Review-The Moment Collector by Jodi Lynn Anderson

This title is being marketed as something like The Lovely Bones, which I have to admit did make me read it above the million and one other books I have waiting.I wasn't sure what to expect from his book, but I found it to be one of those books that takes up a special place in your heart. It is beautifully written and so atmospheric, when I was reading the book I was there in the story 100%. It is hard to describe what exactly makes this book so special, but I certainly believe that the descriptions of the area of Door County and the descriptions of the small town and people are perfect.

What is the story about?

The story is about a girl called Maggie who with her parents, have to leave their home in Chicago to move to Door County to a house left to them in a will. Due to financial reasons they have to live here and try to make the house homely. Whilst we get to know `maggie, we are also aware of a spirit in the house who sometimes lives in the basement of the house Maggie has moved into. The spirit isn't sure why she is there, but that she is bound to Maggie in some way;

"I'm tied to Maggie and Pauline, though I don't know why. I think it's because death is coming for one of them, or both.

All I know is that the present and the past are piling up, and I am here to dig.I am looking for the things that are buried."

Soon Maggie meets her neighbour from the big white house across the field, Pauline. Pauline is beautiful but unaware of it. She is chatty and outgoing and soon befriends the slightly cautious Maggie. Maggie is then introduced to Pauline's childhood friend  Liam and they all start to hand around together.

Not long after Maggie settles in and gets a job in an antique store in the main street, the fact that a serial killer focusing on young girls Maggie's age is moving closer and closer to the area means that the whole town becomes extremely cautious. There is a curfew for young people and many shops and cafes shut up completely. There are increasing snow storms and the nearby lake is frozen over, the snow and the storms add both to the story and to the atmosphere throughout the book.Along with the story of Maggie, Pauline and Liam there is the backdrop of a killer who's victims are all beautiful young girls. As a reader I feared for both Pauline and Maggie and also started to pick up clues as to who the killer might be. Whilst the killings are a part of the book, they do not make the story a book of crime in any way.

There is also the ongoing story of the spirit, throughout the book we learn certain things she has seen, we feel her loneliness and confusion as to why she is where she is, and finally at the end we learn who the spirit was. The book itself is melancholy, yet beautiful, atmospheric and anything but a cheesy YA novel. There is love and loss, but Jodi writes this so well, so painfully, but without extra drama, tears or overreactions.This book  is really special and a beautiful, sad, atmospheric read.

Published August 7th 2014

Some Of My All Time Favourite Beach Reads July 2014

I don't know about you, but I haven't been on a beach holiday for a number of years. To get my hit of summer sun, descriptions of beautiful beaches and tavernas and the ambience of the Mediterranean I do like to read books set abroad. Saying that, this is not the only criteria for me to read such a book, it also has to be a great story and well-written. Below are some of my favourite all time books set in sunny climates. 

The Island by Victoria Hislop

This is one of those books where I get quite passionate about the fact that, yes, the cover is dull, it looks like a chick-lit type of book and it's just a bit rubbish. BUT, the story itself is fantastic. Set in Crete and the island of Spinalonga, it is a story about families torn about, love and dealing with leprosy. I didn't know much about this illness, but the way the people on the Island dealt with it so bravely, in such awful circumstances, is so humbling. I can guarantee that after reading it you will be looking up the island of Spinalongia and will try to learn as much about it as possible. This book has everything needed to make it a brilliant read, from start to finish. Highly recommended.

The Potter's House by Rosie Thomas

My mother introduced me to this book as she is a big Rosie Thomas fan, and I read it quite a few years ago. Again, I feel the cover doesn't not do justice to the story at all. I would never have picked this up myself, it looks boring and again, chick-lit.I used to live in Greece and so reading this brought back many memories of small Greek island life. The story itself is a thriller of sorts, Olivia is an English woman who uprooted to a tiny Greek island where she married a local man and had two children. Life on the island goes at a slow pace, everyone knows each other and it is a close knit community. The descriptions of island life are just perfect, and the descriptions of the Greek way of life and scenery is spot on. The pace of the novel picks up when their is an earthquake and it had devastating consequences. This is when we are introduced to Kitty, as English woman caught up in the earthquake. Olivia lets her stay at the guesthouse and looks after her, but there is something not quite right about Kitty and she turns everything Olivia knew upside down.

