Author Archives: Kat

About Kat

I live with my fiancé and our three cats, Cinders, Macaroni & Cheese. I'm actively involved in a wonderful reading forum www.bookclubforum.co.uk (the friendliest book forum on the web ;) ) and I spend a lot of time on there chatting books and other stuff. Aside from reading, I love to make things. Anything from cross stitch, to cooking.

Among Others by Jo Walton

Title:  Among OthersImage
Author:  Jo Walton
ISBN: 978-1472106537
Publisher:  Corsair

First Published:  Mar 2013 (Paperback)
No .of pages:  416

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
“It doesn’t matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.” Fifteen-year-old Morwenna lives in Wales with her twin sister and a mother who spins dark magic for ill. One day, Mori and her mother fight a powerful, magical battle that kills her sister and leaves Mori crippled. Devastated, Mori flees to her long-lost father in England. Adrift, outcast at boarding school, Mori retreats into the worlds she knows best: her magic and her books. She works a spell to meet kindred souls and continues to devour every fantasy and science fiction novel she can lay her hands on. But danger lurks… She knows her mother is looking for her and that when she finds her, there will be no escape.

Review:
The best description of this book is a quote on the back cover from Patrick Rothfuss “Funny, touching and gently magical”.  I couldn’t have summed it up any better. 

Whilst the synopsis tells us of a great tale of good versus evil, of magic and spells and of a long standing magical battle; the book is much more understated.  It is written as a diary from Mori’s point of view where the magic almost takes a back seat to the everyday, general goings on of a teenage girl.  There is a very fine balance between Mori’s coming of age story and the magic and mystery of the world she has grown up with and Jo Walton has achieved it perfectly.  We are with Mori through her struggles with family and school life as well as attempting to negotiate the minefield which is the opposite sex, whilst at the same time and almost as casually, she is attempting to understand the murky and tangled world of magic and spells that has been with her all her life and led to the loss of her sister.

Jo Walton has managed to take a magical story and bring it right back to an everyday setting to which we can all relate.  This book is not a rip-roaring adventure of magical hijinks and escapism.  It is more an everyday world with a magical undercurrent.  The pace is slow but continuous and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.

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The Kindest Thing by Cath Staincliffe

ImageTitle:  The Kindest Thing
Author:  Cath Staincliffe
ISBN: 978-1849012089
Publisher:  Constable & Robinson (C & R Crime)

First Published:  May 2010 (Paperback)
No .of pages:  272

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
When Deborah reluctantly helps her beloved husband Neil end his life and conceals the truth, she is charged with murder. As the trial unfolds and her daughter Sophie testifies against her, Deborah, still reeling with grief, fights to defend her actions. Twelve jurors hold her fate in their hands, if found guilty she will serve a life sentence. Deborah seeks solace in her memories of Neil and their children and the love they shared. An ordinary woman caught up in an extraordinary situation.  A finely written page-turner, compelling, eloquent, heart-breaking. The Kindest Thing tackles a controversial topic with skill and sensitivity. A book that begs the question: what would you do?

Review:
This was quite a riveting read for me.  I thought I had quite a solid opinion on assisted suicide but over the course of the book I have questioned it several times and I’m now much less sure of where I stand.  The story is told from the viewpoint of Deborah who is on trial for the murder of her husband Neil.  Neil was a Motor Neurone Disease sufferer and Deborah assisted him when he decided it was time to end his life.  Whilst the book is solely from Deborah’s view, as the story and the trial unfolds you begin to see the wider consequences of what has happened to this family. 

Although my opinions on the subject have wavered, my support for Deborah through the book remained.  You are never far from the fact that she truly loved her husband and everything she did was for him despite her better judgement.  You really feel for her when she describes the hellish time she had even contemplating what her husband wanted of her and for me, the most poignant moment was the realisation of what she had taken from her children.  Yes, she had helped her husband and done as he asked but her children were denied the opportunity to say goodbye and possibly from seeing their mother again as she is put on trial.

The ups and downs of the trial has kept me riveted throughout and I must admit that I stayed in my bath considerably longer than I really should have but I just had to know poor Deborah’s fate.  I won’t give the ending away but I will encourage you all to go and read this.

