Saturday, 28 December 2013

Grimm: The Icy Touch by John Shirley

This book is based on the hit TV series Grimm. For those that don’t know, the series is set on the idea that the creatures from fairytales are based on truth. 

Wesen, as they are known, have human form but also a second beast form which they can change into. There are many species of Wesen including Blutbaden (wolves) and Daemonfeuer (dragon-like). A Grimm is a human with special abilities who police the Wesen to protect not only unknowing humans, but other innocent Wesen. 

Portland detective Nick Burkhardt is a Grimm and in this story, is drawn into a dangerous case along with his human partner Hank Griffin, where a criminal organisation known as The Icy Touch is recruiting Wesen into their gang and brutally slaughtering anyone who refuses. 

At first it seems to be a violent drug smuggling operation, but Nick soon uncovers an ancient rivalry and death oath with the gang’s ruthless leader that could have dire consequences for Nick and everybody dear to him. 

I hadn't seen the TV series before reading this book, but I still wanted to review it because of the supernatural, fairytale and crime elements. There wasn't much fairytale reference, but the Grimm world and mythology is very interesting and detailed. 

It took me a little while to get into it at first, as I felt I didn't know the lead characters as well as I should, but then the storyline takes on a life of its own and I was hooked. I loved reading about all the different types of creatures and their personality traits. I also enjoyed the historical flashbacks with Nick’s ancestors. 

I’m sure this is a great addition to the world of Grimm; I’m certainly curious about the series now. This book is an entertaining, action packed read for fans of the show, and also fans of creature tales and supernatural crime. 

Friday, 13 December 2013

The View from the Tower by Charles Lambert

In Rome 2004, politician’s wife Helen is at her hotel with her lover. Less than a mile away, her husband is assassinated. Helen suddenly finds herself in a convoluted web of police investigations and public spotlight after the high profile murder.

Her lover, who was also her husband’s best friend, finds his dark past catching up with him, and Helen feels pressure from her in-laws throughout the media frenzy. 

As she begins to uncover more about her husband’s death, she thinks back on her own history and the people and politics she used to be involved. She finds she discovers more about her marriage after her husband’s death than she ever could have realized when he was still alive. 

The story starts quite boldly; Helen meets her estranged lover and the murder of her husband happen at the beginning. After that, the story slows down, with lots of flashbacks and plenty of details as the character’s secrets and pasts are unraveled. I found that the slow pace actually suited the story. I would have liked a few more shocks, but as it is, it’s still an engaging novel. 

The descriptions of Italy make a picturesque backdrop against the chaos of the politics and civil unrest of the time. The events surrounding Italy at this time were completely new to me, I’m not a huge fan of politics, but told through Helen’s eyes as an Italian citizen and with interactions with local characters; I found that element quite interesting. 

This book is very character led. As well as Helen and her lover, there are other characters involved, even minor ones who have their own back stories that link in with the main plot line, which kept things interesting. There is just the right amount of drama to keep the edge up. It’s full of betrayal and secrets which make for a gripping story. Slow burning, yet detailed, The View from the Tower is a sophisticated tale for crime fiction readers.


Published in the US/Canada/Ebook: 31st Dec 2013 - UK + RoW: 2nd Jan 2014

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

She by H. Rider Haggard

I was very lucky in October to win a set of She books By H. Rider Haggard from Hesperus Press. The four books make a very attractive set and I was intrigued by the stories, She itself first published in 1886. Both my mother and my grandmother read this book when they were at school, so I wanted to see if this classic would hold my attention in the same way. 

Professor Horace Holly is disturbed one night by his oldest friend who tasks him with taking on the care of his young son Leo, and also bestows upon him a strange box and an unbelievable legend. Later that night, the poor man passes away. 

Holly does what is expected of him and raises the beautiful, golden curled Leo Vincey on whose twenty-fifth birthday, they open the box and Leo decides that they must go in search of the fantastical legend as depicted by the contents. 

Their adventure takes them to the heart of Africa, where after a shipwreck and days of travelling, they are taken in by the strange Amahagger tribe. For a while they live with the tribe and eventually, are taken to see the beautiful and terrifying white queen of Kôr, Ayesha. 

They are introduced into her kingdom and she decides that Leo is the reincarnation of lost great love and she shows them many secrets that she has learnt in her 2000 years of existence. But what started as a curious adventure ends up becoming a journey of life and death. 

The language is very old fashioned, which is to be expected given the time it was written. Sometimes, I like delving into older novels as they are more challenge. There is a lot of description; of characters, of landscapes, of events, sometimes a little too much for me, but it all serves to paint a vivid picture of a unique story. The characters are all well written; I loved the relationship between the ugly, reclusive Holly and his ward, the handsome, young Leo. As for Ayesha, she is every bit as stunning and terrible as you can imagine her to be. 

I think for its time, She has pushed the boundaries of the worlds and stories that can be thought of, and it is unsurprising that it has been published again and again over a hundred years since its first publication. Intelligent and engrossing, this is an adventure and a half for hardy readers of this genre. I’m looking forward to what the next books have in store. 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead by George Mann

A wealthy old man falls to his death after a family party and his will then goes missing. The dead man’s nephew calls upon Sherlock Holmes to help find the missing document that will save him and his family from ruin. 

Just as the case begins, with the faithful Doctor Watson assisting, a mysterious long lost relative appears, making a seemingly substantial claim on the inheritance, turning the investigation into a race against time to solve the mystery and shed light on more than one suspicious death. 

Inspector Charles Bainbridge is the official officer in charge of the investigation, but he has his hands full with a case of “iron men” running amok in London; unstoppable metal automatons conducting violent jewellery robberies. He works tirelessly with Holmes and Watson to solve both cases before the danger turns on the three heroes themselves.

George Mann is a fantastic storyteller. I had the pleasure of reviewing The Executioner’s Heart from the Newbury & Hobbes universe, which is just as gripping. There’s no preamble, we are plunged straight into the mystery from the start and drawn into to a complex web of betrayals and deception. I was absolutely hooked from the first chapter. 

Doctor Watson is the main narrator here, with some additional account scattered throughout from some of the other main players. Sherlock Holmes is every bit the eccentric, brilliant minded, wily detective you would expect him to be, and Watson is a loyal and brave accomplice for Holmes’ plots and plans. 

