MADE YOU UP

Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8 Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex fights a daily battle to decipher what is real and whamade you upt is not.  And after an extremely unfortunate incident, Alex is ready for a fresh start at a new school where no one recognises her. Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love. But her inability to separate her delusions from reality is always just under the surface, and it could have disastrous consequences for the people closest to her. 

 

 

I got Made You Up for Christmas, and it’s taken me all this time to finish it. (Mainly because I read a bit, put it down, and got distracted by life and other books before grudgingly deciding I should probably start reading it again.) I managed to get through it quite quickly, but not because it was a page-turner, but because I was keen to get through the thing. Because if I’m completely honest… nothing about it really grabbed my attention.

The premise intrigued me. I liked the idea of trying to work out if the people and situations Alex encountered were real or not, but this presented itself as a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gave an insight into the mindset of someone suffering from schizophrenia and what a terrifying experience that must be, but on the other, it was difficult to get invested in any of the characters on the chance they might only exist in her head – helped along by the fact some weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been. (I did have a theory on one character which turned out to be true, but like I said, I was suspicious of all of them.)

I hoped there’d be a stronger storyline to run alongside Alex’s personal struggles…but what was the plot, exactly? Vague suspicions based on paranoia without any definitive crisis? Exciting.

Continue reading MADE YOU UP

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ONE OF US IS LYING

    ~Five students walk into detention. Only four leave alive.~

OOUIL

Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.

Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.

Bad boy Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.

Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life. 

And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about how any of them again.

He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.

 

A geek, a jock, a criminal, a princess. As Simon comments early on:

“You’re all walking teen-movie stereotypes.”

It had me thinking of a dark, murderous version of The Breakfast Club, especially with that title. (Talk about chills!)

One of Us Is Lying is told in first person, and switches between the perspectives of the main characters. Given that there are four of them and that multiple perspectives are told within a single chapter, I was a bit worried that Bronwyn and Addy, or Cooper and Nate would sort of merge together if their characters weren’t defined enough, and I’d forget who was who and who was doing what (if that makes sense.) So the first few chapters were a bit of a warm-up in getting used to the characters, but as each narrative voice was clear and distinct, there wasn’t an issue.

The plot kicks off from the first chapter, with the characters handling their own sub-plots as the main storyline progresses. What I liked was that even though the subplots were focussed on their own storylines, they still helped to move the main plot along in someway, as they’re all linked together (which is as close to a spoiler you’re going to be reading here!) Obviously these sub-plots were mainly focussed on character development, and given the stereotypical outline of the four protagonists, you can sort of see how their characters would change toward the end of the novel (almost a stereotype in itself) but I wasn’t mad about it.

Continue reading ONE OF US IS LYING

DEATH IN DEVON

Cream teas! School dinners! Satanic surfers! Join our heroes as they follow up a Norfolk mystery with a bad case of … death in Devon.    death in devon

When Swanton Morley, the People’s Professor, is invited to give a speech at Rousdon school he packs up the Lagonda for a trip to the English Riviera with his daughter and assistant.  But when the trio arrive they discover that a boy has dies in mysterious circumstances. Was it an accident or was it – murder?

 

Murder mysteries set in Devon might be Agatha Christie territory, but I figured one mystery novel is the same as any other. And I was going on holiday there soon, and as it had Devon smack in the middle of the cover, I thought it was a great option to take with me.

Death in Devon is the second in a series by Ian Sansom – the first being The Norfolk Mystery – with plans, it looks like, to write a novel for each county. (And there are a LOT of counties. So a long series, if that’s where Sansom’s taking it.) The end of my edition mentions the third instalment being set in Westmorland, so the series has continued past the second book, which, if I’m honest, surprised me. I’m honestly not sure it’s compelling enough for readers to want to follow through however many books there’ll end up being, because I’d honestly lost all interest loooong before the end.

Continue reading DEATH IN DEVON

THE HAZEL WOOD

Alice has spent most of her life on the road, always one step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at her heels. but when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her isolated estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice discovers how bad her luck can really get.

Her own mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the supernatural world where the fairy tales are set. Alice’s only clue is the message left behind:

STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD

To rescue her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began…


This was one of those books I saw advertised all over the place, but despite the gorgeous cover, what swung it for me was the mention of dark fairy tales (yes please!) I had in mind something on par with Paedar O’ Guilin’s The Call, or Holly Black’s Tithe series. I was excited by the potential of discovering a new favourite book (and author). It’s beautifully written, the prose almost poetic, but to a point where I feel the inner dialogue doesn’t quite read naturally, and how I think opinions of The Hazel Wood may be divided.

 

I kept my eyes on the art deco elevator, so beautiful I wanted to cut it up into bracelets.
I schooled my expression to flatness, but when the elevator doors slid open, my vision blurred over with tears. Finch’s familiar face looked like an island to a drowning swimmer.

 

The writing style – although its best feature – did occasionally take me out of the novel, making me question Alice’s internal voice. I’d say this is something you get used to; more a point of familiarising yourself to Melissa’s style of writing, until your focus shifts more on the plot.

