My Top Ten Reads for 2014

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So here we go then with my top ten countdown for 2014 – just to be clear, I decided that I wanted to do my Top Ten at the beginning of December each year from now on – because encouraging everyone to buy books for Christmas is, to my mind, a great thing to do. This may or may not help. The list was closed out a couple of weeks ago and anything I am reading now and will read in the rest of December will go into the mix for 2015. Frankly there are at least two books I’ve read recently that you might have seen here if I hadnt already done it – All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven for certain and I’ll tell everyone now, that you lovely authors are going to have to go some to beat that one in next years mix for sure.

I wrote a little post not long back on how I choose them – you can read this here if you want to know how the heck I whittle it down: http://lizzy11268.booklikes.com/post/1051927/how-i-chose-my-top-ten-for-2014

Later in the week, I shall be doing an honorable mention list which will showcase some of the other top novels I have read this year – not all of them by any means, it has been a brilliant year for reading and so far 2015 is shaping up to be even better. Just remember, my reviews tell you how I felt about each individual book in the moment, and for me the moment is extremely important. So look out on Wednesday to hear about some great books from Neil White, Amanda Jennings, Tamar Cohen, Lauren Beukes, Paula Daly and more…Including Liz Nugent and Unravelling Oliver, a most terrific book that won a well deserved award the other night. And Matt Haig of course. Who’s novels are always No 1 for me along with Stephen King who also strangely does not appear this year.

But here we go, you want to know now right? So lets count them down….my original review will be available as a link underneath each title.

 

Number 10

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In at number 10 we have Jane Casey’s latest Maeve Kerrigan story. I absolutely adore this crime fiction series, it really does have some of my favourite characters in it. I’m always desperate for more when I finish. Plus of course (swoon) Derwent. This one was one of the best Jane has written, so addictive and if you havent read these yet go GO NOW!

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/the-kill-by-jane-casey-the-way-to-make-me-one-happy-reader/

 

Number 9

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I don’t think anyone who read “Station Eleven” could POSSIBLY leave it out of their top reads of the year. Haunting, evocative, beautifully written, a Post Apocalyptic literary work of genius, this one stayed with me for a long time after reading it. I kind of expected it to be my No 1 or higher than it is, but I stuck with my method and so here it is at No 9.

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/liz-currently-loves-station-eleven-by-emily-st-john-mandel/

 

Number 8

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In at number 8 then we have The Three by Sarah Lotz. Possibly the biggest page turner I have read since Red Rising, this one had me enthralled, often very creeped out, it was totally absorbing and scarily authentic – an intriguing look at how humanity could react to certain events. Brilliant brilliant stuff and so well constructed it is a definite masterpiece.

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/author-interview-sarah-lotz-the-three/

Number 7

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The much anticipated follow up to “Mayhem” did not disappoint – I loved this one very much, I think I read it in an afternoon, am fairly sure there were maltesers involved and I could not put it down until I was done. At which point I was bereft. Sarah Pinborough has such an accessible yet beautifully haunting way of writing, every novel has something new to offer, from emotional overload to horror and fright. Not all at the same time. Well, sometimes. If you havent read this author before then I highly recommend that you do and would like to also mention “The Language of Dying” a book that had me in floods of cathartic and very healing tears.

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/liz-currently-loves-murder-by-sarah-pinborough/

Number six

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At number 6 we have Greg Iles tour de force Natchez Burning. Absolutely magnificent, a tome of a novel that not once loses your interest, and although it may be Book Four in the Penn Cage series you could easily start here – there are another two books to come to complete this particular story and I will be willing to kill (metaphorically speaking) to get my hands on the copy of the next one when it is available. Lovely Kate Stephenson from Harper look out! Another one I half thought might be my No 1, now I’m looking at this cover I’m tempted to read it again. Right now.

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/natchez-burning-by-greg-iles-worth-every-minute-of-the-wait/

 

Number Five.

