Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

Judy Moody Saves the World

Megan McDonald and Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator)
judy moodyJudy Moody did not set out to save the world.
She set out to win a contest. A Band-Aid contest.
It all started with the Crazy-Strip contest – and the dream that she, Judy Moody, might one day see her very own adhesive-bandage design covering the scraped knees of thousands. But when her “Heal the World” motif merits only an honorable mention, Judy Moody realizes it’s time to set her sights on something bigger. Class 3T is studying the environment, and Judy is amazed to learn about the destruction of the rain forest, the endangered species (not) in her own backyard, and her own family’s crummy recycling habits. Now she’s in a mood to whip the planet into shape – or her name isn’t Judy Monarch Moody!

There are a few books in this series. While I was on holiday I went to the library and I chose this book, it was the 3rd book in the series but the only one they had. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the first two because it explained all the main characters.

I particularly enjoyed the interesting titles, for example, A Mr Rubbish Mood, Pigtoes, Pumas and Pimplebacks and finally Project P.E.N.C.I.L! They really caught my imagination.

This book has a lot of facts and I found them very interesting, I also learnt a lot about recycling.
“Did you know we throw away TWO AND A HALF MILLION plastic bottles every hour in this country!” (USA)

It gave a long list of things that we use every day which come from the rain forest and talks about riding bikes to help save fuel and the earth.

This book is American so some of the words are a bit different which was a little confusing like trash /rubbish, and Band-Aids /plasters.

Verdict: I love this book and now want to read ALL THE OTHERS!

Reviewed by Avilee Age 7 ½

Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: March 2004
Format: Paperback
Pages: 160
Genre: Fiction, humour
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Avilee
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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TTT: Top Ten Books That Would Be On My Syllabus

toptentuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the wonderful, list making gurus, The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they publish a new Top Ten list and invite their fellow book bloggers, bloggers and bookworms to join in.

I’ve done one Top Ten Tuesdays and like to think I didn’t completely botch it so here’s my second attempt!
I tried to put on my mentor/teaching hat. When teaching my students (and I do genuinely have students) I aim to be honest, fun and enthusiastic. So with this post I’ve made a mixture of things that would be just for fun, thought provoking, educational and all 3 put together. Here’s hoping a disaster did not come of it!!

1 – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Yup I’m going old school!!! This amazing woman and her literary achievements need no introduction. The style of writing is one that is sadly being lost, especially now with increasing texting and shorthand with stuff such as OTT, TBH and (my personal favourite – not) OMG!!! Aside from the fact that the story itself is wonderful, full of characters that reflect a truthful representation of the time, and there are several themes aside from the most obvious romantic one; the choice of words and language is simply beautiful and something I would like more to appreciate. The woman uses no swear words and yet her tongue is sharper than any string of profanities, her wits are fast and cunning, ruled by a cool and pensive mind that thinks before acting something that too many of us have long forgotten by speaking before ensuring the brain and mouth are properly connected! I think a lot could be learned and it is a masterpiece that should not be forgotten.

2 – Harry Potter by J.K.Rowling

I believe this series equally needs no introductions. Who hasn’t heard of Harry Potter, and who wouldn’t happily write an essay on it dissecting any number of characters, themes or just let the imagination run wild!!!
I remember a school friend of mine, with whom I was not in class with sadly, who actually had Harry Potter on her syllabus and I was sooooo jealous!!!!
I would also like to point out that I could rather easily use each Harry Potter book to fill this Top Ten Tuesday post but I won’t. Just saying though :p

3 – Splintered series by A.G.Howard

Ok well it’s no secret that I love this series very much, all you need do is read my previous Top Ten (Tuesdays) Fairytale Retellings. And not just from an amazing plot line point of view. I think this series has a lot of potential from both a literary point of view as well as storyline. I cannot praise A.G.Howard’s genius, style of writing, narration technique enough and the effort that went into planning the words as well as the characters and their thoughts. This series would make a fantastic adventure for any class to dissect any which way they like from any point of view!

