Book Review: Expecting Sunshine by Alexis Marie Chute.

Happy Hump day everyone!  I hope your week is going well so far, and that the weekend doesn’t feel too far away.  For tonights blog post, I am reviewing Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy after Loss by Alexis Marie Chute.  So what’s the book about?

expecting sunshineAfter her son, Zachary, dies in her arms at birth, visual artist and author Alexis Marie Chute disappears into her -Year of Distraction.- She cannot paint or write or tap into the heart of who she used to be, mourning not only for Zachary, but also for the future they might have had together. It is only when Chute learns she is pregnant again that she sets out to find healing and rediscover her identity–just in time, she hopes, to welcome her next child. In the forty weeks of her pregnancy, Chute grapples with her strained marriage, shaken faith, and medical diagnosis, with profound results. Glowing with riveting and gorgeous prose, Expecting Sunshine chronicles the anticipation and anxiety of expecting a baby while still grieving for the child that came before–enveloping readers with insightful observations on grief and healing, life and death, and the incredible power of a mother’s love.

From the first page, Chute’s ability and talent as a writer is evident.  She has an incredible way with language, not only perfectly describing the feeling she is attempting to convey or present the image she is attempting to conjure, but doing so in a linguistically beautiful way.  You can tell she is an artist: this book is her canvas, and each word is a masterful brush stroke.  Chute deals with some incredibly large and complex emotions, but presents them in a relatable way.  As you read, you feel every emotion she feels: her profound sense of loss and her yearning for a sense of peace, her fears and worries, the moments of joy and sorrow.  It is an emotional rollercoaster, but one I am glad I rode.

The word brave is thrown around all too often these days, but that is the only word I can use to adequately describe Chute for writing this book: Brave.  She bares her soul for the reader to see, in its sometimes raw and ugly form, and details what she felt and what she thought, with total honesty.  It is evident as a reader that this process was often difficult for her, but also extremely cathartic.  I have been lucky in my life as I have not suffered the level of loss which Chute has, but I can see clearly how incredibly helpful this book would be to someone who has.

As a mother, I related a lot to much of what Chute says, particularly when discussing the internal struggle between your identity as a parent, and your own sense of self.  As someone who is in full time employment, a writer, a blogger, a wife and a mother, I often feel myself being torn in a dozen different directions, and find myself struggling with maintaining my own identity.  When one prioritises their own hobbies, their own passions, it means losing out on moments with your children and that can often lead to guilt.  But during Chute’s journey of self discovery, she learns and emphasises the importance of retaining your own sense of self, and finding ways to express yourself and who you are as an individual, not just as a member of a family unit, something I too discovered after suffering with post natal depression.

This book is one of sorrow and loss, but most prominently, it is one of hope.  And that is the prevailing emotion one feels once you finish the final chapter: Hope.  Overall, I highly recommend this book, particularly if you have experienced a loss in your life with which you are currently struggling.


Book Review: A Festival of Trial and Ember by Logan Miehl.

Happy Hump day everyone! For today’s blog post, I will be reviewing ‘A Festival of Trial and Ember‘ by Logan Miehl, part one of what will no doubt be an epic fantasy featuring fairies, battles and creatures which lurk in the shadows.  So what’s it about?  Let’s check out the trusted blurb:

festival picA dangerous summer festival. A throne left empty. A forgotten world of faeries in a time of shadow and treason. Róisín, 17-years-old, is biding her time till graduation. When the shadows around her come to life, she discovers no one else can see these strange creatures except her and her brother. Desperate for answers, she embarks on a journey into the Otherworld—a land beneath Ireland where faeries live as the descendants of ancient Celtic gods. As Róisín struggles to survive, she realizes her decisions could alter the fate of an entire Kingdom. The Festival of Trial and Ember is the first book in the compelling new Faerie Festival Series. There are games to win, promises to break, and hearts to conquer. The Celtic summer festival of Lughnasa has begun.

The book follows a familiar format: a young teenage girl, thrust into a world she did not know existed, fighting for survival.  This template has been tried and tested, and let’s face it, it works.  You see the fairies and their world for the first time, through the main character’s eyes, and you learn about their ways as she does.  The premise is introduced really well, with the action starting almost immediately, and I found myself gripped from the first page.  It builds well, and contains the right amount of action and threat to keep you turning the pages.  I was slightly disappointed by the abrupt ending, but it’s clear that this is just part one of this adventure, so realistically, it probably couldn’t have ended any other way.

As a Celt myself, I really enjoyed reading about legends I learned about as a child, as well as discovering some new ones.  I also loved that the characters had traditionally spelt, and pronounced, Irish names.  The creatures and the fairies again are familiar, but Logan presents them in a new way.  With each chapter beginning with a quote from historical books about such legends, presented almost as facts taken from a text book, it gives the story and the legends within a certain amount of believability and credibility, as if this world could truly exist unbeknownst to myself and my fellow humans.

