Friday, 20 January 2017

Friday Reads 20th January 2017

Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader. The idea is to share a sentence or so from the first page and the 56th page of the book you are currently reading! 

The House on Sunset Lake
Book Beginning:
"No one forgets a summer spent at Casa D'Or. You remember them so clearly you don't even need to close your eyes to recall the heavy warm breeze, the smell of azaleas, and the air that sticks to your sun-kissed skin."
Friday 56:
"Recovered, he wanted to tell her, searching around for the lines he'd rehearsed all those years ago, the words he would say to her if they ever met again, the things he'd written in the letters that never got sent." 
I am actually only 16 pages in to this so far so haven't reached the 56 yet. I am enjoying the writing style. The opening is really descriptive and emotive and I am sure this will be a book where the setting is very important! This is my first Tasmina Perry book and I am excited to continue it today! 

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare) to keep up with what we are reading

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Clare Reviews: The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson

The Smoke HunterTitle: The Smoke Hunter
Author: Jacquelyn Benson
Format: Uncorrected proof copy
Source: Received from publisher for an honest review
Pages: 585
Rating: 5/5
Blurb: London, 1898. Archivist Eleanora Mallory discovers a map to a legendary city . But is it the key to unravelling an ancient mystery or a clever hoax?

Compelled to find out, Ellie journeys to Central America - with a merciless enemy hot on her heels.
In a race to uncover the map's secret first, Ellie is forced to partner with maverick archaeologist Adam Bates, a man she's not sure she can trust. Together, they venture into an uncharted wilderness alive with smoke and shadows, where an even greater danger awaits them.
For what lies there whispering to be unearthed has the power to bring the world to its knees.
Join Ellie and Adam as they battle rivers of scorpions, plummeting waterfalls and pre-historic death traps on the journey to uncovering a deadly secret that could shake the fate of the world.

It took me a while to compose my thoughts enough to write a review that wasn't just "I love it, I love it, I love it". Because I feel like this is a book I've been waiting for most of my life. It's a sort of Romancing the Stone/Indiana Jones/The Mummy mix set in the Victorian era with a heroine who is smart and brilliant and with a romance that was engaging but never took over the plot - which was so exciting!

Since Ellie was kind of the stand-out amazing thing about this book for me (or at least my absolute favourite) it makes sense to start with her. She is a suffragette, a University graduate (in a time when women generally weren't supposed to be) and just an all around kick-ass lady. She is incredibly smart obviously but I really liked the way in which we were shown this. Too often in books, especially historical ones, I find that the heroines intelligence is pushed at the reader until it becomes frustrating. But here Ellie was intelligent and knew it and never ever had to prove it. To other characters or to the reader. She had her flaws - I wish she had trusted Adam sooner for example - but these just serve to make her more real and human. 

The other characters were also great although I didn't love them quite as much as Ellie. Adam was an engaging and likable hero. I really liked the development of their relationship, which felt realistic. And I loved that they were a team - they worked together so well that I didn't really even notice it until I was reflecting on the book afterwards. They had disagreements but ultimately they understood each other and co-operated when it was needed. The villains - Jacobs and Dawson were also very well created and quite different from each other. Jacobs, despite seeming the bigger threat, was actually less disturbing to me. He was very cold and unfeeling and ruthless - all things that make a good villain. But it was Dawson who knew that what they were doing was wrong but went along with it out of cowardice. Who had qualms but stifled them in order to save his own life - he was the one who really bothered me.

I was concerned initially that, with such a relatively long book, the pacing would feel off or slow in places but it never did. There are scenes with plenty of action and scenes with less action but there was never a dull moment and I was kept turning the pages long beyond the "one more chapter" point! This does read like a complete novel but the ending leaves it potentially open for more books and I would definitely be interested in that. With mentions of some other characters, such as Ellie's cousin Neil, I think there is also the possibility of some companion novels rather than straight sequels. Which I would be fine with - so long as Ellie and Adam make an appearance.

