Bookish Delights – Ninja Book Swap

Published September 22, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Has everyone heard about the Ninja Book Swap? No? Well, you’re in the perfect place! Sign up for their Autumn Ninja Book Swap has just opened (and remains open until midnight on Saturday October 2nd so you have plenty of time to fill in a really quick and easy form, receive a lovely box of bookish delights from a book ninja picked for you and send your own special package.

Interested? Tell you more?:

Okay, so here are the rules. On a date specified by lovely organiser Bex, you will receive an email giving you a partner. It will let you know their likes and dislikes with a link to their wishlist of books and your mission is to prepare a beautiful parcel based on what you think they would like. This should contain one book from your partner’s wishlist (but you can put more than one in if you like) a small gift and a card saying hello, introducing yourself with your name and Twitter/other social media contact details so that they can thank you for all the bookish goodness.

Bex will let you know the deadline as to when you must post your parcel by and once you send it off make sure you get proof of postage and email the Ninja Book Swap Team with a copy of this to prove that you have sent the package. You can choose to send internationally or locally, just please be aware that it is obviously going to cost a bit more if you choose to send overseas. After the deadline and after you’ve sent your parcel all you have to do is wait eagerly for Mr Postman to deliver your own box of delights from the partner chosen for you. Please also email Bex when you receive your parcel and make sure to thank your ninja on social media!

Make sense? Sign you up?:

First of all, say hello to Bex on Twitter @NinjaBookSwap so she’s aware of you (due to some naughty people taking advantage of the swap). She won’t bite- promise!

http://theninjabookswap.blogspot.co.uk/

Why do I love Ninja Book Swap so?:

I was first introduced to Ninja Book Swap by my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads after I expressed some jealousy at seeing her beautiful surprise packages. I’ve been involved in a couple of swaps now, one regular swap and a special themed spot which is done from time to time. On my first swap, I got the most beautiful bookish gifts – little bookmarks, banned books socks, a little keyring saying “I’d Rather Be Reading,” (so true!) and two fantastic John Lindqvist books which had been on my wishlist for an age but I’d never got round to buying for myself.

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My Instagram post from my very first Ninja Book Swap – amazing goodies!

The themed swap had a Persephone Books theme – this is a specialist bookshop in London which stocks neglected fiction and non-fiction from mostly women writers. Their back catalogue is truly incredible and it was very exciting trying to decide a potential wishlist for my ninja of Persephone books I most wanted. See also my short feature on Persephone Books HERE.

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My Instagram post from my Persephone Book Ninja

Have I enticed you yet? Why not sign up? Might see you soon….as your NINJA!😛

 

 

The Shadow Reaper – Amos Cassidy – RELEASE DAY BLITZ

Published September 21, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Only the bravest go over the Horizon…

Twenty years ago the barriers between worlds came down and our reality was swallowed up by the Shadowlands. Now we scavenge to survive, until one day there’s nothing left to reap. Starvation is around the corner, but I’m not the roll over and wait-to-die kinda girl. Nope, I’m going further than anyone has ever been and returned to tell the tale. I’m going into the Beyond, and I’m not coming back without a solution. Dark urban fantasy with a post-apocalyptic twist.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

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Amos Cassidy is the pen name for Richard Amos and Debbie Cassidy. Amos is a 31 year old Diva and Cassidy a 39 year old mother of three; well, four if you include the husband. A common love of all things Joss Whedon, Urban Fantasy, and a tug of war over Jensen Ackles, brought them together, and one cold February afternoon, over nibbles and coffee, their partnership was born.

You can find Cassidy hard at work in her fortress of solitude which has eaten up the majority of her garden, and Amos…well he’s still trying to get the invisibility gizmo he got off a friendly alien in exchange for a pair of earphones to work. Funnily enough he hasn’t been seen around much lately… Frequent doses of Sugary snacks, coupled with regular injections of caffeine aid in their production of a unique brand of cross genre tales. They are always writing, but are happy to take a break to chat to their wonderful readers, so drop them a line at amoscassidy@yahoo.co.uk, or just pop over to see what they’re working on at amoscassidyauthor.com and they’ll bust out the biscuit tin.

