Monday, 22 January 2018

REVIEW - THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ BY HEATHER MORRIS

Title: The Tattooist Of Auschwitz
Author: Heather Morris
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Release Date: 11th January 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust - and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov's incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive - not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also - almost unbelievably - a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale - a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer - it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story - their story - will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I'd had this book on my list to read for a while and after reading another book set around the same time I decided I was ready to give this one a go. I was apprehensive as the book is based on a true story meaning the characters in this book aren't made up, they are real live people going through being in Auschwitz.

I have seen that there are two covers for this book and I have decided to describe that I should describe the colour one which is the one for the edition I read and I have pictured that one above in this review. The covers main "colour" is an ash grey colour that becomes more meaningful as you read the book. There are faded blue stripes too, that represent the uniforms some prisoners were made to wear. At the top portion of the cover there are two clasping hands, the way arms are positioned numbers are visible on one which is also becomes even more relevant as you read the book. At the upper right of the cover is a circular "stamped" circular type design that says "Based on an incredible true story".  At the very bottom section of the cover is the dark grey outline of Auschwitz in the dusky ashy atmosphere. I feel that this cover is a very strong one featuring lots of important elements from within the book. The only thing I would change on this cover is the position of the arms, as on the different cover I have seen the arms are in a slightly different position meaning the tattooed numbers are visible on both the female and male arms.

The genres I have seen listed for this book are "General Fiction", "Historical Fiction" which fit the book very well along with "Holocaust". I find it a shame that more is not being made of this book being based on a real story, maybe we should have a "based on a real story" genre. 

Before I actually begin talking about the content of the book, I should explain how at the very beginning of the book there is a section about how Heather came to meet Lale. Heather was introduced to Lale as he "might have a story worth telling". Heather goes on to say the day she met Lale Sokolov was a day that changed both their lives. Their friendship grew as Lale trusted Heather with the innermost details of what he saw, did and witnessed others doing during the Holocaust. 

The book begins with Lale sitting at his desk that is set up nearby the arriving transport trains at Auschwitz. Lale has a piece of paper in his hand with a number on it 34902. The woman in front of him already has a faded number on her arm. Lale starts working on her arm. He tries so hard to be gentle that he doesn’t go deep enough with the needle and has to go over the number again with more force. The young woman doesn't flinch or cry out at the pain, Lale is fully aware he is inflicting. Those being tattooed have been told to say nothing and do nothing. As he wipes away some of the blood the man next to him whispers a warning to Lale urgently "hurry up". A man in a white coat approaches, looking the women over as he walks. He roughly grabs the young woman's face who Lale is in the process of tattooing and jerks her head about. The young woman looks as if she is going to say something. Lale quickly mouths “shhh” at the young woman and when the man in the white coat moves on Lale tells the young woman she is doing well. Once again Pepan urges Lale to be quicker at his job.

Then the book goes back to how Lale ended up at Auschwitz in the first place. Lale is well educated and well dressed in one of his suits hoping to impress whomever he will be working for. He is holding his suitcase which contains some clothes and a few possessions. Lale is standing shoulder to shoulder with the other men packed into a train carriage that is usually used for transporting cattle. These men are being taken "to work" for the German cause under the direction and orders of Adolf Hitler. None of the men really know where they are going or what they will be doing. They travel for two days though there are many stops none of them are to allow the men on that train food, drink or toilet & washing facilities. A young man called Aron approaches Lale and asks why he is so calm. Aron wants to organise the men to fight back against the Germans. Lale explains to Aron that men's fists, no matter how many are not a match for guns. 

Finally, the train stops for the men to get off, they have arrived at Auschwitz. As Lale walks through the iron gates he glances at the words written in German above him "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" which translated reads "Work will make you free". Lale does have the advantage of speaking many different languages so at least he can understand the orders the Germans are shouting at him and his fellow travellers. Lale does his best to explain the orders to those around him to prevent them being shoved about and beaten until they understand what they are being told to do. Commandant Rudolf Hoess speaks to the men, telling them they are at Auschwitz now and they need to work hard, do as they are told and they may go free one day. But he also warns if they disobey there will be consequences!

During processing Lale has to provide his name, address, occupation and his parent's names. He is then given a slip of paper with a number on it, 32407. An SS Officer pulls off Lale's jacket, rips his sleeve and slams his arm on a table for the number to be tattooed. The actual tattooing takes only seconds. After processing the men are made to strip, shower, have their head shaved and to put on old Russian Army uniforms. 

Lale and Aron meet back up having being given the same block number, 7.  That night Lale needs to pee and as he approaches the designated area something holds him back when he hears soldiers approaching. The young soldiers just randomly shoot the three men that are in the process of using the "toilet facilities". Lale makes a vow to himself that he is going to survive this awful place. It is this determination and survival instinct along with his friendship with Aron that saves Lale's life when he is ill. Lale then meets Pepan the current tattooist and is taken under his wing and made his assistant.