Overall I loved The Smoke Hunter. If you are a fan of adventure movies then I think this is definitely a book you would be interested in or if you just love historical fiction with amazing characters - then this is it! I will definitely be wanting a finished copy of this so that I can re-read it! I know that I can't wait for more from Jacquelyn Benson! 

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare) to keep up with what we are reading

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Top 5 Polarising Books

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly feature and you can find the goodreads group here. I found this a very hard topic so it took me a while to come up with 5 but I managed it in the end.

1) Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Twilight (Twilight, #1)
I  have not yet ready Twilight but I know that it definitely is considered a polarising book and I really want to read it just see what it is like. I want to see whether I will like it or hate it.

2) Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles, #1)
I loved beautiful creatures although the movie was terrible. However I know that there are some people who did not enjoy it!

3) Lord Of The Flies by William Golding
Lord of the Flies

I had to read this book for homework at school, and I really did not enjoy it at all, but there were a few people in my class who really enjoyed it.

4) Magyk by Angie Sage
Magyk (Septimus Heap, #1)
This is one of my favourite books, that I loved so much. However I know for a fact that one of my best friends does not enjoy it, I do not understand why but it is one of her least favourite books.

5) Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)
I have read this book a couple of times and I have managed to make a lot of my friends really enjoy it, however I do know that a lot of people don't like it as much as I do.

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare) to keep up with what we are reading.

Wednesday Catch-Up 18th January 2017

Every Wednesday we are linking up with WWW Wednesday. WWW Wednesday is hosted at Taking on a World of Words and asks 3 questions: What are you currently reading?, What did you recently finish reading? What do you think you'll read next?

Currently Reading:

The House on Sunset LakeEmma
I am currently reading The House on Sunset Lake. I've heard good things about Tasmina Perry's other books but nothing at all about this one so I am very intrigued. The cover is gorgeous and the plot sounds like my thing - with the story set in two times. I also decided to pick up Emma since I finished P&P early. Emma is actually my favourite Jane Austen novel so I know I will get through this by the end of the month.

Recently Finished:

The SecretThe Smoke HunterPride and Prejudice
The first book I read this week was The Secret by Kathryn Hughes which was a good, twisty novel with some great characters. This also fits in the 1960-1979 section of the When Are You Reading Challenge which is amazing because I thought that would be one of the harder ones to fill! I have a full review up for this one here. I then spent the rest of the week reading The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson which I loved. It took me most of the week to read, partly because I didn't have a lot of time to read and partly because I just wanted to savour it. This is the sort of Indiana Jones-esque adventure novel I've been waiting most of my life for but with an amazing female main character (I love her). I should have a review up for this tomorrow! And I finished my Classic for the month - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I loved re-reading this, I don't actually know how many times I've read it but it's a lot! 

Planning to Read Next:

The Quest (Sanshlian Series, #1)Trapped in WonderlandMercury Striking (Scorpius Syndrome, #1)
The Quest and Trapped in Wonderland are definites for me as I am taking part in a blog tour for the latter soon and want to have my review ready! And me being me, I have to read The Quest before Trapped in Wonderland because I got it first? Thanks to Dani Hoots for sending me review copies of both these books! And then Mercury Striking is a maybe. I feel kind of in the mood for it at the moment but I am not sure how I will feel by the time I've finished the others so we shall see?

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare) to keep up with what we are reading

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Top Ten Hidden Gems of 2016

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke & The Bookish. You can find a list of past and future topics here

1) Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal, #1)
This one does not get enough attention! Not only is it an incredibly well written and engaging fantasy it's also a Diverse read and has one of the most genuinely beautiful covers I've ever seen.

2) City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong
City of the Lost (Casey Duncan, #1)
Kelley Armstrong is very well known so this seems like a strange pick but it doesn't have a lot of ratings on goodreads! Whilst I wouldn't say this was my favourite Kelley Armstrong novel it's the start of an interesting new series with some great characters.

3) How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss
How Not To Disappear
This book was so much more than I ever expected it to be. It was emotional but funny and I thought the ending was really well done. The main character Hattie has just found out that she's pregnant and then the great-aunt her family never knew existed shows up in the early stages of dementia and determined to go on a road trip to revisit her past. It was a tough read at times but well worth a go.

