesting and exotic locations with a strong romantic theme, and the guarantee that even if the sky remains overcast and grey during my “stay-cation” in Blighty, I will at least get to experience sun, sand and sea within the pages of a book.

The cover of Nantucket Blue alone ticked a lot of my essential summer boxes: blue sky? Check; golden sandy beach? Check; Romance? Check. Reading the synopsis, a girl taking her first steps towards independence and making her own way and the dangling carrot of “forbidden” love, cemented my desire to add Nantucket Blue to my summer reading list. Thanks to the lovely Shane at Itching For Books Blog Tours (visit here) I didn’t have to wait long to soak up some virtual vitamin D.

Cricket is beyond excited to be turning her back on her usual summer of dividing her time between her father’s new family,
her dowdy and depressed mother and the babysitting job from hell. Instead she intends to spend the summer with her best friend, Jules and vivacious second family, working a glamorous job by day and flirting with her long-term crush by night. However, all too quickly Crickets plans for an idyllic beach holiday with her best, dissolved like a sandcastle with the rising tide.

Devastated and bewildered by her first experience of bereavement, excluded from her second home and pushed out by her best friend, Cricket clings on to her summer plans and the overwhelming desire to be there for Jules. With a determined single-mindedness, which at times borders on thoughtlessness, Cricket takes matters in to her own hands and follows Jules out to Nantucket.

Within a few pages Leila Howland transported me effortlessly back to a carefree time of girlie plotting and planning, the end of school year excitement and the anticipation of weeks of hazy, care free summer days and fun filled summer nights. But then, like Cricket, my plans for a carefree summer (read) were turned on its head.

Where I was expecting a fluffy summer romance with an undercurrent of a young woman striking out on her own for the first time, what I discovered was a bitter sweet coming of age tale of a girl who learns that the true transition to adulthood isn’t just about physical distance and financial independence from your parents.

When we first meet Cricket she acts younger than her seventeen years, particularly in the way she approaches her relationships.
So much of her own identity is wrapped up with her friendship with Jules and the family she has adopted as her own, that she doesn’t know how to be without them.

She has a hopeful naivety, which is simultaneously cringe worthy and endearing. I winced as she put herself out there time and again, stumbling from one awkwardly ill thought-out situation to another, all the while knowing that the knocks she was receiving were important for her growth. I imagine I just experienced a glimpse ten year in to my future as a mother with teenagers.

While I quickly reconciled myself that Nantucket Blue wasn’t so much a summer romance, as a coming of age tale pivoted off of a young woman’s changing relationships, I loved the sweet romantic relationship which developed between Cricket and her “off limits” beau and I can’t help wish that we had spent more time getting to know them as a couple. However, of all of the changing relationships explored by Howland, my favorite was the new understanding which developed between Cricket and her mother, facilitated by her mother’s teenage diary of her own eventful summer in Nantucket.

Verdict: Blue skies, sandy beaches and bittersweet life lessons.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: May 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 304
Genre: Coming of age, Contemporary romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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House Of Secrets

Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini

house of secretsWhen Brendan, Cordelia and Nell move to Kristoff House they have no idea that they are about to unleash the dark magic locked within.
Now the Walker kids must battle against deadly pirates, bloodthirsty warriors and a bone-crunching giant. If they fail they will never see their parents again and a crazed witch will take over the world.
No pressure then…
House of Secrets is the first book in a major new series.
It’s going to be epic.

After an incident at work leaves their father jobless and the Walker family homeless, the discounted purchase of Kristoff House, the unusual but elegant creation of an eccentric novelist, is too good an opportunity to miss. While the monetary cost is nominal, it all too quickly becomes evident that someone intends for the family to pay a much higher price.

At over five hundred pages, the House of Secrets is a large book by most standards. For the middle grade category it is undoubtedly a beast of a book. But as it moves seamlessly from atmospherically creepy tension, to humor, via heart racing action, breath catching peril and wide-eyed surprise, I found that I was absorbed, entertained and delighted by every single page.

The co-writers film and TV backgrounds shine through. Reading the House Of Secrets was an almost cinematic experience full of wondrous Technicolor images and larger than life characters. This was enhanced by the multiple third person, past tense perspective.
I had no idea what was going to happen next or which fantastical being was about to be introduced to our cast and I felt like I was watching an epic adventure movie from my 80’s childhood.

