The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

No. of pages: 305
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Lou Suffern is practised in the art of concealment. He is, also, always overstretched, trying to do too many things at once. His overburdened schedule gives him few moments of peace, even in his sleep. And when he spends time at home with his wife and family, he is always distracted, and, mentally, somewhere else. On a cold winter morning, Lou is on his way to work when he encounters Gabe, a homeless street dweller, sitting outside an office building. Lou is intrigued by him, and contrives to get him a job in the post room. But this act of charity rebounds on him, and Gabe’s presence begins to grate on Lou - particularly when he discovers that the latter seems capable of being in two places at the same time. Christmas is drawing near, and before the season is over, Lou’s life will be irrevocably change by the casual act of kindness he has performed.

Review: Lou Suffern is a very busy business man, so busy in fact he's completely lost touch with his family, even his wife and children. On the way to work one morning, Lou meets Gabe, the homeless man that lives outside his work building. Gabe tries to helps Lou wake up and realise what he's missing, but Lou doesn't like what he's seeing...

I really enjoyed this, and thought it was a lovely book to read over Christmas. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the characters evolved and how it would completely change the family dynamic each time. I liked the moral message incorporated into the story to spend your time wisely as you can never get it back or change what you've done in the past. Would recommend to fans of Ahern's or chick-lit books, it's something to enjoy, but will also make you think too.

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

No. of pages: 312
Rating: 3/10

Synopsis: As a young woman, Roseanne McNulty was one of the most beautiful and beguiling girls in County Sligo, Ireland. Now, as her hundredth year draws near, she is a patient at Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital, and she decides to record the events of her life.

As Roseanne revisits her past, hiding the manuscript beneath the floorboards in her bedroom, she learns that Roscommon Hospital will be closed in a few months and that her caregiver, Dr. Grene, has been asked to evaluate the patients and decide if they can return to society. Roseanne is of particular interest to Dr. Grene, and as he researches her case he discovers a document written by a local priest that tells a very different story of Roseanne’s life than what she recalls. As doctor and patient attempt to understand each other, they begin to uncover long-buried secrets about themselves.

Review: When the psychiatric hospital where Dr Grene works and Roseanne is a patient is due to be torn down, Dr Grene must assess all of the patients to see if they can be relocated back to the outside world. He becomes particularly fascinated with Roseanne and her story, and goes out of his way to find out why she was admitted to the hospital, but his actions bring to light unexpected secrets and revelations...

This book was such a disappointment. Before starting it, I read over the back cover again, to refresh my memory with what the story was about, and guessed what the big plot reveal would be before I had even started, and the sad thing is, I was correct! The story is so slow going, I thought after an incredibly slow start it would pick up, but the story plods along all throughout the book, flicking between Roseanne and Dr Grene. Another thing that annoyed me was that Roseanne was telling the story of her life, and Dr Grene was finding things out that were completely different, and you never find out which of the two is correct. Overall, I thought it had loads of potential, but it was too slow and too obvious, and was a complete let down.

The Keeper by Natasha Mostert

No. of pages: 388
Rating: 9/10

Synopsis: Mia Lockhart has a secret. Her mother was a keeper, as was her grandmother - women who were warriors, healers and protectors. And when a mysterious man enters her life, she puts this to the test. Adrian Ashton is a brilliant scientist - and a killer. With the aid of an ancient Chinese text, he has mastered the art of capturing the chi of his opponents - the vital energy that flows through their bodies. Mia finds herself drawn to his dark genius. But when he targets the man with whom she is falling in love, she is forced to choose between them. Soon it becomes a fight to the death in which love is both the greatest weakness - and the greatest prize.

Review: Mia is a Keeper - a healer and protector of the fighters in her care. That is until Adrian Ashton suddenly shows up. She's never met him before, but she feels connected to him in some elemental way and it scares her. But when she finds out what he does, and that he's after the man she's falling in love with, she must fight Ash to protect everything she cares about...

This was a really interesting read for me, I liked how the author took martial arts, tattooing, chinese medicine, spirituality, love, life, death and rolled it all into one great read. Being as the killer is revealed on the back cover and right from the beginning, I wasn't sure how the story was going to pan out, but it still held a few surprises that I wasn't expecting and I never felt like it was boring or dragging at any point, in fact the combination of all the different elements kept the whole book easy to read and enjoyable. Would really recommend this book, it's something a bit different and refreshing to read, and you can even learn something along the way.

The Hundredth Man by Jack Kerley

No. of pages: 499
Rating: 6/10
Series: Carson Ryder (Book 1)

Synopsis: A body is found in the sweating heat of an Alabama night; headless, words inked on the skin. Detective Carson Ryder is good at this sort of thing - crazies and freaks. To his eyes it is no crime of passion, and when another mutilated victim turns up his suspicions are confirmed. This is not the work of a 'normal' murderer, but that of a serial killer, a psychopath. Famous for solving a series of crimes the year before, Carson Ryder has experience with psychopaths. But he had help with that case - strange help, from a past Ryder is trying to forget. Now he needs it again. When the truth finally begins to dawn, it shines on an evil so twisted, so dangerous, it could destroy everything that he cares about...

Review: When men start turning up dead with their heads missing, Carson Ryder and his partner are called in. But they need help to solve the mystery, and the help they need has to come from Ryder's very ugly past...

I didn't find this as enjoyable as the book I've read futher into the series, and I don't know whether it was because the storyline was just too slow for my tastes, or whether this book just wasn't up to par as it was his debut novel. The writing itself was really easy to read, and enjoyable in that respect, but I felt the story was so slow moving, the action only happening in the last 60 or so pages in a 500 page book. I liked the characters though, I thought they were well fleshed out and it was easy to get to know them. I will carry on reading this series as I know that it does get better several books down the line, I just wasn't feeling it with this one.

Girls Of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

No. of pages: 300
Rating: 9/10

Synopsis: Gamrah's faith in her new husband is not exactly returned. Sadeem is a little too willing to please her fiance. Michelle is half-American and the wrong class for her boyfriend's family. While Lamees works hard with little time for love. The girls of Riyadh are young, attractive and living by Saudi Arabia's strict cultural traditions. Well, not quite. In-between sneaking out behind their parents backs, dating, shopping, watching American TV and having fun, they're still trying to be good little Muslim girls. That is, pleasing their families and their men. But can you be a twenty-first century girl and a Saudi girl?

Review: This is the story of 6 years in the life of four friends ~ Gamrah, Sadeem, Michelle and Lamees. Following their stories of trying to fall in love and get married whilst sticking to their strict cultural rules, which doesn't make it easy for them at all. Covering issues such as divorce, infidelity, pregnancy, love before marriage and being an independent woman in a male dominated culture, this book, although fiction, is written by a Saudi Arabian woman giving insight to culture so different from our own.