The descriptive prose sets the scenes well and the steampunk element with the fearsome iron men is an imaginative, fitting addition to an already engaging story. Sherlock Holmes fans will not be disappointed with this exciting read. The Will of the Dead is a must read for historical crime readers as well, being intelligent and intriguing from beginning to end.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Wallace & Gromit - The Complete Newspaper Comic Strips Collection

I was so thrilled to be given the chance to review this book. I’m a huge Wallace and Gromit fan. I remember watching the series on TV as child and loving the simplicity and heart fun of the animation. I've since loved their feature length movie and I even have the DVD of all the episodes that never fails to cheer me up on a dull day. 

For those that don’t know (if that’s even possible!) Wallace is a inventor who always has the best of intentions but his homemade gadgets often get him into trouble. His faithful companion is Gromit, a clever canine who also manages to save the day, yet rarely gets any credit for it. 

This book is a collection of W&G comic strips, some of which featured in the Sun newspaper. The strips are all bright and colourful and each mini story is filled with fun. There are gadgets galore and plenty of puns to make even the most serious of grumps crack a smile. 

The strips are great examples of the pair’s spontaneous adventures. Sometimes the two of them set off on a fun filled day and end up getting much more than they bargained for. Sometimes they start a new business, which don’t always go to plan when their homemade machines end up running amok. Other times just an ordinary day at 62 West Wallaby street turns out to be extraordinary, but the lovable twosome always end up safe and sound with a cup of tea and some cheese. 

Speaking of cheese, it must be mentioned that along with inventing, Wallace is something of a cheese enthusiast. One thing this book is not short of is cheese; pictures of cheese, missions for cheese and lots of cheesy jokes. Extremely cheesy, but I wouldn't have Wallace and Gromit any other way. 

There is a nice introduction from creator Nick Park and throughout the book there are stills from the animation which is a nostalgic touch. This is a great collection to flick through; a comic strip or two a day has kept me smiling for weeks.

This would make a great gift for a Wallace and Gromit fan or for anyone that enjoys comic strips. Charming and funny, this is a cracking collection perfect for readers young and old.  

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce

This book came to my attention after winning The British Fantasy Award for Best Novel. The author Graham Joyce received a standing ovation at the awards ceremony last week, which marked his first public appearance since he was diagnosed with cancer earlier on in the year. 

Initially I was asked to help publicise the Best Novel Award win, but after reading the press release for the book, I was intrigued and had to give this novel a read. 

It tells of Tara, who after vanishing in local woodland at the age of sixteen, unexpectedly turns up on her parents’ doorstep twenty years later. 

Her parents, brother and the besotted boyfriend she left behind are all rocked by her return, and the fantastical explanation she offers for her disappearance leave them all questioning the girl they love and the ordinary world they thought they knew. 

I don’t want to give away too much of Tara’s story, but we are described a tale of world hidden from ours, almost without limits but with overlaps that can prove to have dangerous consequences. 

I liked how the story was told from different viewpoints; from Tara’s storytelling to her family’s experiences of her reappearance. We also get to read the case notes of the psychiatrist who is hired to figure out Tara’s outlandish claims, which I thought was an interesting and intelligent addition amidst the reality of the family life and the dreamy quality of Tara’s tale. 

The descriptions and the plot lines are enchanting; in a raw and truthful way with an element of magic too. I really felt for all the main characters surrounding Tara and the story as a whole was incredibly touching.

I often enjoy stories where fairy theme and everyday life collide; it makes you want to believe that possibly, some of it could happen. Intriguing and wondrous, Some Kind of fairy Tale is a heartfelt and imaginative novel that deserves every shred of its praise. 

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bronze Gods by A.A. Aguirre

Bronze Gods is the first book in a new series that combines crime fiction with steampunk and fantasy. Dorstaad is where the action takes place. In Dorstaad there are regular citizens but also some with Fae blood. 

Great houses boasting the lineage of great power have wide influence in the city, and when a daughter from one of these prestigious families s found brutally murdered, huge pressure is placed on the Criminal Investigation Division to solve the case.

In deep from the start are CID work partners Janus Mikani and Celeste Ritsuko. Mikani is a wild charmer with a Fae gift that gives him heightened sixth sense. Ritsuko is organised and logical; a first female inspector constantly battling to prove herself in a male dominated environment. 

Together they pursue a ruthless killer who mixes cruel killing devices and ritualistic magic to despatch his high profile victims, which makes for exciting reading. 

I always find steampunk so fascinating as there are almost no limitations on the world you can create. This novel is a great blend of old world charm and futurism but combining it with the fantasy element takes it that little bit further in the awesome stakes. 

I loved Mikani and Ritsuko from the start. Straight away you get a strong sense of their personalities and their partnership; underneath the banter there is genuine care. A.A. Aguirre are a husband and wife writing team so it fits that they could create such a compatible duo. 

There is lots of action and crime scene detail, steampunk additions, a hint of romance and in this first book we touch on a whole new fantasy world of Fae bloods and invaders just waiting to be explored. Bronze Gods is a wondrous first book in an exciting new cross-genre series, full of imagination and heart; definitely one to watch out for. 

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I’ve had the 10th anniversary of Coraline sitting unread on my Kindle for quite a while now, so what better time to read it than for Halloween.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a Neil Gaiman fan, and although he has featured on my blog before (Shadows over Innsmouth and Rags & Bones) I’ve not reviewed one of his novels before until now. 

The star of this tale is of course Coraline Jones, who has just moved into a new house with her workaholic parents. On an exploration of her new home, she meets some of the other residents; there are the two retired actresses who live in the basement with lots of dogs, and an eccentric old man who lives in the attic training a circus of mice.

In her own flat, she finds a bricked up wall behind a locked door. When she least expects it, the bricks disappear and she travels through the door into a parallel world. In the new place, things look similar but are infinitely more interesting. She has an other mother and father who appear to look like her real parents, apart from the fact that they have buttons for eyes. Her other mother tries to persuade Coraline to stay in the new world with gifts and entertainment, but when she shows her true nature, Coraline  finds what started as an adventure has turned dangerous. 

This is the sort of mild horror for children that I always loved growing up. With ghosts, spiders and other creatures from dreams, I can imagine how some children could find this a little scary. Even I found the rats, with their creepy little rhymes unnerving! But the story is also about hope and bravery and I adored it. I also love the film version too, which is slightly different to the original tale, although both are equally dark and enchanting.

The tenth anniversary edition has an introduction by Neil Gaiman on the origins of Coraline and there are illustrations by Chris Riddell. Coraline is an adventurous heroine in a quirky read that children and parents can enjoy.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Goosebumps by R.L. Stine

Halloween is fast approaching. Pumpkins are appearing in shops, costumes are on sale and everyone bookish is discussing their favourite scary reads. With an abundance of skulls and spiders, ghosts and ghouls everywhere, it got me thinking about my own experiences of Halloween and relevant reads. 