Which might take a while.

Continue reading THE HAZEL WOOD

Comic-Con

My very first! 

(And I met an actor who was in The Lord of the Rings films, so with that literary connection, I figured it’s good enough to blog about.) 😁

Okay! So at the weekend I went to Bournemouth Film and Comic Con. (I got the ticket as part of my Christmas present, so have been waiting for EVER to go) and the weeks leading up to it were spent going on the website to check out the guest list. Which was addictive, and mostly consisted of me going ‘who?’ ‘Who’s that?’ ‘Never heard of him.’ A bit disappointing, but saved me spending a fortune on signatures. 

I think they’ve only had two cons there in the past, so not sure what the turnout was like before…but I’ve seen pics (probably from the first), where the lobby was bustling with people. Now I’m not a huge fan of crowds, but I like a decent amount of people to invoke a bit of atmosphere. Maybe it’s because I had an early bird ticket…but I walked in an it was close to deserted. The impressive Crowd Shot I had planned didn’t happen, because they simply weren’t there!

It wasn’t deserted though, and all the extra space let us check out every stall for as long as we liked. (Until eleven, when they’d let the next wave in.) And I wasnt nieve enough to wait before buying something, and come back for it later, especially if there was only one of something, and it was five to eleven! Which is how I came to buy Squirrel Girl – my absolute favourite purchase of the day. 

What do you think? Cute, right?

Early entry meant not hanging around in long queues where the guests were seated (throughout the whole day I think the longest queue I saw consisted of less than ten people). My first stop was – Dave Prowse! But he wasn’t there yet, so…John Rhys-Davies! Who is such a nice guy. Really friendly and chatty, you end up an even bigger fan after meeting him in person. Those were the only two I knew. A good way to stop me spending more money lol.

Check it out! Darth Vader and Gimli. What a pair.

I also went to John’s talk, which was great. He mentioned his own struggle and failure to read TLOTR. (You have to admire the irony), and I was happy not being the only one who couldn’t get into them!

Despite having paid fifty five pounds on autographs, I wanted to “buy all the things” (direct quote), but perhaps it should have been ‘spend all the money,’ because that’s exactly what I did. Hopefully next time I won’t get so carried away. 🙈 #NoShame 

But it was such a good day, with a fun atmosphere, and I think we were there for…five hours? Maybe a bit more? Considering it’s only two rooms that’s quite good going, and the time went fast. Now I’m looking forward to going to another one, and at some point the one on London. Been wanting to go there for years!

REBEL BELLE

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength, and lethal fighting instincts. And just when she thinks life cant get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy, and possibly Harper’s least favourite person. Things get even more complicated when Harper starts falling for him – and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth. 

 

 

I picked up Rebel Belle because I was intrigued to read about a strong female character (with a girly side), and found the concept of a girl who has to save the boy a refreshing change. It made me think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (minus the vamps), and I was sold! Okay, so I was a little put off by the ‘chosen one’ cliché and the fact she falls for the male character, but at least where that’s concerned, he isn’t described as good looking (at least where his clothes are concerned), and Harper only sees him as physically attractive after falling for him as a person. Which is preferable to the oft used instalove, am I right? Continue reading REBEL BELLE

THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER

Twylla is blessed. The Gods have chosen her to marry a prince, and rule the kingdom. But the favour of the Gods has its price. A deadly poison sineatersdaughterinfuses her skin. Those who anger the queen must die under Twylla’s fatal touch.

Only Lief, an outspoken new guard, can see past Twylla’s chilling role to the girl she truly is.

Yet in a court as dangerous as the queen’s, some truths should not be told…

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d only read about a chapter of The Sin Eater’s Daughter before it was side-lined to the TBR shelf (to join the other partially started novels), and I hadn’t thought of reading it again until I spotted its sequel, The Sleeping Prince. More inclined to finish it with the prospect of a sequel (provided the first one was any good), I got stuck back in.

It ticks all the boxes for a typical high fantasy novel with its medieval-style royal court, hunts, feasts, and historical conflict…and although this is undoubtedly what saw it sitting on my TBR shelf for as long as it had (I prefer urban fantasy), the world Melinda creates is definitely captivating. Every town and character has been fleshed-out with a detailed backstory that contribute to the story of the protagonist, without being so complicated as to confuse the reader.

Continue reading THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER

A MONSTER CALLS

A monster calls cover

Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don’t quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there’s a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. 

It wants the truth.

 

 

 

 

I like a good spooky story as much as the next person, and thought that was what I’d be getting from purchasing A Monster Calls. Yes, there is a monster (of sorts), but one that’s more a reflection of inner turmoil and grief, than a physical monstrosity driven to send chills down the reader’s spine.