This book was not what I was expecting at all, but it was a great surprise. It is essentially a chick-lit book set in a culture far different from our own, and so the situtations and problems the characters faced were not ones we would necessarily face. For example, if we fall in love with someone, we have the freedom of our own choice to do what we want, no one can stop us. However, if it happens in Saudia Arabia, it has to be in secret unless the male asks for the female's hand in marriage, and even then it's usually only with his family's permission. It was really interesting to read about the culture, although it was hard to imagine such a strict life because the way we live is so completely different. It was a great read though, and something I'd recommend to people interested in other religions or cultures.

A Winter Book by Tove Jansson

No. of pages: 205
Rating: 2/10

Synopsis: Following the widely acclaimed and bestselling The Summer Book, here is a Winter Book collection of some of Tove Jansson's best loved and most famous stories. Drawn from youth and older age, and spanning most of the twentieth century, this newly translated selection provides a thrilling showcase of the great Finnish writer's prose, scattered with insights and home truths. The Winter Book features 13 stories from Tove Jansson's first book for adults, The Sculptor's Daughter plus 7 of her most cherished later stories.

Review: A book of 20 short stories, written from the perspective of a young girl growing up in Finland.

I really did not enjoy this in the slightest, in fact I really struggled to read it, because I found it so incredibly boring. Granted it has lovely descriptions of the Finnish coastline, but that's about the only positive thing I can say. I found it quite confusing that random characters would pop up, but there was never anything to tell you who they actually were or where they came from. I'm interested by reading one of the Moomin books by this author, but wont bother reading any of her other fictional books.

Night's Edge by Maggie Shayne/Barbara Hambly/Charlaine Harris

No. of pages: 377
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Three new stories in one delicious volume of horror and romance.

Her Best Enemy by Maggie Shayne
Kiley Brigham refuses to believe there's a ghost in her house, but when an unseen hand leaves a bloody message on her bathroom mirror, she's forced to turn to local psychic Jack McCain. As the two work to uncover a long-buried secret, Kiley finds that she's haunted not by spirits, but by thoughts of Jack...

Someone Else's Shadow by Barbara Hambly
Maddie Laveau worries about her young roommate, Tessa, when she stays late to practice ballet in the old Glendower Building...and when Tessa goes missing, Maddie enlists mysterious tenant Phil Anderson to help. But is Phil the white knight she needs, or the predator she fears?

Dancers In The Dark by Charlaine Harris
Layla LaRue LeMay is no ordinary dancer - her partner, Sean McClendon, is a three-hundred-year-old redheaded vampire. So when Layla Rue acquires a stalker, she's forced to face the music...and wonder if this will finally be her last dance.

Review: Night's Edge is a book of 3 short stories about supernatural romance. I really enjoyed Her Best Enemy and Dancers In The Dark, but didn't really think much of Someone Else's Shadow. Her Best Enemy was pretty creepy, and I really enjoyed the ghost aspect of the story, but the romance aspect was predictable as they always are in romance books. Dancers In The Dark was about vampires, so I knew I would love it, the fact it's set in the Sookie universe made it that much better, as I already knew the references to such things as The Fellowship Of The Sun. The story itself was enjoyable, I liked the characters and thought she wrote them really well. I found Someone Else's Shadow pretty boring though, I felt like it was dragging on even though it was only a short story. I didn't much care for the characters and thought it was silly how they loved each other after only a handful of meetings. The ghost aspect of the story was the best bit about it, although I didn't much like that either. I probably wouldn't bother reading anything by Barbara Hambly again if this short story is anything to go on. I'll certainly be looking into reading more by Maggie Shayne though, and would recommend this book to fans of Charlaine's if only to read her short story!

Soul Eater by Michelle Paver

No. of pages: 257
Rating: 8/10
Series: Chronicles Of Ancient Darkness (Book 3)

Synopsis: The ice bear twisted its head on its long neck and snarled: a deep reverberating thunder that shook the ice. It locked eyes with Torak - and the world fell away. It's winter, and Wolf, Torak's beloved pack-brother, has been captured by an unknown foe. In a desperate bid to rescue him, Torak and Renn must brave the frozen wilderness of the Far North. Soul Eater is a haunting story of loyalty and loss, and a chilling portrayal of the nature of evil. It carries you back to the flickering torchlight of the ancient world, and leads you on the next step of the perilous journey which began with Wolf Brother and Spirit Walker.

Review: Whilst out hunting with Renn, somebody snatches Wolf, and takes him to the Far North. Torak cannot abandon his pack brother, so they follow through unknown territory, but can they make it in time to save Wolf?

Again, another fantastic addition to the series. I'm really enjoying these books, you can tell the amount of research the author has done because it's so realistically detailed for that time. The stories have started to get darker in tone as Torak and Renn get closer to fighting the Soul Eaters, and with the end of every book, you never know where the next one will go, so it's always unexpected and interesting. A really enjoyable series so far, and I'm already thinking ahead and wondering what will happen in the last book, so I cannot wait to read the next three and find out!

Spirit Walker by Michelle Paver

No. of pages: 275
Rating: 8/10
Series: Chronicles Of Ancient Darkness (Book 2)

Synopsis: As the Moon of No Dark waxes large, the clans fall prey to a horrifying sickness. Fear stalks the Forest. No one knows the cause—and only Torak can find the cure.

His quest takes him across the sea to the mysterious islands of the Seal Clan. Here, Torak battles an unseen menace and uncovers a betrayal that will change his life—forever.

Review: When people from all the clans start falling sick, Torak goes off in search of a cure. After ending up on the Seal Clan island, he finds out about a lot of things that have been hidden from him, and fights to stop the sickness...

This was a great continuation of the series, again jam packed with a great storyline and lots of action. I liked the fact that Torak had grown up a bit more in this book, and I was very pleased to see the return of my favourite characters from the first book. I liked the introduction of the Seal Clan and their ways which are so different to the Clans we read about in Wolf Brother. A really enjoyable series so far, and I'm eager to read more!

Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver

No. of pages: 233
Rating: 8/10
Series: Chronicles Of Ancient Darkness (Book 1)

Synopsis: 6,000 years in the past, twelve-year-old Torak and his guide, a wolf cub, set out on a dangerous journey to fulfill an oath the boy made to his dying father - to travel to the Mountain of the World Spirit seeking a way to destroy a demon-possessed bear that threatens all the clans.

Review: With his father on his death bed, Torak promises him he'll go to the Mountain of the World Spirit for help with destroying the bear than killed him. But having never been alone before, the journey is a lot tougher than Torak imagines...

This was a really enjoyable book, and I am definitely going to continue reading the series. Paver does an amazing job of taking you back to times when people wore animal pelts, and hunted with arrows, and even the language has been thoroughly thought out. The storyline itself keeps you interested with the twists the whole way through, and even though this is written for YA, this is definitely something that can be enjoyed by adults. I would definitely recommend it!

