Friday, 30 March 2018

REVIEW - THE TASTER BY V. S. ALEXANDER

Title: The Taster
Author: V..S. Alexander
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Release Date: 30th January 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
Amid the turbulence of World War II, a young German woman finds a precarious haven closer to the source of danger than she ever imagined--one that will propel her through the extremes of privilege and terror under Hitler's dictatorship . . . 

In early 1943, Magda Ritter's parents send her to relatives in Bavaria, hoping to keep her safe from the Allied bombs strafing Berlin. Young German women are expected to do their duty--working for the Reich or marrying to produce strong, healthy children. After an interview with the civil service, Magda is assigned to the Berghof, Hitler's mountain retreat. Only after weeks of training does she learn her assignment: she will be one of several young women tasting the Fuhrer's food, offering herself in sacrifice to keep him from being poisoned.

Perched high in the Bavarian Alps, the Berghof seems worlds away from the realities of battle. Though terrified at first, Magda gradually becomes used to her dangerous occupation--though she knows better than to voice her misgivings about the war. But her love for a conspirator within the SS, and her growing awareness of the Reich's atrocities, draw Magda into a plot that will test her wits and loyalty in a quest for safety, freedom, and ultimately, vengeance.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
Having read The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander back in December 2016 and absolutely loved it, I had been keeping an eye out for more books by this author. When I saw The Taster I was instantly very interested, then when I read the blurb I knew I just had to read this book as soon as I could!

The cover features a woman dressed in a plain wine dress with a very neat white lacey collar. The female also has a brooch or badge at the neck of her dress. There is also lace featured on the cuffs of the long-sleeved dress. The female is holding a tea cup & saucer. The picture created on the cover could represent lots of different scenes from within the book. It could be the main character of Magda Ritter, or it could also represent Ursula Thalberg. 

The genres listed for this book are General Fiction and Historical Fiction which fit the book perfectly. I would also add the label Realistic Fiction and make sure to explain that this book is based on a true story too.

The book actually begins at the end with Magda Ritter explaining she is a childless old widow alone in a house full of memories. Magda describes the linden trees in spring and the blue lakes in summer that no longer bring her any joy. Then Magda reveals that she was one of fifteen women tasters that were employed to try/test Hitler's food to prevent him being poisoned by Allies, spies or any of his own men. Magda goes on to say after the war only her husband knew exactly what Magda did. But though she has kept her secrets for many years she feels now she has not much longer to live, she must reveal her hidden secrets. I loved the wording where Magda says she hopes people will not judge her as harshly as she has judged herself. How can anyone judge her badly for doing what she had to do to survive?

The book then steps back to a much younger Magda and tells the sequence of events that took place for Magda to become a taster for Hitler and the course of events that led to Magda being in the bunker the day Hitler died. 

At the beginning of the story, Magda Ritter is living with her parents Hermann & Lisa Ritter in Berlin. Hermann Ritter is quietly against Hitler, his Nazis' and the war. He works at a factory and due to an injury and his age, is thankfully too old to be conscripted and sent to war. His wife, Lisa Ritter, is more accepting and sympathetic to Hitler, his Nazis' and the war. Lisa thinks Hitler may be good for Germany and its people. In fact, she is concerned when her daughter does not join the Nazi party! Lisa brings in money for the family by doing sewing. Also living in the same building as the Ritter family is Frau Horst, an elderly lady who openly supports the Nazis with a swastika card in her window. Frau Horst prefers to gather her cognac and cigarettes before making her way down to the basement when the Allies are bombing. As Berlin is becoming increasingly difficult to live in with Allied strikes increasing, food and work becoming scarcer, Hermann Ritter insists his daughter Magda be sent to live with his brother Willy and his wife Reina. After initially attempting to reason and making her case to stay in Berlin, Magda finally gives in to her parents’ wishes and is sent to Berchtesgaden, to her father’s brother and his wife's home. Magda packs a small case, putting in a family photograph and the cherished stuffed monkey her father bought and gave her when she was a young child. There's an SS Officer checking everyone's papers before she is allowed onto the train to begin her long journey. When Magda boards the train she notices a young couple a few seats in front of her. They lean close together smoking and quietly talking to each other. Part way through the journey, the train is stopped. Ann SS Officer board the train and marches up to the couple, putting his gun to the male’s head. He remains this way until armed police arrive to remove the couple from the train. Magda is naturally in shock, why are the couple being removed from the train? They are in the middle of nowhere what is going to happen to the couple?
Once Magda arrives at Berchtesgaden train station she quickly searches the people milling around and standing between all the swastikas and flags. Once she locates her Aunt and Uncle she greets them with the expected Nazis salute, she notices that her Uncle Willy in his local Police uniform with a swastika on his arm, looks much happier to see her than her Aunt Reina does. Aunt Reina is wearing a cobalt blue dress that has a fastened collar with a diamond brooch in the shape of a swastika pinned above her heart. Her Aunt and Uncles Bavarian home is festooned with swastikas and even has a black and white portrait of the F├║hrer hanging over the fireplace! Aunt Reina is openly, fully supportive of Hitler, the Nazis and the war. Aunt Reina is convinced Hitler is going to win the war easily and is the best person to rule the country. In fact, it doesn't take long for Aunt Reina find fault with Magda, specifically that Magda is not a party member yet. Aunt Reina is a big fan of Hitler and everything he says and does. Reina quickly dictates that Magda must find a job or a husband, as she and her Uncle cannot afford to keep her for nothing. It is the fact that her Uncle Willy is part of the local Police force that helps Magda finally get an interview for a job. The job Magda is accepted for is that of being one of fifteen "Tasters" though she doesn't find out what her job is until she arrives at the Berghof. Magda once again finds herself packing her small case and taking her treasured stuffed monkey to live on site at Hitler’s mountain retreat, The Berghof. Magda reports to the head of the kitchen and cook Fraulein Schultz who explains she has been chosen by her and SS Officer Captain Karl Weber for a very important job, to taste the Fuhrer's food. Fraulein Schultz goes on to say that being a taster is an important honour, as well as a job, for Magda's body is being offered in sacrifice to the Reich in case the Fuhrer's food is poisoned. It is Fraulein Schultz that teaches Magda the individual, different poisons, how they smell, taste and work. Though Fraulein Schultz is a hard boss, she is a fair one and soon comes to like Magda and they become firm friends.

