Book review: Relativity by Antonia Hayes

16 Jan

relativityEthan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

I’ve been very lucky to start 2017 by reading a series of excellent new books and discovering some wonderful new authors. Antonia Hayes is an author who has jumped straight onto my ‘must read their books’ list; Relativity  is her debut and is a cleverly and beautifully written novel that tugged on my heart strings, made me hug my sons a little closer and left me feeling inspired and hopeful.

This is the story of twelve year old Ethan and his parents. Ethan is astonishingly bright for his age and loves physics and astronomy. Events when Ethan was just four months old have left him and his mum to pick up the pieces. Claire, Ethan’s mum has done all she can to protect him from the truth about what happened and the novel follows their story as events conspire to bring Ethan’s Dad Mark back into their lives at the same time as Ethan is becoming more curious about his Father and why he isn’t in their lives.

Hayes takes a shocking event and plays it forward to examine the impacts both physical and emotional on all parties over a decade later. I liked the fact that the book doesn’t focus too much on what actually happened to Ethan (the actual facts of which are hazy for the majority of the story) and focuses on the after effects. Each chapter of the story has a physics-based title and I loved how Antonia combined physics with the feelings and relationships of Claire, Ethan and Mark to make the scientific emotional and in many ways, magical.

Relativity gets to the heart of the mother-child bond perfectly – I had such empathy for Claire. But interestingly, I also felt sympathy for Mark as the book progressed and I liked that Antonia Hayes let me as a reader make judgements on both parents and their actions. This book raises interesting questions about family bonds, forgiveness and the nature of love and I liked that it made me consider that even situations that seem clear cut, often aren’t.

I’ll end my review with a mention for Ethan’s friend Alison who he meets while he’s in hospital – she was one of my favourite characters in the book and although her role is supporting, I loved the way she is written and how she gives Ethan perspective as well as assisting his grand schemes! I sped through Relativity – it has excellent pace and such an engaging story with characters that I could picture and believe in and I highly recommend adding Antonia Hayes to your reading list!

5/5

Relativity is out now in ebook format and is released in paperback on 19th January by Corsair.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Antonia and her writing at: http://antoniahayes.com/

Book review: The Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

13 Jan

promise of fire“Cat” Catalia Fisa lives disguised as a soothsayer in a travelling circus. She is actually an exceptionally powerful Magoi – known as the Kingmaker – who can divine lies. But Cat has no interest in using her powers – or in being used for them – and stays under the radar, far from the clutches of her power-hungry homicidal family.

An ambitious warlord from the magic-deprived south, Griffin, is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her – then does everything he can to coax her to help his people willingly.

Cat has worked hard to avoid the dangerous destiny she fears is in her blood but the balance of power in their world is shifting. The old magics are no longer all-powerful and there’s a new, ferocious force at work. To survive, Cat will have to explore the true depth of the powers she’s spent so long running from – and perhaps even learn to work with her enemies . . . .

Amanda Bouchet’s debut, A Promise of Fire is the first book in The Kingmaker Chronicles trilogy, published for the first time in the UK by Piatkus this month. The Kingmaker Chronicles are high-fantasy romances set in a world divided by those who have magic and those who don’t. I love the cover for this UK paperback edition – it captures the sense of the book perfectly.

Immediately, as I started reading I was thrown into a new world and I enjoyed the vividness of Amanda’s descriptions of the travelling circus where we find Catalia, known as Cat living as a soothsayer. The pace of this story is great and its soon clear that there’s more to Cat than she’s letting on and this sets the anticipation high right from the start as she encounters the hulking Griffin and knows he wants more from her than just his fortune!

Fans of mythology will love that this novel is packed with gods, goddesses, omens, oracles, fantastical creatures and magic. Bouchet has created a vivid and detailed world in which to set her story that links directly to the Greek/Roman mythology creation story (you can read more about it here: http://www.amandabouchet.com/origin-of-thalyria.php). I’m a huge fan of mythology so it was exciting to find a new novel that played into that world. If you’re a fan of Nora Roberts’ Guardians trilogy, I’d definitely recommend that you check this series out.

Cat is a feisty, quick and clever character and I liked her straight away – her inner dialogue made me smile and I enjoyed how Amanda Bouchet slowly revealed more about Cat and the worlds she lives in as the story progressed. There is never a dull moment!  Griffin is Cat’s enemy but he’s nicely drawn as an enemy she (and us readers) can love to hate and Bouchet builds the tension beautifully between them with lots of spiky banter and high action scenes.