4) The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner
The Vatican Princess
I've mentioned this book quite a lot I feel - because I really love it! It felt real and believable and never dry - I was immersed in Lucrezia's story right up to the end! This book deserves so much more love!

5) Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James
Lost Among the Living
I am a huge fan of Simone St. James and whilst I would say that this was probably my least favourite of her books - that still sets the bar pretty high. Her writing is beautiful and her mysteries are compelling.

6) Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey
Love, Lies and Spies
This one did get a lot of hype and I've seen it on a lot of TBR's but I don't know many people who have read it and it has so few ratings on goodreads. If you have this book then I definitely recommend picking it up soon - it's such a quick and engaging read.

7) Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Radio Silence
Alice Oseman is an auto-buy author for me. I think Radio Silence was even better than Solitaire. I love her characters and her writing and I can't wait for more from her!

8) Imprudence by Gail Carriger
Imprudence (The Custard Protocol, #2)
A lot of people know (and have read) the Parasol Protectorate series but this sequel series is great and doesn't get so much attention! I adored this book and was very excited to find the series isn't finished (for some reason I had thought it was a duology)!

9) Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers
Assassin's Heart (Assassin's Heart, #1)
The more I think about Assassin's Heart the more I like it. I definitely want to re-read it to see what I would think a second time around. This is another one with a lot of hype that just sort of fizzled out. The characters were pretty great and the revenge plot stayed as a revenge plot!! Which I was nervous about because the blurb almost made it sound more romance than assassin-ing! There is a sequel/companion novel coming out this year that I definitely want to pick up but this works as a standalone really well.

10) In the Month of the Midnight Sun by Cecelia Ekback
In the Month of the Midnight Sun
Cecilia Ekback's writing feels so unique to me. I love that the mountain and the land itself has such a presence. I read Wolf Winter in either early 2016 or late 2015 and then picked up In the Month of the Midnight Sun in late 2016 and I think it is a much easier to read and faster paced novel.

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare) to keep up with what we are reading

Monday, 16 January 2017

A Winter's Respite Goals

Seasons of Reading

We're not even a full month into 2017 and I am already behind on my Goodreads goal! I promised I wouldn't beat myself up about falling behind but I never said I wouldn't try and push myself back on target!! For this read-a-thon I would like to read 10-15 books and write reviews for all of the books I read. It's a pretty tall order - especially as I won't be able to read much until after the 19th due to Uni commitments but I think I can do it!

The Smoke HunterThe House on Sunset LakeThe Quest (Sanshlian Series, #1)Trapped in Wonderland
Mercury Striking (Scorpius Syndrome, #1)Shadow Falling (The Scorpius Syndrome, #2)Autumn Thorns (Whisper Hollow #1)Shadow Silence (Whisper Hollow, #2)
Deadly Silence (Blood Brothers #1)To Love and to Cherish (The Wedding Belles, #3)Life and Death of the Wicked Lady SkeltonMy Lady Jane

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare) to keep up with what we are reading

Clare Reviews: The Secret by Kathryn Hughes

The SecretTitle: The Secret
Author: Kathryn Hughes
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from publisher for an honest review
Pages: 416
Rating: 4/5
Blurb: Mary has been nursing a secret. Forty years ago, she made a choice that would change her world for ever, and alter the path of someone she holds dear.

Beth is searching for answers. She has never known the truth about her parentage, but finding out could be the lifeline her sick child so desperately needs. When Beth finds a faded newspaper cutting amongst her mother's things, she realises the key to her son's future lies in her own past. She must go back to where it all began to unlock...The Secret.

This could more appropriately be called "The Secrets" because there were definitely a few twists and turns during this plot! The main secret however, relates to Beth who is desperately searching for the truth about her parents and all the other twists do tie in to the main Secret.

The first three quarters of the book were very suspenseful, the perspective switching between Beth in the present day, Mary in the past and a group of other characters on a day trip. Although I definitely preferred reading from the perspectives of Beth and Mary, there was plenty of drama happening in the lives of the other characters. This part of the book was quick and interesting to read because so much was happening - there were secrets being kept and unveiled and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out the truth. 

