Thursday, 25 May 2017

REVIEW - LETTERS TO THE LOST BY BRIGID KEMMERER

Title: Letters To The Lost
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: Romance, Teens & YA
Publisher: Bloomsbury 
Release Date: 6th April 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I initially felt drawn to the covers, both the lighter blue background and the darker one too. Then once I read the blurb it really poked my curiosity. . and felt compelled to read it. I don't normally favour contemporary but I really fancied reading this one.

There are two versions of the cover, one has a lighter blue background than the other. I have featured both covers below along with my comments on them. In my opinion either of these covers would stand out enough to make me pick up the book and read the blurb.

The two central characters in the book are Juliet Young, who is struggling to cope with her mother's death. Juliet is so upset she cannot even touch a camera, even though before her mother's death a camera was something she always had in her hand. The trouble is her mother was quite a famous photojournalist, who traveled around the world to take the pictures people needed to see, in such places as war torn countries or disasters. Juliet was so used to sending letters to her mother when she was away due to her job, which was quite a lot of the time that she is getting comfort from writing letters to her mother and leaving them at her grave. 
The other main character is Declan Murphy who used to be a "good boy" but he changed when his little sister Kerry died in a car accident. Declan's father is in prison (you'll discover why when you read the book). Sadly and undeservedly Declan blames himself for his baby sister's death. With his dad in prison, his mum is back on the dating scene and after a few disastrous dates she has met and fallen in love with Alan. It's the evening of the day they married that Declan gets drunk, takes his fathers car and crashes it. He is given community service, which consists of him helping to keep the cemetery tidy, by moving any mementos left on the graves and then cutting the grass, under the supervision of Frank Melendez.
It's whilst he is at work doing his community service at the cemetery, clearing the personal stuff from the graves that he comes across the grave of Zoe Rebecca Thorne.
Declan decides to read the letter, and he empathizes with the writer of the letter and how he feels about the loss of his little sister. Declan feels compelled to write something back, so he does. This is the beginning of a "relationship" between Juliet and Declan. Initially Juliet is furious someone has read the letter she left for her mother but the pair soon become addicted to writing to each other. Eventually they exchange email address and communicate that way, though they both keep their anonymity by choosing "nick names" Declan is "The Dark" and Juliet is "Cemetery Girl" . Both discover clues about the other but neither wants to reveal themselves for quite a long time. It's ironic that both Juliet and Declan attend the same school and would rarely speak to each other, yet in the emails they quite literally pour their hearts out to each other and become supportive friends for each other.

Both characters also have support at school, though they maybe have trouble seeing it as such to begin with. Mr Gerardo is the photography teacher whom Juliet was originally doing the photography course with. After her mother died, Juliet turned away from anything photography related. Mr Gerardo is constantly asking her to come back, it's not too late to complete her assignments. When Juliet refuses he still continues to try to encourage her to put a camera in her hands and take some photographs. It turns out Mr Gerardo is a great support to Juliet when she finally develops a mystery reel of film from her mothers personal camera!
The school support for Declan is his English teacher Mrs Hillard. She realises that Declan has a fairly genuine interest in the books they are studying and it very good at analysing them too. Yet in class Declan tends to do the bare minimum to pass. Mrs Hillard recognises that with the right sort of gentle encouragement he could do so much more!

Other characters I loved and that in my opinion stood out were little Marisol Melendez, the young daughter of Frank Melendez (Declan's supervisor at the cemetery). Marisol really takes to Declan, as children don't make presumptions like other people do about him. Declan has a small circle of people he trusts. Rev is the guy he hangs around with at school, and he has his own secrets and history to deal with. Things improved for Rev when he was first fostered but then adopted by Geoff and Kristin. They do foster all/any children who need a home. Their latest foster child is Babydoll, and Rev does enjoy looking after her, as do Declan and Juliet. Declan regularly stays over at Rev's or eats at Rev's too. It's as if Geoff and Kirsten are "foster caring him" he certainly seems to be able to speak more easily to them.

This book is told from two points of view, Juliet's and Declan's. Until I started doing my review I hadn't realised so much happened within this book. 
One scene I thought was brilliant was when Frank Melendez's daughter Marisol, first meets Declan. The way she rushes up to him and hugs him. It's bitter sweet for Declan as by hugging him he instantly thinks of his own sister Kerry. At another point in the book Declan meets Carmen, Frank's wife and she jokingly tells Declan that Marisol has told her she is going to marry him! I think its great the way Carmen accepts Declan and doesn't judge him for having to do community service. 

I loved so much about this book, so it's been hard to just choose a few parts to share with you. The first one I wanted to share was right near the beginning of the book is when Declan thinks about his senior photograph in the school yearbook. . . thinking it will be "most likely to be a felon" written underneath it! 
I feel compelled to share is a fairly amusing one . . . where Declan is repairing a mower at the cemetery and Marisol is there repeating exactly what he says and pretends she is the one doing the fixing. Declan with the "bad boy" reputation just plays along and actually enjoys himself. He also shows his softer side when helping Rev take care of Babydoll.
I found it amusing when Declan and Juliet kept literally bumping into each other yet not realising that they were in fact sending emails to each other! I both loved and hated this fact. I found it funny when they were in person talking like strangers yet at the same time new so many things about each other. Then in other parts I was so frustrated I wanted to shake Juliet and Declan whilst screaming at the top of my voice "How can you not realise?".
Another great part of the book is centred around the dates of Juliet's mother's death and Declan's accident too. I had already pondered what this hints at. This probably sounds a little vague but all will be revealed when you read the book for yourselves.

