Friday, 15 December 2017

REVIEW - A VERY BRITISH CHRISTMAS - TWELVE DAYS OF DISCOMFORT AND JOY BY RHODRI MARSDEN

Title: A Very British Christmas
Byline: Twelve Days Of Discomfort And Joy 
Author: Rhodri Marsden
Genre: Entertainment, Non Fiction
Publisher: HQ (Story HQ)
Release Date: 2nd November 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
Imagine if all your Christmases did actually “come at once”.
That idiom is supposed to evoke an image of delight, happiness and nothing going wrong, but the British Christmas doesn’t always turn out that way. Yes, sometimes all the gifts are perfect, everyone’s on great form and no one chokes on a mince pie. But on other occasions you’ll fall through a glass cabinet or set your cardigan on fire.
A Very British Christmas pays tribute to all the peculiar ways we choose to celebrate; it tells stories of our propensity to behave badly, our uselessness under pressure and our unquenchable joie de vivre. Join us as we salute cultural icons, dissect national customs and hear from people who’ve eaten all the turkey and lived to tell the tale.
Tidings of discomfort, tidings of joy.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I always try to read a few Christmas themed books in November/December in an attempt to get into the "Christmas-sey mood" so I was looking for an appropriate book to read and review when I found this one. As I am British I was interested to see what Christmas rituals and traditions are thought of as British in origin. I also thought it would be interesting to compare some of my families traditions to those featured in the book.

The cover is in a "festive" red colour and the book title is presented in way that makes it kind of represent a Christmas Tree. At the very top of the "A" there is an ornament, perhaps a homemade Fairy or Angel. There's the addition of a Santa's hat on top of the letter "S". Under the title and byline there's a rather disheveled looking family squashed onto a sofa in various states of "Christmas Cheer"! There's also the somewhat regulatory scattering of Christmas wrap we all end up with all over the floor! It's a fantastic visual of the typical British Christmas home at around 3pm or 4pm on Christmas Day! The byline reads "Twelve Days Of Discomfort And Joy" which I think if we are being totally honest about the festive season we all have a few times during Christmas that we have a tad more discomfort than the joy we were hoping for! I think the cover is a fun one which represents the book well and it is a rather "tongue in cheek" look at some families Christmas traditions! There are also quotes about the book from India Knight and Al Murray. Though these types of quotes are my pet hate on book covers, I guess the one from Al Murray made me a little more eager to read the book as I do find some of his comedy quite good. I would just rather have the celeb or author quotes on the back cover or the inside cover, but I totally understand why they are used and placed on the front covers.

The genre's I have seen listed for this book are Non-Fiction and Entertainment, hmm well the book is non-fiction although you could imagine some of the stories being written for comedy sketches! The entertainment label fits well as I did find reading the book entertaining. I would also add humour to the genre listings as in parts the book has you laughing.

My favourite parts of the book were the other peoples stories that they had shared with Rhodri. Rhodri links into the individual stories and quotes really well. I think the first thing I noticed that made me laugh was the contents listing.....and yes I did end up singing it out loud to the correct tune of The Twelve Days Of Christmas of course!
The contents listings included, 12 Twelve gifts unwrapping, 9 Nine journeys trekking, 5 Five broken limbs. In place of "A partridge in a pear tree" is "And a nice fibre optic tree"! The whole contents list really made me laugh out loud. 

Another statement I really identified with was "However hard we might wish it, Christmas doesn't automatically shower good times upon us" I think everyone will recognise this aspect of Christmas. We will all have had the oh so high expectations of how we wanted things to flow and planned for everything only to have it all go wrong on the actually day.

One of the most enjoyable bits of this book together was to talk about Christmas with people of other faiths, such as those people who might observe Hanukkah, Diwali or Mawlid yet they still "do Christmas" too! Perhaps not in reverence to Jesus and his birth but because they like the other aspects that celebrating Christmas brings, such as the family gathering, the food, and the present giving. It's like you don't need to be celebrating the birth of Jesus to enjoy watching the Christmas Top of The Pops Show. Christmas is also about gathering together, becoming more unified and enjoying somethings together.
In this modern age families perhaps no longer all come together on a Sunday for the whole eating together as a family, some people will probably be working or be unable to make it every week. Whereas at Christmas we seem to make that little bit more effort, or maybe we are guilt tripped that little more to give in and agree to the large family get together. 
This book also informs the reader that Christmas cards only started as a tradition in the mid nineteenth century, yet it is one the majority of people eagerly follow in the present day. Then there's newer things like the "Secret Santa" gift at work. Everyone agrees a price limit, say £5 or maybe £10 and all those participating have their names put into a hat and you draw someone and you buy the £5 or £10 gift for that one person rather than your whole workplace. I've taken part in a few of these and they can be quite funny, though it can be difficult if you draw someone you don't know very well to have to think of an appropriate gift for within the price range.

I'm sure I am not alone in dreading all the gift wrapping?! A lady called Julie Gubbay is quoted in the book as saying " A lot of the skill of present wrapping is down to patience". To be honest I have to do more than one session of wrapping as I get so irritated and stuck up with the cellotape if I try to persevere and do them all in one session! Some store offer gift wrapping, usually at an extra charge. Some even offer wrapping free! 

