Thursday, 22 September 2011

Review of Until the End of Forever by Shannon Hart! >>> Book Tour

Meet Shannon Hart........

and take a look at her debut novel Until the End of Forever.....

Welcome to my first book tour…..!
Thank you to Samantha from Chick Lit Plus for getting me involved xx

** What it’s about **

Sarah Matthews has everything in the world a woman could wish for: a loving husband; two beautiful children; a small business which she runs together with her sister in law; and even her own top of the range car.  Why then does she keep having recurring nightmares?

Over a friendly lunch with her ex-lady boss, seeds of doubt and discontent begin to gnaw at her, and the realisation dawns that she is no longer free to live a life of her own as she would wish.  When offered the opportunity, therefore, to go to work in Paris for a month she finds herself unable to resist.

As Sarah takes us along with her on her journey, we are given a privileged insight into the workings of the female mind as her thoughts and feelings tumble around in an attempt to find answers.

** What I thought **

Rob is the perfect gentleman, and the man every woman dreams of.  Sarah should have the perfect life with him, but something doesn’t feel right and she isn’t content.  She needs to get away, to find herself again away from being a mum and a wife….but will their relationship survive some time apart? I’m sure many women will relate to this book –those feelings when you first find love, perhaps followed by the routine of a relationship and the feeling that something is missing.  What many women may not relate to is leaving their husband and kids for a month to go to the other side of the world to work in Paris.  It’s a little frustrating, and many people would say there were much easier ways to sort out her issues, but it isn’t entirely unbelievable and perhaps if women were presented with such an opportunity they would take it.

I loved the cover; both the colour and the design.  It tells you everything you need to know about this book; it is a love story. I liked the New York skyline on the front cover with the Eiffel tower on the back; very effective.

The book is mainly told by Sarah, with the odd chapter by Rob giving his perspective.  It has a very personal feel to it, which is my favourite thing about this book.  It really does feel as though you are in Sarah and Rob’s heads; something I haven’t fully felt with any other book of this genre recently.  This draws you into their lives and into the book much easier and deeper than with most chick lit reads.

There are plenty of times when each character relives memories of their past (e.g. when they met, when they married etc) which fills you in on the background which led them to their current lives.  It allows you to feel how their relationship has grown, and how they have ended up as they are today.  I preferred these parts of the book; when Sarah firsts meet Rob and they have the most romantic whirlwind romance.

This is Shannon Hart’s first novel.  She previously wrote short stories and for me this was a relatively short novel.  A thin book; 209 pages of relatively large writing – it didn’t take me too long to get through.  It’s thoroughly enjoyable; it made me smile, laugh, reminisce and it made my eyes fill with tears on more than one occasion.  The ending left me satisfied, but all-in-all it was fairly predictable chick lit.

Saying that it is a wonderfully easy and light read – perfect for a summer holiday by the pool or on the beach, or a winter read cuddled up by an open log fire with a glass of wine and a box of chocs!


You can find out more about Shannon and her debut novel ‘Until the End of Forever’ at Shannon’s WebsiteShannon’s Blog and you can follow Shannon on Twitter.  You can see other reviews, and follow Shannon's Book Tour here.


COMPETITION: Everyone who leaves a comment on Shannon’s tourpage will be entered to win a $10 Amazon gift card. This is open worldwide so pop over and leave a comment! 

Available in Paperback and Kindle Edition on


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

** What is it about ** - Usually at this point I would quote the synopsis from the book BUT in this case, I don’t think that should be read in full before opening the book! Therefore all I’m going to say about this book is:

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.”

“But this is no conventional spectacle…Behind the scenes a dangerous game is being played by two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who, at the behest of their masters, are forced to test the very limits of the imagination – and of love…”

** What I thought **

This book is set to be the publishing sensation of 2011 which usually means that a huge number of long-filled-with-anticipation-readers will be hugely disappointed. On one hand, I can see why this might be (I’ll come back to that in a moment), however I wasn’t disappointed.  This might be because I didn’t know enough about all the rave reviews or perhaps because I can appreciate certain things within the book where others focus on the things that are lacking.

The best way I can describe this book is that it is enchanting.  It’s intriguing from the start and is almost as though when you open the first page a spell is cast over you which isn’t released until you’ve turned the very last page.