 

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In at number 5, a YA novel. I’m a huge fan of the Young Adult genre and believe it is highly accessible to adult readers who sometimes love it more than the target audience does. In this book Courtney Summers writes a Zombie apocalypse book that does not focus on the undead too much,  this was  a character piece following a girl who wanted to die before anything went horribly wrong with the world and follows her fight for a survival she is not even sure she wants. It was brilliantly evocative and tremendously wonderful reading. I have since read this authors other novels and I’m now a huge fan. Usually focussing on teen issues and writing about them extraordinarily well, this was somewhat of a departure for Ms Summers and thank heavens because it is a stunning read. Sequel coming soon. Consider me ready..

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/liz-currently-loves-this-is-not-a-test-by-courtney-summers/

 

Number Four

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In at number four we have Lucy Lawrie’s spectacularly funny, brilliantly insightful look at family life when you become a parent for the first time – the complete upheavel, the love and the emotional overload and the strange yet wonderful changes this brings your existence. Life after baby given form in one delicious novel I highly recommend this for all parents and anyone who might ever be a parent – it will not only make you giggle but will also let you know that nothing is odd  you’ve just had a baby and whatever you are going through is likely to be a normal part of such a huge change. Wicked. I read this again the other week just because. And if anything it was even better second time around.

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/lucy-lawrie-and-tiny-acts-of-love/

 

Number Three

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In at number 3  – Gleam. Oh Gleam how I loved you! I do like a good fantasy tale but Tom Fletcher has created a marvel of a world here with some of the best characters I’ve seen in the genre for some time – brilliantly engaging, page turning joy. One character in particular – Nora – I frankly would have been happy with a book just about her. And yes Andrew Turner I shall be stalking you around when there is even a hint of book two on the horizon.

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/new-release-spotlight-gleam-by-tom-fletcher/

 

Number Two

 

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In at number 2 – The Girl with all the Gifts. Honestly one of the best books I’ve read in my life let alone this year, it was one of the novels that reminded me, in amongst all this reviewing madness that I love so dearly, why I started to read in the first place. You will fall in love with Melanie. You will. And that’s all I shall say about this one. If you have not read it yet, don’t read spoilers. If you love a good yarn just go get it and dive right in.

 

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/m-r-carey-talks-the-girl-with-all-the-gifts-a-reminder-of-why-i-read/

So there you go then. 10 – 2 all done. So which book hit the No 1 spot? Well to be fair there really was only one choice and it may surprise people but in the end, this book is the one that still haunts my dreams, that I STILL go back to and go “what? WHAT?”.

 

 

 

And it was this one.

 

Number One.

 

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Only Ever Yours by Louise O Neill. With an ending that killed me and an honest lesson to be learned about our obsession with image especially for young girls and teenagers, all wrapped up in a hugely addictive and entertaining Dystopian tale that could oh so easily be more than fiction, this is a book I wanted to throw at every young lady who ever worried about her weight or beauty. Ms O’Neill dissects our society with a sharp knife in this one and oh my word, it was a marvel.

http://lizlovesbooks.com/lizlovesbooks/liz-currently-loves-only-ever-yours-by-louise-o-neill/

 

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

 

Liz Currently Loves….The Crooked House by Christobel Kent.

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Publication Date: 8th January 2015 from Little Brown/Sphere

Source: Netgalley

Alison is as close to anonymous as she can get: with no ties, no home, a backroom job, hers is a life lived under the radar. She’s a nobody; she has no-one and that’s how she wants it. 
But once Alison was someone else: once she was Esme Grace, a teenager whose bedroom sat at the top of a remote and dilapidated house on the edge of a bleak estuary. A girl whose family, if not happy, exactly, was no unhappier than anyone else’s – or so she thought.

This was an extremely atmospheric haunting tale, very addictive and beautifully written. A definite page turner for sure and one that will stay with you.

Alison used to be Esme – until a terrible tragedy found her with a name change and new location, she has worked hard to leave the past behind her and she keeps it hidden from those around her. When her boyfriend Paul persuades her to acccompany him to a wedding, she is reluctantly drawn back to her childhood home and finds herself haunted by memories of that terrible time and its aftermath. But memory is a strange and wonderful thing and as she reconnects with people from back then, she realises that the truth she has believed for so long may be a false one.