The Shadow Reaper was released by Kindle Press as an e-book on 13th September 2016 and is available now!

Website: http://www.amoscassidyauthor.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amoscassidy

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31701886-shadow-reaper

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01IWKRJFS

Interested? Why not join in the read-a-long on Twitter?

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READ ON FOR AN EXCLUSIVE EXTRACT FROM SHADOW REAPER:

ASH

It was a day like all the others, dark as pitch and cold as ice, most definitely not a day to die. So when I came face to face with the Knightmare, I froze, all my training taking a flying leap out the proverbial window. You didn’t get Knightmares on this side of the Horizon. In fact, it’d been over a year since anyone had seen one at all.

The Knightmare stared at me with its slanted, glowing eyes, steam pluming from its perpetually flared nostrils, its equine body poised to attack and then it opened its mouth and screamed.

I remembered how to run.

I ran on instinct, moving through the underground tunnels from memory alone. I could hear it behind me, its hooves thundering against the cracked concrete, its rumbling breath pressing against my ears.

It shouldn’t be here, couldn’t be here, and yet it was.

I realised that if I ran back to Shelter, then I’d be leading it straight home, so I took a left instead of a right at the next intersection. I ran, losing myself in the burning of my lungs and the screaming of my muscles. It was only a matter of time before it got me, only a matter of minutes, because I was losing momentum. I couldn’t keep up this pace much longer.

My eyes stung, my throat grew tight. Man, I was pissed! Nineteen years I’d survived this hellhole, nineteen, and I was going to get taken out by a Knightmare? No way was I going out like that! Besides, if I croaked, then that thing would be left roaming the tunnels. My people would be in danger. I had no idea how it’d managed to get across the Horizon without being spotted by the Eye. I’d have to report this to Blake, get him to look into the security. The small bitey critters that scuttled across were one thing, those were inevitable. Those we could handle, but this was bad, real bad.

Up ahead, the fallen and rusted body of a huge contraption from the time before came into view. I gave a final burst of speed and leapt up onto its metallic body. The Knightmare reared back. One thing about Knightmares, they’re not big on climbing. I blew tendrils of hair out of my eyes, yanked out my scrunchie and then scraped my hair back up into a tight ponytail.

It paced, back and forth, its eyes glistening in the dark. I crouched, tips of my fingers grazing cool metal, and watched it—waiting.

That’s it, just get bored and piss off, you ugly—

“Mansfield?” A shrill whistle. “Where are you, boy?”

What the hell? There was someone down here.

The sound of slow, leisurely footsteps echoed through the darkness.

The Knightmare turned his head to look back up the tunnel.

Shit! Who could be so stupid as to be out here alone?

You are, you twat!

Point.

“Oi! Don’t come any closer,” I yelled. “There’s a Knightmare here. Run!”

The footsteps faltered.

He was probably from the slums, maybe using the tunnels to scavenge like I was. Fuck, I remembered those days, but it was dangerous, too dangerous for someone untrained. I waited, straining to hear the sounds of retreat, yet there was nothing but silence.

Had I imagined the voice?

The Knightmare turned away from me.

No, definitely not my imagination. Those things could smell a human a mile off. Stupid bloody man, boy, whoever it was.

“Bloody run, you idiot! There’s no point hiding! It can bleedin’ smell ya!”

A low chuckle filtered through the air, accompanied by the sound of footsteps.

They were growing closer.

Well, there was no helping some people.

A shape became visible. A man, tall, broad, and slim, wreathed in darkness. My eyes, accustomed to the gloom of the tunnels, could make out only the whites of his eyes surrounding cerulean blue.

“Well, there you are, Mansfield.” The Knightmare whinnied and trotted over to the man, offering his huge head to be petted.

What the crap?

The man tilted his head to look up at me. “Dangerous being out here all alone, little human.” He said the last word as if it were a dirty one.