The characters are well rounded and believable.  I will be honest though, Roisin kind of irritated me for much of the book, acting like a petulant child a lot of the time, but she discovers who she is, finds her stride and becomes pretty badass towards the end.  I look forward to reading the following books and seeing her as a more confident young adult rather than a teenager with an attitude.

Overall, I found the book really entertaining, and at points, I couldn’t put it down!  I definitely recommend it for any fans of fantasy and Young Adult fiction, and I will 100% be reading the following books in the series.


Book Review: Death Row by Christian Sterling.

deathrowFor tonight’s blog post, I am reviewing Death Row, a novella by Christian Sterling.  The book follows Charles Colter, an inmate at Greenwood Federal Penitentiary, during his final days at the prison.  Charles is an artist, happiest when he is able to pour himself onto a canvas, and through his art and internal monologue, we see inside a man desperately trying to make peace with his life; the decisions he has made in the past which have led to this point, as well as the uncertainty of his future.

I hate reviews which include spoilers, so I will try to give my opinion on the novella without ruining it for anyone.  I will say this though, there is a twist which I never saw coming and one which I found slightly disappointing at first, but perhaps that’s the sadist in me.

Anyway, to the review:  Charles is a well developed, believable and most importantly likeable character.  For much of the book, the reader is unaware of what he did to deserve his stint in prison, something which should be of importance, but instead you find yourself liking Charles too much to care about what he did to deserve punishment.  I like the Charles we see now, introspective and regretful, so I’m not bothered about the Charles whose decisions led him to that prison cell.  In a nut shell, Sterling is great at character development.

Despite most of the book lacking any ‘action’ per say (bar one sadistic shiv wielding prisoner), being very much grounded in reality in all of it’s brilliant boredom, the storyline is genuine and compelling enough to keep you reading.  All of it takes place in a routine, a pattern from which Charles wishes he could escape, and his yearning for colour in a world of beige not only makes Charles a relatable character, but also means that simple and often overlooked details, become something beautiful and interesting.  Sterling’s attention to detail is outstanding and allows the reader to paint a vivid image in their minds.

My only negative, which I have alluded to at the beginning, is perhaps the book’s message is a little too optimistic for me.  I do however think that’s more to do with myself and my own cynical view of the world than an actual issue with what is, overall, an incredibly well written book.  I definitely recommend this as a quick and interesting read.

The Season by Sarah Maclean: A Book Review.

Hey fellow Bookworms!  It’s almost the weekend, when we can read as late as we like without fear of an early start the next day.  For tonight’s post, I am reviewing ‘The Season‘ by Sarah Maclean.  For those of you who follow my blog, you have seen that this was the book chosen for January’s The Letter’s Lit subscription (If you fancy seeing all of the bookish goodies I received as part of that subscription, check a couple of posts back).  So what is it about?  Let’s check our friend, the blurb:

theseasonSeventeen year old Lady Alexandra is strong-willed and sharp-tongued; in a house full of older brothers and their friends, she had to learn to hold her own. Not the best makings for an aristocratic lady in Regency London. Yet her mother still dreams of marrying Alex off to someone safe, respectable, and wealthy. But between ball gown fittings, dances, and dinner parties, Alex, along with her two best friends, Ella and Vivi, manages to get herself into what may be her biggest scrape yet.

When the Earl of Blackmoor is mysteriously killed, Alex decides to help his son, the brooding and devilishly handsome Gavin, uncover the truth. But will Alex’s heart be stolen in the process? In an adventure brimming with espionage, murder, and other clandestine affairs, who could possibly have time to worry about finding a husband? Romance abounds as this year’s season begins!

I am going to start with a couple of things, which although very minor, I found irritated me greatly whilst reading ‘The Season.’  The first is a phrase, used at least a dozen times per chapter, ‘Whispered conspiratorially.’  Every character spoke this way in almost every conversation, and it got to the point where I thought I had just invented a new drinking game: have a shot every time you read that phrase and you will find yourself hammered by Chapter 2! Honestly it was just beaten to death and I found it bugged me.  Again, this is very minor, but something worth raising nonetheless.

The second thing, is the dozens upon dozens of references to Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice…I get it!  This was the inspiration for the book, but stop with the name dropping.  In fact, take out the whole spy bit, and this book is pretty much a facsimile of Pride and Prejudice, just not as good.  Smart, ambitious young woman who refuses to marry?  Check.  Handsome, wealthy, male love interest who is stubborn and proud?  Check.  A series of misunderstandings which create that will they, won’t they question for the main part of the book?  Check.  Happy ending where they finally end up together? Check.  Early 19th century setting complete with balls and manor houses?  Check.  There is even a rogue male character and an overbearing pushy mum.

