Blog Tour: Fractured Lives by Russ Colchamiro

Good afternoon book lovers! Today is my turn on (and the last day of) the blog tour for Fractured Lives by Russ Colchamiro.

Thank you to the author and Crazy 8 Press for my copy and to Blackthorn Book Tours for organising the tour.

The Book:

When your world gets turned inside out there is one person you call. Angela Hardwick.

Darla Fyne is a college freshman and a galaxy design savant who has been suffering from a nervous breakdown. Her mother goes to Angela Hardwick to get the answers that she craves. But is Darla going through a nervous breakdown of is Darla the victim of an urban legend known as the Scarlet Raj?

As Hardwick follows the clues in the intersecting worlds of art galleries, college dorms, and a semi-secret clan that patches up tears in the universe, Hardwick will either uncover a hoax gone wrong or a plot that could shift the power across the entire realm. If only Hardwick can fight through her paranoia to tell the difference.

In this book, Hardwicke is comforted by a PIs worse nightmare – dark secrets from her past.

The Author:

Russ Colchamiro is author of the Sci-Fi mystery Crackle and Fire, the first novel in his ongoing series featuring intergalactic private eye Angela Hardwicke. Russ is also the author of the rollicking time travel/space adventure, Crossline, the SF/F backpacking comedy series Finders Keepers: The Definitive Edition, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, is editor of the scifi mystery anthology Love, Murder & Mayhem, and co-author of the noir anthology Murder in Montague Falls.

Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, Agents of the Abyss, Camelot 13, TV Gods 2, They Keep Killing Glenn, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Camelot 13, Footprints in the Stars, Devilish and Divine, Badass Moms, and Brave New Girls.

Russ is a member of the Mystery Writers Association and Crazy 8 Press, and hosts Russ’s Rockin’ Rollercoaster podcast, where he interviews best-selling and up-and-coming Sci-Fi, fantasy, crime, mystery, and horror authors.

He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two ninjas, a black lab, Jinx.

The Review:

I do enjoy a good private detective story, add in that the PI in question is a woman balancing her choice of career and her responsibilities as the mother of a young boy, and I was sold.

I hadn’t read the first novel in this series, Crackle and Fire but that didn’t effect my enjoyment of the book and anything that might have happened in the first book was explained sufficiently well that I didn’t notice!

This is billed as a sci-fi mystery and I am, at best, only an occasional sci-fi reader. However, whilst the setting and some elements of the story draw on science fiction, the mystery is the heart of the story.

We are immediately drawn in to the plot and the questions as to what exactly is going on with Darla and the other students and their art and how the mysterious Scarlet Raj comes into play. It moves along at a good pace and kept me interested in what was happening.

The setting is great, it was well described and I loved the descriptions of the student’s work in designing potential new parts of the universe as art. I could really picture the locations described in this book in my mind’s eye.

Angela was a great main character and struggled with many of the things that working mother’s, sci-fi or otherwise, struggle with. The getting right of the balance between providing for your family in the best way you know how, and making sure you are there for them at the same time. There is no right answer there, you just have to do your best, as Angela tries to do for Owen. Angela’s support network of friends and colleagues made a great supporting cast too.

I’d certainly read more of this series and will have a look at going back to book 1 to see what I might have missed from these characters first time round!

Review: Exit by Belinda Bauer

Today I’m revisiting a book I read earlier this year, before I’d set up the blog; Exit by Belinda Bauer.

I was really happy to get an advance copy of this book as I really rate Bauer’s writing. The first of her books that I read was Rubbernecker which was recommended on Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 show (oh the days of Simon Mayo’s drivetime, oh the days of a commute!). That was a really well plotted crime novel and this was much the same.

The Book:

IT WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE MURDER …Pensioner Felix Pink is about to find out that it’s never too late … for life to go horribly wrong.

When Felix lets himself in to Number 3 Black Lane, he’s there to perform an act of kindness and charity: to keep a dying man company as he takes his final breath … But just fifteen minutes later Felix is on the run from the police – after making the biggest mistake of his life.

Now his routine world is turned upside down as he tries to discover what went wrong, while staying one step ahead of the law.

My Thoughts:

Felix Pink is a widower, pensioner and Exiteer. He, along with a fellow volunteer, attends the home of those who have chosen to die, to keep them company in their final moments. Not allowed to participate in their death, the exit were are there to provide comfort as the person escapes from whatever terminal illness plagues them. But when Felix and new recruit Amanda attend the home of Skipper Cann, things go awry and suddenly Felix is waiting for police to catch up with him.

