Book Review

My Week In Books. [6]

Each Monday I review the books I’ve read in the previous week in mini reviews.

Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby. Bloomsbury Childrens.
I liked the way this book throws you right into the action from the very beginning, the reader is introduced to the main character – teen paparazzo Jo – as she tries to get photographs of teen heartthrob Ned. I found that I liked Jo straight away, and then as the book progressed there was more and more to like. When she’s sent undercover to try and get highly private pictures of Ned at a rehab retreat her dilemma over whether she can bring herself to invade his privacy for the amount of money being offered feels genuine and draws the reader in.

I often find books where one character is hiding a pretty big secret from the other really stressful to read. There was a small part of this book that had me feeling a bit stressed but the way the plot is handled and evolves meant that I found myself really enjoying it. There’s a lovely blend of humorous moments and more thoughtful moments, the latter in particular may well leave readers thinking about our current celebrity culture and its cost.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally. Sourcebooks Fire.
I absolutely loved this book. I expected it would be one that I would really enjoy, I’m a huge sports fan so the idea of a book about a female quarterback trying to lead her high school team to the championship final sounded like something I’d really enjoy. I was hooked within the first chapter and I didn’t put it down until I’d read the final page. The plot is wonderful, yes it’s a story about high school football but it’s also a story about friendship, about love, and about family.

I loved Jordan and found that I could really identify with her, despite the fact I’d never been remotely sporty let alone so entirely sport driven. The various team mates who played significant parts in the book all made me smile, they really came across well as a group of friends who all cared for and supported each other. I found myself wishing I was part of their social circle! I have a feeling that when I’m deciding on my top ten reads of the year this book may well make the cut.

Love at Second Sight by Cathy Hopkins. Simon & Schuster UK.
I hadn’t read anything by Cathy Hopkins before but I knew lovely Liz from My Favourite Books is a big fan so when she offered me a copy of this to read I snapped it up. I have to admit that before I started reading I wasn’t 100% sure about it, the plot surrounds a teen girl being told by a clairvoyant that her true love from a former life is someone she knows in this life so she has a second chance of love with him. I needn’t have been concerned though, the plot is well constructed and really works.

Jo, the main character, is a lovely character. She’s a little bit different to a lot of the girls who get to take centre stage in YA fiction and I found this refreshing. Her friendship with Effy and Tash is lovely, I particularly liked the way that they complemented one another without having to agree on everything. I also liked the focus on genealogy within the plot, it was good to see it described well.

I enjoyed this read so much that I already have my next Cathy Hopkins on reserve at my local library.

Sammy Feral’s Diaries of Weird by Eleanor Hawken. Quercus.
This book is a lovely, quick, funny read that I’m sure middle grade readers will love. Written in diary form this is a really entertaining read about a boy whose family are all turned into werewolves at the zoo they run. After discovering his family’s misfortune Sammy is desperate to find a cure and to get them all back to normal. He’s helped along in his quest by the mysterious Donny and Red, a team of cryptozoologists who arrive at just the right time.

There are plenty of laughs in this book along with some moments that I’m sure the target audience will be appropriately scared by. I think this book has a lot of potential as a read aloud book, I can imagine a group listening very attentively to it. There are plans for a second book in this series, I’m looking forward to it already.

Book Review

Book Review : Kiss Date Love Hate by Luisa Plaja.

Lex Murphy and her friends have complicated relationships. If only there was a way to avoid all the dating/hating drama…

When Lex fills a cool new computer game with characters based on herself and her classmates, she makes some ‘wishful thinking’ adjustments to the profiles. Finally, everyone can be perfectly matched and happy, at least on screen. Love, Life, Looks – it’s all under Lex’s in a harmless game,

After all, these changes can’t come true… can they?

From the moment I saw the cover to this book I knew I had to read it as soon as I could, whilst I’m not remotely a pink person the little computer characters and generally pixelated look of it really appealed to my inner geek. Then there was the synopsis, the idea that Lex could influence real life via a computer game, an intriguing concept. I thought I had a bit of an inkling of what to expect from this book, my expectations were met and exceeded my far.