I enjoyed the book thoroughly, however having read 387 pages of exceptionally detailed narrative, I felt there was something lacking.  It took me a while to work out what this was, and most of the thanks go to The Book Smugglers and their excellent review of this book for helping me work out what that thing is.  As I don’t want to go into any specific details of the plot, it’s a little hard to explain but Thea from The Book Smugglers explains it exceptionally well: the game itself – i.e. the entire impetus for the plot – never really feels like a pressing, urgent thing. For the entire book, the “game” (often referred to but never truly understood or addressed) remains sort of undefined and dreamlike. That’s not a bad thing, but I can’t help but feel like there should have been something more to it. As it is, The Night Circus is less of a book with a clear storyline and more a series of vignettes and impressions – which is fantastic and masterfully created, but I can’t help but want just that little extra oomf.”  I have to agree – the plot did lack a certain element of oomf.  This could be because it was overshadowed by the gorgeously enchanting and vivid descriptions of the circus or it could be because of a theory Ana from The Book Smugglers has come up with! Her theory is this: “Every single character in this novel EXCEPT the main characters should matter MORE. To me, Celia and Marco are mysterious and depth-less on purpose. Because it is the other characters’ vibrancy and depth that tip the scales of the game and eventually determine its outcome! Never before in the history of this feud there were so many people being part of this game – it is their destiny and that of the Circus itself that are so important and therefore why they are better developed.”  I like to agree with Ana, and add a little of my own.  Yes, the challenge or game appears to be the central point to this book and it is vague throughout and I see many several reviewers state that it needed more detail as they couldn’t quite grasp the how’s and why’s of it.  Yet, to me that was the point.  The challenge wasn’t even clearly understood by the players themselves so why should the reader by privy to such information.  All is revealed eventually, and we find out as the characters do.  The book is set over a number of decades, beginning in 1873 and ending in 1903 which I think is why the game isn't pressing or urgent.  It becomes part of who Celia and Marco are, it's all-consuming which is why it is part of every page of the book without specifically being about it! 

The narrative is third person omniscient and this works exceptionally well.  It allows Morgenstern to shift between people and time frames without losing any momentum at all.  There is a fair amount of jumping around within this book, yet it works.  The book has different threads running through it.  Firstly, there is the narrative that guides you through the circus itself.  It’s almost like being there but not quite; it’s like watching the circus through a snow globe with your hands gripped to the sides and your face pressed against the glass at the top!  Secondly, there are quotes (most likely clippings from the newspaper articles referred to within the book).  Finally, there is the story itself, yet even this isn’t told in a simple chronological order.  It skips about between dates and characters.  Once you’ve finished the book, you can truly appreciate the skill that has gone into this book in bringing it together in the way it has been.  The stories of many different characters are interwoven together exceptionally well without leaving the reader confused.  Yes, it isn’t particularly fast-paced, but it’s gripping in a different way.  The detail is beautiful and all-consuming.  The leisurely pace means it isn’t predictable on any level.  It’s like an exceptionally well-crafted clock; each piece slowly comes together until the cogs begin to turn and you can begin to comprehend each minute as it passes.

If you don’t like escapist magical fantasy, this book isn’t for you.  However, if you do, this is a must read! This book is unlike most books I’ve ever read in that it isn’t easily forgettable and it will stay with me for a very long time.  I think it would be even better on a second read.

The proof copy I received had black and white graphical pages inter-linking parts of the book.  I truly hope this made it to the final copy!  I love the final UK cover – it’s perfect for what is contained inside.


Summit Entertainment have already bought the film rights for this.  The book, as I have said, is incredibly descriptive and visual so I hope they tread carefully with how they portray this book, and in particular, the circus; so many people will have clearly-defined images in their head making the transition from paper to screen a very fragile one!


If you’re happy to read a bit more of the plot than I was willing to give you on this occasion, I highly recommend you head over to The Book Smugglers and read their review of The Night Circus here

Available in Kindle Edition at


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Review of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

** What it's about **

The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realise what's been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

The Language of Flowers is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.


** What I thought **
It is difficult to conjure up the right words to describe how I feel about this book.  It’s enchanting, yet tragic, and beautiful, all at the same time.  It’ll make you smile, and it’s sure to make you cry too.  It filled me with warmth and, despite the sadness it contains, left me totally and utterly satisfied.  Quite simply my new favourite book of 2011.