Magda does meet, and make some good friends, such as Ursula who introduces her to her own boyfriend Franz. It is via Franz and Ursula that Magda eventually becomes involved with SS Captain Karl Weber and ends up being drawn into a group of Germans with in Hitler’s work force who are plotting to try and bring Hitler and his regime down.

Magda is not only risks her life every time she tastes the Fuhrers food but she has to live 
under constant scrutiny and behave as the perfect citizen according to Hitler too. When Hitler takes an interest in her budding romance with Karl, and gives his blessing, he even gives Magda a special badge to wear when he takes it upon himself to make her part of the Nazi party. Then Hitler continues to keep track of their lives and is constantly pushing them to marry sooner rather than later and go on to have many healthy German babies! When they do plan their wedding Hitler not only attends their wedding with his companion Eva Braun but they are the witnesses to the marriage. Hitler gifts Karl and Magda special matching, engrave silver rings, to wear as wedding rings. The young couple are happy to be together and living in married quarters now but they still have to be very careful as they are still under scrutiny, anything they do, that is perceived as being wrong can and will be severely punished. The thing is it won't just be their necks on the line but that of their family too. Magda is aware one wrong step could result in her parents, or even her Aunt and Uncle being held responsible and them being punished or killed. Magda has to be extremely careful, yet ends up being very brave in the actions she does take. This way of punishing the nearest person to the one who has committed the offence is shown when in an attempt to both protect and distance Magda from being part of any plot against Hitler, Karl leaves her behind, whilst he goes on the run. Sadly, the Colonel, who has never particularly liked Magda refuses to believe she is innocent and had no knowledge of the plotting has her sent to Bromberg-ost. It is Magda's wedding ring gift that came directly from Hitler that saves her from abuse and the fate of living in, and perhaps dying in the Bromberg-ost concentration camp.

I immediately took to and came to both respect and be in awe of Magda Ritter, she is thrown into a job beyond her own control and is simply expected to put her life on the line for one of the most self-important, hated figures in history. Magda definitely views life and politics like her father Hermann and remembers her father’s advice of "Do what you must to survive" and has to choose to adhere to this advice on many occasions throughout the book. Magda endures a lot in this book, at one point another cook Otto takes a dislike to her and actually purposely gives her poisoned food to taste. Initially Hitler thinks this was a great idea that should be repeated regularly to assess his tasters and their abilities. It is much later in the book that unintentional actions taken by Magda mean that cook Otto falls seriously out of favour with Hitler.

I adored the relationships between Magda Ritter and SS Officer Karl, as well as the one between Ursula, a fellow taster and SS Officer Franz. Ursula and Franz had known each other since childhood and planned to eventually get married. Sadly, this is a plan not meant to come to fruition as a task carried out by Ursula has awful consequences.  

As much as I disliked the cook Otto, I grew to love cook, Fraulein Schultz as much as Magda did, she came to treat Magda as a good friend. So much so that when Magda has to choose between leaving Fraulein Schultz behind or escaping danger, it ends up being a very painful and difficult decision for Magda.

The funny thing is that two of the characters I found I really disliked were Lisa Ritter and Reina Ritter, though they not blood related, they are so alike and would probably have loved the honour to have had Magda's job as taster. They both can see, only the good in Hitler and his Nazi beliefs and doctrines. They both belittle those who would question Hitler and blindly believe he is the saviour of Germany right to the bitter end.

I ended up truly, adoring reading this book and I honestly became very fond of Magda. I think even more so when you realise it is based on a true story. The horrors she saw, was part of, and had to endure. Just when Magda thinks the war is over and safety is within grasp, she and those friends she has found are attacked and abused by their supposed "Russian saviours".

