Book News

Richard Armitage Narrates Love Poems.

I had an email this morning from Felicity at Audible to tell me about their free download for Valentine’s Day. As soon as I started to read the email I knew I had to blog about it – I could instantly think of people who were going to be very interested in it.

The download in question is a collection of love poems narrated by Richard Armitage.

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The collection includes poems written by William Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Edgar Allen Poe amongst others. I personally love Richard Armitage’s voice so the idea of him reading aloud these beautiful poems is a welcome one!

This video features the man himself talking about the collection and sharing some of his own feelings about poetry – it’s well worth the 3 minutes of your time it’ll take to watch!


 
If this has persuaded you to give this collection a listen you can download it here.

 

 

 

This post is not sponsored, I simply love the sound of this and want to spread the love!

Book Review

Book Review: Starring Kitty by Keris Stainton.

StarringKittySometimes the greatest love stories happen behind the scenes…

Kitty’s keeping secrets. Like how she’s struggling to cope with her mum’s illness. And how she’s falling for the girl with the purpley-red hair… A fun film competition with her friends Sunny and Hannah seems like the perfect distraction. But then Dylan wants to be more than Kitty’s secret. Is Kitty ready to let her two worlds meet or will she risk losing Dylan forever?

Starring Kitty is the first in a new series about first love and friendship by much-loved teen author Keris Stainton.

I have known Keris for a long time now, quite a while before her debut novel Della Says OMG! was published. I’ve read and enjoyed each book that she has written, you can see my review of Jessie Hearts NYC. When I heard about her new series for Catnip Publishing, focusing on three friends who enter a film making competition, I thought it sounded wonderful. Starring Kitty is the first book in this series, and it completely lived up to my expectations.

Kitty, the star of this book, is 14. It’s hard enough being a teenager but she has other things to worry about. Firstly there’s her mum, she has Multiple Sclerosis and Kitty is trying to cope with how this has changed her family life. I thought the way this subject was covered was excellent, having a close family member with a chronic, disabling illness has such an impact and this was explored thoroughly and thoughtfully. I particularly liked that Kitty’s feelings are negative at times, I think this is really important.

The other major thing in Kitty’s life is her first, fledgling romance. We learn at the very beginning of the book that she has feelings for someone, but that someone is a girl not a boy. This aspect of the story is just lovely, it’s tentative and cute and everything first love should be. Kitty is still becoming confident in her own self and her own identity, this leads her to make some decisions about her relationship that we the reader can see are not for the best, but they feel entirely understandable.

Kitty is an excellent main character, I really loved her friendship with Sunny and Hannah. I’m very glad that this is a beginning of a series and that the subsequent books will be from their perspectives – I really want to get to know them even better. One of my favourite relationships in the book only features a couple of times, it’s between Kitty and her brother Tom who is away at university in London. I loved well written sibling relationships and theirs is wonderful.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is growing stronger and stronger at the moment. This is a great example of a diverse book, some of the characters happen to fall in to minority groups but they are never defined by these characteristics, instead being fully rounded and allowed to just be.

The next book in the series Spotlight on Sunny comes out next Spring, I can’t wait to read it!

Starring Kitty is published by Catnip Publishing in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

Book Review

Book Review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith.

TGoYaMOwen and Lucy are stuck in a life. As they await help, they start talking…

Though brief, the time they spend together leaves a mark. And as their lives take them to Edinburgh and San Francisco, to Prague and to Portland they can’t shake the memory of the time they shared. Postcards cross the globe when they themselves can’t, as Owen and Lucy experience the joy – and pain – of first love.

As each makes their separate journey in search of home, they will discover that sometimes it is a person rather than a place that anchors you most in the world.

I absolutely love Jennifer E Smith’s books. I’ve previously reviewed The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This Is What Happy Looks Like – both were the sort of books that made my heart feel like it was singing. The synopsis for this new book made me think I was in for another treat, what could be better than a romance blossoming out of being trapped in a lift?