Continue reading A MONSTER CALLS

Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum

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Over a (mostly) sunny bank holiday weekend, I spent a day in Portsmouth to pay a visit to the Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum. I do love a good museum trip, especially one of a prominent literary figure! Similar to Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, it was all small rooms and creaky floorboards. Actually, smaller rooms with nothing but creaky floorboards! The house is furnished in the Regency style his parents would have furnished the house in, with a few Dickens-owned articles including his snuff box (made from a deer foot, would you believe) and the couch where he died. 😦

 

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The house may be more of a time capsule for the early 19th century, as it was his parents’ house (they moved elsewhere a year after Charles was born), there are enough things from Charles’s later years to make it worth a look around. Access to the museum is through the kitchen (now the gift shop), still with the original Victorian range cooker and shelving unit that can’t be removed, as it’s built into the wall. Upstairs leads to the other rooms, which include a decorated parlour, dining room and bedroom that offer an atmosphere of the time period. The exhibition room (with the couch), is dedicated to displays and information relating to Dickens’ work and illustrators (with crazy rap star nicknames like ‘Kyd’ and ‘Phiz’ (to match Dickens’ pen-name ‘Boz,’ apparently.)

 

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The Parlour

 

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‘Reading to his Daughters’
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1. Rent book   2. Lorgnette  3. Ring  4. Snuff Box  5. Waistcoat Buttons  6. Cheque  7. Lock of his hair  8. Carte de Visite photographs

Despite its size though, we managed to spend a good hour there, possibly more considering the time we took in the gift shop (and I do love a good gift shop!) As it stands, I’ve only read one Dickens novel. Great Expectations – from either secondary school or college, with the standard knowledge of Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol that film and TV provide. As it was Dickens’ first published novel, I wanted to get a copy of The Pickwick Papers from the gift shop (alright, it was mostly because of the cool sounding title) but where books are concerned, I refuse to buy those with real-life people depicted the cover. I just find them kind of tacky. So, a little disappointed, I scoured the shelves for something else (I was NOT leaving without having purchased a book), and decided on The Old Curiosity Shop. As far as wanting to read more classics go, it definitely goes some way to filling the quota.

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Check out that bookmark…made of silk, don’t you know.

I believe there are other parts of Portsmouth with links to Dickens, but within the town itself, we ventured as far as Guildhall for a quick pic of the first large-scale public statue of the man himself, which was unveiled in 2014 for his 202nd birthday. Intriguing to know what else the city has to offer regarding his life and works (especially as it’s right on the doorstep), his birthplace museum is definitely the place to start for anyone wanting to get a feel for the time period of his life and writing, or who is thinking of exploring the work of one of England’s best-loved writers.

Check out the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum Here

 

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Chawton Vintage Fair

WP_20160417_13_23_36_ProSo yesterday called for a little trip to Chawton, for their Vintage, Antique, Collector’s and Craft fair! The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the dog made it all the way there without throwing up…perfect!

 

We didn’t stop in at Austen’s place this time (still haven’t finished my hardcopy of Sense and Sensibility from the last visit!) but definitely plan to return for a copy of Pride and Prejudice, because I love the hardcover classic designs. 

I hadn’t been to one of their vintage fairs before (to be honest, I didn’t even know it was a thing!), and despite being the home of Jane Austen, what I left with was a gothic-style picture of the bard himself. Can’t wait to get this up in my bedroom somewhere, once I’ve finished with the whole decorating/putting-up-shelves-I-don’t-own-yet stage that is. Which will probably take forever, because if there’s one thing that distracts me, it’s EVERYTHING ELSE. I’d hoped there’d be more stallholders there, but it is a small village hall, and these things are always nice to trawl the table tops for a hidden treasure. And who knows, might go again next month. 

 

WP_20160417_17_21_01_Pro (1)What a stud

 

Unfortunately we suffered another near miss when it came to Cassandra’s Cup (we’ll get in there one of these days!) but I did get a lovely bit of sponge cake at the village hall because let’s be honest, that’s what you have to do at these things. Drink tea, and eat cake. That’s basically my life’s motto. That, and ‘Leave me alone, I’m reading.’

On the way home we made a quick stop off somewhere I’d been meaning to get to for a while now – the grave site of my great great great grandfather. He was something of a minor celeb back in the day (not for the best reasons, unfortunately). The village is mostly notable as the home of Gilbert White who, I don’t know…drew pictures of birds or something? (Riveting, I know) but with an ‘award winning tea parlour,’ and huge garden for the dog to roam, we’ll probably end up going back to see the house and explore the grounds. This time, we only went as far as the gift shop (mostly to ask if dogs were allowed in the garden. They are) and after a quick look around, found a book detailing great etc granddad’s exploits, with a rendition of his five minutes of fame on the front cover.

WP_20160417_14_32_16_Pro (1)My great great great grandfather The Trumpeter of Selbourne, doing his thing.

Had to take a picture for my great uncle who researches the family tree, BUT, that little gift shop was where I bought these.

 

WP_20160417_17_18_38_Pro (1)Pretty right?

 

I’ve never in my life used a bookplate before, or written my name in a book (sacrilege!) but I couldn’t resist. To be honest, I was mostly taken with the box, but I’m sure I’ll whack a few labels in some books with a vintage, feminine style. Starting with my copy of Sense  and Sensibility.

For more details on the Chawton fair, click on the link