Posts Tagged With: book review

The Flood by Steven Scaffardi

IMG_6511Title: The Flood (Sex, Love and Dating Disasters #2)
Author: Steven Scaffardi
Publisher: Lad Lit Press
First Published: 30 April 2016 (Kindle)
No .of pages: 359

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
One bet, four girls, eight weeks, multiple dates. What could possibly go wrong?

Following his traumatic eight month dry spell, Dan Hilles is back in the driving seat and ready to put his dating disasters behind him.

But if only it were that simple.

After a drunken afternoon in the pub, fueled by the confidence of alcohol, Dan makes a bet with his three best pals that will complicate his love-life more than ever when he brazenly declares that he could juggle multiple women all at the same time.

With just eight weeks to prove his point, Dan is about to find out how hard it is to date a flood of women without them all finding out about each other, especially when they come in the shape of an ex-girlfriend, a stalker, the office ice queen and the one that got away.

The Flood is the hilarious follow-up to The Drought by lad lit author Steven Scaffardi, chronicling the adventures of unlucky-in-love Dan Hilles.

I was fortunate enough to review the first book in this series, (The Drought) a few years back (you can see my review HERE) and found it pants-wettingly hilarious, so when I was offered the chance of reviewing the sequel, I grabbed it with both hands, expecting to once again bust a gut laughing.

I was not disappointed!

The Flood picks up where we left Dan and his pals. A spanner has been thrown in the works of Dan’s love life, and his friends, Rob, Jack and Ollie, are there to lend him a shoulder to cry on. Oh, wait, hang on, this is LAD LIT, not chick lit – the guys would laugh Dan out of the pub if he cried like a big girl! Instead they’re there to poke fun at his total lack of prowess with the ladies, and get him into situations he’d do far better staying well out of. But if Dan didn’t get into trouble, we wouldn’t have this gem of a comedy to amuse us, and that would be a crying shame!

The lads are fleshed out more roundly, and we see a little more of what makes them all tick. Jack was still incredibly annoying (I don’t know – maybe it’s a girl thing, but I wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole!), but I found Rob strangely attractive – is he showing a slightly more sensitive side? I’ll leave you to be the judge of that. And Ollie, well, even the thickest of mates can occasionally be the wisest and most astute, and his seemingly naive words, more often than not, provide the advice that helps Dan the most.

Then there’s the introduction of a new Welsh workmate who isn’t black enough, and an absolutely insane flatmate with a dog obsession that had me almost falling out of my chair. More than once, I snorted coffee out of my nose whilst reading this book, and on one occasion I almost dropped my Kindle in the bathtub while reading in there, because I was laughing so hard – I couldn’t put it down!

Seriously, whether or not you are a fan of lad lit, if you like a good laugh, this is the book for you. Just make sure you read The Drought first to really get the most out of this sequel, (you can get it FREE from Amazon until the end of Monday 2nd May – just click HERE) then continue Dan’s hapless adventures in dating with The Flood. Never has a reversal of fortunes been so funny!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard – Early Glimpse


Beautiful Broken Things isn’t published until 28th Jan 2016, but I was lucky enough to be sent an early copy. I usually try to put reviews up closer to publication date, but I simply can’t keep quiet about this book!

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realizes, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

I want to talk about everything which happens in this book, but I also just want to shout ‘READ IT’ to everyone! The characters are so well written and developed.. I could relate to so many aspects of Caddy, even though I am now a long way from 16! She’s the quiet one, who wants something a little more from her life.. in particular she wants to experience a Significant Life Event… something special she can talk to people about.

Into her life steps Suzanne.. beautiful, confident, but also complicated and damaged by her past. Their developing friendship changes them both; as their lives, and Suzanne’s past, intertwine.

Rosie is also an important part of the book, as she watches two of her friendships change before her. She brings a different viewpoint, and the way she sticks by Caddy is lovely.

It’s so wonderful to see a YA book focusing on the amazing relationship which friendship can bring, with it’s highs, and it’s lows. The subjects raised within the book are beautifully handled, and events towards the end made me cry – and only one other book has ever done that!