I really enjoyed this book – it’s original, action packed and fun. The strong mythology coupled with compelling characters, a gripping story line and a good dose of passion make A Promise of Fire a quick and exciting read and an excellent start to a new fantasy series.

4/5

The Promise of Fire is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Piatkus.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

For more information on Amanda Bouchet and The Kingmaker Chrionicles, please visit: https://kingmakerchronicles.com/ or http://amandabouchet.com/

Book review: The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey

12 Jan

stolen childSt Brigid’s is a remote island off the west coast of Ireland. It is a barren place and its small community is dwindling. But according to rumour it is a magical place, home to a healing well.

Two sisters, Rose and Emer, have resisted the call of the mainland. Rose is beautiful, blessed with love and many children. Emer is unlovely and, worse still, she is cursed by the strange currents that run through her fingers.

When a dazzling stranger alights on St Brigid’s, she is shunned. She has come in search of a miracle, and the islanders keep their secrets close. But gradually she insinuates her way into the sisters’ lives, and even Emer opens her heart.

Little do they realise that her quest will endanger the lives of all who remain on the island. Passion will endanger everything they hold dear.

Stories that blur the lines between worlds always intrigue me and I was initially drawn to read The Stolen Child by the elements of magic and mystery in it. This is a captivating story that moves seamlessly between the harsh realities of  life on a tiny island off the coast of Ireland and the legends, superstitions, customs and varied beliefs of its inhabitants. The two elements create a story that is equal parts fable, fairytale, mystery and romance and as soon as I started reading I was captivated.

The Stolen Child stands out as original, heartfelt and beautifully written. The story opens with a prologue set in May 1960 as the occupants of St Brigid’s Island are about to leave their homes for the final time to be evacuated to a bright new housing estate on the mainland. In this short prologue we are introduced to the history and geography of the island and to sisters Rose and Emer, a pair who contrast as only sisters can in both looks and temperament. The story then steps back to explain the events of the last year on the island that have led to the evacuation starting with the arrival of the island’s namesake, American, Brigid.

Brigid and Emer are the leads of the story and their relationship is the catalyst for the events that take place throughout the year. Both are fascinating characters and I enjoyed finding out about their individual histories, experiences and motivations as I read. Chapters in the novel’s present (1959) are interspersed by flash backs to both Brigid and Emer and Rose’s childhoods and I enjoyed how Lisa slowly revealed the events that had made them the women they are when they meet.

Entwined in their stories are legends, fables and stories told to them by their mothers and passed down through generations. Lisa Carey cleverly mixes the fact with the fable and superstition to create a story that is part dark fairytale, part history and part heartbreaking truth. I was struck by Lisa’s wonderful and honest words on motherhood and the bonds that mothers can have with their children. This is a book that examines all aspects of parenthood and particularly motherhood from those abundantly blessed to those who part with their children and those who desperately want a child and are unable. Brigid’s and Emer’s stories took me through the full cycle of emotions as I read.

And as individual stories play out there’s a bigger story taking form in the looming change to the islanders lives. Carey was inspired to write The Stolen Child by the story of the evacuation of the island Inishark and she beautifully captures the highs and lows of living in an inhospitable place where residents are at the mercy of the weather and have no means of communicating with the mainland – even in an emergency. Situations which come to life in beautiful shows of community and celebration but also stark horror during the story.

A magical, thoughtful and impactful read that introduced me to a wonderful new author. I’m looking forward to discovering Lisa Carey’s previous novels in future.

4/5

The Stolen Child is released today (12th January) in hardback and ebook formats published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Lisa and her writing at: http://www.lisacareybooks.com/

Book review: Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell

11 Jan

meet me at beachcomber bayLove is in the air in St Carys, but you’d never know it – the people of this seaside town are very good at keeping secrets…

The man Clemency loves belongs to someone else. She has to hide her true feelings – but when she ropes in an unsuspecting friend to help, wires start to get crossed.

For the first time in Ronan’s life his charm has failed him in winning over the woman he wants. Loving her from afar appears to be his only option.

Belle seems to have the perfect boyfriend, but something isn’t quite right. And now a long-buried secret is slowly rising to the surface.

