Friday, May 27, 2016

Review: Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan


Title: Brighton Belle
Author: Sara Sheridan
Publisher: Constable
Genre: Historical (mystery)
Series: Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries #1
Source: Bought

Description: 1951. Brighton.

With the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (retired Whitehall secretary) thinks her skills are no longer required. After her lover's death she retires to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when the case of Romana Laszlo - a pregnant Hungarian refugee - comes in, Mirabelle soon discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from insurance clerk Vesta Churchill, they follow a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns and corpses that only they can unravel.

My thoughts: This is a fairly straightforward mystery story, with a fun time period setting. Mirabelle gets tangled into the case of Romana Laszlo when her boss goes missing. Following clues, at first alone, she finds many things which don't seem to add up, despite the fact she knows they must be connected. Needing a bit of help, she enlists Vesta, who works in the same building as her.

The characters were likeable and the mystery was interesting. Aside from the interesting time setting though, nothing jumped out at me as being particularly exciting or brilliant about the story. If I stumble on the sequel, I'll probably give it a go, but this one didn't leave me wanting to rush out and buy it. If you're looking for a nice mystery story, give it a go.

I'm rating this one 5/10.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Beyond Ecstasy (Beyond #8) by Kit Rocha


Title: Beyond Ecstasy 
Author: Kit Rocha
Series: Beyond #8
Genre: Dystopian romance
Source: Review copy from the author

Description: The O’Kanes have a reputation for working hard and playing harder—except for Hawk. He joined the gang with one goal: to ensure his family’s survival through the impending war with Eden. It’s been years since he had the luxury of wanting anything for himself. Now, he wants Jeni. From the first moment he saw her, he’s been obsessed with making her his. Not for a night-forever. 
Jeni’s been lusting after the former smuggler for months, but he keeps shutting her down. She’s almost given up on getting him in her bed when he offers her the last thing she ever expected—a collar. Accepting it means belonging to him, body and soul. It’s a reckless gamble, but Jeni can’t resist the chance to slip under Hawk’s armour. 
The only thing more shocking than the dark, dangerous pleasure they discover is how right it feels. But falling in love is even more reckless when forever is far from guaranteed. Because they aren’t just at war, they’re out of time—and every breath could be their last. 

My thoughts: 
Note - this review is spoiler free for Beyond Ecstasy. However, it’s book 8 of the series, so there are spoilers for earlier books.

Regular blog readers will know I really enjoy this series, although there have been times in the past where I felt the books were just falling slightly short of their potential. Beyond Ecstasy, along with the previous book, Beyond Ruin, prove that Kit Rocha has come into her own with the series. There were no disappointments in this book, and it genuinely brought out so many emotions for me. 

The romance in Beyond Ecstasy focusses on Hawk and Jeni. They weren’t a couple I was particularly desperate to read about (unlike some I could mention *cough*Nessa*cough*) but the glimpses of Hawk in Ruin made me more interested in him. Hawk is a farmer and smuggler, here to help his family back in Sector Six and recently slightly obsessed with Jeni. Jeni dances and bartends but her most defining feature before this book was her loneliness. Luckily for her, things get going pretty quickly… possibly too quickly. 

We’ve barely spoken, Hawk. I know we’re attracted to one another, but what you’re talking about - a collar? That’s different. … You can’t commit to someone you don’t know.”

Thank you, Jeni (& Kit Rocha, of course) for saying that. I’m really not at all a fan of ‘insta-love’ so Jeni saying this had me cheering for her. As the book goes on, they find a way to start talking and getting to know each other more, so it’s believable when they do get to the stage of a collar and looking beyond that. Even so, the speed of things in the book is a big issue for Jeni. The background of the war means everyone is trying to seize the moment and romance can get a little messed up in that atmosphere. There are, of course, some very sexy scenes - Jeni is submissive and Hawk has never been with someone like that. His learning curve is very fun to watch ;) 

Then there’s the war. And I can’t lie to you, there are some heartbreaking moments in here because of it. Beyond Ecstasy starts a few weeks after the end of Beyond Ruin and as Jasper and Hawk walk around the electricity-free sector at night, you can see how the war is affecting the ordinary people. This book very much shows the pain of war for those who are a little further away from leadership than we normally see in the Beyond series. Hawk visits his family in Sector Six, bringing Jeni with him, and I loved seeing the extended family network on the farm and how happy everyone was. I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t say any more except that the scenes on the farms were the most significant for me in this book. 

