‘Showstopper’ spoiler-free review!

This is one of the most fast-paced books I’ve ever read! Hayley Barker’s debut started at an absolute break-neck pace and never once slowed down. This, combined with the short chapters, made for an incredibly fast read. There were even moments where I was so caught up in the action that I found myself holding my breath!

Showstopper follows Ben, the son of a government minister intent on ridding society of ‘Dregs’. When the circus comes to town, Ben begins to suspect that the view held by his mother might be a bit narrow, and there may be more to these ‘Dregs’ than he first thought. Barker raised some very pertinent issues with this topic and there were definitely dark undertones to her thematic choices.

The novel alternates between the viewpoints of Ben and circus star Hoshiko. Barker writes very well from two different perspectives and I never once got confused about who was speaking, even with the story moving so rapidly. I was worried that, at such high speeds, it would become difficult to distinguish between the two narrative voices but I had no trouble whatsoever and found Ben and Hoshiko to both be very distinctive.

Barker writes action very well whilst still competently creating a range of characters, some of whom are endearing and relatable and others who are completely despicable. It’s definitely a sign of talent when a writer can make their readers feel such a wide range of emotions as I did when reading this book!

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Showstopper is a refreshing and original addition to the dystopian genre. I love books set in the circus and this was no exception. It was super dark for a YA book and I really loved the themes that Barker chose to explore. I can’t wait for the sequel!

Has anyone else read this? Anyone want to fangirl with me?!

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‘Fellside’ spoiler-free review!

Fellside was my book club’s pick for June and, unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it very much at all. I was initially intrigued by the premise of a ghostly prison story, especially as this would mean the protagonist, Jess, was obviously flawed (I’m so over ‘perfect’ characters). However, my initial interest petered out; Jess was DULL. In fact, none of the characters were very endearing or likeable. I get that the book is set in a prison so no-one is going to be all sweetness and light, but they were all just VILE. Paul in particular was creepy and weird. No thank you.

Also, this is a slightly strange complaint but what was with the character names?! They don’t read nicely! It reminded me of the stories I used to write as a child where I would make up random character names that just didn’t sound realistic at all! It made it really hard for me to suspend my disbelief and any time I would get into some semblance of flow, I would get jolted out of it by some weird name.

I found Fellside SO hard to get into. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s different from my usual kind of story or if it just really didn’t live up to its potential, but it took well over half of the book for me to become even a LITTLE invested. Even then, I don’t know how much of it was just me wanting to get to the end so I could read something else! It was FAR too slow. It did pick up a little towards the end but it was too little too late.

The front of my edition has a quote from Laini Taylor saying “you will not want to put this down” and it breaks my heart to have to disagree with my queen, but it was more like “I did not want to pick this up”. I genuinely had to force myself through it and, if this hadn’t been a book club read, it probably would have been a DNF.

I did like some of the writing in the early dream sequences and there were a couple of nice quotes, one of my favourites being “nobody ever got sharp from lying on a feather bed”. That spoke to me. However, I can’t say I enjoyed this. The ‘big reveal’ wasn’t shocking and it was basically one long slow journey towards nothing much!

I have to say, I’ve been very lucky in that this is the first book I’ve read with my book club that I haven’t enjoyed (and we’ve been going for over a year now! I blogged about that here). So that’s not bad! But sadly, this isn’t a book I’ll be recommending to anyone anytime soon.

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Has anyone else read this? Or The Girl with all the Gifts? What did you think?

Interview with Becky Wright!

Today, I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with the lovely Becky Wright, author of Remember to Love Me and The Manningtree Account. I read Remember to Love Me in May and thought it was a beautiful and original story. You can read my spoiler-free review here. Read on for the interview!

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Hi Becky, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview! I really enjoyed Remember to Love Me and it’s a pleasure to have you on my blog.

 

1. Many readers will know you from the ‘bookstagram’ community but, for those who don’t, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thank you so much for allowing me to share a little about my writing.

I’m an independent author, an ‘Indie’ as we’re affectionately known, maybe a rather cooler title than the demanding work that’s involved, but it’s my dream job. I’m blessed to live in the heart of the Suffolk countryside, rolling green fields, picturesque timber-framed villages, country pubs and rural churches. I’m married to my soul mate, with a young son and a crazy puppy, I also have four remarkable grown up children, two grandchildren and another on the way. As you can imagine, my family are very important, and although I always state, I’m a full-time writer, first and last, I’m Mum.