Felix is a man with one foot in the grave. His wife and son have both died and he has his own plans for when the day comes but for now he is content with his work with the Exiteers. Felix is a great character, and the plot sees him forced out of his comfortable life. The supporting cast are great too.

The plot, as should be expected from Bauer, is brilliant. In the opening scenes when things go wrong, I both gasped and laughed at what transpired (partly because it reminded me of a sketch in a tv comedy that I won’t name for fear of spoilers). I thought I knew what was going to happen…..I didn’t. There’s a certain amount of humour in this book and I chuckled quite a few times at the predicaments that Felix found himself in or his reactions to them.

This is a standout book for me, wonderfully plotted, memorable characters and great writing; it went straight into my best of 2021 list. The age of the main character and the fact that he is trying to solve a crime will no doubt draw comparisons so The Thursday Murder Club and if those comparisons draw readers in then that’s great. But for me, whilst I thoroughly enjoyed TTMC, this is the superior book.

I have thoroughly enjoyed every book of Bauer’s that I’ve read and she has got to be one of the best crime fiction writers in the UK right now. This has prompted me to pick up the ones in her back catalogue I haven’t read yet and I’ll be looking forward to reading what she writes next. 

Blog Tour: Someone Who Isn’t Me by Danuta Kot

Today is part 2 of the blog tour for Danuta Kot’s Life Ruins and Someone Who Isn’t Me.

The Book:

When everyone hides the truth, who do you turn to?

Becca’s had a hard time of it, but she has finally got her life together. She has a nice little flat, a steady job pulling pints, and she’s even seeing someone new: Andy, who keeps his private life to himself but is always good for a laugh. And then Andy vanishes. When his body turns up on isolated Sunk Island, Becca learns Andy wasn’t just another punter. He was a police officer, deep undercover, investigating a drugs ring that he believed operated out of Becca’s pub.

Staggered by the betrayal, Becca turns to the only person she thinks she can trust: her foster mum, Kay. But Kay has problems of her own. She’s just moved into a short-term let in the hopes of finding some peace and quiet. But peace and quiet are hard to come by on Sunk Island . . .

Before long, both women are drawn into a terrifying world of drugs, money and death.

The Author:

Danuta Kot (who also writes as Danuta Reah and as Carla Banks) grew up with stories. Her Irish mother and her Polish father kept their own cultures alive with traditional tales they shared with their children. For many years, she worked with young people in Yorkshire who were growing up in the aftermath of sudden industrial decline. She uses this background in her books to explore some of the issues that confront modern, urban society: poverty, alienation and social breakdown, using the contexts of the modern crime novel. She now works as a senior education consultant, work that involves travel to establish education and training in other parts of the world. She is a regular academic speaker at conferences and literary festivals and has appeared on radio and television.

Follow her at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danutareah.crimefiction

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Danutajr

Website : https://danutakot.com/

My Thoughts:

I dived straight into this after finishing Life Ruins and it was good to see more of Becca and Kay. I’d thoroughly enjoyed that book but this was the better book for me.

This book is predominantly from the point of view of Becca and Kay, with occasional sections from the point of view of police officers investigating the death of Andy, the undercover police officer that Becca was seeing. I think this helped us get to know those characters, particularly Becca, better than in Life Ruins, where three main POVs were used.

Like Life Ruins, Someone Who Isn’t Me takes place in the underbelly of life on the Yorkshire coast. There’s a darkness to these stories and I can’t remember the last time I read a book (other than Life Ruins obviously) with a main character like Becca. She has had a difficult life and is a person that many would write off, which clearly the authorities have done with Becca in the past. But her moral compass points her in the right direction and she strives to find out what happened to Andy, even at risk to herself.

Yet again, the coast of Yorkshire as a setting is used to great effect. This time it’s Sunk Island where a lot of the action takes place, a lonely, and quite eery sandbank on the estuary of the Humber.

The two plot lines which follow Becca and Kay weave together, bringing us to a tense conclusion. I found it gripping and pretty nervy in places!

This will really appeal to fans of British crime fiction and anyone looking for something with a darker setting. It left me wanting to read more so I’ll be watching out for what comes next!

Blog Tour: Life Ruins by Danuta Kot

Today I’m bringing you my review of Life Ruins by Danuta Kot as part of the blog tour organised by Zooloos Book Tours.