This book is slightly different to the ones I’ve mentioned, with the romance element having more of a slow burn quality. It’s gorgeous and wonderful and I found myself entirely wrapped up in the characters and their lives very quickly. The first part of the book introduces us to our main characters, Lucy and Owen, first with them stuck in the lift and then with them working out how to spend the time whilst the power cut causing the blackout is resolved. Their lives then pull them apart physically, and to an extent emotionally – though never once did I believe that these distances wouldn’t be bridged (yes, I’m a hopeless romantic).

I love the way the author creates characters we can really care about, Lucy and Owen are no different. Both of them are quite isolated in their own way, Lucy because her parents spend much of their time travelling abroad, and Owen because his father is trying to work out how to make a life for them since the death of Owen’s mother. I found it interesting to see how both of these family circumstances were explored, they’re not just convenient plot devices to remove the adults from the book – whilst they may not be all that present the parents are definitely felt in this book and their far from uncommon situations are handled deftly and thoughtfully.

Travel in books is a sure fire winner for me, both Lucy and Owen spend part of the book travelling. I particularly enjoyed Owen’s travel in the USA – he visits a few places I haven’t seen in books before and I love getting to experience new places through the eyes of characters.

This is a highly satisfying read. I would say though that unless you’re the sort of reader who reads a few pages at a time and then puts a book down you’ll probably want to start this book at a time when you can read and read and read. This is not an easy book to walk away from, you’re so quickly drawn into it and don’t want to leave the characters for any longer than you must.

The Geography of You and Me is published by Headline in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review: Rome by Jay Crownover

RomeCora Lewis is a whole lot of fun, and she knows how to keep her tattooed bad boy friends in line. But all that flash and sass hide the fact that she’s never gotten over the way her first love broke her heart. Now she has a plan to make sure that never happens again: She’s only going to fall in love with someone perfect.

Rome Archer is as far from perfect as a man can be. He’s stubborn and rigid, he’s bossy and has come back from his final tour of duty fundamentally broken. Rome’s used to filling a role: big brother, doting son, super soldier; and now none of these fit anymore. Now he’s just a man trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life while keeping the demons of war and loss at bay. He would have been glad to suffer it alone, until Cora comes sweeping into his life and becomes the only color on his bleak horizon.

Perfect isn’t in the cards for these two, but imperfect might just last forever . . .

This is third book in Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series, you can read my reviews of the first two books Rule and Jet – the short version is that I absolutely adored them. I was really looking forward to reading Rome, not so much for the very attractive male lead but instead for the very attractive female lead – Cora. I had enjoyed her so much in the first two books that I was looking forward to getting to see her take centre stage.

It was, as I expected, a complete delight to spend the time reading a book with Cora front and centre. She’s a really interesting character, and getting to see so much more of her lived up to all of my hopes. She’s tough and strong but has a vulnerable streak a mile wide. She sees herself as a protector of the group, her role managing the tattoo shop means she spends her working time looking after all of the boys whilst they work and she doesn’t stop when the working day is over. Seeing her stand up both for and to them makes her increasingly impressive throughout the series, in this book we get to understand how she fits into the shop and their lives, and how they all fit into hers. Understanding all of this made me love her even more.

Before this book even starts we’ve seen enough of Rome to know his decade spent serving his country have changed him, he’s done numerous tours of active duty and as a result seen and experienced things that have left their marks on him both literally and figuratively. There’s an author’s note at the beginning of the book that in writing Rome as a character she did not try to write him as “a portrait, in a generalized or documentary way” – I think she achieved this really well. There is no question that Rome felt very genuine as a character to me based on what I know of the experiences of former members of the armed forces. At the same time he never feels like a cookie cutter model – his personal difficulties are as a result of far more than his military service, he’s a complete product of his circumstances. I found that the more I read about him and the more I understood what was going on in his head the more I rooted for and liked him.