I have to admit it, I had a tear in my eye when Magda gets to go back to her Aunt & Uncles house when things are over, and Hitler is dead. She certainly see's a difference in her Aunt, gone are the swastika's and the portrait of the Fuhrer. There is another, bigger, surprise awaiting Magda at her Aunt & Uncles, but I don't want to spoil the surprise. I will just say have those tissues to hand.

I thought I would hate Hitler's companion Eva Braun but on occasion within this book you see a rather lonely woman who loves a man that is so busy with the war that he has very little time for her and continually puts off their wedding. Then on the other hand you think Eva Braun surely must have known what was going on with the concentration camps, which makes you wonder how could she love such a man? In the book you see Eva as a lonely figure so desperate for friends she tries to make friends with Hitler's staff. Of course, we know Eva does get her wish and gets to marry Hitler, and they then commit suicide together in his bunker with members of his staff on hand to assist where needed. Trusted members of staff then set fire to their bodies and bury their ashes as per the final instruction given to them by Hitler. 

This book did go into some great and interesting details of Hitler & his staffs final weeks and days hidden far underground. The book revealed how Hitler’s right-hand men also committed suicide alongside him in the bunker first making sure their young children were also dead. Even nearing the end of his power Hitler's staff were still diligently, blindly doing the crazy man's bidding. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Hitler's final days through Magda's eyes. This view also leaves you with questions, was Magda really there alone with Hitler at the end. I don't doubt that she would be brave enough to stay as she wished "at the end" or even carried out the actions she says she did.

I truly enjoyed reading this book. I learnt more about what day to day life was like for those around Hitler. Also, I hadn't known that some of Hitler's own employees and people from his inner circle were plotting and sometimes attempting to kill him. So even those in a close vicinity to him knew he was losing the war, knew what he was trying achieve was wrong and knew he had to be stopped at all costs. Then there is the other side of the coin, of Hitler’s almost fatherly interest and matchmaking with his employees and their relationships, Also shown in this book is Hitler’s love of his dog Blondi, that has pups. Once again, Hitler goes on to show, what I guess, most people would simply say, is his pure evil side by killing the dog he professes to deeply love and care for and her pups so that when he commits suicide in his bunker no one else would get his beloved dog Blondi or her pups!

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were, Wow, an amazing read! 
This is the second book I have read by this author. This book is a work of fiction based within factual information gathered. I have to admit I grew really fond of Magda and could certainly empathise with her character, and understand how she reacted, and why she reacted to the increasing madness around her. This book is so brilliantly written, it makes you feel you are actually there, with a bird’s eye view of the horrific events through Magda's eyes.

I honestly found this book both a highly addictive read and an interesting, informative one too.  There are so many little details in this book, that encourage you to really visualise what is being portrayed in the book. What can I say? It truly is a time in history that evokes strong feelings and emotions from within me. I think the stories of the real people around Hitler should continue to be told. I am also adamant that what happened in and around the concentration camps that Hitler built etc should never, ever be forgotten.


Another great book by V.S. Alexander! I will most certainly be keeping my eyes and ears open for any other forthcoming books by this author.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

REVIEW - THE WOLVES OF WINTER BY TYRELL JOHNSON

Title: The Wolves Of Winter
Author: Tyrell Johnson
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Mystery
Publisher: Scribner, Story HQ, Harpercollins UK
Release Date: 2nd January 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive.

Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As memories of her old life haunt her, she has been forced to forge ahead in the snow-covered Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap to survive.

But her fragile existence is about to be shattered. Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who sets in motion a chain of events that will force Lynn to fulfill a destiny she never imagined.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
To be totally honest I originally thought just from the title that this would be a shifter book, but I was totally wrong there though when I read the blurb I decided I still really wanted to read this one. I loved a good post apocalyptic read. I also enjoy reading debut authors so had to give this one a go.

The cover shows a bleak landscape with lots of snow on the ground and snow falling too. There are thin spindly trees featured on the cover. I love the bold style of the title as well as blocky effect of the font and how it dominates the book cover. The "I" in winter is also replaced by a lonely figure walking in snow, which when you read the book you just know the figure is the main character of Lynn McBride.

The genre's I have seen listed for this book are Sci-Fi, Dystopian, and Mystery which I totally agree with but I would also definitely add post apocalyptic. The other sub genres that are featured are climate change, genetics and virus. After reading the book I would be tempted to add futuristic too. 

This book is set in a bleak future where war has decimated the world and its population, and where a flu virus created on American soil has killed off many people both intended in Asia and unintended back in America along with the weather going kind of crazy makes the world a harsher place to live. Where the climate is warmer the flu is more virulent so naturally some people opt to move to cooler climates even if this means a harsher, more difficult style of living. One family that has made this difficult move is that of Lynn McBride. Lynn lives with her only surviving parent, her mother, her older brother Ken who treats her more like a friend/buddy than his younger sister. Also in their family group is Jeryl, Lynn's Uncle on her dads side of the family. Jeryl has become the leader of their group and father figure since her own father died.  Last but not least is Ramsey, the son of John-Henry, best friend to Jeryl. When John-Henry died it seemed only natural for Jeryl to take in Ramsey.