I Love Capri by Belinda Jones

Whilst this book would probably fall under the Chick-lit category, it really has a lot to offer the reader in terms of storyline and the amazing descriptions of Capri. The story is about Kim, who is dealing with a break-up, living in Cardiff and having a boring job she isn't happy with. When her Grandfather who owns a boutique in Capris dies, she is persuaded to fly out there with her mother to tie up lose ends and provide a translation service for her mother. There are lots of encounters with men, dealing with her heavily flirtatious married mother and dealing with her Grandfather's mistress. The story itself is entertaining and quite light-hearted, but Belinda manages to describe Capri so beautifully, it is now on my list of places I have to visit, JUST from reading this book. An unpredictable ending and a really good beach read.

Delicious by Nicky Pellegrino

The first Nicky Pellegrino book I ever read, and it reminds me very much of Chocolat and  Like Water For Chocolate in the way that it combines a sumptuous and interesting story with mouth watering Italian food. Do not read this when hungry! Its a story about a girl called Chiara who leaves London to travel to Italy to find her birth father. There is romance, love and loss and the characters were so strong I just couldn't put it down. Pellegrino also manages to describe Italy and the food so well, you can almost smell the pasta through the pages. Nicky has also written many more novels like this set in Italy so if you like this you have plenty of others to go to afterwards. A delight to read.

Three of My Favourite Graphic Novels (non 'SuperHero')

A few years ago I really didn't think I would ever read a graphic novel as I just wasn't interested in Superman or Batman or X-Men etc. But there are a growing variety of 'non-superhero' graphic novels out there from fantasy themes to normal everyday life. There are also many graphic novels from books such as the Twilight series, or that have generated TV shows such as The Walking Dead. Below I list a few of my favourite Graphic novels.

Fables by Bill Willingham

Fables is a graphic novel series about those characters we remember from traditional fairy tales, such as Snow White, Jack (and the beanstalk), Rose Red and even The Big Bad Wolf. Something called The Adversary has invaded their homes and driven all the fairy tale pose out of their homelands. They now have to try and blend in with the human community living in a high rise called Fabletown in New York. Each volume has ongoing and new storylines, from murder to love, lies and deceit, it all happens in Fabletown. I really like Fables as it can provide humour as well as thrills and spills and I enjoy the clever spin on the traditional fairy tale characters. The illustrations are also beautiful and stunning to look at all on their own. There are also a few spin off series including 'Fairest' which delves into the pasts of many female fairy tale characters such as Cinderella, Snow White and such as well as 'Jack of Fables' which follows the adventures of Jack from 'Jack and the Beanstalk'. Fables is really worth a read, they are definitely fairy tales for grown ups.

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead graphic novels were one of the very first I started reading. I do like zombie stories and this is a very interesting, scary, dark and thrilling zombie series which as you will know is now a huge TV series. The graphic novels are so enthralling and so scary and I really got behind the core group of characters and utterly terrified when they were under attack. The graphic novels can get extremely dark indeed, no topic is off limits and I have to admit that at times I could hardly read certain parts they were so shocking to me. But then I do get scared easily! I did watch the first series of the Tv show, but personally I much preferred the graphic novels.

Adrian Tomine Graphic Novels

Adrian Tomine's graphic novels centre around the everyday lives of mainly young people going about their everyday lives. He focuses on a range of subject matter such as romance, love, jobs, and the bigger life questions in a range of ways. His novels are both witty and dark and really focus on the human heart and the many issues people have, especially those that feel they are on the outskirts of society and a recurring theme is loneliness. To me they really are modern stories, modern characters in graphic novel form. The illustrations range in each book but are generally very  minimalistic, sometimes white and grey and always reflect the story at hand. There is no fantasy here, and that's part of the reason I like them.

Young Adult Fiction-Review of Phobic by Cortney Pearson (Forbidden Doors 1)

I am a huge fan of YA fiction after working in that department as a bookseller for a number of years. I am also a sucker for a coming of age novel. young love and the many issues facing teenagers. I started Phobic on a Saturday afternoon and finished it the following evening, I just couldn't put it down. I would class this as a Thriller/Horror but it also has strong themes of bullying, romance and dealing with life as a teenager.