My initial impression of Alan (Declan's stepfather) is that he is ignorant, domineering, uncaring and perhaps even abusive. I hated the way Alan spoke to Declan, always putting him down and picking faults with his behaviour etc. Then as the book and it's plot unfurl you learn more about both sides of the Alan/Declan relationship. It makes you rethink your initial assessment of Alan. I realised I was "jumping to conclusions" or being guilty of preconceived ideas. This is a theme throughout the book as Juliet and Declan are both guilty of hasty conclusions about those around them. An example of this is when Declan visits Frank's home, and is surprised to see that Frank and the Melendez family live in a middle class area somewhat like the one Declan lives in, rather than "the projects" where Declan assumed Frank would live.

My immediate reaction upon finishing the book was that I totally loved it! It is sentimental, and highly emotional tear-jerker in certain parts. This book grabs your heart, squeezes it tight until you think it cannot get any better or more emotionally charged and then keeps squeezing and holding on to the very last words.



COVER COMPARE


As I said above in my review I do like both covers. I love a good byline so I love that about the lighter blue cover, yet I prefer the darker blue background with the title in lighter blue as opposed to the lighter background with the bright pink title colour. I think the flowers on both covers being made out of letters is brilliant. It fits with the whole, people visit graves to leave flowers for loved ones. Juliet's letters are her version of flowers that other people take to lay on the graves of loved one.
So to sum up in a perfect/ideal world I would have the darker blue cover but add the byline "The darkest secrets, The fiercest love" to it. 

So which cover do YOU prefer?
And why?

Saturday, 20 May 2017

REVIEW - TRUE NORTH - TRUE BORN TRILOGY BY L.E. STERLING

Title: True North
Series: True Born Trilogy
Author: L.E. Sterling
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: 4th April 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
Abandoned by her family in Plague-ridden Dominion City, eighteen-year-old Lucy Fox has no choice but to rely upon the kindness of the True Borns, a renegade group of genetically enhanced humans, to save her twin sister, Margot. But Nolan Storm, their mysterious leader, has his own agenda. When Storm backtracks on his promise to rescue Margot, Lucy takes her fate into her own hands and sets off for Russia with her True Born bodyguard and maybe-something-more, the lethal yet beautiful Jared Price. In Russia, there's been whispered rumors of Plague Cure.

While Lucy fights her magnetic attraction to Jared, anxious that his loyalty to Storm will hurt her chances of finding her sister, they quickly discover that not all is as it appears…and discovering the secrets contained in the Fox sisters' blood before they wind up dead is just the beginning.?? 

As they say in Dominion, sometimes it’s not you…it’s your DNA.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I am looking forward to reading this book, returning to Dominion City to learn more about the twin sisters, Lucinda and Margot Fox and what is happening to them now. Has Lucy made the right decision to join the renegades in the hopes of both changing the world they are living in and at the same time saving her sister Margot.
Once again I was fortunate enough to be sent an invitation to request this book and then sent a widget to access the book via Netgalley from Entangled Teen.

The cover has the same background colour of a washed out pale blue, so it should easily be recognisable as being part of the True Born Trilogy. Once again the central part of the cover is taken up be a skull of some sort. The byline on this book is "It's not you . . . . it's your DNA" which I am sure its relevance to the plot, and certain characters will be revealed within the book. The cover certainly fits well and is as unusual as the cover for True Born. I'd say the antlers on the first book cover and then the skull on this cover have a kind of shock value, which also intrigues as to what they are and how they fit into the books.

In this book the two unique twin sisters have been separated. Margot has left with their parents and the rich and powerful Russian aristocrat, Leo Resnikov. Lucinda is now living with the True Borns, and has Nolan Storm acting as her guardian. Lucinda or Lucy as she goes by now, is helping the True Born cause and Nolan Storm enter and rise within the ranks of the popular and wealthy elite citizens of Dominion City, in exchange for his help find and reuniting Lucy with her sister Margot. Jared Price, the golden haired panther True Born is still acting as Lucy's "merc" which is a powerful guard. Jared is prepared to die protecting Lucy. Is this because he is determined to do his job well or does he have much deeper feelings for Lucinda Fox? They come from totally different backgrounds, and are living in an unsteady, sometimes volatile world where if people were to find out they have romantic feelings it would not only be frowned upon, it could actually put the young fledgling couple in danger.
Neither Margot nor Lucy have yet discovered what they are despite numerous, and sometimes painful protocols and tests done on them. Lucy can feel what is happening to Margot and how she is feeling. The twin girls share a unique and strong bond, they are somehow invisibly connected. The girls have birthmarks, with Lucy's looking like a lock and Margot's looking like a key. You could say the girls fit together like a pair of gloves. Both girls wonder what they actually are. . .they are indeed special, but exactly how and why? Lucy often reflects about how her parents always seemed to look at the girls as if they were some sort of aliens from another place. The rather fanatical Father Wes believes the girls are the answer to a cure for the plague, that the answer to everything is somehow within the girls blood. Serena, the blind salvager's mother, had told Father Wes many years before that twin girls within Dominion City would save it from the plague. The truthfulness of this statement/prophecy is a mystery as Serena's mother seems to have disappeared into thin air after delivering it to Father Wes. 

