Thursday, 28 January 2016

Review - The Pestilence by Faisal Ansari

Welcome to my stop on The Pestilence blog tour which I’m absolutely delighted to be taking part in. The Pestilence is written by Faisal Ansari and I’m pretty sure that, had it not been for this blog tour, I wouldn’t have come across this book which would’ve been a shame because in all honesty it was really very good. It completely surpassed all my expectations and I very much enjoyed it. 

When the book first opens, with the war over and peace finally reigning in the Holy Land, we first meet Samuel Srour as he sets to work on his family’s farm looking after the animals. However, all does not remain well for long as a rocket attack is launched which completely destroys the Srour’s family farm from which a subsequent electrical storm that spreads worldwide originates. This catastrophic event changes the lives of many, particularly Samuel Srour who in theory should not have survived the attack on the farm but who instead lives on with a new power to heal the sick and injured. 

Once I’d got used to the structure of the novel which did jump around a fair bit, I became quickly immersed in the story and found myself flying through the novel to the point where I ended up reading far more than I intended to in one sitting. This is undoubtedly due to Faisal’s talent as an author and his ability to write a fast-paced, action-packed tale. What also made this book so compelling for me was the fact that its main premise is a countdown to The Pestilence - I knew something big was going to happen and I wanted to know exactly what it was. 

Having never read a book before that was set where the bulk of the action took place where The Pestilence did, this novel opened my eyes to a whole new world. Indeed I discovered a great deal about a country and culture which I previously knew very little about and really enjoyed this particular learning experience. 

My only real complaint about The Pestilence is that it seemed to end on a bit of a cliffhanger but I guess this is to be expected given that it is the first in a series of books. Given how much I enjoyed it I’ll almost definitely be back to read the next installment and just hope that there won’t be too long to wait for it. 

If you’re looking for a thought-provoking novel that is not short on action then The Pestilence is most certainly the book for you and I’d highly recommend it. All in all it was a well-polished and well thought through novel that for a debut was mightily impressive and I wish Faisal every success with not only this but his future books. 

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Review - The Widow by Fiona Barton

There’s a reason why everyone’s talking about The Widow by Fiona Barton right now and a reason why it’s being displayed so prominently in bookshops up and down the UK. It’s because this debut novel is absolutely incredible - psychological thriller fiction at its absolute finest. As I may have mentioned once or twice, I’m a massive fan of psychological thriller novels but The Widow wasn’t like the rest. It was quite unique and a book that I’m pretty sure is going to be a major success. 

One October day little Bella Elliott who was left alone for just a few minutes by her mother, Dawn Elliott, was taken from her front garden. Within hours of Bella being reported missing a police investigation is launched and a media campaign started to find her and, perhaps more importantly, the person responsible for her disappearance. Investigating many leads it’s not long before the police and media turn up on the doorstep of Jean and Glen Taylor asking questions and wanting answers. Answers they get but not until some several years later when Jean, freed from the clutches of her husband following his death, starts talking. 

Told from the perspective of several characters - Jean (The Widow), Kate Waters (The Reporter), Bob Sparkes (The Detective), Dawn Elliott (The Mother) and Glen (The Husband) - this is a truly compelling novel that had me hooked. Once I’d got into the pattern of the book and it jumping between the past and the present I became glued to its pages, carrying it around with me in my handbag every day and reading it at every opportunity I got. It was not a predictable novel in the slightest, I created so many theories and was proved wrong so many times and could never have said that it would end the way it did. 

What made The Widow really stand out for me was the fact that the main focus of the novel wasn’t the victim or the accused which is all too common in books of its genre. Instead its focus was very much on Jean (The Widow) and how she coped with her husband being accused of a terrible crime. I also liked the way in which this book gave us a very real insight into the world of the media, something that was to be expected given that Fiona once worked in the industry. It gave me an appreciation and understanding of how they respond to such a major event and caused me to completely rethink the misconceptions I had of journalists. 

I was super lucky and grateful to receive a copy of this book, thanks to Ben Willis at the publishers, to review, but having seen it in shops must say what a brilliant job has been done on the final cover. It’s relatively simple but uses the perfect combination of colours to make it stand out from the crowd. 

It’s clear that Fiona Barton is an exceptional author and I’m already looking forward to reading whatever she writes next. 

Sunday, 17 January 2016

My Library By Right - The CILIP Campaign!

For those of you who've been following me on Twitter for any length of time you may have noticed several of my tweets in support of public libraries. This is because I believe that libraries are hugely important and contribute a great deal to the wellbeing and success of everyone in society. Nowadays, however, it's unfortunately all too common to hear of the UK's precious and much-loved libraries being threatened with closure or privatisation by councils looking to save precious money. 

The closure of libraries and the privatisation of libraries, with volunteers responsible for the day-to-day running of the service, is not something that fills with me with great joy. From a very young age I both appreciated and loved what my local libraries, staffed by fully trained and professional staff had to offer me - not just books but much more. They offer something for everyone, things which are irreplaceable and can't necessarily be found elsewhere. 

