romance

All posts tagged romance

The Next Together (The Next Together #1) – Lauren James

Published October 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

How many times can you lose the person you love? 

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different…

A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about time-travel, fate and the timelessness of first love. The Next Together is told through a mixture of regular prose, diary entries, letters, “original” historical documents, news reports and internet articles.

What did I think?:

I really love having a sister who is also a book blogger. She understands the excitement of review copies and makes some brilliant recommendations that, because she is my sister and obviously knows what I like, I’m certain when she raves about a book that I should expect great things. This was the case with The Next Together, part of a duology and encompassing so many genres that you would think it would feel a bit muddled. Not in the slightest. This novel is part historical fiction, part science fiction, part fantasy and part romance and manages to slot into each of these categories with ease and grace making it such an exciting and rewarding reading experience.

This is the story of Katherine and Matthew who have lived many lives/reincarnations, from the The Siege of Carlisle and The Crimeon War in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries respectively, to the near futures of 2019 and 2039. Each time they live their lives they encompass different roles i.e. a noble lady and her servant, an ambitious journalist and his eager assistant, two talented scientists who make a breakthrough discovery and finally, two teenagers who are attempting to find out more and clear the names of the scientists who pre-dated them. In each life, they meet each other and fall deeply in love and then are torn apart when something happens in that particular time period to kill one of the pair. The story based in 2039 is critically important and may shed some light on why Katherine and Matthew can’t simply have a “happy ever after,” but we get some wonderful glimpses of those three other past lives that are both poignant and heart-warming.

As I mentioned before, this book has got a bit of everything genre wise, and I loved how the author combined all the elements to make this a fascinating, exciting and at times, nail biting read that I thoroughly enjoyed. As with all romance novels, I’m always worried that the romance could come off as a bit cheesy but I had no need to worry with The Next Together. Katherine’s wonderful and hilarious sense of humour and Matt’s strong, dependable persona made their relationship a delight to read about and wasn’t at all sickly sweet or unbelievable. I adored how Lauren James told the story in a mixture of notes, emails etc between Katherine and Matt which provided a lovely modern contrast between the more historical sections of the narrative and again, for me, made the love between them feel all the more authentic. I’ll be reading the second novel in the duology, The Last Beginning very soon and cannot wait to get started (especially after the gripping ending!) If it is in any way, shape or form as beautiful as The Next Together I’m in for a huge treat.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

 

Advertisements

Deathless (Leningrad Diptych #1) – Catherynne M. Valente

Published October 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A glorious retelling of the Russian folktale Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless, set in a mysterious version of St. Petersburg during the first half of the 20th century. A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya’s fate. For years she follows him in love and in war, and bears the scars. But eventually Marya returns to her birthplace – only to discover a starveling city, haunted by death. Deathless is a fierce story of life and death, love and power, old memories, deep myth and dark magic, set against the history of Russia in the twentieth century. It is, quite simply, unforgettable.

What did I think?:

Here’s the thing – I’ve always tried to be completely honest in my reviews over the past few years. No, we’re not all going to like the same things but I do try not to be overly negative just for the sake of it and to find something positive or constructive to say about every book or short story I write about and I hope that comes across. Deathless was recommended to me by one of my favourite bookshops, Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights where I’ve had two reading spas with my sister, Chrissi Reads. As soon as the bookseller mentioned it, I knew I had to have it, it sounded like such a “me” book. Based on Russian folklore and sprinkled with magical realism but intertwined with the horrors of Leningrad in the Second World War….these are pretty much some of my top buzz words to get me interested and excited about a book. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been absolutely dreading writing this review and have put it off for a couple of days now. By and large, I can appreciate what a gorgeous writer Catherynne M. Valente is and some of her prose is truly exquisite BUT I had a few problems with this novel that makes me struggle in my rating of it and I find myself quite torn about whether I liked it or not in the end.