 

2. When did you decide to start writing Remember to Love Me and why?

It’s almost fourteen years ago, that I started writing Remember to Love Me. I hadn’t penned anything in the form of a story since I was a child. And although, I know it sounds utterly bizarre, I literally woke up and thought, today I’m going to write a book. Within the next day or so, I had pretty much sketched out the whole plot and characters. I’d say it was a simple as that, but it’s never that simple, it took another four years to complete, as I was writing in spurts around a career and four children. I can honestly say, it was never meant for anyone else’s eyes, it was therapy for my busy brain, I just had an inner need to put this story to paper, as if the characters themselves just needed to be heard.

 

3. Are there any aspects of Remember to Love Me that were inspired by real-life experiences?

That’s a good question, and one that I’ve never been asked before. It’s also a hard one. Although the story line itself is true to my own beliefs, it is completely fictitious. The characters however, in part, are incredibly real. I sit at the heart of all the girls, Annabelle, Emily and April, they each possess a different accept of my own personality. And, of course the location is my hometown of Bury St Edmunds. I feel my love for the town makes the book rather intimate, with references to specific locations, such as Nan’s house and the graveyard beyond, vividly painted. But, I think above all the story is about love, in all guises, and that is very real, and very true to my heart.

 

4. How would you describe your writing process?

My work time is split into zones. It’s nigh impossible to write with a three-year-old tearing around; playdoh and a laptop do not bode well, so when he’s home it’s research, promoting and social media. My most valuable time is those precious school hours. I can’t afford to waste them so I’ll write continuously until he’s home. As for writing itself, a new story always starts with a spark. The idea could come from anywhere, quite often it’s a conversation. My husband is incredible at both listening to my ramblings, and prompting ideas. The initial spark may roll around gathering momentum for days or weeks, until I have enough to do some research, and then it starts. The first draft is always a little awkward, with a few miss-starts. And, I hate to admit, I tend to edit as I go – not fully, I know it’s ‘against the normal rules’ – it will take three drafts to get to a place where I’m happy, then it’s off to my editor. I have a type of word blindness, the most obvious things will elude me; I’m extremely lucky to have an editor who understands and knows how I work.

 

5. Are there any authors who particularly inspire you?

I’m finding new authors all the time. You know yourself, with social media and our fantastic bookstagram community, new authors appear and we are reading a lot of independent books that we would never have found before. I’ve read some incredible books, by talented writers who I’m now lucky enough to call friends. Whilst writing Remember to Love Me, I was reading Kate Morton; she has a terrific way of creating a clear defined timeslip story, she certainly aided my own process. I’m also a lover of historical fiction, which sits at the heart of all my books. I adore Elizabeth Chadwick. She has an in-depth knowledge of her subject time and era, with great research ethics and strategies.

 

6. The time-slip scenes in Remember to Love Me are particularly beautiful. Did you find it easier/more enjoyable to write about the past?

I belong to another era. I have nostalgia coursing through my veins. Most certainly, I feel more at home writing the past, but of course, the contemporary scenes were a must to tell the story. Although, if you look closely, there is an old-fashioned feel, a timeless quality to even the modern scenes. I made a conscious decision that the main essence of the book be historical, about the family, their lives and emotions. I tried not to give too much weight or credence to modern luxuries, with the locations in Remember to Love Me remaining the same in both eras.

 

7. How do you switch off and unwind when you’re not writing?

I’m not sure I do switch off; I suffer terribly from bouts of insomnia, mostly as my brain is always on the go. I do find it hard to unwind, those pesky characters tend to ramble on as much as I do. The evening is my reading time, although I’m not a fast reader; it can take me quite a while to get through a book. I like to digest and let the story seep through my skin. My husband works very long hours, comes home late; for him to unwind we tend to watch tv, mostly boxsets – normal tv doesn’t interest me, I hate soaps, reality and quiz shows. It’s a historical series that will spark interest, maybe with a little supernatural thrown in. I love a good British made historical drama.

 

8. Are there any aspects of your work that you find particularly difficult or challenging?

Yes, lack of writing time and concentration when I’m doing housework or playing Lego.

But most of all, marketing and promoting my books. Being an independent author has lots of advantages, I work to my own deadlines, I write what I love, I am my own boss. But the flip side of that is, it’s all down to me, I’ve no one to hand it over to, no marketing team, or sales promoter. Advertising is so difficult; there is a very fine line between effectively marketing your new book to your readers and just plain bombarding them ’til they are sick of the sight of it. I come from a background of sales and marketing, and although it has its advantages, it can be challenging.