Intelligently plotted to keep you right in the story, this is a psychological mystery with a really likeable and sympathetic heroine at its heart – Alison/Esme is damaged yet braver than she thinks she is and you will be right there with her as she works her way through some difficult memories and tries to untangle the web of deceit, half truths and childhood innocence. The theme of child memory versus adult memory is extremely fascinating, as Alison puts a grown up spin on her flashbacks, especially relating to her parents and siblings. It is endlessy captivating and compelling throughout.

Surrounding Alison are various eclectic and intriguing supporting characters, some of which may be friend, some foe, all eminently enthralling and elegantly drawn. The relationship between Paul and Alison is definitely gripping and as it developed over the course of the novel I was jumping between wanting Alison to tell him everything and wanting her to tell him nothing. Some more peripheral characters, such as Kay and Aunt Polly I would have liked to know more about – of the rest they are all wonderfully puzzling – little conundrums that solve themselves over the course of the reading experience.

The sense of place is magnificently captured – the small community closing ranks around its own, the estuary at times both creepy and beautiful – and of course at the heart of it the little “Crooked House” of the title – the place where Esme morphed into Alison and this story has its soul. Brilliantly achieved.

Overall then a great read – one of the ones to look out for in January, a top notch tale that makes you very eager to see what the author comes up with next and also revisit her previous novels.

Find out more here: http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/k/christobel-kent/

Pre-Order information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/christobel+kent/the+crooked+house/10718469/

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

Dying For Christmas with Tammy Cohen

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Publication Date: Available NOW from Transworld.

 

So I recently read this terrifically addictive novel and I caught up with Tammy to ask her some deeply insightful questions. Kind of. About the book and about Christmas in general. Here is what she had to tell me.

Christmas – the time of goodwill to all men, so I’m dying to know what got you started on a festive kidnap and torture tale?

When my editor asked if I wanted to write a Christmas crime book, the one thing I knew immediately was that I didn’t want it to be cosy crime – The Case of the Missing Manger or Carnage at the Christmas Fair. What I wanted was to write an anti-Christmas book. One that subverted all the things we hold most dear about Christmas – family, warmth, love, community. Which is why poor Jessica Gold ends up being held prisoner by a complete stranger in an anonymous, resolutely unfestive warehouse apartment far from her boyfriend and family. There’s nothing merry about Jessica’s Christmas.

The Christmas gifts Dominic gives to Jessica are horrifically engaging – did you come up with those as you built his character?

Yes, Dominic’s presents to Jessica tell the story of his nightmarish life. They’re his cack-handed attempt at making himself fully known to another person, to alleviate some of his loneliness. So the presents build in intensity and horror as they go along.
Who was your favourite to write – Jessica, Dominic or Kim. Or someone else?

Definitely Dominic. I’d never written an out and out bad person before, and had no idea how much fun it was. For once I could turn off that questioning, moderating voice you always have in your head as a writer – is this how someone would react? Is this plausible? Dominic is an anomaly, an outlier, a psychopath. Everything he does is outside of normal, acceptable rules of behaviour. Plus though he seems superficially charming and urbane, he’s essentially a child still, trapped by his horrendous upbringing in a toddler mind-set where everything is about him and his own gratification and other people’s feelings are meaningless. All that made him a fantastically satisfying character to write.

 

Did you have that ending in mind right from the start?

Amazingly, and very unusually for me, I had the whole book planned out before I started. I think it’s because it had to be written very quickly so I knew there was no time for exploring different avenues or testing out different outcomes. Also it was my first foray into crime and I realised it was a very different discipline – everything has to lead onto something else, all the loose ends have to be tied up – so I needed to be very sure in my own head where it was all going.
Christmas day – Dinner or Presents first?

Oh please. I have three kids and even though they’re not technically children any more (22, 19, 18) if I told them they had to wait until they’ve eaten before opening presents, there’d be carnage of a magnitude Dominic Lacey couldn’t even imagine!

Christmas Tipple of choice?

Bucks fizz in the morning. Whiskey and ginger in the pub in the afternoon after the obligatory wind and rain-lashed dog walk.

Favourite Christmas Tradition?

Making our dog Doris wear novelty Christmas antlers. She’s quite the silliest looking dog without them, but with them she’s out of this world.