Our Goosebumps books!
Nothing to me, reminds me of Halloween in book terms than the Goosebumps books by American author R.L. Stine. They were a huge part of my literary childhood; my sister and I loved the spine tingling tales and collected many of the books. We had stand alone novels, the 3-in-1 collection books, Goosebumps 2000 series, and even a hardback Goosebumps book that wailed when you opened the cover! 

Since the release of the first novel, Welcome to Dead House in July 1992, the books gained immense popularity and commercial success worldwide. As of 2008, the series sold over 350 million books worldwide in 35 languages and has been listed on many bestseller lists, including the New York Times Best Seller list for children. 

Goosebumps Series 2000
Two common themes in the series are children triumphing over evil and kids facing horrid or frightening situations and using their own wit and imagination to escape them. As well as supernatural and horror themes, there was also adventure and humour too. The success of the books spawned a popular TV series and themed merchandise. 

Just the theme song and opening credits of the TV series takes me down memory lane. There is something about this kind of horror that most children love. Ghosts, monsters, pumpkins, ventriloquist dummies, vampires, werewolves; the range of horror and imagination is endless! A fantasy world made of Halloween creatures is dark and thrilling and hugely popular both in fiction and film. 

Well loved Goosebumps Collections
With the Goosebumps books, the brightly coloured covers, with the raised images and iconic slimy font are excitingly appealing. I can’t even pick a favourite because I remember enjoying all the stories in their own right. Although I do remember particularly liking the books where you choose the path of the character and determine the ending. 

Give Yourself Goosebumps
As far as I am aware, Goosebumps books are still growing strong and R.L. Stine continues to have a strong fan base of children and adults alike. My sister and I still have all of our Goosebumps books, even if some are dog eared and worn and I hope to share those stories I loved when I have children of my own. 

If you had any Goosebumps books please feel free to comment. What was your favourite? Were you genuinely terrified by any of the books? Did you ever watch the TV series? Or maybe you buy the books for your own children? Either way I would love to hear from you!



Thursday, 24 October 2013

Omens by Kelley Armstrong

Has anyone else read any of Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld books? My mum bought the first book Bitten back in the early noughties and we were hooked ever since. So I was very excited to learn that Armstrong is starting a new supernatural set. 

Omens is the first book in the new Cainsville series about a strange little town full of secrets both unnatural or otherwise. We are introduced to society girl Olivia Taylor-Jones who’s seemingly perfect life is turned upside down when she learns she is actually Eden Larsen, the daughter of a famous serial killing couple. 

She ends up leaving her home, her family and fiancé for the little town of Cainsville in the hope of lying low from the press while she digests the news. But after meeting her estranged mother, she teams up with man-mountain lawyer Gabriel to look more closely at the murders her biological parents allegedly committed, dredging up all sorts of secrets and conspiracies along the way. 

I’ve always enjoyed how Armstrong writes her characters; all memorable and individual, string female leads alongside strong confident males (Olivia and Gabriel have a dynamic much like Elena and Clay of the Otherworld series minus the lycanthropy!). 

The town of Cainsville is like something from a Stephen King novel; bursting with secrets and strangeness. Although Olivia’s quest for the truth about her parents is the main storyline, there are many intriguing offshoots featuring the Cainsville inhabitants just waiting to be uncovered. 

Throughout the story Olivia sees omens; crows and ravens, black cats, poppies and such which tantalising hint at some things yet to pass. As well as being irresistibly supernatural, it is also a compelling psychological thriller. 

If you've never read Kelley Armstrong before I urge you to give this a try. Clever and captivating, like the portents scattered throughout, Omens should definitely not be ignored. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Rags & Bones edited by Melissa Marr & Tim Pratt

I always enjoy short story collections because you get to experience a varied range of stories, ideas and perspectives within the pages of a single volume. 

With this book I was thrilled to see the names of a couple of my favourite authors (Neil Gaiman and Kelley Armstrong). There were a few names I've heard of but had yet to read and some that were new to me entirely, which is always exciting. 

Rags & Bones introduces (or re-visits for some) classic stories that have been re-imagined here by a colourful mix of authors. The contributors are Saladin Ahmed, Kelley Armstrong, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Kami Garcia, Garth Nix, Carrie Ryan, Margaret Stohl, Gene Wolfe, Rick Yancey and the two editors Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt. There is also some artwork from Charles Vess, which breaks the tales up nicely. 

There are a couple of takes on fairytales here which I really enjoyed. I always find different interpretations of fairytales fascinating. The other stories were all wonderfully varied with dabbles in science fiction, fantasy and dystopian fiction. 

I often find in short story anthologies that I love some, like some and some are forgettable once I've finished the book. With Rags & Bones I genuinely, thoroughly enjoyed every tale in its own right. All the stories were very engaging and incredibly thought provoking. The authors were asked to retell a classic story that meant something to them, and the obvious passion, enthusiasm and consideration for their subject shines through in every telling. I can’t even pick a favourite because so many had elements that hooked me in and stayed with me afterwards. 

This is a unique collection of stories which not only entertain and get you thinking, but also piques your curiosity as to the original stories they were inspired by. Most of the original stories I have never come across before, but quite want to explore now.

I think this book will be an interesting read for most readers, but sci-fi and fantasy fans should definitely check this book out. Rags & Bones is a fantastic collection of tales with a little something for everyone. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Killer Queens by Rebecca Chance

I had my first experience of Rebecca Chance in January when I reviewed Killer Heels. There are several of her other novels on my to read list, but Killer Queens is the latest addition and I couldn't wait to read it.

We meet three women, each introduced into a royal family in different circumstances, but not all ends up leading the fairytale lifestyle everyone imagines them. 

American athlete Lori falls for the charming ruler of a super rich European tax-haven. They have a whirlwind romance but she begins to wonder if it may just be too good to be true. 

Belinda was one of the world’s most iconic princesses but she is forced to stage her own death and abandon her children to stay alive. But with the announcement of her son, Prince Hugo’s wedding, she risks coming out of hiding to celebrate the big day. 

Chloe, Prince Hugo’s fiancée, is a normal, down to earth girl, whose romance with the future King of England has propelled her into the limelight. As the wedding day looms, she begins to doubt her place amongst the royals and her role as future Queen. 