The book starts with the 26 year old Lynn discovering one of her traps has been triggered yet is empty and surrounded with blood. Lynn immediately presumes one of three things has happened. One, The animal could have gotten loose, Two, Wolves had gotten to the animal caught in her trap or Three, the most likely explanation is that Anthony Conrad had stolen her kill!! Lynn checks the animal tracks and identifies that the animal caught in her trap had been a deer. A deer meant a great catch and a good meal. Lynn had even pulled her sleigh all the way out to her traps to drag anything back to her family. Naturally Lynn is fuming and decides to confront Anthony Conrad who is her families nearest neighbour. The confrontation doesn't go well and ends up with Anthony Conrad surprising Lynn by striking her and then pinning her to the ground groping and threatening her. 

Back at the settlement Lynn and her family live in there are four buildings strung together in a narrow valley which is surrounded by hills. Lynn and her mom live in the largest building which is a log cabin, it was the first thing her family group built. Initially they all lived in it until the other buildings were ready. Now things have changed with the addition of extra buildings. Jeryl and Ramsey have their own cabin. It took a while for him to decide but Ken decided to construct his own cabin too which he has to himself, giving him some independence from living under his mom's rule. The remaining building is a multi use building, for storing the firewood and equipment and for the animals that they had managed to bring with them from their previous home. They have two goats called Hector and Helen that provided milk and cheese as well as an early warning system, telling them when wolves were about too. The other animal they brought was a musk ox that Lynn called Stankbutt as she thinks it more fitting than Jebediah which is what everyone else calls him. The Ox was old and provided very little for the human keepers, though Jeryl and Ramsey had ox fur coats. 

This books timeline jumps about quite a bit which I ended up labelling in my book notes as "Present Past" and "Present Now". So to share a little more about the book the "Present Past" covers the fact that the McBride family once lived a fairly average, normal life in Chicago. Then when Lynn was around twelve years old they moved to Alaska which was before the bomb hit New York. Everything changed then, fires started, TV's stopped working, planes stopped flying and then things just continued to get worse. The War began, nuclear strikes, sides were taken by different countries having to choose to be pro or against America. Then as all this progresses America uses biological warfare by sending a form of flu to Asia, only they fail to realise that the flu will spread so easily and it actually ends up claiming victims back in America too. To try to control the flu spreading a taskforce is created and called the DCIA: Disease Containment and Immunity Advancement, though people refer to them as the "Immunity" or "Immunisers". These people dressed in a in a uniform that has white stars on the shoulders went into schools and businesses giving out containment rules and masks. People were told that the Immunity were doing research but all they seemed to do was blocking off zones they perceived as safe. The Immunity had trucks, soldiers and guns too! Sadly whatever the Immunity were meant to be doing was too little, too late as the flu spread like crazy. International travel stopped, communication faltered when the mail stopped, then the schools and hospitals were closed. Following this the fighting and looting began, people were moving around in attempt to find a flu free place to settle.

Lynn was lucky in a way, as she was kept pretty sheltered by her parents. The only differences in life she initially noticed was when he biologist father began working from home in their basement. In fact she became very curious about what her father was doing down there. Sadly Lynn becomes seriously ill hallucinating that a bee stings her and then she slowly gets better each day but unfortunately the flu hasn't finished with this family when her dad gets the flu he doesn't recover, he dies. That's when Uncle Jeryl takes over as head of the family and self appointed protector of the family. He literally saves the family as when Lynn's dad dies of the flu her mum slips into a trance like, just existing state. Uncle Jeryl has to be blunt and perhaps a little cruel and hard hearted to snap Lynn's mum out of the the just existing state she has gotten herself into. Once she has snapped back to harsh reality and the fact they must move from Alaska to survive as to stay would mean more risk of the flu or the immunity researchers, Lynn's mum becomes harder, tougher and more determined to keep the remainder of her family close and safe.

This book has so many great characters that I grew fond of in different ways for all sorts of reasons. One of the character's I have to mention is Lynn, at age 23 she is still sheltered by her mum, Uncle Jeryl and even her older seemingly indifferent brother Ken. At times in the book seems more like she is in her late teens! Personally I wouldn't have guessed she was as old as we are told within the book. I would have put her age at 19. She sulks and though she has a fairly safe steady paced life with all any one can hope for in these dire times by having "enough"food, "enough" wood, "enough" clothes and a large portion of her family with her. Lynn longs for change, she envisions travelling around the stark landscape and finding other survivors. Someone should have told Lynn to be careful what she wished for because whilst out setting traps she meets Jax, who at first seems innocent enough but as the book goes on we realise he has many hidden secrets that will draw dangerous people to him and anyone harboring him. Having said he is "trouble" he really is what Lynn needs, a fresh face, a new crush, someone who reveals that there are other survivors out there. A snap decision by Lynn almost costs her, her life when she gets stuck outside far from home in a snow storm. Then she is caught by a group of people claiming to be immunity. This is when we meet another character I really grew fond of Braylen, quickly even though she is only in the book for a short time. I honestly think in slightly different circumstances Braylen and Lynn could have been a long lasting friends living within the same community. Another character I have to mention who I instantly felt affection for was Ramsey, the son of Jeryl's best friend John-Henry. Ramsey is younger than Lynn and seems to still have a crush on her even though she doesn't appear to see him that way. So when Jax arrives on the scene Ramsey is naturally jealous of him and the friendship he rapidly builds with Lynn. I guess Ramsey also notices that Lynn shows Jax a lot of attention and seems to have a crush on him too.
I should give a small mention to the character I loved to hate which is Anthony Conrad, he certainly makes you think of the saying "keep your friends closer and your enemies even closer". Lynn and her mothers instinct about him are proven justified.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I particularly enjoyed the sections from Lynn's point of view of what she misses from her "before life". Though the book does tend to jump about from what is happening in the present, things that happened in the near past and then the odd part from the farther back past. Once you get into the book this isn't a problem at all. I would have loved to have had the backstory of Lynn and her family travelling from Alaska to the Yukon revealing what horrors they saw, what they had to do to survive and how they coped dragging the animals with them. Maybe that could be told in a prequel? This book read well as a standalone but I really hope it's the beginning of a series. 