It’s quite hard to describe what Deathless is about but I’ll do my best. Generally, it takes the old Russian folk tale of Marya Morevna and Koschei The Deathless, focusing on their love affair which is set around the time of the Second World War in Russia. Now I’m not familiar with the original tale so don’t profess to being an expert in the slightest but from what I’ve read around the novel, the author has almost developed her own fairy tale around these characters. When Marya becomes a young woman and is living in a house with many other families she sees her older sisters married off one by one as a bird falls from the trees outside and turns into a young man. Eventually, a man of her own comes for her and it is Koschei the Tsar of Life who takes her away, treats her a bit mean and after a while, persuades her to fall in love with him. As well as this story we have a magical quest that Marya has to go on, some interesting magical creatures that she befriends and a young man called Ivan who attempts to take her away and show her that there is a life available to her without Koschei.

I think that’s all I want to really say about the plot as, speaking frankly, there is a lot more that happens in the novel and considerably more content and symbolism connected to the war that makes this a heady mixture between fairy tale, magical realism and historical fiction. There were some parts of the narrative (particularly the fantastical elements) that I adored and I found myself nodding, thinking: “Yes, THIS is why I picked up this book!.” Then there were other things. A horny pestle and mortar (yes, you read that right), disjointed parts of the story that jumped around and just did not make any sense to me and worse of all, the relationship between Marya and Koschei which isn’t your best advertisement for a nice, healthy partnership. Unless you’re into sadomasochism, that is.

I didn’t feel like I connected with any of the characters – in fact, some of the decisions and the actions Marya takes me had me feeling rather disdainful and wondering what exactly her role in the whole novel was meant to be. I love a character with quirkiness, with darkness and with flaws don’t get me wrong, but everything about these characters just fell so flat, I couldn’t fathom how anyone could enjoy reading about them. I’m also not sure how well the author managed to pull off the connections with the atrocities happening in Leningrad in 1942. There is one particular chapter that almost broke my heart and it made such a compelling section of the novel but sadly, I felt like stellar sections like these were few and far between and I would have loved to have seen more passages like these. It did have those beautiful fairy tale qualities at many points and generally, I did enjoy these sections but when it came to the relationship between Marya and Koschei I’m afraid it just became too much for me, I didn’t like the way it was portrayed at all. Dominating her, force-feeding her until she vomits, beating her? Nah, that’s not my kind of fairy tale. Saying all this, Deathless has some stupendous reviews on GoodReads with an average rating of 4.05. If you’re at all intrigued maybe you should check it out for yourself as obviously a lot of people are seeing something I’m not. If you have read it though, I’d love to talk about it with you in the comments!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably not.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Blog Tour – The Red Thread (The Straits Quartet #1) – Dawn Farnham

Published September 20, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Set against the backdrop of 1830s Singapore where piracy, crime, triads, and tigers are commonplace, this historical romance follows the struggle of two lovers Zhen, a Chinese coolie and triad member, and Charlotte, an 18-year-old Scots woman and sister of Singapores Head of Police. Two cultures bound together by the invisible threads of fate yet separated by cultural diversity.

What did I think?:

A huge thank you to the lovely Faye for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and to Monsoon Books for sending me a free copy of The Red Thread, the first novel in a quartet in exchange for an honest review. One of my favourite things as a reader is to learn about different countries and cultures and I’m especially interested in places within Asia like China and Singapore whose customs are explored in the most intricate detail in this novel. I have to admit, when I first started the book, I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to enjoy it as much as I had hoped, it was a bit of a slow burner although meticulously researched and beautifully descriptive. Then, by about halfway through, I became much more invested in the characters and their lives and found myself reading it a lot quicker, intrigued by the love story within.

The Red Thread is set predominantly in Singapore in the 1830’s where there were a great variety of different nations and religious practices living together – from the Malaysian, Chinese and Indian to the European and British whites. Our heroine for the novel is Charlotte who has recently come over from Scotland where she had been living with an aunt to join her brother Robert, who has a very important job as Chief Of Police in Singapore. The story explores Charlotte adjusting to life in a foreign climate, learning the customs and nature of the people and making new friends and acquaintances.