Saying that, the book is fun, lighthearted and entertaining.  Obviously Maclean could never reach the dizzying heights set by Austen, but if you are a fan of Austen or classic Romance literature in general, I think you will like this as well.  The defiant young women leading the charge are well rounded characters, along with the men who constantly underestimate them.  The Spy storyline offers enough suspense and adventure to keep you interested, and although it’s a fairly predictable read, it is also an entertaining one.  And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a bit of Romance?

Overall, I would recommend it if you fancy something fun and frothy, perhaps as your holiday beach read.

Roomies by Christina Lauren: A Book Review.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Roomies by Christina Lauren in my December edition of The Bookish Box, so of course I had to read and review it!  First of all, what is it about?

roomiesRescued by Calvin McLoughlin from a would-be subway attacker, Holland Bakker pays the brilliant musician back by pulling some of her errand-girl strings and getting him an audition with a big-time musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until he admits his student visa has expired and he’s in the country illegally.

Holland impulsively offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, her growing infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers, Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway. In the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realise that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

First of all, full disclosure: I don’t tend to read what I would term as ‘chick lit.’  The romance novels I read are classical literature, and modern romance novels have never interested me before, so I started reading this thinking it wouldn’t be my cup of tea.  But, surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed it!  The story line is fun and interesting, with enough ups and downs and dramas to keep you glued to the pages from start to finish.  I genuinely couldn’t put it down at points!

The main characters are likeable and believable, and Calvin, the male love interest sounds quite frankly sexy as hell!!  Yes, the book is predictable, and (spoilers) it’s no surprise they end up together at the end, but you do find yourself rooting for them from the beginning, and feeling a little nervous whenever they hit a bump in their already rocky road!  The sex scenes are even decent, and pretty raunchy at that.

This book has humour, drama, love and sex and it is a genuinely entertaining read from start to finish!  The perfect holiday read, I recommend it if you fancy something fun and lighthearted.

The Sacrifice by Alec Caruso: A Book Review.

Hey everyone…I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward now to a great New Year!  I was spoiled rotten!  Santa brought me lots of wonderful bookish goodies, I got to spend time with loved ones, I ate far far too much and I even got some time to sit and read, one of my favourite things to do!  What did I read you ask?  The Sacrifice a debut novel by Alec Caruso, the pen name of the very talented writing team Rachel Mehal and Keith Bruton.  To find out more about them, and purchase your own copy, head to Amazon and their website.

So what is the book about?

sacrificeLondon, England. Dr Ted Conway has committed suicide. A case that should be easily closed.

After a forced break, Detective Inspector Reo Yoshima is thrust back into work, overseeing the the suicide of Dr Ted Conway, only to discover that things with this case is not what it seems to be. Trying to determine the unforeseeable truths from hidden lies, clues start finding their way together. As the case begins to unravel, it forces Yoshima into a whirlwind of discoveries, sending her to Cologne, Germany.

At first, I found the book slightly disjointed.  It cuts between the aforementioned Detective Rei Yoshima in London, to detectives in Germany, a couple with fertility troubles in London and news bulletins about the Syrian refugee crisis with no apparent connection or Segway.  There is also the fact that the reader’s perspective shifts between so many characters, in London and Cologne, that sometimes it can get confusing. However, slowly, the seemingly disconnected chapters link in to each other, and all of the pieces come together to form one big picture.

This is also when the book begins to pick up pace as well as increase in action and excitement.  It was definitely worth reading through to this stage, and the final chapters certainly tick all of the necessary boxes you want from a crime thriller…Guns?  Check.  Fight scenes?  Check.  Murder and kidnap?  Check and check.  It will certainly satisfy even the most fussy of thriller fans.

It also likes to keep you on your toes, and have you guessing at who is involved in the overarching conspiracy.  I don’t like to write a review with spoilers but I will say that, whilst I guessed who was good and who was bad early on, I was unaware of their motivations until the big finale and I always love a twist I didn’t see coming, so points for that.

The lead character is very real, strong but fragile, broken but trying to mend, she is likeable and believable, and more importantly she is badass.  I hate weak and wobbly female leads, and Rei Yoshima could never be accused of either of those flaws.   However, I was frustrated with a lack of revelations about her past.  Although certain small titbits were revealed, it’s very sketchy, and although I understand this is the first in a series and the reader is meant to wait until the proceeding books to find it out, I still would have liked more.

The one negative I have to raise, and I am very aware of my own issues in this area, is the grammatical errors throughout the book.  I am not the best speller, but even I spotted these glaring mistakes.  At one point an entire paragraph is repeated, accidentally printed twice.  A minor thing really, but it bugged me a bit. Saying that, if in a review, the only big criticism you have is with the spelling, then it must be a pretty good book!