The Book:

In a small northern town, girls are disappearing.

You won’t see it in the papers and the police aren’t taking any notice, but the clues are there if you know where to look.

Becca sees that something is wrong, but she’s been labelled ‘difficult’ thanks to her troubled past. So when a girl is so savagely beaten she can’t be identified, and Becca claims she knows who she is, no one will believe her.

With the police refusing to listen, Becca digs for evidence that will prove what she is saying. But her search for justice will put herself and those closest to her in danger – and once she finds the truth, will anyone even listen?

The Author:

Danuta Kot (who also writes as Danuta Reah and as Carla Banks) grew up with stories. Her Irish mother and her Polish father kept their own cultures alive with traditional tales they shared with their children. For many years, she worked with young people in Yorkshire who were growing up in the aftermath of sudden industrial decline. She uses this background in her books to explore some of the issues that confront modern, urban society: poverty, alienation and social breakdown, using the contexts of the modern crime novel. She now works as a senior education consultant, work that involves travel to establish education and training in other parts of the world. She is a regular academic speaker at conferences and literary festivals and has appeared on radio and television.

Follow her at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danutareah.crimefiction

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Danutajr

Website : https://danutakot.com/

My Thoughts:

I jumped at the chance to join this tour, as I’d seen the author at an event at Off The Shelf festival in Sheffield a few years ago where she’d read an extract of this book. One of the main characters of the book, Jared, is a bit of an adrenaline junkie and had a traumatic experience whilst caving with a friend. This event appears in flashback on the book and it was this that Kot read as an extract. I was sat in a room full of people, in a pretty spacious and light room, but the reading made me feel claustrophobic and I was there in the cave with the characters. My friend and I both bought books from that event, she bought Life Ruins, and I bought a book by the other author at the event but we never got around to swapping over.

I whizzed through this in a few days. We follow three main characters in the book, Becca, a troubled young woman who has reluctantly relocated to a deserted and desolate Bridlington, Jared, a former climber and urban explorer who is drifting around after an accident damaged his back, and Kay, a widow and retired social worker who fostered Becca as a teenager. As events unfold, it becomes clear that something is amiss in Bridlington and young girls are at risk, and it seems to be connected to Becca and Kay somehow.

The location is used to such good effect here. The descriptions of both the out of season coastal towns and the coast line were vivid and conjured up both a clear image of the setting and a sense of “not rightness” that fit well with the story. After all, touristy costal towns aren’t quite the same when the tourists aren’t there, and clearly there’s something not quite right at the heart of the story.

The plot itself was gripping and kept me engrossed to see how all of the threads would resolve and how it all connected. Some of the scenes set underground were really uncomfortable reading; as I mentioned above, I think the author did a great job with those scenes.

I thought that Becca was an interesting character, she’s clearly been through a lot and Io felt a sense of desperation and frustration in her dealings with the authorities later in the book. I wanted her to succeed, and to get the justice she had been pretty tirelessly trying to get on behalf of vulnerable girls like her, who hadn’t had the best start in life.

I finished the book looking forward to seeing more of the characters…….and did so in “Someone Who Isn’t Me”, the follow up novel which I’ll be reviewing on the second part of this blog tour on Monday!

August 2021 Wrap Up

Wow, August went by in the blink of an eye didn’t it? I got a little more reading done this month than in July however, which I’ll get into below.

So here we are in September. The weather has started to turn colder and summer (what little we had of it) seems to be drawing to a close. I’m definitely a fan of autumn and am looking forward to some snuggly nights with a book, a hot drink and a blanket.

What Have I Read?

Here are my August reads…..

I was part of the blog tour for The Meeting point, the post for that is here:

https://wordpress.com/post/lovetoreadlivetoread.wordpress.com/197

I also posted a review for The Plot, which can be found here below. This was my Book of the Month.

https://wordpress.com/post/lovetoreadlivetoread.wordpress.com/216

My ratings were as follows:

5 Stars:

  • Giant Days Vol. 1

4 Stars:

  • The Meeting Point
  • Three’s A Crowd
  • The Plot

3 Stars:

  • The Echo Chamber
  • History

2 Stars:

  • Hot Desk

I was a little disappointed by the last three books, having had higher expectations of how much I’d enjoy them. I don’t tend to post reviews on the blog for books I haven’t loved, mostly due to the fact that I barely have time to blog anyway, but also, I don’t feel like its something I want to put my time and energy into. I always post my honest review on retailer sites however as I think its important for readers to be able to assess all reviews to make a decision on how to spend their money. But my blog and my Twitter feed are for me to celebrate books I’ve loved, and that’s how I want to keep it.