Another thing covered in the book is the "lets not offend anyone attitude". So as not to offend non Christians we should refer to Christmas as Winterval, Christmas Lights should be called Winter Night Lights, Mince Pies known as Winter delicacies and finally Christmas it self should just be called End of December. I guess this could be controversial but I believe in the old traditional names and references so Christmas, Christmas Lights, Christmas Carols, Mince Pies etc etc. If you don't want to celebrate then fine don't but you shouldn't be allowed to dictate about a Christian Christmas simply because you or your religion doesn't recognise it! I mean in these progressive days and multiple different religions we "Christians" can wish others Happy Diwali, or Happy Hannukah can't we? We all have to co-exist in this world. It just irritates me when people try to say someone else is wrong for celebrating Christmas. I think people seem to forget Christmas is a religious festival for Christians. 

I agree that over the years Christmas has become more and more commercialized and we seem to be encouraged to spend spend spend irregardless of whether we have the money, or can afford to do so. I have worked in a couple of retail organisations, one was both a rental and retail store called Choice Video. Initially it was a place where you could rent a video. . . yes video and then later a dvd or games such as playstation or nintendo games for anything from a couple of nights to a week. The people that would come in on the 22nd or 23rd of December and couldn't understand why you couldn't order a specific games console or even a certain dvd for them and have it by the 24th December.
I also experienced similar when I worked for WHSmiths, I could and would work on any department I was needed on. We did late nights to allow those who worked could call by after work, we would advertise that if it wasn't in stock we could order it. There was even a little Christmas brochure to hand out that could be ordered from and still on Christmas Eve you could guarantee being asked by an annoyed, indignant, customer why you didn't have X,Y, Z, in stock? Didn't we know it was Christmas? I would finish work with steam literally coming out of my ears from being shouted at by irate customers. Then there's the last minute shoppers who either want something they fleetingly saw on TV that would come in asking for Customer: That book they advertised on This Morning yesterday......Me: hmmm I was at work so have no idea can you give me more details? Customer: Yes it had a blue cover! Or the very last minute gift/bargain hunters, clueless about what to buy . . Customer: What can I get my father in law? Me: A Book? A CD? A DVD? Customer: I don't know what would you buy him? Me: (Inwardly screaming). Or they'd want the latest bestseller and want to know why you had no stock of it left at 5 minutes to closing time on Christmas Eve. And no it wasn't appropriate for me to point out we had had this best selling book in stock since the last week of November, and they'd had a month to purchase it!!

The thing is I think most people can find something they love about Christmas.....the music they used to listen to with their mum when they were kids, the baking round at grandmothers or putting the Christmas Tree up together as a family. 

I think one of the aims of this book was to make us all a little nostalgic and yep it worked. I went from laughing at Christmas mess ups, gritting my teeth remembering working in retail at Christmas to remembering watching Morecambe & Wise with my grandparents every year. As well as getting misty eyed and sighing at the memories of watching either The Wizard of Oz, The Sound Of Music, Mary Poppins or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with my Grandparents at Boxing Day tea eating salmon sandwiches, pork pie and pickled onions! This book sure made me wish we could wind back time to revisit those happier times again.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were that "This book can make you laugh, tear up and sigh whilst looking back at Christmas past with that nostalgic feeling you sure didn't feel at the time!"

So whether you are looking for something to get you into the Christmas mood, or are already irritated and feel like a little laugh at others disastrous Christmas efforts, or feel like reading about "British Christmas Traditions" then this is the book for you! 

Oh and if you are stuck for a gift for that one person who has everything (you know the one I mean) you could always buy them this book as a gift!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

BLOG TOUR - THE LAST WOLF BY MARIA VALE

Title: The Last Wolf
Series: The Legend Of All Wolves
Author: Maria Vale
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Shifters
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: 6th February 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
For three days out of thirty, when the moon is full and her law is iron, the Great North Pack must be wild. Silver Nilsdottir is a lone runt with a crippled leg, facing a life of endless submission in the Pack.

Then Tiberius Leveraux stumbles wounded into their territory with a plea for protection. If Silver is to make a real place for herself, she must fight for Tiberius—her only chance at ever having a mate. And in the end, she is forced to shield all of them—the Pack, the land, and the man she loves—from ancient enemies.


PURCHASE LINKS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maria Vale is a journalist who has worked for Publishers Weekly, Glamour magazine, Redbook, the Philadelphia Inquirer. She is a logophile and a bibliovore and a worrier about the world. Trained as a medievalist, she tries to shoehorn the language of Beowulf into things that don't really need it. She currently lives in New York with her husband, two sons and a long line of dead plants. No one will let her have a pet.

Visit her at

EXCERPT

In which Silver, in an act of mercy, kills her former shielder.

