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Monday, 29 September 2014

Blog Tour -Death of an Avid Reader by Frances Brody

Death of an Avid Reader: A Kate Shackleton Mystery - Kate Shackleton Mysteries 6A lady with a secret Kate Shackleton's sterling reputation for courageous sleuthing attracts the attention of the venerable Lady Coulton. Hidden in her past is a daughter, born out of wedlock and given up to a different family. Now, Lady Coulton is determined to find her and puts Kate on the case. A mysterious killing in the library's basement But as Kate delves deeper into Lady Coulton's past, she soon finds herself thrust into a scandal much closer to home. When the body of the respected Horatio Potter is found in the Leeds Library basement, the quiet literary community is suddenly turned upside down with suspicions, accusations and - much to Kate's surprise - the appearance of a particularly intelligent Capuchin monkey! The most puzzling case in Kate's sleuthing history yet Convinced an innocent man has been blamed, Kate sets out to discover the truth. Who would want Dr Potter dead? Does Lady Coulton's missing daughter hold a vital clue? As the stories start to emerge in the seemingly quiet Leeds Library, Kate is learning fast that in this case, she can't judge a book by its cover ...

I love a good crime read, with favourite authors including Michael Connelly, so when I was invited by the publicist to try a little cosy crime I was left wondering what would arrive. 

When Death of an Avid Reader landed on my doorstop I was immediately intrigued and it went to the top of my reading pile. I enjoyed the book, it was a good historical fiction read, with a crime committed and the subsequent enquiry - I would place it among the Agatha Raisin style books but with hints of Miss Marple. It was not as violent as Michael Connelly books can be but was a nice evening read, when winding down from the day job. 

I loved Brody's writing style and especially her character creations - they are fun characters with depth and relevance. The writing of the crime threw in a number of red herrings meaning I was pleasantly shocked by the reveal at the end, I did not guess the accused, something which is often not the case in many crime novels. The setting of scenes was fantastically written.

This is the sixth book in the series by Brody but I think each can be read as a standalone novel with no problem for the reader. 

Thank you to the publishers, Piaktus, for sending me the book to review and to be part of this blog tour. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Shopaholic to the Stars by Sophie Kinsella

Shopaholic to the Stars

Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is in Hollywood ! It's as if all her life has been leading to this moment. She's hanging out with the stars ...or at least she will be, when she finally gets to meet movie superstar Sage Seymour, whom husband Luke is now managing. There's so much to seen and do! And getting Minnie through the hurdles for her A-list Hollywood pre-school will require some Becky sets her heart on a new career - she's going to be a celebrity stylist . Red carpet, here she comes! But Becky soon finds it's tough in Tinseltown. Luckily her best friend Suze comes over to keep her company, and together they embark on the Hollywood insider trail But somehow ...things aren't quite working out as they'd hoped. Then Becky's big chance comes, and it's an opportunity that money can't buy. But will it cost her too much?

It has been four years since Sophie Kinsella gave us the last instalment in Becky  Brandon's life. Her last book, Mini Shopaholic, showed us that it was like mother, like daughter, with Minnie sharing her mother's traits. I am sure that I am not the only reader who has been looking forward to finding out what Becky, Brandon and Minnie are up to now and therefore as soon as I received this book, everything else was put to one side, including the latest Lee Child I am ashamed to say, and I lost myself in their world.

LA is the place where, in my opinion, Becky Brandon belongs. She loves everything high maintenance, high fashion, high end and the more famous the better so when she has the opportunity to make friends with red carpet regulars she goes for it. But as we all know, Becky does not always engage brain before going ahead with projects and she soon gets swallowed up in LA life. She has difficult decisions to make about family, friends and business opportunities which makes for a great read. Suze and Tarkie join Becky in LA and while I could imagine Suze fitting in perfectly I thought that Tarkie would hate it but it was great to see Tarkie embrace the holistic lifestyle.

I am not going to give any spoilers as I am sure all shopaholic fans will devour this book very quickly. I was happily reading the book, enjoying the storyline until I got to the words ..... to be continued!! I hope Sophie is writing it as we speak because I really want to know what happens to the Brandon Family next ....

The Shopaholic series is my guilty pleasure but I know that when I pick up a Kinsella book I can loose myself for a few hours in the dream world of Becky Brandon and her family. Please let the next installment come soon.