True Born leader, Nolan Storm has Lucinda Fox, daughter of the well known, high status, diplomat Lukas Fox introducing him to the elite people that are still living in Dominion City. They are invited and attend evening parties and engagements within the upper circle. It is at these fancy parties that Nolan Storm gets to roam around the homes and to gather intelligence and information about what is going on within the hierarchy of Dominion City. At times it seems that Nolan Storm is simply using Lucy for her connections and the people she can introduce him to, even though he protests when challenged that he does intend on helping her find her sister Margot when the time is right. But can Lucy tolerate being apart from Margot until the "time is right" for Nolan to make good on his side of their deal and help her rescue Margot? During this book Lucy has to learn to deal with a new alien feeling, which is not experiencing what her sister is going through. Then there are occurrences when Lucy feels exactly what Margot is enduring and it is not pleasant. There are also occasions where Lucy has the knowledge that Margot is involved physically and emotionally with a man that is with her wherever that is.

During the day Lucy is helping Doctor Dorian Raines collect samples from the Prayer Tree in Dominion City. It's during one of these excursions that Lucy meets little Marta and thinks she may be able to help her gain information that could lead her to Margot. Lucy is tired of the endless parties and introductions, keeping up appearances and putting on an act. Lucy thinks rather wryly to herself that her twin sister Margot would call this tiredness "to much glitter". It's maybe because Lucy feels like she has swapped one prison for another and that she isn't learning anything new about Margot's whereabouts. Along with the fact Nolan Storm seems somewhat reticent in his help in finding Margot too, that makes Lucy become a little reckless, and follow the street kid into a warren of streets, ending up lost and in imminent danger. It's around this time we meet a new character called Alistair, who is quite mysterious, and reluctant to reveal many details about himself. It is this new character that helps Lucy begin her long, arduous, sometimes extremely dangerous journey to find Margot herself. Lucy may think this is a journey she has to complete alone but ends up with two companions travelling with her as well as meeting an unlikely friend or two along the way. 
A man named Turner who at first seems a little stalker like or overly attracted, and "touchy-feely" towards Lucy. Lucy has to call on her experience as acting as if this overly friendliness is alright. In the end Turner ends up in being a form of benefactor for Lucy. He gives her and her travelling companions a gift that helps them continue on their journey.

Jared finds he has more than one difficult choice to make, he does make one quite clearly within the book. Jared is determined to protect Lucy as much as he can even if it interferes with his commitments to Nolan Storm and the other True Borns. At the very end of the book it seems like Jared may have at last come to a decision regarding his feelings for Lucy. Though they both decide their burgeoning feelings for each other are best kept secret for the time being.

We finally find out quite a bit more about what the twins are in this book. We learn just how special Lucy and Margot are. It is also revealed what has happened to eggs that were taken from Margot the first time she was kidnapped and taken to the splicer clinic, and the horror of what they are being used for. 

One of the scenes I love is when Lucy is pretending to be her sister, she really enjoys it. I found it amusing that Jared would be so surprised the twin sisters could pull this off. Lucy kind of laughs it off saying that they used to swap names and act like each other regularly as a game and could even fool their parents!

I loved a phrase from within the book. Lucy is thinking about herself and her sister Margot and what it feels like and what they are apart from each other . . ."What does a lock do without it's key? Keep it's secrets".

I could go on and on revealing much more about the book, but I don't like to do that. I don't want to mess up someone else's reading experience. If you read and loved book one in this series, it is a must to read this, the next installment. I am both looking forward and dreading the third and final part of this fantastic trilogy. I always say I love shifter books, and I do. I would say if you like shape shifters and like dystopian, and post apocalyptic then this is a series you really should give a go as it does have all those genre elements within in.

My "final thoughts" or first immediate thoughts upon finishing this book were that I  thoroughly enjoyed the to and fro of the on off fledgling relationship between Lucinda and Jared....Who or What is Alistair and why is he so eager to help on what could be a deadly mission? Will Nolan Storm really help the girls or are they just a means to an end.....? Some questions answered....even more to be asked...looking forward to the next book!

Monday, 15 May 2017

REVIEW - ACROSS THE SEA - THE DARTMOOR CHRONICLES BY JEN MINKMAN

Title: Across The Sea
Series: The Dartmoor Chronicles
Author: Jen Minkman
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Release Date: Out Now!

BLURB from Goodreads
Sarah and Kian have ended up on Tresco. They have brought Jinn home, but at a price - the president of Dartmoor is hot on their heels, and the only people who can help them live on the island of Lundy in the north, or in the notoriously rebellious community of Exmoor. When they team up with Walt and Leia, the Young Keepers of Lundy, as well as the leader of Exmoor,a makeshift army is put together to put an end to President Jacob's rule once and for all. The islanders and mainlanders will do everything in their power to make the New World into what it was truly supposed to be.

Will Kian be able to honor his uncle's legacy? And will Sarah keep her family safe and find out what happened to Jinn's twin brother? Find out in this final installment in the Island/Dartmoor series!
 


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
Having read the whole of the Island Series and the Dartmoor Chronicles book one I was looking forward to revisiting the characters and places in the series' as well as having some of my questions answered. 


The cover shows the vastness of the sea and features what I would call an old fashioned ship prominently on the cover. The cover fits well with both the other Dartmoor Chronicle's title, Beyond the Fence and the covers for The Island Series. 

President Jacob wants his Soldiers of Gideon to take fit and healthy people away from Tresco and perform experimental tests on them in a bid to find a cure for the disease his daughter has. It is time for the different settlements on the island to band together and make a stand. 


So at the very end of Beyond The Fence, we discovered along with Sarah, Kian and Jinn that they had been fooled and followed by President Jacob's Soldiers of Gideon. 