All the women are quite different, but as their stories interlink, there are many similarities too and you feel more for all of them. You can easily draw parallels between Chloe and Hugo of Killer Queens, to real life royals the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge William and Kate. Their story is very reminiscent of the royal wedding which took place last year. Last year also saw Great Britain host the Olympics, which is also mentioned in the book. 2012 was quite a joyous, celebratory year and this story encapsulated those feelings well but with added sugar and spice. 

Lori’s story reminded me a little of The Princess Diaries (more movie with Anne Hathaway than the book by Meg Cabot), in the sense that she moves to a little-known European principality, where she must learn the language, the history and the culture. The main difference between them being the steamy sex scenes! 

Rebecca Chance has such a natural flow to her writing that draws you in with the promise of smut and scandal but keeps you engaged with the drama and interweaving plot lines. I love how her stories have lots of descriptions of exotic and exciting locations. 

Sexy and stylish, Killer Queens is an indulgent, cheeky read that fans of this genre will love. If you've yet to read a Rebecca Chance novel, I urge you to try this one. Not only will you enjoy it, but you will never look at a banana the same way again!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Letters from a Murderer by John Matthews

Jack the Ripper is one of the most infamous serial killers of all time. Having committed so many brutal murders and yet remained unknown gives authors plenty of scope to build a crime story around the bones of this legendary case.

In Letters from a Murderer, we are transported to New York, 1891, where a prostitute has been found murdered in a startlingly similar manner to the Ripper victims of London. The premise of the story elaborates on the theory that the Ripper may have crossed the Atlantic to evade capture and continue killing. Or could these new murders be the work of a copycat killer? 

It is down to aristocratic pathologist Finley Jameson to make sense of the murders and decipher the letters sent to him via the press from the killer himself, goading Finley as he continues to avoid arrest. Jameson teams up with Joseph Argenti, a seasoned New York cop who provides a fresh perspective. 

We get to see the story from many points of view. I especially liked the killer’s view point and his taunting letters which make the story more sinister and exciting. There is also a gang related crime story running alongside the Ripper murders that introduce more characters, and which interlink with the investigation. 

As a crime investigating duo, Jameson and Argenti didn't gel well for me. I like that they are very different men in their own right, but I didn't feel an affinity between them that I've found with other police pairings. My favourite character was Jameson’s assistant Lawrence, a soft spoken man with an eidetic memory, who Jameson saved from the madhouse. 

The story is well told; gritty and gruesome in all the right places, and with plenty of action. Letters from a Murderer is an interesting take on the Jack the Ripper theme and a solid historical crime fiction read.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

“He suddenly remembered his mother telling him the mistle thrushes were the last birds in the air before a great storm. Country folk would see them flying alone on the wind and know a tempest was on its way.”

I was hugely excited to be offered the chance to review this book. As a historical fiction fan I have surprisingly never read a Conn Iggulden book until now! Stormbird is the first in a landmark series about the War of the Roses.

In this first book, two families cause civil unrest in England for thirty years. King Henry and his supporters are threatened from all sides and the kingdom is at risk. We are introduced to a wide range of characters and we are privy to their actions and how the consequences interlink with the other players.

There are the royals and noblemen fighting over the throne and making shady deals amongst each other. There are the wives and families who also muscle in on the politics that surround them. Then there are soldiers fighting the wars for the rich, and the common folk who either run or rebel.  All the main characters are well described and each has a fascinating story to be told. The action is spread across cities, in the countryside and even at sea.

Stormbird is incredibly well researched, and even though there are a huge number of characters and important events that take place, the story is engaging and very easy to follow. With buckets of action, drama and romance, this book ticks a lot of boxes.

The War of the Roses is a fascinating period of history. It is even more relevant right now given the fairly recent discovery of Richard III’s bones and also the nation’s obsession with epic TV series Game of Thrones, which draws on some events from this era. I could definitely see the similarities with GoT, of which I am also a huge fan, so this made me enjoy the book even more!

Bursting with period detail and jam packed with action, Stormbird is an excellent start to a promising historical fiction trilogy from a bestselling author. I definitely recommend this for Iggulden fans old and new and anyone that loves history. I am eagerly awaiting the next instalment.


If this review has piqued your curiosity, check out the book trailer below for more info!





Thursday, 3 October 2013

White Truffles in Winter by N.M. Kelby

“Let the food speak where words cannot.” 

For renowned French chef Auguste Escoffier, food is life. He changed the face of the dining experience with his famous restaurants at The Savoy and The Ritz. A passionate man, Escoffier was torn between two important women in his life; the beautiful and reckless flame-haired actress Sarah Bernhardt, and his wife, the poet Delphine Daffis. 

As he travels around, cooking and inventing dishes for the world’s rich and famous, his wife is dismayed that he has never created a signature dish for her. In this imagining of the world of Escoffier, ideals of love and food collide. 

I found this tale magical from the start. The tantalising imagery of food will have you salivating, and the story as a whole is delightfully descriptive. 

The setting of post World War One and the appearance of political figures of the time, ground the story in a darker realism, which makes you feel more for the main characters, and the importance of the food and interactions the characters share. 

The story does jump back and forth in time quite a lot, as we meet Escoffier and Delphine in old age and explore their marriage past and present through their memories of Escoffier’s career, his other dalliances and of course, food. 

Food is a universal, and food preferences are individual and in some ways meaningful to some. Escoffier’s relationship with food is certainly unique. His character is flawed in many ways, but his remarkable prowess in the kitchen and his enthusiasm for his craft is endearing. This is of course a work of fiction, as there are many accounts of the life and times of Auguste Escoffier. Kelby’s representation has quite a dreamy, enchanting quality to it that I hope isn't too far from the truth of the real Escoffier. 

This book is a feast of drama and romance, with a handful of engaging characters and sprinkling of stylish locations with a big helping of elegance. Sad in parts but joyous too, I found the whole story enchanting. White Truffles in Winter is a stylish, escapist read; a real treat for foodie fans. 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Alma Evergreens Giveaway

It hasn’t just been a big year for my book blogging experience. This year Alma publishing won Independent Publisher of the Year 2013. Now, Alma Classics have just released a new selection of stylish and elegant editions of classic books, Evergreen Classics, perfect for students and book lovers alike. They are beautifully produced with extra material, new translations and a fresh editorial approach. All are competitively priced at £4.99 and are made to last collectables.

The first four titles are:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – the tale of Heathcliff and Cathy’s untameable love and suffering, and the effects of their passion on their families.
The Evergreen edition includes pictures and material on Emily Brontë’s life and works.