4 – The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Yes my English teacher would be very proud of this choice of mine. This is a book that when I first bought it for my own syllabus at school I thought I was going to get bored stiff. And to be fair initially I did. This is a book that I never would have picked up of my own accord off of any shelf, in any bookstore. But my very own amazing English literature teacher made me appreciate it and the narrative depths and themes it reached in the creepy dystopian world not fair away from our own, created by Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale holds a special place on my syllabus and bookshelf, not only for the endless theme possibilities and narrative stances any reader can take, but because of what it represents to me. Being able to turn a book that I would have never picked for myself, into one that I thoroughly enjoyed analyzing and appreciating on a literary level, is a rare gift for most literature teachers, and I would hope that someday I can achieve this.

P.S. I now hold this book in high esteem and care for it a great deal. I highly recommend it for those who want more than just another dystopian novel with a good story, it’s for those of view who wish to read into every colour, every expression, every gesture all the possibilities of what Margaret Atwood was actually meaning and hinting at.

5 – Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

I’m taking another leaf out of my teacher’s classes (in case you hadn’t noticed, I loved reading and dissecting themes, narration styles and passage analysis from the word go lol). I picked this book for the simple reason that I thought the difference between it and it’s screen counterpart would be a good example of the variations between the two, and how little changes can drastically alter the bigger picture and significance to the story. Zombies who can fall in love raises a variety of themes ranging from religious, to social etc but throw in a few varying twists and well you have a whole new set of delivered meanings! I felt Isaac Marion was trying to give us more than just another zombie story. I think perhaps an underlying gentle reminder to enjoy life, and that love is what fills us and separates us from the insensitive cold empty corpses. But that’s just my opinion. Watch and read, and you may come up with a whole new theory of your own. Discuss…

pride and prejudiceharry potter 1splinteredthe handmaids talewarm bodies

6 – Do No Harm: stories of life, death and brain surgery by Henry Marsh

Ok I’ll be honest I haven’t read this book yet but it’s almost at the top of my TBR pile and fast climbing. I figured that aside from adventure, drama, period drama and paranormal I should have some in depth emotional reading going on. And I thought this would do the trick. Written by a brain surgeon and with each chapter a particular case that hit him strongly, made him stop and think, I thought this would be perfect. I’m a total sucker for Grey’s Anatomy so I was totally sold! I thought this would be the perfect read for some emotional searching and philosophical inner turmoil.

7 – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Eeeeeeer I have a confession to make about this one. I kept thinking about what I would want to be on my syllabus and this book kept popping back into my head no matter how many times I pushed it aside. I studied it myself right at the beginning of secondary school and I’m not entirely sure why but it struck a chord with me. Something about the particular dysfunctionality and polar opposite characters who somehow though manage to survive together and make it work got me hooked. I’ve done several passage analysis on this novel and there’s always something to be found hidden among the language styles, scenes, actions and choice of words. It’s hard to explain but I felt this book deserved a spot on my list. For those of you who have read it hopefully this will make more sense to you :p

8 – Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I thought we were overdue for a not-so-serious choice lol!
I discovered stardust initially as a film and absolutely loved it!!! And when I then found out it was based on a book…. well the love just deepened.
Stardust is an amazing and thrilling story that has something in it for everyone. Some magic, some scary parts, adventure, pirates, fighting and romance. And if that none of that appeals to you, well then the chance to imagine and see Robert DeNiro in a pink tutu should be reason enough!!!
I loved this story in both forms and picked it because I thought every student reader could find something in it to fall in love with and relate to.

9 – The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

Well I figured we were due a little more darkness and horror. I’m trying to be sensible and keep romance, adventure and horror equally balanced here :p
The Picture of Dorian Grey is a very interesting tale and each reader will find his own interpretation of the curse, it’s purpose or lack of and indeed the mystery behind it all. This is a novel that has left authors and readers alike puzzled for a longtime and to be honest there is no right or wrong answer. One of the few lessons I truly learnt in literature is that no opinion or interpretation is incorrect or wrong so long as you can back it up.
So bring it on. What’s your interpretation of Dorian Grey and his creepy (I think we can all agree it is creepy) picture? Thoughts anyone? You there at the back speak up!