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were that this book left me wanting more, much more! Please tell me it's the start of a potentially wonderful series!?

This is the debut of Tyrell Johnson and I have to say I want to read much more by this author! I found this book to be addictive reading, I hated having to put the book down! The mixture of genres within this book were brilliant, it had the post apocalyptic landscape and way of life along the the genetic elements and the threat of the out of control flu virus. There's so much more to this book than I have revealed. I would have to say I would put this book up there alongside Year One by Nora Roberts. Yep! I enjoyed this book that much!


Tuesday, 20 March 2018

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

Title: This Body Won't Break
Series: The O-Negative Series
Author: Lea McKee
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Pandemic
Release Date: 5th December 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
The truth doesn't always set you free. 

Orphaned as a child, Joanna has lived her entire life in the care of the New Terra Alliance. On the verge of turning eighteen, 
she eagerly awaits her release into what remains of society. 

It was a beautiful lie. 

Joanna was never meant to leave. She is part of the August Harvest, slated to die before the month’s end. With a rogue 
soldier’s promise to find her a way out, Joanna dares to hope. But as Harvest Day approaches, she realizes that to truly defeat the NTA, she must extinguish the source of its corruption–the Commander General himself. But Joanna has no idea the Commander lies in wait, hatching a deadly plot of his own.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
After reading a few contemporary books I felt ready to go back to one of my favoured genres of Post-Apocalyptic or Dystopian. When I read the blurb of this book I decided this was what I wanted to read. I bought an e-copy of the book from Amazon UK. At the very end of the blurb there's a snippet that recommends this book for fans of Divergent, The Darkest Minds, and The Handmaid’s Tale saying it is story of twisted secrets, romance, and page-turning suspense. I loved Divergent when I read it so decided to read this book.

The background cover of the book is just a plain black and has an explosion of grey on it. The title and author name fonts are quite basic yet stand out well. One thing I really love about the cover is the addition of the first line of the blurb "The truth doesn’t always set you free." to the cover. Being super nit picking the only thing I would change about the cover is to add some colour. I think the "explosion" of the red would certainly attract attention to the book when it is on a bookshelf in a store. Having 
the splash in red in the middle of the cover would represent the theme of blood which is pretty central in this book.

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 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 and come under the pandemic label too.

After finishing my previous book I decided to read just a couple of pages of this book (as it was late at night) I felt pulled into this book almost immediately, and read more than just a few pages as originally planned! I finally forced myself to stop reading at around 26% I seriously didn't want to put it down. In fact, I ended up being really drawn into this book quickly and it kept a hold on me until the very end! It really is addictive reading!

The main background part of this book you need to know, is that a virus called TEN was caused by nuclear fallout and has become airborne which leads to a terminal sickness that has wiped out a lot of the population making it necessary for the government referred to as the NTA to take the steps of introducing an Institute for those orphaned to be brought up and prepared for being useful citizens when they reach working age. Each area has a few of these Institutes where those that live in them go through phases one and two, preparing them to leave and go onto phase three. Upon reaching maturity, at 17 almost 18 years old those at the Institute are taken to "phase 3" where they will be tested and helped to choose and train for their chosen job in society. 