Home by Nicola Davies

No. of pages: 259
Rating: 4/10

Synopsis: It's 2067 and the world has become virtually uninhabitable with all the pollution and toxins created by mankind. Ruling classes live holed up in the cities and workers live in Stations, safe from the outside world. But one day Station 27 is taken over by rebels. Nero, from the ruling classes, and Sacks, a worker, find themselves thrown together as they're captured by the rebels, their common enemy. As they begin to discover the terrifying truth about their world, the two children get separated and find themselves in great danger. Will they find each other before it is too late?

Review: All of the workers have been told that the outside world is harmful, and so everyone stays inside the glass domes where they work and sleep. Except for Sacks. When she goes out and realises it's not actually harmful, it sets in motion a massive set of events, which leads to something Sacks could never have dreamed of...

This wasn't as good as I was expecting it to be, which is a bit of a shame. The storyline was okay, the characters were okay, but nothing was ever more than okay. An easy read with an interesting concept which could have been so much more than it was. The way they talked was really annoying, the workers who were meant to be the lower class had chavvy London accents, and the rulers all spoke perfect english, which just seemed like such a stupid stereotype. Not something I'd bother recommending.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

No. of pages: 171
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: In Coraline's family's new flat there's a locked door. On the other side is a brick wall - until Coraline unlocks the door and finds a passage to another flat in another house just like her own.

Only different...

The food is better there. Books have pictures that writhe and crawl and shimmer. And there's another mother and father there who want Coraline to be their little girl. They want to change her and keep her with them...Forever.

Review: Coraline finds a strange door in her new house, and when she goes through it, she's taken to another world where there's another mother and father. But the other mother doesn't want Coraline to leave, in fact, she'll do everything she can to keep her...

I've been wanting to read this for a long time, and I wasn't disappointed. I was surprised by how creepy it was though considering it's aimed at 10+ year old kids, it certainly would have scared me at that age. The storyline was great, I really enjoyed it and I thought it flowed really well, and even though it is a children's book, it's definitely one you can still enjoy reading as an adult. I've heard lots of things about Gaiman and his writing, and I was impressed by what I read, so I will certainly be going on to read other books by him that I'm interested in, and now I really want to watch the Coraline movie!

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

No. of pages: 607
Rating: 9/10

Synopsis: Toru Okada's cat has disappeared and this has unsettled his wife, who is herself growing more distant every day. Then there are the increasingly explicit telephone calls he has started receiving. As this compelling story unfolds, the tidy suburban realities of Okada's vague and blameless life - spent cooking, reading, listening to jazz and opera and drinking beer at the kitchen table - are turned inside out, and he embarks on a bizarre journey, guided (however obscurely) by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.

Review: When Toru and Kumiko's cat disappears it's the start of a very bizarre journey for Toru. The people he meets are varied and interesting, but can they help him find what he's looking for?

I loved this book, it was such a refreshing change from anything I've ever read before. Obviously the Japanese culture is quite different to ours here, and I loved the mysticism of the spirits and being able to move out of your body for a period of time. The characters were my favourite aspect of the story, they were so random and quite bizarre at times, but they were great fun to read about and get to know. In particular my favourites were Creta Kano, May Kasahara and Cinnamon Akasaka, although I really did feel like each character brought something important to the story. My only dislikes were that it was a tad too long, and it felt like I was reading it forever and seemingly never making progress, and also that some of the longer memory passages were a bit too long too, and I found myself losing concentration a bit. But other than that, it was a fantastic book, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking to read something a bit different.

Tempted by P.C. & Kristin Cast

No. of pages: 319
Rating: 7/10
Series: House Of Night (Book 6)

Synopsis: Zoey needs a break after some serious excitement. Sadly, the House of Night school for vampyres doesn't feature breaks on its curriculum - even for a High Priestess in training and her gang. Plus juggling three guys is no stress reliever, especially when one is a sexy Warrior so into protecting Zoey that he's sensing her emotions. Wider stresses lurk too, and the dark force in Tulsa's tunnels is spreading. Could Stevie Rae be responsible for more than a group of misfit fledglings? And Aphrodite's visions warn Zoey to stay away from the immortal Kalona and his dark allure - but they also show that only Zoey can stop him. She's not exactly keen to meet up, but if Zoey doesn't go to Kalona he'll exact a fiery vengeance on those closest to her. She just has to find the courage to do what's necessary, or everything that's important to her will be destroyed.

Review: When Aphrodite has another double vision, Zoey must stand up and decide what to do for the best. Can she resist Kalona's allure enough to destroy him? It's time for her to make some tough decisions...

I found Tempted to almost be a replica of the past two books, same exact storyline with nothing really solved. I think that if they stopped focusing on all the boy drama, which is pretty boring by now anyway, and focused on advancing the storyline a bit more, it would be much better. However, I did really enjoy the fact Stevie Rae played a much larger role in this book, she's one of my favourite characters, so it was good to read. Instead of being just Zoey narrating through the whole book like previous ones, in this book it flicks back and forth between Zoey and Stevie Rae and it worked really well, I also thought the direction they're taking Stevie Rae's storyline is a very interesting one, and for that I'll probably keep reading the series. I'm pretty bored of Zoey now though, and I think they need to bring something different to her storyline, which I'm hoping they'll do after the cliffhanger ending.

The Lost Book Of Salem by Katherine Howe

No. of pages: 463
Rating: 10/10

Synopsis: While clearing out her grandmother’s cottage for sale, Connie Goodwin finds a parchment inscribed with the name Deliverance Dane. And so begins the hunt to uncover the woman behind the name, a hunt that takes her back to Salem in 1692 . . . and the infamous witchcraft trials. But nothing is entirely as it seems and when Connie unearths the existence of Deliverance’s spell book, the Physick Book, the situation takes on a menacing edge as interested parties reveal their desperation to find this precious artefact at any cost. What secrets does the Physick Book contain? What magic is scrawled across its parchment pages? Connie must race to answer these questions – and reveal the truth about Salem’s women – before an ancient family curse once more fulfils its dark and devastating prophecy...

Review: When Connie's mother asks her to clear out her grandmother's house so it can be sold, she's not looking forward to it. But what starts as a chore turns into much more when she discovers a piece of parchment with the name Deliverance Dane on it. Her search for Deliverance takes her back to the Salem witch trials, and reveals more than she ever could have imagined...

I've always been interested in the Salem witch trials, and so this was a great read for me. I liked how it started as two completely seperate people and times, Connie in 1991 and Deliverance in 1692, and then as the story went on, you saw how the two seperate stories came together. I thought it was really well written, especially considering it's a debut novel, and it showed that Katherine Howe obviously did a lot of research before writing it. The characters were really well written, and were enjoyable to read about, especially Deliverance and her daughter Mercy. Now I have to find more books written about the Salem witch trials as I found the topic really enjoyable!

