Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Review | Dan Knew by F J Curlew

Published on June 5, 2017

Dan Knew is the story of a dog and his family which is based off the real-life experiences of the author. The dog in this book, as well as the way he comes into his new family’s lives, is real, and as Dan Knew is narrated by Dan himself, as the reader we get to fall in love with this dog who was a special part of the author’s family. Dan’s character is guarded, at times jealous and at times very much a worrier, but he was a lovely character to follow and any pet owner can believe the way he acts and the thoughts he shared, as the relationship between a pet and their owner is a special one where we are convinced we know what the other one is thinking.

Dan’s a dog with a huge personality and I loved his character right from the start. Of course it’s a bit unusual to read a book told from the perspective of a dog (though I have read a few) but it didn’t take long to get to know him and his quirks. His voice really stands out and the author stays true to his representation, with his behaviour and the way he describes things told the kind of way you would expect your pet to speak if they really did have a voice we could understand. For anyone who has had a pet it is so easy to see the author’s love for her pets shines through in Dan Knew and the actions of Dan are believable as they are the kind of things you see your own pet doing. He’s not a very laid-back dog and does a lot of thinking about humans and the world he’s living in and his thoughts and overreactions often provide some humour to the book which I enjoyed.

At the beginning of the book, we’re in Ukraine as stray puppy Dan is taken in by his soon-to-be new family. Dan is a nervous little thing and has gone through his own traumatic experience, but along with his new family there are plenty more of those to come – only this time the love and bonds between pets and their owner really shines through. Through trust, patience and loyalty, Dan becomes a big part of this family’s life and I found myself enthralled by this charming novel.

I have read other books told from a dog’s POV before but this one had a lot more substance than most. The tale Dan tells of his family is utterly fascinating as the lives of his human family are interesting, hectic and emotional. The book crosses different countries and strong themes such as abuse and cancer. There’s much more as well as those but to give away too much would spoil the experience of reading it for yourself. Dan’s descriptions of what takes place are quite simplistic in text but also really expressive so as the reader you can get a good feel for what is happening and that the story inside is relevant to the author’s real life made it all the more poignant – and I found myself really engrossed in the events of this family.

Whilst I was hooked on the story, at times I would have liked to be able to move the story on as sometimes the focus on one aspect lasted longer than I thought necessary. But that was all a matter of taste as with so much going on in Dan and his family’s semi-biographical lives, there were bound to be parts that I enjoyed more. Dan Knew is overall an engaging novel about love, loyalty and the impact a pet can have on one dysfunctional family. This is such a content-packed book and throughout, Dan’s personality shines through. Throughout all the trials and tribulations of his family, I took this dog to my heart and found myself a little attached come the end…

Friday, 15 September 2017

Review | Miss Seeton Quilts the Village by Hamilton Crane

Published by Farrago on September 7, 2017

"When it's Miss Seeton," said young Mrs. Newport, "you never can tell what might happen next!"

Miss Seeton Quilts the Village is the first new addition to the series in over twenty years. It is not a series that I’ve read before, though I have heard quite a bit about it and now have the audiobook of an earlier book in the series ready to listen to. I love cosy crime and cosy mysteries. They are, in my eyes, typically relaxing and refreshingly funny novels set in a village full of secrets, wrong conclusions and plenty of frolics. The same applied to Miss Seeton Quilts the Village, as it was a book I really enjoyed reading.

It’s a slow start to Miss Seeton Quilts the Village as old names are reintroduced and as a new reader to the series, it was a bit of an effort at first to acquaint myself with the setting and the characters and then tuck into the new instalment. Though it did take quite a few chapters to settle into the new book, once I did it was thoroughly worthwhile as Miss Seeton Quilts the Village is witty, often laugh-out-loud funny and very endearing.

Miss Seeton is a quirky character and nothing if not entertaining. Armed with her sketchbook, she can help the police on cases they can’t get to the bottom of. Her sketches detail people, their actions and their emotions – even the ones which haven’t happened yet. Her attitude is great and following her character is utterly charming. I can see why there are so many books in this series, first written by Heron Carvic and then continued by Sarah J Mason writing as Hamilton Crane, as Miss Seeton is an interesting and engaging character who can be trusted to get to the bottom of any mystery.