You don’t have to be overly-interested in flowers to appreciate the depth and beauty that Diffenbaugh portrays in this book.  It’s much more about seeing the hidden and deeper meaning, the romance aspect and an alternative way of communicating.  This is a story about a girl finding her way home; a story of friendship, romance, maternal love and the struggles of a young girl to portray her feelings and let her past go.
If you take the romance of the Victorian language of flowers, and combine it with the anger and resentment of a nine-year old child brought up in foster care and shifted from pillar to post, you are left with Victoria Jones.  What a wonderfully powerful combination.  Diffenbaugh fares just as well with her secondary characters, who pull everything together and don’t leave you feeling like anything is lacking.
This powerful tale is elegantly written.  I didn’t find the story predictable, in fact I was extremely impressed at how easily it flowed and dragged you in deeper and deeper with every page despite the lack of obvious hints as to the direction it is going to take.  The author doesn’t try to draw you in with forced cliff-hangers; it just seems to happen.  The detail is exceptional, and I often felt that it was more like reading an autobiography than a fictional story. The chapters alternate between Victoria at 18 (emancipation) and Victoria at 9 when she is deep within the foster-care system.  Despite the toing and froing, the book doesn’t feel fragmented, the pace is kept exceptionally well and you won’t want to put it down.
Diffenbaugh and her husband have been full-time foster parents for several years, and the experience has partly inspired her first novel, The Language of Flowers.  It doesn’t surprise me that this book comes from something much deeper than imagination.  If this is what Diffenbaugh can produce as her debut novel, I live in anticipation to see what will follow.  Absolutely stunning, I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Throughout the book, I always knew this would be made into a film, so it was no surprise for me to read that Fox 2000 have already acquired the film rights to The Language of Flowers.  All I can hope for is that they do it the justice it deserves.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh is launching the Camellia Network in order to create a movement to support youth making the transition from foster care to independence.  In the language of flowers, camellia means my destiny is in your hands.  You can find out more about the Camellia Network and get involved at 


Available in Paperback, Hardcover and Kindle Edition at

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Review of The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker

Thanks to Usborne Publishers for the advanced review copy of The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker.
** What it’s about **
Sherry and her family have lived sealed in a bunker in the garden since things went wrong up above. Her grandfather has been in the freezer for the last three months, her parents are at each other’s throats and two minutes ago they ran out of food.

Sherry and her father leave the safety of the bunker and find a devastated and empty LA, smashed to pieces by bombs and haunted by ‘Weepers’ - rabid humans infected with a weaponized rabies virus.

While searching for food in a supermarket, Sherry’s father disappears and Sherry is saved by Joshua, a boy-hunter. He takes her to Safe-haven, a tumble-down vineyard in the hills outside LA, where a handful of other survivors are picking up the pieces of their ‘other lives’. As she falls in love for the first time, Sherry must save her father, stay alive and keep Joshua safe when his desire for vengeance threatens them all

** What I thought **
The Other Life is the first book of perhaps a series, but there certainly is a follow up book called The Life Beyond which is due to be released in February 2013.  (The Other Life is launched on 1st February 2012).  Firstly, I have to say that I love the cover - absolutely gorgeous and entrancing.  The barbed wire on the cover and the start of each chapter has a very clever and subtle link to the story (I won't say anymore....!)
This is my second YA dystopian debut in as many days.  This one, I devoured in a matter of hours.  Susanne Winnacker writes beautifully creating a world of eerie destruction intermingled with the  seeds of first love. 
Winnacker has packed a powerful punch with her debut novel about survival, adventure and first love.  The character development is perfect, and I absolutely adore the hero of the book, Joshua.  I can’t wait to see the relationship between Sherry and Joshua blossom in the next book as they take on bigger and bolder tasks.  There are some other heart-warmingly strong bonds built as everyone pulls together to survive.  I particularly loved Sherry’s little sister, Mia, and the bond between them.
In between each chapter, we read a short extract from Sherry’s other life (her life prior to the disease, death and destruction).  These are short, sweet and refreshing.  The book is well-paced and will keep you turning the pages until the last page is turned and you'll be looking for the next book!
A wonderful YA dystopian novel that hopefully will stand out from the rapidly growing market in this genre.  

Review of Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts

Thanks to Macmillan Publishers for the review copy.
** What it's about **
Moments after several huge earthquakes shake every continent on Earth, something strange starts happening to some people. Michael can only watch in horror as an incidence of road rage so extreme it ends in two deaths unfolds before his eyes; Clementine finds herself being hunted through the small town she has lived in all her life, by people she has known all her life; and Mason is attacked with a baseball bat by a random stranger. An inner rage has been released and some people cannot fight it. For those who can, life becomes an ongoing battle to survive - at any cost!

Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen - now it's our turn!