Thank you so much Tammy!

Review

I am missing. Held captive by a blue-eyed stranger. To mark the twelve days of Christmas, he gives me a gift every day, each more horrible than the last. The twelfth day is getting closer. After that, there’ll be no more Christmas cheer for me. No mince pies, no carols. No way out .

But I have a secret. No-one has guessed it. Will you?

Loved this clever and addictive little twisty turny tale of kidnap and torture during the season of goodwill. WAY too much fun and glitter in Christmas for my taste, I like a little bit of the dark side and Tammy Cohen has given us a perfect way to offset all the bright lights and Coca Cola adverts.

When Jessica Gould meets the charming Dominic Lacey whilst out Christmas shopping she impulsively agrees to go home with him for a drink. Once there however, it becomes clear that he intends for her to stay and she ends up stuck in a nightmare from which she fears she will not escape..

This is fairly fast paced, often horrific, but with such great characters (Dominic is scarily brilliant) that you can cope with the trauma, it is a tale of two halves. The first half deals with Jessica’s ordeal which is at turns grimly ironic and at others painfully descriptive, often causing a shiver – for the whole of that portion of the journey I was transfixed. The second half reveals a deeper insight into Jessica, and thats when you REALLY start turning those pages desperate to know what the final outcome will be.

Two extremely fascinating and well drawn characters here, a kind of clash of the psychological titans, neither of them honestly likeable (well if you LIKE Dominic I’m worried for you but he is compelling all the same) where neither one is clear cut and both have separate yet very damaging issues. It makes it a tour de force of a read in that you really do not know what is coming next and Ms Cohen manages to get you looking one way when really you should have been paying attention elsewhere – intelligent plotting and brilliantly sparkling prose. Perfect for Christmas.

Overall a great read especially if you’ve had enough of rainbows and kittens, this one will draw you in and spit you out later thanking everyone that all you have to worry about this Christmas is timing cooking of the Christmas dinner right – something incidentally I’ve never yet managed to achieve!

Terrific. Highly Recommended.

Find out more here: http://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/tamar-cohen/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/MsTamarCohen

Purchase Information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/tammy+cohen/dying+for+christmas/10369378/

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

Spotlight 2015 – The Defence by Steve Cavanagh

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Publication Date: 12th March 2015 from Orion

Source: Advance Reading Copy

The truth has no place in a courtroom. The truth doesn’t matter in a trial. The only thing that matters is what the prosecution can prove. Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different. It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter Amy. Eddie only has 48 hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if wants to save his daughter. Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.

Ok so The Defence then. Another book I have been very lucky to get my hands on ever so early, but I can promise you it is definitely worth the wait ESPECIALLY if, like me, you have been pretty starved lately of a good courtroom drama.

With “The Defence” Steve Cavanagh manages to pull off not only a terrific courtroom drama, but also a bit of an edge of the seat thriller, some witty and darkly humerous moments and a character you will fall in love with.

Eddit Flynn is a mess and at first glance you would think that, if put in the situation he actually does find himself in, that he would be pretty useless. But Eddie is not exactly what he appears – his unusual upbringing means he has more strings to his bow than would be immediately obvious and as he sets off to extricate himself from a sticky situation and ensure his daughters safety it is glorious page turning reading joy.

The plot is intelligently drawn and oh so addictive, even without a main protagonist like Eddie it would be pretty darn good, with him its a marvel. There are some thrills and spills, some hilarious “set pieces” if you like, some witty banter and some seriously gripping moments where you might even decide to shout some encouragement, scaring anyone who might be around you. I love those types of books, the ones that get your blood up and then make you giggle. There is also an emotional edge to things, a child in peril and the relationship described between Eddie and his daughter is terrifically done so you can feel his terror at the same time as he is making you smile.

The villains are realistically villainous, I kind of liked Volchek in a funny kind of way, there are some great peripheral characters that I hope to learn more about in future stories and I really did enjoy every last minute of this. As I said, you may yourself need defending if anyone interrupts you when you are reading.

Overall then a top notch read, one you definitely need to look out for next  year, as for me I just want the next book now. Eddie will surely return and I, for one, can’t wait.

