Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Light Shining in the Forest by Paul Torday

In the North East of England, someone is taking children, leaving holes in the lives of their families. Meanwhile, successful political climber Norman Stokoe has just landed a seemingly cushy job as Children’s Czar for the North East. 

However, after relocating from London, he finds that despite receiving an office, a PA and a regular wage; he has no real duties and appears to have been overlooked. Then, journalist Willie Craig brings to Norman’s attention the mystery of the missing children, and Norman is forced to take action for the first time in his career. 

The disappearance of one of the children, Theo Constantine, has a particularly devastating effect on his mother and stepfather. He was loved by not only his family, but everyone who knew him. Despite being labelled a runaway, there seems to be more to Theo than meets the eye, especially regarding the strange marks that appeared on his body before he vanished. 

The book takes us through many points of action, including the differing lives of the children just before they go missing and the moment they are taken. It is skilfully written, with quick, to-the-point sentences that make the build up even more sinister. Then, as the main characters conduct their investigations; their findings introduce more people into the plot which adds suspense and drama to the tale. 

I think the backdrop of the forest and the northern wilderness was a great setting for this story, and the descriptions of the landscape were strangely beautiful at times, given the gruesome events that take place there. Overall I thought this was an outstandingly written original tale that both chills and fascinates at the same time. 

Friday, 22 February 2013

You Had Me at Hello by Mhairi McFarlane

At face value I took this book to be another “will-they-won’t-they-get-together-in-the-end” tale, but I’d been hearing good things so I thought I’d give it a go. There is a will-they-won’t-they scenario but it is so much fun to read. 

Ben and Rachel were best friends at University but lose touch after their studies. Fast forward a decade or so later, where Rachel has just split up with her fiancée, lost her home and is fed up at her job as a court reporter. Enter Ben, who moves back to the area, married, good job as a lawyer and as good looking as ever. Their reunion is littered with trips down memory lane, interference from friends and family, and unresolved issues wrapped together in a great story. 

I think what made this novel for me was how witty it was. Ben and Rachel’s inside jokes, Rachel’s varied friends and her general scatty ways all had me giggling like crazy! The scenes of their time at University also had me reminiscing about my own Uni days, which made this book even more fun for me. 

I thought this story had touches of Bridget Jones, in the sense of singledom vs coupledom which can be a subject that divides people in debates, especially regarding women, and I think this story was a humorous exploration of this. Overall, I thought this was more than just a romance, chick-lit story; it is skilfully written with plenty of sass and wit that makes for an entertaining read about lost love and reunions.  

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Art of Leaving by Anna Stothard

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book which was both physically pretty and also a bewitching story. It tells of Eva Elliott, the daughter of a pilot, who spent her childhood leaving schools, homes and cities, and now finds the prospect of goodbyes much more meaningful than the living in between. 

She seemingly drifts through her life as a book editor and reluctant girlfriend to lawyer Luke, until things get shaken up one rainy summer when a golden eagle escapes from London Zoo and an outgoing stranger starts worming her way into Eva’s life. At first glance these seem like fairly random occurrences but the way the author weaves the elements together into the storyline adds to the atmosphere of the story.

I didn't really like the main character Eva; I think with her unsociable personality, she isn't someone I would be friends with if she were real. However, I did like her fantasies and the little narratives she attached to things in her life, such as a regal persona for the escaped eagle Regina. My favourite fantasy was that of a magician, Dante and his lost love Sophia, who lives in a room filled with the magical detritus of past disappearing acts, such as cards, white rabbits, flowers and birds. I loved the imagery associated with magic acts throughout the book which gave the story an enchanting quality. 

This book is simply written and I really enjoyed reading it. If you enjoy engaging, chilled out reads, then this is the book for you. 

Out March 2013, £7.99                       
ISBN 978-1-84688-237-1 

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Quick Reads

Having such a huge passion for books myself and having connected with so many bookworms over the course of writing this blog, it is hard to think that 1 out of 6 working age adults in the UK struggle to read and may never pick up a book. That is why I was thrilled to be involved in the Quick Reads campaign, to the spread the love of reading.

Quick Reads are a charity that commission, publish and distribute short books by big name authors. They contain the same great material as mainstream books, but are edited to be shorter and easier for less confident readers.

Quick Reads books are vital in educational settings such as further education colleges and libraries, prisons, military bases, care homes and family centres as well as in workplace learning centres. They are also used in settings as diverse as oil rigs, cross channel ferries, bus depots and refuse disposal units. Also, adults who become readers through Quick Reads encourage their children to read, transforming their prospects and creating the next generation of readers.

Quick Reads is making real, lasting changes to people’s lives.  Since 2006 they have distributed over 4.5 million books, registered 3 million library loans and through the outreach work, hundreds of thousands of new readers each year, often in some of the hardest to reach communities, are introduced to the joys and benefits of reading.

The 2013 Galaxy Quick Reads titles are:

·         A Sea of Change by Veronica Henry (Orion) – a chance meeting at the beach which could change two lives forever...