Mansfield emitted a pleading rumble.

“Mansfield’s hungry.” The man cocked his head and stared at me for a very long time, so long, in fact, that I began to wonder if he’d turned to stone or fallen asleep on his feet with his eyes open. “I don’t think she’ll make a very palatable meal, boy. All skin and bones, that one. Come, we’ll find you something more . . . substantial.”

A chill crawled up my spine. Only one of them could control a Knightmare. A Shadowlander.

He flashed me his even white teeth. “You’re safe for now, human. Crawl off to your hideout and forget this ever happened.”

And just like that, they were gone.

I exhaled sharply and stared at the spot where they had just stood. Something had stood. Something.

What the hell was I doing on top of this rusty contraption?

Climbing down gingerly, I wiped my dirty palms on my trousers and headed home.

***

I crawled through the hidden passageway that led back into Shelter. I reached the grate that opened up into Corridor 4 and waited, listening. There wasn’t usually anyone about at this time, but you never knew. After long minutes of absolute silence, I knocked aside the grate and slid into the corridor, landing lightly on my feet.

I moved the grate back into place, then pushed in the rusty screws to make them look like they were snug in their holes.

Straightening my shirt and brushing off my trousers, I made my way back to my quarters.

If I thought I’d gotten off scot-free for my little escapade, then I was sadly mistaken.

Clay sat on my bed, his face dark with anger.

Shit.

“What the hell, Ash? What. The. Hell?”

Crap! Time to do some damage control.

I plastered a contrite expression on my face, ready to do the pleading thing, but he held up his hand.

“Don’t even go there. You’re not sorry. I know it, you know it, and the whole fucking world knows it. What I want to know is why. You got what you wanted. You’re a Reaper, so why take these unnecessary risks?”

I felt the first spark of anger. “Why? Because someone has to! The bimonthly reaps aren’t cutting it. Everyone knows it. Someone has to take the risk. Remember the penicillin, the iodine, the—”

“Yes! I remember. You found some important stuff, but—”

“And I didn’t go over the Horizon to do it. I’m not bleedin’ suicidal. I was careful. Nothing saw me and I didn’t see any of . . . them.” Some memory skittered under the surface of my mind but was gone too quick to catch.

Clay rubbed his face with his hand, his shoulders rising and falling in a heartfelt sigh, and I felt the guilt heavy on my chest. I was his burden. His little sister, the one he’d sworn to protect. I didn’t make it easy.

Older than me by five minutes, Clay had seamlessly stepped into our parents’ shoes after they died five years ago. We’d been barely fourteen at the time. Clay had taken their deaths as an inevitability. He’d said good-bye, buried them, and then turned his attention to taking care of me. Sod that! I’d been pissed off and incensed by the unfairness of it because, as far as I was concerned, they’d chosen to die. Food and shelter had been less than a mile away; all they’d had to do was claim it. All they’d had to do was volunteer for the academy, become Reapers, and we would have been clothed and fed and sheltered. But they’d been afraid, weak, and they’d died. Yes, I’d been angry. So angry that I’d done the one thing that they’d never wanted either Clay or me to do. I’d signed up to be a Reaper.

Reaper status meant food. It meant lodging. It meant safety. It had come too late for my parents, but I was determined not to lose Clay to their skewed convictions. Clay couldn’t bring himself to break the vow we’d made to them, though; thank goodness Shelter needed able-bodied men to train in the tech side of things. Clay always had an affinity for building shit, so here we were five years later—Clay a head Technician and me a seasoned Reaper. The tech we had here was primitive, but he managed to keep the lights on and the heat running, and that’s all we could ask for.

“Ashling?”

“Huh?”

“Go to bed.” He stood and moved toward the door.

He was disappointed in me. I hated it. I couldn’t leave things like this between us. As he brushed past, I turned into him, wrapping my arms around his waist. He tensed and then relaxed. His arms wrapped around me and he squeezed me tight.

“Please, Ash, just follow protocol, ’kay?”