The circle of wolves in the Clearing tightens around Ronan, and for the first time since my Dæling, I am deeply grateful that I am not Pack. I am just a guest and don’t have to be part of this. But when I start to lope away, Ti doesn’t move. He doesn’t understand what is happening, so I nip at his pant leg. The Alphas of each echelon
are taking up their positions at the front of the circle. Everyone wants this over with quickly. Opening a passage for Charlie, John nudges Ronan’s father toward his son. In its mercy, Pack law allows First Blood to Ronan’s family, so that when the Pack eviscerates him, Ronan won’t feel anything. I plant my front paws and pull Ti harder, because I really don’t want to watch Charlie rip out his son’s throat.
Ti doesn’t move. John nudges Charlie again, but Charlie just stares at Ronan, his head cocked, his mouth open. Then his eyes roll around the circle searching for help he won’t find, because to be on Pack land as an exile is bad enough, but the only response to an attack on a pup, is a Slitung, a flesh-tearing, and every wolf shows teeth. Charlie throws himself on the ground in front of John, his feet up in the air, his hips shimmying back and forth in a clownish show of submission. John snaps at him.
Charlie follows our Alpha around, one ear up, the other down, his mouth open in a rabid leer, until with a quick look over his shoulder, John signals Tara to drag the broken wolf away from the Pack. Tara grabs his muzzle tight in her powerful jaws and drags him off mewling. I run beside him whimpering too, begging Charlie to come to his senses long enough to do this last kindness. He seems not to even see me, more interested in the furry thing following behind him. As soon as Tara lets him go, he starts to chase his tail, barking. Tara turns her back on him with a growl and a dismissive kick of rain-sodden soil. She heads back to the Pack, which clears a path for her. As John’s Beta, Tara has a place of honor, but she also has a place of responsibility and is expected to be right up front for the Slitung. I stick to her slipstream and push through to the whimpering Ronan. Rubbing my muzzle against his, I turn to John, my body down, my head between my paws. I’m not sure he will accept my claim to First Blood, but I have a better chance if I at least smell like the wolf who had been my schilder, but who never wanted to be my mate.
Then John’s nose bumps against mine, telling me to get up. With a quick snap of his jaws, the Pack retreats, giving us room. John is a good wolf and a great Alpha and, if given a choice, will always choose mercy. First Blood allows for one bite only, and if Ronan decides to fight me, I doubt I’ll be able to make the kill. But after everything that has happened, the once-upon-a-time Alpha of the 14th Echelon seems to understand that his luck is not going to change again. He lies back with his chin stretched high, staring at the mountains and the pinpoints of stars and the real world, the world of men, that he so wanted to be a part of. Opening my jaws wide, I gently take his throat between them. It’s what we do, and it means trust me. It means I see you at your most vulnerable. I bite down fast and hard on the cartilage tube, giving it the same fatal break I would for a deer. Ronan struggles a little, and blood spurts into my mouth. I curl my tongue against the back of my throat, because I don’t want to swallow this blood. I don’t want to be nourished by this death. The pulse of his blood slows, but I don’t lift my head until it stops. Before I even stumble out of the way, the Pack surges forward, eager to be done with this particular bit of ritual butchery. I race for Clear Pond, my paws sinking through the cold, thick mud and dying edges until I am in deep. Pushing the air out of my lungs, I sink and stay down until my own throat is on the verge of collapse, and the blood that had already started to stiffen on my muzzle and chest and legs begins to melt away from my fur. Maybe there was so much that all of Clear Pond is tainted, but no matter how many gulps of water I take, my mouth still has the sharp, metallic tang of blood, and there’s something stuck in my teeth. I start to change, and as soon as I’m finished, I pick at the thing with my fingers until it comes loose. I don’t look at it before throwing it into the weeds. I think the change was a mistake though, because in skin, I feel the intense cold of the schist on my naked body and the icy water running from my hair down my back and the taste of death in my mouth. I can’t stop shivering. I try to get wild again, but my muscles are spasming so hard that I can’t. I lurch up on all fours and then to my legs and stumble only a few steps before collapsing again, my head on
my knees. A warm coat that smells like angelica and green corn and the earth before a storm settles around my shoulders.
Put it on, says that quiet voice, and Ti lifts me, guiding my arms into the sleeves, and then pulls me close to his even-warmer body. He says nothing, just holds me tight, letting me shiver against him.
I killed him,
I finally stutter.
He lifts my sodden hair out from under the collar of the coat.
Yes, you did. And if you hadn’t, he would have died in pain and the whole Pack would have had the burden of it. Now only you do.
Ti doesn’t say that I wasn’t responsible or that I shouldn’t feel guilty, but rather that it’s a burden worth carrying and one that I’m strong enough to bear. His faith calms me in a way that no amount of coddling ever could.
It’s one of the things I love about him....
I can’t get the taste of blood out of my mouth.
He doesn’t respond. I guess he didn’t hear, or knowing him, he did hear, but doesn’t
think there’s any point in responding. It doesn’t matter. I settle my head back on his chest and listen to his heartbeat.
Did I say love?
He frees one arm and lifts my chin. It’s dark for my poor human senses, but he’s not like me and the nearly full moon lights up the green glow of the lucidum in his eyes.
He hesitates, his lips hovering above mine, like a boy nervously contemplating his first kiss. But I know what he’s hiding, and I stretch up as high as I can and wrap my arm around his neck, feeling the shape of his skull under the roughness of his cropped hair. I feel his mouth against mine, firm and ripe and warm and still closed.
Nuzzling the seam of his mouth, I catch his lower lip gently between my fangs, pulling him closer.
I know you, Tiberius. I know the wildness that you’ve always hidden there, but I am not human and I want the untamed, inhuman sharpness of your mouth.
I let go and lick my lip before gently circling his, my breath feathering his sensitive skin. Finally, his lips open softly and I seal my mouth around his, because this is his first kiss and mine too, and I am his shielder in all things.
.