Find out more here: http://stevecavanaghwriter.blogspot.co.uk/

Follow Steve on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/SSCav

Pre-Order information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/steve+cavanagh/the+defence/11371766/

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

Author Interview and Review: Daniel Gothard. Friendship and Afterwards.

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Interview and Review by Melissa Barnsley

Publication Date: Available Now.

Four young people are in love – David, Sarah, Ben and Alison – and yet none of them are particularly happy with what their lives have become. The story is about how and why people fall in and out of love and the unexpected, sometimes life-changing, consequences that follow. It is a story about growing up and making big mistakes, as all friends and lovers eventually do, and then living with those mistakes afterwards.

It took me exactly one hour and twenty seven minutes to read this lovely little novel; time that I certainly wouldn’t want to take back. Having been handed the book at work by a friend I picked it up that evening, thinking “I’ll just see if I like the first few chapters before I agree to review,” but before I knew it the story was over and I was left wanting more! Daniel Gothard paints an honest, raw picture of the way adult relationships both begin and end. The friction of emotion between each of the characters, whether they are joined by friendship, passion, or love, is utterly believable and at times even difficult to read (in a good way). We’ve all felt those same emotions at some point in our lives – guilt, jealousy, lust, regret. ‘Friendship and afterwards’ is a realistic romance, one that I would certainly recommend that you go and read NOW. My only criticism, and the reason for my four star rating, is that I felt it could have been longer. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was left wanting more!

 

I was lucky enough to catch up with the author, Daniel Gothard, for a Q&A.

 

Hi Daniel!

 

First off, why did you decide to write using multiple narratives?

 

The multiple character narrative was a test for/on myself and also because I wanted to show how good intentions, love, friendship, ambition, etc, can become so complex in any life no matter where you begin from; that there are usually no simple answers to reasonably simple questions when the heart is ruling the head!

 

There were moments in the book where characters seem to have different accounts of the same event, could you elaborate?

 

The original title of the book was ‘How I See Things’ and it was very much based on each character and their views of the same/similar scenarios.

 

What made you decide to keep the story so short?

 

The shortish length of the book wasn’t planned, it just turned out that way – it’s the shortest piece I’ve written for a while. But, like Raymond Carver, Chekhov and others, I feel comfortable boiling down emotions and psychology in stories to a point where the reader can fill in some ‘gaps’.

 

How much of the story is based on your personal experiences?

 

Thankfully, this story is all fiction. The novel is hugely influenced by the work of my favourite author, Richard Yates, particularly his book Young Hearts Crying: a classic story about the American Dream and its slow death post WW2.

 

What first inspired you to become an author?

 

I’ve always written – as a teenager mainly poetry. I gained a CertHE in creative writing from Ruskin College here in Oxford and then an MA in the same subject at Bath Spa Uni. It was after Bath that I made a decision to relentlessly follow my ambition to write and be published.

 

What’s next for you? Are you working on any new projects – perhaps something slightly longer I can get my teeth into?

 

My publisher is talking about releasing 3/4 of my older novels next year. And I’ve just published a 16,000 word dystopian novella, (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/494450) I loved writing in a different genre (first time writing in a second-person narrative too).

 

Thank you so much Daniel. I look forward to reading more of your work!

 

Thank you to the Author and Publisher

Find out more here: http://yolkpublishing.co.uk/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/GOTHARDDANIEL

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Friendship-Afterwards-Daniel-Gothard-ebook/dp/B00N6SMOUM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416995648&sr=1-1&keywords=friendship+and+afterwards+daniel+gothard

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

Spotlight 2015: Black Wood by Susi Holliday.

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Publication Date: March 2015 from Black and White Publishing.

Source: Author copy

Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story. Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?

So any fan of the psychological thriller definitely needs to keep an eye out for this next year – I was lucky enough to read it extremely early, so early in fact that as Susi herself pointed out to me, its probably completely changed by now. I am looking forward to reading the finished product to see how it has developed, but the heart of it will be there for sure, the story and the characters whilst possibly having had added to them a  bit of spit and polish were right there from the start.