 

9. Your latest book The Manningtree Account is quite different from Remember to Love Me in terms of style/topic. What inspired you to go dark and did you enjoy the change of direction?

They are very different indeed. Where Remember to Love Me has a very gentle pace, soft, romantic, although very emotional, The Manningtree Account, is a dark thriller. I loved writing it. I must be honest, I wrote Remember to Love Me so long ago, that it would be hard to write that again now. My life was very different, it was my form of escape. I think we all grow as authors; the more we live, challenges life throws at us, the books we read, the people we meet, we are constantly carving our creative selves, we are forever evolving characters. As for my dark side, it’s always been there, lingering in the shadows. The Manningtree Account, itself, started as a short story for a writing course I attended a decade ago. It lay dormant for ten years, until I stumbled across it again last year. I had been reading some darker fictions, and it grabbed. I am leaning toward the dark side; it’s far more fun to write, I must be a little wicked myself.

 

10. Can you give us any hints about the second book in the Legacy series, Rose de Mai?

This is where my challenge starts. I always intended to write a trilogy; the story was carefully mapped out to span three books. Though, for those who have read Remember to Love Me, it is a standalone; the story is complete, all the little loose ends are tied neatly with a pretty bow. Therefore, at the moment, and foreseeable future, the book will remain so, a standalone. Rose de Mai has been put aside for now; I can’t say I will or that I won’t write it, but at this time I just can’t do the characters justice. I feel the dark side has captured my heart and soul and I’ve unfinished business there. The Manningtree Account sparked a fierce flame and there are so many more dark tales I’m longing to tell. I had no idea that The Manningtree Account would be received with such admirations. As it was only ever released as a kindle download, I’ve been working towards an extended edition for release as hardcopy and download. This is almost ready, in its new guise, with new title and cover. No release date yet but sometime this August.

 

11. Is there anything you’d like to add that I haven’t included?

My next project it even darker. The cogs are still whirring with this one; it’s almost ready for research, I need a little more in-depth investigation. I’m reluctant to give too much away, though I’m hoping it will live up to the title of a Gothic Horror.

 

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview!

 

I loved finding out more about Becky and her writing process, and I hope you did too! Below are some useful links to Becky’s social media accounts if you would like to find out more about her and her books.

Website / Blog: http://www.beckywrightauthor.com/

Amazon author page:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Becky-Wright/e/B01MDTW47Y/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beckywrightauthor

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/BeckyWrightAuthor

Litsy: BeckyWrightAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16048432.Becky_Wright

Twitter:   https://www.twitter.com/beckywright1971

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What a beautiful lady! Thanks again Becky, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. Best of luck with your continued writing career!

 

 

 

 

 

‘Incubus’ spoiler-free review!

One of my final reads of June was Incubus by Carol Goodman. This book came reliably recommended and, while it is definitely a guilty pleasure read, I really enjoyed it! Before I get into the review properly, I should put out a warning that it’s a very raunchy book so if that’s not your thing, I’d steer clear – it’s not normally my thing either but the story made this a great read regardless of the amount of sex! So many wave metaphors hehehe.

I really loved the setting of Incubus and the Gothic vibes were fabulous (though I did get worried when Stephenie Meyer was mentioned! Sorry Twi-hards!) The woods, the house, and even the weather were like characters in themselves and it was all deliciously dark. I also really enjoyed the mythological backstory and the twists on faerie legends. If Goodman’s other books are in a similar vein to this, then I definitely want to read them!

There were some elements of the story that felt a little too easy; for example, Callie was a little too accepting too quickly for my liking. She also reads as older than 26, in my opinion. I recommend just suspending disbelief for this story and going with the flow! Some of it is predictable but it’s good fun and there are some really funky beasties to keep you entertained.

I also need to give special mention to Ralph. He is completely adorable and one of my new favourite characters. I want a Ralph of my own.

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Has anyone else read this? Or the other two books in the trilogy? What did you think? Did you love Ralph too?!

‘The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend’ spoiler-free review!

This was a sweet read but ultimately a little slow. It was all very predictable (which I’ll be honest, I expected before I picked it up because it just seems like that kind of book). Now that’s not always a bad thing, in fact sometimes it’s exactly what you need; just don’t go into this expecting anything too exciting.

