The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon

The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy DillonJust to be a complete literary snob for a second, The Secret of Happy Ever After is not the type of book I normally buy.  I’m more than happy to read “chick-lit” (although I do hate that title) if someone’s recommended a particular book and lent it to me, but I don’t normally seek it out.

So why did I buy this one?  Firstly, the fairy tale sound of the title drew me in enough to pull the book off the shelf.  Then the picture of the Dalmatian on the front cover (I can’t resist a story about animals) persuaded me to read the blurb.  Finally, once I’d discovered that the story was set in a bookshop, I was sold!



Book Review: The Dark Heroine: Dinner With A Vampire by Abigail Gibbs

The Dark Heroine: Dinner With A Vampire by Abigail GibbsThere’s plenty of vampire-related literature around at the moment: so much so that readers are spoilt for choice.  If I’m honest, it’s not my favourite genre (I think it deserves to be called a genre in its own right).  I don’t mind the vampires (I have an over-active imagination and am quite prepared to scare myself silly on a dark night wondering if a thirsty, sharp-toothed mythical being is lurking in the shadows).  My problem is with the fact that modern vampires tend to be bratty teenagers: they never seem to be quiet bookish types or suave and sophisticated charmers; they all tend to be a bit gobby, full of self-confidence, and/or very angsty.

However, I found myself drawn to the teenage vampire at the centre of this novel: prince of the vampire kingdom, Kaspar.  More

Book review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline MillerShould I start by telling you that I loved this book?  That I hated myself for racing through it to the finish but that I couldn’t stop myself reading page after page?  That it might just be my new favourite novel of the year (and I’ve read a lot of good books this year)?  Is that setting it up for a fall?

I know how annoying it can be to hear someone raving about a book, but seriously, what’s not to love about poetic writing, a passionate race of people, gods interfering with mortal affairs, and riddling prophecies?


Book Review: The Absolutist by John Boyne vs Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

The Absolutist by John BoyneToday I’m starting my review by presenting The Absolutist to you in the exact same way I was introduced to it.  Right on the front cover is the announcement: “If you loved Birdsong, you’ll love this”.

Now, I did indeed love Birdsong, which I read last year – I’d have to say that it’s one of my favourite novels – so the publishers at this point have really upped the stakes.  What they’re saying to me is that it’s not just a good book, it’s up there in ‘modern classic’ territory.


Book Review: The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg

The Ice Princess by Camilla LackbergIf you follow my blog you may have seen that I reviewed Camilla Lackberg’s The Drowning a while ago.  In the review I mentioned that I loved the book but was confused by the ending.  Some kind readers pointed out to me that actually this book is part of a series based in the same village and featuring the same main characters.  Oops.

Normally I hate the idea of starting a series part-way through and so I was initially a bit put out.  However, in this case I really enjoyed reading The Drowning on its own merits.  With hindsight I can see that there were numerous little hints scattered through the book about the characters’ past lives, which I had assumed were either there simply to add a bit of depth to a minor character (a technique which I actually liked very much) or would be revealed in full later in the book if it was important.  When a lot of these little sub-sub-plots were not revealed at the end of the book, and I was left with an enormous cliff-hanger, no wonder I was mystified.  Once I knew I was dealing with a whole series of novels, I was determined to read the lot.

Having now finished book one, The Ice Princess, I’m pretty sure I’m on to a winner.  More

Book Review: The Mill by Mark West

The Mill by Mark WestThe Mill is, in essence, a story about grief.  Michael, the main character, has recently lost his wife and is understandably struggling to come to terms with a new way of life without her.  In this raw emotional state he is persuaded to join a support group of other widows and widowers.

This aspect of the book is straightforward enough.  The story is convincing and the writing is clear and descriptive without being gushy, which made it stand out from other, less subtle books I’ve read before which deal with pain.  It is an emotional tale, but one in which you sympathise with the characters without feeling guilt-tripped into pity.