10 – Finding Sky by Joss Stirling

I thought I should finish on a high note and on something that I personally identify with, something that represents me. I have fallen for a lot of books and their tales (all of the above included in varying different ways) but this is one of my all time favourites that I simply cannot get away from. This story is basically me in a book essentially. It’s simple, sarcastic, short and sweet and with some magic.
I picked it as my final choice because I think it’s important that whilst you’re learning that you don’t forget who you are and what opinions are your own, ensuring that others do not rub off on you simply because you’ve heard it enough times. I would encourage all readers, students and learners to stick to their guns, thoughts and opinions.
Learning is serious, but it’s also about having fun and staying true to yourself.

do no harmof mice and menstardustpicture of dorian greyfinding sky

And on that note I wanted to add a little bonus. Being the amazingly cool teacher that everyone wants *cough cough modestly cough cough* I would let every pupil pick a book of their own choosing that they feel resonates the most with them, that they relate to or that they just simply enjoy time and time again. They can make this choice provided they can justify their reasoning and attempt to put into words what it is that keeps drawing them back for another read.
And with that….. Classed dismissed!!! :p

Posted by Prudence

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Jessica Cole’s Ten Favourite Locations

We are delighted to introduce you to Jessica Cole, supermodel and spy, and her creator, Sarah Sky.
Catwalk Criminal, the third book in the Model Spy series, will be published by Scholastic on the 4th of June 2015.

Catwalk Criminal coverModels, spies and lipstick gadgets in this fast-paced teen series. Jessica Cole has been recruited to Westwood, MI6’s secret division of supermodel spies. Her first official mission seems simple at first, until it turns into the biggest cyber-attack ever known, threatening the security of the whole country. Then it emerges there is a traitor in the midst at MI6 – and suddenly Jessica herself is being accused. With no one believing her innocence, and the country on the verge of chaos, Jessica has no choice but to take matters of national security into her own hands and catch the culprit – fresh from the catwalk.

1 MI6 HQ, London

The giant building on the River Thames is nicknamed Legoland by the spies who work in it. Such is the secrecy of the sister organisation to MI5, that the British government didn’t admit its existence until 1994.

Jessica often visits HQ for briefings with her Westwood handler and godfather, Nathan Hall. It’s also where all her amazing gadgets are designed. In Catwalk Criminal she gets to see the inside of a secret comms room, which Westwood agents haven’t been allowed inside before.

2 The Shard, London

This is the location of Jessica’s first official mission for Westwood at the start of Catwalk Criminal, so she feels a special connection to the landmark building. Designed by the Italian architect, Renzo Piano, the 1,016 ft glass skyscraper is Western Europe’s tallest building.

Jessica’s taking part in a fashion show at The Shard to showcase the best of British fashion, while also attempting to stop a Ministry of Defence boffin from selling the blueprint for a driverless armoured vehicle to a third party. Unfortunately, the mission goes horribly wrong…

3 Claridges, London

The luxury five star hotel in Mayfair dates back to 1856 and is one of the finest examples of Art Deco style. It’s been favoured by royalty and celebrities over the years.

Jessica’s treated to afternoon tea here as she and top fashion designer, Ossa Cosway, are interviewed by a Teen Vogue journalist. Jessica would normally love the cream cakes – but her mind’s on other things as London has come under attack by cyber terrorists and MI6 believes she’s to blame…

4 Somerset House, Strand, London

The BFC Courtyard Show at Somerset House is the main venue for London Fashion Week. Top models from all over the world are flown in for shows at London Fashion Week, which is a highpoint in the international fashion calendar. Jessica’s walking for Ossa Cosway as she’s his new muse, but danger lurks around every corner, even on the catwalk…

5 Ealing, West London

Jessica lives in Ealing with her dad, former MI6 agent, Jack Cole. Her grandmother, Mattie, lives nearby. Her favourite haunts include Ealing Studios, where she and her best friend, Becky, attempt to get a glimpse of famous actors filming their shows. She’s a frequent visitor to Cafe Panorama, where she often meets her boyfriend, Jamie.