So much happens in this book both to Lale and fellow prisoners he is friends with and to others around him. This book takes you through a whole range of emotions, anger and fury for the innocent people being sent to concentration camps, sorrow for the loss of the prisoners loved one. The fact that these people didn't know if they would ever see their families ever again. Disgust at how the Germans treat the prisoners. Then also pride in those people in the concentration camps that fought on and that survived everything and anything that the Germans could think of throwing their way. 

I guess it's not a case of favourite "characters" as these are real people so the following part of my review is me mentioning these people and how I felt about them whilst reading the book. Of course, there is so much I could say about Lale, I admire his selflessness, the way he makes the decision to be the "one child to work for the Germans" so that his older brother who is married with children can stay at home with his family and that his parents will be left in peace to continue to live in their own home. I also admired his first small act of defiance setting fire to his clothes. Lale goes on to secretly defy the Germans when necessary. As the tattooist he has his own room, he has the privilege of eating slightly better food elsewhere from the bustle of the main food line, he also receives larger rations. Lale does not forget those friends he made back in Block 7 as he hides some of his bread and shares it with them. Lale makes friends easily, and later in the book he has a couple of the young women who work in Canada (which is where all the prisoner’s possessions go to be sorted through) smuggle him money, jewellery etc, to barter/pay to the outside building contractors he has made friends with. In exchange for the money, jewels etc, one of the builders and his son bring in whatever Lale and the prisoners need from chocolate, other food, and medicines. Lale uses the chocolate to bribe Kapos (those prisoners who work for the Germans by keeping eyes on all the prisoners in their block.) He treats Gita his girlfriend to chocolate. Lale to me, represents hope throughout the book. Gita is younger than Lale and has been held elsewhere. Lale is besotted with her from the moment he sees her and re-tattoo's her number. They snatch moments together on Sundays when no prisoners in the camp work except the tattooist if there are incoming prisoners. They quickly fall in love with each other. Lale shares his extra rations, and uses chocolate to bribe the kapo in Gita's block to get them some time alone. Gita tells Lale only her first name, she refuses to give him her surname or talk about what has happened to her.

I felt shock and horror on the behalf of Cilka. When she arrived at Auschwitz she was singled out by "The Commandant" and was allowed to keep her beautiful long hair. But there is a price to pay for everything in Auschwitz and Cilka's price is becoming the sexual plaything of "The Commandant". Cilka plays an important part in ensuring Lale lives at one point in the book, without her asking a favour in return for all what has been repeatedly taken from her. I was also angry whilst reading a certain part of the book where Cilka is labelled a collaborator and is actually punished! Surely her treatment at the hands of The Commandant was enough punishment for a lifetime.

The next person that kind of played a little on my mind after finishing the book was SS Baretski, it's strange as during the book you see many sides to him. The young fairly innocent boy, writing to his girlfriend and asking Lale's advice on gifts to send her. Then there's the cruel, sadistic side when he is punishing the prisoners. Or when he toys with Lale, sometimes being friendly and passing on a note to Gita. The banter he has with Lale the advice that Lale gives SS Baretski on how to treat his girlfriend and how Baretksi feeds back to Lale if his suggestions worked. It's almost as though in different circumstances they could have been friends. At times you think SS Baretski is also a victim of Adolf Hitler, as he doesn't really have a choice in being at Auschwitz either. Though of course he is living in a much better position, is well clothed and well fed too. 

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book was that it was an amazing, eye opening real-life tale of survival against the odds. 

Heather Morris does a fantastic job with her writing style. As you read it is the voices of Lale and Gita that you hear telling you their story of how they got through the darkest days of their lives.
Gary Sokolov must be so proud of the brave yet kind Lale & Gita who strove to survive in the harshest of conditions yet still tried to help others around them.

The epilogue was incredible, I honestly loved the extra input about "After". After reading the horrors that happened to these people it was kind of soothing to the mind to know some people did survive despite the Germans best efforts to work them to death. It's difficult to say much about the epilogue without giving anything major away. To be honest I would have been left irritated and upset not knowing what happened to certain people. Though I would have liked to know how things turned out for Leon as he did have the horrendous Dr Mengele experiment on him. 

This book gave me the same stunned, sorrowful emotional feelings at how on earth one human can treat another in the way the Germans did during the Holocaust as I had a similar reaction to reading the book Surviving the Angel of Death written by Holocaust survivor Eva Kor. These are amazing books, to read about what happened to these brave individuals and how they dealt with it all. I think it is so generous and courageous of them to take the time to re-live what they went through to tell everyone the truth about what happened during that horrific era known as the Holocaust. The suffering these people went through should never be forgotten. This is in my opinion another book that should be read in schools to teach about the Holocaust and how it affected the people then and how it should teach us lessons for the future. The survivors and those that lost their lives deserve for their stories to live on. One last thing I need to say, have the tissues at hand and be prepared to read late into the night and have this book take over your mind and thoughts from the very beginning to the very end.