There is a fair bit of tension in the village of Plummergen brought about by the creation of a village tapestry. I found the antics and the issues of the villagers to at times be laugh out loud funny. The characters are pretty mad and kept me entertained at all times. It’s exactly what I would come to expect from a close-village setting and yet the humour still got to me and when I could finally keep up with all the characters, I found myself really wrapped up in their lives and the gossip they spread.

As for the plot, it was a bit repetitive at times but still, there’s plenty to get stuck into. From espionage to local history to Nazi secrets and a whole wad of mystery and intrigue, this book is full of content and more than enough secrets and gossip to keep me engrossed. There are oodles of secrets hidden within Plummergen and a heck of a lot of gossip too. With every page turned another secret comes to light and it was frantic yet entertaining keeping up with every last thing happening within the pages of this book. I breezed through this book as I found it all highly enjoyable and couldn’t get enough of the quirkiness and eccentricity of the place, the people and the gossip.

Jam-packed with mystery, secrets and dry humour, Miss Seeton Quilts the Village is a raucous romp of a read that had me smiling throughout.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Guest Post | Daniela Sacerdoti on her writing inspiration

Published by Headline on September 7, 2017

Daniela's Writing Inspirations 

Have you ever heard that saying, the one about us being dwarves on the shoulders of giants? I think it’s so true. I believe my imaginative world and my writing skills are built of many tiny bricks, and each brick I owe to a writer who inspired me and moved me and taught me as a child and young woman, when I was at my most receptive.

My father was just as crazy about books as I am, so whenever I interrupted him when he was reading he’d sit me down and read aloud for me. This way I absorbed The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, two of my greatest inspirations. I remember being desperate to visit Middle Earth, and thinking that maybe, when I grew up, I would find a way. Although I never wrote fantasy, I was deeply influenced by Tolkien’s dualistic view of the world, deep morality and belief in self-sacrifice. When I began reading on my own there was no stopping me - my parents gave me some beautiful books from the Mursia collection, very popular with Italian children in the seventies and eighties, and I discovered Lucy M.Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. She became my heroine. I wanted to be just like Anne, and I was desperate to write just like Lucy!

When, years later, I read Emily of New Moon in English - it hadn’t been translated in Italian - I found my literary alter-ego: I was definitely Emily Murray, the aspiring writer and spirited, solitary, stubborn young woman. Those books are underlined, highlighted, ear-marked and quoted all over my diaries. Of Lucy Montgomery I love the way she describes the emotions and inner storms of girls and women, and how she describes life in small villages, their dynamics and web of relationships.

As a young woman I began reading in English, as it offered me a host of women’s fiction I couldn’t find in Italian (back then). My first discovery was Lesley Pearse with Rosie and Ellie, the kind of unstoppable, generous, abundant storytelling that made me feel like I was inside the story. Also I found amazing the way she didn’t shy away from controversial topics, and made her heroines go through so much strife before they found happiness.

During my year at university in Dublin I discovered Maeve Binchy and Sheila O’Flanagan: Maeve’s The Glass Lake and Light A Penny Candle were pivotal in showing me how skilled, how deep, how perceptive women’s fiction can be, though often (almost always) underestimated.

Although I’ve read widely, it’s mostly to Tolkien, Montgomery, Pearse, Binchy and O’Flanagan that I credit the writer I am today. A motley crew maybe, but what they all have in common in honest, truthful, soul-deep storytelling.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Guest Post | Jo Thomas shares her top five writing tips

Published by Headline on August 24, 2017

Jo’s top 5 writing tips

1. Write! Write anything, because something can always be made better.

2. You don’t necessarily have to write about what you know. Write about what interests you. Put yourself in your heroine’s shoes and go on a journey of discovery.

3. Don’t get bogged down by the theory. You need a beginning, middle and end. If you know what the end is, you should be able to work out how you get there.

4. Write what you enjoy reading, not what you think will sell.

5. Keep going. Someone once told me, the only difference between an unpublished author and a published one, is that the unpublished one gave up.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Exclusive Short Story by Sonya Lalli, author of The Arrangement

Published by Orion on August 10, 2017

In The Arrangement, thirty-year-old, fun-living Serena is on the sidelines. She shares a mutual friend with the novel’s heroine Raina, and for a while dates one of Raina’s relatives. Even though Serena’s story doesn’t make it into my novel, I wanted to share a bit more about her own dating misadventures – and give you a few clues about what’s to come in The Arrangement! Read here, herehere and here to catch up on Serena’s story.