6 Portobello Market, West London

Jessica loves vintage clothes shopping with Becky in Notting Hill and this is the place to go. It’s the world’s largest antiques market, with over 1,000 dealers. On Sundays, Portobello Green has a market selling mainly vintage clothes. Jessica likes to mix up her vintage clothes purchases with finds from High Street stores such as TopShop.

7 Monaco

In Fashion Assassin, Jessica was a guest on board a Russian oligarch’s super yacht, moored in Monaco harbour. She was able to soak up the atmosphere of the highly competitive super rich, but could never let her guard down as she was working undercover. She got to see the ‘off limits’ area of the Grimaldi Palace too – pity she was being chased at the time…

8 Paris

Paris is one of Jessica’s favourite cities for sightseeing and fashion – there’s lots of vintage clothes’ shops and beautiful fashion show venues. Jessica modelled here for Couture Week in Code Red Lipstick – but used it as a ruse to get to the capital city to try and find her private investigator dad who vanished while hunting for a missing scientist.

9 New York

Jessica visits this amazing city in Fashion Assassin – she’s been handpicked by a top photographer to appear in a fashion spread alongside rising star, Kat Ingorokva. The photoshoot is on top of the Flatiron Building in Manhatten – one of the tallest buildings in the city. She also gets ‘invited’ to lunch at the luxury hotel, the Waldorf Astoria, where a nasty surprise awaits her.

10 Cornwall

Jessica often holidays here with her dad and the place will always have fond memories for her. Great beaches, surfing and cream teas – and no-one trying to kill her or set her up for a crime she didn’t commit. The perfect getaway for a spy. There’s probably a few holidaying there this summer…

Post by Sarah Sky

sarah sky picture website (here), Goodreads author’s page (here) or Twitter account

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Ruth Reichl
deliciousDear Mr Beard,
I sent my Magic Moments off yesterday, and that made me think of you.
I hope the cookies will remind Father of our life here. Or maybe I should say what life used to be, before the war changed everything . . .
Hidden in the library of Delicious! magazine young intern Billie discovers the wartime letters of twelve-year-old Lulu Swan, written to distinguished food writer, James Beard. Lulu’s can-do spirit in the face of food shortages and other hardships help Billie come to terms with her own tragic past. Until one day it occurs to her: Lulu Swan might still be alive…

What were your initial thoughts of the book?
I saw Delicious out of the blue and got completely drawn to the cover. After scouring the synopsis, I knew that this was a book I’d be interested in reading. Thus I decided to give the book a go which I’m glad I did as this book was truly lovely and was such an entertaining read. I was drawn in from the very start and found it very hard to put the book down again. It is a book that has a truly remarkable story at its centre, one that will capture your heart and make you feel warm inside. It is one of the best food-centric books I’ve read.

What was your favourite aspect of the book?
The journey that our main protagonist, Billie, goes on. (I know, you were expecting me to say the food, weren’t you?) I loved her narration and how much she changes throughout the story. I found the writing style was easy to follow and I just got sucked in and really needed to know where Billie’s life would take her next. I really enjoyed how this all came together and how she grew into such a confident, outgoing, and resilient character by the end of it all. This was definitely a character-driven plot!

Who was your favourite character and why?
I’m sure this will come as no surprise to you but my favourite character was Billie. As much as I loved all of the other side characters and all of their own journeys, there was just something about Billie that I completely loved. She was a remarkable character who was well-written and someone who was really relatable. Essentially, this story was a coming-of-age story in which Billie finds her true self and learns to enjoy it all which just made for an entertaining read that was thoroughly enjoyable.

Would you recommend this book?
In a heartbeat. It is the kind of book that will whisk you away to another place and time easily. It is full of language that will warm your insides and mentions of food that will have you salivating. It has a story that is full of heart and warmth and is one of those books that will make you feel really good and blessed by the end of it. So if you like books like that, then you should definitely read this book. I would say it is perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern and Jodi Picoult!

