Thursday 22 October 2020

Poisoned - Jennifer Donnelly


Once upon a time, a girl named Sophie rode into the forest with the queen's huntsman. Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new-fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight. When they stopped to rest, the huntsman took out his knife . . . and took Sophie's heart.

It shouldn't have come as a surprise. Sophie had heard the rumors, the whispers. They said she was too kind and foolish to rule -- a waste of a princess. A disaster of a future queen. And Sophie believed them. She believed everything she'd heard about herself, the poisonous words people use to keep girls like Sophie from becoming too powerful, too strong . . .

With the help of seven mysterious strangers, Sophie manages to survive. But when she realizes that the jealous queen might not be to blame, Sophie must find the courage to face an even more terrifying enemy, proving that even the darkest magic can't extinguish the fire burning inside every girl, and that kindness is the ultimate form of strength.

Give me a fairy tale and I'm in, I adore them. In their original form, twisted around, flipped upside down... I'll read it! When Jennifer Donnelly released Stepsister last year I was incredibly intrigued to see what she had done with one of the most popular fairy tales and I loved it. As with Grimm's version she stuck to the darker version of the tales - chopped off toes and all! What was she going to do with one of my favorite stories that could top Stepsister? Quite a lot, as it turns out...

There's a beautiful princess, a handsome prince, an evil step-mother, and a magic mirror - all the necessary ingredients for a retelling of Snow White. Just don't expect the pretty and sanitized versions you may have read up to now. Jennifer Donnelly takes all of the usual aspects of this beloved tale, adds a dash or three of Grimm's darkness and then ramps up the evil factor! 

I absolutely loved her version of Snow White, or Sophie as she is called here. She has been belittled by her step-mother all her life, to the point that she now believes all that she hears people saying about her - weak, foolish, timid, too kind, soft-hearted, and starts to believe that these are indeed bad things to be. When the Queen's huntsman leads her into the forest she thinks nothing of it but we all know what is coming.

From here on out, Poisoned has to be one of the best retellings of Snow White that I have read. Donnelly is not afraid to flip everything you think you know about Snow White, the Evil Queen, and the handsome Prince on its head, lead you in a totally different direction and turn any assumptions you may have about certain characters in the opposite direction. I also loved the addition of a couple of mysterious characters who are unveiled as the story advances, like Stepsister, but more sinister, and definitely more manipulative.

I would recommend Poisoned to anyone who loves fairy tales, to anyone who loves an underdog, and to anyone who loves stories. I picked this book up at around 9pm, fully expecting to read a few chapters and put it down. What actually happened was that I devoured the whole thing by 3am, and wanted to read it all over again. If that's not a sign of a good book I don't know what is! You don't need to read Stepsister to read this one but I hope you do, it's almost as good as Poisoned, and I'm going to read it again now I've finished Poisoned and this time write a review. I sincerely hope that we're going to get more retellings from Jennifer Donnelly as, quite honestly, I think she has done an amazing job with Poisoned and Stepsister.

Huge thanks to Blue at Kaleidoscopic Tours and Hot Key Books for arranging the blog tour and for a gifted copy of the book.

Poisoned - Jennifer Donnelly

Publication Date - October 20th, 2020

Publisher - Hot Key Books

Find - Goodreads | Amazon UK

Jennifer Donnelly is the author of seven novels and a picture book for children. She grew up in New York
State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History.

Jennifer's first novel, THE TEA ROSE, an epic historical novel set in London and New York in the late 19th century was called exquisite by Booklist, so much fun by the Washington Post, a guilty pleasure by
People and was named a Top Pick by the Romantic Times.

Her second novel, A GATHERING LIGHT, won the Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Borders Original Voices Award, and was named a Printz Honor book. Described as rich and true by The New York Times, the book was named on the Best Book lists of The Times of London, The Irish Times, The Financial Times, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and the School Library Journal. REVOLUTION was named a Best Book by Amazon, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and the Public Library, and was nominated for a Carnegie Medal. The audio edition was awarded an Odyssey Honor for Excellence.