Although very much a driven by the fast paced plot, I was delighted by the realistically flawed but likeable Walkers. As the eldest of four siblings, the squabbling, antagonistic, yet warm and protective relationship felt spot on and I could, all to easily, identify with the bossy, slightly condescending, mother hen, Cordelia.
While on the one hand the cinematic like nature of the plot, pacing and style kept me completely enthralled, I couldn’t help feeling slightly detached from the action, I definitely felt like an observer rather than a part of the action.

Even though the ending was a little too “Hollywood” for my tastes; ignoring the aftermath of the Walkers experiences on their character development and setting up a little too neatly for the sequel, it totally worked. I am caught hook, line and sinker. I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters develop following on from their fantastical experiences and just what (and who) else Vizzini and Columbus pull out of their collective imagination.

Verdict: Fast paced, action packed fantasy for middle grade to middle age.

Reviewed by Caroline

Read Ned’s guest post “A Day In The Life Of Ned Vizzini” (here).

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Publication Date: May 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 550
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: None
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My Kindle Romance: Novellas

I think that it is fair to say that I have a teeny tiny book addiction *hides To Be Read pile and credit card statements.* But my addiction doesn’t stop at stock piling books in case of a zombie apocalypse. Oh no, my reading habits also border on excess.

It is not uncommon for me, once hooked by a story, to read a book in a single sitting. I’m not so much a fast reader as a persistent one, and I’d rather be sleep deprived due to reading, than tossing and turning in bed wondering what is going to happen next. Because I recognize my own weaknesses, and my occasional premeditated decision to read a book in its entirety, and I also need to get some sleep, I love reading novellas.

The other fantastic things about novella is how they can either give you a taste, for a writers style, or a particular genre, or provide additional content to an already beloved fictional world.

Not to mention that they are cheap, most of the novellas I’ve bought have been less than a pound, and many authors provide novellas as examples of their work, or as extra content, for free.

Below are a selection of novellas I have enjoyed recently.

Submerging yourself in a genre.

A Riverting AffairA Riverting Affair:
Beauty and the Clockwork Beast-Lily Lang
Rose Verney wants to fulfill her father’s dying request: to complete construction of the teleportation device he designed. Knowing just who can help her succeed, she seeks out Sebastian Cavendish, her father’s brilliant former student. Sebastian hasn’t left his home since he returned from the Civil War. He’s a broken man, his prosthetics a reminder of the terrible destruction his inventions brought to the battlefield. He wants nothing to do with Rose and her father’s masterpiece, but when she barges into his abandoned lab and begins construction, it’s everything he can do to resist getting involved. Especially when she charms her way into his monstrous heart.
Demon Express-Candace Havens
Professor Maisy Clark, professional demon hunter, is on the trail of an evil scientist responsible for the deaths of hundreds. Julian is worse than the monsters he creates, but he’s also obsessed with Maisy and willing to kill anyone who gets too close to her. Just when she thinks she has Julian cornered, the sexy Marshall Jake Calloway insists the investigation is his, and everything goes to hell. Maisy came to Texas to corner the scientist whose macabre experiments have taken so many lives, and Calloway is just another distraction she doesn’t need. Julian is her responsibility, one she’s not about to share. Even if Calloway can help, Julian will know Maisy is falling for the Marshall, and she’s not willing to risk his life. The
Clockwork Bride-Patricia Elmer
When engineer Aida Mulvaney attends a masquerade ball at the home of a staunch Luddite earl with a personal vendetta against her father’s company, she doesn’t expect to end the night married to the earl’s son Julian Capshaw, a brilliant engineer in his own right. The marriage will allow both of them to pursue their love of science, without interfering parents and ridiculous social stigmas. Though they escape to the Continent to start new lives, Julian’s father will have none of his heir’s disobedience. Before long, a marriage begun for the sake of convenience becomes a union of passion, but will it survive the machinations of an earl determined to destroy everything they love?

What first attracted me to the genre of Steampunk is the uniquely beautiful esthetic, that wonderful combination of historical elements, corsets and top hats, combined with fantastical technologies and modern scientific thinking.

Although only a small collection, of three novellas, A Riveting Affair gives a fantastic taste of Steampunk romance. This eclectic anthology features a fairytale retelling, a more traditional feeling historical romance and a paranormal romance, with blimps, steam engines and teleportation devices, in locations as varied as New York, London and Texas, all wrapped up in a copper wire and mahogany package.