However, there is more to this novella of just 76 pages.  Michael develops a recurring dream in which he hears his wife’s voice in a woodland clearing; he is sure he recognises the place but he cannot quite identify it.  He is unsettled by the dream, but is even more disturbed to find that he is not the only one to have dreamt of that same clearing…

Eventually he realises that the clearing is in fact somewhere he played as a child, close to a deserted house known as The Mill.  Why is he, and why are the others who have had the same dream, being drawn to The Mill?  What really happened there?

The Mill is an easy afternoon’s read, being so short.  I have to admit though that I would have preferred to find it as part of a collection of short stories, rather than a stand-alone book.  The conclusion I had suspected was in fact the correct one, but I still felt surprised because it seemed better suited to a short story than a novel.

I ended the book feeling a little disappointed, but only because I was left wanting more.  Perhaps it seemed shorter than it actually was because I’m a fast reader, I don’t know.  I thought that more could have been made of the ghost story – not possible in the space available, but maybe in a hypothetical extended version.

I did like West’s writing style, however and having found out that The Mill was previously published as part of an anthology called We Fade To Grey, I might consider buying this collection of his stories at some point.

You can find out more about The Mill here.

Book Review: One Day by David Nicholls

One Day by David NichollsI have resisted reading this book for a long time.  Published in 2009, it has been surrounded by hype and gushing reviews since it came out, and when the film of the same name was released in 2011 it only served to strengthen its place as a “Modern Classic”.  I’d see the eye-catching orange cover everywhere: it seemed that everyone loved it.


Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Room by Emma DonoghueRoom is inspired by the shocking true-life story of Elizabeth Fritzl, imprisoned by her father Josef in the basement of her family home in Austria for 24 years.  Her escape in 2008 made worldwide headlines and much attention was given to the disturbing facts of the case.

Now, this short introduction may have already convinced you to buy a copy of this novel, or it may have put you off reading the book entirely.  The “misery memoir” often divides readers into two distinct camps.

However, this is not a misery memoir.  It is not Elizabeth Fritzl’s story and is not intended to be.  Emma Donoghue, the author, wanted to write a fictional story from the point of view of a child who has known no life outside of the place in which he was born.  More

Book Review: Sweet Delicious Madness and the Many Mysterious Deaths of Silvio Berlusconi by Julie Sarff

Sweet Delicious Madness and the Many Mysterious Deaths of Silvio BerlusoniThe best time to start planning a holiday and dreaming of far-away places is always during the first few months of the year: Christmas is all but forgotten; the weather’s mostly miserable; and summer seems a distant dream.  So reading about a hot and sunny location like Italy seemed the perfect pick-me-up.  Although rain appears to be far more frequent in Italy than I had previously imagined, as this story approaches its conclusion and the summer heat descends I found myself basking in the imaginary sunlight streaming from my Kindle screen.  The more the characters gasped in the humidity, the better I felt.

The strong sense of place is the best thing about this intriguingly titled ebook.  The author, Julie Sarff, tells me that she once lived in Italy for a time, and it shows.  You get a really good feel for the country’s culture-clash of modern and traditional values, as well as discovering its colourful people.


Book Review: Under The Dome by Stephen King

Under The Dome by Stephen KingIf I were ever to be given the opportunity to meet and interview just one contemporary author, it would probably be Stephen King.  His writing output and his creative mind are incredibly inspiring, and I’ve read and become caught up in many of his novels.  I’m always struck by the way he manages to avoid clichés and instead crafts inventively apt metaphors and similes time and time again.

Under The Dome is epic.  Just in terms of size, it’s nearly 900 pages long.  I picked up a paperback copy in a charity shop for 50p (an absolute bargain for such a monster!) but I’d recommend getting it in eBook form if you can as it’s pretty heavy.

It’s also epic in terms of scale.  The novel tells the story of a town suddenly trapped under a mysterious invisible force field, nicknamed The Dome.  In true King style, it doesn’t take long for law and order to start to disintegrate and for the dark sides of ordinary people to start to show.  The ever-increasing body count keeps you wondering who will be next to drop; King has no compunction about encouraging you to become attached to a character before brutally killing him or her off.  No-one is safe from the writer’s axe. More

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