The truth has a funny way of revealing itself, and when it does St Carys will be a very different place indeed…

Meet me at Beachcomber Bay is my favourite of Jill Mansell’s novels to date. As regular readers will know, I do LOVE a seaside set novel and Beachcomber Bay gets top marks for a sunny seaside read with romance, heartwarming storylines and lovely characters. The only downside of reading a book like this as I sat on a crowded commuter train in rainy London is that it made me want to give it all up and move to the seaside even more than usual!

Clemency and Belle are stepsisters and are basically chalk and cheese. Clem is the type of character that I’d like to be friends with – the opening scenes with Clem at the airport gift shop and then on a plane home to England, show her personality very well and I couldn’t help but smile as I read. A brief but ultimately doomed connection with a handsome stranger leaves Clem feeling more than a little annoyed but I loved that in the first few chapters Jill clearly demonstrates that Clem does not suffer fools gladly!

The story then skips forward three years to find Clem living back in her hometown of St Carys in Cornwall. Now I’ve read many books in recent years set in Cornish seaside towns and I constantly marvel at the ability of authors to come up with something unique and new. But Jill Mansell has certainly done that and as I met Clem’s fellow estate agent Ronan, postwoman Kate and artist Marina, I couldn’t help fall in love with St Carys and its community. Jill’s characters are so believable and I was soon caught up in the different story lines involving them. When Bell flies (literally) into town, the tension moves up a notch as her rich new boyfriend looks for a place to live and sets off a life-changing turn of events for Clem and her friends.

As much as this is Clem and Belle’s story it’s also Ronan, Marina, Sam and Kate’s stories and for once in a novel I actually liked all of the leading characters – even Belle who took a little while to grow on me! Jill really shows her experience in crafting a story that will keep the reader guessing and I loved that the surprises just kept coming. No spoilers here but I will say that I could not have predicted the endings and I spent a large part of the book wondering if the characters that I wanted to end up together would actually do that!

Beachcomber Bay is just the sort of feelgood read that you need at this time of year to chase away the January blues. I’ve just one thing left to add – Jill,  please can we have a follow up?!

5/5

Meet me at Beachcomber Bay is released on 12th January in hardback, ebook and audio formats by Headline.

Find out more about Jill Mansell and her novels at: http://jillmansell.co.uk/

Giveaway winner: #MKB Party bundle

9 Jan

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The winner is:

Lucy

Congratulations! I have sent you a message. Thanks to everyone who entered – look out for more fab giveaways coming soon!

Giveaway winners: A Monster Calls Merchandise bundles

9 Jan

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The winners are:

Jane and That Boy Can Teach

Congratulations! I have sent you both a message. Thanks to everyone who entered – look out for more fab giveaways coming soon!

Book review: Montpelier Parade by Karl Geary

5 Jan

montpelier paradeHer house is on Montpelier Parade: just across town, but it might as well be a different world. Working there on the garden one Saturday with his father, Sonny is full of curiosity. Then the back door eases open and she comes down the path toward him. Vera.

Chance encounters become shy arrangements, and soon Sonny is in love for the first time. Casting off his lonely life of dreams and quiet violence for this new, intoxicating encounter, he longs to know Vera, even to save her. But what is that Vera isn’t telling him?

Unfolding in the sea-bright, rain-soaked Dublin of early spring, Montpelier Parade is a beautiful, cinematic novel about desire, longing, grief, hope and the things that remain unspoken. It is about how deeply we can connect with one another, and the choices we must also make alone.

Montpelier Parade is Karl Geary’s debut novel and it certainly made an impact on me. This novel is written in second person narrative – an unusual perspective in literature and not one that I’ve come across often but after a few pages of getting used to it I discovered that I liked it and the way that it drew me into the story but also gave a feeling of distance from the events and actions of the main character Sonny – it was nice, as a reader, to be engaged in a different way.

Sonny is a sixteen year old schoolboy and Karl Geary has pitched his voice perfectly as he grapples with his dreary life in Dublin; his inability to fit in, his large family (six older brothers) and his desire to escape and make something more of his life. Although set in the 1980s, Montpellier Parade has a timeless quality to it and I found that I warmed to Sonny straight away. Sonny’s inner narrative is truthful and often conflicted and I had a lot of sympathy for him. This is very much a coming of age novel with Sonny experiencing the highs (first love) and lows (first loss) that life has to offer.

Supporting characters are seen completely from Sonny’s perspective and I found his relationship with his parents heart-breaking and intriguing – particularly his growing distance from his mother and his attempts to gain approval from him distant Father. So it’s perhaps not surprising that Sonny turns elsewhere looking for love, leading to the introduction of Vera – the main female character in the novel.