What I found was a character driven story with a very haunting and expressive feel that pulled me in immediately. Jo is an intriguing character, dealing with some difficult issues stemming from a childhood trauma – but with no-one to believe her and a memory that is flaky, she feels very alone and that comes out in the way she interacts with those close to her. Not always sympathetic as a character  but ever fascinating, the mystery of what happened to her and Claire all those years ago is compelling and addictive.

Unless it has changed dramatically in the time since I read that early copy and now, this is not a book with those huge BAM out of nowhere twists and turns but is more an exploration of memory and emotion, how things from before can affect the after and is all the more powerful for it.  Thats not to say there are no surprises, there most certainly are and a fair few of them, and as Jo goes on her journey of discovery and possible revenge, you will be completely and utterly hooked. Beautifully paced, it is one of those novels you sink into completely and have to shake off when you emerge back into real life.

It really is deliciously written, capturing the essence of village life perfectly and delivering an eclectic cast of characters, an appealing and exquisitely drawn enigma both in character and plot and overall would defnitely come highly recommended from me. Oh and beautiful job on the cover – captures the whole thing perfectly right there.

I will be talking about this in more detail with a fuller review for you nearer publication – but for now I’m saying put it on that list. You know the one – all us readers have them!

Find out more here: http://sjiholliday.com/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/SJIHolliday

Pre-Order Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Wood-SJI-Holliday/dp/1845029534/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416907280&sr=1-1&keywords=black+woods+holliday

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

 

 

Liz Currently Loves….All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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Publication Date: 8th January 2015 from Penguin Randomhouse UK Childrens

Source: Netgalley

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries
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First of all I should say thank you (I think!) to Louise O Neill (author of Only Ever Yours) for telling me I should read this one – she was completely right about it, a novel that demands to be read, absorbed and committed to memory. It is certainly stuck in my head for good and if my Top Ten Reads of 2014 list was still open you would absolutely find this on it, possibly even right there at number one. As it is it is now in the running for next year and the books of 2015 are going to have to go some to beat this one for pure emotional reaction and resonance.

When Theodore Finch meets Violet Markey under somewhat unusual circumstances, a compelling and fascinating friendship begins. Both damaged in different ways, they come together to work on a school project and everything changes.

Gosh this is hard to review to be honest. On the surface it is simply another teen tale, another Young Adult drama with all the angst and ups and downs you come to expect, but underneath is an affecting tale, one that sinks into your subconcious and hovers there, with something very important to say about love, loss, grief and state of mind.

Theodore Finch is a marvel of a character, unbelievably likeable, authentic and coming alive straight off the page, yet there is a darkness hovering inside him that he struggles with every single day. Violet, suffering from survivor guilt after her Sister died in a car accident is still trying to come to terms with her loss and work out how on earth she will live the rest of her life. The relationship that develops between these two is utterly compelling, totally gripping and credible, the author taking the time to make it real with no rush to judgement. As you read the people and the places will pop and the pages practically turn themselves.

It is an entertaining read for sure but it is so much more than that. Oh so much more.

The subjects addressed here are emotional and all too real for a lot of people, not spoken about nearly so loudly or so often as they should be. With sensitivity and grace, Ms Niven paints a picture for us of the difficulties of knowing when a person truly needs help and indeed, of how easy it is to bury your head in the sand.  Sometimes the people who shine the brightest are the ones who have the most difficulty internally- a truth sharply acknowledged in this story and brought to the forefront instead of being hidden in the background. Finch, with his unerring life quality, his sharp observations about his own feelings and the need other people have to put a label on them, how he describes with absolute and perfect clarity what it is actually like when you are suffering from something more than the normal coming of age issues, it will have you  gripped in an emotion I can’t even describe.

I feel like I should talk more about Violet, a girl who has suffered an unimaginable loss, through her we see another side of Finch and through Finch we see another side of her. As they take turns to tell us what is going on, there is a particular beauty to it all, again pretty indescribable, the tentative reaching out of one damaged soul to another is pitch perfect and absolutely engaging. They are both as real to me as anyone I have ever met and there it is right there.