Final update for the Netgalley challenge! I didn’t do so well with this in July, only submitting 4 reviews and requesting a bunch of books. My feedback ratio had gone down from 66% to 63% so pretty much achieving the OPPOSITE of what the challenge set out to do. D’oh.

Well, in August, I managed to submit 12 reviews on NG. Yes, 12! Woo! I’m back up to 67% so overall, I’ve managed to improve by……1%! Hey, its better than a kick in the teeth.

I reviewed 5 books in June, 4 in July and 12 in August so that brings my total to 21. I managed to get to Level Beach Ball which was goal, and I managed to review 2 more books than I set out to so I’m calling that a win despite the slightly pathetic increase in my feedback ratio.

Happy September Reading folks!

Book Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Today I’m reviewing The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz which was published in paperback on 5th August. This was the first book I’d read by the author. I did watch the TV adaptation of “You Should Have Known” (filmed as “The Undoing”) last year, though I understand it differs from the novel quite a bit.

The Book:

When a young writer dies before completing his first novel, his teacher, Jake, (himself a failed novelist) helps himself to its plot. The resulting book is a phenomenal success. But what if somebody out there knows?

Somebody does. And if Jake can’t figure out who he’s dealing with, he risks something far worse than the loss of his career.

The Author:

Jean Hanff Korelitz was raised in New York City and graduated from Dartmouth College and Clare College, Cambridge. She is the author of the novels A JURY OF HER PEERS (1996), THE SABBATHDAY RIVER (1999), THE WHITE ROSE (2005) and ADMISSION (2009), as well as a children’s novel, INTERFERENCE POWDER (2003) and a book of poems, THE PROPERTIES OF BREATH (1988),

She has contributed articles and essays to many magazines, including Vogue, Real Simple, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, More and Travel and Leisure (Family), and the anthologies Modern Love and Because I Said So. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey with her husband, Princeton professor Paul Muldoon, and their children, and works full time as a writer and part time as a chauffeur (i.e. mom).

In 2006 and 2007 she worked for Princeton’s Office of Admission as an outside reader.

My Review:

I do love a book about books, or more specifically in this case, about writing and writers. The premise of this really grabbed me and it reminded me a little of A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne.

We start with Jake at a teaching post, two published novels behind him, the first moderately successful, the second barely making a mark. He is unmotivated to write any more and makes his money by giving advice to and teaching prospective writers. It is in this most recent teaching post that he comes across an arrogant young man who clams to have a fail-safe plot which will make him famous; a plot that he somewhat reluctantly shares with Jake

Having found out later that the young man has died, and noting that the novel has not surfaced, Jake takes the story and crafts a novel around it, which, as anticipated, becomes a huge success.

Jake struggles with the ethical dilemma of what he has done throughout the book, especially as he eventually starts to uncover the origins of the plot itself. It causes the reader to do the same…..what would you REALLY do in that situation?

We jump forward to Jake after the publication of the book, where he is successful and living a much more comfortable life, at least on the surface. Underneath it all though, he still struggles with what he did, and lives his life waiting for it to unravel and come back to bite him. Unsurprisingly, this does eventually happen, with increasingly menacing anonymous correspondence arriving, first through email, then social media posts, then through his letter box and directly to his publisher. The events in Jake’s current life are also interspersed with excerpts from the novel.

The guilt and anxiety Jake feel really seeped out of the book for me. The great career-ending event that he had been dreading appears to be getting closer and closer, with a certain inevitability that he can’t avoid, and I really felt that along with him.

The “plot” itself was revealed little by little rather than shared at the outset, which made me read on to see exactly what this sure-fire hit of a plot could be. In the end, it was interesting but not exactly something that has never been seen before, which calls back to Jake’s early commentary about stories all having been told before. The build up and hints of the plot’s uniqueness perhaps built up a certain amount of hype that couldn’t be delivered on.

Finally, the plot of the ACTUAL book was perhaps a little predictable. I’m not sure if this would be the same for others, but I could see the identity of the anonymous blackmailer from a mile off. That said, it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book, I enjoyed seeing how it all unfolded and was still engaged enough to read on and discover exactly what had transpired.