Sarah even ponders if the fact she met Jinn was engineered by the President too, as well as a boat being at the harbour to aid their escape. 

Rob the keeper of Tresco orders that the people should leave the town and initially hide in some caves they have stocked with food, water and blankets for such an occasion as this invasion. How long can they successfully hide? What happens when the Soldiers of Gideon find the caves and those hidden in them? Or what will happen when the supplies in the cave run out?


It's quite ironic that the boys from the manor are going to be the first line of the Islands defence's when they were once the bullies and bad guys of the Island. It's decided that Sarah and Kian will go back to Lundy and ask for help to stop President Jacob kidnapping the Tresco Islanders and taking them against their will to be tested, and possibly meet the same fate of Jinn, ending up haing the disease itself and dying.


There were quite a few emotional scenes in the book, when Jinn is reunited with Gordon his father, there is elation at them finding each other again but tinged with sadness as Jinn's brother, also Gordon's son, Winda is still missing.

I also thought the talk that Kian and Jinn have before Kian and Sarah have to on a mission was quite emotional. Jinn knows he will most probably be dead before Sarah returns and he secretly and quietly asks Kian to look after Sarah, and though Jinn doesn't say the exact words he is giving Kian permission to go ahead and court Sarah in the future, though at the time, Kian takes the remark as look after her on the mission and help her cope when she comes home and I may have already passed on.

Whilst Kian and Sarah make their way to the harbour to wait for Captain Tom so they can go to Lundy for help, they have to take temporary cover in a part ruined building. Kian finds some cd roms, which later in the book he is prepared to barter for help to keep the Islanders safe, but will old computer items, storage devices be enough to barter help to fight off the invading army? Will King Locryn want these computer items enough to offer and follow through with the help the Islanders need? Even if King Locryn does agree to help will there be anyone left on the island to help defend their home or even anyone left alive on the island?


This book is told from the points of view of the central characters of Kian and Sarah. They are the main characters involved in gaining the help of powerful allies to take on President Jacob about his actions in testing people against their will, like Jinn.

My first thoughts upon finishing this book were, well that ties up all the loose ends from book one. Then I thought a little more and began thinking of things I still had questions about, like would Kian and Sarah ever get together? There's the surprise Sarah had whilst on the boat with Kian and Captain Tom to be taken into account too. I'd like to know more about that and how it affects both Sarah and Kian. Then there's still a little more that could be revealed about Gordon, Jinn's father.. . . .So I guess what I am saying is I would love maybe a novella set a bit further into the future, to kind of catch up with my favourite characters, Kian, Sarah, Walt, Leia, Saul, Cal and Mia are among the first that spring to mind. 

Would I recommend this series? Of course yes! I'd recommend reading both The Island Series, and the Dartmoor Chronicles Series too. I've read quite a lot of books by this author, I love her writing style and pace.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

REVIEW - COUNTLESS BY KAREN GREGORY

Title: Countless
Author: Karen Gregory
Genre: Teens, YA, General Fiction (Adult)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: 4th May 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
'Is there anything that's concerning you?’ Felicity says. ‘College, home, boyfriends?' Though she's more or less smiling at this last one.

I don't smile. Instead, I feel my face go hot. Silence stretches as wide as an ocean.
When I look up, Felicity has this expression on her face like she's just seen Elvis. Slowly, she leans forward and in a gentle voice I've never heard her use before she says, 'Have you done a pregnancy test?'
 

When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn’t believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don’t add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She’s even given her eating disorder a name – Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision: she and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time … 


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I aren't totally sure exactly what initially drew me to this book, but for some reason I got the same 'I have to read this' feeling that I got from Eileen Cook's With Malice.Though I think once I noticed this book cover and its byline caught my interest and made me curious. Especially the girl with her legs tucked under her chin. I wanted to know why she wanted to make herself look so small.

I did enjoy reading this book, I felt very drawn in and truly found myself both caring about what would happen to Hedda and at certain points of the book I felt I could identify with her thoughts and feelings around eating. As I was what some would call "naturally thin" when I was younger, everyone always tried to get me to eat "that bit more" and it used to make me not want to eat at all! I also lacked confidence and for example couldn't bring myself to eat my friends houses or even at boyfriends house, which caused endless problems. I could literally be physically sick and shake thinking about it! So I think I identified a lot with Hedda when she finally wants to eat but then finds that she just can't physically do it.

I do find the cover eye catching and somewhat unusual to others around at this time. When I read the blurb I was hooked. The title Countless is kind of something Hedda needs to do "count less". She counts every calorie, every mouthful or morsel she eats to please those round her. I adore the byline of "Love means holding on . . . .Love means letting go . . " Both these sentences fit very well in different parts of the book. 
I was intrigued by the small stick like figure sitting in a childlike pose on the cover, it looks very small compared to the the large tear shaped droplets all around her. I'd say this is how Hedda see's herself in comparison to her surroundings in her life. The actual illustration of the figure instantly brought the Mrs Pepperpot books written by Alf Proyson and illustrated by Bjorn Berg to my mind. I can totally identify with Hedda feeling so small and insignificant in the grander scheme of life around her.
I think I would most certainly pick this book up from a book store shelf to learn more about it, and then it would be a must buy and read once I'd read the blurb!

