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Reviews Written by
Shaz Goodwin

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Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Exceeded my expectations!, 21 Sept. 2017
This review is from: Perfect (Kindle Edition)
This sequel hits the ground running and doesn't let up.  I think I read the entire story with my heart pounding (in fact I had to stop reading in bed and not just because I couldn't stop reading but my body was ready for fight or flight!).

It's clear that Celestine has gathered supporters she has no idea about from a scene in the beginning while hiding on the farm and when she flees with Carrick.  The beginnings of change we saw in her character in Flawed continue.  Life was happening her to her with very little control and yes, she's still the reluctant heroine, but takes opportunities and makes them her own. She's become a strong female lead and I loved that she still has her humanity while also a core of steel.  She doesn't let love change her either, making her own decisions and following through.  She's learnt a lot and is not averse to double crossing and underhand tactics when the need arises!

So many scenes stand out but one that made me feel very uncomfortable for a variety of reasons (can't wait to see what they do with this in the movie) had a much better outcome than I predicted.  It didn't have the effect Judge Crevan was quite hoping for ...

We meet new characters in the Vigor industrial facility who of course impact on where the story leads; my questions about Carrick and the 'witnesses' are answered and Art plays a role I didn't see coming.  Although she's isolated and living in fear, Celestine's family are up to some heroic challenges in the background which give you a sense of how everything weaves together and interconnects.  One character I detested (no, not Crevan) became a lot clearer and my feelings changed.  I love it when that happens :)

For me Perfect was less about the politics and more about the depths we go to for power and control.  And the mindset of those who need the control and the why.  It's a story about community and how powerful the energy and passion generated is when that community come together.  It's tense with a fabulous pace and hooked me in totally.

You don't have to read Flawed to make sense of Perfect, however I think you'll miss out on not fully experiencing the foundations of this dystopian world.

Holiday In The Hamptons
Holiday In The Hamptons
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!, 9 Sept. 2017
How I love a Sarah Morgan novel!  You know you're going to get your HEA ... and how you arrive there is always exciting :)  Holiday in the Hamptons more than met my expectations.

It's not the hero who is flawed (although Seth does have emotional turmoil that he needs to find peace to live with) but Fliss.  Fliss who has lived her life from a perspective that isn't the truth but something she's been led to believe since her earliest childhood memories.  She has a lot to learn about herself before she can start getting over this barrier.  And while her life looks good on the surface, she's never truly engaged with life.

It's not hard at all to feel drawn to a man who chooses to care for animals as a living is it?  Healing the wounded :) I loved getting to know Seth and through him, how he views his family.

Once again, the characters take on real form and shape, living and breathing.  Fliss' grandmother Eugenia provided some moments of humour and I felt pretty tense at one particular scene with Matilda and Fliss!   Sarah Morgan is so skillful in bringing the reader into their lives, making you feel as if you are right there with them, experiencing everything they do.

Perspectives is a theme throughout the story (maybe you'll find yourself looking at your own experiences differently and asking what really motivated that person!).  I think Holiday in the Hamptons is a lot grittier than the previous Sarah Morgan novels I've read. I loved it!

The Broken Bridge
The Broken Bridge
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Emotive!, 3 Sept. 2017
This review is from: The Broken Bridge (Kindle Edition)
When Ginny comes home from school one day near the end of the summer term there's a stranger talking to her dad.  With recent media about a single dad abusing his daughter she's anxious that the stranger thinks this is happening to her because she lives alone with her dad.  This is exactly how a teen would think (in my experience).  It's not until her best friend's sister shares something that Ginny can confront her dad for the truth and what she finds out turns her world upside down.

I loved Ginny's character.  She appears self-assured although underneath she's seething with questions about love and kissing and where she belongs.  Looking at the world through her artist's eye was inspiring.  Ginny's ability to live in the moment, the sights and sounds I found quite uplifting (and a reminder to slow down and take notice myself!).  I loved her determination and spirit.  She is callous at times but for me fits perfectly with her age and the independence she's experienced growing up.

The isolation of the setting and the small community of Llangynog is perfect for the social barriers to play out.  It often felt like Ginny was on the edge, confusion between straddling her school friends lives and the adult lives.  The myth of Pont Doredig (the broken bridge) becomes a fascination for her leading her to a confrontation.  Linked with finding out more about her Haitian heritage, this scene raised the hairs on the back of my neck!