So what's so special about libraries? Firstly they can very much be considered as social hubs which seek to tackle isolation through the provision of numerous services for older people, disabled people, families and children. In being a social hub libraries also provide access to and information about other public services and through the provision of books on prescription and advertisement of other health services are also seen to promote wellbeing and good health. What is more libraries are also educational establishments which not only encourage people of all ages to read for pleasure but also promote digital literacy through a range of courses aimed at beginners right through to the more technically advanced. They are also cultural centres, allowing people to access not just books and book-related activities but music and DVDs also. Some libraries even provide local and family history services and the opportunity for local artists to exhibit some of their finest work. 

I think by now the point has been made that libraries as they are bring so much and play a very important role in society today. However, the future is uncertain, libraries are in jeopardy and, recognising this, CILIP have launched a campaign - My Library By Right - to defend library services. A petition has been launched, which at the time of writing this post has 9,402 signatures, but more are desperately needed. Their aim is to make the government aware of their statutory duty and, indeed, the need to provide a comprehensive, quality library service. Therefore, if libraries are important to you and if you value your local library service why not take two minutes to sign the petition? 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Review - Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon

Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon is hands down one of the best psychological thriller books I’ve ever read and is without a doubt the next big thing in psychological thriller fiction. All I hope is that this review will do Holly’s extraordinary and exceptional debut novel the justice it deserves. 

Upon first meeting Alex, a freelance journalist, it becomes apparent that she is an alcoholic who spends her sober mornings counting down the hours until 12pm when she deems it acceptable to have her first drink of the day. Having been left by her partner, Matt, who could no longer cope with Alex’s drinking we soon see a determined character emerge in her. She wants nothing more than to prove to herself, her ex and fellow journalists that she is a competent reporter. To do so she sets out to investigate, find out and report on exactly what happened to Amy Stevenson who was brutally attacked in 1995 and remains in a coma 15 years on. 

With the chapters alternating between the perspective of Alex, Amy, Jacob (Amy’s boyfriend at the time of the attack) and occasionally Sue (Jacob’s mother), this novel is incredibly well-written. Not only does it jump seamlessly between each character’s narrative but it also jumps seamlessly between the present and past as each of Amy’s chapters are written as flashbacks. This was a brilliant way of structuring the novel and one which allowed the reader to see the bigger picture. 

Try Not To Breathe was a novel that was full of suspense which would not let me put it down. I found myself completely unable to be separated from this book and in the end gave up trying to be. This outstanding novel is quite unlike any psychological thriller I’ve read before and trust me I’ve read a lot of them. It was completely unpredictable and I could never have predicted how it was going to end, although believe me I tried. In fact the ending was so unpredictable that it completely took my breath away!

Although it’s still very early on in 2016, I can sense that this novel is going to be huge and that soon everyone, everywhere will be talking about it. It’s evident that Holly is an incredibly talented author and I cannot wait to see what she writes next. This most certainly is not a book to be missed. 

I would just like to end this review by saying a big thank you to the publishers, Corvus, for sending me a copy of Try Not To Breathe in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Review - How To Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake

Before I get stuck into my book review for the fabulous How To Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake, I just wanted to take the opportunity to wish all of my blog readers and social media followers a very happy new year - I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a fabulous start to 2016! 

How To Stuff Up Christmas was one of those books that I desperately wanted to read over the festive season and was delighted to have been able to squeeze it in between Christmas and New Year. As the last book I read of 2015 it was a brilliant book to end the year with as it was an extremely enjoyable and heartwarming read that was packed full of emotion.

In How To Stuff Up Christmas we first meet Eve when her parents are round at her place encouraging her to get up and live her life after splitting up with Liam who completely broke her heart. Christmas is fast approaching and, with little desire to spend it at her parents house with all her family where she would be surrounded by memories of the previous, perfect Christmas, Eve decides to take herself and Marmite the dog away to a houseboat in Pangbourne. Whilst here she enrols herself on a pottery course, develops a love for cooking she never really knew she had and falls a little bit in love with the local vet, Greg. 

Eve was one of those characters who you couldn’t help but instantly warm to and want the best for from the very first page. I loved the way that she was surrounded by so many other fantastic characters who were all so supportive of her and everything she did. Even Marmite the dog became a source of great comfort and support to Eve and it was pretty easy to see why with his cheeky, mischevious and thoroughly amusing ways. 

This was quite simply a joy of a book to read. It was beautifully written and really easy to get into, kept me entertained and also had me guessing and wanting to find out about the secret Daisy - Eve’s best friend - was so obviously keeping, what was going on with Greg, and who it was that Liam had been caught cheating with. I had my theories on all of the above and was proved drastically wrong on each proving that this is not a predictable read and that Rosie has spent much time carefully thinking through her plot. 

What was also really lovely about this book, and an added little bonus, was the fact that most chapters contained a recipe at the start which seemed pretty easy to follow. These are great particularly if, like me, you’re not exactly a pro in the kitchen so I will definitely bear these in mind and dig this book back out again next Christmas if I fancy rolling my sleeves up and getting creative in the kichen. 

This was a fabulous book that I adored from beginning to end - I truly loved being a part of Eve’s world - and I’m really looking forward to reading more by Rosie in the future. In the meantime I’m definitely going to be checking out her first novel called How To Get A (Love) Life.