While I enjoyed all three tales, I was particularly fond of Demon Express. The kick arse, monster hunting heroine, a Stetson wearing hero, and a detailed and intriguing back-story, had me craving a full-length novel. I will certainly be checking out the authors back catalogues for such.

Verdict: A tasty plate of Steampunk treats.

Copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Revisiting beloved worlds.

die for herDie For Her- Amy Plum
Set in the romantic and death-defying world of the international bestselling Die for Me trilogy, this digital original novella follows Jules, a brooding, immortal French artist who has fallen in love with his best friend’s girlfriend.
Jules Marchenoir is a revenant-an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save human lives. He’s spent the better part of the last century flirting his way through Paris, but when he met Kate Mercier, the heroine from Amy Plum’s Die for Me trilogy, he knew his afterlife had changed forever and he had found the love of his life. Until Kate fell for his best friend, Vincent. Now Jules is faced with an impossible decision: choosing between his loyal friend and a love truly worth dying for.

For fans like myself, the desire to reread the series prior to the final installment is strong, however the means are lacking (the TBR pile is teetering). While the publication sits between book 2 (Until I Die) and, the highly anticipated, finale of Amy Plum’s Revenant’s trilogy, If I should Die (Oh my gosh I CAN’T WAIT!!!!), It is in actual fact a fabulous little recap of the events from the very beginning of the series.

We get to delve even deeper in the romance of our favorite French couple, learning more about the strength of Vincent’s feelings for Kate, and discovering just how and when Vincent feel in love from the outside perspective of the man who knows him best, Jules, his best friend and fellow revenant.

Last, but in no way’s least, we are treated to an enlightening look at mind of gorgeous, too many women, too little time, Jules Marchenoir. We learn more about his strength of character, his loyal friend ship and the depth of his feelings belied by his flirtatious exterior. I was certainly fooled by his fun front and I look forward to a point in the future where I can reread the series with this added perspective.

Verdict: While only a sixty-page novella, this little look at the revenant world is a mini revelation.

Discovering new authors

sleeping hansomeSleeping Handsome-Jean Haus
Paige should have never agreed to do her best friend’s project. Reading to a boy in a coma is just plain creepy, but her English teacher somehow thinks her acting skills make it the perfect community service match. But when she finds the boy’s journal hidden among his books, things turn from creepy to interesting.

This predictably sweet, but satisfying novella was the perfect between novels palate cleanser.
Though Zach’s painfully candid diary entries, Paige comes to learn as much about her own self-absorbed and shallow nature, as she does the silent young man lying supine beside her.

Verdict: A feel good, hug of a novella, with a surprising amount of character development. The perfect bedtime story.

Posted by Caroline

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Carnegie and Greenaway: Wonder

R. J. Palacio

Wonder cover artMy name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside.
But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?
Narrated by Auggie and the people are around him whose lives he touches forever, WONDER is an funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

Wonder is quite frankly an amazing book that well and truly deserves its place on the Carnegie Shortlist. I read the book in a night and needed copious amounts of tissues as I neared the end. It should be made clear however that this is not a sad book, instead it is one that highlights the better side of human nature. Although the darker side does raise its ugly head from time to time, this book shows how human kindness can overcome it. Yes there are parts that are quite corny and twee, but I was left with such a feeling of hope after finishing the book, so much so that the corniness didn’t really seem to matter.

Auggie is the main character in the book, even when we read from the point of view of other characters. Born with a severe facial deformity he has had a lot to overcome in his 10 years. Previously homeschooled his parents decide to that now is the time he should start at mainstream school. Auggie is apprehensive but decides to give it a go, it’s not like he isn’t used to the way that people look at him. Initially ostracized there are a couple of pockets of light in the dark. In the end, despite the wishes of a boy who is obviously scared of being different, Auggie gains the acceptance of his classmates by showing a incredible quiet strength.

Wonder is written from the perspective of a number of central characters, all people whose lives have been touched by Auggie. I did miss the perspective of Auggie’s parents but at the end of the day this is a book for pre teens not for adults and the characters that they would wish to hear from are all covered. All points of view were written in the first person, but I always knew whose voice I was hearing. I liked the way that this was done, I don’t think that the book would have had nearly as much impact has it all been written from Auggie’s point of view as a large part of the storyline was how he, as a person, affected the lives of those around him. I also think that the decision to write the book in the first person was a good one. It is a very emotive book about a very emotive subject, the first person narrative reinforced this as the reader feels an intense emotional connection to what is going on.