We meet the main character of the book, Joanna as she is dressing in her black, white and dull green uniform that marks her out as being part of zone 3. She looks around her room an exact copy of every other room in phase 2 at the Institute. Those living in the Institute are orphans' aspirants who have lost their families to the dreaded virus which is referred to as TEN. Its August which is Joanna's birth month, she is now considered an adult and will be leaving for phase 3 along with the other aspirants with the same birthday month. This leaving phase 2 and moving on to phase 3 is referred to as harvesting. Joanna first came to live at the Institute quite late in life at just three years old. Her parents died in an accident, leaving her an orphan so she was sent to the Institute. The others at the Institute such as Danny and Sophie have been there all their lives like the other aspirants at the Institute. Making friends is not really encouraged so it is unusual when Dianna, one of the Institute workers seems to take Joanna under her wing, allowing her to eat her meals with her in the kitchen instead of alone in her room. This friendship is the only reason Joanna can think of, when Dianna pulls her to one side in a desperate bid to hurriedly tell her something before she is actually transported to phase three. The information that strikes Joanna as odd, that she remembers Dianna telling her is that, Things are not as they seem. That they have been risen like a farmer raises pigs. Joanna doesn't get the opportunity to ask Dianna exactly what she means as guards appear to usher all the aspirants into an awaiting van. As the ten aspirants from Joanna's Institute get into the van, they are all pondering what will happen at phase 3. One girl says they will only be at phase 3 for a month before being sent out to specific areas to train for their future jobs. After her brief warning from Dianna Joanna is even more perplexed when the van guard berates the ten aspirants for not working "it" out. He actually tells them they have thirty days and they should make the most of them. Another character in the van who is even more suspicious about what is to come in phase 3 is Chase. We learn has escaped twice already, the first time out of pure curiosity, and the second time because of something he had seen that he shouldn't have! When their van stops they are told to leave the van in an orderly way and wait along with other aspirants from all the other Institutes in the different areas. Males and females are assigned their wings and room numbers and will only mix with each other in the shared communal spaces. Only for some strange reason Cash is assigned to the same room as Joanna, and two other female characters, Danny and Sophie. 
Joanna's suspicions are raised even more when a guard whom seems strangely familiar to her hands her a piece of paper saying he needs to show her something. Should Joanna trust him? Is it some sort of trap or part of the training or even a test.
So I have decided at this point I cannot really tell you much more of the plot, as you should have things unfold and pique your individual curiosity as you read the book.

The character I instantly liked was Joanna, who has to try to piece together certain clues to decide whom she can trust. Joanna also has to deal with Cash and his distrust of the establishment that runs the Institute and has brought them up. I think maybe Joanna would have just put her concerns aside but with Cash asking questions and then the guard Knox saying there is something she needs to see, she cannot just forget and go on blindly. 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.

I loved the description and character of Knox. When Joanna has her recurring nightmare of falling from a tree despite a hand from above trying to save her, and this time she sees the actual face belonging to the hand and it's Knox you realise there is much more to Knox that Joanna cannot remember. I really love the character of Ethan Knox because of the way he checks in with Joanna making sure she is alright. He truly wants to protect her. When the reason he blames himself for Joanna being in the Institute is revealed you understand why he is so protective over her.

I enjoyed the writing style and pace of the book. Lea managed to reveal things slowly but still hold enough back to make you so eager to read more, I really hated having to put this book down! There’s a lot of action, some romance as well as danger and betrayal in this book.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book Wow! How could you leave the book right there Lea?! I loved this book, which is the start to the O’ Negative Series 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! I hope I have told you enough in this review to encourage to read the book without giving away too many details and spoiling the flow of the book for you to read for yourself. What else can I say, I loved this book. Certain aspects in it reminded me of other titles I have read. There is a certain aspect within the book that seems to be an upcoming new sub- genre. This book had me thinking of Body Parts by Jessica Kapp, The Body Institute by Carol Riggs, The Vampire Games by Stephanie Archer along with a few other titles I have read. I'd definitely recommend reading it.







Tuesday, 13 March 2018

REVIEW - THE ONE BY JOHN MARRS

Title: The One
Author: John Marrs
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller
Publisher: Hanover Square
Release Date: 20th February 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
How far would you go to find The One?

A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you’ll be matched with your perfect partner—the one you’re genetically made for.

That’s the promise made by Match Your DNA. A decade ago, the company announced that they had found the gene that pairs each of us with our soul mate. Since then, millions of people around the world have been matched. But the discovery has its downsides: test results have led to the breakup of countless relationships and upended the traditional ideas of dating, romance and love.

Now five very different people have received the notification that they’ve been “Matched.” They’re each about to meet their one true love. But “happily ever after” isn’t guaranteed for everyone. Because even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking than others…


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
After reading the blurb for The One, I knew I had to read it. The whole idea of being able to find your "perfect match", your "perfect soul mate" by simply sending in a sample of your DNA had me thinking that with all the dating apps continually being brought out, exactly how far away can this scenario be?

I wasn't totally sure whether I liked the cover or not. I think the cover it has appeals to a general fiction and thriller audience but I think it maybe won't appeal as much to Sci-fi, and Dystopian readers. The title of the book that has the O in, which appears as a blood splat with a thumbprint in it, is a good representation of the killer in the book as well as being a subtle nod to the DNA needed for the Your DNA Match service. Everyone that has read my reviews know that I love a good byline and I really like the use of "Have you met your match?" as it can have more than one meaning which you will uncover as you read the book.

The genres I have seen listed for this book are Sci-Fi and Thriller which I agree with both those, though I would also add dystopian and futuristic too.

How can I describe this book? It's sort of one large story split into five different individual character's stories of what happens to them, their matches and the people around them when they use the "Match Your DNA" service. After watching TV programs such as Married At First Sight, Blind Date, and Take Me Out the type of app/service called Match Your DNA featured in this book, seems like a viable, and believable prospect in the not too distant future!