The secret that is revealed is only the beginning as more unfolds.  Ginny remembers some experiences as a child and these flashbacks had me trying to fit everything together.  Intrigue!  I couldn't help the tears when Ginny's dad shared his own childhood experiences with her.  Very emotive.

The Broken Bridge has a great pace and interesting characters.  A reminder that not all is as it seems on the surface and how we do others a disservice with our preconceived notions.  It's a story about roots and family and how far we're prepared to go to try and make things right and how that affects the future.  It's about finding out where we belong and who we are.  I loved it!

The Kicking the Bucket List: The perfect summer read
The Kicking the Bucket List: The perfect summer read
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars So many emotions!, 3 Sept. 2017
Rose, Dee and Fleur.  Close as younger siblings, then drifting apart and finally their mum's stroke and not being able to agree causing an irreparable rift between them.  We first meet them at the solicitor's office for the reading of Iris' will and it is clear straight away how different they are from Dee's observations.

Dee is the main narrator however we also get to read Rose and Fleur's points of view.  Not everything Dee perceives is correct ...

How the sisters receive their tasks from the kicking the bucket list is poignant but also humourous!  For the next year, one weekend every other month, the sisters must stay together undertaking the quests their mum has set.  A key player in delivering the tasks is Daniel.  Don't you just love it when your opinions change about a character!  There's a scene later on in the story that although had me anxious also had me punching the air :)

Despite the sadness, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments during the 'How to be happy' programme.  One scene that continues to make me laugh is in Fleur's flat in Knightsbridge.  So funny.  I'm not going to share with you any of the tasks only to say that they're brilliantly conceived and all for a reason.

The story isn't just about the weekends the sisters spend together.  I couldn't warm to Fleur but I did find it so easy to get caught up in Dee's and Rose's lives as the year unfolds.  So many emotions!  

The Kicking the Bucket List is a story that had me laughing one moment and tearful the next.  The list is very uplifting and a pure tonic.  I loved the ending ...  although it had me in tears, there is hope with new beginnings.  I'm looking forward to seeing what Cathy Hopkins writes next.

The Secret of Summerhayes
The Secret of Summerhayes
by Merryn Allingham
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Merryn Allingham's writing gives a wonderful sense of time and place., 26 Aug. 2017
The opening scene leaves the reader in no doubt about the changes to this once stunning estate.  Summerhayes has been a military base for years having been requisitioned at the outbreak of war and is occupied by the Canadian army in the lead up to D Day.  I felt quite sad to see the destruction and dilapidation.

Alice is now elderly and with the help of Beth, gets through the days living in only a couple of rooms in the attic spaces.   Such a different life to the one we left in The Buttonmaker's Daughter!  This is the perfect setting for the feuding, intrigue and mystery that continues to unravel.

Merryn Allingham's writing gives a wonderful sense of time and place.  The rationing and its effects, dancing in the village hall and the soldier's experiences transported me to 1944.  The conflict, not only from the family feuding but the romance too is well paced and had me eagerly turning the pages.  So many emotions! for Alice, for Beth, for Jos and especially for Eddie.

Although I had guessed the resolution of a couple of things I hadn't seen how one conflict would play out.  I was numb with shock.  This is the great thing about reading isn't it ... opening the door into another world and experiencing a whole host of feelings and experiences, whether that is 'light' or 'dark.'  We certainly see the shadow side of characters in this story.

You don't need to read The Buttonmaker's Daughter to enjoy The Secret of Summerhayes as both can be read as standalone stories.  I think the emotional impact is more though if you do!

If you're a fan of historical fiction, I have no hesitation in recommending you add The Secret of Summerhayes to your reading list.

The Disappearances
The Disappearances
by Emily Bain Murphy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can’t put into words the effect this world has had on me., 20 Aug. 2017
This review is from: The Disappearances (Paperback)
WOW! The Disappearances has swept me off my feet and deposited me in a world I want to live in. This is easily (by far) my favourite read of 2017…

Moving towards an uncertain future, Aila and brother Miles say goodbye to Gardner, Conneticut to make a temporary home with the Cliffton family in Sterling. It’s not long before Aila realises that something isn’t right.