I nodded against his chest, and yes, I really meant to keep my promise. I always do . . . until next time.

He released me and ruffled my hair.

“Say ’night to Blake.” I smiled up at him coquettishly.

He blushed. “Will do.”

It was sweet the way those two were still so gaga over each other. They’d been dating for just over a year now, and they acted like a married couple. Clay had even moved into Blake’s quarters, and yet he still blushed when I mentioned Blake’s name.

Sweet.

He pecked me on the forehead and then left me to it.

A yawn ripped through me, and I stretched and threw myself onto my rumpled bed. My quarters were small and boxy, but they were mine. Pictures from old magazines I’d found on my scavenging trips decorated the walls: cars and paradise settings, gardens and sunsets, and lovers holding hands. These were memories that I’d never have. They lulled me to sleep, and sometimes I’d find myself on a beach somewhere, waves lapping at my toes, or maybe in a beautiful garden, the scent of roses sweet and strong in my nose. I didn’t know if what I dreamt held any similarity to how it used to be. How could I? I’ve never smelled a rose or walked on the beach, but the dreams kept my spirits alive, and sometimes he joined me—the man who didn’t speak.

The first time it happened, I was frightened. I mean, some strange bloke walks into my dream and just hangs out? It was creepy, but I soon started to feel okay with it. In fact, he’d become a kind of friend now . . . I think.

My eyelids were starting to get heavy, so I closed them, exhaling long and deep, and let sleep take me.

Talking About The Widow by Fiona Barton with Chrissi Reads

Published September 21, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

‘The ultimate psychological thriller’ Lisa Gardner

We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

Du Maurier’s REBECCA meets WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and GONE GIRL in this intimate tale of a terrible crime.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: Discuss the interaction between Kate and Jean and the ethical limits of investigative journalism.

BETH: First of all, I loved how we got to hear the story of The Widow through a number of different viewpoints i.e. The Reporter (Kate), The Widow (Jean) but also The Detective and The Husband so there were a lot of individual voices with their own particular clues as to what was going on. The interactions between Kate and Jean were among the most interesting – Kate is not a terrible person in her own right but she is hell-bent on getting the story she feels she deserves and is very good at manipulating people, especially those who may be slightly weaker than herself so that she gets what she wants. It’s not that she doesn’t care about Jean or her feelings but she realises that she cannot get too emotionally involved as it may cost her the story and at the end of the day, she’s there to do her job. Journalists can often be thought of as vultures, especially in more emotive cases when vulnerable people are hounded and I think, in a way they have to switch off from the more “human” aspects to be able to get a story.

BETH: This is Fiona Barton’s debut novel. How do you think it compares to other debut novels you have read recently?

CHRISSI: Ooh good question. I have read some very good debuts so far this year. I do think Fiona Barton’s stands out as a decent debut. I’ve read quite a few psychological thrillers now, as you know, some of which have been debuts. I feel like it stands up well to other debuts. It’s definitely memorable. It’s made me want to read more from the author.

CHRISSI: Fiona Barton is a former journalist. Do you think that has influenced her writing style?

BETH: I hadn’t realised this previously but looking back on The Widow, I believe it can only have been an advantage for the novel. It is told in short, snappy, very readable chapters that certainly made me want to read “just one more” before closing the book for the night! The style of writing itself was thrilling and although I didn’t particularly warm to any of the characters they were all fascinating enough to keep me reading until the end.

BETH: What are your opinions on the character of Jean? Did you feel sorry for her?

CHRISSI: Another interesting question Beth, you’re rolling them out today. I was very confused with the character of Jean. At times I wondered what she had gone through with Glen. I knew there was something more to the story than first met the eye. During some points of the story, I thought Jean was quite a weak character. I felt like Glen had some sort of hold over her. Then I started to doubt her. I felt sorry for her in some ways but towards the end of the story my feelings began to change towards her. I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t say anything else. She really was a mixed bag character for me.