In 2014, Jennifer teamed up with Disney to launch the bestselling WATERFIRE saga, an epic about six mermaids on a quest to rid the world of an ancient evil. The first book in the series, DEEP BLUE, was released in May 2014; the second book, ROGUE WAVE, launched in January 2015.

Donnelly lives in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband, daughter, and two
rescue dogs.

Follow Jennifer at or on Twitter: @JenWritesBooks

Monday 9 March 2020

Poison - Jacqui Rose

In a life of crime, loyalty means everything – even if you don’t always see eye to eye. But when Vaughn Sadler speaks up to get Franny Doyle sent down, he’s broken every rule in the book to win checkmate.
Holed up in prison, Franny has more than one score to settle – but she’s starting with Vaughn. Because you don’t grass on your own, no matter what. And though she may be behind bars, she will get revenge – whatever the cost.
Before, there was just bad blood running through her veins. But now, there is poison…
Having read three other books by Jacqui Rose (Taken, Betrayed, and Fatal) I was excited to see another release by this great thriller writer. Poison centers on Franny Doyle but, as with Jacqui's other books, features recurring characters from previous stories.

Jacqui's books may be about tough gangland criminals but it's the women in the stories that are the featuring characters, the strong characters, the characters who get things done. Poison is no exception and is the story of Franny Doyle, set up and in prison for murder by someone who should know better. Poisoned by this betrayal Franny sets out to plot her release from prison and her revenge on the men who sent her there.

Poison is an absurdly addictive novel, one that is hard-hitting and, in places, incredibly hard to read. There are bent coppers, gangland criminals, teenage girls who are trying to escape sexual abuse and drug addiction at far too young an age - none of which make for pleasant reading half the time but lend a lot to the page-turning quality of not just Poison but all of Jacqui's books.

Poison can be read as a standalone novel but you may enjoy it more if you have previous knowledge of some of the characters, as events in previous books definitely contribute to what motivates them in this book. Poison is Jacqui's tenth book, the fourth book that I've read by her, and is just as addictive as the first one. I'm definitely going to go back and read the other books that I haven't and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for all of the characters, old and new.

Although I have very much enjoyed Poison - huge thanks to Avon for sending me a copy of the book, I have to end by saying that it won't be for everyone. There's mention of sexual abuse, drug use and addiction, and strong/graphic violence, but if you like hard-hitting thrillers with a dark edge to them, do try Jacqui's books. My recommendation would be to start with Taken if you can and then you can read the rest in any order you like.
Poison - Jacqui Rose
ISBN - 9780008366964
Publisher - Avon Books
Release Date - February 20th, 2020

Sunday 8 March 2020

The Neighbours - Nicola Gill

Meet Ginny, 34, and Cassie, 55. Neighbours, and (very) unlikely friends.

Some women have it all. Others are thirty-four, renting a tiny flat alone because they recently found their long-term boyfriend in bed with their boss. Unfortunately, the latter applies to Ginny Taylor. Single and jobless, Ginny is certain her life can’t get any worse. But then she encounters her downstairs neighbour for the very first time...

Cassie Frost is a woman who had it all – she was a once-loved actress, but a recent stint on reality TV has rocketed her to online infamy. She’s suddenly become a national hate figure – and she desperately needs a new publicist. And Ginny is a publicist who desperately needs a job... but can she be persuaded to work for the uber-difficult, excessively prickly woman that lives below her floorboards?

Because sometimes – just sometimes – bad neighbours become good friends...

A bit like family, you can't choose your neighbours. When you move somewhere new it's because you like the area, or because you love the house. Unfortunately, you don't get to interview prospective neighbours, which I think is a really big travesty, and this can be a recipe for disaster! 

Left reeling after a traumatic break-up with ex-boyfriend Jack, which left our heroine Ginny without a boyfriend and a job, she is reaching for the Twirl Bites like a madwoman in an effort to find herself again. The neighbour in question is Cassie Frost, actress and Jungle contestant, and who's recent antics mean she's found herself at rock bottom.