Praise of Folly by Erasmus – a controversial and witty essay combining culture, theology and philosophy.
The Evergreen edition is a new translation and includes other works by Erasmus exclusive to Alma books.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – a bored woman’s quest to make her fantasies a reality have shocking consequences for herself and those around her.
The Evergreen edition contains extra reading and visual material.

The Prince by Machiavelli – a classic yet controversial study of power and politics.
The Evergreen edition includes a newly translated essay, extra reading and visual material.

More titles will be added regularly to the series after the initial launch in September.



I have a copy of each of the above books to give away. To win you can do either of the following:

·         Follow me on Twitter (@booksbutterfly) and retweet the picture of the title you would like to win. (feel free to retweet all four books!)

or

·         Like my Facebook page and leave me a message/comment with the title you would most like to win. (http://m.facebook.com/pages/Bookshelf-Butterfly/242889892521980 )


Must have completed both parts on Twitter or Facebook to be in with a chance. Open internationally! Entries closed 6pm on Tuesday 1st October. Winners chosen at random and announced on Wednesday 2nd October.


Good luck!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

One Year Blogoversary!

On this day last year I posted my very first review on my newly created blog. That review was Jemima J by Jane Green, a favourite book of mine; a comfort read that I return to when in need of familiar escapism.

Since then, I have shared some of my favourite reads and authors and discovered some new ones along the way. I have reviewed books from best selling novelists, indie authors and debut writers; you never know where you may find a hidden gem of a book!

Through the blog and social media I have been extremely lucky to build relationships with some very generous and diverse publishing houses, along with some talented and brilliant editors, publicists, literary agents and booksellers.

When I started the blog I mainly wanted to share my love for books; initiate conversations about any book related topic going. I also aimed to showcase my writing and develop my social media and blogging skills which I hope I have gone some way to achieving.

Over the last year I spent some time on a publishing internship which gave me a fascinating insight into the publishing industry and the life cycle of a book. I was very happy early on my blogging to take part in the Quick Reads campaign which encourages people with reading difficulties to find a new love in books, which is something I would very much like to champion again in the future. I have taken part in blog tours and guest posted on other blogs. I also attended my first book event, the Glamour Live Book Club, which I really enjoyed. There are always book launches, literary festivals, author talks and other book related events around so I hope to attend more of these in the future.

I didn't realise when I started how much reviewing and blogging would come to mean to me. I look at books in a whole new light, and when I get especially excited about a new story (which happens often) I can’t wait to review and recommend it.

Over the course of the next year I hope to broaden my range of reading even more if possible. I aim to write up more book events, book news and include more features. I also hope to get other people involved with guest posts and discussions galore! If you have enjoyed any of my posts, I would happily receive any comments that you want to make; I love to talk books. Any feedback on current posts, or what you would like to see more of in the future, is hugely appreciated.

A big thank you to all my fellow bloggers, generous authors and publishers who have in any way shape or form been involved in my blog and of course a thank you to all the readers, public and anonymous, who make it all worthwhile.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Shadows Over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft and Others

Edited by Stephen Jones


Welcome to the town of Innsmouth, New England. Although it’s not as welcoming as you may like. A decaying, half abandoned fishing village hiding strange treasure, fishy looking people and unspeakable evil lurking in nearby sea. 

Innsmouth is the dismal setting of H.P. Lovecraft’s eerie story The Shadow over Innsmouth, a horrifying tale written in 1931 which helped spawn the mythos behind Cthulhu and other horrid denizens of the sea. This anthology gathers together seventeen other horror writers and their tales inspired by the Innsmouth original. 

The authors are Basil Cooper, Jack Yeovil, Guy N. Smith, Adrian Cole, D.F. Lewis, Ramsey Campbell, David A. Sutton, Peter Tremayne, Kim Newman, Brian Mooney, Brian Stableford, Nicholas Royle, David Langford, Michael Marshall Smith, Brian Lumley and Neil Gaiman. 

Some of the stories are based in the original setting of Innsmouth, New England, whilst others take the concept to other coastal regions such as the south of England and Ireland. A main theme running through the stories is the descriptions of the Innsmouth inhabitants, many bearing the Innsmouth look; i.e. bulgy eyes, large flat heads, general fish-like or amphibian exterior. 

Not only is their unusual appearance notable but also their animosity towards strangers, their secrecy and their longings for the sea. Combined with the detailed descriptions of the decrepit town itself, most of the stories were creepy and unnerving in parts. I really enjoyed how each writer adapted and evolved the Innsmouth mythology, especially the creatures, for their own tales, which is something Lovecraft encouraged during his lifetime. 

I also liked how the interpretations varied in eras of time. Some stories were set in or around the late twenties when the original story was set, providing old fashioned, darkly styled tales. Other stories were spread through the years into modern times, involving the use of science and technology, all of which were interesting and equally disturbing variations of the Innsmouth tale. 

My favourite story other than Lovecraft’s original was Neil Gaiman’s Only the End of the World Again, whose mix of Innsmouth mythology combined with a werewolf lead and his quirky writing style made for an entertaining yet grisly read. 

This is a great collection of Innsmouth short stories, chilling and engaging, enhanced by some awesome artwork illustrating the weird and wonderful Cthulhu mythology. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

Nevermore by David Niall Wilson

On the borderline of North Carolina and Virginia stands the Lake Drummond Hotel where a gifted artist and a writer meet one dark and fateful night that will change their lives forever. 

The artist, Lenore, has the ability to see spirits trapped within trees and sometimes within other objects, and she draws them to set them free. She meets the writer Edgar Allan Poe whose travelling companion is a crow named Grimm after the fairytale writing brothers. 

Together they are drawn into the old legends and fantastical secrets of The Great Dismal Swamp, where spirits are trapped but not all should be set free. Nevermore is set in 1800s America blending history, romance and the paranormal into a dark tale of magic and mystery. 

There are references to folktales, Poe’s works and Grimm fairytales, which I always love in literature. It takes a talent to be able to mix the works of Grimm and other legends into a unique tale of its own and I think that was achieved very well here. 

The story is wonderfully descriptive and I particularly enjoyed the imagery of Lenore’s drawings to reveal and then release the trapped spirits, which I thought was a distinctive and elegant aspect of the story. I've only recently started becoming more familiar with Edgar Allan Poe’s work after reviewing Beyond Rue Morgue. Nevermore is one version of how Poe came up with his famous poem “The Raven”. 

I love the gothic, dark elements incorporated into the tale including ravens, witches, spirits, and the spooky lake setting was the perfect location for the otherworldly occurrences. This story really did tick a lot of boxes for me and I finished it in one sitting. Nevermore is full of intrigue and atmosphere and well worth a read. 