Thank you to the publishers, Transworld, for sending me the book to review. 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Blog Tour - Finding a Voice by Kim Hood

Today I am pleased to welcome Kim Hood to my blog. Kim's latest release, Finding a Voice, is a great book which covers the taboo subject of mental illness, a subject which is hitting the headlines more and more in current months. It is a subject which has been hidden in previous years, an illness which I myself have suffered with for many years and I therefore was eager to review this fantastic book which I hope will help children sufferers to speak out and seek support from those around them. Kim Hodd joins me on my log to talk about the challenges she faced writing about this taboo subject.


To be honest, I didn’t think I was writing a book that contained a taboo theme when I wrote Finding a Voice.  I was just writing a story, and story for me always starts with interesting characters.  It just so happens that a lot of the interesting people I have known over the years have also suffered with mental illness.  Some of them have been kids.  And all of them have been members of some sort of family of course.  So it didn’t seem out of bounds to include a character with a mental illness in a book for children and teens.

While I didn’t think about mental illness being an off-limits subject matter in fiction, I was well aware of how difficult real life mental illness is for kids.  It can be draining and scary and confusing for everyone involved—those struggling with their own mental health and the people around them struggling to support them.  It is made so much harder by the fact that mental health is still unmentionable for the most part; not only does a family have to make it through dark days at times, but they have to do it silently.

This silence, for the most part, has extended to books for kids.  If a book does address mental illness it is probably ‘edgy’, and definitely for older, more mature teens.  Kids and younger teens are mostly kept at the periphery of discussions about difficult or disturbing issues—yet they are often the ones most affected by these very issues.   With statistics indicating that mental health concerns are on the rise, especially for teens, how can ‘protecting’ kids from the subject be healthy?   

Of course, there are also many kids who, luckily, have no life experience with mental illness.  I would guess there is a child at their school who does though.  Maybe that child needs someone to understand.  Books can open up discussion, or at least give kids a window into diverse experiences. 

Diversity is almost a cliché in discussions about books for kids and teens right now, but it really is important isn’t it?  Mental illness has got to be a part of this diversity, as difficult a theme as it might be.  After all, don’t all kids deserve to see aspects of their experiences reflected in the books they read?

Thank you Kim for joining me today and I hope that this book helps at least one child in seeking support for a mental illness.

I would also just like to take this oppurtunity to highlight Rethink Mental Illness - Time to Change, a fantastic organisation which helps support Mental lllness. I think this video is such a powerful piece of film and really highlights the reality that mental illness touches so many of us:

Finding a Voice: Friendship is a Two-Way Street by Kim Hood

Finding a Voice: Friendship is a Two-Way Street ...

Jo could never have guessed that the friendship she so desperately craves would come in the shape of a severely disabled boy. He can't even speak. Maybe it is because he can't speak that she finds herself telling him how difficult it is living with her eccentric, mentally fragile mother. Behind Chris' lopsided grin and gigantic blue wheelchair is a real person - with a sense of humour, a tremendous stubborn streak and a secret he has kept from everyone. For a while it seems life may actually get better. But as Jo finds out just how terrible life is for Chris, and as her own life spirals out of control, she becomes desperate to change things for both of them. In a dramatic turn of events, Jo makes a decision that could end in tragedy. This is the story of how an unusual friendship unlocks the words that neither knew they had.

Mental illness is an 'illness' which touches many people. I am one of those people and I now, after over fifteen years, feel ready to talk about it. however, when I was younger, I wish there had been a book that I could of related to, this is such a book. 

The book touches on many subjects, bullying, disability, mental illness and the over riding topic of friendship makes this story such a beautiful read which has underlying messages running throughout. It is a great book to read at anytime but also it would be a powerful book to read during school PHSE lessons and could be used as a great introduction into mental illness. 

This book should be introduced into school -let's get it onto school reading lists!

In summary, a well written book and I look forward to reading more by this author soon.

Thank you to the publicist, Antonia Wilkinson, for sending me this book to review.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Blog Tour - The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks

The Best of Me

They were teenage sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks - with a passion that would change their lives for ever. But life would force them apart. Years later, the lines they had drawn between past and present are about to slip ...Called back to their hometown for the funeral of the mentor who once gave them shelter when they needed it most, they are faced with each other once again, and forced to confront the paths they chose. Can true love ever rewrite the past? This is the new epic love story from the multi-million-copy bestselling author of The Notebook, The Lucky One and The Last Song. Nicholas Sparks is one of the world's most beloved authors.