Verdict: One of the more enjoyable books I’ve read so far this year, would recommend it to anyone who enjoys books about the writing process with a bit of mystery thrown in.

Blog Tour: The Meeting Point by Olivia Lara

Happy Saturday Everyone! Today its my turn on The Write Reads Ultimate Blog Tour for The Meeting Point by Olivia Lara. Thank you to The Write Reads, the author and the publisher, Aria Fiction, for my copy.

The Book:

What if the Lift driver who finds your cheating boyfriend’s phone holds the directions to true love?

‘Who are you and why do you have my boyfriend’s phone?’

‘He left it in my car. You must be the blonde in the red dress? I’m the Lift driver who dropped you two off earlier.’

And with these words, the life of the brunette and t-shirt wearing Maya Maas is turned upside down. Having planned to surprise her boyfriend, she finds herself single and stranded in an unknown city on her birthday.

So when the mystery driver rescues Maya with the suggestion that she cheers herself up at a nearby beach town, she jumps at the chance to get things back on track. She wasn’t expecting a personalised itinerary or the easy companionship that comes from opening up to a stranger via text, let alone the possibility it might grow into something more…

Come on this 5* journey to love, laughter and back again, perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Josie Silver and Sally Thorne.

The Author:

As a child, Olivia not-so-quietly ‘observed’ (AKA bothered with countless questions) her grandfather — who worked for the biggest publishing house in Romania — edit hundreds of books. And when he wasn’t editing, he read. Everything, all the time. Just like her father, who wrote short sci-fi stories, and was set on building the largest library she’d ever seen and her mother who’s never found without a book…wherever she goes. Her love for words came naturally, and after studying marketing, communications & photography, Olivia worked as a journalist for a newspaper and news television network in Romania.

An unapologetic citizen of the world, she spent a few years in Greece, Sweden, France, before settling in sunny California with her photographer husband and young daughter, where she works in marketing and writes. Oh, and let’s not forget the ever-growing menagerie that completes the family: Pumpkin, the Maine Coon mix, three black cats and a siamese kitten.

When she’s not writing or thinking about writing, she reads (across genres), watches old movies and collects vintage books, vinyl records, and eerie paintings. She loves traveling (and can’t wait until she can do it again, safely), swimming, biking, hiking and of course, photography.

SOMEDAY IN PARIS, her debut, published by Aria Fiction/Head of Zeus in May 2020 became a B&N, Apple, Kobo and Amazon Top 100 Bestseller and was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel Awards 2021. Her second novel, THE MEETING POINT, a contemporary romcom set in Northern California, is set to be published as an e-book on September 2, 2021 and in paperback in December 2021 in the UK and March, 2022 in the US.

The Review:

I’ve read quite a few romance novels in the last couple of years. I like to mix my genres up a bit and I’ve read some great romance books….and some not so great ones. I’m pleased to say that this was a really great one!

I don’t think the blurb quite does the book justice. After reading it, I was expecting to have the whole book be about this day where the main character is guided by the mystery Lift driver. But really, that’s just the start of the book and honestly, I think it gets better after that.

We see Maya really question her life choices in the time following the encounter with the mystery man. She realises that there are a lot of things she’s not happy about and so makes some serious changes, including trying to find out just who that guy was.

The setting of this book, Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey, California, was really well described and just a great place to have this story unfold. I could picture it really well in my head despite never having been there or knowing anything about it.

I really liked the characters too; Maya was a sympathetic and likeable character whose growth was rewarding, Ethan was interesting too and I liked how he turned out to be totally different to what Maya expected. The supporting cast of characters in Carmel, particularly Celine, were wonderful too.

The plot was fairly predictable; maybe its because of the amount of romance books I’ve read recently but I could see what was going to happen pretty far off. It didn’t diminish my enjoyment of watching the events unfold though…..its all about the journey and not the destination!

And if there’s ever an endorsement of a book, I think its these two things.

Firstly, I couldn’t put this down. I read about 1/3 one day, and 2/3 the next (part of it whilst I was supposed to be working, sssshhhh!).

Secondly, I finished this and immediately added the author’s first book to my Goodreads TBR. This book was just what I needed at the minute. I’ve just been so swamped with life stuff recently and felt a bit bogged down, and the escapism and enjoyment that this book had to offer were just the ticket. Its good to know that I’ve got another book by the author in the back pocket for another day.