It’s hard to believe that this is a debut book – it grabbed me from the moment I started reading, and didn’t let up at any point. Caddy, Rosie and Suzanne are characters who have a special place in my heart, and the story will most definitely stay with me. Please, pre-order it, then as soon as you have it, READ IT! 😀

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Lost Souls by Seth Patrick

lost souls

It’s always difficult to review a sequel. In most cases it’s going to be read only by those who have read the initial book, so a review needs to be for those people too. I’ve previously reviewed The Reviver here, and it’s remained one of my favourite reads. If you’ve already read it, and are wondering whether to read Lost Souls, my short answer is yes, you most certainly should. As I said in my review, I felt that The Reviver started more as a crime / thriller, with the supernatural aspect developing towards the end. In Lost Souls, that supernatural aspect is far more towards the forefront – and it works brilliantly.

For me, the main issue I have with a sequel is whether I can pick it up, a year after the first book, and get straight into it. I simply don’t have time for re-reading, and many good books have simply lost me early on in book two. Seth seems to have the balance just right here – he doesn’t spend ages going over the events of The Reviver, but there’s just enough to spark memories, and remind you what went before.

This is an ongoing story, and yet there’s no cliff hanger into the third book – and Seth has told me on twitter that yes, there will a third, and final book. Jonah is still the central character, and I’m glad Never plays a large part. He has to be one of my all time favourite characters – and some of his comments made me laugh, in the middle of a rather dark book!

I will go as far as to say that I found this a better book than the first. The Reviver spends some time laying the groundwork of reviving, and it’s place.. and the darker, scarier aspects come to the fore in this sequel. I’m so pleased it’s there’s a third book to come, but knowing how hard Seth can be on his characters, and he’s stated it’s the final book, I’m quite anxious about it!

Both The Reviver and Lost Souls are available now, and are highly recommended.. and you can wait alongside me for the final instalment!

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Monster by C.J. Skuse


At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits.

As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school – run wild.

Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive.

I’ve had books by C.J. Skuse on my wishlist for a while, so when I was offered a copy of Monster to try, I jumped at the chance. Her books seem to be have an unusual twist, something I like!

Monster is set in a boarding school, about to shut down for the Christmas break. I have no idea if boarding schools still exist here in the UK, but if they did, this is just as you would expect it to be.. if you grew up reading Enid Blyton! There’s even the strict housekeeper! However, this boarding school is brought up to date by it’s characters, as the author brings you some very modern teenagers.

As the book progresses, and the snow falls hard, the feel of the book changes. The girls are at great danger, but does this risk come from outside, or within? The depth to certain characters is revealed, and there are lots of twists and turns. I’ll be honest, I did guess the big twist quite early on, but then I’m an older reader, and I have a love of horror films and books, so I probably have a more twisted mind! lol

The first half of the book had a lot to offer, but it did feel slow in comparison to the rest.. it’s a slow build, getting to know the characters, and then a fast-paced ending, and I would have liked it a little more balanced. However, I did like the writing style, especially in the second half of the book, and the rest of the author’s books have gone up my wishlist a fair bit!

PS Pay attention to the chapter headings! 🙂

Published by MIRA Ink 24th Sept 2015

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Asking For It by Louise O’Neill


Emma is eighteen years old, she’s confident, she’s beautiful. One day she wakes up after a party, unable to remember much of what happened. There are photos, however – photos on snapchat and facebook, showing in explicit detail what happened. Emma has been raped – but the reactions this event brings are not what you expect.

Emma is a complex character, and to be honest, in the opening of the book she’s not very likeable. By the end though, my heart was breaking for her. Louise avoids the easier route, of focusing on the court case, or using different narrators – everything is seen through Emma’s eyes, and we feel everything she feels. I read some of the reactions, and realised I knew people who would probably think and say the same.

You’ll find lots of detailed reviews out there, but all I’m going to say is that this should be recommended reading for every teenager – it’s a difficult book to read, but these issues of rape, blame and consent need to be highlighted and talked about.

This powerful, important book is published 3rd Sept 2015 by Quercus – read it!