The genres listed for this book on Netgalley are General Fiction (Adult), and Teens & YA, the Goodreads listed genres are, Health and Mental Health. I would agree with these genres but personally believe the book is even more. First of all I would say anorexia is both a physical and mental health issue. I would add "relationships" as a genre, as there are many different, relationships featured in the book each with their own issues and problems. From Hedda's relationship with Nia, the name she gives her anorexia. To her relationship's with her parents, her younger sister and her neighbours that live either side of her little flat. The possible light at the end of the tunnel kind of almost naive budding relationship with Robin, that almost, but just doesn't quite blossom. Hedda's parents have their own issues, the state of their marriage, their relationship with Hedda and their other daughter Tamara. 
In my opinion a lot of the characters in this book seem to put a proportion of blame on Hedda's young and narrow shoulders, when they should maybe be looking inwards at themselves too.

I suppose I should give you a gist, or a basics of the book. . .Hedda is living in her own flat and attending counselling back at the out patient section unit she recently left. Hedda has had a long term issue with food. Hedda is anorexic, her mother has refused to have her back at the family home saying that Hedda is a bad influence on her younger and more favoured sister Tamara. Hedda attends the couselling because she has to, but that doesn't mean she has to really fully take part in them when she see's Felicity. Felicity does try her best to encourage Hedda to deal with her anorexia, and tries to get Hedda to open up about her feelings and reasons behind her actions. Hedda only begins to open up her head and heart when she becomes pregnant. Hedda decides she will eat for the sake of her unborn baby. Hedda cannot ignore or beat the voice of Nia for herself but for her baby she will fight Nia with everything she has. It is a lonely life for Hedda, with an angry and noisy male neighbour on one side, and then Robin moves in to the flat at the other side of Hedda's. The flats are basic and to begin with Hedda is more "existing" than living but with the persistence of Robin, the unquestioning and consistent support of Felicity Hedda's life does improve. 

Personally I think Hedda really does try to be everything to everyone in her life. It's no wonder she has nothing left for herself at the end of the day. Hedda believes she isn't worth the bother, but then when she becomes pregnant and responsible for another tiny new life she has to bother about herself and her own body as it has to both support and provide the correct nutrients for her baby. I loved the way she just knows she is having a girl. I adore the way Robin brings her white roses as his Grammy once told him they represent new beginnings. In fact it's a combination of Robin's gift and Hedda's other visitors at the time why her baby ends up being called Rose. I did honestly think from an earlier comment in the book that Hedda would call the baby Molly. I am so glad she didn't, she would have almost being set up her daughter to fail before she ever had a chance to try. 

Going back to the byline "Love means holding on . . . .Love means letting go . . " At certain parts of the book, Hedda is eating, not for herself but to stay well and feed her unborn child. Hedda is forcing herself to eat just enough, forcing herself to "hold on" for the sake of her unborn child that she already loves more than herself. Though she counts every morsel of food, making sure she eats the correct amount, no more and no less than needed for her unborn baby to thrive. Sadly towards the latter end of the book the second sentence of the by line "...Love means letting go . . ." is also something Hedda has to come to terms with and has to reach out for help which means letting go of the one thing/person in her life she loves and treasures the most. Hedda manages to look at her situation and decide to take the path of doing the greater good.

Of course I loved the character of Hedda and really did identify with her on a lot of levels. Her relationship with food, her need to please everyone else, her feelings that she has disappointed people in her life. I found Hedda a very believable and realistic character. I instantly warmed to Robin and saw him becoming a possible father to baby Rose at one point. Then along with Hedda we discover he has problems of his own. I'd like to think that maybe a year or two ahead in time that Robin and Hedda will be in a better place in their individual lives that perhaps they could come back together as a family unit with Rose.
I admit to becoming really angry with Hedda's parents. Hedda's father just leaves when the going gets tough and it isn't the first time he has done this which goes part way to explaining some of the emotional problems between Hedda and her mother. I was really shocked by the way he abandons his family, including Hedda who really needs him and his help. I felt both anger and sympathy for Hedda's mother, she was another character in the book who was holding a lot of emotions and problems inside, trying to single handedly put on a "good family" facade to the outside world.
I was pleased the way the relationship between Tamara and Hedda improved. It began rocky with the girls more or less ignoring each other to Tamara going to Hedda both for support for herself because of the marriage break up of their parents, and also Tamara enjoying being an auntie to Rose.
Other great characters I just have to mention were Vi, the lady at the food bank who later plays a larger part in Hedda's future, and Lois, a pregnant mum to be, that fate has Hedda cross paths with on more than one occasion.

As I was reading this book I found it really thought provoking. The issues it raised and how the book covered them had me asking myself asking more and more questions as well as wanting to ask the characters in the book why they were reacting the way they did. I'd say by the end of the book some of the questions were answered, others were left for you to ponder about. 

I found this book a very emotional and enlightening read and had misty eyes and shed quite a few tears towards the end. The difficult choices that Hedda has to make both about the welfare of her cherished baby Rose and her own health welfare too. I was so upset at the end of the book, I felt broken hearted for Hedda, Rose and their situation. The epilogue was a necessity after the "ending". I will be totally honest and state I would of hated the ending even though it was both a realistic, truthful and logical one. The epilogue gave the reader and the characters some hope of what could happen, it was the light at the end of the long journey through the darkened tunnel.

To stop me going on and on forever about this book, because I truly could. I feel my review has only touched on a very small portion of the contents and complexities contained in the book. So to finally sum up I have to add that I loved this book from the first page to the last, a very realistic and truthful look at anorexia, what it does to the person unable to eat along with the family and friends watching that person waste away. Enlightening, engrossing, and emotional.