From the very beginning on disembarking from the ship she comes into contact with a young Chinese labourer called Zhen and there is an instant attraction between them although they do not meet until about halfway into the novel. When they do, love starts to blossom and things become very difficult for both characters. Zhen is engaged to be married giving him an opportunity and money that he thought he would never have had yet because of the difference in their cultures and social status, their relationship is likely to be frowned upon, meaning that marriage between the two of them would be an impossibility.

I think if you want to learn more about Singapore and the wealth of different cultures in the 1800’s, this book is perfect for you. Dawn Farnham writes a novel rich in exquisite detail and I especially enjoyed the sections that focused on the various cuisines available, Chinese folklore and beliefs – particularly about death and how a funeral is arranged and the vast effort that is also placed into arranging a marriage. As for the characters, I have to say I didn’t really get on with Zhen. I loved the sections with him and his friend Qian and enjoyed the friendship that they shared but as a personality, he irked me slightly and I didn’t agree with the way he treated his wife and even Charlotte herself at times.

Despite this, I did find this a fascinating story and it was so evocatively written that I was instantly pulled into the early nineteenth century in a land completely foreign to myself but somehow, it felt strangely familiar after merely a few pages. I also really appreciated how the author used actual historical figures, like Irishman George Coleman who was responsible for a lot of the architecture/buildings in Singapore at that time. His life and many others seemed effortlessly woven into the main narrative and by the end of the novel, I did feel like I knew a lot of the characters intimately. If you enjoy lavish historical detail, a slower paced plot, poetry and a forbidden love story, this just might be the book for you.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Dawn Farnham is the author of The Straits Quartet (The Red Thread, The Shallow Seas, The Hills of Singapore and The English Concubine), as well as numerous short stories, plays and children’s books. A former long-term resident of Singapore, Dawn now calls Perth, Australia, home. Her new book, Finding Maria is published in October 2017. Learn more about Dawn at http://www.dawnfarnham.com.

Website: http://www.dawnfarnham.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/farnhamauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dawnfarnhamauthor/

Thank you once again to Monsoon Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. The Red Thread was published on 7th April 2015 and is available from all good book retailers now. Why not check out some of the other stops on the tour?

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21149887-the-red-thread

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Thread-Chinese-Singapore-Straits-ebook/dp/B005DIAOSM

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

Published September 17, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The “volcanically sexy” (USA Today) bestseller about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London.

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction.

What did I think?:

I first came across the wonderful Sarah Waters in her novel Fingersmith that I read in my pre-blogging days and remains on my bookshelves as one of my favourite books. Goodness knows why it took me so long to get around to another one of her novels, I’ve had them on my TBR for ages! However, when The Paying Guests was short-listed for the Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction in 2015 and I had heard nothing but rave reviews for it, I knew it was time to pick it up. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I’ve come across a book for a long time that is so incredibly close to that five star, perfect read. The Paying Guests was a heady mixture of gorgeous writing, tantalising characters and a plot that shook me to my core with the unexpected nature of it all.

I’ll just briefly describe what the book is about and I’ll try to be as vague as possible as frustratingly, there’s a lot about this novel that I simply can’t tell you and I do very much hate spoilers in a review. It is the 1920’s, post war in Britain and Mrs Wray and her daughter Frances have realised that times have changed. They have lost all the men in their family – three sons to the war (their deaths having a daily, ruinous effect on the household) and Frances’ father who recently passed away and left the family in terrible debt. As a result, they are forced to take in lodgers or “paying guests” hence the title of the novel. The arrival of married couple, Lilian and Leonard Barber makes an enormous impact on both Frances and her mother and has dire consequences for the rest of their lives.