One is in her thirties and the other is in her fifties, you wouldn't think that they would have anything in common but Cassie and Ginny become the most unlikely of friends. Struggling to cope with being unemployed and the two French lovebirds who have replaced her former flat-mate, Ginny sees something in Cassie that most people don't - that she's human and just like any other person on the planet. The two women learn to accept each other through depression, job hunting, trouble with overwhelmed sisters and are two of the best aunts you could ask for.

There's no sugarcoating the problems each of the women has in their lives but we get to see it, warts and all, especially in Cassie's case. As an actress/celebrity, she's quite contemptuous of everyday life, especially where her sister is concerned, and her two out-of-control nephews. The best thing about The Neighbours is watching Ginny and Cassie both learning to accept themselves, learning to understand their sisters and families, and developing the most unlikely but most supportive friendship.

The Neighbours is a perfect weekend read if you're looking for something contemporary about women supporting each other, friendship, and romance. Any author who makes good use of Twirl Bites is a genius as far as I'm concerned, curled up with the bag Avon Books very kindly sent me with a copy of the book made for a perfect reading experience.

The Neighbours - Nicola Gill
ISBN - 9780008355395
Publisher - Avon Books
Release Date - February 6th, 2020

Wednesday 26 February 2020

Liar Liar - Mel Sharratt

When a young boy is thrown from a balcony in a block of flats, DS Grace Allendale witnesses the shocking aftermath of the tragic event. But despite everything, no one will admit to seeing who did it – and the parents will only tell the police that it was an accident.

Determined to bring the perpetrator to justice, Grace must sort the truth from the lies in a case that takes her into the darkest corners of the criminal world – and strikes closer to home than she could have ever imagined…

Liar Liar is the third installment in the DS Grace Allendale series, and after events in the previous two books, Grace is still working in the community rather than working with the Major Crimes Team. In fact, Grace is so much happier that she's asked to stay with the Community liaison team. Some of her former colleagues see this as a sidewards step in her career but if it means she's not exposed to the antics of her criminally active, estranged family - especially half-brothers Eddie & Leon, so much the better!

Liar Liar starts with quite possibly the most horrific accident you can think of, a young boy falls from a walkway one floor up and nobody is sure if the little boy will live or, even more horrible to contemplate, whether it really was an accident as the parents are both claiming. Harrison House is known to both Grace and her DC, Frankie Higgins, and the residents who live there are all claiming 'I saw nothing...' but is that because a certain person is putting pressure on them? It's up to Grace and Frankie to get to the bottom of things and find out who might want to hurt an innocent little boy, especially if that little boy dies.

Liar Liar (DS Grace Allendale #3) - Mel Sharratt
Publisher - Avon Books
Release date: Paperback - March 19th, 2020
                    : Kindle - February 10th, 2020

Sunday 23 February 2020

Perfect Kill - Helen Fields

He had never heard himself scream before. It was terrifying.
Alone, trapped in the darkness and with no way out, Bart Campbell knows that his chances of being found alive are slim.
Drugged and kidnapped, the realisation soon dawns that he’s been locked inside a shipping container far from his Edinburgh home. But what Bart doesn’t yet know is that he’s now heading for France where his unspeakable fate is already sealed…
DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are working on separate cases that soon collide as it becomes clear that the men and women being shipped to France are being traded for women trafficked into Scotland.
With so many lives at stake, they face an impossible task – but there’s no option of failure when Bart and so many others will soon be dead…
Perfect Kill is the sixth installment in the Callanach & Turner series, and one that I was very much looking forward to. Luc Callanach, half-French & half-Scotland with model good looks and a tarnished reputation, and Ava Turner, Scottish to the bone, privately educated, and loyal to a fault, are the dream team in the Edinburgh police force. They work incredibly well together, and their strengths complement each other to the point where if you're a criminal in their neck of the woods? Look out because they will find you...
The dynamic this time around is different though. Luc is back in his beloved France working on secondment with Interpol, whilst Ava remains in Scotland, working on what seem to be very different cases. At the end of the last book their 'will they won't they' situation was still very much in play. It's obvious to all, including themselves, that there is something between them but whether there will ever be a time for them to act on it remains to be seen. Ava is trying hard to put emotional distance between them, even sleeping with someone else, but when hit by some very hard news about her oldest and closest friend, it's Luc she turns to.
Perfect Kill is quite possibly the perfect crime novel. Illegal organ harvesting, human trafficking, inhumane 'races', kidnap, and prostitution, all of these are written with minute detail, and Helen Field doesn't hold back with the quite often graphic descriptions of these crimes. The research into these storylines shows clearly in Ms. Field's writing, and this combined with knowing that these are all things happening in the world today is what makes Perfect Kill a compelling and addictive read. 