COVER COMPARE

I think the cover on the left with the stripes of the prisoners uniforms would stand out more on a book store shelf. It represents more things that are within the book such as Auschwitz, uniform stripes the tattoos and the male & female holding hands despite where they are. 

The cover on the right with the male and female holding hands with their prison camp numbers showing tells you what a poignant and emotional read the book is.
Though both covers invoke emotion, both say that the book is based on a true story. To be totally honest, I personally, would choose either of these books up from a book shelf to learn more about them.

Which cover do you prefer?
And have you read the book? 
Did your choice change after reading the book?

Monday, 15 January 2018

REVIEW - THE BUTCHERS - BREEDERS SERIES BY KATIE FRENCH

Title: The Butchers
Series: Breeders Series
Author: Katie French
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Release Date: 9th December 2017

BLURB from Amazon
I’m not a mother. I never will be. But when my adopted daughter, Mo, turns sick, I’ll do anything to save her. That includes going back to the very people who want to use her to as a living science experiment. With Clay, Auntie, and Ethan at my side, I know we can save her. But when we come up against the most barbaric group we’ve ever encountered, all our lives are forfeit. Can I save Mo? Can I save anyone?


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
As soon as I realised that this book was available I knew I just had to read it as soon as possible, even though I'm feeling sad to think its the final book and the end of The Breeders Series.

The cover matches the rest in the newer covers series very well, meaning they'll look fantastic on a bookshelf! I'd say the face featured on this book is most likely one of the new characters we meet in the book. I would say it is a good likeness to the description of Desdemona, or Desi for short. A brilliant character! 

For genres this book falls into I would say Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Fantasy and Post Apocalyptic with a little genetics thrown in too! I think it should appeal to a wide variety of people from teens upwards. I am definitely not in the YA/Teen category but I have absolutely loved reading this brilliant, brilliant series.

At the very beginning of the book there is a section that recaps what has happened to the characters so far which I really enjoyed. I had remembered the books quite well but a section to refresh your memory is really good and it certainly pulls you right back into the book which picks up straight after the ending of the last book.

The butchers begins with Riley trying to patiently teach Mo her letters but Mo then has some sort of fit or seizure. These seizures have been happening more and more often as well as lasting longer each time too. Everyone around Riley can clearly see that Mo is ill and possibly even dying but she refuses to accept the probability. Riley has been through a lot and having the possibility of ever having any children has had its emotional toll on her and she has become so attached to Mo as if the half human, half creature is her own daughter.
It is decided that they desperately need to get help for Mo even though it may be a dangerous journey. After a discussion they realise the only people that may have the facilities and medical supplies are Nessa Vandewater or Corra. So its a case of which is the lesser evil....they decide on Corra and that they'll escape with Mo when she is well again. 
Whilst searching for fuel to enable them to travel to Corra, Riley, Clay and Ethan come across a fuel station that has been burnt out. They also discover a family tied up and burnt to death. This is the first inkling and distance connection they have with the new tough men who call themselves "The Butchers".  It is Ethan that finally finds some horses they presume belonged to the burnt family that they can use to get to Corra.

When they do contact Corra she agrees to help, keen to get her hands on Mo again but says she will only help if Clay stays away, she will not allow him into the bunker at all. So Clay and Auntie are directed to a "safe" place that is in an old fairground/theme park. It's here that Clay meets what he thinks is a young man possibly a bender. When Clay has to fight a couple of the Butchers scouts, it is the young male with a crossbow that helps him defeat them. 

In the meantime knowing the Butchers Scouts are heading for Clay, Riley borrows a solar car and goes to help Clay and Auntie. Clay, Auntie and the mystery young make all go back to the bunker. Doc gives Riley some sort of injection supposedly to help her relax and sleep. It's whilst she is asleep that things go wrong. A member of her family group actually betrays her and it cuts her very deeply. It is Betsy who explains what has happened, when Riley finally wakes up.

There's so much going on in this book. Clay and Riley meet the hardest group of survivors they have ever met, The Butchers. The Butchers are a groups of heavily tattoed, bald men who are collecting women, girls and medical supplies and the people to use them. These men are brutal and there's no second chances with them. The Butchers live in what is described as a stone fortress. In an attempt to defeat them, Riley and Clay's group will have to infiltrate The Butchers and their home and attempt to overthrow their leader.

There is still a very taught tension between Clay and Doc. Doc is a bender who does look a lot like a girl but he wants to be treat as a male, and is in love with Riley. However Riley only has eyes for Clay. Her heart and soul are in love with Clay. Clay is the love of Riley's life, whereas Doc is her best friend. The two males do end up coming to some sort of truce in this book, where Doc does something that Riley finds hard to believe let alone forgive. Clay tries to look at things from Doc's point of view and does end up feeling a little empathy but he certainly is not giving up on his relationship with Riley to make Doc feel better. Though Clay does attempt to speak up on Doc's behalf a little when Riley refuses to speak to him. 