The relationship between Rome and Cora feels nearly as inevitable as the ones between Rule and Shaw, and Jet and Aiden did. The difference in this relationship though is that we can see how huge the potential stumbling blocks are. I found that I was really willing them to find their way through or around them, at times I did start to wonder whether they would be able to. They work really well together as a couple, and their more intimate scenes work just as well and are just as hot as any in this series.

I can’t review a book in the Marked Men series without talking at least a little about the rest of the characters. Firstly I must mention how great it was to see how the characters I’d already come to love and care for continue to develop in this book – both those who’ve had their time in the limelight and those who haven’t yet had the chance to star in a book. There is one plot thread in particular that began in Rule that makes a lot of progress in this book and I loved how it played out. The set up for the next book in the series, Nash is threaded throughout this book and again I felt it worked really well. In addition to the core group of characters I really enjoyed the couple of newer characters, Asa who has made an appearance before but in this book really starts to find his place, and Brite who is completely new to the book. I enjoyed both characters immensely and am pleased to see that Asa will get his turn to lead a book sometime next year!

This book isn’t quite like the previous two. It took me a little while to work out why this was, it follows the same basic structure as the other books in the series but has a slightly different feel. I think it’s because Rome himself is not an intrinsic part of the core group of characters, Cora is. In the previous two books it has been the male characters, Rule and Jet, who’ve been part of the tightly knit group of friends and the female characters, Shaw and Ayden, who’ve been the new additions. Did this mean reading the book was a different experience? Yes. Did I enjoy it any less as a result? Absolutely not. This is another brilliant addition to the Marked Men series – I think there’s no question that this is going to be one of my favourite series of 2014.

Rome is published by Harper. in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

Book Review

Book Review: Jet by Jay Crownover.

JetWith his tight leather pants and a sharp edge that makes him dangerous, Jet Keller is every girl’s rock and roll fantasy. But Ayden Cross is done walking on the wild side with bad boys. She doesn’t want to give in to the heat she sees in Jet’s dark, haunted eyes. She’s afraid of getting burned from the sparks of their spontaneous combustion, even as his touch sets her on fire.

Jet can’t resist the Southern Belle with mile-long legs in cowboy boots who defies his every expectation. Yet the closer he feels to Ayden, the less he seems to know her. While he’s tempted to get under her skin and undo her in every way, he knows firsthand what happens to two people with very different ideas about relationships.

Will the blaze burn into an enduring love. . . or will it consume their dreams and turn them to ashes?

Last week I reviewed Rule, the first book in Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series and mentioned that I ordered Jet the second in the series as soon as I finished reading. I made myself read another book in between, but was quickly back to the world of tattooed, pierced boys and strong ladies. Whilst there won’t be any specific spoilers for Rule in this review there are some similarities I will be drawing to the review so if you didn’t read it and are interested now might be a good time to read it – here.

Jet again follows a dual narrative structure, with the heavy metal bandleader Jet and Ayden, Shaw’s best friend and roommate, taking their turn in the limelight. The book begins partway through Rule – we get to see one specific scene from the book from Jet and Ayden’s perspective, this acts as a prologue and scene setter before the timeline jumps forward a year. I liked this a lot, whilst it was nice to get that look back at part of Rule the jump forward meant that the whole cast of characters continued to develop. The only slight niggle I had as a result of this was that initially Jet felt a little like he was info dumping, this passed very quickly and his voice then shone through clearly.

One of the things I loved about Rule was the tight knit nature of the group of characters, this holds absolutely true for Jet too. The group dynamic is brilliant, and I enjoyed seeing how the group had evolved over the year that had passed. Having the book from Jet’s perspective in particular was interesting, he doesn’t work at the tattoo shop like the majority of the male characters so his relationship with them is slightly different. Cora again stands out as a character I love, she plays a slightly more prominent role in this book – this made me very happy.