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The Last Letter From Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

Title:  The Last Letter From Your LoverImage
Author:  Jojo Moyes
ISBN: 978-0340961643
Publisher:  Hodder

First Published:  February 2011 (Paperback)
No .of pages:  512

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
When journalist Ellie looks through her newspaper’s archives for a story, she doesn’t think she’ll find anything of interest. Instead she discovers a letter from 1960, written by a man asking his lover to leave her husband – and Ellie is caught up in the intrigue of a past love affair. Despite, or perhaps because of her own romantic entanglements with a married man.
In 1960, Jennifer wakes up in hospital after a car accident. She can’t remember anything – her husband, her friends, who she used to be. And then, when she returns home, she uncovers a hidden letter, and begins to remember the lover she was willing to risk everything for.
Ellie and Jennifer’s stories of passion, adultery and loss are wound together in this richly emotive novel – interspersed with real ‘last letters’.

Review:
Last year I read what I thought was the debut novel of Jojo Moyes, Me Before You, and I was surprised to find out that not only was this not her first book, but she had written several other books too!  Don’t ask me how I had managed to come this far without noticing her books, however, I am very pleased that she is now on my radar and she is currently 2 out of 2 in the enjoyment stakes.

The Last Letter From Your Lover is set between current time and 1960 and is focussed on a love letter found in the archives of a local newspaper.  We travel back in time and see how and why the letter came about.  Then we jump forward to current day and see what effects this old correspondence is having on Ellie, who stumbled upon it. 

Whilst this is a love story, it’s not your typical love story.  Each chapter has its own real life ‘last letter’, many of which are strange and wonderful, break up and make up letters.  It’s not all sunshine and roses but it’s certainly a love story which kept me gripped right up to the last page.

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The Life by Martina Cole

Title:  The LifeImage
Author:  Martina Cole
ISBN: 978-0755375578
Publisher:  Headline

First Published:  September 2012 (Hardback)
No .of pages:  512

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
The most authentic novel of gangster family life ever written, from the No. 1 bestselling author.
The Bailey brothers are gangsters determined to make their mark in the world. Peter and Daniel are chalk and cheese in many ways – Peter’s calm exterior belies his ruthless nature, while Daniel’s penchant for spectacular violence is legendary – but together they are unstoppable. From the late seventies they rule London’s East End and, when their sons join the business, it seems that no one can touch the powerful Baileys. Although it’s never easy at the top; there is always someone waiting to take you down – sometimes even those closest to you… Lena Bailey is determined to shield her youngest child Tania from the Life. But when a terrible tragedy occurs, Tania’s eyes are opened to their world in a way that forces her to make an irrevocable choice that will determine her future.
Martina Cole’s gritty and gripping new novel is an unflinching portrait of a family torn apart by violence and betrayal, but ultimately bound by loyalty, by blood, and by a burning desire for revenge… It is a story of the Life, told as only Martina Cole can.

Review:
Martina Cole never fails to disappoint me with her books.  I love her tales of the criminal underbelly and the way she brings generation after generation of families to life.  You really get invested in them.  These books are not to everyone’s taste as they can be quite graphic and violent but I find that this is balanced out completely in the way Cole creates her characters and sets the scene.

The Life has a very dominant and sinister undertone running through it due to the character of Daniel.  His unpredictable bouts of violence are a constant threat through the story and you never know quite when he is going to lose his cool or what the consequences would be for his family.  On the flip side is Peter, the calm and calculating side of the family.  He spends a lot of his time running around fixing the trouble his brother has caused whilst trying to keep their family businesses running.

We follow both Daniel and Peter through their life, along with their wives, their children and the ever increasing family that they belong too.  We grow with them; We love with them; We hate with them.  But as things come to a head, with tragic consequences, we learn that blood will always be thicker than water.

