Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Dodger is a tosher, making a living below the streets of London, searching the sewers for lost coins and treasures. He dreams of one day finding that elusive tosheroon which will set him up for the rest of his life. Everyone who is nobody knows Dodger. Anyone who is anybody doesn’t. But that’s soon about to change when he rescues a young lady from a hideous beating.

It’s easy to see a lot of Ankh-Morpork in the streets of Victorian London, but this story is far from the tales of Discworld. I found it very slow and didn’t find Pratchett’s rendition of Charles Dickens or Dodger that engaging. However, as always, there are some wonderful observations hidden away in what is otherwise a fragrant adventure in the sewers of London. I think overall, it would suit a younger audience.

Pratchett makes many connections between Dodger and those whose professions are considered above the board. Politicians and journalists as just as much “on the dodge” at times. The idea of making a living searching poo for a few coins being better than life as a chimney sweep or even the workhouses, really hits home the awful poverty of city life in Victorian times.

Life was so much simpler in the sewers, but he had learned something lately, which was that the truth was indeed a fog, just like Charlie said, and people shaped it the way they wanted it to go.

I found the most interesting aspects were the real people, however dramatized they might be. Such as Angela, heir to the Coutts fortune yet unmarried and doing her bit to help the poor help themselves. Such a very modern woman for the times. There was also Henry Mayhew who went on to write an eye-opening study of the poor in London, Benjamin Disraeli, who would become Britain’s only Jewish prime minister and Sir Robert Peel, head of the new brand of policemen. Joseph Bazalgette, the engineer who would one day improve the sewers of London, gets his first taste of the bowels of the city when Dodger takes him toshing.

There were also some characters borrowed from literature or, if you like, urban legend such as Sweeney Todd. Dodger himself isn’t exactly the Artful Dodger, but I get the idea he is perhaps meant to be the inspiration for Dickens’s character. And, of course, Charlie Dickens has quite a large role in the story too.

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Also reviewed @ The Oaken Bookcase | David's Book World

Book Source: Purchased

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Reading For Alzheimer's

It's fast approaching Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon time and I'll be reading for charity again. Last time I raised £148.27 so I'd love it if you could spare a few pounds to help me beat that.

Once again, I'll be reading in aid of the Alzheimer's Society, who not only fund research into this devastating disease but also offer help to sufferers and their families. This is a heartbreaking disease that is often dismissed as something that happens to old people and therefore not important. With the sad loss of Sir Terry Pratchett recently, I hope this cause is on the minds of many right now.

I will donate:
£1 for every hour I stay awake
1p for every page read

Josh also thinks I need some kind of forfeit if I do fall asleep, since it's for charity (it's fine to sleep during the even though). Suggestions welcomed or I might well be forced to read Jordan's biography...

A little birdie told me sign-ups for the readathon should be open very, very soon. It's a really fun event, so I encourage you to sign up too. I'll be back soon with some readathon recommendations.
Donate Here

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Day We Disappeared

Annie hates it when people work out she’s that Annie Mulholland. She’s been running from her past all her life, putting it on hold whilst she hides behind locked doors, only socialising once a month with her good friends in Le Cloob. Until one day at work, she meets someone who is about to change everything. Kate has run away from her life too, taking a job at a stables far away from her busy life in Dublin. The only problem is, she doesn’t know the first thing about horses…

She said, "So this place is like those Jilly Cooper novels, right? I can't wait to meet Mark - he's gorgeous!" I thought, kill me now.

I do have to be careful reviewing this one. The reason it is so good is a massive spoiler, but just let me tell you all is not as it seems and there are some serious issues underneath Lucy’s fabulous, entertaining writing. It’s partly about how we appear on the outside isn’t always our real selves. As I started to read, it seemed a perfectly pleasant romantic story, with two storylines I couldn’t quite fit together, other than the two women were friends. All I can say is, keep reading!

We are introduced to two women; Kate who has escaped her life physically, by running away to a remote eventing stable in Exmoor, and Annie who has been trying to escape her life since she was seven and her mother died. Annie suffers from severe anxiety which hampers her everyday life and makes it hard for her to form relationships. As the story progresses, we learn in short flashbacks what happened on her seventh birthday to make her this way.