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

No. of pages: 216
Rating: 4/10

Synopsis: Michael Berg is 15 when he begins a long, obsessive affair with Hanna, an enigmatic older woman. He never learns very much about her and when she disappears one day, he expects never to see her again. But, to his horror, he does. Hanna is a defendant in a trial related to Germany's Nazi past and it soon becomes clear that she is guilty of an unspeakable crime. As Michael follows the trial, he struggles with an overwhelming question: what should his generation do with its knowledge of the Holocaust?

Review: 15 year old Michael starts a love affair with Hanna, a woman in her 30's, although she always holds herself back from him and he never knows why. Years later when he's a law student, he sees her in a court room being accused of awful things. Michael struggles to come to terms with having loved someone so terrible...

This is a weird book for me as I didn't like it at all, but it's a very thought provoking book. It raises the question of 'how far would you go to hide something?', and the answer in the book is 'too far'. I personally cannot ever imagine doing the things Hanna did, right from sleeping with a child to what she did during the war. I found Hanna to be quite a hateful character, and I thought she was insanely selfish but yet I felt forced to feel sympathy for her when she quite clearly didn't deserve it. I thought that part one was the best section of the book, and my interest slowly waned through parts two and three. It's a book I'm glad I've read, but one I'd not bother to pick up again.

Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong

No. of pages: 339
Rating: 10/10
Series: Women Of The Otherworld (Book 10)

Synopsis: The Alaskan wilderness is a harsh landscape in the best of conditions, but with a pack of rogue werewolves on the loose, it's downright deadly. Elena Michaels, the American Werewolf Pack's chief enforcer, knows all too well the havoc "mutts" can wreak. When the Pack learns of a series of gruesome maulings and murders outside of Anchorage, Elena and her partner Clay travel to Alaska in the dead of winter, expecting to hunt down a pack of dangerous werewolves. But, trapped in a savage, frozen realm, it is their own untamed nature - and their werewolf heritage - they have to confront...

Review: When several bodies are mauled in what looks like wolf attacks in Alaska, Elena and Clay are sent to investigate. But what they discover when they get there, isn't going to be as easy to stop as they thought...

I absolutely love this series, and the wolves are my favourite, so I had no doubt that I would love this book. Armstrong is on top form with a book full of action that keeps you gripped right up to the last page. I just couldn't put it down once I'd started, and read the whole thing through in one sitting. If you haven't read this series, then I'd heartily recommend it! And for fans of the series who haven't read this yet, you should definitely make it a priority. A fantastic addition to the series, which as you can see I thoroughly enjoyed. I can't wait for the next book now, shame it's so far away!

The Confessions Of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer

No. of pages: 267
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Out of the womb in 1871, Max Tivoli looked to all the world like a tiny 70-year-old man. But inside the aged body was an infant. Victim of a rare disease, Max grows physically younger as his mind matures. In Andrew Sean Greer's finely crafted novel, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, Max narrates his life story from the vantage point of his late fifties, though his body is that of a 12-year-old boy. He has known since a young age that he is destined to die at 70, and he wears a golden "1941" as a constant reminder of the year he will finally perish in an infant form. His mother, a Carolina belle concerned over her son's troubling appearance, curses Max with "The Rule": "Be what they think you are". Max fails to keep this Rule only a handful of times in his life, but it is the burden of living by it that wounds him and slowly alienates him from the people he loves.

Review: Max is born with the body of a 70 year old, and ages backwards over his life, so when he's 17, he actually looks in his 50's and this is very tough for Max. But his Mother told him to live by only one rule, and that's to be what they expect him to be. So when he looks 50, he has to act 50, even though he's only a young man inside. This makes simple things such as friendship and love very tough for Max, and so he writes the memoir of his backwards life.

This is very like the film of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, which I saw a few weeks ago and really enjoyed, but I wasn't expecting them to be so alike in storyline. However, if you enjoyed that film, or even that short story, you are sure to be a fan of Max. I really found the book enjoyable, and thought the characters were really well written and easy to empathise with. The ending came as a bit of a surprise, not in a bad way, it just was just unexpected and I never would have guessed it. I would say this a good book for fans of books set around 1900, as it really is full of life from that time, which is great to read about.

Falling Leaves Return To Their Roots by Adeline Yen Mah

No. of pages: 274
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Adeline Yen Mah's childhood in China during the civil war was a time of fear, isolation and humiliation. The cause of this was not political upheaval but systematic emotional and physical abuse by her step-mother and siblings, and rejection by her father. Falling Leaves is the story of a 'Fifth Younger Daughter' and her determination to survive the pain of a lonely childhood.

Review: Adeline is the fifth child born into a rich chinese family, but when her mother dies a few days after her birth, she's considered bad luck. When her father remarries things go from bad to horrendous for Adeline. Her step-mother relishes in driving wedges between the siblings and telling Adeline that she is worth nothing. This is Adeline's story of how she tries to please her family, even though she's abused everyday, and how she overcomes her past to make a new life for herself.

This is such a sad book, you can feel Adeline's yearning for love and acceptance the whole way through, even though her family treat her so poorly. You almost cannot believe that her step-mother could be so cruel to a child, as the tales she recounts are terrible. The fact her father just sat there and let it all happen is even worse. But as much as you end up feeling sorry for Adeline, you can't help but admire her for overcoming it all and becoming successful in her own right. I enjoyed reading about China through young Adeline's eyes, and what it was like during the many years of upheaval and war. It's a really easy book to read, and I loved the chinese proverbs peppered throughout the story.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

No. of pages: 386
Rating: 6/10

Synopsis: Julia and Valentina Poole are normal American teenagers - normal, at least, for identical 'mirror' twins who have no interest in college or jobs or possibly anything outside their cozy suburban home. But everything changes when they receive notice that an aunt whom they didn't know existed has died and left them her flat in an apartment block overlooking Highgate Cemetery in London. They feel that at last their own lives can begin ...but have no idea that they've been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt's mysterious and elusive lover who lives below them, and even to their aunt herself, who never got over her estrangement from the twins' mother - and who can't even seem to quite leave her flat. With Highgate Cemetery itself a character and echoes of Henry James and Charles Dickens, "Her Fearful Symmetry" is a delicious and deadly twenty-first-century ghost story about Niffenegger's familiar themes of love, loss and identity.

Review: When Elspeth dies, she leaves all her belongings to her identical twin nieces, who she saw only once when they were 4 months old. The twins don't even know that their mother is an identical twin herself, so it comes as a big surprise when they get the letter to tell them they now own a flat in London. When they move into the flat, they meet Martin, the middle aged guy who lives upstairs who's crippled with severe OCD and can't leave his flat. They also meet Robert, the guy who lives below them, who was their aunt's lover. As they settle into life in their flat, they realise Elspeth isn't as gone as they thought...