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Blink of an Eye by Cath Staincliffe

512MAHEYaZLTitle: Blink of an Eye
Author: Cath Staincliffe
ISBN: 978-1780335681
Publisher:  C & R Crime

First Published:  July 2013(paperback)
No .of pages:  272

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
In a heartbeat, life changes.  A sunny, Sunday afternoon, a family barbecue, and Naomi Baxter and her boyfriend Alex celebrate good news.  Driving home, Naomi’s recklessness causes a fatal accident, leaving nine-year-old Lily Vasey dead, Naomi fighting for her life, Alex bruised and bloody and the lives of three families torn apart.  Traumatised, Naomi has no clear memory of the crash and her mother Carmel is forced to break the shocking truth of the child’s death to her.  Naomi may well be prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving.  If convicted she will face a jail term of up to 14 years, especially if her sister’s claim that Naomi was drink-driving is proven.  In the months before the trial, Carmel strives to help a haunted and remorseful Naomi cope with the consequences of her actions.  Blink of an Eye is a novel about the nightmare that could be just around the next bend for any one of us.

 

Review:
This is my second Cath Staincliffe book.  After reading “Split Second” last year, I immediately went on the hunt for more of her books.  She writes about difficult scenarios that make you question your own opinions and own reactions if you were in a similar position.

“Blink of an Eye” is about a fatal car crash and the consequences it has on those involved and their families.  The story is told from the point of view of Naomi, who was in the crash and her mother Carmel, and it begins before the accident, at a family gathering.  Once the scene has been set, the readers already know what events are around the corner, although it isn’t built up as a big dramatic event.  I expected more to be made of the accident itself, however, once I had read the book to the end, it made sense to me that the accident was not the focal point of the story, it was more the catalyst for the events that followed.

And this is where the book gets really interesting.  I devoured the rest of it in two sittings, and only because I was forced to put it down the first time.  Naomi can remember nothing of the accident and is devastated at the news that she had caused the death of a child.  Her mother is torn between her sympathy for the little girl’s family and her concern for her seriously ill daughter.  As we shift between the two points of view, we begin to understand the devastating effect that the events of that day have had on everyone involved and as we move towards a trial, it all starts to unravel.

My only criticism of this book is a couple of plot points that, to me, would not have happened in real life; however, I understand why they had to happen in this book to continue the flow.  They don’t detract from the book at all and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I just feel it was a slightly less realistic situation than her previous book.

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Something From Tiffany’s by Melissa Hill

Title: Something from Tiffany’sImage
Author: Melissa Hill
ISBN: 978-0340993361
Publisher:  Hodder

First Published:  Oct 2011 (paperback)
No .of pages:  416

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Doesn’t every girl dream of getting . . . something from Tiffany’s?
It’s Christmas Eve. And on 5th Avenue in New York City, two very different men are shopping for gifts for the women they love.
Gary is buying his girlfriend Rachel a charm bracelet. Partly to thank her for paying for their holiday-of-a-lifetime to New York. But mainly because he’s left his Christmas shopping far too late.
Whereas Ethan’s looking for something a little more special – an engagement ring for the first woman to have made him happy since he lost the love of his life.
But when the two men’s shopping bags get confused, and Rachel somehow ends up with Ethan’s ring, the couples’ lives become intertwined. And, as Ethan tries to reunite the ring with the woman it was actually intended for, he finds it trickier than expected.
Does fate have other ideas for the couples? Or is there simply a bit of Tiffany’s magic in the air . . .

Review:
Christmas Eve in New York and two purchases are being made from the world famous Tiffany’s.  Two very lucky ladies will have the joy of finding a little blue box under their tree; however, after a shopping bag mix up, the contents of those boxes are not intended for those that receive them.

We follow the story of Gary and Rachel and Ethan and Vanessa (with the help of little Daisy) as the search is on to retrieve the correct gifts.

Whilst I was a little frustrated at the roundabout ways in which the characters dealt with the circumstances that had arisen, I was able to suspend my criticism of their actions to go along with it  enjoy the story unfolding.  It has everything in there for a good read; A little bit of mystery, a few good twists, a little splash of romance and magic and of course, a little blue box from Tiffany’s.  Definitely recommended for light, enjoyable reading.

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The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain

Title: The Midwife’s ConfessionImage
Author: Diane Chamberlain
ISBN: 978-0778304661
Publisher:  MIRA

First Published:  June 2011 (paperback)
No .of pages:  432

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Would you read a letter never meant to be opened? Would you want to know secrets never meant to be told?  Or should a woman’s mistakes stay buried?  An unfinished letter was hidden amongst Tara and Emerson’s best friend’s things after her suicide. Noelle was the woman they entrusted to deliver their precious babies into the world, a beloved friend. Her suicide shocked them both. But her legacy could destroy them. For her letter reveals a terrible secret that challenges everything they thought they knew. Taking them on a journey that will irrevocably change their own lives – and the life of a desperate stranger – forever.