Monday, 1 May 2017

REVIEW - FODMAP NAVIGATOR BY MARTIN STORR MD

Described as "an excellent chart book for everybody intending to go on or already conducting a low-FODMAP diet"

Title: FODMAP Navigator
Author: Martin Storr MD
Genre: Non-Fiction, Health & Wellbeing, Diet, Cookery
Release Date: 24th June 2015

BLURB from Goodreads
Presently the low-FODMAP diet (fermentable oligo-di and monosaccharides and polyols) is regarded being the most helpful diet for patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other digestive disorders. Reducing FODMAP intake by consuming low-FODMAP foods and avoiding high-FODMAP foods may help to control or eliminate symptoms associated with these digestive diseases and may lead to a more comfortable belly. The countless number of books on the low-FODMAP diet serves as an indirect measure of the successfulness of the diet. For a varied and balanced low-FODMAP diet it is helpful to have information on the FODMAP rating for more than 50 foods. The FODMAP Navigator offers charts with FODMAP ratings for more than 500 foods, food additives and prebiotics.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
So this review is slightly out of the normal and different to the majority of reviews I do. Firstly this is a non-fiction book (which I do love reading non fiction too, on subjects I am interested in). 
Being totally new to this way of thinking and eating I was hoping for a simplified description of what FODMAP is and how it would help my digestive issues.
This book is about something personally close to me, my health. I suffer and have been diagnosed as having IBS for many years now, add to that my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, and Menieres Disease and you will understand my eagerness to try this particular books suggested way of eating.
The cover is in my opinion quite eye-catching, bright green, a colour I myself associate with healthy food. I like that the title of the book is presented in too forms, the actual written title and the cover image of a compass/navigator.
The genre of this book is obviously non-fiction, a dietary advice book, and falls into a health and well-being genre.
Not knowing a lot about the specific "diet" covered in this book, or as I would prefer to say the FODMAP "way of eating"I was super enthusiastic to learn much more.
The book starts by explaining FODMAPs are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives. FODMAPs include fructose (when in excess of glucose), fructans, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), lactose and polyols (eg. sorbitol and mannitol).
This book explains things well and even better there is an extensive list of foods that are then rated low or high in FODMAPS. The size of this book is perfect to slip in your handbag to be at hand to refer to whilst shopping or eating out.
The book also features some interesting sounding recipes too. Sadly I haven't had chance to attempt them yet as I am still eliminating certain foods at the trial or error phase. So far I have discovered a sensitivity toward gluten. The awkward thing now is functioning and eating without gluten in my diet. 
So my final thoughts are I found this book, helpful, interesting and informative as well as it being a first positive step to an improvement in my health and well-being. Useful, honest, information about a new way of eating that I find myself needing to try.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

BOOK PROMOTION & AUTHOR INTERVIEW - FROM DARKEST SKIES BY SAM PETERS

Title: From Darkest Skies
Author: Sam Peters
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Gollancz
Release Date: 16th February 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
After a five year sabbatical following the tragic death of his wife and fellow agent Alysha, Keona Rause returns to the distant colony world of Magenta to resume service with the Magentan Intelligence Service. With him he brings an artificial recreation of his wife's personality, a simulacrum built from every digital trace she left behind. She has been constructed with one purpose - to discover the truth behind her own death - but Keona's relationship with her has grown into something more, something frighteningly dependent, something that verges on love.
Cashing in old favours, Keona uses his return to the Service to take on a series of cases that allow him and the artificial Alysha to piece together his wife's last days. His investigations lead him inexorably along the same paths Alysha followed five years earlier, to a sinister and deadly group with an unhealthy fascination for the unknowable alien Masters; but as the wider world of Magenta is threatened with an imminent crisis, Keona finds himself in a dilemma: do his duty and stand with his team to expose a villainous crime, or sacrifice them all for the truth about his wife?

PURCHASE LINKS

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

How long did it take you to write From Darkest Skies, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Such a simple question, such a complicated answer…

From the point of having a fully formed set of ideas on the world, the characters and the overall arc of their stories, it took about nine months including a few gaps between rewrites; but that starting point was a very long way away from where the original ideas grew. Parts of the world of Magenta, parts of some of the characters and a few nuggets of the plot go back years to a table-top role-playing game set on Magenta where the players were the local equivalent of the FBI investigating crimes with a slightly occult twist. A lot has changed in the evolution of those ideas into something that works as a coherent story – there was no Alysha back then, the sinister secret of Settlement 64 was something quite different and so were the Masters – but I think the world will still be very recognisable to those of us who played in that game.

Then there was probably six months of back and forth while I settled on a plot before the actual writing started. That took quite a while to get right.


Where did you get your book plot ideas from? What/Who is your inspiration?
All sorts of places. I think the theme of grief and coping with loss that runs through the story certainly has a lot to do with a death in the family. The idea that bringing someone back from the sum of everything they left behind doesn’t necessarily bring back quite the person you remember owes something to the dementia they suffered in their last year and to a couple of people I’ve known who’ve gone through intense trauma and come out the other side changed. I think those things gave me the desire to write story about how our ideas and memories of the people we know aren’t necessarily the people they actually are.

Then there’s the more superficial plot which unashamedly owes a lot to the noir thrillers of the forties and fifties. The fact that a passing character is called Royja Bhatti might betray a love of Bladerunner but really that’s already noir dressed up as SF; and while the replicants of Bladerunner offer a parallel to Liss, I think she owes at least as much to Frankenstein. Throw in some Twin Peaks, X-Files (I’m showing my age here I know), some Scandi-Crime (The Killing and The Bridge in particular) and a really good conspiracy thriller like State of Play and you’re about there.