GIVEAWAY
2 Advanced of The Last Wolf 

2 posters
2 advance copies of
The Last Wolf
and 2 posters
2 advance copies of
The Last Wolf

and 2 posters


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

REVIEW - YEAR ONE - CHRONICLES OF THE ONE BY NORA ROBERTS

Title: Year One
Byline: As This World Ends, A New One Begins
Series: Chronicles Of The One
Author: Nora Roberts
Genre: General Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Piatkus, St Martins Press.
Release Date: 5th December 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
With one drop of blood, the old world is gone for ever. And in its place, something extraordinary begins...
They call it The Doom - a deadly pandemic that starts on a cold New Year's Eve in the Scottish countryside. There's something mysterious about the virus and the way it spreads. As billions fall sick and die, some survivors find themselves invested with strange, unexpected abilities.
Lana, a New York chef, has the power to move things and people with her will. Fred can summon light in the darkness. Jonah, a paramedic, sees snatches of the future in those he touches. Katie gives birth to twins, and suspects that she has brought fresh magic into the world, along with new life.
But The Doom affects people differently. Along with the light, a dark and terrifying magic will also rise. As the remaining authorities round up the immune and the 'Uncannies' for testing, Lana, Katie and others flee New York in search of a safe haven. The old world is over, and Year One has begun.

PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I'd yet to read anything by Nora Roberts, so when I discovered this book had a deadly virus that seemed to be suggesting it would have an apocalyptic feel to it, I thought it was the perfect book to read. I was a little unsure about the Uncannies, what they would be and what part they would take in the book but the promise of the apocalyptic feel tempted me enough to give reading the book a chance. 

There are multiple covers for this book, though the one I love the most is the one featured above this review which is a stark white cover with a large crown that looks like its ready to grab some sort of prey with its claws. There are also feathers shed around in the air/space surrounding the crow on the cover. The cover features a great byline "As this world ends. A new one begins" which fits the book perfectly. The font and colours on the book title, byline and author name all suggest darkness, and give a distressed apocalyptic feel to the cover. The cover is naturally the first thing you see and it certainly attracts the eye and makes you curious enough to know more to pick up the book or click to read the blurb. I think its a great cover and fits in with a few scenes in the book.

The genres I have seen assigned to this book so far have been General fiction, Fantasy, and Romance which I do agree with but personally I would also add, pandemic, post apocalyptic and magical. This book really has a fantstic mixture of genres that really do work well together. The virus is a major part of the book and its effects cause the world to spiral downwards pretty quickly making the world apocalyptic. Then there is the elements of magic with the Uncannies. There are many different kinds of Uncannies featured in the book, from people who can touch someone and see how they will die, to seers, those who have prophetic dreams, witches both good/light and bad/dark ones. 

I loved this book so much I feel a little at a loss as to where to start reviewing what I have read. It really is an amazing read! It all begins with the Macleod family, who are celebrating at the family farm at Dumfries, Scotland, as they do every year. The only difference this year is that a couple of family members are missing are Tony and Katie, and that's because Katie is heavily pregnant so was unable to travel safely and comfortably.  Ross, brother Rob and their cousin Hugh are out doing their traditional hunting and shooting whilst the women stay at the farmhouse cooking and baking all the food and making the preparations for the New Years Eve party. The Macleod men folk have a good shoot bringing home even more food to be prepared and cooked for the party. The party is in full swing when an old lady called Mrs Frazier grabs hold of Ross and says "The shield would be broken, the fabric torn, by the blood of the Tuatha Danann. So now the end and the grief, the strife, and the fear - the beginning and the light. I ne'er thought to live for it" Ross just lays his own hand over the elderly ladies, thinking to indulge her odd behaviour. Though some in the area believe Mrs Frazier to be fey. Others just think doddering and perhaps not all there in her mind. But when she continues speaking to Ross telling him it starts with him, he feels chilled to the bone as if he has been stabbed at the base of his spine. The old lady continues with the prophecy oblivious to the effect it is having on Ross. The party goes on and then ends with everyone finally retiring to bed to get some sleep before having to travel home the following day. When Ross gets up the following day he complains of feeling a little off. The family laugh it off putting it down to eating and drinking a little too much. Unfortunately Ross and his wife Angie along with all those that attended their New Years Eve party have contracted a strange new virus that comes to be referred to as "the Doom".  Ross and Angie become the first two victims of the Doom to die but they have also spread this awful sickness to everyone they have had contact with. So everyone at their New Years Eve party, the rental car clerk they return their hire car to. They've also infected the porter who carried their bags, all the other passengers on the plane they traveled home with. Then those they infected have also spread the sickness to everyone they have had any interaction with and so on and so on.

The book then switches to other groups of characters and how they are coping in the increasingly dire consequences of the Doom. It seems some people are immune to the disease, which you would think would be a good thing, sadly with the world in chaos there are those who looting, stealing and killing just for the hell of it. There are also lots of strange sights being mentioned, such as those who now have wings and can fly, or people who can turn the street lights on and off with a flick of their wrist. These people are being referred to as the "Uncannies". As with everyday people there are good and bad, or as it is referred to in the book those who have the light within them that wish to heal and do good things as well as those who have the dark in them, who are violent and do bad things.  The world has become a darker more dangerous place to try to survive in, let alone have any sort of life in. 