Summarize this book in one sentence (verdict): A wonderfully warm story about hope, love, food, and finding yourself.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Ebury Press
Publication Date: September2014
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical, Fiction, Food
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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The Paradise Guest House

Ellen Sussman
paradise guest houseSent on assignment to Bali, Jamie, an adventure guide, imagines spending weeks exploring the island’s lush jungles and pristine white sand beaches. But it ends as something very different – a year on, she can still feel the heat and noise of the nightclub bombings.
Haunted by memories, Jamie returns to Bali seeking a sense of closure. Checking into a cosy guest house, Jamie meets a kindly owner who is coping with a painful past of his own, and a young boy who becomes crucial to her search.
She hasn’t been able to forget Gabe, the man who saved her from the attacks – or the spark between them as he helped her heal. There’s a chance she might find him where she left him. A small chance. But even if she does, what then?

Jamie is a likable, adventurous girl who works as a tour guide for people who want thrill seeker holidays. She had an opportunity to check out Bali for her company and is there when the tragic Bali bombs strike. Her world is turned upside down, literally and metaphorically and a year later she is back to try and get her head straight about everything that happened. We first meet Jamie making the plane journey back to Bali, a mixture of nerves, fears and memories. As she lands in Bali and makes her way to the paradise Guest House where she is to stay we get to experience the warmth, colour, smells and sounds of beautiful Bali. I was instantly transported to that place where you can walk out the door and forget about the grey skies of England. As Jamie starts trying to cope with being back in a place that has such mixed memories that idyllic setting is in contrast to the turmoil she is dealing with.

As we learn about Jamie’s back story apart from the bombings and also meet other characters who have had a difficult time in this supposed paradise the story takes on more depth. Nyoman who owns the Paradise Guest House turns out to have lost his wife in the bombings. Bambang is an orphaned boy she meets trying to make money on the streets to stay alive. They show Jamie different things about the island and its people that she didn’t have chance to experience before. Nyoman has faced his loss in a completely different way. Nyoman takes Jamie to some of the events to commemorate the bombings.

In the middle of the book Ellen takes us back to show what happened to Jamie that dreadful night as she deals with loss, tries to help others and meets Gabe who looks after her as she recovers from the injuries she sustains. They form a close bond, something a bit scary for both of them as they each have issues with loss and relationships as well as coping with the trauma of the bombings. But this relationship becomes pivotal to both of them and they try to leave the past behind them and move on. As you can tell from the blurb they don’t get it together at this time and Jamie comes back to Bali wanting to try and find Gabe and see if he will forgive for leaving and if they have anything left to rescue. I enjoyed the romantic element to the story but for me the most interesting part was learning about Bali, its customs and people and how they have coped with such a big tragedy.

Verdict:This story was fascinating, there are a great variety of characters and it is gripping subject matter, a good read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Canvas
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
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Tabitha Suzuma
hurtAt seventeen, Mathéo Walsh appears to have it all. He is a champion diver and a hot prospect for the upcoming Olympics. He is a heartthrob, a straight A student and lives in one of the wealthiest areas of London. He has great friends and is the envy of many around him. And most importantly of all, he is deeply in love with his girlfriend, Lola. He has always been a stable, well-adjusted guy . . .
Until one weekend. A weekend he cannot seem to remember. All he knows is that he has come back a changed person. One who no longer knows how to have fun, no longer wants to spend time with his friends, no longer enjoys diving. Something terrible happened that weekend – something violent and bloody and twisted. He no longer knows who he is. He no longer trusts himself around people: he only wants to hurt, wound and destroy. Slowly, he begins to piece back the buried, fragmented memories, and finds himself staring at the reflection of a monster.
Tormented, Mathéo suddenly finds himself faced with the most devastating choice of his life. Keep his secret, and put those closest to him in terrible danger. Or confess, and lose Lola forever . . .

Having read Tabitha’s previous book, Forbidden, I thought that I knew what I was letting myself in for when I picked up Hurt – a beautifully written, compelling and emotive, character driven story, with a thread of taboo- and I was absolutely right.

Like Matheo awaking from the oblivion of sleep and finding himself at the epicenter of violence and destruction, I was immediately thrown in to a disorientating and disturbing scene with no explanation.

The flashbacks to the lightness, playfulness and beauty of pre-amnesia Matheo’s contrast so potently with the angry and bewildered young man struggling to fit in to his own life, that I felt overwhelmed by a sense of wrongness and sadness.