Friday, 13 September 2013

Tempting Fate by Jane Green

As something of a Jane Green fan I was hugely excited to be given the chance to review her latest book. Leading lady Gabby has a secure marriage, lovely daughters and good friends. 

But as she feels her youth slipping away she becomes restless, and when she gains the attentions of a young, sexy and successful man it only takes one reckless moment to destroy all that is important to her. In the aftermath of one fateful decision, can Gabby return to the life she once had or will her betrayals ruin her life for good? 

I raced through this novel, I found it utterly compelling. Although it is fairly easy to predict the course of the action, you still end up getting emotionally caught up in the characters’ lives. Jane Green has a way of writing that is honest and emotive that really makes you care for the characters involved and the outcome of the story. 

Gabby was both a lovable and frustrating character and I was rooting for her all the way. It was almost addictive to be privy to the intimate details of her marriage to Elliott, the events that unravel it and the consequences of her actions. 

Jane Green is hailed as “women’s fiction royalty” and it’s a book like this that proves that statement correct. Jemima J is still my favourite Jane Green book ever but Tempting Fate is still a great example of women’s literature at its best. 

It is a fascinating and heartbreaking insight into the sanctity of marriage, the bonds of family and the cost of thoughtless actions that affect those issues. Entertaining and riveting, Tempting Fate is a must read for fans of this genre. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

Beyond the desolate 40-Mile Desert, Nevada, there is a strange cattle town with more than its fair share of unnatural secrets.

There is the town sheriff who bears noose marks around his neck and cannot die. A shady saloon owner who knows more about things than he is letting on. An outcast deputy with a wild side, to name but a few. Enter a stranger, a teenage boy on the run with a mystical power he knows nothing about. Welcome to Golgotha. 

New in town, Jim, is befriended by the local law enforcement and so has front row seats when stranger than normal occurrences threaten not only the town’s inhabitants but maybe even the world. An ancient evil is awakening in the darkness, and a motley crew of unlikely heroes amongst the townsfolk assemble to save the day. 

This book blew me away. As soon as we are introduced to the town, we flit back and forth between a wide array of characters, their dirty little secrets and their ultimate influence within the story. It’s easy to read but incredibly complex in terms of storyline and content. This book has a little of everything; religion, adventure, horror, romance, steampunk and mythology. 

The Wild West setting made the whole things unique and exciting, I really couldn't get enough. I think this would make an awesome TV series as there are plenty of diverse characters, an interesting location and tons of engaging action that would make for excellent viewing. 

A sequel is already in the works for this book and I seriously can’t wait for it! The Six-Gun Tarot is a masterpiece of a weird western and I strongly urge readers to go out and try this book for themselves. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

Coco's Secret by Niamh Greene

Named after famous fashion designer Coco Chanel, Irish small-town girl Coco Swan always feels she isn't living up to the exotic expectations of her glamorous namesake. She leads an ordinary life as an antiques dealer with her grandmother. 

At an auction, she ends up with the surprise find of a vintage Chanel handbag which turns her normal little life upside down. This is exactly the sort of bag her late mother would have wanted her to own. 

An old letter hidden inside the bag then puts Coco on a mission to find out where the bag came from and along the way uncovers secrets from the mystery owner’s past and also learns more of her own family’s secrets. 

This book hooks you in with the simple premise of finding the precious bag’s owner, but the journey that Coco and also the reader end up on is much more complex and riveting. As clues are solved and more questions arise, it makes you thirst for the answers that are only pages away. I adored Coco’s grandmother Ruth; a woman who knows what she wants and who guides and prompts Coco to live a little more. 

I've read a fair few Irish authors, Marian Keyes being one of my favourites, and I thought that this book was another fun and heart warming tale that reflects the nature of Ireland. The prose is easy to follow, funny in parts and sensitive when it needed to be. Coco’s Secret is a mystery book of sorts. Not of the crime variety but one that uncovers the truth about family, love and secrets that can span generations. 

I really liked the idea of the vintage bag being hidden and then found by fate. I like to think that if I found a hidden letter in a long lost bag, that I would try and learn its history just as Coco does here. Overall I found Coco’s Secret to be an endearing and delightful read. 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Apocalypse Now Now by Charlie Human

Sometimes a book cover just screams for your attention. The cover for Apocalypse Now Now is one of those covers that has so much cool stuff to look at and it gives you a graphic taste of some of the weird and wonderful things waiting within. Surly school kids? Check. Hobo looking guy with a shotgun? Check. Zombies, demonic crows, evil spiders, a giant octopus and more? Check, check and check! 

Sixteen year old Baxter Zevcenko is a school yard entrepreneur on the up, leading a porn distributing syndicate of outcasts known as The Spider. He is making decent profits and hasn't yet been beaten up by rival gangs. 

But then his girlfriend gets kidnapped by forces unknown and he ends up enlisting the help of supernatural bounty hunter Jackie Ronin to get her back.Baxter is taken on a madcap journey into Cape Town’s supernatural underworld where they face not only dangers from the creatures they encounter, but from the apocalypse itself.

I loved the complete and utter weirdness of this book. The characters, the war-zone school environment, the creatures are all so bizarre. Even the chapter names are inventive; “The Zombie Horror Ninja Show” and “Rip Off My Face and Tell Me That You Love Me” were two of my personal faves. The basic storyline is boy trying to save damsel in distress and save the world. But it it’s wrapped up in a fantastic coating of school yard politics, supernatural underbelly infiltration and creature porn, to name but a few. 

I have two recommendations to make regarding this book. 1) Read this book, it is insanely good. 2) If you do read this book, do not read before bed as you may experience crazy dreams involving apocalypse creatures like I did! Overall a highly original tale that will keep you entertained from start to finish.  

Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

If it wasn't for The Berlin Wall, Cecilia Fitzpatrick may never have found the letter that changes her life forever. Her middle daughter’s obsession with The Berlin Wall sends her up into the attic looking for her own piece of the wall, which is where she finds a letter from her husband that is to be opened only in the event of his death. 

Cecilia has it all; a beautiful family, a secure marriage, a successful business and she is an integral part of the community. But curiosity gets the better of her and the secret she uncovers devastates the foundations her perfect life are built on. The secret also has repercussions for grieving school secretary Rachel and introvert Tess who is going through marital problems of her own. 

I loved how this story was written in a suspenseful way that keeps you turning pages. The letter is introduced early on but she doesn't open it straight away and it makes you want to read on to find out the dreaded secret! But Cecilia’s husband’s secret isn't the only one as more characters come into it bringing their own hidden issues and problems.