Review:
I picked up this book after reading and hearing multiple recommendations and I wasn’t disappointed.  I can’t agree that she is as good as Jodi Picoult but I can appreciate the comparison and will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.  I was a few chapters in before I got a feeling of deja vu and it took me a couple more chapters before I realised why this book was so familiar;  It is incredibly similar to the start of the Desperate Housewives TV series, just on a more serious level.  Being a big fan of DH, I was more than happy to continue reading.

Despite feeling like I already knew the story (which I didn’t, for those of you that have seed DH) I still enjoyed it.  There are several twists and turns in the story to keep you on your toes.  Some I had already guessed and some genuinely took me by surprise.  Chamberlain is very good at leading the reader on and making you feel like you’ve gotten everything figured out, then pulling the rug from under you.  It makes for a very interesting read.

The book is about 3 friends and we are first introduced to them when Noelle commits suicide, out of the blue and Tara and Emerson are left to try and figure it all out.  When clearing out Noelle’s things, they come across a partially written letter and in an effort to try and understand what drove their friend to kill herself, they set out on a journey to unravel a story, with unimaginable consequences.  The story jumps back and forth from current time to events from the past and has so many twists and turns that I wasn’t sure where it was going to stop.  The story held my interest from the outset and I’m sure any fans of Picoult out there will enjoy Chamberlain’s style.

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Blue Angel by Logan Belle

Title: Blue AngelImage
Author: Logan Belle
ISBN: 978-1472106148
Publisher:  Canvas (Constable & Robinson)
First Published:  Oct 2012 (paperback)
No .of pages:  244

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
The throbbing music, the raucous catcalls, the glamorous costumes, and most of all the sensual skin of burlesque reveal much to the audience, but for Mallory the biggest revelation is her own untapped desire.  When recent law school grad Mallory Dale’s boyfriend, Alec, takes her to a burlesque club for her birthday, she is annoyed. Is this a show for her, or for him? But when beautiful, mysterious burlesque star Bette Noir pulls Mallory on stage, Mallory’s world changes overnight. Soon, Bette becomes Mallory’s private tutor in the tantalizing art of the striptease. Exploring burlesque awakens Mallory’s true erotic nature, but if she devotes herself to her new-found sensual pleasures, will she risk losing Alec? Or can she really have it all?

Review:
On the back of the “50 Shades revolution” we have recently been inundated with books of the more erotic variety.  We experienced something similar a couple of years ago with the Twilight Saga, and whilst I didn’t really appreciate the originals, I was more than happy to read more of the genre that came to light in their wake.  In a similar vein, I have read 50 Shades (the less said about that the better, really) and now I’m looking, with interest, at similar books being released in the slip stream.  This one caught my eye as it was burlesque in nature and not BDSM.  Whilst I knew it would still be erotic in nature, I was engaged by the idea of a woman going to a burlesque club and becoming enamoured with the lifestyle.  Unlike many of its predecessors, it’s not about being submissive; this book is more about female empowerment.  The lead character, Mallory, is going through some difficult times in her life and the burlesque scene allows her to deal with her issues and grow as a person and as a woman.  Whilst I understand that this book is from the erotic genre, and by definition, has some very descriptive scenes within it, I personally don’t think they were necessary.  With a few tweaks here and there (of the book, naughty!), I think this could have been a fantastic story in its own right, without the overt sexual content.  My only concern is that the actual story may be overlooked because people are after a naughty thrill.  I hope not though, because there is a genuine talent lurking within.  If you are looking for something with more depth than the 50 Shades trilogy, then this is for you.  Don’t worry, you still get your fix of full-on fantasy, and you may even learn a few things along the way ;)

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
ImageAuthor: Catherynne M Valente
ISBN: 978-1780339818
Publisher:  Corsair
First Published:  Feb 2012 (hardback) / Oct 2012 (paperback)
No .of pages:  336

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
September is a twelve-year-old girl, Somewhat Grown and Somewhat Heartless, and she longs for adventure. So when a Green Wind and a Leopard of Little Breezes invite her to Fairyland – well, of course, she accepts (mightn’t you?). When she gets there, she finds a land crushed by the iron rule of a villainous Marquess – she soon discovers that she alone holds the key to restoring order. As September forges her way through Fairyland, with a book-loving dragon and a boy named Saturday by her side, she makes many friends and mistakes. But while she loses her shadow, her shoe and her way, she finds adventure, courage, a rather special Spoon, and a lot more besides . . .