Matheo’s hurt was so clearly palpable, I just wanted to wrap him up in a huge hug and protect him from the world. At one point I had to stop reading as I was unable to see the text through my tears. I even had to take a few days break from the book mid way through, to read something else, because I couldn’t face the emotions that would be unleashed with the return of Matheo’s memory.
In Forbidden the use of first person, dual narrative was very important to my acceptance of the story. Therefore I found myself paying particular notice of the perspective Suzuma employed in Hurt.

For me Hurt, a third person narrative, entirely from Matheo’s perspective, was a doubled edged sword. On the one hand, this book devastated me enough with the description of how Matheo was feeling and what he was thinking, that I know a first person narrative would have been harder to experience, perhaps too hard. On the other, although I loved the secondary characters and felt sad for how Matheo’s experience affected them, I only did so because of Matheo’s love and concern for them in their roles of friend, girlfriend and brother and not because I had gotten to know them in their own right, which a more omnipotent third person perspective would have allowed.

Suzuma has this amazing talent for creating breathtakingly beautiful love in impossible and taboo situations that live with you long after you turn the last page. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be automatically pre-ordering whatever she decides to write next.

Verdict: The title is a warning- Don’t expect to finish a Tabitha Suzuma book the same person you were when you started it.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Random House Children’s
Publication Date: September 2013
Format: Hardback
Pages: 400
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Fiction
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows

potato peelIt’s 1946 and author Juliet Ashton can’t think what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance, he’s acquired a book that once belonged to her – and, spurred on by their mutual love of reading, they begin a correspondence. When Dawsey reveals that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, her curiosity is piqued and it’s not long before she begins to hear from other members. As letters fly back and forth with stories of life in Guernsey under the German Occupation, Juliet soon realizes that the society is every bit as extraordinary as its name.

I bought a bundle of books from a well-known online book retailer in part because it was a great deal and in part because it contained this book. I’ve wanted to read it for ages having missed it when our book club read it. It was one of those books everyone seemed to have enjoyed and I didn’t want to miss out! Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed.

Written in the form of letters this novel is the story of Juliet discovering what it was like to live on the island of Guernsey during World War Two. As the Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied during the war their perspective is a unique one. I found this book to be jammed full of anecdotes and details that made it all come to life and it was truly fascinating. Never before had I realised that all communication with the mainland was severed so Islanders really didn’t know what was going on (apart from the illegal radios). Their children were evacuated a few days before the German troops arrived and they had no contact at all with them for the duration of the war. I also didn’t know how scarce food became or how Guernsey people were sent to concentration camps if they were caught stepping out of line too far.

But enough of the history lesson! All the stories about life during the war are told to Juliet who is at the heart of the story. Having survived the war in London, writing a column for a newspaper, Juliet is looking for material to write a novel when through a chance letter she begins to correspond with the Islanders, all of whom were members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. What she finds is shocking, touching, humorous and courageous and through the letters Juliet makes friends as well as finding the characters for her next work.

Juliet ends up going to Guernsey to visit the society’s members. Her trip there completely changes her life. I really liked Juliet, she is charming, funny and pretty blunt at times. Her attempts at warding off an unwanted suitor had me smiling.

Juliet also discovers the story of Elizabeth. Elizabeth started (unintentionally) the Literary Society and was later taken to Ravensbruck by the Germans for helping a slave worker. Her story brings together all the tales told by the others in their letters, she is an inspiring character, to those in the book and to us as the reader.

Verdict: I so enjoyed this novel, it is full of information and yet you don’t notice it as you read. It has a fabulous range of characters, people who would never mix apart from these extenuating circumstances. It is realistic but still manages to be gentle, many stories are hideous but written with humour and in a way that is heart-warming. It reminded me again that friendship and courage are both so vitally important in the face of any adversity.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: June 2010
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Genre: Fiction, WW2
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None
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In Her Shadow

Louise Douglas

in her shadowHannah Brown never thought she’d have a best friend like Ellen Brecht. Ellen is everything she isn’t – beautiful, daring, glamorous and fierce. Growing up together in rural Cornwall, life seems perfect. But their idyllic childhood is shattered by obsession, betrayal and, ultimately, tragedy.
Hannah has tried for twenty years to forget what happened during that terrible summer. Then, one ordinary morning at work, she glimpses a woman who is identical to Ellen. Can it really be her? And has Ellen returned to forgive her – or to punish her?