I liked how much detail was included about the main characters and their families so you really get a feel for their personalities and care more when issues both good and bad arise. Even though the storyline goes to dark places, it’s also very entertaining in parts as well. I also liked how the novel outlined all the possibilities for the characters, had certain events not occurred. 

The Husband’s Secret is a fascinating portrayal of domestic life and the dark secrets that people can hide from the ones they love. Engrossing and sentimental, you won’t want to put this down.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Flower Plantation by Nora Anne Brown

Arthur Baptiste lives on a flower plantation in Rwanda with his half-Tutsi, half-Belgian father and his English mother. He never ever talks and is not really accepted by the local children for being light skinned, so he is home-schooled and also helps out on the plantation. 

His world revolves around butterflies. His treasured possession is a book of African butterflies which he carries everywhere with him, and he also catches, collects and studies as many butterflies as he can find. His only friend is the cook’s granddaughter Beni, a young girl with a mind as curious as his own, who accepts his muteness and shares his interest in butterflies. 

However, Arthur is unaware of the political troubles that are arising in Africa, and his mostly untroubled bubble of existence on the plantation soon descends into a dangerous world of violence and crime. 

The story is wonderfully descriptive and colourful, describing the butterflies and the flowers of the plantation. We see the world through Arthur’s childish eyes as he takes in the stories his African surroundings and tries to make sense of the actions of the adults around him. 

The story flows along nicely and then quickly spirals into the chaos of the genocide that occurred in Rwanda in the 1990s. It’s pretty harrowing stuff and despite some warning signs and the build up of ethnic tension in the storyline, it doesn't prepare you for the brutal imagery of the massacre that ensued. 

Tied together with Arthur’s little love story with Beni, and the events effects on his life as a whole, the story is emotionally charged, heartbreaking and yet kind of hopeful too. The Flower Plantation is a powerful story conveying both the light and the dark side of Africa, the innocence of childhood and the beauty of butterflies. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Fringe: The Burning Man by Christa Faust

The Burning Man is the second book in the Fringe prequel trilogy. In the first book, The ZodiacParadox, we are introduced to the young scientists Walter Bishop and William Bell, and their pioneering research in the 1970s that later leads to the Fringe division. The Burning Man introduces us to Olivia Dunham, including her childhood and school years before she later becomes a special agent with the Fringe division. 

As a child in the 1980s, Olivia was part of Walter Bishop’s secret experiments using a mind altering drug which unlocks abilities Olivia had no idea she had. On one such occasion she unknowingly uses her gift to protect herself and burns the arm off psycho cop Tony Orsini.

After that, Olivia faces hardships over the course of her childhood, and then her and her sister Rachel are offered unexpected scholarships to a special school. Meanwhile, Tony makes it his life’s mission to track down the “devil girl” that ruined his life, with dangerous consequences for Olivia, Rachel and even her friends at the school. 

I enjoyed this book as much as first. The storyline is gripping and so cleverly written with strong scientific prose and well researched descriptions of characters, settings and events. Olivia’s character was easy to like; she’s strong willed, clever, a definite heroine in the making. In this story there are gruesome murders, mad scientists and even a little love story that all keeps you hooked throughout. 

This is very much the telling of Olivia’s background and less about Fringe but I imagine it sets the scenes for Olivia’s future role in the Fringe division (I still haven’t watched any of the TV series!). The Burning Man is an excellent second book and I can’t wait to see what the third book holds in store. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Losing It All by Marsha Cornelius

Vietnam veteran Frank Barnes has forged a life for himself on the streets of Atlanta. It’s not easy; meals from charities, collecting cans for change and living homeless, but he has friends and routines and it beats his time spent at war. 

Chloe Roberts has just been evicted with her two young children Ethan and Katie. She is suddenly plunged into a world of shelters, employment worries and untrustworthy people around her.

The unlikely pair meet at a soup kitchen, and as fate hands one of them a break and the other more despair, each could be the answer to the other one’s problems. Straight away I liked Frank’s character. A genuine guy who despite his own difficulties is friendly, caring and pretty much an all round hero. I liked him more and more as the story went on. I didn't like Chloe so much but given the ordeals she goes through you can hardly blame her for being the way she is. 

This story was a slow burner for me, as you are introduced to the characters, their hardships and the scenes are set. Once Frank and Chloe are reunited after a brief separation, their blossoming relationship, in spite of everything that happens to them, is compelling to read about. I found myself routing for the couple to make it through. The prose is detailed and steeped in realism, with thoroughly thought out characters and a serious storyline. I also enjoyed the settings which moved from hostile streets and grim shelters, to stables and countryside.

If you like your novels to be all rainbows and sunshine and riding off into a heart-shaped sunset then this is not the book for you. If you like gritty stories fraught with ups as well as downs, and you like the gist of what you have read here then I recommend you give Losing It All a chance.  

Monday, 19 August 2013

Hostage Three by Nick Lake

You sometimes hear about Somali pirates on the news but at the back of your mind you think that it could never happen to you. Teenager Amy Fields had these dismissive thoughts when she boarded a yacht for the trip of a lifetime with her rich father and her unwanted stepmother. In her case she was wrong.

Somali pirates take over the boat and hold the occupants to ransom, and she becomes known as Hostage Three. Narrated by Amy/Hostage Three throughout, she talks us through the events leading up to the boat trip. Then, whilst being held captive on the boat she has plenty of time to reflect on her life, namely the mental health struggles and sudden loss of her mother. 

Whilst on the boat, she also develops a relationship with one of the pirates, a translator named Farouz. He tells her tales from his culture and fragments of his own difficult life that puts her own problems into perspective. I really enjoyed their interaction together and the stories within stories were a fascinating and imaginative touch to an otherwise dire situation. 

Amy’s character had a great voice; her story was told in a clear and unforgettable style. I liked that her thoughts and concerns reflected her teenage personality; not altogether childish but sometimes not completely rational or mature either. 

I found the story as a whole completely gripping and totally unpredictable. Nick Lake sets string scenes with rich descriptions of the African location, both sea and shore. Hostage Three is a striking and memorable tale for teenage and adult readers.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter

The Twenty-Year Death ties together three separate crime novels over twenty years within one Hard Case Crime volume. The first story, Malniveau Prison, set in France 1931, opens with the gruesome discovery of a corpse in the gutter. The dead man was a former inmate of the local prison and soon, more bodies from the prison begin to appear. The police inspector is led to the dead man’s beautiful daughter Clotilde and her American writer husband Shem Rosenkrantz. 