33yo Stefan was going to jump in front of a train, that is until he knocks on Phineas Shaw’s door and takes up a responsibility that will hopefully lead to peace and self-acceptance.

These two narrations tell an unfolding story of secrets and a quest that is so unique. I can’t put into words the effect this world has had on me.

The Disappearances started in 1907 when their mum was born but she’s not the only one in the running for the Catalyst. This community finds a way around some of them with the invention of Variants although there are strict rules to the use of them (and as you can imagine there is also a darker side). One of my favourite scenes is Aila at the Variant market with Will. There was so much tension leading up to the Harvest Fair and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what would be lost next. Inspired! This added so much to the story and I could just imagine the impact it had in some homes.

I haven’t mentioned the quest itself (no spoilers!) but I’m wondering if YA readers will be intrigued by William Shakespeare after reading The Disappearances.

As well as the quest you have teens doing their thing. Friendships and romance and conflict. The lake scene had my heart pounding as much as Aila’s! I loved Beas and George and even though I felt as if I shouldn’t have liked Eliza, I thought she was cool too 🙂

When it’s time for the big reveal I had no idea! I knew there was a connection but not how. I was totally misled into thinking something else entirely.

Emily Bain Murphy’s writing was so visual for me.

“My heart takes off in a spray of paper wings.” page 299

Near the end of the story, it’s obvious how far Aila has come when she says:

“I want to tell him that it’s all right to sleep. That broken hearts are heavy. That before you learn the weight of grief, even the simple act of living feels impossible. But we do learn it, eventually.”

The Disappearances is a book of opposites. Light and dark, strength and weakness, love and hate, myself and others. I felt such sadness that it had ended. My first bookhangover for a long time!

(I would love to see this story adapted to either a movie or TV series. It would be amazing!)

The Luster of Lost Things
The Luster of Lost Things
by Sophie Chen Keller
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and uplifting, 18 Aug. 2017
Everyone underestimates 13 yo Walter Jnr's understanding because of his silence (he has motor a motor speech disorder) and although this contributes to his bullying at school and his feelings of embarrassment, he sees it as a positive.  It makes him free to observe and notice things that others don't.  As much as I loved this strength of character, I felt sad that as a witness to life, he wasn't really participating in his own life and with so much to give ...

Just before his seventh birthday he realised he could track things and find them so as well as tending his own beacon for his missing father to follow home, he offers a service of finding lost things.   Throughout his quest to find the lost pages of the book that define the bakery, Walter shares with us some of his experiences in finding those lost things.  With morals, emotions and magic a part of this, I found these reflections as inspiring as the quest itself.

On the quest he meets some very interesting characters.  All living on the fringes of society, not wanted or not fitting into expectations, we get to dip into their stories.  There are scenes which could have been 'dark' but because of his perceptions are totally the opposite.  His innocence and hope are his protection.  At each 'stop' Walter Jnr learns a life lesson whilst also giving something back.  He confronts fears and tackles some awesome challenges which had me so entangled in the story beside him.  To be honest I was emotionally invested in not only Walter Jnr but in every character we meet!

The evil character, poverty, magical numbers, human weaknesses and strengths, wishes and desires, guardians, doors/openings as portals into something subterranean and universal truths are all within these pages.  The Luster of Lost Things is a fairy tale for today's world.  It's inspiring and uplifting.  I loved it! and can't wait to see what the author writes next.

The Little Theatre by the Sea: Escape to sunny Sardinia with the perfect summer read!
The Little Theatre by the Sea: Escape to sunny Sardinia with the perfect summer read!
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story that has lodged in my heart!, 17 Aug. 2017
Before I say anything else I have to share with you that I loved everything about this novel.  The Little Theatre by the Sea is a story that has a lot of depth and more than one storyline which I found totally engaging.

Faye in Deriu who is not only working with the Rinaldis for the restoration of the theatre but also trying to work out the intrigue that's very apparent within the community (not to mention trying to block the attraction she's feeling towards Alessandro) while her parents back home in Dorset have their own emotional journey to make.  I was just as much involved with Ade and Molly as the main storyline.  That's not all.  A missing young women and a childhood sweetheart all bring conflict to the story.