·         Wrong Time, Wrong Place by Simon Kernick (Arrow) – a dangerous dilemma to be faced in the Scottish Highlands...

·         Love is Blind by Kathy Lette (Black Swan) – a sexy, funny, heart-warming adventure set in Australia

·         Today Everything Changes by Andy McNab (Corgi) – the inspiring story of when a life changes for the better

·         Doctor Who, The Silurian Gift by Mike Tucker (BBC Books) – a thrilling new adventure featuring the Doctor from the hit BBC TV show

·          A Dreadful Murder by Minette Walters (Pan) – based on a true story, can a 100-year-old murder be solved by modern detective skills?

 Galaxy Quick Reads are available now from bookshops, supermarkets, and online at a cost of £1 each or can be borrowed from libraries across the country.

Quick Reads is made possible by the enthusiastic support of their authors, publishers, partners and funders. For more information about this amazing charity, visit

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Chameleon's Shadow by Minette Walters

After suffering severe head injuries in Iraq, Lieutenant Charles Acland finds himself recovering in hospital with some memory loss. Despite help both medical and psychiatric help from his doctors he continues to show extreme aggressive tendencies, especially towards women. 

Unable to rejoin the army, he abandons his life and moves to London, angry, disfigured and alone. Meanwhile police are investigating a spate of murders that display motivations of extreme rage, but so far the police have no leads. Not long after leaving hospital, Charles loses his temper in a London pub, ending in a brawl that draws the police’s attention to him. 

After that it seems that at every turn Charles has links to aspects of the ongoing case. With the help of new acquaintances, including a body building female doctor, Charles must confront the issues surrounding his dark personality as well as dealing with the after effects of his injuries, whilst the police sniff around him like hungry dogs. He is labelled violent and a chameleon by his ex-fiancée who appears to stir up trouble although his recent actions seem unable to prove some of her opinions about Charles wrong. Time is running out for the victims, for the police and for Charles who are all bound together by the disturbing crimes.

Minette Walters has produced another gripping thriller. All the characters are so well crafted and layers of events pile up to make you race to the end to uncover the killer, and the fate of damaged but cunning Charles Acland. An incredible psychological crime thriller from a well established talent in this genre. 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Laura's Handmade Life by Amanda Addison

“When life unravels... start stitching.” This is the motto on the front cover which I love. I always enjoy getting stuck into a sewing project in between everyday life and my pile of reading. I’ve always loved sewing from a young age and enjoy textiles based crafts in my spare time, so this book literally called to me from the shelf. 

Laura Lovegrove and her family have moved from London to a Norfolk village and she is finding it difficult to adjust to the change. Then, after a fire destroys her collection of precious vintage clothes, Laura salvages the pieces and discovers the world of sewing. I found the main character of Laura fairly likeable and a bit random at times, but I especially love the members of the sewing club she joins; strong Hannalore, talented René and feisty Joyce. I love her interactions with them and how they bond over their crafts. 
My Spring Chick!

This book was fun, with an engaging plot, and it also had a lot of educational details about textiles and sewing – I particularly liked how each chapter started with a different type of stitch. At the back of the book are a couple of patterns for the readers to try at home, so I had a go at one of Laura’s spring chicks. I haven’t sewn properly for a while but I think I did ok for an evening’s work! I had something of an affinity with Laura, as I have a little collection of scraps from years of doing textiles at school and I enjoyed picking out florals for my chick.

This is an uplifting read for anyone that loves sewing and textiles, anyone that has children or anyone that just enjoys a fun yet heart-warming story. 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Supernatural - Fresh Meat by Alice Henderson

I'm going to start off by saying that I am a huge Supernatural fan. I've loved it since the first episode and I am a little bit besotted with Dean played by the gorgeous Jensen Ackles. 

For those of you that are new to Supernatural, it is about two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester who lost their mother when they were little under supernatural circumstances. As children their father raises them to be hunters and they continue their father’s mission as adults seeking out and destroying paranormal evil entities around America in Dean’s rather sexy ’67 Chevy Impala. 

So anyway, in Fresh Meat, something is killing and eating people in the Tahoe National Forest. Sam, Dean and veteran hunter Bobby are soon on the case but the appearance of walking corpses with extra organs and a monstrous flying creature pose a bigger threat than they expected. With the sly creature able to take human form, and then the occurrence of a blizzard descending upon the area, the hunters must use all their skills and wits to not only defeat the monster, but survive the brutal elements as well. 

This novel has all the rudiments of the TV series; the characters sounds authentic and the way the action progresses are all true to the screenplay. As on the show, the brothers always do their research on the entity they are facing which often includes bits of history and creature mythology which is always interesting to read about. There are also the bloody fights when the Winchester brothers get down to business.  However, even if you are a Supernatural virgin, there is still an exciting storyline and just the right amount of background to get you hooked. I really enjoyed this book almost as much as the TV series (although not much compares to actually watching Jensen Ackles on screen!) and I would happily read more Supernatural fiction. 

Supernatural – Fresh Meat, by Alice Henderson.
22nd February 2013, £6.99, Titan Books.