The couple are the focus of the next story, The Falling Star, set ten years later in America. Clotilde is now Chlöe Rose, an actress in Hollywood where Shem is now writing movies. Chlöe is plagued by paranoia of being followed and a private investigator is hired to keep her safe. But when a Hollywood starlet is brutally murdered, the PI finds himself embroiled in a bigger mystery. 

Finally, in Police at the Funeral, washed up writer Shem Rosenkrantz tells his story as he desperately tries to hold his life together as it falls apart around him. Even though the stories are linked, they are all individual in their own styles and tales. It starts off quite detached in the telling and becomes more personal throughout. 

I really enjoyed the portrayals of this time where men wear suits, the good guys and gangsters alike, and the women are feminine, dainty and delicate or sultry sirens. The old fashioned way the characters interact with each other, the language they use and the police procedures of the time all help to set the scene and immerse you into a gritty yet classy tale. There is plenty of murder, played out alongside betrayal and greed, but also love and desperation.

I've never really read anything like this before and for a debut novel this is an extremely well written, cleverly crafted story. Acclaimed by author giant Stephen King himself, this is an outstanding contribution to the world of crime fiction. 

Friday, 9 August 2013

My Husband Next Door by Catherine Alliott

Ella Montclair has a fairly unconventional life in the countryside. Her estranged husband lives in an out building across the way from the old farmhouse she shares with her distant teenage children, unruly dogs and gender confused chickens. 

She has somehow struck a kind of semblance of balance between her awkward family, her career as an illustrator and her dream of an affair with the local garden designer. But things become even more complicated with the breakdown of her own parents’ marriage and her hostile mother moves into the already strained commune of the farm. 

As she strives to hold everything together, with the means to an affair mounting, Ella finds herself looking more closely at her own life and where things went wrong. 

This was my first read of a Catherine Alliott novel and it’s not something I would normally go for straight away but I did quite like it in the end. Lots of time is spent getting to know the characters and their messy personal lives, and also setting the countryside scenes. Once the storyline really got going I got stuck in. Ella is a scatty heroine; full of good intentions that don’t always work out. At times she was a little to harebrained for my liking, but in the end I liked how all the situations were resolved. 

I think this is definitely a story you can relate to if you have or have had teenage children, are married and/or separated, as it covers a lot of issues prevalent in adult life. The unusual collection of animals on the farm, and the clutch of crazy characters from the village add a nice touch of humour to the tale. Overall I think this is a charming, summery read from a bestseller of women’s fiction. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Beyond Rue Morgue edited by Paul Kane & Charles Prepolec

Further Tales of Edgar Allan Poe’s 1st Detective


Edgar Allan Poe is the author behind one of the world’s first literary detectives, Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin. Dupin is exceptionally intelligent, eccentric thinker who takes in all the evidence of a case that others might overlook, and manages to logically dismiss all the alternatives before coming to the correct conclusion. 

He was solving gruesome and complex crimes long before the likes of Sherlock Holmes came on the scene, and yet is a character of much less fame when compared to well known fictional detectives such as Holmes or Poirot. 

This book is a collection of short stories that pays tribute to Dupin. The authors include Clive Barker, Mike Carey, Simon Clark, Joe R. Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, Elizabeth Massie, Weston Ochse & Yvonne Navarro, Lisa Tuttle and Stephen Volk. 

I think my favourite of the stories in this collection were the ones that explored the legacy of Dupin’s long lost relatives and their inheritance of his crime solving skills, more than the ones that featured Dupin himself. I personally found Dupin’s overall persona from this set of interpretations to be arrogant and dismissive, so not my favourite fictional detective ever. Although it definitely can’t be denied that he has a brilliant mind with extensive general knowledge and logical reasoning. 

For me this wasn't just the discovery of a literary detective I had yet to read, but also of many authors I hadn't read before. A very interesting book to dip in and out of, especially for fans of old fashioned crime and unconventional detectives. 

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard

The story begins with a seventeen year old girl skulking around a wake at the pink hotel. She has flown from London to Los Angeles to crash the funeral of the mother she never knew. 

She steals a suitcase full of letters, photographs and clothes that belonged to her mum, Lily, and spends her summer exploring the contents of the case and tracking down the people who knew her. As she finds out more about Lily she also discovers things about herself and her own identity. 

This is one of those novels that hook you in because it seems so personal. It’s almost like a confession or a fictionalised diary; we are given such intimate insights into the girl’s life and also into Lily’s life, both of which are varied and interesting. There is a small cast of characters that assist the girl on her journey but each one is important and well defined. 

The LA setting was the perfect backdrop for this tale; a glamorous, sunny veneer of a place that conceals the imperfect citizens that inhabit the beaches, board walk and bars. I didn't much like the girl at first as I couldn't understand some of her actions but she grew on me throughout and I liked her fully by the end. 

Anna Stothard has this poignant way of writing that is wonderfully descriptive and melancholy at times, that keeps you completely engaged in the story. I already enjoyed her third novel The Art of Leaving, but I think I liked this one even more. 

The Pink Hotel is a compelling and stylish novel about discovery, love and identity that wholly deserves it’s already plentiful praise.  

Monday, 22 July 2013

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth

I jumped at the chance to review this book after enjoying Bitter Greens so much. The Wild Girl tells of young Dortchen Wild who falls in love with one of the Brothers Grimm, Wilhelm. 

She lives in a houseful of sisters, a rebel older brother, a weak mother and her abusive father. Her life seems to be endless work for her father’s apothecary and household chores, so she often seeks solace in the woods or the garden.

She tries to spend as much time as she can with her best friend Lotte Grimm and is practically family to the Grimm brood who live next door. When Dortchen learns the brothers are collecting old stories and folk tales she strives to help them, forging a bond between her and Wilhelm that ties them together throughout this wonderful story.

Set against the backdrop of Napoleon’s rampage through Europe, Dortchen and her friends and family must battle through poverty, war and politics as well as her family issues, but through the collected and shared stories over the years, Dortchen learns love and life. 

The Wild Girl is not just Dortchen’s story but also a glimpse into the lesser known lives of the Grimm family, as well as the potential origins for our best loved fairytales. Once again Kate Forsyth has woven together a beautiful blend of history, romance and of course fairytales with her lovable characters and enchanting descriptions.

I adored the character of Dortchen and overall this book totally blew me away. I was engrossed and enchanted and couldn't put it down. The afterword at the end provides further fascinating insight into this time of fairytales in history and puts the whole book into context. This is a stunning book inside and out to truly be treasured.