Teenage angst and a haunted house

The story is about a 15 year old Piper who lives in a haunted house which has been part of her family for years. She also has to deal with the fact that her mother is in prison for murdering a man and keeping his body under the kitchen floor. Her father died recently and now she lives in the house with her older brother Joel. She also has to deal with the students at her school bullying her for her acne, her strange house and any other reason they can think of to bully her and make her feel bad. Her one friend since the age of nine, Todd, has started to hang out more with the bullies and she is feeling more and more alone. Her house also has a mind of it's own, rumbling and creaking when it's unhappy, opening and locking doors at will and when one morning it locks her in the house, she hears her dead father's voice on the TV...

So many layers

This book covers so many things, from young love, bullying, ghosts, murder and is gripping from start to finish. The house has many secrets which Piper starts to unravel throughout the book providing readers with so many twists and turns, including ghostly apparitions, torture, monstrous men, black magic, the occult and much more.
Although there are so many out of this world happenings, because Piper is so relatable it makes it more scary and creepy. As Piper fights to learn the truth of the house and her family secrets she starts to find Todd, her best friend more and more attractive, but is the house happy to have Todd involved in Piper's life?

The House

Growing up there have always been rules Pipers father has made her follow, such as- never open the door in the library, never EVER go into the basement and so on. But as the house becomes increasingly volatile, Piper decides she has to get to the bottom of what really is going on with the house and it's many secrets. She discovers some awful truths about the past and in the end has to battle to save her life.

Just when I thought I understood what was happening in the novel, there were huge twists and turns, and new levels to the story. Not only is it about a teenage girl dealing with teenage life, love and bullying, she is also dealing with demons of the past which are threatening her future. She also has no parental guidance with her mother in prison and her father dead, so she has a lot to deal with without the haunted, possessed house.

The first in a series...

Unlike many books these days Cortney ends the novel well, with a full conclusion to the story which is both gripping and satisfying. There will be more books in the series called Forbidden Doors which will include Piper which I am very excited about. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who likes a gripping read or just anyone that likes reading! A well written story, with lots of depth,  that is genuinely scary and creepy. ( I has some very strange dreams last night!)

It is published on September 8th 2014.

Japanese Fiction Favourites-The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

I am a huge fan of Japanese fiction for  a number of reasons. Many Japanese novels have supernatural elements whilst being thoroughly set in the modern world. Generally, they are also very straight to the point, with minimal descriptive prose, which I really enjoy.I have read quite a few Japanese novels and will be reviewing them regularly and telling you about the ones I would recommend. The first book I wanted to talk about is The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino which I have a large paperback version of.

So, what is it about?

The novel is a crime thriller of sorts set in Tokyo, where a single mother Yasuko looks after her daughter and works in a Bento shop. Her life is going well until her abusive ex-husband turns up out of the blue. He tries to attack her and her daughter, sat in her bedroom, comes out and together they fight him off and strangle him.Their next door neighbour mathematician Tetsuya Ishigami hears the commotion next door and pieces together what has happened. He has a soft spot for the mother and daughter and decides to help them. They put their absolute trust in him to come up with an untouchable alibi when the police become involved. The story then introduces different characters such as detective Kusanagi and genius physician Manabu Yukawa who are trying to work out who murdered Yasuko's bully of an ex-husband. Tetsuya has come up with such a brilliant mathematically thought out alibi that throughout the novel as a reader we are picking up all the little details given to see if the detective or the physician can solve the murder mystery. We also learn just how Tetsuya managed to provide such an amazing alibi that was virtually perfect.

A twist on the whodunnit

From the first pages we know exactly who committed the murder, but the rest of the novel is like a chess game between the strange yet highly intelligent neighbour Tetsuya and his equally genius physician friend Manabu. Manabu has been brought in to help solve the crime by the detective on the case because it is such a baffling case. The alibis for the mother and daughter are checked and seem perfect, there is no evidence that the ex-husband had ever been at the apartment. Tetsuya keeps in contact with the mother and reassures her that he is taking care of everything.As the physician starts to get nearer to the truth, Tetsuya must act fast to make sure he keeps his promise to Yasuko, who he has a huge crush on.

A clever plot

The problem some readers may have with this novel is that we already know who killed who and throughout the book we are waiting to see if someone will work it out. It is also incredibly interesting finding out just how Tetsuya could create such an iron clad, clever and fool proof alibi.I personally was gripped from start to finish, and the ending is a shocker too. As with many Japanese novels, they are not filled with happiness, joy, and positivity. They can be quite melancholy, grey and mundane in nature. I personally enjoy this as it makes the actions within the novel seem even more stark and hard hitting. This was the first novel by Keigo Higashino to be translated into English after it sold a staggering 2 million copies in Japan. I would certainly recommend reading this is you like a good thriller, or a murder mystery ( a bit like Columbo!) The book is so cleverly written, the characters are very believable, sometimes it's hard to know who's side I was on, although looking back it was always Tetsuya. Overall, I really enjoyed this Japanese novel, very unique, full of tiny clues the reader can pick up on and a brilliant twist at the end.