There was one point in this book, one particular paragraph that resonated with me so completely that I had to read it several times, and have gone back and read it several times since – I won’t quote it here, the novel needs to be read in your own headspace not in mine – but it illustrates how much this has to offer above and beyond the wonder of an excellent story well told. This is one of those important books, one of those you feel like forcing on everyone whether they like it or not, I’m probably about to become very annoying to a lot of people.

At the end I was crying great big buckets of tears – I was distraught, a wet rag of seething emotion and it took a good few hours for that to calm down.Then I read the authors afterword, where she speaks about where the story came from and I was off all over again. Now writing up this review I am undone once more – but I’m so pleased I read this. If I hadnt I wouldnt have known Finch or Violet or those around them, and that would be a huge loss for sure. On top of that this is a book that demands to be read for no other reason than it may help understanding grow of the very real, often invisible, life threatening issues that affect those with mental illness. Apologies to Finch for the use of the label…

Unbelievably real, beautiful writing, wonderful characters and a story that will stay with you forever, just read it. Read it now. It is worth every second of the trauma.

Find out more here: http://www.jenniferniven.com/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/jenniferniven

Pre-Order Information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/jennifer+niven/all+the+bright+places/11149420/

 

Liz Currently Loves…The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth.

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Publication Date: UK 1st January 2015 from Headline. US 24th February 2015 from St Martins Press

Source: Advance Reading Copy.

I’m the only one who knows the secrets her friends have hidden, the mistakes the police have made.
I’m the only one who can warn her she’s still in danger.
I know exactly who attacked her.
He’s the same man who killed me.

I was a huge fan of Colette Mcbeth’s first novel Precious Thing, so I was very excited to receive an advanced copy of her new story “The Life I Left Behind” and if anything it was even better – I read it in about 4 hours, it really was hard to put aside once started.

Told from several points of view – Eve who is dead, Melody who has survived a vicious attack and Victoria the Police Officer in charge of investigating Eve’s murder, it is an emotional and very addictive read with some loveable (and not so much) characters, a terrifically intriguing story and just a little twist in the tale, hearing as we do from the murder victim.

From the very beginning you will get sucked in as Eve is discovered dead and she starts to tell us how it all came to happen. Then enter Melody, who thinks she is hiding her post traumatic stress from her loved ones but maybe is not doing as well as she thinks – she is tied to Eve in ways she cannot yet imagine. Add into the mix Victoria, who starts to question the original conviction in Melody’s case and we are off with a fascinating, poignant and often quite touching tale of a life lost and another hanging in the balance.

There is a mystery element of course – is the same person responsible for both crimes, who is it and why. In a way though this is very much a layer to the story rather than the story itself which is absolutely  focussed on the people, the aftermath, how it affects them and explores, almost quietly, themes of grief, loss and the ever changing nature of relationships. Ms McBeth writes with a very haunting prose that can tug on your heartstrings one minute and have you hanging on the edge of your seat the next.

As the separate worlds of Eve and Melody collide you will not be able to stop turning the pages to find out what is next – there is a terrific emotional resonance to knowing that there is nothing to be done for Eve, she was my favourite character and I almost kept wishing that this was a fantasy novel where she could miraculously be brought back to life. Melody invokes a lot of sympathy, her efforts to heal both mind and body are emotionally engaging and realistically based. Sometimes helped by those around her, sometimes hindered, you will root for her all the way.

Overall then a really really excellent read, a tense psychological thriller that also manages to gently pull you along towards the truth of the matter and will give you a lot to ponder along the way about the nature of life, the universe and humanity. Highly Recommended.

Find out more here: http://www.colettemcbeth.com/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/colettemcbeth

Pre-Order information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/colette+mcbeth/the+life+i+left+behind/10111091/

Happy Reading Folks!

 

 

Black Rose by Kris Thompson – Blog Tour.

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Kris Thompson is a veteran of the US Navy and single mother of three. When she’s not knitting scarves, chasing her children around or baking, you’ll find her enjoying a good book or writing down notes for her own upcoming stories. Writing has been a passion for Kris for many years, and seeing those stories printed on paper is a dream come true.