CHRISSI: Did you find this book predictable in any way?
BETH: I’m not sure whether predictable would be the right word. I don’t think the author is deliberately keeping anything from us, everything seems to be somewhat out in the open and fairly easy to interpret. I guessed quite early on which character(s) had done wrong, it was just exactly what they did and to what extent that was hidden until the end.

BETH: Do you believe that Glen really loved Jean?

CHRISSI: That’s a hard question to answer because I don’t feel we really ever hear much from his perspective. I would hope he did love Jean, but there’s no real evidence to show this. He certainly doesn’t act like someone madly in love. He comes across as very controlling.

CHRISSI: We read widely in the genre, how does The Widow compare to books in the genre?

BETH: Ooh, yes we do love a good psychological thriller! For me, it holds its own against other books in the genre, I loved the plot-line, the way it was written from multiple viewpoints, the jumping back and forward in time, the characterisation and the exciting final reveal. It’s everything I look for in a thriller and I look forward to reading more from Fiona Barton.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes, I would. I loved the short and snappy chapters and the overall plot.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

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CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

 

Orphan X – Gregg Hurwitz

Published September 20, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The Nowhere Man is a legendary figure spoken about only in whispers. It’s said that when he’s reached by the truly desperate and deserving, the Nowhere Man can and will do anything to protect and save them.

But he’s no legend.

Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn. He’s also a man with a dangerous past. Chosen as a child, he was raised and trained as part of the off-the-books black box Orphan program, designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence assets—i.e. assassins. He was Orphan X. Evan broke with the program, using everything he learned to disappear.

Now, however, someone is on his tail. Someone with similar skills and training. Someone who knows Orphan X. Someone who is getting closer and closer. And will exploit Evan’s weakness—his work as The Nowhere Man—to find him and eliminate him. Grabbing the reader from the very first page,Orphan X is a masterful thriller, the first in Gregg Hurwitz’s electrifying new series featuring Evan Smoak.

What did I think?:

This is the first book on Richard and Judy’s Autumn Book Club list here in the UK and I admit to having high hopes for it after reading the thrilling synopsis and hugely positive reviews on GoodReads. In general, I did enjoy this novel but just not as much as I would have hoped so I’m a little disappointed but with the number of rave reviews it has received and the talk about a film being made starring Bradley Cooper, I don’t think the author has anything to worry about.

The plot and background story of our lead character, Evan Smoak is fascinating and I was instantly pulled in by the story of a young boy recruited to the mysterious Orphan Program and trained up to become a deadly assassin. It’s a highly secretive business and Evan is educated in many different disciplines (and sometimes in very harsh ways) to become the best of the best. He has only one point of contact – Jack, who recruited him and acts as a father figure in his life. All “orphans” are given a letter of the alphabet as their code name and when ready, are set off on different missions which usually lead to the death of another person.

Evan believes he is a force for good in the world but begins to have his doubts when he is given a particular target that he believes should not be killed. Branching out on his own, he becomes The Nowhere Man, helping people in need of his specialist services. His only stipulation is that they must have no further contact with each other once he has “helped,” and must pass his phone number onto someone else who also is desperate for his assistance. Things start to go terribly wrong on one mission when it becomes clear that his identity has been compromised and someone from his Orphan Program past is seeking him out….and not in a friendly way either!

So, good things about this novel – the premise which is unique and captivating and kept me reading until the end because of this. Evan Smoak is also a brilliant character that you can’t help but want to know more about but the author seems to keep a lot of things about this secretive individual quite close to his chest. Perhaps more will be revealed during future books in the series? I also enjoyed reading about the missions Evan completed as The Nowhere Man, it brought a bit of excitement to the novel as you wonder “Okay, what next?” as soon as his special phone starts ringing. Of course, with a novel like this, the action never stops and the author certainly gives the reader a lot to process in a very short period of time. For me, I felt like it faltered in the way that I didn’t feel connected or that I could relate to any of the characters and at times, the narrative just felt a bit busy what with everything seeming to happen at once. Saying that, I’m certain this is a novel that will capture readers imaginations and I would be quite interested to see how Evan Smoak as a character develops.