Overall, I think it’s a very entertaining crime novel, which would be a great holiday read or something to pick up for a long journey or on the commute to work, perfect for any crime fiction fan.  So give it a read, and let me know what you think!




The End of Temperance Dare: A Book Review.

Hello readers!  If you have been following my blog recently, you will see I received a book subscription box by the fabulous people at the Once Upon a Book Club Box.  It’s finally time to review the box’s book The End of Temperance Dare by Wendy Webb and also review the box itself!  First up, the book…So what’s it about?

photo 6

When Eleanor Harper becomes the director of a renowned artists’ retreat, she knows nothing of Cliffside Manor’s dark past as a tuberculosis sanatorium, a “waiting room for death.” After years of covering murder and violence as a crime reporter, Eleanor hopes that being around artists and writers in this new job will be a peaceful retreat for her as much as for them.
But from her first fog-filled moments on the manor’s grounds, Eleanor is seized by a sense of impending doom and realizes there’s more to the institution than its reputation of being a haven for creativity. After the arrival of the new fellows–including the intriguing, handsome photographer Richard Banks–she begins to suspect that her predecessor chose the group with a dangerous purpose in mind. As the chilling mysteries of Cliffside Manor unravel and the eerie sins of the past are exposed, Eleanor must fight to save the fellows–and herself–from sinister forces.

I loved the way the book brought together the past and the present, revealing just enough about both in order to carry the story along, keeping you interested but not revealing too much.  It ticks all of the necessary horror boxes: A large, historical building where lots of people died?  Tick.  Unpredictable weather which cuts off the people within from the outside world?  Tick.  Members of staff which clearly know more than they’re letting on?  Tick.  A group of apparent strangers brought together by unknown forces for nefarious means?  Tick.  It practically writes itself.  Was it scary?  Sadly not, but that may have more to do with my tolerance levels for all things grotesque and horrifying than the writing itself.  I rarely find books scary.  But it certainly is atmospheric, with Webb creating enough suspense to keep you coming back for more.  Certain aspects of it were predictable, and I worked out one of the twists from the start.  But the ending was very original and I genuinely didn’t see it coming.  In fact, she managed one of those rare and awesome writing moments when the reader gets to the ending, is surprised by it, and then finds themselves going over the book in their mind, realising they had missed so many clues.  I respect any writer who can manage that!

I have a few small criticisms.  First, the whole incident is kind of ’rounded off’ at the end, book boxand it feels rushed.  I personally think a few additional chapters would have provided a satisfactory conclusion for the reader without losing them.  I also think that it could have done with a little more carnage.  I don’t want to give many spoilers, but victims are put into a shocked, catatonic state, literally paralysing them with fear, when perhaps, I would have just killed them off.  But again, maybe that’s just me and my love of the dreadful.

Overall, I found this book thoroughly entertaining.  I looked forward to settling into bed with it each night, and at certain points, I genuinely couldn’t put it down.  I definitely recommend it of you fancy something on the spooky side.

photo 1What about the box itself?  In a word: AWESOME!  If you missed my previous posts, the Once Upon a Book Club Box is not your average book subscription box.  Along with a great book, you get a selection of gifts, all of which are individually and lovingly wrapped, and marked with a page number.  Once you reach the right page, you open your gift marked with that particular page number and inside you find a surprise which is tailored to that part of the book.

If you have the box, and haven’t opened all of your gifts yet, stop reading now because there are spoilers ahead!  Obviously, my gifts were tailored to The End of Temperance Dare.  At one moment in the book, the main character takes a long and much needed bath containing bath salts, so when I opened my gift, I found some sweet smelling bath salts just for me!  At another point in the book, the main character finds herself so engrossed in what she is doing, she loses time, and is amazed photo 4to look at the clock and find much more time has passed than she thought.  When I opened my gift, I found a super cute clock!  When the main character opens a letter, I too get my very own copy of that letter.  When makeup is applied within the story, I opened my gift to find my very own set of makeup brushes, and finally, as the main character writes in her diary, I open my own pen, with one of Macbeth’s most memorable lines inscribed on it, ‘By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes.’  It’s very obvious how much thought and effort has gone behind each and every gift choice.  Even the way in which they are wrapped and labelled is so beautifully and carefully considered.  I found that each gift helped immerse me in the story, and they became a photo 3little goal for reading, some exciting little surprise to reach before I put down the book for the evening.  It was like a box that kept on giving.  Unlike other subscription boxes, where you open and see everything at once, this one lasts as long as you want it to so you feel like you are really getting value for money.  I know some people can’t resist, and open all of the gifts at once (and I can’t deny I was tempted) but I was glad I kept them all as a surprise because each one genuinely put a smile on my face when I got to open them.  In a nut shell- I loved it!  And I definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for a bookish subscription box.  If you decide to give it a go, you can get 10% off with my exclusive discount code MARIE10.