I loved the plot of this book, Lex is made to go on a film-making course over half term – she sees it as a punishment but her headteacher sees it as an opportunity for her to reach her full potential. Along with her on the course are her friends, and her ex-boyfriend and Lex’s former best friend who masterminded the break up. Lex’s friend George shows her a computer game Life, Love, Looks that his dad is testing, they build characters for everyone on the course and then Lex starts to have fun making alterations to them so that the digital versions match up better with her ideal situation.

This wouldn’t be a great contemporary story if there wasn’t some brilliant romantic tension, and this book certainly ticks that box. Lex is still lusting after Matt, her ex-boyfriend, but is increasingly aware of her fellow always in trouble student Drew. He seems to have ideas about Lex, but she’s too hung up on Matt to really consider him… well maybe. Whilst Lex is trying to work out her feelings, her next door neighbour and close friend George is trying his hardest to get Jess to notice him despite her opinion that high school boys are all far too immature.

The characters within this book are brilliant, I found myself comparing them to some of the people I was at school with. These characters are all so real, the way they talk to one another and relate to one another really rings true. I loved the way that so many of the characters had hidden depths, it was a real pleasure getting to know them all better. Lex is a great leading lady, whilst at times I found her view of things difficult to agree with felt I could understand her really well. I loved Drew too, he’s the kind of male character I know the teen me would love because the grown up me still does!

It’s really hard to explain why I loved this book so much without spoiling the reading experience. I was really enjoying it and then reached a point where for me it went from being a great book to being an absolutely brilliant one. When I finished it I marvelled at the cleverness of the book, and how it evolved over the course of just under 300 pages. It’s a week now since I finished it, and my thoughts still keep returning to it.

I think this book will be a really valuable read for all teenagers, it’s prompted me to start a list of books that my future library must own. I know I’m going to be recommending it to anyone who’ll listen.

Kiss Date Love Hate is published in paperback and eBook by Corgi in the UK from 2nd February 2012. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Breakfast at Darcy’s by Ali McNamara.

When Darcy McCall loses her beloved Aunt Molly, she doesn’t expect any sort of inheritance – let alone a small island. Located off the west coast of Ireland, Tara hasn’t been lived on for years, but according to Molly’s will Darcy must stay there for twelve months in order to fully inherit, and she needs to persuade a village full of people to settle there, too. Darcy has to leave behind her independent city life and swap stylish heels for muddy wellies. Between sorting everything from the plumbing to the pub, Darcy meets confident Conor and ever-grumpy Dermot – but who will make her feel really at home?

I had heard lots of great things about Ali McNamara’s debut novel From Notting Hill with Love… Actually so when I was offered the chance to read her new novel I was pleased to be able to give it a go.

For me the book started pretty slowly, I wasn’t particularly grabbed by the plot – Darcy is introduced as your typical city dwelling chick lit protagonist, image obsessed and career focused. When she discovers that she has inherited an island providing she builds a community on it for a year she of course is pushed into accepting the challenge and sets about it. It was once the “casting” of the islanders and the move had taken place that I started to enjoy the plot more. I particularly liked seeing how they built the community, and the involvement of Eamon – the island’s only established resident, though I would have liked to get to know some of the new islanders more.

I initially found Darcy to be a very hard to like character, as the plot developed and her character did too I did find myself warming to her more. I found the same with Dermot, one of the two men who have their eye on Darcy. When we first meet him he’s not very likeable at all, I actually found that he bothered me so much that in my dreams the night I started reading the book he was there being all disapproving. Again though he became more likeable over the course of the book and eventually I did find myself rooting for him.

The island, Tara, is almost a character in herself. I loved the idea of this little island, and I loved the hints of folklore that were sprinkled throughout the book though for me these could have been expanded on more – there were a couple that I kept expecting to see become integral parts of the plot but this did not happen.

Overall I found Breakfast at Darcy’s to be a fairly enjoyable read that started off slowly but left me feeling content by the end. It sadly did not live up to my expectations based on the hype around From Notting Hill with Love… Actually but I’m certainly glad I kept going with it.

Breakfast at Darcy’s is published in paperback by Sphere in the UK priced £6.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Crash Into Me by Jill Sorenson.