Review:
I can’t rate this book highly enough.  It is so lovely and fantastical and magical that my inner child just ate it up.  I’m still a little conflicted about the target audience as, for all intents and purposes, it’s a children’s story, but then nestled in amongst the almost lyrical story are words like vichyssoise and talk of diplomatic immunity.  My overall thought is that it is a children’s book, but it’s intended to be read out loud by a nominated adult, who, whilst telling this wonderful tale, will get just as much from it as the utterly engrossed listener.

September is one lucky girl.  You know that moment, where your imagination runs away with you, and you are taken to a far off world where everything is colourful and magical and nothing like every day, boring life??  Well, September gets to live that!

One day, she is going about her usual tasks and then from nowhere appears the Green Wind riding on a leopard.  Without even a backwards glance, September climbs through the window and embarks on a journey to Fairyland and finds herself having in the craziest adventure.  Along the way we meet some loveable (and some not so loveable) characters, my favourite being Ell the “Wyvery” (the offspring of a Wyvern and a Library – it all makes sense when you read it!)

The story is engrossing and hurtles along at a very fast pace throughout, although sometimes, I just couldn’t turn the pages quick enough!  September’s journey through Fairyland is not all fun and games though, and she has some serious decision making to do on her way, along with a battle or two for survival.

The book leaves the story open enough for September to continue her adventures in Fairyland and I am so pleased to know that there is at least one more adventure for her to have, although I’m definitely hoping for many more.

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Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

Image

Title: Lone Wolf
Author: Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 978-1444729016
Publisher:  Hodder
First Published:  Feb 2012 (hardback) / Oct 2012 (paperback)
No .of pages:  496

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
When Luke Warren is involved in a car accident which leaves him in a coma, his family are gathered together against the odds; they face an impossible dilemma.
His daughter Cara is praying for a miracle: she will fight everything and everyone to save her father’s life.
His son Edward can’t imagine that a man who once ran with wolves could ever be happy with a different life.
But Edward hasn’t spoken to Luke for six years. How can he dare to speak on his father’s behalf?
Somehow, they must choose:
Do they keep Luke alive?
Or do they let him go?

Review:
This wasn’t my favourite Picoult book and at times I found it a bit of a struggle to continue reading, however, towards the end, the pace picked up and overall, I’m glad I persevered.  This book asks those age old questions about life and death and how we cope.  We are also given a new perspective from that of the wolf and how they, as a pack, deal with very similar situations.

Throughout the book, Luke is in a coma.  We follow his story through a series of flashbacks where we learn of his experiences out in the wild, living with the wolves and his struggle to reintegrate himself back into his family.  His time with the wolves and the journey he takes to be accepted by the pack are crazy but touching at the same time.  Luke (and in turn, the reader) is taught a great many lessons from these wild animals and their way of life.  This aspect of the book, sometimes felt at odds to the on-going story, but overall was a fantastic way of giving the man in the coma his own voice.

The remainder of the book is written from the conflicting views of his two children, his ex-wife and her new husband, and a court appointed guardian.  Edward doesn’t want to see his father suffer any longer and wants to exercise his father’s wish to be an organ donor.  Cara wants her father to be given the chance to pull through and perhaps recover from his injuries.  Georgia is pulled back into the life she left a long time ago and is stuck between her two warring children.
I suppose my own personal preferences are quite obvious as, whilst I sympathised with Cara, I thought Edward was in the right.  However, I do appreciate that depending on the reader, this will change.  Picoult has written the book in such a way that both sides of the story are given equal viewing and she never leans one way or another.  This gives the reader the chance to make up their own mind.
Picoult is a master at making us ask ourselves those difficult questions.  Which way would you turn?  How would you react in this situation?  And at the same time, she writes beautifully poignant stories that tie you to the characters and ensure you stay with them every step of the way.

 

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