If you haven’t discovered this series already, you can get the first three books in a bundle. If you’ve been eagerly waiting for this, it’s out now! You can get it in a variety of places, including amazon: click


This book is one of my favourites in the series. I’m giving it 9 out of 10, I loved it. After the glimpses into Nessa & Ryder’s heads in this story, I’m desperate for the next one, of course! So if you love the series, Beyond Ecstasy is Kit Rocha at her best so far, sexy and sweet against the harsh backdrop of war. Make sure you have your tissues ready. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday



Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking The Spine

A book I'm looking forward to is:
A Torch Against The Night, by Sabaa Tahir

This is the sequel to An Ember In The Ashes, which was one of my top four favourite books last year. You can read the first chapter of A Torch Against The Night here.

Elias and Laia are running for their lives. 

Following the events of the Fourth Trial, an army led by Masks hunts the two fugitives as they escape the city of Serra and journey across the vast lands of the Martial Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—and save her brother, whose knowledge of Serric steel is the key to the Scholars' future. And Elias is determined to stay by Laia’s side...even if it means giving up his own chance at freedom. 

But Elias and Laia will have to fight every step of the way if they’re going to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike. 

Helene’s mission is horrifying, unwanted, and clear: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape...and kill them both.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Anything But Broken, by Joelle Knox


Title: Anything But Broken
Author: Joelle Knox
Release date: August 2015
Genre: Contemporary romance
Source: Won

Description: After five years, tragedy brings Hannah Casey back to Hurricane Creek to bury what’s left of her family.  She’s flunking out of college, haunted by scandal, and the only person who cares is Sean Whitlow, an irresistible bad boy with a soft spot for her. The problem? He’s her dead sister’s ex.
Sean doesn’t bleed red, he bleeds motor oil. During the week, he struggles to turn his auto repair shop into a profitable business.  But when Saturday night rolls around, he’s the reigning stock-car king of the local race track.  He doesn’t know how to lose–or how to walk away and leave Hannah alone with her grief.
Between her grades and her wealthy family’s dark secrets, Hannah’s barely holding her life together.  And the last thing Sean needs is to get tangled up with another Casey girl.  As the attraction between them spins out of control, they’ll either find a love with no limits–or go up in flames.

My thoughts: Yes, this is another contemporary romance where something emotionally traumatic happened in the characters' past which they're now trying to deal with and it affects a new romance. Yes, this type of story comes up again and again. But I love them. As with any romance novel, it's about the journey.

Hannah has come back to the town she grew up in after she inherits her childhood home. She wants to come back, do the dutiful daughter stuff, and then leave again as quickly as possible. Of course it doesn't go that smoothly and as she struggles to deal with what happened in the past and what is happening now, she finds other things to lean on to 'help'. And while she really wants to like Sean, there are secrets her late sister confided in her which would tear him apart.

The chapters alternate between the two perspectives of Hannah and Sean and I really liked getting to see what was going on in Sean's head and life from his own perspective. Another thing I really liked was the community of Hurricane Creek which Joelle Knox introduces. There are some great side characters who I'm looking forward to seeing more of. However, I felt like a bit too much time in this story was spent focussing on the couple who star in book two of the series. They're Hannah & Sean's best friends (of course) so it's understandable that they should feature heavily in this story but at times I felt like Anything But Broken was their story as much as Hannah & Sean's. The problems of a first-in-the-series book, I guess. The other criticism I have is that I thought some of Hannah's 'big secrets' about her sister were very easy to guess.

Overall, I did find this a very enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to the sequel. This was a fun contemporary romance and introduced some characters who I really want to see a happy ending for in future books. Joelle Knox is the pen name for one of my favourite authors but if I hadn't known that, I would never have guessed! This book really proves the versatility of the author. Overall I'm giving this book 6 out of 10.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Book Review: All Of The Above, by Juno Dawson


Title: All Of The Above
Author: Juno Dawson (formerly known as James Dawson)
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release date: summer
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Won

Description: This is a funny and moving love story about friends, first loves and self-discovery by Queen of Teen 2014. When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who's the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the 'alternative' kids take Toria under their wing. And that's when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band - and it's instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there's Polly...love and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

My thoughts: I didn't know much about this book until I saw Juno in conversation with George Lester on George's YouTube channel. I really liked the sound of the story & was lucky enough to win a copy in George's giveaway.

All Of The Above starts with Toria on her first day at a new school, for her penultimate year of high school. She’s quickly adopted in to a group of friends who, if we’re using high school group stereotypes, would be the ‘alternative kids’. The main characters apart from Toria are [name], Polly and Beasley. The story follows them, through Toria’s eyes, through the year.
It’s hard for me to review this without feeling like I’m doing it a disservice. It’s a girl and her friends in high school, like you’ve read before. What’s it about, beyond that? Friendships. A first serious relationship. Physical intimacy. Eating disorders. Self-harm. Figuring out your sexuality. Breakups.
Some people might dismiss it as being too many ‘issues’ crammed in to one book. But that’s rubbish. If they think that, it’s been too long since they were a teenager. In a friendship group, there are so many things going on at one time and I think Juno Dawson captures that perfectly. She also manages to make it laugh out loud funny in so many places, and grabs you by the feelings in others. I cried on the train to London reading one part - and if you’ve read the book, it probably wasn’t the part you’d first guess.