Though he’s gone into virtual seclusion, Ben Fortune is still the world’s most famous surfer, known as much for his good looks as for his skill. He’s also a suspect in a series of brutal murders that may have begun with his late wife. Now FBI Special Agent Sonora “Sonny” Vasquez has been sent undercover to the elite beach community of La Jolla to make friends with Fortune. With her fierce beauty and take-no-prisoners attitude, she’s more than equipped for the job, and soon she and Ben have collided in an affair that is both intense and irresistible. But for the first time in Sonny’s career, her emotions are threatening to get the better of her. Could this passionate, wounded man, who is genuinely anguished over his troubled daughter, really be a killer? And could falling in love blind Sonny to the greatest danger of all?

When I first read the synopsis for this I must admit my thoughts jumped straight to Point Break. It was the whole undercover in the world of surfers thing, plus I’d only recently watched the film for the first time. Once I’d moved my attention back to the book I liked the sound of Sonny so I eagerly started reading.

The reader is introduced to Sonny in the first chapter, seeing her in the surroundings of the FBI training centre. Straight away it becomes clear that she’s quite a prickly character, very focussed on her job and maintaining her professional reputation. The chapter also sets up the mystery plot that earns the book its place within the suspense subset of the Rouge Romance list – there’s a serial killer within the surf community and Sonny must go undercover to investigate. To make things more interesting, it’s a return to Sonny’s roots, she grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in the same town that these murders have been taking place.

We initially get to see Ben through Sonny’s eyes, through her observations of him as she starts her undercover work. She has him in her sights as a possible suspect, his wife was killed in similar circumstances, though from everything she can see he seems like an unlikely target. She instead uses his daughter to get to him, and then once she has her way in gets to know him in every way.

I liked the plot, though I spent a fair amount of time worrying about what was going to happen when Ben inevitably found out about Sonny’s deception and lies. I liked that their relationship was a little more complicated than sparks fly, they fall in love, the end – they both came with stories and baggage, and were realistic characters.

In addition to Sonny and Ben the other characters were well created and interesting. Carly, Ben’s daughter, is a troubled teen who seems to be constantly challenging her dad. This sort of character could easily become cliched but Sorenson manages to avoid this pitfall.

From the mystery side of the plot I thought I’d got it worked out but discovered I’d got it completely wrong, and the reveal was a surprise to me. I know some people like to be able to work out whodunnit early on but I’m always happy when I don’t manage to work it out. There were however bits of the plot that I was less keen on, some aspects felt a little bit too convenient and at times unnecessary. These were fairly minor quibbles though.

I really enjoyed this book, I liked the surf setting – it was something a bit different. I’d definitely read more by Jill Sorenson in the future.

Wild Heat is published in eBook by Rouge Romance in the UK priced £4.80. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Wild Heat by Bella Andre.

Maya Jackson doesn’t sleep with strangers. Until the night grief sent her to the nearest bar and into the arms of the most explosive lover she’s ever had. Six months later, the dedicated arson investigator is coming face to face with him again. Gorgeous, sexy Logan Cain. Her biggest mistake. Now her number-one suspect in a string of deadly wildfires. As leader of an elite fire-fighting crew in Tahoe, Logan won’t back down from a blaze – or a woman. Maya Jackson may have seduced him with her tears and her passion, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before Logan lets down his guard again. Until Maya’s life is threatened and with his natural-born hero instincts kicking in, Logan vows to protect the woman sworn to bring him down. And as desire reignites, nothing – not the killer fire or the killer hot on their trail – can douse the flames…

Now whilst I am aware of the fact that firemen are not irresistible to all women I’m definitely a sucker for a man in uniform, I remember being hugely disappointed that when I got trapped in a lift the firemen who came to rescue us were all retained firefighters close to retirement age! The blurb for this book therefore hooked me straight away and I knew it was one that I would more than likely enjoy.

The first chapter introduces Maya, she’s had to deal with the belongings of her brother, a firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. She’s hurt, confused and angry over his death and the somewhat questionable circumstances that surround it. It is this emotional turmoil that leads her to make the uncharacteristic move of getting drunk and having a hot one night stand. The second chapter properly introduces Logan, the man from the one night stand. We get to know that he is a specialised firefighter, part of a hot shot crew who deal with dreadful wildland fires. We also get shown just how dangerous this work is, the chapter is action packed and incredibly tense.