I will say that this book is a total love letter to books and will delight you if you are an avid reader. I was pleased to see references to books I’ve read recently, such as Anne of Green Gables and Empress Orchid. However, a word of warning: unless you’ve read everything in the history of ever, this book will spoil some reads for you. I don’t think it was right of the author to assume that everyone has read books like Rebecca – I know it’s a classic but I haven’t got to it yet and the author straight up ruined the ending. I tried to skip past as quickly as I could but it was difficult to avoid certain things. So just be aware.

I was definitely interested at the start of this story; it seemed like a cute concept and actually reminded me a great deal of the ‘bookstagram’ community. I feel like, if Sara had Instagram, she would be ALL OVER that. Two book lovers communicating across the world over a shared love of books and finally arranging to meet? Sounds very familiar right now.

However, as the story progressed, I found myself losing interest. There was too much focus on minor characters, eg. Caroline, in whom I wasn’t really interested and the story I actually wanted to read became far too predictable. I did like certain characters (George, for example) but many were just flat and indistinct.

There were no major twists (again, I didn’t expect anything as I was just looking for a fluffy contemporary read). However, large chunks of the book were just our protagonist doing this:

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Or this:

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And it was boring to read! I love books about books, but I just didn’t connect with this one the way I’d hoped I would.

Overall, this was sweet but rather dull, and it never really called to me to pick it up when I wasn’t reading it. I probably wouldn’t recommend it but it might make a nice summer holiday read if you’re so inclined!

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Has anyone else read this one? Do you agree with me or do you think I’m judging this one too harshly?

June Wrap-Up!

I can NOT believe it is July. Seriously, who hit the fast forward button?! I’m having existential angst.

I had big plans for June and wanted to read ALL the books of ever. Obviously, with a full-time job and various other commitments, this was a totally unrealistic plan. Then a whole tonne of emotional stuff happened near the end of the month which slowed me down even more. However, I did still manage to fit in 8 books so I’m pretty happy with that!

Cleopatra’s Shadows

My first read of the month was Cleopatra’s Shadows by Emily Holleman. One of my reading goals for this year is to read more historical fiction and I was intrigued by this exploration of Cleopatra’s rise to power through the eyes of her forgotten younger sister, Arsinoe. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by this and, despite some initial Game of Thrones vibes, I quickly lost interest. You can read my full review here.

The Watcher in the Shadows

After reading The Shadow of the Wind last year, I fell in love with Zafon’s writing and wanted to read more of his work. This book is intended for a younger audience and, while that was apparent, I still really enjoyed it! The story was original and had a great gothic atmosphere, with some funky steampunk elements too. It was also a very quick read – great for anyone who is behind schedule on their Goodreads challenge! Full review here.

The Shadow Queen

I didn’t intend to read three books in a row with the word ‘shadow’ in the title, but it amuses me that I did! This reimagining of Snow White/The Evil Queen is the first in a series of standalones that I’m really excited about. I LOVE FAIRYTALES. I found this one very well done and lots of fun to read. Check out my review here.

Anne of Green Gables

Would you believe I had never read Anne of Green Gables before now?! I decided to buddy-read this with my friend Brooke, and it was the loveliest experience. Anne is one of the most endearing characters in literature and the whole story was just heart-warming. My full review is here. I’ve been told there are another 8 books in the series! Maybe one day I’ll give them a go. But let’s be honest, if it’s taken me until now to read the first one…

Our Dark Duet

This was my favourite read of the month! You can check out my review here. V. E. Schwab is definitely carving out a space in my favourite authors list. I highly recommend this duology and now feel the need to read everything else my queen has written.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

This one was cute but ultimately disappointing. I didn’t expect it to be mind-blowing but it was a bit more dull than I would have liked! I just didn’t connect with it the way I’d hoped I would. Review coming soon!

Incubus

This was a buddy read with my bestie Mia and I really enjoyed it! She warned me beforehand that it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure read so I was prepared for it to be a bit cheesy – but it was actually very well-written and I loved the gothic vibes! I’ll be reviewing this one soon.

Fellside

This was my book club’s pick for the month and I hate to say it but I didn’t enjoy it! Fellside was written by the same author who wrote The Girl with All the Gifts, which I haven’t read yet but I’ve heard great things about. The premise for this one sounded really intriguing too but the execution just didn’t do it for me. However, it’s the first book our book club has read in over a year that I haven’t enjoyed, so I guess that’s pretty good?! Full review to come.

Well, there you have it! A very mixed bag. Here’s hoping for some great reads in July!

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How many books did you manage to read in June? What was your favourite read of the month? Leave me a comment!