Clay and Riley have to come face to face with Nessa, Clay's mum once again. Nessa isn't in great shape as she has had a visit by the butchers so all her female subjects have been taken away along with her equipment. Nessa has been badly injured but its the fact she seems even more unhinged than ever. So much so she wants to destroy all records of her work and if she can take some people down with her she will do that too.

Characters I loved were of course were Riley and Clay, but I also loved Auntie and Ethan. Ethan does a lot of growing up in this one. He really looks up tp Clay who continues to treat him like a younger brother yet is willing to teach him to fight, use guns etc whereas Riley seems, quite naturally to want to keep Ethan protected and safe. She doesn't want him to see all the horrors of the world they live in. Betsy is a bit of a surprise in this book, though she still speaks in rhyme and is always giving Clay those puppy dog eyes, she actually comes through and is a big help at one point in the book. People seem to disregard Betsy as "not all there" or "away with the fairies" but she actually listens much more than anyone thinks she does.

New characters I loved were Desdemona, another female who is as tough as Riley and can fight. Desdemona has never been in the Breeders program so doesn't have the ankh tattoo that Riley has. Desdemona joins in the fighting and is part of the group that infiltrate the butchers stone fortress in an attempt to rid the world of the butchers leader Barrage. At one point in the book Barrage shows how evil he is in his attempt to make Riley reveal the whereabouts of Mo. Barrage wants Mo so he can use her blood/DNA to find the formula that has made her mature faster in the hopes of using that to create himself a strong army. Barrage basically wants to rule whats left of the world.

There are more women rescued that become part of Clay and Riley's group that Clay feels he has to protect. I thought that the Nanny Grace was a similar tough, smart, forthright character, like Auntie. Nanny Grace tries her best to look after the other two females with her. Nanny Grace tries her best to shield the young girl Sissy from the horrors of the world around them, rather like Riley with Ethan. 

I could seriously go on and on about this book but I don't want to spoil the reading experience for everyone. Lets just say this book is so super action packed. The Butcher's really keeps you at the edge of your seat with lots of nail biting scenes. There are also some poignant scenes that have you sniffling and reaching for the tissues, specifically a certain scene with Riley and Mo. There's lots of ends tied up in this book, but I would still love even more. We met some new characters in this book and it seems such a shame to be saying goodbye to them already. 

I have honestly loved this series from the first word to the last! Now I need to find another fantastic dystopian/post apocalyptic series to read. I'm sure this series will remain one of my favourite ones that I will always recommend to fellow book lovers. This series is a must read!

My immediate thoughts at the end of this book were, Wow! I love, love, loved it! . . . but that's the end!  

Thursday, 11 January 2018

REVIEW - FINAL 7 - CELL 7 TRILOGY BY KERRY DREWERY

Described as "The electric and heart stopping finale to Cell 7 and Day 7"

Title: Final 7
Series: Cell 7 Trilogy
Author: Kerry Drewery
Genre: Sci-Fi, Teen, Fantasy
Publisher: Hot Key Books, Bonnier Zaffre
Release Date: 11th January 2018

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Martha and Isaac have escaped, but are now on the run - the government has branded them rebels and a danger to the public. Despite the rewards being offered for turning them in, Martha and her friends are safe in The Rises, the area of the city full of the poor and the powerless. But then the Prime Minister orders a wall to be built around The Rises. Is it for the the safety or the poor - or is it to imprison them? Martha needs to act, and to act fast, in a tale of breathtaking treachery that reaches right to the heart of government...


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I had mixed feelings about reading this book, on one hand I really really couldn't wait to read it, yet at the same time I also didn't want the story to come to an end. I was really looking forward to catching up with Martha and Isaac after the ending of Day 7. In fact my immediate thoughts as I finished reading Day 7 were: Could there be a book three? Please tell me there's more to come from this dystopian/futuristic society? There's so much more, there has to be!

In keeping with the rest of the series this cover has The backdrop of the cover is a brick wall which fits well with the theme of incarceration the focal point of the cover is as eye-catching as Cell 7, and Day 7, though this time the colour is red. In the centre of the "eye" or maybe a "camera lens" though in this book it could also represent the idea of a target because the “Rises 7” are all wanted felons in this book Then there is the tree again, which I would say represents the tree Martha used to try to catch a glimpse of during her incarceration. The tree with the bird flying away from it is once again prominently featured, and I still think that maybe the tree represents the growth of something? Perhaps a banding together of those against this present justice system. The bird may represent hope and freedom. I’m looking forward to finding out more in this final installment of the Cell 7 Trilogy.

The genres I have seen listed for this book are YA, Sci-Fi & Fantasy & Teen. I totally agree that this book fits all those categories but I personally would also add dystopian and futuristic too. I should also confess to most certainly not falling into the category of being a Teen or Young Adult either but I have truly loved reading this brilliant book series.