I really was expecting a lot from this book, maybe too much and that's why I felt so disappointed when I had finished. But I think more than that, there was just that something that made The Time Traveler's Wife so great, that was missing from Her Fearful Symmetry. The story itself was okay, there were some great characters, but I sometimes felt there was no explanation for some of the characters actions, when it didn't seem to fit with what we knew of their personalities.

I guessed one of the big plot surprises about 40 pages in, it seemed incredibly obvious and I'm curious to see if it's as obvious for other people too. I absolutely hated the last quarter of the book, it just got more and more ridiculous and I felt it ruined the whole tone of the story with such a poor ending. On the plus side though, the writing is incredibly easy to read, and so it feels like the story is progressing very quickly rather than being long and drawn out.

Dracula: The-Undead by Dacre Stoker

No. of pages: 389
Rating: 9/10
Series: Dracula (Book 2)

Synopsis: The official sequel to Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula, written by his direct descendent and endorsed by the Stoker family. The story begins in 1912, twenty-five years after the events described in the original novel. Dr. Jack Seward, now a disgraced morphine addict, hunts vampires across Europe with the help of a mysterious benefactor. Meanwhile, Quincey Harker, the grown son of Jonathan and Mina, leaves law school to pursue a career in stage at London's famous Lyceum Theatre. The production of Dracula at the Lyceum, directed and produced by Bram Stoker, has recently lost its star. Luckily, Quincey knows how to contact the famed Hungarian actor Basarab, who agrees to take the lead role. Quincey soon discovers that the play features his parents and their former friends as characters, and seems to reveal much about the terrible secrets he's always suspected them of harbouring.

Review: When Quincey defies his parents and becomes an actor, he comes across a play about his parents and Dracula, and finds out all about the secrets his parents have been hiding from him. Then when people start getting attacked by what looks like animal bites to the neck, it appears it's not over and Quincey has to step up and relive his parents past.

I love vampire stories, and this one was everything that I expected. I haven't actually read the original Dracula story, but I've seen the film and know lots about the tale, but that doesn't matter, Dacre did a great job of recapping the previous book without making it boring and repetative, and I never felt like I was missing any plot lines as it was always explained. I adored the inclusion of Jack the Ripper, who is another subject I find fascinating, and I thought Dacre's take on it was really interesting, and it fit in well with the story he was telling. My only dislike about this book was that it took me forever to read, and it sometimes felt disheartening that I didn't seem to be making progress very fast. Recommended to any vampire or Dracula fans, or to anyone who likes old gothic horror tales.

Blood Ties by Sophie McKenzie

No. of pages: 438
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Theo gives his bodyguard the slip once too often. Rachel receives a weird text from her father. So begins a highly dangerous search to unravel unanswered questions about their past. Linked by the firebombing of a research clinic, Theo and Rachel fear they are the targets of an extremist group, who will stop at nothing to silence them. Awaiting them are startling discoveries about their identities which will affect their future in dramatic and life-altering ways...

Review: All Theo knows about his dad is that he died when the clinic he was working at was bombed. That is until his mum lets slip that his dad is still alive and in hiding. Theo is determined to find him, and his search leads him to Rachel, together they try to solve the mystery surrounding their births and the clinic their parents worked at, but what they find completely blows their lives apart...

This was surprisingly good, much better than I imagined it would be. The plot is enjoyable, with lots of action and little twists to the story, which you never expect. As it's written for teens the writing is simple, but that doesn't detract from the story at all. Theo and Rachel are likeable, well written characters, that you connect with very easily. Overall it's a great young adult thriller, and I'm looking forward to reading more by this author.

The Reunion by L.J. Smith

No. of pages: 216
Rating: 6/10
Series: Vampire Diaries (Book 4)

Synopsis: Elena summons the vampire brothers once more to unite and challenge their fate. Together they will be called to face the most terrifying evil Fell’s Church has ever known.

Review: When something very powerful comes to Fell's Church and starts killing Elena's friends, she must summon back Stefan and Damon to help save Fell's Church once more...

I wasn't sure where this story was going to go after the cliffhanger at the end of The Fury, but it played out quite well and made an interesting story to round up the initial four books of the series (the author is currently releasing three new books for this series after a 17 year break). I liked how the characters developed through the book, starting out as pretty unlikeable, but then growing into characters that were much more realistic. I'm not sure if I'll buy the new books for this series, because although the books got better, as a whole, I can think of much more enjoyable vampire books to read. Overall, I'll give this series a 3/5, a slow start, but definitely getting better as it goes on, I'd say aimed more at young teens around 13 or 14.

The Fury by L.J. Smith

No. of pages: 192
Rating: 6/10
Series: Vampire Diaries (Book 3)

Synopsis: Faced with an ancient evil, Stefan and Damon must stop their feuding and join forces with Elena to confront it. But in so doing, they are unwittingly sealing her fate...

Review: There's something very evil in Fell's Church and it's stronger than anyone imagines, so Elena, Stefan and Damon group together to try and conquer it, only it doesn't go to plan...

I'm so glad to say that these books are definitely getting better as they go on, and although I wouldn't say they're overly great, they are pretty easy to read. There was a lot more happening in this story, which made it a lot more enjoyable to read, but the ending was a big surprise, so I'm interested to see where that goes in the next story.

The Struggle by L.J. Smith

No. of pages: 187
Rating: 5/10
Series: Vampire Diaries (Book 2)

Synopsis: Elena is torn between her boyfriend, Stefan, and his brother, Damon. But these brothers hide dark secrets and a tragic past that threatens them all. Damon wants to lead Elena astray - and he’d rather kill Stefan than let him possess her...

Review: Even though Stefan is now her boyfriend and she loves him, she can't help but feel drawn to his brother Damon, and so start the secrets that tear Elena's world apart...

The story line did pick up a lot more in this book, which made it a lot easier to read, but the characters are still pretty unlikeable. The plot is still really predictable, and I can guess where the next two books are going go, but as I've already bought them I may as well carry on with them. I'd say this series is more suitable for teens too young to read the House Of Night series, which I think is much better if you're looking for a teen vampire series like this one.

The Awakening by L.J. Smith

No. of pages: 199
Rating: 4/10
Series: Vampire Diaries (Book 1)

Synopsis: Elena Gilbert is used to getting what she wants and she wants mysterious new boy, Stefan. But Stefan is hiding a deadly secret - a secret that will change Elena’s life forever...

Review: Stefan, sick of life hiding in the dark, goes to Fell's Church to try and fit in as a new high school student but when Elena Gilbert sees him, she's determined to have him. But what she doesn't know is he's hiding a dark secret...