I also liked the fact that although this book focuses on the better side of human nature, the ‘good’ characters weren’t perfect. Via sometimes resents her brother for taking her parents attention away from her and whilst she loves her brother doesn’t always want the hassle that being seen with him brings, their parents disagree on Auggie starting school, Jack gives in to peer pressure and talks about Auggie behind his back and Auggie does feel anger and resentment at the lot that he has been given. Had these characters not had these little imperfections then Wonder would not have seemed as real and I don’t think it would have succeeded in putting across the message that we should all take time to look at who a person is as that is what counts.

I’m not sure that it will win Carnegie, I think it may be a little sentimental to actually win the prize. It has however been a welcome break from the heavy darkness that can be found in some of the other books on the shortlist. And although I don’t think it will win part of me wishes that it would.

Verdict: A beautifully written, emotional book that give me hope for the nature of human kindness.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Corgi Children’s
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Coming of age
Age: Middle grade/ Teen
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Why I Chose to Set My Novel on Nantucket

We are delighted to host the latest stop on Leila Howland‘s blog tour for her debut novel, Nantucket Blue.

NantucketBlue-HighResFor Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.
Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.
When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.
But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on–most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits–that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.
A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

As soon as I decided to set my Young Adult novel on Nantucket, I knew it was the perfect choice. Despite what it looks like on a map, Nantucket is actually the easternmost point of the United States (next stop: the Azores), and you can actually feel that you are on the edge of a vast expanse. You feel that you are away; the word Nantucket means “the far away island.” I wanted my protagonist Cricket to feel far away from all that was familiar to her. I wanted her to feel far away from her old self so that she could find a new self.

Nantucket is also an awesome place to be a teenager. Teenagers are free! They can walk into town and let the evening take them where it will, and adults, trusting this place, let them go (while they have their own fun). Even though there are plenty of vices on Nantucket, there’s also an abundance of simple pleasures. Just to sit on a bench by the harbor and watch the boats rock gently beneath the moon turns a Monday night into poetry. Now add a chocolate ice-cream cone and a cute boy and forget it. Heaven! And an evening dip in the Nantucket sound? Paradise! All you have to do to get there is walk a half a mile and descend a staircase to the sand. I wanted to give Cricket that Nantucket-in-the-summertime freedom as she falls in love for the first time and teeters on the cusp of adulthood.

Also, the past feels alive on Nantucket. The cobblestoned streets, the stately old whaling captain’s homes, and the lack of chain stores and traffic lights evoke another era so consistently that the past is a living breathing being. This made it the perfect place for Cricket to reconnect with her mother, who in the present is lost in sadness, but who in the past was a wild spirit with whom Cricket would have had so much fun. Though no actual ghosts appear, Cricket and a younger version of her mom meet in their own way and are able to be together for the first time in ages.

Nantucket is the perfect setting for the story I wanted to tell. Forty miles out to sea with pristine beaches, whispers of ghosts, and sunsets so alarming you can’t help but stare at the sky in a kind of blissful, wide-eyed stupor, it lit my imagination on fire. If you can’t get there this summer by ferry or plane, hopefully NANTUCKET BLUE will transport you.

Guest post by Leila Howland

Leila Howland author pictureLEILA HOWLAND loves to read, explore L.A., and engage in funny and meaningful conversations with her friends and family, especially her brother who calls from Washington D.C. whenever he’s waiting for the bus. A lot gets discussed in those phone calls, but they tend to end abruptly when the bus shows up. She can really cut the rug, but wishes she could sing without people covering their ears. A graduate of Georgetown University, Leila spent five years acting in New York where she was a company member of the award-winning Flea Theater in Tribeca. It was a lot of fun and she often talks about “getting back into it.” The closest she has come was a stint as an extra on The Young and the Restless in 2010. Leila now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two dogs. She teaches high school English and blogs for HelloGiggles. NANTUCKET BLUE is her first novel.
To learn more about Leila and her work you can her on Tumblr(here) or converse with her on Twitter (here)
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Nantucket Blue was published on the 7th of May 2013 by Disney Hyperion and is available to buy in hardback from Amazon.com (here) and Amazon.co.uk (click here)

Those lovely people at Disney Hyperion are giving US readers a chance to win a finished copy of Nantucket Blue. Simply fill in the rafflecopter form below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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