The Masters probably owe something to Chaoseum’s interpretation of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos for the sense of something unknown and unknowable.


How did you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book? Who designed the Cover of your books?
I wasn't conscious of this at the time but it’s the title of a My Dying Bride album which I suspect lodged somewhere in my mind better than the music ever did. I know I knew that particular album once. I suspect my subconscious pulled a fast one, latched onto the theme and pulled it out of deep storage without telling me where it came from.

The Gollancz art department did the cover. The cover image is by James Macey. The closest I got to any say in the matter was suggesting a riff on the iconic image of Maria from Metropolis:




Did you basic plot/plan for From Darkest Skies, before you actually began writing it out? Or did you let the writing flow and see where it took the story?
A bit of both. I think there are two very different sides to From Darkest Skies. On the one hand the plot very much aims at being a crime/conspiracy thriller. I think that to make a thriller work you need to know exactly who did what and why and what clues are there to be found in order to unravel the mystery; then you need to give thought to the order in which the clues need to be found to unravel the mystery in the right way, pacing little breakthroughs with bigger ones and mixing in the odd red herring. I find for that side of things it helps me to lay out that backstory in quite a lot of detail – but the rest tends to be more a case of letting the story flow to see what happens, particularly with characters. They start to talk and act and come alive and often turn out not to be quite the people I thought they were once I start to write them. Then whenever the story feels like it needs to twist or slow or make a breakthrough I go back to my careful plan and look at all the clues that might have been left behind and pick the one that seems to fit best.

The result is usually a mess and takes several rewrites to get right.


Could you ever see a time in the world’s future that could actual recreate a person?
It’s the strangest thing: if you’d asked me that before I started From Darkest Skies then I think I would have said yes. Writing the story (and some of the rather peripheral research provoked by it) has convinced me that no, I can’t. I can certainly foresee a time when it’s possible to recreate a convincing simulation of a person, even a specific one… but that’s what it would be: a simulation. We all have our secrets and you can’t recreate something you don’t know exists. A true recreation akin to resurrection? No.


If recreating someone you lost was an available technology would you ever do it?
I don’t think they’d ever be quite the same person (as From Darkest Skies starts to explore and we're back to Frankenstein again). I’m not sure I'd want the responsibility of creating life and I’m not sure I could find the hubris to bring a new life into being purely to service my own needs. Again another topic I wouldn’t ever have given much thought until I started writing about it.

Social Media Links
liss.ai
@sampeters679


Friday, 21 April 2017

REVIEW - THE SCENT OF RAIN BY ANNE MONTGOMERY

Title: The Scent Of Rain
Author: Anne Montgomery
Genre: General Fiction, Teens & YA
Publisher: Treehouse Publishing
Release Date: 4th April 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
Rose Madsen will do anything to keep from being married off to one of the men in her Fundamentalist Mormon (FLDS) community, even endure the continued beatings and abuse of her mother. But when her mentally handicapped baby sister is forced to strangle the bird she loves at the behest of the Prophet, Rose frees the bird and runs away. 

Adan Reyes will do anything to escape the abusive foster care system in Phoenix, even leaving his good friends and successful high school athletic career behind him. Ill-prepared for surviving the desert, Adan hits the road only to suffer heat stroke. Found by a local handyman, he catches a glimpse of a mysterious girl--Rose--running through town, and follows her into the mountains where they are both tracked and discovered by the men of the FLDS community.

With their fates now intertwined, can Rose and Adan escape the systems locking them into lives of abuse? Will Rose be forced to marry the Prophet, a man her father's age, and be one of dozens of wives, perpetually pregnant, with no hope for an education? Will Adan be returned to the foster home where bullying and cruelty are common? Is everyone they meet determined to keep them right where they belong or are some adults worthy of their trust?


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
I am quite fascinated with learning about different cultures and ways of life, and find the TV programs about the FLDS, Mormons, Amish, Polygamists etc fascinating. Some people call these organisations, and refer to these as cults, where others would call them religions or "ways of life". I find the people that take part in these programs intriguing. So when I read the blurb of this book, it did immediately grab my attention. I was also interested that the author Anne Montgomery had spoken to Flora Jessop, who escaped this way of life twice and who now helps others that want to leave these communities.

The cover shows a young female  kind of hiding behind her long blonde hair. This female I would say is a good representation of Rose - one the main characters in the book. The title doesn't really give a great deal of information about the book or its contents but as you finish you reading you understand why it is the title. I'd say that "The Scent of Rain" represents the fact that the rain washes things away, both physically and metaphorically within the book. The title is a way of saying that the bad things can be washed away for Rose, Adan and even to an extent Brooke and that they can start anew. 