It took me ages to get into this book, I felt the story at the beginning just seemed to drag and wasn't interesting at all. It did start to pick up around page 100, but was still pretty predictable. The characters aren't particularly endearing, in fact I quite dislike the main character who is just the shallow popular girl at school determined to have the new good looking student. I have the rest of the books, so I will be carrying on with the series, but I seriously hope they get more of a plot.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

No. of pages: 288
Rating: 9/10

Synopsis: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush - who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list. Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation.

Review: When Clay comes home to a package in front of his door, he doesn't realise that it'll change his life forever. The package holds seven cassette tapes recorded by a girl who committed suicide 2 weeks earlier. On the tapes are thirteen reasons why she did it, and Clay is one of those reasons. Over the course of one night, Clay gets to know Hannah through the tapes, and finds out what drove her to suicide...

Although a little bit heartbreaking, this is a great book, and a really easy read. It has an interesting set out and I thought it suited the story and made the story flow really well. I liked the message that this book sends out too, about considering how your actions affect others, something pretty obvious, yet this story shows how thirteen smaller random things, all gather in driving Hannah to suicide. This quote from the book sums it up perfectly ~ "You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything."

If you're a fan of young adult books, then this is a great one to read, and whilst it's obviously not the most cheerful read, it's a good one, and I'd certainly recommend it.

Light On Snow by Anita Shreve

No. of pages: 272
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: The events of a December afternoon, during which a father and his daughter find an abandoned infant in the snow, will forever alter the 12-year-old girls understanding of the world and the adults who inhabit it: a father who has taken great pains to remove himself from society in order to put an unthinkable tragedy behind him; a young woman who must live with the consequences of the terrible choices she has made; and a detective whose cleverness is exceeded only by his sense of justice. Written from the point of view of 30-year-old Nicky as she recalls the vivid images of that fateful December, her tale is one of love and courage, of tragedy and redemption, and of the ways in which the human heart always seeks to heal itself.

Review: When 12 year old Nicky and her her father find an abandoned newborn baby in the snowy forest one night while they're out walking, they don't realise it's the start of a life changing event...

I read this book about 3 years ago, and for some reason I didn't really think much of it. So when I decided to re-read it, it was pretty much just to confirm that it's not something I wanted to keep. But I was surprised to find I enjoyed it much more this time, and I read it in only two sittings. It's a sad story, full of longing and regrets, but I think the characters start to come to terms with their own stories near the end, and that was nice to see, although I would like to have seen just a little bit more of the story wrapped up.

Hunted by P.C. & Kristin Cast

No. of pages: 439
Rating: 9/10
Series: House Of Night (Book 5)

Synopsis: The good news: Zoey’s friends have her back again and Stevie Rae and the red fledglings aren’t Neferet’s secrets any longer. The bad news: Ancient evil with the face of an angel has been let loose – that and various other nasties (whose faces aren’t so angelic). Grandma Redbird is in trouble. Heath is in trouble. The House of Night is in trouble. Okay, let’s face it – Zoey’s whole world is in trouble! But when the trouble comes from a being who appears to be beauty personified, will the world believe it? Especially when only a teenager and a group of misfits are the only ones who really understand the danger he brings. Will Zoey have the strength and wisdom to reveal the truth? Especially when, in the House of Night, the truth is often hard to come by…

Review: Things really aren't going well for Zoey and her friends, but as they are the only ones that can stop the ancient evil that has arisen, they must forge ahead and restore the balance to the House Of Night...

The series has definitely gotten better with the two latest books, there's a great storyline to keep you gripped and characters you come to know and love. I think Hunted really brings together all the plot lines so far and weaves them into one story and it becomes clear what the previous books have been leading up to all along. I'm glad I only have to wait until October for the next book, as I can't wait to see what happens next!

Untamed by P.C. & Kristin Cast

No. of pages: 411
Rating: 9/10
Series: House Of Night (Book 4)

Synopsis: Life sucks when your friends are pissed at you. Just ask Zoey Redbird; she's become an expert on suckiness. In one week she has gone from having three boyfriends to having none, and from having a close group of friends who trusted and supported her, to being an outcast. Speaking of friends, the only two Zoey has left are undead and unMarked. And Neferet has declared war on humans, which Zoey knows in her heart is wrong. But will anyone listen to her? Zoey's adventures at vampyre finishing school take a wild and dangerous turn as loyalties are tested, shocking true intentions come to light, and an ancient evil is awakened.

Review: Things really go downhill for Zoey in this book, when the pressures of becoming a vampyre priestess come to boiling point, and she's left feeling very alone...

This is definitely my favourite so far in the series, there's much more action and drama, and the storyline gets very dark. It was also really nice to see the development of characters that have been more in the background, and get to know them more as they become part of the main group. The ending was really gripping and I can't wait to see what the storyline leads in the next book.

Chosen by P.C. & Kristin Cast

No. of pages: 322
Rating: 8/10
Series: House Of Night (Book 3)

Synopsis: Dark forces are at work at the House of Night and fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird’s adventures at the school take a mysterious turn. Those who appear to be friends are turning out to be enemies. And oddly enough, sworn enemies are also turning into friends. So begins the gripping third installment of this “highly addictive series”, in which Zoey’s mettle will be tested like never before.

Review: Everything that can possibly go wrong does go wrong for Zoey in the third book of the House of Night series. Not knowing where to turn, she finds friends in unexpected places, and trusting them will have severe consequences...

I thought this book definitely had a darker tone than the two before, and has more sexual content too, which makes them more grown up. I enjoyed the story slightly less in this one though, mostly down to the ending, which I felt just didn't fit in with everything that happened up to that point. I also feel that the storylines are starting to get a little repetative, so I hope that changes in the next book.

Betrayed by P.C. & Kristin Cast

No. of pages: 375
Rating: 9/10
Series: House Of Night (Book 2)

Synopsis: Things seem to be going pretty well for Zoey Redbird. She's settled in at the House of Night finishing school and is coming to terms with her incredible new powers. It all seems too good to be true. And guess what? Someone has begun murdering human teenagers, and all evidence points to the vampyres at Zoey's school. Which means her first assignment as the leader of the Dark Daughters is finding out which one of her classmates or - gulp - teachers is a killer. Sigh. And she thought her boyfriends (yes: plural) were going to be her biggest problem this year...

Review: Carrying on where Marked left off, Zoey is struggling with all the new responsibility, and with all the boy trouble she has going on. But then human boys she used to know start dying, and when the vampyres of the House of Night start being blamed, she has to find out what's going on...

I thought this one was more action packed than Marked, with so many different things going on in Zoey's life it keeps you completely engrossed. There are also lots of great characters in Zoey and her friends, and they're fun to read about. Because the books are aimed at young adults, they're really easy to sink into and get lost in, but the 'teen' writing does grate a little bit sometimes, almost as if it's a little too forced. I do love the House of Night world though, I think the premise is really good and they're enjoyable to read. I'm definitely still interested to see where the story will lead to next.