A solid 4 stars from me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

July 2021 Wrap Up

I feel like I’ve hardly touched the blog in ages but looking back, I’ve taken part in two blog tours during July so that’s not quite true. Maybe it’s because I had ideas for posts that I didn’t quite get around to.

July has felt like a bit of a crazy month, or at least more than usual. I have two small children, 1 and 4 years old and I work 4 days a week. We live quite far from the closest family so things can be really busy as we try to squeeze family stuff, work, general life in before even thinking about hobbies.

What have I read?

So, moving on to books! Here’s what I read in July…..

I didn’t read as much this month but two of these were blog tours; Isn’t It Bromantic and Notes From the Burning Age which can be found on the blog.

I’ve rated all of these 4 stars but Book of the Month was definitely Claire North’s Notes From the Burning Age. The author continues to come up with imaginative and appealing premises for her books and I’ll keep coming back to read them!

And the Netgalley challenge? Well I really would have done better with this if I’d also stopped myself from requesting books, but of course, that hasn’t happened!

I’ve got a few reviews to submit but here are my stats as they stand:

Feedback Ratio: Was 66%, is now 63%. Oh dear!

No of reviews submitted to NG in July: 4

Okay, not going great really!!

I’ve moved up to Sunglasses…..can I make one last push to Beach Ball???

Blog Tour: Isn’t It Bromantic by Lyssa Kay Adams

Happy Monday Folks!

Another Blog Tour today, this time it’s for Isn’t It Bromantic by Lyssa Kay Adams, the fourth installment in the Bromance Book Club series. Thank you to the author and Headline / Eternal Publishing for the chance to read this one.

The Book:

With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad wrote one.

Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared, she escaped danger the only way she knew how: She married her childhood friend, Vladimir, and moved to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.

Vlad, aka the Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance—both on and off the page.

The bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love—and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves the Loners. But just when things finally look promising, Elena’s past life intrudes and their happily ever after is cast into doubt.

The Author:

From Goodreads…..

Lyssa Kay Adams is the pen name of an award-winning journalist who gave up the world of telling true stories to pen emotional romances. She’s also a diehard Detroit Tigers fan who will occasionally cheer for the Red Sox because her husband is from Boston.

Lyssa lives in Michigan with her family and an anxiety-ridden Maltese who steals food and buries it around the house and who will undoubtedly be a character in a future book.

Things Lyssa loves: Baseball pants, mashed potatoes, and that little clicking sound that scissors make on the cutting table at fabric stores.

Things she doesn’t love: Mean people, melting ice cream cones, and finding food in her underwear drawer.

The Review:

I love when a book gets you with the first line. In this case, it was this:

It’s all fun and games until someone shits their pants.

Yes! A bit of toilet humour to get us started, that’s me in.

I first picked up this series following a recommendation, I believe on one of the Romance subreddits on Reddit. I really enjoyed it and have followed the series but I think I can safely say that this one is my favourite.

We had a little prep for this one at the end of Crazy Stupid Bromance (Book 3) where we found out that Vlad, one of our main characters and Bromance Book Club (BBC) member, was married. After a pretty serious injury, Vlad needs some at home care and Elena, his estranged wife and childhood best friend, steps in to take care of him. The fact that she told him a few months earlier that she wanted a divorce somewhat complicates things.

Vlad is a big sweetie and has been in love with Elena since forever. These two stink at communication however and its going to take some intervention from the BBC to get them sorted.

The main story line with Vlad and Elena is great, we care enough about Vlad to want to see what happens and get to know Elena as the book progresses too so I was rooting for them to get things sorted.

The scenes with the BBC members shine and there’s some great humour in there. Colton plays quite a large part in this book and his scenes and lines with Vlad were great. This one, when Noah is pointing out that he’s seen which links Colton clicks on his laptop and calls him twisted, has found a home in my memory banks to be trotted out at some point:

Hey, don’t yuck someone else’s yum.”

I’m kind of thinking (hoping) that we might see some more of Colton at some point, maybe his own installment soon?

Plot wise, the subplot with Elena trying to carry on the investigation that her father was carrying out just before he died, after she followed in his journalistic footsteps, was good and I could have had a bit more of that, though it was perhaps slightly dark in contrast to the lighter elements of the book. Plus, the Cheese Guy! Great!

As with many, many romance books, the main characters could have resolved things much earlier if they’d just communicated better. But where would the fun in that be? One of the great things about this series is the commentary on tropes in romance novels, so the BBC members point out what the reader has picked up on, which is good fun.