Nicholas Sparks is fast becoming a very popular author, but I had not, before reading this book, read any of them. I had picked up an earlier book but never finished it  However, after finishing this one, I am sure I will be looking out for others by the same author.

The story begins with the love story of two people who's families believe that they should not be together, they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but no matter what barriers are put in their way, they get together, until college calls for Amanda and Dawson makes the ultimate sacrifice by breaking the relationship off so Amanda will follow her career path - however not all goes to plan and lives change. It is not until Dawson returns for the funeral of someone he looked up to that Dawson and Amanda meet again.

I read the first two thirds of the book and enjoyed it, but was not itching to pick the book up at every spare moment. This soon changed when I got to the last third of the book. The tempo changed and existing characters were given bigger roles in the story. Filled with twists and turns, the story gathered pace, but the ending was just too tidy for me - I would of liked a little bit more from the ending which would of had me talking about it to friends, raving about the plot, but I just didn't feel satisfied with the ending. 

It was an easy read, I liked Sparks' writing style but I am unsure if I will be rushing to other titles.Many of Sparks' books have been made into films and have had rave reviews. I may try watching one of these films to see how they translate to the big screen

Thank you to the publishers, Sphere, for sending me the book to review.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Blog Tour Review - Violet and the Pearly Orient by Harriet Whitehorn

Violet and the Pearl of the Orient

Meet Violet Remy-Robinson, an amateur Sherlock Holmes in the making...When a new family move in next door, Violet is sure there's something strange about them. Then her eccentric, but lovely neighbour, Dee Dee Derota, has a precious jewel stolen. Could the new family be to blame? Violet is on the case to uncover the truth...With a beautiful hardback package complete with two colour illustrations throughout by emerging talent, Becka Moore, everyone is bound to fall in love with Violet and the colourful characters that make up her world. Perfect for fans of Dixie O'Day, Ottoline, Goth Girl and Darcy Burdock.

This is a fantastic book for young detectives, Violet Remy-Robinson is, herself, a wannabe sleuth, who knows as soon as she meets her new neighbours that something is not quite right. There are clues throughout the book as to the crime and its culprits.

It is a great book, written for the 9+ audience. It has a fantastic cover which depicts the characters perfectly. Printed in hues of violet and a light turquoise, this all adds to the 'spookiness of the book'. It reminds me of a kind of Addams family style family who have moved into the neighbourhood, neighbours to Violet Remy-Robinson.

This is one of a series of books featuring Violet but is great as a stand alone book which I am sure will encourage readers to find more of Harriet's books to read in the future.

Thank you to the publishers, Simon and Schuster Children's Books, for sending me the book to review.

Blog Tour - Violet and the Pearl of the Orient - Illustrations

Today I am pleased to welcome Harriet Whitehorn, the author, and Becka Moor, the illustrator, to my blog. Violet and the Pearl of the Orient has a fantastic cover and they discuss the process of how the cover was designed.

Becka Moor Illustrations

The cover art for Violet and the Pearl of the Orient went through various different stages before we settled on one we liked. The concept itself was a spark of genius by designer Jane Buckley at Simon & Schuster who suggested we try for a ‘Rear Window’ kind of feel, with the main cast of characters occupying different windows of a Georgian style town house. Violet also went through a few different stages. She started with long hair and dungarees, but as we progressed through ideas, she was given a haircut and new wardrobe to reflect her background a bit more.

The process for Violet and the Pearl of the Orient was really collaborative. I started with the roughs which were shown to the author, Harriet Whitehorn, who passed on some feedback. Along with feedback from the publisher, a few changes were made until everyone was happy with everything. From there, we moved onto the finals for the book, which took a little bit of planning due to the addition of the violet pantone colour throughout. It was a lot more technical than I initially thought, but once I’d cracked it, it was easy peasy...ish. Everything was done digitally, with some added handmade textures here and there!

I think that the cover really suits this book - it really reflects the writing style of the book and the characters within. Throughout the book there are all brilliant illustrations. The book has a great Hallowe'en party within the story and I especially loved these illustrations with the characters dressed up in their costumes.

Another point I love about this book is the colour scheme. As mentioned above there is a violet colouring throughout which all adds to the 'spookiness of the book'.

Thank you to both Harriet Whitehorn and Becka Moor for visiting my blog today.