For me there were, at times, just a few too many characters to keep track of. Whilst a few of them were definitely integral to the plot there were some I kept forgetting about and then having to check back a few pages to remind myself of who they were and what part they were playing. This is part of why I preferred the Beth and Mary sections - there were fewer characters and so I had more of an emotional connection with the characters there were. I genuinely cared about Beth, Michael and Jake and I was desperate for them to have a happy future. Mary I felt for, although she only had a few chapters so it was harder to get to know her.

The writing and the speech are very British (I loved every reference to Woolworths) but English is a very diverse language and there were quite a few times where the slang or speech patterns lost me. The good side of this is that the characters had very distinct voices and I could almost hear them speaking their lines. It was a very emotional read at times with plenty of misfortune befalling the characters. It was a little like watching a Soap - as soon as you think things can't get worse they do.

Overall, although this wasn't quite what I was expecting I did enjoy this read. It was very dramatic and Kathryn Hughes definitely managed the separate perspectives quite well. The mystery was compelling and the majority of the characters were appealing and felt very real. I will definitely be interested to pick up more books by Kathryn Hughes.

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare) to keep up with what we are reading

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Sunday Post 15th January 2017

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted at Caffeinated Book Reviewer, it's a chance to post a recap on the past week, show the books we have received and share what we plan for the coming week. Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews and the aim is to show our newest books and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops or downloaded on to their e-reader. As always you can click on any of the pictures to be taken to the Goodreads page for that book if you're interested in finding out more about it.

I've not been doing a lot of reading this week - although I am in a reviewing frame of mind I seem to be taking books slowly at the moment, plus I've rediscovered a lot of old movies that I loved when I was younger. This was the first week that Ann and I reviewed the same book and it was really interesting for me to see where are thoughts were different or similar and just how different our rating systems are! 

Last Week on the Blog:

Books We Got This Week:

A Perilous Undertaking (Veronica Speedwell, #2)Zucchini's Zany LifeAfter the Last Dance
A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn: I love Deanna Raybourn's books so I am excited for this. The first book A Curious Beginning was a book I really enjoyed last year.
Zucchini's Zany Life by Marilla Mulwane: Thank you to Marilla for sending me a pdf copy of this for review! I used to really want a pet duck so I was immediately drawn to this. It's a short read so I know I will be reading it soon!
After the Last Dance by Sarra Manning: I purchased this after Christmas from Amazon marketplace and then promptly forgot I ordered it, so this was a nice surprise! It's set in two different times and seems very different from the other Manning books I've read!
Paris Night & Day Coloring Book: Timeless Landmarks to Bring to LifeWindwitch (The Witchlands, #2)Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton
Paris Night and Day Coloring Book by Patricia Moffett: Our Mum bought Ann and I a copy of this each so we can compare our colouring! I love colouring books and this is a beautiful one! 
Windwitch by Susan Dennard: I am so, so excited to start this series! I've had Truthwitch since it was released and haven't got around to reading it yet but now that I have this I hope I will read them soon!
Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton by Magdalen King-Hall with an introduction by Rowland Hughes: I was sent this for review by the University of Hertfordshire Press and I am very intrigued. I've never seen the movie (The Wicked Lady) which is based off this book but Katherine Ferrers fascinates me.

Reading Update:

I haven't read any books this week as I have been very busy with my mock exams but I can say that those have gone well! I've so far done three English, three Maths, two French, two Science and a Geography exam.

Visions of Heat (Psy-Changeling, #2)Caressed by Ice (Psy-Changeling, #3)The Secret
Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh: 4 stars, I enjoyed this a lot. This series is really dragging me in now and I definitely want to finish it this year! 
Caressed By Ice by Nalini Singh: 4.5 stars, Probably the best plot of the series so far - it was very dark and the romance was excellent. I did take a while to warm up to Judd but he is a great character and Brenna was just amazing all the way through.
The Secret by Kathryn Hughes: 3.5 stars, This was a very intriguing book, plenty of twists and turns and it felt like all the characters were keeping secrets - most of them relating to the one big secret at the centre of the story. I will have a full review up for this tomorrow!