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Early Glimpse: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston


This is published near the end of October, but I was lucky enough to be offered an early copy, and it’s worth talking about now. The hardback looks as if it’s going to be rather beautiful, which reflects the writing inside.

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village, looking for a wife.

When Lo-Melkhiin – a formidable king – arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. Desperate to save her sister from certain death, she makes the ultimate sacrifice – leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man.

But it seems that a strange magic flows between her and Lo-Melkhiin, and night after night, she survives. Finding power in storytelling, the words she speaks are given strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. But she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king . . . if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster.

The story weaves magic and religion, romance, friendship and family, set against a harsh desert backdrop. It’s difficult to put down once you start, and I wish it had been longer. Worth putting on your wishlist, and looking out for!

Published by Pan Macmillan 22th Oct 2015

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The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich


I came across a cover reveal for this book some time ago, and immediately had to look it up. It sounded intriguing, so I started chatting on Dawn on twitter, and I knew this was a book I’d have to get hold of. I finally managed to get an early copy (thank you NIna!) and I managed to finish it just before YALC (YA Literature Convention). I took that proof copy with me for Dawn to sign, but as soon as I saw the finished version, I had to buy that as well – and apparently it sold out on the day!

So, what’s it about? Let’s have a look at the back cover…

I love the little bit at the top!

The book is written in a way which looks back at the Johnson Incident, and it explores it using diary entries, transcripts of videos, police interviews etc, along with little notes by the (unknown) author. This is a risky approach, but Dawn does it brilliantly, and there were many times that I believed I was reading about a real event, and I had to keep reminding myself that it was fiction!

As for the main character – well, Carly and Kaitlyn as two girls who share the same body, and it’s not clear whether this is a ‘multiple personality disorder’ as their psychiatrist believes, or two souls sharing the same body, as their friend Naida insists. Carly ‘exists’ during the day, and Kaitlyn at night.

The story is told from Kaitlyn’s point of view, with little glimpses into Carly’s world. As the information starts to come together, we start to discover more and more about Kaitlyn, the people who share her life, and the events leading up to the fire.

This book is beautifully written, and the layout brings out all of the nuances of each piece of information.It’s a study of mental illness, it’s a psychological thriller, it’s horror. It’s dark, it’s creepy, and extremely chilling.  Kaitlyn somehow gets into your head, and the story is so compelling. It’s published by Indigo on 6th August, and it’s going to be BIG.

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Darkmere by Helen Maslin


A castle. A curse. One dangerous holiday … Kate and her friends are spending the summer at Darkmere Castle in Devon which she thinks will be a perfect opportunity for her to get together with Leo. But instead, she s drawn into the dark story of an nineteenth-century girl who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house … and whose curse now hangs over them all.

Darkmere is described by the publisher as ‘Heart-stopping, gothic and dangerous’ and I would certainly agree. I was sent a review copy prior to YALC (YA Literature Convention) and by about halfway I was searching through amazon to find out what else the author had written. I was certainly surprised to find out that this is her first book!

I don’t want to give away much of the plot, but there are two cleverly intertwined stories. The first is a very modern one, with a group of teens taking a holiday in an inherited castle. The castle has been inherited by Leo, and he is very much in charge of the group. Kate has always felt an outsider, but hopes that being invited along by Leo will help her to finally fit in.

The other story is an historical one, telling the tale of Elinor, who’s also an outsider trying to fit in. She marries St Cloud, and becomes Mistress of Darkmere, but life there is not what she expected.

The thing which I loved about Helen’s writing is that the two main characters had such distinctive voices.. moving between the two times was an easy transition, as each told their own story in their own way. And yet, despite the different times and storylines, and the distinct voices, there were lots of similarities. At no point did one strand pull you away from the other, they complimented each other so well.

The two stories become more and more entwined, as Kate starts to question whether Darkmere is haunted. Helen writes scenes which create just the right level of unease.. it’s not a scary book as such, but certain parts are rather creepy. It builds to a tense, heart-stopping conclusion.

Darkmere is a dark YA novel, with lots to appeal to both teens and older readers. I loved the characters, the storylines, and the writing, and this is a well crafted novel. It also has a gorgeous cover! It’s out at the beginning of August, and I highly recommend it.