Black Rose

Lillian Locke had the perfect life in Boulder, Colorado. She had the boyfriend of her dreams, a wonderful family, awesome friends, and a spot on the track team at a great college. There wasn’t anything life could throw at her that she couldn’t get through . . . until he found her.

Lillian never could have imagined being abducted and chained up in the dark. Worse yet, being just one of many girls kidnapped and held captive by a madman. All she can do now is hope that she survives the brutality of their captor long enough to find a way to free herself and her new captive friends.

When Richard Haines’ girlfriend goes missing, he makes it his personal mission to find the woman he loves and bring her home to the safety of their loved ones. Seeking the help of friends and family, Richard abandons everything except for his pursuit of Lillian. But when someone else close to Richard goes missing, and the bodies of the abducted girls start showing up in the hills outside Boulder, the only thing he can do is hope that he finds her before it is too late.

Review:

I read this in pretty much one sitting, so well did it flow and for the most part I thought it was a terrific psychological suspense novel, with a realistic twist generally speaking and it definitely packs one heck of an emotional punch.

The most resonant part of the novel for me came with the relationship between Richard and Lillian – the author has done a terrific job of telling us a love story, creating a couple I believed in and then hitting them with the worst case scenario and making me avidly turn pages as Richard desperately searches for Lillian whilst she desperately struggles to survive.

It was cleverly written jumping between Richard and Lillian and telling what they were going through and here was where it was the most authentic.

There were some downsides which were purely subjective – I couldnt quite get my head around how the girls behaved occasionally whilst in captivity.Sometimes that did not ring quite true for how traumatised I would imagine they would be under the circumstances although of course no-one who has not been through such a thing could have any actual idea. Discussing the relative benefits of one good looking star over another for example, not long after you have been brutalised, just took me out of the moment.

Overall however this was a great read, not for the faint hearted, but a very addictive and often emotive story – another plus was the story came to a proper and satisfying conclusion showing aftermath as well as event which added to the overall ambience of the tale being told.

Find out more here: http://kristhompsonauthor.blogspot.co.uk/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/KThompsonBooks

Purchase Information: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Rose-Kris-Thompson-ebook/dp/B00OGT2J1O/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416384083&sr=1-1&keywords=black+rose+kris+thompson

Happy Reading Folks!

Liz Currently Loves…The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

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Publication Date: January 27th 2015 from Bloomsbury

Source: Netgalley

Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal penal colony of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the fugitives are still missing and she is the most wanted person in London.
As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on Paige, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take center stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner.

I was one of the people who completely fell in love with “The Bone Season” the first in what will be a series of 7 books – I didnt think that anything could top that, but with “The Mime Order” the stakes were raised and if anything this was even better.

It probably helped that the world that Ms Shannon has built here is now sharply focussed – there was a lot of information to assimilate in book one, with The Mime Order you know whats what and who is who and are already involved with the people and the places.

Paige may have escaped captivity but her problems are only just beginning – with the gangs in disarray she must pull everyone together to face the Rephaim but when everyone has their own agenda and nobody cares much for anyone but themselves this is no easy task – and as the most wanted person in London she must do all of this from a place of hiding. Once more the rich layers of the world the characters inhabit comes to life, there are thrills and spills, some very emotional moments and a lot of hard decisions ahead for Paige.

As a main protagonist Paige is terrifically well drawn and she comes into her own in this instalment. Jaxon is still intriguing and difficult to read when it comes to motivation, he is definitely one of my favourites. Add to that a plethora of other fascinating characters both good and evil and you have a really fun reading experience.

The world building is solidified and expanded and there is a richness to the prose that envelops you – the story is pacy and gripping throughout and descriptively speaking it is really excellent. I enjoyed it very much and as a fan of YA and Fantasy I would highly recommend it.

Find out more here: http://www.samantha-shannon.blogspot.co.uk/

Follow the author on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/say_shannon

Pre- Order information:

Fancy a special edition? Goldsboro Books : http://www.goldsborobooks.com/books/the-mime-order-samantha-shannon-signed-first-edition-4222.html

Alternative Pre-Order Information: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/samantha+shannon/the+mime+order/10427272/

Happy Reading Folks!