Rosanna Ley had me emotionally involved with this Sardinian community from beginning to end.  Their lifestyle, the history and where their future might lead all became important to me.  The restoration was fascinating too.  I loved the way this made me think about a building - its true purpose and how to achieve it.  A living and breathing entity.  I wanted to be an interior designer too! and felt envious of Faye going on to study theatre restoration.  'Il Piccolo Teatro' is steeped in history and has a firm place in the communities memories and lives.  No wonder it is an emotive subject for the people who live there.  The way this storyline unwound was perfectly paced (as were all the plots) and just when I had thought I had it sussed there was one more twist.  This author certainly pulled a veil across one character that I hadn't seen through! Such a shock!  Did it change the way I thought about them?  In all honesty not really.  My sadness and empathy just went that little bit deeper.

I didn't have a favourite character.  I enjoyed the heat of Enrico Volti's anger, the arrogance of Alessandro Rinaldi, the independence of Faye and the richness of finding something new from something old.

I have a couple of favourite scenes.  One for its fear and the tension it brought, one for the perfection and made the world brighter.

The Little Theatre by the Sea is a story of mystery and intrigue, of people growing apart and coming together, life and death, love and hate.  It's a story that has lodged in my heart.

Sea (The Huntress Trilogy)
Sea (The Huntress Trilogy)
Price: £1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced with non-stop conflict, 28 July 2017
The story opens with a tense attack on the Huntress from the feared Terrodyls and with Mouse disobeying the captain’s orders (who also happens to be her grandma) to stay below decks, we get the first glimpse of how feisty and strong-willed she is.

Docking at Haggle’s Town port to repair the ship, a new member joins the crew. Stag is from their tribe but hasn’t been seen for 20 years. He brings news that rocks Mouse and Sparrow’s world and it soon becomes clear the real reason he’s re-joining the crew.

Runes reveal the quest Mouse must go on to reunite the Storm-Opals to save Trianukka which of course won’t be easy pitted against Stag. The adventure that follows is full of magic, fear and breathtaking obstacles Mouse must win through which will engage middle grade readers.

The world building in Sea is fabulous. There are tribes with their own morals and purpose, magical skills (I loved Sparrow’s gift of communicating with the whales with his whalesong) and myths/legends … I was reminded of Moby Dick/Jonah and the Whale. The sea folk tribe have an awesome relationship and understanding of what lies beneath the sea with a link to the environment and ecology.

By the end of this first book, 13yo Mouse is just beginning to understand and use her gift of beast-chatter. I’m hoping she will respect that power … she is a strong female lead with plenty of fire and spirit but she doesn’t have much respect for anything, riding roughshod over everyone. There is a glimmer of working as a team at the end of the story, of considering others, so hopefully this will grow in the second book (Sky) and she will become a more likeable character.

Sea is action packed with scenes that are tense and testing. It’s fast paced with non-stop conflict and I found it a quick read. No matter your age you will identify with the characters and engage with the story. I have no doubt that young readers’ will love Sarah Driver’s debut and be excited about the next book in the trilogy!

As Weekends Go
As Weekends Go
by Jan Brigden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The characters became living and breathing people for me, 25 July 2017
This review is from: As Weekends Go (Paperback)

The opening scene left me in no doubt that Bex and Greg's relationship was long overdue a reckoning.  Some people enjoy playing the 'victim' role and Greg knows exactly what he needs to do to manipulate Bex so that she will continue to meet his needs while her own needs lay simmering under the surface.  While her family and best friend Abi are supportive, she needs an equal partnership which she won't ever have with Greg.  Hawksley Manor is the perfect setting for her to untangle her emotions.  Until she meets Alex Heath.  She certainly fell for him :)  Alex isn't your stereotypical celeb footballer (or rather stereotypically portrayed in the media).  His ethics and morals had me swooning as much as his physique!

Choc Lit novels are well known for giving the reader the male point of view and in As Weekends Go we're spoiled with three!  I enjoyed not only Alex Heath's narrative but Nick's too (best friend Abi's partner).  As for Greg, he just made my blood reach boiling point.

The romance plot may be a common theme but there are a couple of things that made this a romance with a difference for me.  The tension and conflict is well paced and not just for the lead characters.  I was as emotionally invested in Abi and Nick as in Bex' love life.  The characters became living and breathing people for me.  I thought about them after the story had ended.  Greg is so getting what he is owed ...

I have no hesitation in recommending As Weekends Go.  If you're a romance reader don't miss it!

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