It’s a rollercoaster of a book, just as a year of high school is and absolutely captures being an older teenager. I'm giving All Of The Above by Juno Dawson 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Leave Your Mark, by Aliza Licht


Title: Leave Your Mark
Author: Aliza Licht
Publisher: Piatkus
Release date: May 2015
Genre: Non-fiction - Advice/Autobiography
Source: Bought

Description: LEAVE YOUR MARK isn't an advice book -- it's a mentorship in 288 pages.

Aliza Licht -- global fashion communications executive, AKA fashion's favorite 'PR girl' and Twitter phenomenon -- is here to tell her story, complete with The Devil Wears Prada-like moments and insider secrets.

Drawing invaluable lessons from her experience, Licht shares advice, inspiration, and a healthy dose of real talk in LEAVE YOUR MARK. She delivers personal and professional guidance for people just starting their careers and for people who are well on their way. With a particular emphasis on communicating and building your personal brand, something she knows a thing or two about, Aliza is your sassy, knowledgeable guide to the contemporary working world, where personal and professional lines are blurred and the most important thing you can have is a strong sense of self.

My thoughts: Although Leave Your Mark charts Aliza Licht's route into working at a fashion magazine, it provides excellent advice for starting careers in the media and in general. I read it just as I was starting to apply for publishing jobs and found all the advice very helpful. As that's the stage I was at, I was mostly interested in the early sections, which focus on getting your CV into shape, and how to get work experience. I read through the whole book once, then made particular notes based on those sections. Later, as I was invited to interviews, and got a longer work experience placement, I read on to the bits dealing with those. I found the section on making the most of a placement particularly helpful.

The book charts Aliza Licht’s career so far, so there are definitely sections which I’ll revisit as they become relevant - such as the etiquette for looking for internal and external jobs, or requesting a pay rise. Even though these sections weren’t stuff I needed to hear, it’s still an interesting account of Aliza’s life and I enjoyed hearing about the trials and triumphs she experienced as she started out in the world of media. She became the voice of ‘DKNY PR girl’ when the account was started and shares the story of how the account was planned and how it became her running it.
That lead in to the other section which I really enjoyed, something you can appreciate and learn from even if you’re not looking for careers advice: using social media as a marketing tool. I think a lot of bloggers would find some interesting things in this section as Licht writes about figuring out the defining features of your personal brand and how to harness social media to tie in to it.

Overall, I give Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht 8 out of 10. It has excellent careers advice, particularly for anyone looking to work in media. I’m really glad I found the book when I did as it gave me some very helpful tips.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Book review: Ice Forged by Gail Z Martin


Title: Ice Forged
Author: Gail Z Martin
Publisher: Orbit
Series: #1 of the Ascendant Kingdoms series
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Source: Borrowed

Description: Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine "Mick" McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands of Edgeland. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic of the governor's mages keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, McFadden and the people of Velant decide their fate. They can remain in their icy prison, removed from the devastation of the outside world, but facing a subsistence-level existence, or they can return to the ruins of the kingdom that they once called home. Either way, destruction lies ahead...

My thoughts: I love a good epic fantasy, and this is an excellent start to just such a series. Blaine is sentenced right at the beginning of the story, and takes on the name Mick to hide from the past and give himself a new start. The story covers his long journey on the ship full of other convicts to Velant, where the winters are long, harsh, and with virtually no daylight. However the story is equally focussed on a young man (whose name I can't find just now, it's a while since I've read this one!) who lives in the capital city of Dondareth, Blaine's homeland. He is the aide to someone on the ruling castle and through him you see some of the events that cause the supply ships to stop going to the colonists.

As the reader, seeing both viewpoints, you get a much clearer view of what's going on than the characters and that made it frustrating sometimes to see one group discussing a course of action based on what they knew, when to me it was clear that they should be taking a different path. This is particularly relevant nearer the end, when one group of characters knows that a bad thing will happen if someone does a certain thing, and the other group, unable to talk to them, decides to do that thing. It actually added a lot more tension to the story, having the collective knowledge which the characters lacked, and knowing they were walking into danger when they were unaware of it.

There is a slight supernatural element to the story, which I wasn't expecting. It caught me completely by surprise when it was revealed. I'm still not sure why it was necessary to bring in but I'll hold my judgement until I've read the second book.

Overall I'm giving Gail Z. Martin's 'Ice Forged' 7 out of 10. I'm planning on picking up book 2 next time I'm home and can raid my parents' bookshelves.
 

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