This book starts with a prologue kind of refreshing your memory to where you are within the book series. It all begins with Martha panicking as to whether Isaac is breathing or not, she can hardly see through the tears in her eyes and her hands are sticky with blood. Gus is with Martha and he places his hand on Isaac's chest and tells Martha that Isaac is breathing. The car they are travelling in is hurtling towards the boundary between "the haves" in the city and the "have not's" in the rises. As they approach this once, invisible boundary they notice lots of lorries ahead and what looks like some sort of wall being constructed. Though at the time they don't know what to think about it. Martha quietly murmurs wondering what it is for, To keep us out? Control us? Then whispers Berlin, Israel, Belfast, Korea and Gus replies "And now London"

I really enjoy how the chapters vary from being from the point of view of the different characters such as Martha, Max, Eve, Cicero and the TV broadcasters too. It makes the book feel fast paced and you feel you are there watching the broadcasts that are churning out the stories as the government wants people to see them. Martha Honeydew, Isaac Paige, Eve & Max Stanton, Ex-Judge Thomas Cicero, Ex-presenter Jerome Decker and Gus Evans are being labelled as terrorists and the media has given them the name of the "Rises Seven". Martha is still being blamed for planting a bomb at the old TV Studio's and it keeps being reported if Patty Paige dies, Martha will be back on death row. The show, Death Is Justice is still being produced and the prisoners are now being kept at The Old Bailey. It's certainly a case of the "show must go on" with Joshua out of favour its out with the old and in with new. So the new presenters are Kristina Albright always in her pristine suits and immaculate looking and is now the main studio presenter. Then there's Gerome Sharp, the man "on the scene" or within the scene and part of it in this book, There's a few times Gerome finds himself in a predicament being in close quarters to prisoners and at the receiving ends of items being thrown! Throughout quite a lot of the book, the general public are led to believe that Martha is in fact in prison. So Martha spends lots of her time being afraid of being discovered and having to use various disguises such as a large hood and even a wig at one point. Martha, Isaac and Gus were helped to escape by a "mystery" woman who is very pivotal in this book as she has inside information that helps the "Rises Seven" And mostly Martha gather documents needed to reveal all the underhand deals and the biased trials the government have been a part of. The government and Prime Minister Rennard show what they think of the people living in the Rises by contructing a wall and staffing it, so that all those that live in the Rises but work elsewhere have to have a pass to get out of the Rises to get to their jobs. Things rapidly become worse until only the privileged few with special passes are allowed through the wall border. It is lucky for Martha she seems to have help from such a high ranking person and that means she can get in and out of the Rises. Not that it easy, as she has to disguise herself. 

In this final book the whole voting on who lives and dies escalates even more than in the other books. As the "Studio" is moved to the Old Bailey that is a historical building as it is where those sentenced to death were kept years and years before. Gerome Sharp loves going on about historical cases, and what it must have been like to walk along the corridor called "Dead mans walk". He goes into great detail about a section of the corridor that is open to the elements above being where those in the olden days would gather to pelt the convicted with rotten fruit and vegetables!

Among my favourite characters in this book were Eve, especially the very last scene she is in. (It will make sense when you read the book). We do see a totally different more cunning and sly side to Max in this book too. He goes through a phase of not knowing who to trust or what to do to attempt to help his mother gain her freedom. We also learn in this book that though they haven't initially told each other that Eve and Cicero are in love with each other. 
Of course I love the character of Martha who once again shows her bravery, though she probably would see it as that. Martha has to put trust into a mystery woman who seems to want to help her and the Rises Seven clear their names and change the whole justice system. Though what is in it for the mystery woman? Does she stand to gain anything? Or could it all be some bizarre trap.

In Final 7 we see the general public living in the Rises banding together to support someone that has helped many of them. It is these people from the Rises that together with some of the city people finally see clearly at what is wrong with their current justice system. Martha manages to provide documents that make them think about what they have been led to believe currently and in the past. There really is strength in numbers in Final 7.

I really don't want to go into the plot in more detail as I think that would spoil the reading experience of others. Just be prepared with the tissues as there were a couple of parts that had me tearing up. There is love, sadness, loss, family, the kindness of strangers and the betrayals of those once thought to be so reliable. There really is so much packed into this book I absolutely hated having to put it down. In  fact I ended up reading the book in just three reading sessions. One of the things most disturbing about this book is that it isn't all that much of a big leap away from our present reality. There's so much reality TV these days, and there always has been a fascination with courtroom drama and serial killers etc. It doesn't take that much imagination to visualise the plot and contents of this book happening in our near future at all!

My immediate thoughts upon finishing reading this book were . . . wow! . . . only one word needed to describe this book and the same word to describe the whole series. . . brilliant!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

BLOG TOUR - BETWEEN THE BLADE AND THE HEART BY AMANDA HOCKING

Described as Game of Thrones meets Blade Runner in this commanding new YA fantasy inspired by Norse Mythology from New York Times bestselling author Amanda Hocking.

As one of Odin's Valkyries, Malin's greatest responsibility is to slay immortals and return them to the underworld. But when she unearths a secret that could unravel the balance of all she knows, Malin along with her best friend and her ex-girlfriend must decide where their loyalties lie. And if helping the blue-eyed boy Asher enact his revenge is worth the risk—to the world and her heart.