Review of The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

A gripping beach read

The story centres around Jen and her husband Greg who are on their annual holiday to Deia in Mallorca at Villa Anna.They are awaiting their daughter (Jen's stepdaughter) to arrive with her new boyfriend for the second week of their holiday. Before their arrival we get the feeling there is unease between Jen and her stepdaughter Emma as she feels a sense of foreboding and partly wishes they weren't coming at all. We also get the impression that Jen is feeling fed up and seems to find her husband Greg dull and boring.

The arrival

When Emma and her boyfriend arrive at the villa there becomes a strange oppressive air to the story, as Jen has fallen asleep in the garden topless. Emma tells her off for embarrassing her, but it creates a sexual undertone to the story. When Jen finally meets Nathan, her daughters 17 year old boyfriend, she suddenly finds him highly attractive, thinking he looks more like a man than a boy. 

Intense, gripping, very VERY illicit

When Nathan and Jen find themselves alone at Villa Anna, after Emma has an accident, they begin an intense, obsessive affair, even having sex whilst Greg and Emma are at the Villa. The sex scenes are very graphic, perhaps shocking at times, this is very much a sexual affair rather than a love affair.As they continue their affair, risking more and more, Jen's obsessive lust for Nathan starts to come crumbling down on her.

In Conclusion

I would recommend this book as a Summer/Beach read, the descriptions of Mallorca, the beach, the restaurants is perfect, and made me feel like I was there once again. It also made me feel like I was on holiday with them and I could visualise the beach, the winding roads in the mountains and the salty sea air.The storyline is one of middle-aged boredom and dealing with loss of youth. It's about a mother/daughter relationship, regret, the seduction of youth, children growing older and taking risks. I didn't find myself liking any of the characters, therefore I didn't really care what happened to any of them either. Sometimes I really found it hard to believe that Nathan and Jen would have an affair, especially as to me, Nathan seems like such an idiot. I did have to keep reading to find out what happened next and the story grew more and more dark and intense with an overriding sense of foreboding.Overall, I would definitely recommend it as a beach read with beautiful descriptions of the island and a very sexy, gripping storyline.

The Three by Sarah Lotz

Hailed as a cross between Justin Cronin's The passage and Stephen King, I just had to start reading this ASAP. I was a huge fan of The Passage when it came out, but in my opinion, The Three isn't anything like the Passage in any way.Saying that, it is a great read for a number of different reasons.

Black Thursday

The premise of the book is that on the same day, four separate planes crash within hours of each other across four areas of the world. That is interesting in itself isn't it. but then the crashes are so horrific no one survives, except three young children with minor to no injuries whatsoever.Hmm..more interesting.

The novel is made up of interviews with different people involved in 'Black Thursday' to try to piece together what happened that day and why the children survived. This involves many theories about the crashes and the children that survived including alien theories, religious theories and end of the world rapture. Sounds familiar doesn't it! The book also makes use of Skype conversations, interviews and reports and does a good job of showing how media obsession and intrusion can have dire consequences.

Not quite a horror

Whilst the book is hailed as a modern horror, I have to say that whilst I did find certain parts of the book creepy, especially those involving the children, overall I wouldn't say it is a horror rather a thriller with a few scary bits thrown in.It is a really interesting read and I was constantly trying to work out what had happened, which theory to believe and by the end of the book I was still unsure. There is talk of a sequel to this which I will hopefully explain more about what happened, why the planes crashed and if the children really were aliens/monsters.ghosts etc

Overall I would definitely recommend this book as it is an intriguing story, although if you are scared of flying, be warned, it might put your off flying in the near future. The creepy parts may haunt you in your sleep, but overall it isn't a full on horror story. I wasn't happy with the ending as it still left so many questions, but hopefully the sequel should answer some of those. This does annoy me though, even if a book is part of a  trilogy I still expect a good ending which answers at least a few of the questions raised in the novel. Still, a very interesting, well written, creepy thriller/horror that will leave you thinking over and over what really did happen to those four planes on `Black Thursday?

Have you read The Three? What are your thoughts?