Perfect Kill may be the sixth book in the series, but it works well on its own, and you don't need to have read the other books in the series. However, if you don't start with Perfect Remains and work your way through the rest you are missing out on some great writing, wonderful character development, and one of the best investigative teams I've read for a long time! More Callanach & Turner please, Helen Fields!

Perfect Kill (Callanach & Turner #6) - Helen Fields
ISBN - 9780008275242
Publisher - Avon
Release Date - February 6th, 2020

Thursday 12 December 2019

Shades Of Magic: The Steel Prince - V.E. Schwab & Budi Setiawan

Welcome to my stop on the blog for the stunning second volume of V.E. Schwab's Shades Of Magic: The Steel Prince graphic novel. Night Of Knives follows on from the first volume (a bindup of the first 4 issues) and once again features the outstanding artwork of Budi Setiawan. First though, a quick mention about Vol. 1 in the series!

In this first volume, we're introduced to Maxim Maresh - father of Rhy and adopted father of Kell. Maxim is Crown Prince and sent to a barracks on the far reaches of his father's rule to stop him researching magic. Little does Nokil, King of Arnes, realize but this might just be the making of Maxim and almost definitely not the end of his research into the magics that have separated all the Londons. There is a passage in A Conjuring Of Light that is mentioned at the front of Volume 1 where Maxim and his youth are mentioned, and this is where Shades Of Magic: The Steel Prince comes from. Maxim clashes with the Pirate Queen, aunt of one of his soldiers, and this forms the plot for the first four issues.

In Shades Of Magic: The Steel Prince - Knight Of Knives, Maxim is settling into both town and base but the soldiers under his command are struggling with the fact that he is the Crown Prince as well as their commanding officer. Desperate to do something to make the troops respect him, he foolishly listens when Isra tells him about the Night Of Knives, a competition held in four stages where competitors either don't complete all four stages or die trying.

I'm a huge fan of the Shades Of Magic novel series so I was thrilled to hear there would be a comic series about Maxim but sad to hear there would only be 12 issues (or 3 collections). I dove in with high hopes and wasn't disappointed. It was so good to fill in the background of Rhy and Kell's father, to see what he was like as a young mand and to gain some insight into his upbringing with his father.

I don't think you need to have read the Shades of Magic series to delve into The Steel Prince but some of the place names and characters may be a little confusing if you haven't already read about them. Antari is mentioned but the only way you would know what that meant is by having read the books.

The Steel Prince is a fast read, each 'issue' feels short but Schwab crams a lot into the storyline and is incredibly interpreted by Setiawan's illustrations. I'm now eagerly awaiting vol. 3 of The Steel Prince, The Rebel Army, which comes out in April next year. I think after that I'll be rereading A Darker Shade Of Magic, A Gathering Of Shadows, and A Conjuring Of Light to see how knowing Maxim's story changes anything. It might not but it's an excuse to reread the books.

If you want to, I reviewed A Darker Shade Of Magic way back in 2015 - feel free to check it out here!

Shades Of Magic: The Steel Prince Vol. 2 - Night Of Knives
V.E. Schwab, Budi Setiawan, Andrea Olimpieri, Enrica Eren Angiolini, Viviana Spinelli & Rob Steen
Publisher - Titan Comics
ISBN - 9781782762119
Release date - November 2019
Find - Goodreads

Thursday 11 July 2019

Come Back For Me - Heidi Perks

A shocking discovery. An island wrapped in secrets. You can bury the body but the truth will always surface...

A tiny island community is stunned by the discovery of a long-buried body.

For Stella Harvey, the news is doubly shocking. The body has been found in the garden of her childhood home - the home her family fled without explanation twenty-five years ago.