After the opening two chapters set the scene and introduce the main characters, the plot spins into a mystery – someone is deliberately setting the fires that the hot shots are fighting, and Maya is the investigator sent to find out who it is. I found the mystery aspect of the book pretty well done, there are plenty of characters introduced that could be the arsonist, whilst I had suspected a few of them I only very briefly considered the actual culprit.

In a romance novel the relationship between the two lead characters has to be a focal point, and has to work for the reader. I found that the relationship between Maya and Logan was pretty sizzling. After that first night together when they were reunited they both intended to resist the other, but of course that didn’t happen. I liked that Maya was a strong and determined woman, I am not a fan of female characters who simply swoon into the obvious hero’s arms. Logan also worked well for me, he’s definitely an attractive character. I liked reading about his role within the hotshot crew and getting to understand the relationships between him and his fellow crew members.

Whilst I really enjoyed this book it was far from perfect. There were a couple of scenes that left me scratching my head, but I could forgive it these as it was such an enjoyable read. This is the first in a series of books about this particular hot shot crew, I’m definitely going to be reading the others.

Wild Heat is published in eBook by Rouge Romance in the UK priced £4.80. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book News

Introducing… Rouge Romance.

For the rest of this week I’m going to be featuring a new digital list from Ebury, Rouge Romance.

The Rouge list is split into six sub-genres – Regency, Historical, Suspense, Contemporary, Paranormal and Occasions and includes many award-winning, New York Times best-selling authors. All the novels are full length and feature covers specially designed for the UK market. They released eight titles released when they launched on 29 September, and plan to publish four books each month with additional extra ones at times like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. The list is eBooks only at the moment, but there are plans to release print versions of the most popular titles in the future.

They have a website which has details of all of the books they have published so far, and information about the authors behind the books. At the moment there is a PDF sampler available to download that gives you a peek at 8 of the titles currently available. In addition to the website they can be found on Twitter @RougeRomance and Facebook here.

I’ve read Bella Andre’s Wild Heat and Jill Sorenson’s Crash Into Me, both from the Suspense sub-genre. I’ll be reviewing Wild Heat tomorrow and Crash Into Me on Friday so make sure you come back to find out what I thought of them!

Blog Tour

Guest Post : Breakfast with Ali.

I’m very happy today to be welcoming author Ali McNamara to my blog as part of her blog tour for her new novel Breakfast at Darcy’s.

Over to Ali…

I think one of the most commonly asked questions of novelists is “Where do you get your ideas from?’

And it’s one of the hardest to answer, because usually they spring out of nowhere. What sometimes seems like a great idea when you first think of it, might never actually lead anywhere. Sometimes you don’t even know you’ve had an idea until it keeps banging away in your mind as if it’s trying to tell you it needs to escape and become something else. And sometimes an idea hits you so hard in the face you feel like you’ve been hit by a clown throwing ‘idea’ shaped custard pies.

‘Breakfast at Darcy’s’ was the latter of three. One year I was on holiday with my husband, in a momentary fit of insanity I’d agreed it would be a good idea to take a touring holiday around Ireland in a motorhome, I have no idea why now to this day. The luxury motorhome I hired with my husband was not quite the home-from-home we were promised over the Internet, I actually christened it the ‘dustbin on wheels’ it was so bad. But however as we trundled about Ireland, with fellow motor home enthusiasts giving us the caravaner’s wave as we passed each other on the roads, (and me hiding under the dashboard in acute embarrassment every time they did) one night when we parked up amongst spectacular scenery in County Kerry, directly opposite the island of Great Blasket, a casual chat about the beauty and remoteness of the island led to one of those random conversations about how you might go about trying to live on an island as isolated as that, and the seed of an idea was immediately planted in my brain for a new novel based around such an island.

So you could say the idea for ‘Breakfast at Darcy’s’ pretty much came from a wheelie bin…

You can find all the details of the other stops on Ali’s tour here. Ali has also been challenged to eat 30 different breakfasts in the 30 days leading up to the publication date for Breakfast at Darcy’s, you can check out the different breakfasts she’s tried over on her blog.