Star Gazing by Linda Gillard

No. of pages: 261
Rating: 10/10

Synopsis: Blind since birth, widowed in her twenties, now lonely in her forties, Marianne Fraser lives in Edinburgh in elegant, angry anonymity with her sister. Marianne's passionate nature finds solace in music, a love she finds she shares with Keir, the man she encounters on her doorstep one winter's night. But can Marianne trust her feelings for this reclusive stranger who wants to take a blind woman to his island home on Skye, to 'show' her the stars?

Review: Marianne has been blind her whole life, so for her 'seeing' involved sound, smell and feel. So when a guy she barely knows asks her to spend a week with him on Skye so he can show her the stars, she doesn't really know what to expect. But Keir manages to show Marianne beauty she never could have imagined.

I adored this book, I thought all of the characters were greatly written and perfectly complimented each other. The descriptions that Keir gave to Marianne were so beautiful and I loved how he described things to her by saying they were like certain pieces of music. I really enjoyed the relationship aspect of the story too, I really felt what the characters were feeling and became completely engrossed in their world. I thought Star Gazing was fantastic, and I cannot wait to read something else by this author!

Marked by P.C. & Kristin Cast

No. of pages: 348
Rating: 9/10
Series: House Of Night (Book 1)

Synopsis: When sixteen-year-old Zoey Redbird gets Marked as a fledgling vampire she must join the House of Night school where she will train to become an adult vampire. That is, if she makes it through the Change. But Zoe is no ordinary fledgling. She has been chosen as special by the Goddess Nyx and discovers her amazing new power to conjure the elements: earth, air, fire, water and spirit. When Zoey discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school's most elite group, is misusing her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look within herself to embrace her destiny - with a little help from her new vampire friends.

Review: When 16 year old Zoey Redbird is marked to be a vampyre, people she has known her whole life are suddenly afraid of her. So when she leaves to go to the House Of Night, the vampyre finishing school, she's happy to leave her old life behind. But as she realises she has powers that are very strong in the vampire world, she knows it's not going to be an easy journey...

I really enjoyed this book, however, I'm surprised it's marketed for teenagers, yet has a warning on the back saying that it's not for younger readers, as some the content is definitely aimed towards an older teen I'd say, rather than someone of 13 or 14. There's definitely a teenage aspect about it though, but I did think the sex scene near the beginning was a bit out of place and definitely unnecessary for such a book. I really liked the idea of a vampyre school where you learn how to become a vampyre, it was interesting to read about and kept me wanting to read on. The character of Zoey was very easy to like, as were her close friends and they were all very well written. I'm curious to see where the next book will lead so I'll definitely be picking it up very soon.

Dexter By Design by Jeff Lindsay

No. of pages: 290
Rating: 10/10
Series: Dexter (Book 4)

Synopsis: Dexter Morgan is back. After his surprisingly glorious honeymoon in Paris, life is almost normal for Dexter Morgan. Married life seems to agree with him: he's devoted to his bride, his stomach is full, and his homicidal hobbies seem nicely under control. But old habits die hard - and Dexter's work as a blood spatter analyst never fails to offer new temptations that appeal to his offbeat sense of justice...and his Dark Passenger still waits to hunt with him in the moonlight. Luckily for Dex, there's someone out there with particularly twisted tastes. Dexter may have never been a big fan of art - but the discovery of a corpse (artfully displayed as a sunbather relaxing on a beach chair) naturally piques his curiosity. Miami's finest soon realize they've got a terrifying new serial killer on the loose. And Dexter, of course, is back in business.

Review: Dexter is back to his old self at long last, and just in time for Miami's new crazed serial killer. This one is a fan of artfully displayed bodies, who takes a liking to Dexter, which doesn't bode well for his newly formed family...

I really enjoyed this one, and think it's become my favourite in the series. I loved the new 'family man' Dexter, and enjoyed the involvement of Rita, Cody and Astor in the storyline. I think Cody and Astor are really funny, and they always make me laugh with their witty little retorts to Dexter. The ending was hilarious, although I already knew the plot point from the TV show, the way it was written was great, and I can't wait for the next book to see where it will take Dexter next!

For One More Day by Mitch Albom

No. of pages: 197
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Charley Benetto is a broken man, his life destroyed by alcohol and regret. He loses his job. He leaves his family. He hits rock bottom after discovering he won't be invited to his only daughter's wedding. And he decides to take his own life. Charley takes a midnight ride to his small hometown: his final journey. But as he staggers into his old house, he makes an astonishing discovery. His mother - who died eight years earlier - is there, and welcomes Charley home as if nothing had ever happened. What follows is the one seemingly ordinary day so many of us yearn for: a chance to make good with a lost parent, to explain the family serets and to seek forgiveness.

Review: When Charley Benetto finds out his daughter got married without inviting him, he decides his life is just not worth living anymore. With no wife, a daughter that doesn't want to know him and a life dependent on alcohol, Charley drives back to his childhood home to kill himself. But his mother who died 8 years previously is there, and what follows is a day Charley will never forget.

This book is very like Albom's two previous books, basically it's about death and redemption, but like the other two, it's very easy and enjoyable to read. It makes you think about things you'd go back and change if you had the chance to do it, and the things you'd say to people you've lost in your life. His books always leave me with something, and I think about them for days after I've finished reading them. I definitely would recommend reading one of his books, they're kind of touching and well worth the read.

The Hound Of The Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

No. of pages: 148
Rating: 4/5
Series: Sherlock Holmes

Synopsis: The Hound of the Baskervilles is the classic detective chiller. It features the world's greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, in his most challenging case. The Baskerville family is haunted by a phantom beast "with blazing eyes and dripping jaws" which roams the mist-enshrouded moors around the isolated Baskerville Hall on Dartmoor. Now the hound seems to be stalking young Sir Henry, the new master of the Baskerville estate. Is this devilish spectre the manifestation of the family curse? Or is Sir Henry the victim of a vile and scheming murderer? Only Sherlock Holmes can solve this devilish affair.

Review: When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead under suspicious circumstances, his close friend goes to Sherlock Holmes for help to solve the mystery of the hound that curses the Baskerville family...

When this book was chosen for a book circle, I was dreading having to read it. I've never managed to complete a 'classic' book before because for some reason I just cannot get my head around the old language. But I was pleasantly surprised, not only that I managed to read it pretty easily, but that I really enjoyed it too! I've always loved a good mystery and this one was well written, although parts of the ending were fairly guessable. The characters had very strong personalities, and although many weren't that likeable, I thought Watson was a great character and he fast became my favourite. I will definitely be looking into other Sherlock Holmes books in the future!