Now, questioning her past and desperate to unearth the truth, Stella returns to the isolated island. But she quickly finds that the community she left isn’t as welcoming as she remembers – and that people in it will go to any length to protect their secrets. One thing rings true…You can’t bury the truth forever.

Now You See Her was one of my favorite reads last year so I was very much looking forward to Come Back For Me. The synopsis sounded amazing, a remote island and a gloriously happy childhood don't sound like the things of nightmares but who knows what happens behind closed doors.

Stella, aged eleven, has had an idyllic childhood on the small island of Evergreen, but suddenly she and her older siblings, Danny and Bonnie, are being dragged away from the only home Stella has ever known in the middle of the night. At the age of eleven, the only thing Stella is worried about is whether she'll see her best friend Jill again and how unfair it is that they have to leave.

Fast forward twenty-five years and Evergreen Island is on the news. A body has been found. Not only that but where it's been found is on the perimeter of Stella's beloved childhood home, The Quay House. Leaving the island has fractured her family, her mother has died, her father is remarried and suffering from dementia, her sister is a mother and an alcoholic, and her brother Danny disappeared not long after they moved to the mainland. What Stella wants to know though is who is the body, and just why did they leave in the middle of a storm all those years ago.

Stella, now a family counsellor, makes the rash decision to return to the island to see if she can find out more about the body and maybe discover the truth behind their abrupt departure from their former home. Bonnie thinks this is quite possibly the worst idea Stella has ever had but it's not long before she is proved right. Somebody doesn't want Stella back on the island and it could be anybody. Her mother's best friend, the older lady who Stella's mother treated as a mother figure herself - Annie, Freya - the journalist who grew up on the island, Iona - Bonnie's best friend that last summer, anybody on the island!

Come Back For Me is told from two different points in time, 1993 and the present. We get to see Stella's family while they still were all together, and the present where we slowly uncover everything that has happened. Threatening notes start arriving and Stella genuinely becomes terrified that someone wants to kill her. It would appear that somebody will go to any lengths to keep the past very much in the past and that if there's a scapegoat to take the blame for the body, that will suit their purposes.

The tension of Come Back For Me starts on the first page and grips you all the way through to the very end. Some may find the pacing too slow and that it takes too long to get to the heart of the mystery but this is what I loved about the story. I was hooked all the way through though, I started reading at about 11pm and didn't put the book down until well after sunrise. It's incredibly atmospheric and almost Gothic in tone, the isolated island setting certainly added to this feeling as did the weather and the gloominess of the situation. I started trying to guess what had happened and who the body was but was left reeling by all of the revelations. I've never been so wrong about why something happened!

Come Back For Me is a superb follow-up to Now You See Me and Heidi's writing has proved yet again that she's one to watch. It's wonderfully written and has one of the most compelling and unique storyline's I've read this year. I can't wait to see what's next as Come Back For Me is going to be hard to beat!

Huge thanks to Rachel Kennedy & Century for a copy of the book, in exchange for an unbiased review. If you would like to read Come Back For Me it's out in hardback today and also available as an eBook. Find my review on Amazon here as well!

Come Back For Me - Heidi Perks

Publisher - Century
Release date: eBook - June 1st, Hardback, July 11th, 2019

About The Author

Heidi Perks lives by the sea in Bournemouth with her husband and two children.
Heidi graduated from Bournemouth University with a BA (Hons) in Retail Management, and then enjoyed a career in Marketing before leaving in 2012 to focus on both bringing up her family and writing.
Heidi successfully applied for a place on the inaugural Curtis Brown Creative online Novel Writing Course and after that dedicated her time to completing her first novel, Beneath The Surface.
She has a huge interest in what makes people tick and loves to write about family relationships, especially where some of the characters are slightly dysfunctional. 
Her second novel, Now You See Her was published by Century, part of the Penguin Random House group in 2018 and became a Sunday Times Bestseller and Richard and Judy book club pick. 
Her third novel Come Back For Me is out July 2019 and she is now writing her fourth to be released in 2020. Follow Heidi on Twitter here!

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