The relationship between Jet and Ayden is beset by difficulties. Both are characters who keep quite a lot of themselves hidden, this only results in miscommunication and frustration on both sides. Even when things are going well it is easy for the reader to see how fragile their relationship is – I found I was, like the characters, waiting for the other shoe to drop. At times whilst I was reading it felt like my heart was aching for both of them. I have to say too that whilst the more adult moments between them were well written and hot, it was the quieter moments that I loved the most.

Jet in particular spoke a lot to me as a character. He’s a hugely talented musician and as such everyone has an opinion on what he should be doing and achieving. They’re less keen on listening to what he wants and accepting that he might know himself better than they do. I think these sorts of assumptions are all too easy to make, if Rule focused on knowing who you truly are then Jet turns on the focus onto knowing what you want to be. These are both such huge themes that root the books firmly in the New Adult styling and both ask and attempt to answer the meaningful questions many people are still trying to answer much further into their grown up lives.

This book is another really excellent read, I loved it just as much as I did Rule though for different reasons. If this series is an indication of how the New Adult publishing world is evolving I may have to reconsider it completely.

Rule is published by Harper in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

Book Review

Book Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

EleanorAndParkEleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor… never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

For the last twelve months or so everywhere I’ve looked I’ve seen people raving about Rainbow Rowell’s books. Well actually, I’ve seen as many people raving about how awesome Rainbow herself is as I’ve seen discussion about her books. Either way I knew I needed to finally get on and read her books. Eleanor and Park seemed like the perfect place to start. Now I’ve read it and loved it I find myself wishing my reviewing skills were better, this book deserves a far better write up than I have any hope of producing.

Eleanor and Park is set in 1986, and is told jointly by the characters named in the title. The setting was an interesting one, I was a young child in the UK during 1986 but much of the nostalgia that the time period evoked worked well for me. Whether it would work quite so well for today’s teen I don’t know, but I always managed fine with books set many decades in the past so I reckon it probably will.

Both Eleanor and Park have significant challenges within their lives. Eleanor’s are more obvious, living in poverty with an abusive stepfather and a mother who doesn’t seem able to provide the comfort or support Eleanor so desperately wants and needs, transferring to a new school . Park on the other hand has to manage a father whose expectations seem unreachable, and his own desire to simply get on with life and remain beneath the radar. The dual narrative, third person structure of the book means we really get to see inside the two characters’ heads – we get to understand how they feel, what they want, what they’re struggling with. I felt that this meant I could connect more deeply with them as characters.

This is definitely a love story, though I haven’t read many like it before. It’s slow and tentative and awkward, like so many real life burgeoning teen romances. Neither Eleanor or Park fit into the quintessential romantic lead pigeon holes and the book is all the better for it. The uncertainty that underpins their relationship again draws the reader further into it, and I’m sure will be something that many readers find they can identify with. So many love stories play out more like the Hollywood romance and whilst these occur in real life they’re not the only sort of romance and I really appreciated the authenticity of relationship found within this book. The Hollywood take on this story would also result in some neat, saccharine sweet ending. What we get is so much better, an untidy ending of hope and progress.

I loved the role both comics and music played within this book. The mix tapes element of the book was something I particularly found I identified with, whilst personal CD players were a feature of my teenage years mix tapes were still somewhat important – I still have a box which contains a few that meant most to me for one reason or another. Their differing circumstances means there is something of an inequity in the relationship between Eleanor and Park, her life has meant that in many ways she hasn’t experienced many of the cultural things that Park has. Music however is something she knows even if what she knows is different to what Park knows. He might know the stuff that’s current but she knows the greats that have come before. She is able to teach him in the way he is able to teach her – this is the power of music and something that moved me greatly as I read.

This book is hard to describe neatly. It’s quiet and yet huge, its story is simple and yet multi-faceted. Fundamentally this is a book that will claw its way under your skin, dragging you into its characters’ lives, staying front and centre in your brain even once you’ve finished reading. I absolutely loved it and am already looking forward to revisiting it.

Eleanor and Park is published by Orion in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.

Book Review

Book Review: Rule by Jay Crownover.