Part Five - the final part

“How did it go?”

Serena’s head is lolled back onto the top of her seat. Without lifting it up, she shrugs.

“Raj seemed nice.”

“He was nice.” She doesn’t volunteering any more information as Shaylee slips into the seat across from her. Closing her eyes, her mind glides past the three mini-dates Shaylee had put her up to that evening, and goes straight to James. The way he always angled to sit next to her at their company’s weekly meetings, or always found excuses to use the photocopier near her desk. The way things were going so, sowell – until he unexpectedly stood her up.

“You know,” Serena says, staring up at the bar’s grainy ceiling. “I thought I was going to be on my first date with my future husband right now.”

“There you go again,” she hears Shaylee say. “This is what you always do, Serena. You put so much pressure on yourself for things to work out, before you even know the guy.”

Serena forces herself to sit up straight, her head spinning slightly as the blood rushes through. She watches Shaylee run her hands through her hair, looking slightly annoyed.

“What do you mean?”

“What I mean is… this isn’t about James. Or your ex Kris. Or about any guy you’ve ever dated. This about you. And you need to screw that little voice in your head that’s telling you that you need to settle down ASAP and have a marriage and kids and all that. There’s no rush!”

Serena laughs. “Says the girl who just got engaged.”

“Do you think Julien and I knew we were going to get married when we first met? That before our first date, I’d started planning our wedding?”

“I wasn’t planning our wedding…” Serena whines, wondering if apart of her actually had jumped ahead. Maybe Shaylee was right. Serena had only known James for a few months, but in her head had they already been a couple? Planning date nights, weekend getaways at the cottage, even a life together?

“I guess I just really liked him,” she says after a while. “I really wanted it to work out.”

“I’m sorry James let you down.” Shaylee smiles at her, and then reaches for her hand. “You know I wasn’t actually going to hold you to our bet tonight, right? I just wanted to distract you.”

“I know.” Serena sighs again “God, Shaylee. I’m so bummed out right now.”

And you’ll feel bummed out for a while. But you know, pretty soon someone else is going to come along, and you’ll get excited again. And maybe it will work out with that guy, and maybe it won’t. But either way, please stop putting so much pressure on yourself, OK?”

Serena rolls her eyes, and then slumps forward on the table.

“Did you hear me?”

“I heard you.”

“Good,” Shaylee says, tugging on her arm. “Because we’re late for Mean Girls. It starts in five minutes!”

They quickly grab their things and make their way outside. It’s warmer on the street than it was in the bar, and Serena peels off her cardigan and ties it around her waist.

“Your phone’s buzzing,” Shaylee says, the exact same moment Serena notices her purse his vibrating. She fishes out her phone.

“You didn’t give my number to any psychos, did you?”

Shaylee rolls her eyes and starts walking in the direction of the cinema, Serena a step behind her.

“Hello?” she says answering the phone.

“Serena? It’s James.”

Serena’s mouth drops, and she taps Shaylee on the shoulder until she stops walking.


“Serena, I’m so sorry.”

She switches her mobile to speakerphone, and looks up at Shaylee, unsure what to say.

“I really screwed up.”

“Yeah,” she says after a moment has passed. “You did.”

Shaylee opens her mouth as if she’s about to bark something at him, but Serena smothers her hand over her face.

“So where were you?” Serena asks.

“I lost my phone – ”

“Sure you did.”

“Really,” he laughs, and suddenly Serena notices how upset he sounds. “I had dinner with my brother’s family and left my phone at the restaurant. My nephew, he’s obsessed with Angry Birds, remember? I told you about him? He lost it, the rascal.”

“Uh huh.”

“That’s the truth, Serena. And I was so excited when we were texting earlier today that I completely blanked on what you bar you’d suggested. I remembered it was Yonge Street – but do you know Yonge Street is like 86 km long, right? I spent an hour walking up and down trying different bars looking for you.”

Serena isn’t quite sure how to respond, and she’s thankful when Shaylee whispers that she should ask him how he eventually found her number.

James laughs. “Tell your friend I managed to track down Cindy in HR and told her it was emergency. She only just got back to me.”

“Emergency, huh?”

“I didn’t want you to think I stood you up the whole weekend.”

She glances at Shaylee, unsure whether to buy her story.

“Serena, I really like you. This will never happen again.