Title: Between The Blade And The Heart
Series: Valkyrie
Author: Amanda Hocking
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Mythology
Publisher: St Martins Press
Release Date: 2nd January 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
Valkyries have one great responsibility: to return immortals to the afterlife by slaying them. As a Valkyrie, Malin has always known that the balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos. 

Malin not only wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought—she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. The balance of the world is at stake. And, as Asher competes with Malin’s ex for her love and loyalty, so is her heart.


PURCHASE LINKS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Hocking is the author of over twenty young adult novels, including the New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.

Social Links
Author Website 
Twitter 
Facebook 

EXCERPT
ONE
The air reeked of fermented fish and rotten fruit, thanks to the overflowing dumpster from the restaurant behind us. The polluted alley felt narrow and claustrophobic, sandwiched between skyscrapers.
In the city, it was never quiet or peaceful, even at three in the morning. There were more than thirty million humans and supernatural beings coexisting, living on top of each other. It was the only life I’d ever really known, but the noise of the congestion grated on me tonight.
My eyes were locked on the flickering neon lights of the gambling parlor across the street. The u in Shibuya had gone out, so the sign flashed SHIB YA at me.
The sword sheathed at my side felt heavy, and my body felt restless and electric. I couldn’t keep from fidgeting and cracked my knuckles.
“He’ll be here soon,” my mother, Marlow, assured me. She leaned back against the brick wall beside me, casually eating large jackfruit seeds from a brown paper sack. Always bring a snack on a stakeout was one of her first lessons, but I was far too nervous and excited to eat.
The thick cowl of her frayed black sweater had been pulled up like a hood, covering her cropped blond hair from the icy mist that fell on us. Her tall leather boots only went to her calf, thanks to her long legs. Her style tended to be monochromatic—black on black on black—aside from the shock of dark red lipstick.
My mother was only a few years shy of her fiftieth birthday, with almost thirty years of experience working as a Valkyrie, and she was still as strong and vital as ever. On her hip, her sword Mördare glowed a dull red through its sheath.
The sword of the Valkyries was one that appeared as if it had been broken in half—its blade only a foot long before stopping at a sharp angle. Mördare’s blade was several thousand years old, forged in fires to look like red glass that would glow when the time was nigh.
My sword was called Sigrún, a present on my eighteenth birthday from Marlow. It was a bit shorter than Mördare, with a thicker blade, so it appeared stubby and fat. The handle was black utilitarian, a replacement that my mom had had custom-­made from an army supply store, to match her own.
The ancient blade appeared almost black, but as it grew closer to its target, it would glow a vibrant purple. For the past hour that we’d been waiting on our stakeout, Sigrún had been glowing dully on my hip.
The mist grew heavier, soaking my long black hair. I kept the left side of my head shaved, parting my hair over to the right, and my scalp should’ve been freezing from the cold, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel anything.
It had begun—the instinct of the Valkyrie, pushing aside my humanity to become a weapon. When the Valkyrie in me took over, I was little more than a scythe for the Grim Reaper of the gods.
“He’s coming,” Marlow said behind me, but I already knew.
The world fell into hyperfocus, and I could see every droplet of rain as it splashed toward the ground. Every sound echoed through me, from the bird flapping its wings a block away, to the club door as it groaned open.
Eleazar Bélanger stumbled out, his heavy feet clomping in the puddles. He was chubby and short, barely over four feet tall, and he would’ve appeared to be an average middle-­aged man if it wasn’t for the two knobby horns that stuck out on either side of his forehead. Graying tufts of black hair stuck out from under a bright red cap, and as he walked ahead, he had a noticeable limp favoring his right leg.
He was a Trasgu, a troublemaking goblin, and his appearance belied the strength and cunning that lurked within him. He was over three hundred years old, and today would be the day he died.
I waited in the shadows of the alley for him to cross the street. A coughing fit caused him to double over, and he braced himself against the brick wall.
I approached him quietly—this all went easier when they didn’t have time to prepare. He took off his hat to use it to wipe the snot from his nose, and when he looked up at me, his green eyes flashed with understanding.
“It’s you,” Eleazar said in a weak, craggy voice. We’d never met, and I doubt he’d ever seen me before, but he recognized me, the way they all did when their time was up.
“Eleazar Bélanger, you have been chosen to die,” I said, reciting my script, the words automatic and cold on my lips. “It is my duty to return you to the darkness from whence you came.”
“No, wait!” He held up his pudgy hands at me. “I have money. I can pay you. We can work this out.”
“This is not my decision to make,” I said as I pulled the sword from my sheath.
His eyes widened as he realized I couldn’t be bargained with. For a moment I thought he might just accept his fate, but they rarely did. He bowed his head and ran at me like a goat. He was stronger than he looked and caused me to stumble back a step, but he didn’t have anywhere to go.
My mother stood blocking the mouth of the alley, in case I needed her. Eleazar tried to run toward the other end, but his leg slowed him, and I easily overtook him. Using the handle of my sword, I cracked him on the back of the skull, and he fell to the ground on his knees.
Sigrún glowed brightly, with light shining out from it and causing the air to glow purple around us. Eleazar mumbled a prayer to the Vanir gods. I held the sword with both hands, and I struck it across his neck, decapitating him.
And then, finally, the electricity that had filled my body, making my muscles quiver and my bones ache, left me, and I breathed in deeply. The corpse of an immortal goblin lay in a puddle at my feet, and I felt nothing but relief.
“It was a good return,” my mother said, and put her hand on my shoulder. “You did well, Malin.”