I simply can’t say anymore than that, I really want you to discover it all for yourself. There are twists and turns in the narrative that I have to say, I did not see coming and was absolutely delighted to discover a story with so much convoluted detail, both in plot and with Sarah Waters’ endlessly fascinating characters. Frances at first comes across incredibly prickly, bitter and difficult but as we get to know her better she becomes so intriguing and she still plays on my mind long after finishing the novel. Lilian too is beautifully drawn and just as captivating to read about, especially in the second half of the story where certain incidents precipitate a thrilling and tense situation where I had no idea how on earth Sarah Waters was going to wrap it up. The sheer allure of the writing, the atmosphere of post war London which the author captures to perfection, and these amazing characters means Sarah Waters is instantly pushed onto my list of favourite authors and I’ll certainly be getting to another one of her novels as soon as I can.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

The Last Letter From Your Lover – Jojo Moyes

Published September 12, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A sophisticated, page-turning double love story spanning forty years-an unforgettable Brief Encounter for our times. 

It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing-not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply “B”, asking her to leave her husband.

Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter in a forgotten file in her newspaper’s archives. She becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie’s search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.

A spellbinding, intoxicating love story with a knockout ending, The Last Letter from Your Lover will appeal to the readers who have made One Day and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society bestsellers.

What did I think?:

In my quest to read everything on one of my favourite authors back-list of works, The Last Letter From Your Lover was next on my agenda and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I had heard that this novel was slightly more romance based than her previous novels and I’ve got to admit, I do tend to be a bit cynical of these kind of books. The romance aspect has to be done “just right,” for me and I find that it’s often a fine line between melting this cold heart of mine or just making me feel slightly sick. Jojo Moyes is one of those magical authors that gets it right every single time and I find her characters so warm and easy to relate to whilst managing to tug a little on my heart-strings, the latter of which is quite difficult to do, believe me!

Like many of her previous novels, the author uses two different time-lines to form a compelling and beautiful narrative. The first (and my favourite) is set in the early sixties and follows our protagonist, Jennifer Stirling who wakes up in hospital after a car accident with amnesia. She can’t even recollect her husband, friends or household staff at first and finds it very difficult to adjust when so many of her memories have completely disappeared. Then she finds a letter addressed to her which begs her to leave her husband, signed only with the letter B. We follow her story as she desperately attempts to recover her memory and piece together the puzzle of firstly, who B is and why it is imperative that she should break up her marriage. The second story is set in the present day and follows another young woman, Ellie who finds the old letters from B in a library and sets on her own mission to learn the story behind the doomed lovers, hoping that it will bring happiness into her own life as a result.

I adore how effective Jojo Moyes is in using dual perspectives and time-lines to tell a story. I have to be honest and say I wasn’t as keen on Ellie’s story although I appreciated why it was important to the novel. However, Jennifer’s story completely grabbed my attention and it was almost with bated breath I would wait for her section to roll around again, just so I could find out what was happening in her life. The love story between Jennifer and B is so touching and I was incredibly moved by her plight, the situation she found herself in post accident and how she managed to build herself up and start demanding answers from her to be frank, poor excuse for a husband. If I had to compare it with some of the authors previous books, I think it stands perfectly as one of her most poignant narratives and by the end, I was just rooting for Jennifer, for B and for everyone to get that wonderful happy ending. As for my rating, the only reason I’ve taken half a star off is that Ellie’s story didn’t compel me as much as I would have hoped – for Jennifer’s story alone, this novel is a solid four stars.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT JOJO MOYES READ: Me Before You – coming soon!