Vera is again seen entirely from Sonny’s perspective and I  liked how this slowly revealed more of her character to me as a reader. Vera is much older than Sonny and their relationship is not conventional but it is beautifully written. Sonny discovers much about himself through his relationship with Vera and his life opens to new experiences and horizons. Vera surprised me and although her story is painful to watch unfold, I wanted to keep reading to uncover the reasons for her pain.

In contrast to Vera’s mystery and complexity, the other woman in Sonny’s life,  Sharon is much easier for Sonny to read. Sharon is a similar age to Sonny and fulfils a friend/sister/girlfriend shaped gap at different points through the novel. Sonny and Sharon’s conversations provided a little light relief in a novel that often made my heart heavy.

Montpelier Parade is one of those books that requires reflection and I’ve kept coming back to it and considering it since I finished reading it. I’d love to suggest it to my book club as I think it would prompt some interesting discussions and I’d love to know what happens to Sonny next. Karl Geary is a name to watch and I look forward to reading more from him.

4/5

Montpelier Parade is released today (5th January) in hardback, ebook and audio formats by Harvill Secker.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn

3 Jan

echo of twilightAs I watched him his long legs striding the narrow path through the heather, his golden hair catching the sun I had a hideous feeling in the pit of my stomach. For it seemed as though he was already marching away from me.

In 1914, despite the clouds of war threatening Europe, Pearl Gibson s future is bright. She has secured a position as a lady s maid to a wealthy Northumberland aristocrat, a job that will win her not only respect but an opportunity to travel and live in luxury. Her new life at Lady Ottoline Campbell s Scottish summer estate is a whirlwind of intrigue and glamour, scandals and confidences and surprisingly, a strange but intimate friendship with her employer.

But when violence erupts in Europe, Pearl and Ottoline s world is irrevocably changed. As the men in their lives are called to the front lines, leaving them behind to anxiously brace for bad news, Pearl realizes she must share one final secret with her mistress a secret that will bind them together forever..

What a wonderful way to start my new reading year, with a brilliant new novel from one of my favourite historical fiction authors. I read Judith Kinghorn’s debut, The Last Summer when it was released in 2012 and absolutely loved it but I have to say that The Echo of Twilight is in my opinion, Judith’s best book yet and a must read for fans of historical fiction set around the First World War.

The Echo of Twilight introduces us to Pearl Gibson, a young lady with a passion for life and a determination to make something of herself despite having no remaining family or place to call home. Pearl was raised by her beloved aunt Kitty and her devotion to her aunt’s teachings through the early parts of the novel often made me smile with many of the adages that Pearl lives by reminding me of the words that my Nan would say and that I still find myself thinking of now.

As we meet Pearl she is just about to take on a new job as lady’s maid to Lady Ottoline Campbell. I loved reading about Pearl’s role as lady’s maid and the detail that Judith includes in this book about life above and below stairs is just wonderful. I love to visit historic houses and in The Echo of Twilight Judith brings both Birling in Northumberland and the Scottish estate of Delnasay vividly to life and I very much enjoyed reading about the beautiful settings described.

Pearl’s character jumps off the page and I enjoyed reading as she developed. Pearl is a great mix of tenacity, bravery and naivety and I loved the glimpses of her sense of humour too. Ottoline and Pearl’s relationship quickly progresses to much more than just lady and maid and I was impressed by how believable this thread to the story was, particularly when set against the rapid changes in society brought about by war. Judith evoked the full range of emotions from me in this novel and as with The Last Summer captured the heartbreaking consequences of war in a very poignant way.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty, Pearl’s early days at Delnasay take on a romantic and almost ethereal quality as she is swept up into a new world with many new experiences, the biggest of which is first love. The Echo of Twilight is a very romantic novel despite Pearl being alone for the majority of the book and as I read I was holding my breath for a positive outcome. As the mysteries of Pearl’s past are uncovered and truths unveiled, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and as the story moves through the war and into its final part during the post-war years, I didn’t want to put this book down.

The Echo of Twilight has everything that I look for in an historical fiction read; a strong female heroine, mystery, romance and beautiful historical detail. Even though it’s only the third of January, Judith has set the bar high and I know I’ve already found one of my top historical reads for 2017!

5/5

The Echo of Twilight is released today (3rd January) by Berkley Publishing in paperback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank Judith Kinghorn for providing a review copy of this novel.