Next Week on the Blog:

  • Clare Reviews: The Secret by Kathryn Hughes
  • Top Ten Hidden Gems of 2016
  • Wednesday Catch-Up
  • Top 5 Polarising Books
  • Clare Reviews: The Smoke Hunter by Jacquelyn Benson
  • Friday Reads
  • Ann Reviews: The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare) to keep up with what we are reading

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Ann Reviews: Game of Fear by Gledé Browne Kabongo

Game of FearTitle: Game of Fear
Author: Gledé Browne Kabongo
Format: Paperback
Source: Received from author for an honest review
Pages: 398
Rating: 4/5
Blurb: Sometimes, good girls do very bad things...

Academic overachiever and popular good girl Abbie Cooper is used to being in control, and strives to keep it that way. As senior year at her elite New England private school kicks off, she’s focused on one goal: getting into the Ivy League. But even good girls have dark secrets. One morning, Abbie discovers a cryptic note in her locker, ("I know what you did, hypocrite! Justice will be served, The Avenger.") Then a photo arrives in the mail. It captures in great detail the explosive secret she’s kept hidden from everyone—the shocking blunder that could get her expelled from Saint Matthews Academy, and keep her out of the Ivy League for good.
Determined to protect her future and the people she loves, Abbie is drawn into a diabolical game of blackmail, cyber spying, and deception. For $50,000, the mystery girl known as The Avenger assures Abbie that her secret will remain safe. There’s only one problem: The Avenger may not exist at all. So who’s stalking Abbie with anonymous text messages that disappear after they’ve been read? Who’s out to ruin her and why? To uncover the horrifying truth, Abbie must play the game, all the way to its stunning conclusion. 

I loved the sound of this book from the blurb, this is probably because it sounded a lot like Pretty Little Liars which is a TV series which I really enjoy and so I was very excited to read a book that was similar to it. I only realised after I finished reading it that it was a kind of sequel to one of the other books written by the author.

I loved the plot of this book, because I found that I had my suspicions about who was The Avenger but I was not 100% sure who it was until the end of the book. The mystery was excellently done and there were a lot of subtle hints as to the identity of The Avenger throughout the book. However it was annoying to me that the main character kept on accusing a girl that it was obvious it could not possible be, this was one of the only things that annoyed me about this book.

I think that my favourite character was Christian and I really did not like the fact that the main character kept on judging him on who he used to be and not what he was doing at the time. I did get that the main character was trying to protect herself and not get hurt but sometimes you just need to take a risk and stop worrying about what might happen. Overall I found that I liked the main character but some of what she did I found very frustrating although she was also in some ways similar to me!

Although this book was set in a school, and I am currently at secondary school, I found it very hard to picture the school, but I did have a rough idea of what it looked like. This is probably because the school sounded so different to any schools that I have been to so I couldn't imagine it. Although I did like the sound of the school, and I have always loved the idea of having lockers because it would mean you have to carry less books in your bag.

Overall I did enjoy this book and I would recommend that you read it if you like mystery books or you are like me and love Pretty Little Liars because it was very similar! However I do think that you should read Swan Deception first as I think that it would give you a bit more of a back story into the characters and the main characters family.

Clare also reviewed this and you can find her review here.

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare) to keep up with what we are reading

Friday, 13 January 2017

Friday Reads 13th January 2017

Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's Voice and Book Beginnings is hosted by Rose City Reader. The idea is to share a sentence or so from the first page and the 56th page of the book you are currently reading! 

The Secret
Book Beginning:
"She had first married Thomas Roberts in the school playground when she was five years old."

Friday 56:
"She hadn't noticed Selwyn leaning in the doorway, a look of quiet amusement on his face."
I am only 80 pages into this so far and I am not really sure what I think yet. It seems to follow a number of different perspectives in different times and, as usually happens with a book like this, there are perspectives I prefer to others. At the moment I am most enjoying the 2016 sections! The mystery is very good so far - I am really keen to find out what decision Mary made. 

You can also find us on Goodreads (Ann and Clare) to keep up with what we are reading