Published by Chicken House Books

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Drawn by Chris Ledbetter

drawn by chris ledbetterTitle: Drawn
Author: Chris Ledbetter
ISBN: 978-1772333763
Publisher: Evernight Teen
First Published: 5 June 2015 (Kindle) / 3 June 2015 (paperback)
No .of pages: 282

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Caught between the sweltering fall landscape of Wilmington, NC beaches and southern illusions and expectations, all sixteen year-old Cameron Shade thinks about is art. That, and for Farrah Spangled to view him as more than just a friend. Cameron hopes he can win her heart through art. After several warm interactions with Farrah, including painting together at the beach, Cameron discovers just how complex Farrah’s life is. Following a tense run-in with Farrah’s father, she forbids Cameron to speak to her again, but Cameron’s convinced there’s more behind the request. To impress Farrah, Cameron sketches her portrait into a mysterious sketchbook. He nearly jumps from his skin when the sketch moves and communicates with him. Farrah is now in grave danger because the sketch he drew of her sucked her real-life’s soul into the sketchbook. Cameron now has twenty days to extract Farrah. To save her, he must draw himself into the book. If he fails… they both die.

I don’t read an awful lot of teen fiction, but when I do, I only enjoy it if the premise is original and daring and grabs me from the get-go.

Let’s just say, I enjoyed this book!

Chris Ledbetter has done something few have done, and that is to write a teenaged boy with whom I, as a woman (and once, a teenaged girl) can relate. I felt for Cameron, I felt for him deeply, and was able to sink into his emotions and passion for art quite effortlessly. Farrah wasn’t quite so well, ahem, drawn as Cameron, but as she was not the main character, only the focus for Cameron’s growing affections, this was understandable – she was attractive, but as a reader I knew little about her, which was pitched very well, as Cameron didn’t really know all that much about her beyond the basics and his attraction for her.

The premise for the story was cleverly thought out and written with a light touch that lifted it above the ordinary – a heavier hand would have thrown everything out of balance and crushed the plot entirely. Its an unusual take on a Pygmalian-type of fantasy, where an artist brings his work of art to life, and falls in love with her, only Cameron is already falling for Farrah before he creates her Echo.

There was a tinge of sadness about the tale too – Ledbetter doesn’t shy away from the darker and more upsetting trials of teen and family life, and the complications inherent in relationships, whether familial, platonic, or romantic – and that’s refreshing. Yet, it never becomes maudlin – that lightness of touch and tone keeps things buoyant and ensures the reader doesn’t sink into depression while turning the pages. It’s a fine line, but Ledbetter walks it well.

Even if you don’t read young adult/teen fiction, don’t discount this book – it’s worth the effort and may just change your mind!

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

See my interview with the author HERE

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Wow. Honestly, wow. I’d been told this book was good, so I hoped for good. I got ‘wow’.  Uprooted is a fantasy story imbued with a feeling of fairytales – set in the surrounding areas of an evil wood and starting with a Dragon taking a girl away to his tower. This is essentially as much information as the reader is given on the back of the book, and I am grateful for having no clue where the story was going to go, because I loved just immersing myself in the world and going with the flow. My review might be a tad short simply because I want to retain that mystery for any potential readers – do not read anything about the plot before reading it!

Novik’s world is captivating and her story compelling. Just the right amount of world-building is employed to create an enchanting setting for a story that takes its time but is never dull. Although quite a chunky read, I tore through it in a couple of days, dying to find out what would happen.The prose is lyrical and light – Novik uses words like rich, vibrant colours in a painting. The descriptions of how Nieshka and the Dragon weave their magic are more metaphorical than literal, and are not just original and clever but also significantly contribute to the feeling of artistry surrounding this book. Everything about Uprooted has the feeling of an old fireside folktale being recollected for modern readers. Not just a simple tale of good and evil, there’s a real heart to this one.

I actually feel that this would be a great starting point for people wanting to get into the fantasy genre – I’m not an avid reader of fantasy myself but this book had just the right mix of all the best elements of fantasy to make it a wholly satisfying read. Highly recommended.

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