So, there are many different people that choose to be matched to their soul mate via the Match Your DNA service. I reckon most people would admit to having and withholding have a few secrets they don't reveal straight away when meeting new people or potential soul mates but wow! some of the characters in this book take "secrets' and withholding information to a whole new level!

As a reader we meet the five main characters that are the basis of the whole book. The five characters cover a whole range of people from diverse backgrounds and are using Match Your DNA service for their own individual reasons. But can an app really match you to your soulmate?

There's Mandy who desperately wants to have the fairy-tale wedding and family that her sisters appear to have, but she hasn't met her Mr Right yet. So she sees "Match Your DNA" as the ultimate answer. Mandy receives her matche's name and of course immediately checks him out on facebook. Mandy is quite literally drooling over Richard Taylor and cannot wait to meet him in person. Without giving too much away things don't really go as straight forward as she hoped. After a massive disappointment when she turns up to meet her DNA match. When another opportunity arises that may give Mandy part of her dream, as you'd expect she doesn't ask very many questions. Will Mandy's fantasy family be realised or in her effort to achieve her dream could she end up being taken advantage of by other members of the Taylor Family that she meets.

Christopher is another one of the people that uses the Match Your DNA service as he is socially awkward and only really knows what he should do, say and interact with people by reading books. Christopher receives the notification of his match as he sits looking around his latest victim's home! Christopher is a perfectionist, perhaps a little OCD. He plans his murder meticulously but soon becomes distracted by the thoughts of his perfect soul mate and who that could be. When he meets her and learns more about her it makes his secret killing even more of a thrill for him. 

Jade has been messaging her match Kevin for quite a while whilst continuing to work what some would call a dead end job at a hotel near to her parents home with very few prospects. The job Jade had really wanted to do was in travel & tourism but after taking a temporary job at the hotel she had just never moved on. Though Jade had always kept her dream of wanting to travel but whilst her friends had gap years she was too busy working hard to pay off her student loan. It is her colleagues at the hotel that give her the final encouragement needed to take her fate in her own hands and buy herself a ticket on her credit card and turn up on the doorstep or rather at the farm where her true match lives and works in Australia. Once again Jade finds things are not always what they seem and has some tough decisions to make.

I won't go into detail on the other two characters as I think that would be going into too much detail and could spoil the individual reading experience. I did enjoy reading Nick's story, how he was supposedly so happy yet a doubt was put in his mind, by, in my opinion a kind of peer pressure so much he took the DNA Match test which caused him so many problems until fate took over. In Ellie's story once again everything seemed to be a fairy-tale but it just wasn't as it seemed. I adored the character of Andrei from Ellie's circle of friends/colleagues and wished he had featured more within her tale. Perhaps had she listened to him a little more things would have been different. To be honest I thought he would have been as near a perfect match for her as possible. I was surprised when Andrei just left before the "end" of Ellie's story. I didn't think that was something he would have done so easily.

I did love how the different characters had their own chapters. It also kept you hooked into the book as usually each chapter had a little bit of a cliffhanger too. There are lots of clues and a few red herrings as to what is happening to the individual characters within their own chapters. It really was like reading five different stories centered around the five main characters, but at the same time they all had the Your DNA Match in common and that theme was running through the whole book too.

My favourite characters were Jade, Kevin and his family, including his brother Mark, and their mother Susan. I love the way Jade follows her dream and even when she arrives to a situation nothing like the one she expected, she is determined to stay around even when it seems there can be no real happy ending for her and her true match. 
I also enjoyed disliking Tim who deceives his perfect match Ellie. It's really quite ironic when it is revealed exactly who Ellie is.

Wow! Full of twists and turns. The complexities of a DNA system that can match you with 'The One' you are meant to be with. That one person you meet that you immediately just know you are meant to be with. 


What an interesting and amazingly different read. From the individual fascinating characters and their stories to the details and behind the scenes view of the Match Your DNA group. This book is like a jigsaw of individual tales that fit together to form part of a larger picture of peoples' ideologies on love and their one true match.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

REVIEW - MORE THAN WE CAN TELL BY BRIGID KEMMERER

Title: More Than We Can Tell
Series: Letters To The Lost
*While this book exists in the same universe as Letters to the Lost, it is a standalone title.*
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA, Teen, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing UK & ANZ
Release Date: 8th March 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
Rev Fletcher is battling the demons of his past. But with loving adoptive parents by his side, he’s managed to keep them at bay...until he gets a letter from his abusive father and the trauma of his childhood comes hurtling back.

Emma Blue spends her time perfecting the computer game she built from scratch, rather than facing her parents’ crumbling marriage. She can solve any problem with the right code, but when an online troll’s harassment escalates, she’s truly afraid.

When Rev and Emma meet, they both long to lift the burden of their secrets and bond instantly over their shared turmoil. But when their situations turn dangerous, their trust in each other will be tested in ways they never expected. This must-read story will once again have readers falling for Brigid Kemmerer’s emotional storytelling.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
Having read Letters To The Lost I really wanted to read this book, especially when I realised the main character in this book was a character I had met and loved in Letters To The Lost. Who couldn't love Rev Fletcher? Would this book show me a different bad boy side or would I love him even more? I should also probably say that this book, More Than We Can Tell had the amazing Letters To The Lost book to live up.