Mini Pin-It Reviews #13 – Four YA Novels

Published September 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four YA books for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1.) The Impossible Knife Of Memory – Laurie Halse Anderson

What’s it all about?:

For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

2.) Through The Ever Night – (Under The Never Sky #2) – Veronica Rossi

What’s it all about?:

It’s been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don’t take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe’s precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, can their love survive through the ever night?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

3.) Belle Epoque – Elizabeth Ross

What’s it all about?:

When sixteen-year-old Maude runs away to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Increasingly desperate for money, she answers a mysterious advert: ‘Young Women Wanted for Undemanding Work. Apply In Person To The Durandeau Agency.’ But the work is very strange indeed. Maude discovers she is to be a repoussoir – an ugly young woman hired by Parisian socialites to enhance their beauty.

Maude is humiliated – but faced with destitution, what choice does she have? Quickly (and secretly) selected as the perfect companion for the Countess Dubern’s daughter Isabelle, Maude is thrown into a decadent world full of parties, glamour and astonishing cruelty. Maude finds that academic Isabelle is equally disenchanted with the Parisian social scene, and the girls form a tight bond. But when bohemian artist Paul and the handsome Duke d’Avaray are introduced into the girls’ lives, their friendship will be tested to its limits. The girls are about to discover the true meaning of being beautiful…

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

4.) Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1) – Jessica Spotswood

What’s it all about?:

A gorgeous, witchy, romantic fantasy by a debut author! Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and the Beautiful Creatures series!

Everybody thinks Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship–or an early grave. Then Cate finds her mother’s diary, and uncovers a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra. But if what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe–not even from each other.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING UP NEXT ON MINI-PIN IT REVIEWS: Four Thriller Novels.

This Beautiful Life – Katie Marsh

Published August 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The addictive and emotive new novel from Katie Marsh, perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Jodi Picoult.

‘I lived over half my life before I met you both, and I hope with all my heart to live many years more. You two are the reason why. Always, always the reason why.’

Abi Cooper is living her happy ending. She’s in remission and is ready to make the most of her second chance. But during Abi’s illness her family has fallen apart. Her husband John has made decisions that are about to come back to haunt him, while her teenage son Seb is battling with a secret of his own.

Set to the songs on Abi’s survival playlist, This Beautiful Life is the moving and uplifting story of what happens as Abi tries to put her family back together – and of why life, and love, are worth fighting for.

What did I think?:

Thank you so much to the lovely people at Hodder and Stoughton publishers for sending me a copy of this moving, heart-breaking novel by Katie Marsh in return for an honest review. I went into this book completely new to the author but as the story deals with the big “C,” I fully expected some tears before bedtime. However, I was very surprised to discover that whilst This Beautiful Life does have its fair share of sorrow it also comes with such an uplifting message of hope, love and the importance of a strong family/friendship network and, as a result it was a wonderful reading experience.

Our protagonist is Abi Cooper, in her late thirties and has recently gone through a gruelling round of chemotherapy to attempt to fight her recently diagnosed bowel cancer. It’s been a long, often painful and always frightening road for her, her husband John and their teenage son Seb and whilst she recovers physically, she is desperate for her family life to return to normal. However, things aren’t that simple. Both John and Seb are battling with things that they have hidden from in order to protect her and when certain things are revealed, their world is turned upside down. Abi has always prided herself on her strong relationship with both her husband and her son and the fact that they can talk to each other about anything and everything. Yet what happens to a family when the walls of communication are destroyed and there seems to be little left to fight for?

This is such a powerful story made even more emotional and poignant by the inclusion of Abi’s survival playlist of songs. Interspersed between the chapters are the titles of each song and a short paragraph about why it means to much to Abi and whom it is dedicated to. I loved the musical addition to the narrative and often had the lyrics going round my head as I was reading, it made the whole experience so much more immersive and incredibly moving to say the least. Additionally, the characters are fantastic and hugely readable – I enjoyed the fact they had flaws and were not “picture perfect,” least of all Abi herself who is fully aware of the mistakes that she makes/has made and has to atone for. It’s safe to say this story and the characters definitely got under my skin and I will be looking out for more books by this author in the future. Aaaargh, that ending though Katie Marsh? I really really wanted to know what happened next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0