I sat down suddenly on the edge of my bed and the Bad Shit cackled. It had me back in its sights.

Being a horse person, I also loved Kate being on the farm and the star of the show is undoubtedly Stumpy, Mark’s star event horse. Where would any of them be without the love of Stumpy? The book is well-researched, enough that Kate’s complete ignorance of horses does not go un-noticed and she confides in someone early on. This makes it so much more believable that she wouldn’t be outed, although there is more to this than just that.

I longed for a Saturday cuddle with a nice boyfriend, all morning breath and semitumescent willies, but the reality of attempting anything like that left me in a white panic.

And oh I cried! I also laughed, Lucy’s books being that wonderful combination that get all your emotions going. There’s tension, there’s a dash of fear, but all-in-all wonderful, real feeling characters. And when they don’t quite feel real enough, maybe there’s a good reason for that…

The Day We Disappeared is published by Penguin and is available now in ebook editions with a paperback due 9th April 2015. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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Also reviewed @ Page to Stage Reviews

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Sunday, 22 March 2015


AKA Showcase Sunday

I'm trying not to buy books at the moment until I've read some of the ones I've bought recently. I kept walking past the Buried Giant display in Waterstones' window thinking I really must read the last special edition I bought from there first. Then I was feeling a bit down one day and I came out of work to find my boyfriend clutching a copy for me. He's the best!

I also got a box from My Geek Box this month but it was a bit disappointing. We might try one from somewhere else next month but I do fear that if you're not into Marvel you're screwed. Josh did get a Ghostbusters t-shirt out of it, so it wasn't a complete loss. We made our DIY Wolverine Munny completely wonky too, so he has a bit of charm.

I'm raising money for the Alzheimer's Society. Please give a few pounds if you can. Thank you!

For review:
The Good Girl by Fiona Neill (Penguin)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Tor)
The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner (Orion)
The Living and the Dead in Winsford by Håkan Nesser (Mantle)

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

Showcase Sunday is hosted by Books, Biscuits & Tea.

Friday, 20 March 2015

4 Year Blogoversary: It's All About the Books

OMG I've been blogging 4 years!

So one of the best bits about blogging is all the new and exciting books and authors you discover. There's definitely a few favourite authors I doubt I'd have known about if it wasn't for their books dropping through the door in hope of a review. I might not have started reading young adult if it wasn't for the enthusiam of bloggers. I always though I was an eclectic reader but I think blogging, and interacting with so many readers, has broadened my reading even more.

This list isn't exhaustive, but includes a few of my favourites from the last four years that I'd love you to check out. Though I'm almost scared to go back and read my earliest reviews...

4th Blogoversary Giveaway!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Observations from four years of book blogging...

...on the eve of my blogoversary.

You don't have to accept review books to be a book blogger

Some of my favourite bloggers don't accept review books. It's OK to read old books, new books, borrowed books (but not stolen books). A lot of new bloggers see getting review copies as a goal or a sign you have made it. Of course it's a real treat to get some of your most anticipated books in advance. However once you've been around a while it might seem like a double-edged sword. Where do you find the time to read your own books? It can be hard choosing what to read and wanting to be accommodating to debut authors or your favourite publicists. So make your own mind up, it's OK to say no. If you want to say yes, make sure you don't overload yourself, and don't get to the point where you feel entitled to them.

You're not under any contractual obligation

I see so many people stressing about getting reviews out "on time" or not feeling like they want to read a specific book they have accepted. Unless you have signed a contract otherwise, you are not under any obligation to review to a schedule, or review a book at all if you're not feeling it. You're not getting paid and this should be an enjoyable hobby. There's a big different in requesting loads of books and never reviewing any, to a blogger who just gets round to stuff in their own time. If you get worried about this, check with publicists what their expectations are before you accept. I generally won't accept anything where there's a deadline, especially if that deadline is next week!