We meet and follow different groups of characters. Like Jonah and Patti-Ann the paramedics that bring Ross Macleod and his wife into the hospital. Dr Rachel Hopman who is trying to find out what this weird rapidly debilitating illness is. Sadly more and more people die, it becomes apparent those in the medical profession have no real idea how to treat this disease all they can do is try to make the patients last hours as comfortable as possible.

Another person we meet is Arlys who at the start of the epidemic is a lower ranking TV news reporter but rapidly rises through the ranks as reporters die or fail to turn up for work. Arlys is determined along with a few workers who manage to continue to get into the studio to bring news updates to all those who have locked themselves in their own homes. Arlys is in regular contact with a computer hacker called Chuck who gives her the real news he has found out rather than the "official new updates" the government are releasing. It becomes more and more apparent that the government are trying to hide the scale of this disaster. Soon the situation becomes impossible and Arlys has to choose whether to deliver the real truth in her news report. Later in the book Arlys and TV station intern Fred flee before they can be arrested for telling the nation the truth. They have to make a dangerous journey across the city, seeing some gory sights, lots of violence as well as a few acts of bravery and kindness.

Probably the most important characters in the book and for the future of the world are witches Lana and Max. They have been living together just 6 months and practicing their witchcraft. When the Doom begins it seems that the witches power grows and they certainly end up needing that extra power on more than one occasion in the book. I won't explain anymore about their major roles in the book as it would reveal too much.

It seems the way to survive is to band together in little groups. People are trying to cross cities to family or friends they haven't been able to contact since the outbreak began. Some are reunited, others find their families perished either due to contracting the disease or being killed by others that wanted something they had. At times it seems like certain characters have found a place of safety and are well on their way to rebuilding society and the world but then someone who either wants what they have or are just set on violence and destruction, come along and take it away. Then the virus continues to kill people as well as giving power to some who cannot cope with it. 

I guess this makes the book seem all "doom & gloom" but it really isn't. There are those who are willing to help those in need, such as Dr Rachel Hopman and paramedic Jonah who continue to turn up at work at the hospital helping those with the virus die as peacefully as possible and treat others that at survivors of violence or have more normal needs, such as mothers giving birth. When Jonah feels he can take no more of the illness and devastation around him and is going off alone, he is stopped by Katie when she is in labour. I loved the feeling of irony that it is Dr Rachel Hopman that helped Katie's parents Ross and Angie die as comfortably as possible, and was then the Dr who delivers Katie's twins. 

This book really is like a rollercoaster ride, as just when a successful settlement seems to be working, there are those who seek to spoil things for everyone by taking more than their fair share. You would think after all that has happened both with humans and the Uncannies they could live side by side, grateful to work together for a better future, but still there are people who refuse to work together and will not accept Uncannies can be good and be part of a community.

There are lots of characters I love in this book, one of my favourites who features heavily in the book is Lana who uses her increasing powers for good and to help people. When she has to scavenge for food or clothes she only takes just enough for what she needs and even offers to barter in exchange for food. I am looking forward to reading more about her in the rest of the series too. Another character who comes into the book nearer to the end of the book is Simon, who is living on his parents farm, growing food and is willing to share what he has with anyone in need that passes by. Simon used to be in the army so knows how to handle a gun which comes in very useful when people seek to take things he has worked hard for. 

At first I thought I wouldn't like the Uncannies element in the book but it does end up really fitting in well with the whole virus, pandemic and the apocalyptic components in the book. I loved the majority of the people that created and lived in the settlement they called New Hope, sadly there are those that bring disaster to Hope. Though I'd like to know who actually did survive and what happened afterwards. Maybe some of the characters will be re-introduced in the next book. There is a bit of a jump at one point where the different individual groups suddenly are together. I would have loved a little more detail on Max, Lana & Eddie's journey and those they meet that tag along with them. I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series and learning much more about the baby that is born at the very end of the book as well as the babies that were living in New Hope too.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were Brilliant! Loved it from beginning to end. What a great mash/mixture of genres resulting in a really fantastic book.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

REVIEW - SEVEN DAYS OF US BY FRANCESCA HORNAK

Title: Seven Days Of Us
Author: Francesca Hornak
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Piatkus, Little Brown Group UK
Release Date: 19th October 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays...

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.

For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems. 

As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down. 

In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
After discovering a few general/contemporary genre reads I have enjoyed I felt like reading another, but with perhaps a Christmas feel to it too. This one fitted that bracket well. 

This book has various covers, in fact I have featured three of them below in a cover compare feature. The cover shown above is my favourite of the covers I have seen. It has a very Downton Abbey-esque house featured on the cover which when reading the book we discover is Weyfield where the Birch family have planned on spending their Christmas in quarantine. The cover has a subtle festive feel to it with the smoke coming from the chimneys at Weyfield and the snow falling.  The red ribbon weaving around on the cover with the book title within is very appealing, perhaps representing the ribbon on a Christmas gift also adds to the festive feeling of the cover. I think this cover as been done very well meaning the book cover appeals regardless of the time of year.
I love the byline of "A week is a long time to spend with your family. . . ." as you read the book it becomes more and more apparent that though all the characters at Weyfield are family that they seem to not know one another very well. all the characters have communication issues with each other.