Would I recommend it?:

Maybe.

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

1Q84: Book Three (1Q84 #3) – Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator)

Published September 19, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Book Two of 1Q84 ended with Aomame standing on the Metropolitan Expressway with a gun between her lips.

She knows she is being hunted, and that she has put herself in terrible danger in order to save the man she loves.

But things are moving forward, and Aomame does not yet know that she and Tengo are more closely bound than ever.

Tengo is searching for Aomame, and he must find her before this world’s rules loosen up too much.

He must find her before someone else does.

What did I think?:

For my review of the first two books in the series, please click HERE.

Ah, Haruki Murakami – how I do love thee! This is the third (and final?) book in the 1Q84 trilogy by the Japanese author and it’s had a mixed bag of reviews, especially on GoodReads. As a devoted Murakami fan, my thoughts fall on the more positive, gushing variety but I have to admit, I could understand some of the comments made against it. If you’re new to Murakami, this probably isn’t the best book to begin with, I’d probably suggest Norwegian Wood or The Wind Up Bird Chronicle as he does have a bit of a tendency to be slightly “out there,” and perhaps it might be difficult to see his appeal.

For someone who totally gets him, the world of 1Q84 is magical, beautiful, occasionally dark and disturbing and intensely dream-like. Personally, I didn’t feel that the third book lived up to the brilliance of the first two but it was still a solid end to a wonderful creation that I honestly didn’t want to leave. The two main characters, Tengo and Aomame first met each other in childhood but when Aomame enters a strange new world where there are two moons, little people, and a crazy cult they begin to form a connection with each other again. Before long, it is obvious that the two are meant to be together but in this new, dangerous world coming together may also be their undoing.

We leave Aomame at the end of the second book in a rather precarious position with certainly more questions and wonderment for the reader than answers. However, if you’re about to read 1Q84 Book Three hoping for answers to all the mysteries, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Part of the Murakami style is to leave the reader hanging just a little bit, leaving us to make our own conclusions about what has been going on. Yes, this can be slightly frustrating at points and some people may hate it purely because of this but personally, I find it quite refreshing and enjoy making my own mind up about things rather than having things wrapped up for me in a perfect little package.

Every time I read Murakami, I become entranced by the world he leads us in to. It’s true, the action can be a bit muted at times, and at points not much really goes on. He has a gift however for pulling you into the heads of very intriguing characters so that you feel you know them inside out whilst at the same time, not really at all. It’s like being in a giant soap bubble that you don’t ever want to pop and with Murakami, I never want to return to reality.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Short Stories Challenge – Tiger Moth by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Published September 13, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s Tiger Moth all about?:

The final story in this collection introduces us to Lenny, a thirty-five year old man who is fed up with his job and fed up with his personal situation, living at home with his mother and afraid to finally “cut the apron strings,” dreading her reaction.

What did I think?:

I think I’ve mentioned before that the stories in this collection by Graham Joyce have been a bit hit and miss for me. Some of them, like the excellent Leningrad Nights have completely bowled me over whilst others like Candia, I’ve been slightly less enamoured with. I am pleased to report however, that Tiger Moth is a return to the writing style that I love from the author and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lenny, a lovely character whose life seems yet to begin after being closeted away by an over-protective and emotionally challenging mother.

Lenny is working as a divorce solicitor and has become greatly disillusioned with his profession, the huge amount of cases he is expected to undertake and his useless secretary who lets him know at every available opportunity how “very stressed,” she is (whilst hiding a gardening magazine she has been reading on her lap). Things at home are difficult for Lenny too – his mother coddles him as if he were still a child, making his dinner each night, washing and ironing his clothes and making all his big decisions for him (even frightening away potential girlfriends we can imagine!).

Determined to escape his mother’s clutches, Lenny decides to go for an interview in Nottingham where he is offered a very tempting deal and re-location package but is at war with himself whether he will be able to have the strength to leave his mother. Their relationship has always been quite fraught, ever since the day his father died and they moved away from the house they had lived in as a family. On the way back from the interview however, he comes across two small boys that reminds him of a time when he met two remarkably similar boys on the day they moved house. He realises that he is being given a second chance to change his life and stand up to his mother once and for all.