A week away from your blog won't ruin everything

If you're going to be blogging long term, you have to accept that sometimes life will get in the way. The world moves so fast, your readers will barely notice you've stepped out for a week. And if you need longer, take it. Anyone that stops following you because you take a break isn't worth it. People will worry if you're a regular poster and disappear for over 2 weeks, so a sticky at the top of your blog is a great idea. But don't stress about having to explain yourself.

You don't have to read all the time

This is connected to the previous point. Sometimes your reading mojo will leave you. Forcing it generally doesn't help but often doing other things does. Binge on Netflix, go outside and see new places, write, or just lie around doing nothing for a bit. If the lack of blog content scares you, why not blog about what you're watching and doing? I love hearing about bloggers' lives outside of reading!

Don't assume you know the whole story

This kinda relates to internet Drama with a capital D but also to the general bitchiness that sneaks out on social media when people assume a blogger is stuck up or greedy. Maybe they are busy. Maybe they are socially awkward. Maybe they didn't ask for all those books they get sent. Don't pile onto drama without stopping to put yourself in the other person's shoes. A little bit of empathy can go a long way. We all say and do stupid things now and again.

There's plenty of bad advice on the internet

You might think this is all a load of rubbish advice and that's fine. I do think the worst kind is when someone says "this is the only way to do things", especially when that person is someone you admire. That just makes you feel bad for doing things your way. Stay within the bounds of the law and common decency and go ahead and do want you want!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Win £25 to Spend on Books

4th Blogoversary Celebrations Start Here

On Friday this little blog turns four years old! I'll have a few posts in order to celebrate, looking back at some of my favourite books and some thoughts on blogging in general. But first up, let's have a little giveaway!

Either £25 of National Book Tokens (UK/Ireland)
£25 worth of books from The Book Depository (International)

Photo taken in City Lights, San Francisco.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Time and Time Again

Ex-soldier and YouTube star Hugh Stanton has nothing left to live for when he is offered the change of a lifetime. If there was one thing in history you could change, what would it be? Academics at Cambridge have unearthed a box containing Newton’s most startling discovery, a moment in time and space that bends back on itself, back to June 1914. The perfect moment to avert the 20th century’s worst tragedies.

The premise is an interesting one; can you go back in time and prevent the suffering of millions? Hugh’s target is the First World War, understandably an event with triggered a snowball effect across the world. If he can prevent the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and stop his warmongering uncle, the Kaiser of Germany, from stirring trouble, will the future be different? Is one event really the cause of so much pain?

I found the sections about the history, especially the assassination in Sarajevo, the most fascinating parts. However it failed in the execution of the story and the unrealistic characters. Well, maybe I just disliked Hugh in a way that wasn’t interesting. Sometimes you get characters you don’t like but they are stilling compelling to read about. Hugh was not such a character, he was just a bit of a nob.

It’s a contender for the Bad Sex Awards too. Don’t start me on the fact that he’s grieving for the loss of his wife and kids from only one year ago…but he’s soon diving into bed and falling in love in the past. And halfway through the sex scene he stops to wonder if he should feel guilty. But it’s OK, the woman he’s with says it’s what his wife would have wanted and off they go again. Plus there’s an extensive paragraph going on about how she has pubes and comparing her to the modern woman. How romantic.

I’m sure it’s a decent read for the kind of book it is (men’s commercial fiction) but it’s all action no emotion. At times it even seemed to mock the kind of book it is. Hugh’s a kind of working class Bear Grylls, well-educated but rather bitter about his peers having had better chances at life. I’m not sure if he was aiming at serious or tongue in cheek really. The whole thing comes across as mildly ridiculous.

The last few chapters picked up a bit, although were very rushed, and it has a thought-provoking message at the centre. Anyway, I would prefer to go on and read more about the start of the First World War. I read this for book group otherwise I definitely would have put it down. Just not my cup of tea at all.