Dear Fatty by Dawn French

No. of pages: 366
Rating: 10/10

Synopsis: It's become a cliché in Britain to call somebody in the entertainment field a national institution -- but that's exactly what Dawn French is. As both comedienne and actress (the latter in both comedy and straight parts), she has become one of the best loved entertainers in the country. Her range is not wide (unlike her dimensions -- and that's the sort of joke she’d crack), but she is utterly winning in everything he does. And that quality continues in Dear Fatty, a truly entertaining memoir of an event-packed life.

The form of the book is a series of letters by French, conjuring her transformation from a West Country RAF girl to a star of the cult alternative comedy group The Comic Strip. This was followed by the groundbreaking all-female Girls on Top (which did much to establish the position of women in British comedy), the astonishing success of the TV series French and Saunders (with French’s equally talented friend Jennifer Saunders) and the sitcom The Vicar of Dibley, where French’s wickedly sardonic touch keeps the tweeness of the basic situation -- female vicar in a rustic town -- at bay.

Review: Written in the form of letters to various people in her life, Dawn French writes about particular moments that had a strong impact on her such as her father's suicide, meeting and marrying Lenny Henry, IVF and miscarrages, and the adoption of their daughter, but mixed in with this are her carefree days growing up with her brother, living in America for a year, going to university, meeting Jennifer Saunders and much more funniness!

This is a rollercoaster of a book, there are stories which have you in stitches of laughter and then on the next page a story that is really sad. I loved how frank she was, especially in talking about Lenny cheating on her, I think that's a really brave thing as she could have very easily left it out with the format that the book's in. The letters are a really nice layout, especially when she writes the letters to her dad catching him up on her life. If you're a fan of Dawn French you should definitely read this book, her humour really shines through, and it's a great insight into her life.

Stop Me by Richard Jay Parker

No. of pages: 328
Rating: 8/10

Synopsis: Forward this email to ten friends. Each of those friends must forward it to ten friends. Maybe one of those friends of friends of friends will be one of my friends. If this email ends up in my inbox within a week, I won't slit the bitch's throat. Can you afford not to send this on to ten friends?

Vacation Killer Leo Sharpe's life is shattered when his wife Laura suddenly disappears. His desperate need to find her turns to obsession when he becomes convinced she's the latest victim of The Vacation Killer who has claimed eleven lives already - is Laura going to be the twelfth? The MO is the same every time - a woman disappears and within hours inboxes around the world receive a threatening email. A few days later, grim evidence of the victim's death is delivered to the police. But in Laura's case, nothing is sent. Has the killer spared her life? Why? And for how long? For Leo, the clock is ticking - he needs to do everything in his power to stop the killer before it's too late.

Review: When Leo's wife disappears from a restaurant, he doesn't have a clue what's happened to her. That's until he sees the newest email from the Vacation Killer, and is positive he has her. But when no jaw bone is sent to confirm she's been murdered, Leo's life falls apart. He is determined to find out what happened to Laura, and will stop at nothing to get answers...

It's hard to believe that this is a debut novel because it's just so well written. The story flows effortlessly and it's so easy to sink into Leo's world, even though his reality is so warped. I really loved Leo as a character, even though he was so messed up, there was just something so endearing about him. The ending completely surprised me, I would never have guessed how it played out, but I thought it was great. I would definitely recommend this to thriller fans, it's something you will certainly enjoy.

The Diving-Bell And The Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

No. of pages: 139
Rating: 10/10

Synopsis: On December 8, 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby's life was forever altered when a part of his body he'd never heard of--his brain stem--was rendered inactive. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, his exquisitely painful memoir, is neither a triumphant account of recovery nor a journey into the abyss of self-pity. Instead, it is a tender testament to the power of language and love. At 43, Bauby was defined by success, wit and charisma. But in the course of a few bewildering minutes, the editor-in-chief of French Elle became a victim of the rare locked-in syndrome. The only way he could express his frustration, however, was by blinking his left eye. The rest of his body could no longer respond. Bauby was determined to escape the paralysis of his diving bell and free the butterflies of his imagination. And with the help of ESA, "a hit parade in which each letter is placed according to the frequency of its use in the French language," Bauby did so. Visitors, and eventually his editor, would read each letter aloud and he would blink at the right one. Slowly - painstakingly - words, sentences, paragraphs and even this graceful book emerged.

Review: Told through short chapters, this is the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, written after he had a terrible stroke that left him locked inside his own body, with only one blinking eye enabling him to communicate. Amazingly, he managed to write the book entirely this way. Each chapter tells of something different, a memory of his life before the stroke, what it was like waking up after, the sadness and humiliation he feels now that he cannot do anything for himself, to name but a few.

Very sad story, imagine being as mentally sharp as you've always been, but not able to move any part of your body but one eyelid. It certainly takes a lot of strength and courage, not only to carry on without sinking into a pit of depression, but to write a book about what it's like to be locked inside your own body, so other people can understand. The chapters were random, which actually lends to the charm of this book, because it's not all before the stroke and then all after the stroke, he mixes both aspects of his life, sometimes with a dark humour and wit that you cannot imagine feeling yourself in that same situation. It's very well written and flows so easily, but the content really makes you sit back and think about life and try to imagine how terrible such a thing would be. It's definitely something I would recommend, even if it's not something you would normally read, everyone could take something away from this book.

The Madonna Of The Almonds by Marina Fiorato

No. of pages: 366
Rating: 10/10

Synopsis: Young widow Simonetta tries to rebuild her family in 16th century Saronno, tuscany, following the death of her husband in one of the battles ravaging the land. In pursuit of a means to keep her estate together, she stumbles upon a new drink made by inffusing almonds with alcohol. At the same time, she encounters Bernadino, the protege of Leonardo da Vinci. What follows is a glorious story of passion, betrayal, warfare and bravery.

Review: Two parallel stories of love, loss and growing up. Simonetta is a widow at 17, and her dead husband has left her broke, so in order to save her house she agrees to pose as Madonna for artist Bernardino Luini who is painting a religious fresco in her local church. Peasant orphan Amaria is being raised by a kind woman she calls Nonna, and when she tells Nonna of the strange wild man in the woods, Nonna goes to look for him and takes him into their home. On the verge of death, the man they call Selvaggio has what appears to be many war wounds, but he doesn't remember anything of his former life or how he came to be injured.

Historical fiction is a genre I've not really tried before, as I didn't think I'd enjoy it very much. How wrong I was! The story was so easy to get in to, and the characters are fantastically written, I found it so easy to imagine them in my mind with the vivid descriptions that are given. I enjoyed reading about the wars and the religious persecutions of Jews and thought both subjects were written about really well. To put it simply, there was nothing about this book I disliked at all, everything about it was great. I'd really recommend it and I'm eager to now read The Glassblower Of Murano, Marina Fiorato's first novel set in the same time period.
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