I really enjoyed everything about this story. I felt so sorry for the loveable and downtrodden Lenny and was rooting for him until the end hoping that he would have the strength to break the cycle he had got himself into with his mother, who used him at all times as an emotional crutch and was hugely manipulative. I also appreciated the slice of humour that Graham Joyce brought to the story, especially at the beginning where Lenny is trying to deal with a particularly difficult client with a hilarious outcome. This was a really satisfying end to a short story collection that has had both highs and lows for me personally and I look forward to reading more from Graham Joyce.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Shadow Tree by Angela Slatter from the collection Sourdough And Other Stories

 

Choker – Elizabeth Woods

Published September 8, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. She eats lunch with the other girls from the track team, but they’re not really her friends. Mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her, and avoiding the popular girls who call her “Choker” after a humiliating incident in the cafeteria.

Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe’s on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara’s life changes overnight. Zoe gives her a new look and new confidence, and next thing she knows, she’s getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she has her BFF there to confide in.

But just as quickly as Cara’s life came together, it starts to unravel. A girl goes missing in her town, and everyone is a suspect—including Ethan. Worse still, Zoe starts behaving strangely, and Cara begins to wonder what exactly her friend does all day when she’s at school. You’re supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger?

What did I think?:

A huge thank you to my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads for bringing my attention to this book, she knows my bookish tastes very well and when she says I’m going to like something, I know she’s probably right! Beware all who covet this book for the pretty pink cover however, looks can be VERY deceiving and if you think you’re going to get something nice and “fluffy,” well, you’d be wrong. Never fear, this will be a spoiler free review as always if you haven’t read it yet – but prepare yourself for something you may not necessarily be expecting.

Our main character is sixteen year old Cara who is having a bit of a rougher time than your average teenager. Her family have recently moved house and she has been taken away from her best friend Zoe. As the two were pretty much inseparable, this is a big deal for Cara and she is struggling to fit in and make friends at her new school. After an unfortunate incident where she chokes in the school cafeteria, the “mean girl,” (and one of the most popular girls) Alexis makes her life a misery, instantly nicknaming her “Choker,” a name which is quick to travel to the ears of all the rest of the kids at the school, making her a laughing stock. Worse still, Cara has a huge crush on Ethan – who first of all, doesn’t even know she exists and two, happens to be the boyfriend of Alexis. No chance there then!

Until one day, Cara arrives home to see her old friend Zoe sitting on her bed. Zoe has had problems with her stepfather and something has happened which has led her to run away from home. Ecstatic to have her best friend back by her side again, Cara agrees to hide Zoe in her room. Why couldn’t she tell her parents? There is a reason, believe me. With the appearance of Zoe comes huge changes for Cara – a new look, increased confidence, invites to parties and even Ethan starts to show a bit of interest in her. Yet at the same time, terrible and odd things start happening. First, Zoe’s behaviour changes. She becomes desperately possessive of Cara, disappears all the time and won’t tell her where she’s been and begins acting like a completely different person. At the same time, Queen Bitch Alexis and her closest friend are killed and Zoe begins to act very suspiciously…

I thought I knew what this book was going to be all about and at first, I thought I could predict where it was going. I did happen to figure out what was going on about thirty pages from the end but it didn’t dampen my enjoyment of this story at all. I was surprised about just how dark it got in places – urrrrgh the scene with the cat….that’s all I’m saying! Elizabeth Woods certainly knows how to weave a thrilling narrative with a brutally toxic environment that I’m sure many of us can appreciate from our own teenage years. I think YA fans will absolutely love this novel and it’s a strong example of the genre. For anybody who doesn’t enjoy young adult fiction, yes it may not really be your cup of tea but I think it would definitely appeal to the target audience and that’s why I’m rating it as high as I have.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0