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Also reviewed @ For Winter Nights

Book Source: Purchased

Friday, 13 March 2015

Under My Skin

Quiet Sally Feather keeps her head down, at home and at school. When an encounter with a homeless man leads her to take refuge in a tattoo parlour, she makes a rash decision and gets a tattoo of a pin-up girl. Little does she know that the sultry Molly-Sue is going to offer to help her get everything she ever wanted. But there’s always a price to be paid…

The whole thing was starting to piss her off – an evil tattoo and an enigmatic nun.

At the heart of Under My Skin is a story about stepping out from the shadows and becoming the person you always wanted to be. Unfortunately for Sally, it takes a nefarious living tattoo to push her into things. Her mum has always been on at her to join in, now she is.

I think there’s also some sort of message in there about being sure about getting a tattoo because it’s not something that’s easily undone. Although hopefully your tattoo won’t starting talking to you…

Of course, with any horror story, things start to go wrong. Getting what you want in life sometimes means stepping on other people; something Sally isn’t good at but where Molly-Sue excels. At times I thought that Molly-Sue was a positive presence; she certainly has the right attitude to men who push their luck. I’m not sure that side of her fit with the ultimate revelation.

She wasn’t weak, she was quiet. There’s a difference.

It was an easy and fun read but was lacking in any real tension. And my main problem is that is just wasn’t scary. The idea of someone knowing your every thought and having the potential to take control is plain terrifying, but the story surrounding this idea always felt safe.

Sally, Jennie and Stan are fans of Satanville, a US show that sounds a bit like Supernatural and Buffy. I really struggle with these fictional Fandoms, I felt the same about Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. Is there really that much of a copyright problem that characters can’t be fans of real shows? Making their fandom fictional means that it requires an exposition every time the character wants to refer to it.

In addition, the book felt like it could be an extended episode of Buffy, but without the vampires. The high school clichés are all there, and somewhat American in feel. Sally even mentions that she wished she lived in an American TV show, but it seems she’s already there. I can see that the clichés are there on purpose, but this one didn’t hit the right buttons for me.

All in all, not James Dawson’s best book. I would heartily recommend starting with one of his others, which have much more tension and scare factor.

Under My Skin is published by Hot Key Books and is available now in a sexy, hot pink edged paperback as well as ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive | Hot Key Books

Also reviewed @ ShinraAlpha

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Reasons to Stay Alive

At 24 Matt Haig was standing on the edge of a cliff in Ibiza, contemplating ending his life. When severe depression and anxiety struck, he could see no way to go on, but he did. This book is his story of the worst days of his life and how he learned to live again.

I can remember the day the old me died.

I know so many people have loved this book already as it shows them they are not alone. For that, it certainly deserves its place in the world. Matt does stress at the start that depression is different for everyone. This is his story, a mix of memoir and self-help, littered with his trademark lists and the odd conversation with his former self.

The sections “Things people say to depressives that they don’t say in other life-threatening situations” and “Things that have happened to me that have generated more sympathy than depression” highlight a real problem in wider society. Depression is so often not treated with the same respect as other illnesses. I also really appreciated the parts where he talks about depression that doesn't have an obvious cause. It's easier to talk about a trigger, something people can identify with as being traumatic, than just every day things that get out of control.

Maybe love is just about finding the person you can be your weird self with.

For its subject matter, Reasons to Stay Alive is quite a cheerful little book. It is proof of light at the end of the tunnel. That you can suffer from depression and be successful. You might not feel that you are a success, but that’s the depression talking.

I think if you see much of your own experience of depression and anxiety in this book, it would be a good one to give to a friend or relative to help them understand. However I’m not entirely sure it’s the best book for those generally wanting to understand depression. It is one perspective after all. It would have been quite nice to have a few words from Matt’s wife Andrea (who sounds amazing) on living with and supporting someone with depression and anxiety.

There are few bits on the general nature of depression and anxiety though, as well as (if you pardon my wording, depressing) statistics. Like all good non-fiction, there’s some further reading listed at the back if it piques your interest in the subject. However I get the feeling this book will be picked up most by the people who have already felt comforted by Matt’s words online.

Reasons to Stay Alive is published by Canongate and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Hive

Also reviewed @ The Little Reader Library

Shelve next to: The Man Who Couldn't Stop by David Adam

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.