I was gripped by this novel, it has all the essentials for a good read; compelling characters, beautiful settings, an intriguing story and a little bit of mystery to keep you guessing along the way.

The story is told by Hannah who is in her thirties and working for a museum, she is thrown into turmoil one day by a glimpse of her old friend Ellen Brecht and we discover that Hannah’s past holds secrets and a history of mental illness because of childhood events that she has never really recovered from. Through Hannah’s life now and her reminiscences we gradually discover what she is hiding from and why Ellen’s possible return is so significant.

Ellen and her family burst into Hannah’s quiet life bringing an excitement and vibrancy that Hannah is drawn to like a moth to the flame, but there are hidden dangers and her youthful eyes don’t see the whole picture or the darkness within this family. Ellen is strong, fierce and determined (all things Hannah is not) they form a strong friendship, along with with Hannah’s adopted brother Jago. They grow through their teenage years together with the angst that goes with that and the added problems caused by Ellen’s family and Jago’s history.

Hannah has her own qualities and is a good friend to Ellen, but also struggles with jealousy and loneliness and feeling of betrayal as Ellen and Jago grow closer. She is a very complex character and the many facets come together along with the events so we can understand why she has suffered mental illness. As events roll on in the present we are left wondering if she is having more episodes and if she is heading for another breakdown.

As secrets are revealed and the darker elements come to the fore all the characters show their best and worst sides. I really enjoyed the build-up and revelations when they came, some things I didn’t see coming at all. The whole story is very atmospheric and there is a chill that pervades the book as we wonder where this is all going and how Hannah is going to cope with re-living the horrors of her past.

Verdict:I really enjoyed this and have already got another of Louise’s books on the Kindle to read soon!

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Black Swan
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 464
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge:British book
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Amity and Sorrow

Peggy Riley

amity and sorrow coverIn the wake of a suspicious fire, Amaranth gathers her children and flees from the fundamentalist cult in which her children were born and raised. Now she is on the run with only her barely aged teenage daughters, Amity and Sorrow, neither of whom have seen the outside world, to help her. After four days of driving Amaranth crashes the car, leaving the family stranded at a gas station, hungry and terrified.
Rescue comes in the unlikely form of a downtrodden farmer, a man who offers sanctuary when the women need it most. However while Amity blossoms in this new world, free from her father’s tyranny, Sorrow will do anything to get back home. Although Amaranth herself is beginning to understand the nature of the man she has left, she needs the answer to one question; what happened to the other wives and children.

This has been one of the hardest reviews to write. I’ve started, deleted and started again. I ignored, re-scheduled and stared at a blank computer screen but enough is enough. I will attempt to express the complicated feeling I have for Amity and Sorrow.

I have to confess that had I not been offered this book to review, If I had simply seen Amity and Sorrow in a book shop, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up.

For me reading is escapism, an indulgence and a pleasure. I am all about the “Happily Ever After”. I admit that I avoid books that are likely to be too heavy, books that depict abuse, or books that are likely to make me feel too uncomfortable. God, Sex and Farming… To say that I was reading outside of my comfort zone would be an understatement!

Although I found the subject matter explored within Amity and Sorrow uncomfortable and harrowing, this book was so much more. I never felt as though Riley sensationalized her subject matter, three women escaping from a polygamist religious cult, to make a quick buck. But, much like the characters it introduces, this is a modest book, understated but no less heart wrenching.

Amity and Sorrow is told from the women’s 3rd person perspective as they find themselves attempting to acclimatize to their new, alien like, surroundings and make sense of their place within the world without the strict rules of their home or the guidance of their “Father God”. The present day narrative is seamlessly interspersed with flashbacks which take us in a reverse chronological journey, through the events that led to the decision to escape and beyond to the circumstances in which Amaranth first became involved with her husband and cult leader. Each flashback adds another layer to the quiet horror of the women’s story.