Copyright © 2018 by Amanda Hocking in Between the Blade and the Heart and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.



Friday, 5 January 2018

REVIEW - BLOOM - THORN TATTOO STUDIO BY LESLIE NORTH

Title: Bloom
Series: Thorn Tattoo Studio
Author: Leslie North
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Release Date: 22nd August 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
From the boardroom to the bedroom, Antonio DeRose is a man who always gets what he wants. And Antonio wants Evie. 

Antonio took a risk when he purchased Bloom Tattoo. The studio is a “fixer-upper” that could pay off in spades...or cost him Thorn, the family’s studio. He knows the key lies in making Evie Stuart, the tattooed sex kitten, head artist. He can see that beyond her beauty, that the fiery girl has some serious brains too. 

Evie, on the other hand, is more than happy to continue being a tattoo artist. She likes being free to follow the wild creativity of her imagination without risking the livelihoods of other artists. Because even though Evie can’t stop thinking about his scorching touch, she has no desire to share a boardroom with him. 

While pride brings them together it’s their shared desire that has them entangled. At first, Evie thinks that their head banging sex will keep her career change at bay—but when their shared passion begins to bleed over into the business, can either pull away from their love without losing everything? Or will they finally realize that you really can have it all?


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
After reading Rose and Thorn I couldn't possibly not go straight on to read the third and final Thorn Studio book, Bloom.

This cover once again is dominated by a hunky but more sparsely tatooed male. This time the male is clean shaven and is the final DeRose brother. This time the font is in a light blue colour. I have to say the covers of the Thorn Tattoo Studio are done in a cohesive way and fit very well together. I think they would look great together on a book shelf.

The book is once again set around the family owned Tattoo studio previously owned by the patriarch of the DeRose family, then when he passes the business is run by the three brothers. The youngest brother is Giovanni DeRose who found love in bk1 Rose. The middle brother Luciano who lived to travel around to conventions and guest tattoo at other studio's, his story was told in Thorn. This book is the centred on the oldest and possibly quietest brother who would probably be perceived as the serious or even boring brother.

Once again continuing the theme of for every hunky tattooed DeRose brother there is a feisty yet secretive woman on hand to tame them and fall in love with them. This time the feisty female is Evie who herself is a rather talented tattooist. Antonio DeRose presents a serious all business attitude but can't help looking over the cute tatooist he thinks should be made head tattooist of Bloom. However Evie has her own secret reason in her past that is the reason she will do anything to avoid the job. Evie ends up being the spokesperson for the rest of the tattooists that worked together when the studio was called Richochet, which makes Antonio all the more determined that she is the right person for the head artist job. Evie has noticed how Antonio's gaze lingers on her and her figure even though she wears clothes that cover her up and tend to hide her shape. Evie decides to use this to her advantage as if she and Antonio are in a relationship or having a fling it would be perceived as favouritism if she were head artist. So things certainly don't run very smoothly for Evie and Antonio. 

I loved Evie in this book. When you find out her secret that is preventing her committing to being the head tattooist your heart really does sink for her and it makes her refusal completely understandable. I think Evie and Antonio have quite a few reservations about their prospective relationship, both are a little afraid to commit, and have a fear of being hurt. So its totally believable that their relationship has lots of hills and troughs to go through before they come to any sort of understanding of each other.
I feel I should also admit that during the other two books I honestly didn't like Antonio much, he seemed like the stuck up brother who was only interested in the profit margins for the tattoo studios. Though he shows he has a softer, more creative side too. He can also tattoo but as he is more business minded and has a knack for investing he chooses to be the "brains behind the brawn".

Again I have read reviews that have complained about these books being very similar. I readily admit that I found that this book does have similarities with Rose and Thorn but once again I would put this down to the main characters being three brothers. It also has a very similar romantic theme throughout the series that some could say is made up of the same formula. I would say that is also true but as a series there need to be certain similarities running through each book to keep the books as a cohesive set. The only negatives I had were the cover could have depicted Antonio as the least tattooed brother a little better as at the beginning of Bloom he only has an unfinished tattoo on his back where the cover model has tattoos on his chest and arms. The other negative is its a shame its the last book so not a bad negative! I would love more of the DeRose family (not just the brothers), perhaps we could have the other artists stories, and/or a continuation of the DeRose brothers relationships set a few years in the future.'