** What I thought **
I’m sad to say I was disappointed with this book.  The synopsis drew me in and I thought I would really enjoy it, but alas…!
The book focuses on four main characters; Clementine, Aires, Michael and Mason.  Each chapter is told from a different point of view, as the book follows their struggle for survival and their journey to find loved ones or safety.  I found there was a lack of character development, as I could never remember which character belonged to which story and had to keep flicking back to remind myself.  Unfortunately this continued throughout the book, and so it became even more confusing once they all met up and there was no way to distinguish by their surroundings/people travelling with them.
The book also contains chapters from the point of view of “Nothing” – this for me didn’t add anything.  If I’m honest, it confused me and I still don’t really understand what the point of it was. 
The ending was a disappointment.  Having looked at a couple of reviews, it would appear that it’s possible that this is part of a series.  If that’s the case, I think it needed to be made clearer, and the ending should have been more of a cliff hanger to draw people into the next book.  As it stands, I don’t feel any strong pull to read any follow up book.
Having got all my complaints out of the way, I should say that Roberts style of writing is good.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the actual narrative – it did hold my interest and the pace was good with twists and turns along the way.  However, the flaws (in particular the unsatisfying ending) outweighed that enjoyment for me. 
This is a book aimed at YA (and a debut novel for Jeyn Roberts) so perhaps as an older reader, I am being overly harsh but certainly if this is intended to be a sequel I think it needed to make more of an impact from the start.  I liked the characters, but they weren’t that memorable and I didn’t feel any strong connection to any of them.  The ending left a lot of unanswered questions, but unfortunately didn’t leave me desperate to know the answers to them!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Review of Those in Peril by Wilbur Smith

** What it’s about **
Hazel Bannock is the heir to the Bannock Oil Corp, one of the major oil producers with global reach. While cruising in the Indian Ocean, Hazel's private yacht is hijacked by African pirates. Hazel is not on board at the time, but her nineteen year old daughter, Cayla, is kidnapped and held to ransom. The pirates demand a crippling twenty billion dollar ransom for her release. Complicated political and diplomatic considerations render the civilized major powers incapable of intervening.

When Hazel is given evidence of the horrific torture which Cayla is being subjected to, she calls on Hector Cross to help her rescue her daughter. Hector is the owner and operator of Cross Bow Security, the company which is contracted to Bannock Oil to provide all their security. He is a formidable fighting man. Between them Hazel and Hector are determined to take the law into their own hands.

** What I thought **
I am ashamed to say that I have never read a Wilbur Smith book before.  Obviously I recognised the name and reputation so I was eager to read Those in Peril sent to me for review by Waterstones.

This is an incredible adventure story packed full of action and truly believable characters.  The book is centred on a very topical issue, which has been written about with great intensity and depth.  The writing is superb; Smith must do an incredible amount of research to come up with such excellent detail.  It’s packed full of rather explicit and brutal violence/torture which is portrayed with the rawness that it requires.  Smith doesn’t hold back – this book isn’t for the faint-hearted but perfect for anyone who enjoys a wonderfully written adventure thriller.

Review of All That Mullarkey by Sue Moorcroft

** What it's about **

Revenge and love: it's a thin line...
The writing's on the wall for Cleo and Gav. The bedroom wall, to be precise. And it says 'This marriage is over.' Wounded and furious, Cleo embarks on a night out with the girls, which turns into a glorious one night stand with...
Justin, centrefold material and irrepressibly irresponsible. He loves a little wildness in a woman and he's in the right place at the right time to enjoy Cleo's.
But it’s Cleo who has to pick up the pieces of a marriage based on a lie and the lasting repercussions of that night. Torn between laid-back Justin and control freak Gav, she’s a free spirit that life is trying to tie down. But the rewards are worth it!

** What I thought **
Another wonderful book from Sue Moorcroft.  I have to admit that I was so besotted with the loveable hero Ratty in her previous book ‘Starting Over’.  Even though it's been a few months since I read Starting Over, I'm still very much in love with him and so it feels a little unfaithful to love Justin, so I loved him slightly les!! But he is gorgeous, most certainly loveable and involved in some seriously steamy trips to the bedroom.  The kind of man every girl wants in her life, and not as just a friend! You can see why Cleo falls for him, and why he falls for her too – she’s feisty and a real heroine!

Sue Moorcroft once again has a wonderful style of writing that draws you in and leaves you desperate to know more, and ultimately longing for a happy ending.  You get to read from Gav and Justin’s point of view, as well as Cleo’s and this is done exceptionally well and really brings the whole thing to life.  It’s also lovely to read not just about romance, but about Cleo’s relationship with little Shona.
As with Starting Over, it’s fairly obvious who is going to end up with who but it’s the path that leads them there that makes or breaks a book.  And in this case, the path is full of twists and turns that make you wonder and keep you reading. 
Can’t wait to read Dream a Little Dream, her next book which is also set in Middledip!
Thanks to ChocLit for the copy of All That Mullarkey (and the chocolate!!!)