This series continues to get better with each book and I’ll definitely be picking up Book 5!

Blog Tour: Notes from the Burning Age by Claire North

Hello Readers!

Today I am excited to bring you my review on the blog tour for Notes from the Burning Age by Claire North. Big thanks to the author, Tracy Fenton at Compulsive Readers for organising the tour and Orbit Books for providing a copy.

The Book:

From one of the most imaginative writers of her generation comes an extraordinary vision of the future…

Ven was once a holy man, a keeper of ancient archives. It was his duty to interpret archaic texts, sorting useful knowledge from the heretical ideas of the Burning Age—a time of excess and climate disaster. For in Ven’s world, such material must be closely guarded so that the ills that led to that cataclysmic era can never be repeated.

But when the revolutionary Brotherhood approaches Ven, pressuring him to translate stolen writings that threaten everything he once held dear, his life will be turned upside down. Torn between friendship and faith, Ven must decide how far he’s willing to go to save this new world—and how much he is willing to lose.

Notes from the Burning Age is the remarkable new novel from the award-winning Claire North that puts dystopian fiction in a whole new light.

The Author:

Claire North is actually a pen name of Catherine Webb. From the author’s website:

Catherine’s first novel, Mirror Dreams, was completed when she was 14 years old. The book was published in 2002 and garnered comparisons with Terry Pratchett and Philip Pullman. She went on to publish a further seven young adult novels under her own name, earning her extensive critical acclaim and two Carnegie nominations for her novels Timekeepers and The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle.

While studying International History at the London School of Economics, she wrote an urban fantasy series for adults, writing as Kate Griffin. On graduating LSE she went to the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts to study Technical Theatre and Stage Management.

Throughout her training she continued to write, and while working as a lighting technician at the Royal National Theatre wrote her first Claire North novel, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which became a word-of-mouth bestseller and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award. The follow-up Touch was described by the Independent as ‘little short of a masterpiece’, and her next novel The Sudden Appearance of Hope won the 2017 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. Her novel The End of the Day was shortlisted for the 2017 Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award, and 84K was awarded the Special Citation by the Philip K. Dick Awards. Her latest book is The Pursuit of William Abbey.

Catherine currently works as a live music lighting designer, teaches women’s self-defense, and is a fan of big cities, long walks, Thai food and graffiti-spotting. She lives in London.

The Review:

First of all, can we all just take a moment to appreciate this BEAUTIFUL cover.

I’m a fan of Claire North’s books, having read a few of them and with several more on the old TBR. So I jumped at the chance to read and review this on the blog.

The last thing I read by the author was a short story called Sweet Harmony which was just brilliant (and highly recommended if you haven’t read it and are a fan of things like Black Mirror) so I had fairly high expectations of this one going in.

It didn’t disappoint! This is a primarily spy story, with our main character Ven, being recruited by the ambitious and ruthless Brotherhood to interpret “heretical” texts that one of their agents is stealing from the other side. But it’s also more than that; it deals with the devastating path that humanity finds itself on as we try and seemingly fail to preserve the planet which we call home, it deals with faith, it deals with politics, it deal with friendship.

The setting and world building are fabulous. The “Burning Age” referred to in the title is now, present day. We have been our own worst enemies and the life as we know it has been destroyed. Humanity survives to live on and adapt but the events of the novel hint at our inability to learn from our mistakes and just repeat history all over again in pursuit of more, of better and of power. We never quite learn *exactly* what happened but we don’t need to.

I enjoyed the references to objects and information from the Burning Age, things like text messages, tweets etc. have clearly been saved along with information on humanity’s scientific and technological advances and it was fun to see them pop up. The reference to the “reconstructed ballads of Mozert, Beatless and Beyondsee” made me smile!

I liked the main character Ven, who leads us through the story and we see him struggle with the actions he has to take in his part of the impending conflict. The back and forth and overall relationship between him and Georg, the driver behind the Brotherhood’s progress, were great too.

Things got tense at times and I found myself desperate to find out what going to unfold and how the power plays were going to turn out. It did take me a little while to get to grips with all the difference organisations at play here, how they interacted and who was working for who but I got there.

The author has a wonderful imagination and the ingenuity of each of the books I read of hers is really striking and is, I think, what makes me pick them up. Sometimes, an author can have a good idea but fail to execute it well, but I have yet to see that with North.

I’d recommend this to existing fans of North’s work but also fans of dystopian fiction who would enjoy the espionage twist to this book.