So I've seen a couple of covers for this book and have chosen to feature the UK cover for my review and done a cover compare below for both covers. 
This cover has a white background and has what I would describe as text or speech bubbles with the title placed within them. I love the colours within these "bubbles". This cover also has a great byline which say's "Looking For Answers, They Found Each Other" which perfectly fits the situation of how Rev and Emma meet and tentatively begin their friendship which then leads onto a more romantic relationship. 

The genre's I have seen listed for this book so far are, Teen, YA, Contemporary and Romance which I totally agree with and would add that I think this book would appeal to older readers too. I can definitely say I don't fit the Teen or YA age group but read and . . . well read the rest of my review to find out what I thought.

As the blurb explains, and we learnt in Letters To The Lost, Rev has had a deeply troubled past and suffered at the hands of his so called religious father. His father used to quote parts of the bible to Rev. There was a fitting quote to hurl at Rev for any and every transgression he either did commit or that his father said he had committed. I guess at the end of Letters To The Lost, Rev was happily learning to enjoy life and living with his adoptive parents Geoff and Kristin. Suddenly, all that changes when he receives a letter from his father. Rev's instant reaction is to message back saying to leave him alone. Rev soon regrets replying as this seems to encourage his father even more! Rev still struggles to believe that his new mum and dad fully accept him flaws and all. Torn between bothering his new parents and the guilt that was instilled in him as a youngster by his father, he feels he has to reply. This interaction continues and Rev's emotions become more and more troubled. Rev also questions his own actions when he is angry, thinking maybe one day he won't stop. He thinks he could seriously hurt or even kill someone. More and more Rev wonders what his father wants by contacting him.

The other main character in this book is Emma Blue aka Azure M (her gaming name) who I wasn't sure about to begin with as she came across as a little spoilt and perhaps ungrateful, maybe a little selfish too. Emma belittles her best friend Caits hobby of you tubing about beauty and different make up styles and techniques. Emma seems to have the attitude that her gaming creation is much more important than any of Caits sessions on you tube.
When Emma's world as she knows it falls apart, we see a different side of her and I admit I did end up growing to love her during the course of the book. Emma seems to have been quite sheltered and naive. Her mum works in the medical profession and would like Emma to aspire to such a career. However Emma is more into technology and gaming like her father. Emma has designed her own game and people are actually playing it. One guy called Ethan tells her its great and regularly teams up with her virtually to play on Otherland's (Emma's game) and other online games too. The only sign of trouble on Emma's radar is another gamer called N1ghtmare who is basically trolling her. 

Rev and Emma accidentally meet due to Emma's dog taking a liking to Rev when it runs off. They talk and end up meeting again and again, slowly they begin to trust each other with their secrets. troubles and family problems.

Things rapidly become worse for Emma when she is suddenly hit with the news her parents are divorcing and the house she has grown up in will need to be sold! Then her troll turns a bad day into a hellish one! It is lucky for her that she is good with technology and has Rev when she gets herself into a rather tricky, dangerous situation.

The other complex troubled youngster in this book that comes into the temporary care of Geoff and Krisitin is Matthew. Matthew is quite similar to Rev, in that he doesn't talk much and tries to keep himself to himself. Rev tries a few times to reach out to Matthew but is rejected. The one that "breaks the ice" is Declan. It seems this is Declans specialty as it was him that had the first break through with Rev when he first arrived at Geoff and Kristin's home. Some of Matthews back story is revealed and when he is bullied at school Rev and Declan offer both, their friendship and support.

It was great to catch up with Declan and his own life is going in a good direction with Juliet. Though when he decides to visit his father for the very first time in years it is Rev who he asks to accompany him. The other important event in the book for Declan is the arrival of his mum and her new partners baby which makes the baby his half sibling. 

At around 60%-65% I had already decided that this was another brilliant, emotional book by Brigid Kemmerer. I honestly didn't think this book would be as good as Letters To The Lost, it isn't, it's even better! I'm totally besotted with Rev and Emma. Though I have an increasingly uneasy creepy feeling about Ethan & Nightmare. 

My immediate thoughts when I finished this book were, wow is it that late? I finished reading well after midnight. I couldn't put this book down once I got to 72%. It really was an amazing book, full of realistic characters, some that you could either instantly like and grow to love during the course of the book. This book tackles some tough subjects really well. Brigid had me hooked from the beginning and held fast to the very last word at the end. If you read and loved Letters To The Lost you will adore reading more about Rev Fletcher in this book. 

I wonder if there could be a third book maybe with Matthew as the central character? Maybe Geoff & Kristin would eventually adopt him too? I would certainly love more Rev & Emma and Declan & Juliet! Maybe Matthew could reveal even more of his background and maybe meet a girlfriend etc. Please Brigid say there's going to be more!?



COVER COMPARE


So which cover is your favourite and why?