I would say this book has more than just one main character. There is 16 year old Rose, who has been born into a branch the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that still practiced polygamy and were situated in Colorado City, near a small town called Hurricane. We meet Rose as she is down at the creek, she knows she should hurry home back to her chores but cannot resist putting her bare feet in the creek and wading in the cool water enjoying the sunshine first. When she returns home she knows she will be in trouble and she is severely punished by her mother Bliss. Bliss calls her daughter recalcitrant, (rebellious & unruly) and insists her daughter should remain clean and tidy at all times and dress and behave in line with the requirements of their Prophet, Eldon Higbee. Bliss regularly quotes the following to Rose "Dirty clothes prove one harbours dirty thoughts!"
Women and young girls should dress in a certain style of dress, that is to be made in a plain pastel colour and have a high neck, cover the arms and reach the ankles. The women are told to never cut their hair but to braid and roll it up high in their head. When Rose cannot confirm with all these stringent requirements it is common for her mother to strike her repeatedly with a wooden spoon, slap and strike her and put her in a small, dark room within her mothers closet, leaving her with no food or water. Rose's father, Logan Madsen stands by as his daughters are punished, just telling Bliss "Don't mark the face, mother!" A mark on the face would reduce Rose's potential to be married. One of Rose's regular chores is to wash and dress her younger sister Daisy. Sadly Daisy is disabled both mentally and physically, she has a genetic condition caused by the inter breeding of bloodlines within their community, called Fumarase Deficiency.
The community was originally created by just two families, the Barlows and the Jessops, and with the practice of polygamy and relatives marrying relatives, it has caused lots of birth defects. Later in the book a character called Dr Chase Allred actually attempts to explain the problems and how to prevent further genetic problems to the community but is just ignored as the people blindly believe that God wants them to live and procreate in this way. Any child that is born disabled is considered a punishment from God, sort of a "cross to bear" and be hidden away. God sends them to remind them to strive to be better, to reach their goal of one day joining him in the celestial kingdom. Everyone thinks that Daisy is stupid and doesn't know what is going on around her. Yet, on at least three occasions she shows she understands what is going on around and that in her own way she can communicate. When Rose washes Daisy she loves to splash in the water. Daisy also attempts to communicate with a little parakeet that was found and put in her room. It is the little parakeet and the fact the Prophet Eldon Higbee orders all pets and animals that are not working ones or for food must be killed by the person who owns them. There is an horrific scene where Logan and Bliss demand Rose help them place the parakeet in Daisy's hands so that they can move her hands and kill the animal! I won't reveal exactly what happens but the result is Rose running away.
I love that no matter what is done to Rose throughout the book she still keeps her spirit and she certainly needs that and a whisper of hope to survive everything that is thrown at her in this book.
Another character I love is 17 year old Adan, who is also running away, but is lucky to be found dehydrated and barely concious by Trak Benally. Trak was a medic in the army and his best friend is Dr Chase Allred. Between them they care for the mystery boy who tells them he is already 18 and is called Andy. Adan has no idea about the polygamist community nearby, yet become curious about Rose when he glimpses her on a few occasions. They end up together at one point, both trying to help the other within some really scary situations, but I won't go into those.
Another character in the book who I initially disliked but then in the end felt a little pity and sympathy towards was Marshal Sterling Buttars who is supposed to be head of the law enforcement for the area. However Sterling Buttars is a member of the community ruled by Prophet Eldon Higbee. So when problems arise and the Prophet orders them to be "taken care of" Sterling Buttars does as he is told as he is afraid of not getting into the celestial kingdom, or even having his wives taken away and being banished. 
Logan Madsen has two wives and they are striving to please the Prophet so that he will assign them another wife. As when you have three wives and are procreating regularly you are almost guaranteed your place in the celestial kingdom with God! Though this doesn't excuse his behaviour and turning a blind eye to the harsh treatment of his daughters it reveals what his reasoning and motivation is. 
When Sterling Buttar has to kill his pet dog he begins to resent the Prophet and his orders. Then when his youngest and third wife, Bonnie is found dead with her head and face battered he cannot just hide the crime. He ends up having to face up to what has happened and eventually the shock of who has killed Bonnie!
Brooke, the new child protection officer continues to come to dead ends in all the cases she has to pick up from the last person in the job. The majority of the reports were made by a man called Bob Wayland, a science teacher at the school. However Prophet Eldon Higbee has decreed that all the children should be home schooled and it appears that Bob has disappeared into thin air. Though there are plenty of little hints as to what may have happened to him when the school closed.
I could seriously go on and on about this book, it felt like a whole book series compacted into one book! The Scent of Rain covers so much, from the cult like community of polygamists continuing traditions that are not supposed still be happening, to the "outsiders" that live in the surrounding area. Then there's the different plots within the book, of a runaway boy called Adan hiding something, a young woman called Brooke who is harbouring her own secret and has just moved to the area to take over the job of Child Protection Services, to a man undercover in the area looking into unsolved disappearances in the area. This does sound a lot and makes you wonder how it all dovetails together but it really does. Almost everything leads back to the cult like society with its secrets and what some would call strange ways and traditions. 
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, though did find myself on occasion being irritated when the chapters changed and we moved onto something happening with another character when I wanted to stay with the one whose story I was engrossed in. It's a shame that this is a standalone book as I would have loved to read more about both Rose and Adan. As well as learning what happened to the characters that remain in the polygamist community, and those outsiders who have vowed to help anyone who wishes to escape as well as uncovering what happened to those people that just disappeared.
My immediate thoughts when finishing the book were, that is was an intriguing yet shocking story. This author has done extensive research into the culture and ways of life of those depicted in the book. It certainly makes you think twice about the poor children born into this way of life, and the fact they have little choice but to do as they are told.
I also want to add that this isn't a book you read and switch off from. It is thought provoking, both whilst you are reading it and after finishing it. I find it incredible to think that there could quite possibly be children out there in the same sort of position as Rose right now! Then thinking about Adan and his character is also a realistic story line today. We think, or I know I would like to think we live in a civilized society but the realism in this book and many other realistic fiction books certainly proves you don't know exactly what is happening behind closed doors! The Scent Of Rain is a book that stays with you, that you continue to think about long after finishing to read it.