The genre I have found listed for Seven Days Of Us are General Fiction, Contemporary and Christmas/Holiday. I agree with all the genres and would like to add there is a little dash of Romance within the the book too. Though Christmas is featured in the book I would go so far as to say it is a book that could/should only be read at Christmas. There is a strong feeling of family and individual relationships inside the family dynamic. The book has a lot of different emotive issues featured within it. I would say that it contains a snippet of comedy too.

I felt immediately pulled to this book by its cover and blurb. I don't know what the initial thing was that attracted me to the book but I just really fancied reading it. From the very start of the book I felt pulled into it. It certainly captured my interest and held on tight to it. I really looked forward to curling up in bed with this book to read each evening.

I'll tell you a little about the basics of the book, Olivia is the eldest daughter of Emma and Andrew Birch doesn't often come home for Christmas. However Olivia has been away volunteering abroad treating the Haag virus. There she has met a gorgeous man and they have been secretly starting a romantic relationship even though it is against the rules, as Haag can be spread so easily with body fluids. So when Olivia returns she will have to be quarantined a full seven Days, and her parents have agreed to be under quarantine thinking its a small price to pay for some quality time with their eldest daughter. The younger sister of the family Phoebe is not so happy about the quarantine and the fact she won't see her boyfriend for a whole week. 

The Birch family decide to have their quarantine at Weyfield, which is Emma's original home that has been passed down through the generations along with its customs. This family Christmas is especially significant for Emma as she has just learnt she is very ill but more tests and treatment cannot start until after Christmas. Emma decides not to tell her family as her illness means she is more susceptible to contracting illnesses. Emma knows if she reveals this fact that her thoughtful, older daughter Olivia will spend her quarantine elsewhere. Emma wants a family Christmas, knowing it may very well be her last. So Emma rushes round purchasing gifts for her girls who so rarely even speak to each other now. Emma reflects on how her daughters are polar opposites, though she hopes being together during the quarantine may bring the whole family closer to each other.
The other characters are introduced Andrew the father who has his own secret that is threatening to come right up and literally fall through his door. 
There's Phoebe who is so materialistic and just wants to be married so much she doesn't really stop to wonder if she is with the right guy for her.
As well as the family we have the characters of Jesse and George. George is the "new money" that wants to marry into "old money" and the prestige it would bring, but then it is revealed he isn't overly sure what or who he wants along with who he really is himself either.
Jesse is a totally different guy who knows what and who he wants from his trip over to the UK. He has left his adoptive family behind this Christmas in the hopes he can search and find his last living birth parent.

The book is very well written and you become quite engrossed in the characters, their individual secrets, as well as their hopes and dreams for the perfect Christmas and beyond. ?It certainly soon becomes apparent that the quarantine is going to be the least of this families issues over Christmas!! Secrets & surprises, some possibly good some already sadly bad. This book builds the suspense slowly but surely in more than one plot line keeping the book a very captivating, interesting read. I like the books format of being diary/blog 'esque.' from Andrew Birch's reviews of restaurants, to Olivia's blog about her time treating the Haag virus. Then there are the secret phone calls Emma makes when she can get telephone reception, ringing her friend  for support and to talk about her own secret. This book really is a tangle of twists of fate, and of strange coincidence.

Part of the way through the book Phoebe finds out about her mums secret when sneaking a look at wedding venues on her computer. Phoebe is a rather selfish, materialistic character at the very beginning of the book. What ever drama occurs her first response is how this will affect her. In fact Phoebe actually promises not to say a wrod about her mums secret until after the quarantine yet blurts it out in an angry exchange with her older sister Olivia. Olivia also mysteriously begins to feel ill. She has already had the awful news her colleague is in isolation in hospital with the Haag virus. Though he had taken many more risks than her Olivia is still worried she may be coming down with the virus herself. Poor Jesse ends up stumbling into all this drama himself quite by accident really. It's a stroke of luck for the family as when Olivia collapses and the Birch clan basically freeze and don't know what to do, Jesse takes charge of the situation.

My favourite characters were Emma, how strong she tries to stay, keeping such large news to herself so as not to spoil Christmas for everyone else. I love how she attempts to still do the Christmas traditions despite the other family members being openly reluctant to do so. I also really loved Jesse, who on the spur of the moment books a flight to the UK. Having stalked his remaining live birth parent online and learning what area they live in he heads there alone. Explaining to his adoptive family he feels he has to go to the UK to record some footage for a project he is doing. Jesse tries to contact this birth parent via email on numerous occasions. Other favourite characters were Olivia and Sean, but I think that was more to do with their illicit relationship and the fact the fact they cannot contact each other due to keeping their relationship quiet for a while so as not to get into trouble with their volunteer administration. As well as the fact Weyfield seems to be in a black spot for communications.