Shaylee pouts at her from the side, and then makes a heart with her hand and holds it in front of her chest.

“Look, tell me where you are. I’ll catch a cab and be there in ten minutes.”

“It’s kind of late…” She can see Shaylee waving at her, urging her to go meet him, and hears James let out a disappointing sigh. But she shakes her head resolutely. “Thank you for calling. Let’s talk on Monday, yeah?”

“Is that a… let’s talk Monday and pretend none of this ever happened... or let’s talk Monday about giving me another chance?”

Serena laughs. “It’s a … let’s see on Monday.”

After she says goodbye and hangs up, she intertwines her arm through Shaylee’s and they set off towards the cinema.

“We’ve seen Mean Girls a thousand times, Serena. It seems like an honest mistake. You should have gone! He sounds adorable.

“He is adorable.”

“So what’s the problem?”

Serena stops walking and turns to face her, suddenly thankful James had stood her up and she’d met up with Shaylee instead. Her annoyingly-wise, hilarious friend. “You were right, Shaylee. If he’s the one, he can sure as hell wait.”

Friday, 18 August 2017

Review | The House by Simon Lelic

Published by Penguin on August 17, 2017

The House by Simon Lelic is creepy and suspenseful. I was drawn to the book by its spookily inviting cover and the way the book begins gave off the same vibes to me – that you were welcome inside, if you dare. There are some great thriller and horror aspects deftly combined by Simon Lelic which had me fascinated as I never quite knew what to expect next. The House is a dark read, tense and at times uncomfortable, which had me gripped throughout.

In The House we meet Jack and Syd. They are at a busy house viewing in London and whilst Jack is not impressed by the place, it is clear to him that Syd is. She thinks it would be perfect for them and so they put in an offer. Despite it not being the best offer, they’re chosen to get the place – and they begin to sort their way through all the belongings the previous owner left behind. That’s where all the creepiness really starts to set in, and a gruesome discovery in the attic beckons…

The author had me hooked straight away, even though I was unsure about how the narrative would be told. Almost in diary form, the chapters begin split between both Jack and Syd as they tell us their views on the house and what’s going on, although it doesn’t feel like they’re telling the reader, it feels like they’re telling each other (just without the speech marks). They go back and forth quite a bit as some of the things they document mean going back in time so we can see the relevancy and how it connects to their situation living in the house. I’ve said so many times on the blog how I’m not overly keen on books told in a diary-style format as I often find them too one-sided and can’t get myself involved in the book enough if it’s told like that. However, as here we get to see both Jack and Syd’s perspectives, and the writing itself is quite convincing, I actually found that The House felt like it had something fresh and different to offer in comparison to many other books out there at the moment and so I enjoyed it more than I expected.

There’s so much about this book I can’t talk about because everything’s a spoiler. I will say that there are many twists and turns to keep you on your toes and this book does having something of a shock factor about it. In their own way, both Jack and Syd have something of an unreliable narrator about them and there is tension between the two of them as cracks in their relationship begin to show. The House was not really what I expected at all, though this isn’t a bad thing. It had originality and a style of writing that was engaging and easy to invest in. I did prefer the earlier scene-setting of the book probably the most, although the twists had me engrossed. I did find, though, that I was waiting for another twist whereas normally I prefer the story to lead me into a misguided sense of comfort, and then a twist strikes. I think the fact that this book didn’t appear like that to me was down to the different form of storytelling and so it can’t really be a criticism – I just really enjoyed the twists!

The House is a fascinating thriller. Though I didn’t love either Jack or Syd, I loved how the author crafted and developed his characters in a believable way. The characterisation in The House is great, as is the level of suspense and intrigue the author writes. Overall this really is an incredibly creepy read that made it a difficult book to put down and forget about. The author has written a clever and spooky tale, and I’m looking forward to reading more of his books in future.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Giveaway | Fractured by Clár Ní Chonghaile

Happy weekend all! It's been a quiet week on the blog as I am just about finished with all my Uni work! Only a week left to go and then I can finally get back to my reading.

Today I have picked the winners for the last two week's worth of giveaways and I have a new book to give away.

This week's prize includes: 
Fractured by Clár Ní Chonghaile 
Notebook and pen

Giveaway begins on the 12/08/2017 and ends at 23:59 on the 18/08/2017. 
Prize is as pictured above. 
Open worldwide.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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