RuleOpposites in every way . . . except the one that matters

Shaw Landon loved Rule Archer from the moment she laid eyes on him. Rule is everything a straight-A pre-med student like Shaw shouldn’t want – and the only person she’s never tried to please. She isn’t afraid of his scary piercings and tattoos or his wild attitude. Though she knows that Rule is wrong for her, her heart just won’t listen.

To a rebel like Rule Archer, Shaw Landon is a stuck-up, perfect princess – and his dead twin brother’s girl. She lives by other people’s rules; he makes his own. He doesn’t have time for a good girl like Shaw – even if she’s the only one who can see the person he truly is.

But a short skirt, too many birthday cocktails, and spilled secrets lead to a night neither can forget. Now, Shaw and Rule have to figure out how a girl like her and a guy like him are supposed to be together without destroying their love… or each other.

I have to be honest and say that I don’t read many New Adult novels at all. I’m a big fan of adult romance novels, but there hasn’t been a lot to make me want to dip into the New Adult selection – mainly I think because it has turned out to be something entirely different to what I’d expected it would be (but that’s a blog post all in its own right). I had Katie McGarry’s books recommended to me and loved those so when the same recommender (thanks Liz!) told me about Jay Crownover’s books I knew I needed to give them a try. I’m so glad I did, having now read the first two books I’ve found I love them as dearly as any series I’ve loved in a while.

This book uses a dual narrative, both Rule and Shaw share in the story telling duties. I think this works really well for this sort of story, when emotions are such a driving force behind interactions I want to understand both characters rather than seeing one of them only through the other’s eyes. It does of course mean that when one or both of the characters are being stupid you both understand why they’re being stupid and find yourself wanting to shout at them both. Or maybe that’s just me getting over-invested in things?

Rule gets the opening chapter of the book and had captured my attention well before the end of it, he’s an intriguing character and I want to get to know him and what makes him tick. The reader gets to meet Shaw in this first chapter too, but the version of Shaw that Rule sees – when she takes over the narrative in the second chapter you quickly come to realise that the real Shaw is pretty different to Rule’s version. Again my attention was well and truly captured, my reading pace picked up a little.

In addition to the two main characters the author has created a whole cast of interesting supporting characters, from Shaw’s friend Ayden to Rule’s coworkers in the tattoo shop. I was really pleased to see that the subsequent books in this series, Marked Men focus on these supporting characters – I actually downloaded the second book Jet as soon as I finished reading Rule. Whilst I loved all of the men that Rule’s friends with my favourite of the supporting characters was Cora, I can’t wait for it to be her turn to be in the spotlight.

Like all good romance novels the will they won’t they doesn’t focus so much on whether the couple will get together, but instead on whether they’ll make it work. The stumbling block that they experience was not remotely what I’d expected, but it definitely fit the characters very well. It was one of those revelations that made so much sense of much of the story that had come before, the sort of thing that makes me look forward to re-reading the book with this new knowledge. I loved the way their relationship didn’t exist in a vacuum, with such a tight knit group of friends the repercussions were broader and more genuine as a result.

The New Adult age banding allows for adult style sex scenes, these are well written and appropriately steamy. This means of course that it’s not a book I’d be recommending to teenage readers. I know that this goes with the target audience but I think it bears repeating. Considering the New Adult label I have to say that this is the sort of book I want from New Adult, Shaw is a student and both she and Rule are still finding their way in the adult world. They’re juggling their adult lives with the pressures of family and expectation, and of finding their own path and way. If I drew up a list of what I wanted to see in a New Adult novel Rule would tick the core criteria and offers more still.

This book worked so well for me because I really cared about all the characters. This meant it completely clawed its way under my skin – once I’d started reading it I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night until I’d finished it. The overarching theme of the book is about being true to yourself, being the person you are regardless of the external forces trying to mould you into something altogether different. This is such an important message, and it’s conveyed really well in this book. It left me thinking after I’d finished reading, always the sign of a good book.

Rule is published by Harper in the UK. My copy of the book is one I purchased myself.