Find out more about Judith and her writing at: http://www.judithkinghornwriter.com/

My Kinda Book party and giveaway! #MKBParty

31 Dec

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Last month I was very lucky to receive a fab bookish party pack in celebration of the excellent books to be found at MyKindaBook. I’ve been a fan of MyKindaBook for a long time so I jumped at the chance to be part of the #MKBParty weekend at the end of November and I had so much fun that I’m carrying on the party this New Years Eve with a party round up and a lovely little giveaway to get 2017 off to an excellent start!

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So, here are the three brilliant books that I received as part of the pack – what a fab trio! I ran a little poll on Twitter to see which book my fellow readers would recommend that I tried first and the winner was Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard so this was the book that I read over the #MKBParty weekend and I loved it.

IMG_6531Beautiful Broken Things is the story of best friends Caddy and Rosie and what happens to them and their friendship when a new girl moves to town. This book took me straight back to my own teenage years and how close and brilliant those friendships can be but also how fragile, emotional and heartbreaking. There was so much that I related to in this book and Sara has done a brilliant job of creating believable characters and situations.

This is a very readable and gripping story, yet with so many important messages and tackles a painful topic (domestic abuse and its effects) in a way that is thought provoking and understandable and importantly, focuses on the wide ranging repercussions without being overly dramatic or sharing the disturbing details. Much of this books impact on me was in what was left unsaid and I can’t wait to read more from Sara. Luckily, I won’t have long as her new novel, A Quiet Kind of Thunder is out on 12th January!

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When Amanda met Rainbow :-)

The second book in my box of treats was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I’m a big fan of Rainbow Rowell and already own all of her books. Fangirl is a brilliant example of what Rainbow does best; putting wonderful characters on the page with great dialogue and quirky romance. In Fangirl identical twins Cath and Wren go off to university and whilst Wren decides to embrace the new experience in full to the point of separating herself from her sister for the first time, Cath struggles. I loved Cath and again could relate to the situations that she found herself in (including being too scared to go to the dining hall) and her shyness. Cath writes amazing fan-fiction and this element of the story is also brilliant and her love of her characters struck a strong note with me. Fangirl is a great book about coping with change and growing up and do check out Rainbow’s other books both Adult and Young Adult if you haven’t already. As I’ve already got a lovely copy of Fangirl I’m going to offer the copy I received in this pack along with some other goodies in a giveaway at the end of this post so please do enter!

IMG_6960The final book in my party pack is this gorgeous new blue cover edition of The Lie Tree by Frances HardingeThis book won the Costa Book of the Year award for 2015 and I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. I haven’t read it yet but will be soon as my book club has chosen it as our book for our March meet up! here’s the synopsis – I can’t wait to read it!

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered. 

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter . . .

As well as more info, extracts and interviews on the books in my party pack, you can find lots more great reads on the MyKindaBook site and sign up for discussions, giveaways and more – do pop over there! In 2017 I’m looking forward to Heartless by Marissa Meyer (February), The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas and Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith (May).

I wish you all a very happy new reading year!

Giveaway!

To be in with a chance of winning all of the goodies pictured below just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.

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I’ll pick a winner using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Saturday 7th January. Good Luck!

Giveaway! Two ‘A Monster Calls’ merchandise bundles to be won!

30 Dec

I’ve got a fantastic giveaway to end 2016 and get 2017 off to a brilliant start. To celebrate the release of A Monster Calls, in cinemas New Year’s Day, I’m giving you the chance to win one of two merchandise bundles shown here.

The fantastic bundles include an A4 artists wirebound notepad, with natural bock cover gold foiled with the film title and strap line including 15 heavyweight 300gsm sheets of Bockingford drawing and watercolour paper and a high quality range of 12 graphite pencils ranging from soft to hard for all applications.

 

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To enter  just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.

I’ll pick two winners using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Friday 6th January. Good Luck!

About the film:

A Monster Calls is a visually spectacular drama from acclaimed director Juan Antonio Bayona (“The Impossible”), based on the award-winning children’s fantasy novel by Patrick Ness. 12-year-old Conor (Lewis MacDougall) attempts to deal with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) illness and the bullying of his classmates by escaping into a fantastical world of monsters and fairy tales that explore courage, loss, and faith. Also featuring Liam Neeson who will star in performance-capture and voiceover as the nocturnally visiting monster of the title, and Sigourney Weaver as the maternal grandmother.