I found the ending distressing and unsettling, nevertheless it was completely right for the story. Riley has too much respect for her characters and their journey to belittle their traumas and their achievements or to tie up the book with a pretty bow, and a fantasy happy ever after. Instead she offers the reader a glimmer of hope and new beginnings, but ultimately leaves the reader with more questions than answers.

I read the book with a love-hate attitude towards most of the characters. Like family, no matter how much you fight or how much they frustrate you there are underlying threads of love and affection, which keep you rooting for them and in this case kept me turning the page.

While I applaud Amaranth for her strength of character for removing her daughters from a harmful situation, and I could even begin understand how she got herself entangled within the polygamous cult, I had the most issues with her decisions made following their escape. At times I felt like reaching into the pages of the book and shaking her, and saying ‘look at your daughters, see how they are still hurting, look at the dangers that surround them still.’ In retrospect I can see that she was in survival mode, doing the best she could in a undoubtedly difficult situation, while still broken and healing herself.

But then I guess that that is the difference between a good book and a great one. That very fact that over a month after finishing, I am remembering, and analyzing, and questioning and still wishing for that happily ever after.

There is no doubt that Amity and Sorrow is beautifully and sensitively written. The imagery memorable, easily transporting you into the dust and heat and hardship of rural Oklahoma, the pacing is perfect and the narrative borders are poetic.

Verdict: While it is unlikely that I will ever re read Amity and Sorrow I have no doubts that I will be buying Peggy Riley’s next novel.

Reviewed by Caroline

If you are intrigued by Peggy Riley’s debut don’t forget to pop back on the 18th of April when we will be taking part in the blog tour and hosting an INTERNATIONAL giveaway for a signed hardback!

Publisher: Tinder Press
Publication Date: March 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 284
Genre: Fiction, Cults
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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The Chocolate Money

Ashley Prentice Norton

Bettina Ballentyne is a chocolate heiress only by name; it is her glamorous and narcissistic mother, Babs, who lives up to the billing and plays by no ones sharp and sparkly humor will have you laughing during its darkest moments. A mesmerizing portrayal of the corrosive effects of an American fortune, The Chocolate Money is a shocking and intensely readable debut.

Well, this book was certainly an eye opener! The publisher had initially intrigued me by admitting that this book was the equivalent of Marmite and I can see why.

The protagonist Bettina Ballentyne is the daughter of a very rich heiress of a chocolate empire. It’s the lavish set up where ‘Babs’ the mother, is richer than you can imagine and doesn’t have to physically work for it so spends her days socialising, grooming, networking and being the biggest bitch 1980’s Chicago has encountered! Babs, funnily enough, will never be a contender for, ‘Mother of the year’ anytime soon. I’m no aspiring psychologist but even I can tell that this mother/daughter relationship was seriously screwed. From giving Bettina at the age of 10 very graphic pearls of wisdom in regards to her own sexual techniques and exploits to outright neglect and abuse, Babs is definitely one of those, beautiful on the outside, ugly on the inside characters. At the same time though, this isn’t one of those autobiographical books where the abuse is constant and there is hate spewing from a parental figure. Babs, in her own way does care for her daughter. It’s just in a very weird way. Babs cares for her daughter as she would a possession and as such would never supersede her own selfish desires.

All the while Bettina strives for her mothers affection and attention. As you wince through the car crash of this girl’s upbringing, she leaves her mother’s shadow to go to college. There she struggles to find her own identity and lacks the insight to maintain normal relationships and friendships. She then continues to make inappropriate decisions that will hurt her and others along the way.

This book was quite the sensationalist read and had me muttering ‘just…one….more…. page….’ until the late hours as I couldn’t put it down. I felt almost voyeuristic as I observed such a messed up family wondering what new low they would manage next.

Verdict: A challenging read and not for the easily offended but nevertheless had me gripped.

Reviewed by Karen

Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication Date: September 2012
Format: Hardback
Pages: 288
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Karen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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