I really don't want to say much more about the book as you need to uncover the characters secrets as they are slowly revealed in the book for yourselves. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book all the way through it. This book is actually a debut novel for author Francesca Hornak, and I have to say its a great start. I loved the style of it centred around different family relationships and the different forms of communication used for example Olivia's blogs and her emails to Sean that at first she knows he is not well enough to answer. Olivia seems to use these emails as therapy, a way to cope with not being able to just pick up a phone and speak to him. I liked the little intricacies of the different family relationships, so you have Olivia and Phoebe, like chalk and cheese. Olivia doing good in the world and so caring about others willing to sacrifice materialistic things to help them. Then there's Phoebe who is only interested in planning her wedding. Even when she discovers her mothers secret her first thoughts are for herself, her wedding venue and even wondering how her mums secret will affect her wedding photographs!

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were that it was very different to my usual fantasy/paranormal genre reads.This is a more contemporary genre based on the Birch family. I have to say that I loved it and had a tear or three in my eyes as I finished reading the book. You ride along with the emotional highs and lows for each of the characters featured in the book.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

REVIEW - THIS BODY WONT BREAK - O NEGATIVE SERIES BY LEA MCKEE

Title: This Body Won't Break
Series: O Negative
Author: Lea McKee
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, YA, Teen
Release Date: 7th November 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
There will be passion.
There will be betrayal.
There will be blood.
 

Everything Joanna thought she knew about the New Terra Alliance has been obliterated. Left with a guilty conscious and a thirst for revenge, she has come up with a plan to save those she left behind. A plan so insane it just might work. 

As Harvest Day approaches, Joanna realizes that to truly defeat the NTA, she must extinguish the source of its corruption–her father. But she has no idea the Commander General lies in wait, hatching a deadly plot of his own. 


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I had this one on pre-order since finishing part 2, I was really looking forward to reading it! Coincidentally I had just finished a book so could start this one almost straight away.

The cover is the same cover as parts 1 & 2. the only difference being the powder colour on this cover is purple. I am looking forward to seeing what the cover for the complete This Body Won't Break collection will be like.

The genres I have seen listed for this book are Sci-Fi, Dystopian & YA. I totally agree with both the Sci-Fi and Dystopian genres. It may be aimed at the young adult market but as an adult I also thoroughly enjoyed reading part 3 of This Body Won't Break. I would also add that I think the whole virus/disease of TEN would place the book into the post apocalyptic genre too.

So as this is part 3 of This Body Won't Break I had high expectations for it to answer some of my questions. This book literally picks right up where part 2 left off. The preparations for the mission to rescue the other teenagers who are being held at the Mill ready to be taken to be harvested. A separate hideaway is being set up and stocked with necessities such as food, blankets, clothing and medical supplies etc. As it has been decided that it would be too risky to take them all back to the Inn in case they are followed. To Joanna it feels like everyone else has extra jobs they are doing for the mission but the only job she has been given is to keep training with Ace so she can defend herself and also learn how to shoot a gun. Joanna has the very specific job of getting to the PA system so she can tell the teenagers its safe for them to leave the Mill and what will happen if they don't. Joanna has to choose someone to go with her to protect her whilst she speaks to the teens. The choice is between Ace and Ethan, initially she chooses Ace as things are not right between her and Ethan. However all the carefully laid plans have to be changed when it seems that the Inn may be in danger from the NTA and possibly the exiled too. Roman who is in charge of everything to do with the mission originally orders Ethan to stay at the Inn. Ethan is beyond anger, saying he is the only other person other than Joanna that has seen inside the Mill. After much complaining, reasoning and even begging Ethan talks Joanna into allowing him to swap places with Ace. Ethan actually says he is more than willing to take a bullet for Joanna. 
There's a touching scene where Joanna's mother Amy is talking to Ethan saying she doesn't know what she would do if anything happened to her daughter, and then she asks Ethan outright if he loves Joanna. Another thing that adds even more pressure to the mission is the fact Commander Tobin Rivers is now staying at the Mill. This makes Joanna even more fired up and emotional, if she gets the chance she plans to shoot him herself, but as yet she has never shot anyone, though she thinks to shoot him would be easy. Once again there's lots of action and shooting etc in this part of the book. The other theme within this book part is that it has been discovered that those who have been injected with the venom have extra abilities. The most common abilities being faster reflexes but other special gifts are better hearing or eyesight. One of the recipients of the venom has turned into what Charles describes as a human battery or charger. 

My favourite characters in this part were still Ethan and Joanna, their relationship is still a bit rocky especially when Ethan becomes overly protective of Joanna, suggesting she not go on the mission, that she should remain in the safety of the Inn. Joanna is so stubborn and determined to be part of the mission to try and destroy the Mill. You see another side of Roman, the softer side he has with his two girls in this book. You also see how carefully Amy, Joanna's mother is treading around Joanna. She admits to Ethan she almost feels like she has no right to tell Joanna what her opinion is on anything.