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were that this was another great installment in the Thorn Tattoo Series. It's a shame to see the series end. I'm not usually into contemporary romance but I have really enjoyed reading about the DeRose brothers.


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

REVIEW - THORN - THORN TATTOO STUDIO BY LESLIE NORTH

Title: Thorn
Series: Thorn Tattoo Studio
Author: Leslie North
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 22nd August 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
Luciano DeRose is looking to get the hell out of town. He’s been absent from his position of Head Artist at Thorn Tattoo since the day he watched his future go up in flames. However, the bonds of family are strong and he’s dragged back into town as a favor to his younger brother. But Luciano isn’t staying for long and certainly not for the anniversary of the day his life went to hell. 

Melanie Noel has spent most of her adult life fixing Luciano’s. She’s his virtual assistant, organizational guru, and problem-solver extraordinaire. However, this ex-hippie chick wants her boss, and secret crush, to see that he can finally move on. Melanie thinks that this anniversary is the perfect time for Luciano to face his grief, let go and finally be free to see what’s been waiting for him all along. 

When Luciano decides to do everything in his power to leave, Melanie sees that she needs more than logic to make him stay. Risking her heart to save the man she’s loved from afar, Melanie gives into her desire for Luciano—sparked by a world-rocking kiss. The heat between them has the power to heal all wounds or it may set both their lives up in flames.


PURCHASE LINKS;

REVIEW
Quite strangely for me after just having read one contemporary romance genre book which happened to be Rose, the first book in this Thorn Tattoo Studio book by Leslie North I fancied reading the next one straightaway, hoping for more of Giovanni, Riley and the tattooists that work at the Thorn Studio.

Once again this cover is dominated by a strong male with a heavily tattooed torso, this time it is the turn of a different DeRose brother, the one we have heard the least of in Rose, Luciano DeRose. The Title font matches that of Rose but is in and orange/red instead of the green colour. 

The book is set around a family owned Tattoo studio previously owned by the patriarch of the DeRose family, then when he passes the business is run by the three brothers. Oldest brother Antonio DeRose who takes care of the financial side of the business. Middle brother Luciano DeRose who has worked at the Thorn Studio but at the moment is travelling around being a guest artist at conventions, shows and other studios. The last and youngest brother is Giovanni DeRose and he is the brother who runs and works at the Thorn Tattoo Studio along with his new wife..

So this book centres on the ever wandering tattooist brother Luciano. Luciano once thought he had everything and had bought a house ready to settle with the love of his life, Cassandra. Tragically Cassandra is killed in an accident and Luciano has neither faced his loss, nor gotten any where near dealing with it. It's like he is stuck in limbo, only partially living whilst at the same time avoiding Las Vegas where the accident occurred as much as possible. However when his brother Giovanni and his new wife go on tour round various tattoo conventions and guest tattooing rather like he has been doing he is drafted in by the oldest and it seems most level headed DeRose brother, Antonio. Luciano is needed to step in and do tattoo's that Giovanni would be doing if he where there as well as manage the shop. Luciano is much like Giovanni who has no head for financial figures. In  fact at the beginning of the book Luciano has no time for any sort of figures even female ones! He is used to travelling a lot and having his PA Melanie sort out his paperwork and quite literally carry his baggage in her car whilst he travels light on his precious motorbike. Melanie decides its time that Luciano faced up to what he lost and try to get on with his life and she is determined to at first gently push him in that direction and then when he refuses she pushes harder by making deliberate mistakes meaning he has to face people and reality to sort them out. When Luciano realises he is being "played" he sets about an elaborate plan to get Mel to go back to being his buffer between him and reality by faking an email to his brother Antonio suggesting they fire Mel. Instead of sending it to his brother Luciano "accidentally" sends it to Mel!! When he see's Mel's reaction and hoe upset she looks when walking out of Thorn Studio, Luciano is shocked, and then left alone to lick his wounds. It's then he realises how much he depends on Mel and soon misses her being around. Feeling totally sorry for himself around the anniversary of Cassandra's death he goes out drinking and has only one person to call to pick him up . .  he turns to Mel. Will Mel help him? If she does will Luciano apologise for his previous actions.

Though this book series has a central theme of hunky tattooists don't let it put you off. As when you read the series you soon find out for everyone of the hunky, quiet, brooding DeRose brother there is a feisty kick butt female waiting for them to open their eyes and see her and prove themselves worthy of her too. Again I enjoyed the book. There are quite a few of plot similarities between Rose and Thorn but then again they are both romances and the main male characters are brothers so there was bound to be a little repetition wasn't there? The only other fault I could possibly find is there was no Riley or Giovanni in this book!

Immediate thoughts upon finishing this one were that the book had been another enjoyable great read. That in Thorn it had been the turn Luciano DeRose to find love. Also after reading two out of the three book series I just had to read the third and was presuming it would be the turn of Antonio the financially minded DeRose brother to find love and happiness.