So I really enjoyed this part of the book, its packed with more action and plenty of twists and turns. It was also good to learn my instincts about one of the characters was right too. As it says in the blurb this part of the book, though I would actually say the whole book of This Body Won't Break has passion, betrayal and blood. Some of the questions I had from parts 1 & 2 are still yet to be answered, along with the questions I have from this final part of the whole book. I'm already addicted to this book and series and am seriously looking forward to reading much more of it as soon as its available. Its so difficult to review this part without giving away spoilers. There seriously is soooo much going on in this part. Joanna learns more about her mother and fathers relationship leaving Joanna very bitter and out for revenge on her father, which ends up causing her even more trouble and strife. There are a couple of things revealed very near the end. A major character is shot, one is missing in action, another is a traitor and finally one learns of the new abilities that the venom injection has gifted them. Sorry to be so cryptic but I could go on and on and on about this book. If you love the dystopian/post apocalyptic genres then you should really give reading this book a go, I don't think you will be disappointed!

My immediate thoughts upon finishing part 3 were, Wow! How could you leave the book right there Lea?! I read this in just one sitting. It is a highly addictive series. I am loving this series so far and I had a feeling about that certain character whose name I won't reveal and the scene where he dropped something, I was so suspicious of him! 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

REVIEW - THIS BODY WON'T BREAK ~ PT2 - THE O-NEGATIVE SERIES BY LEA MCKEE

Title: This Body Won't Break
Series: O-Negative
Author: Lea McKee
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Release Date: 3rd October 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
Freedom comes at a price.

Joanna has escaped. She’s finally free, but there’s no time to celebrate. The soldiers of the New Terra Alliance hunt her across unregulated land. A land filled with its own host of perilous dangers. Against the odds, Joanna pushes on, but she’s haunted by the faces of all the O-Negatives she left behind.

In less than thirty days they’ll all be dead. Harvested.

To have any hope of saving them, Joanna must join forces with a rebellion teetering on the edge of an uprising. But when she’s reunited with the one person who ever cared about her, and the mother she didn’t know she had, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to give up her only chance at freedom.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
After reading part one of this book I just had to read the next book. The cliff hanger from part one really leaves you eager to read part two. I love a great dystopian, though I would say this series has post apocalyptic elements too, which I also love. 

The cover is basically the same as that for part one with its stark white background perhaps but the explosion of colour is blue. Once again the title and author name fonts are quite basic yet stand out well. I think the "explosion" of the red would certainly attract attention to the book when it is on a bookshelf in a store. Once again the only thing I would be tempted to change about the cover is to add the first line of the blurb "Freedom comes at a price" to the cover.

So to say I had questions to be answered in this book was an understatement. I had oodles of things I wanted to know! Such as, why does Ethan/Knox seem so familiar to Joanna? Exactly who is Dianna? A friend to Amy? The person who took Joanna to the medical centre that ended up with Joanna being taken into the Institute.

Once again there's lots of action in this book. This part picks right up where part one ended, answering the immediate question of will Joanna survive the river. Knox is in charge of getting Joanna and also Cash as he is tagging along first out of the Institute and negotiate the wilder landscape and whilst avoiding recapture by the army that belong to the NTA & Institute as well as the exiles who run riot in the rougher landscape between the Institute and freedom. Knox ends up separating from Joanna and Cash a few times in attempts to give them a head start on those that would capture or harm them. 

I really liked the part where Joanna realises how institutionalised she has become. Joanna discovers that the full name of her rescuer/protector is Ethan Knox. At the institute no one has a surname, only a first name, birth month and ID number. So at the Institute she was known as Joanna August 638.

Now that Joanna is free and has met her mother, and Ethan's father she wants to know more about her own father too, but her mother constantly changes the subject. When Knox slips and tells her the identity of her father it certainly comes as a big shock! Joanna learns much more about the NTA and what they are doing at the Institute though still finds it hard to imagine that people give up their babies for the greater good. Amy, Joanna's mother came up with an alternative cure that has a 60% success rate and even made sure her paperwork was given to someone in the NTA but they didn't use it preferring to stick to their current "cure". Joanna is eager to go rescue those she has left behind in both the Institute and the few friends among the others at Phase 3.

During this book I grew to like Joanna more and really love the character of Ethan Knox even more. The way he checks in with Joanna making sure she is alright. He truly wants to protect her. The reason he blames himself for Joanna being in the Institute is revealed in this part too. I did begin to really like Cash in part one, his desperation to escape after learning some of the truths behind the Institute, even though he had tried and failed before. In this part I kind of became a little suspicious of him when some sort of device falls out of his pocket and he hurriedly hides it back in his pocket not really explaining to Joanna what it really was. Not sure what it could be, maybe he is undercover for the NTA, or the exiles?
The other character I had initially been a little wary of was Dianna, especially as she was supposed to join the "freedom fighters" when Joanna was rescued but she has yet to make contact or turn up. There was another male character that was undercover with Knox too but he is also missing. Could these missing freedom fighters have switched allegiance? Or be imprisoned or worse by the NTA. 

I definitely want to read more parts of this book and more of the series, there's so much more to happen and so many characters to both meet and learn about. I enjoy both the pace and writing style that Lea McKee delivers. This review may seem a little shorter than usual and perhaps disjointed or vague but it is difficult to reveal enough detail and tell you what I thought without revealing too many things that happen in the book that would spoil your own enjoyment of it. I've really taken to this series and find it quite an addictive read. Had I had access to part 3 upon finishing part 2 I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to resist reading it straight away!

My immediate thoughts when I finished this part of the book was wow! Loving this book/series. Now I have to wait (I'm)patiently for the next installment!