Sunday, 15 September 2019

Winter Review Policy 2019 Activation!

Time for a news bulletin!

Please note this is virtually exactly the same as my 2018 Winter Review Policy post - it is saving me time! 

September is here which means Autumn and cold weather are on the way. While it provides more reasons to have hot chocolate, unfortunately it means the amount of books I review has to change.

For those of you who like me forget things and/or are new readers, my winter review policy means that I don't accept books for review from the date of this post until 1st March 2020. There are exceptions which I will explain later on.

I have permanent health issues including fatigue and chronic pain. Unfortunately my body adversely reacts to colder weather (anything below 10C), rain, snow, ice and hail. Oh and thunderstorms. I wish I was joking, but I like to hibernate as much as I can in winter to let my body be relaxed as it battles against the elements. Reviewing is fun but it does use energy, so I'm simply conserving what I have.

Wish I was impervious to temperature like Miku is (this is her 2019 winter outfit - possibly the best yet!)
There will be posts throughout the next few months, they will just be more gaming reviews and reviews of my own books rather than ones I get sent for review. It's easier to do a near-blanket ban on book reviews for a few months than having to apologise for being ill, which has happened over the last few weeks with unexpected illness over the summer

I can be found on Twitter most days, usually tweeting game related info on whatever I'm playing with at the time. Come find me @Nayuleska !
I use this fanart of Miku as my main profile header!

This doesn't affect reviews I've already committed myself to between October 2019 and March 2020
 I am upholding those, this is more for anyone requesting a review from today will probably get a negative response from me. I will answer emails explaining that as I know not everyone checks back on my review policy (or on the type of genres I do review...). I will try and repost a reminder of this post once a month in the absence of being unable to sticky a post here.
No idea who this cutie is, but she looks like I feel in winter.
I hope I can start accepting books for review sooner than March, but it does depend entirely on the weather. If we have a good winter, I'll accept books sooner. However, if we have a bad winter that I may have to extend the Winter Policy into April which I did earlier this year. I simply won't know until I get to February, which isn't for a few months yet! I appreciate your understanding in this policy change.
The exceptions are if you are one of my favourite authors! 
 I will always accept your books, they may still get a delay in review.

Once again thank you for your understanding, I hope you stay well this winter and enjoy the posts I do get up!  I hope this is all clear - please let me know if you have any questions. I promise this blog isn't going dark until March 2019! If you are able to wait until March for a review then please do still ask me to do them. I really appreciate your continued support and understanding for changes related to my blogging schedule. 
Sadly not drawn by me

Monday, 2 September 2019

Blog Tour: Best Friends Forever by Dawn Goodwin (Thriller, 10E/10E)

Check out the rest of the stops on the tour!

No, never.
August 2019, Aria Fiction, 364 pages, Ebook, Review copy

Book summary from press release
 Have you ever wanted to kill your best friend?Anna was the perfect wife. Perfect mother. Perfect woman. And now she's dead. Leaving behind her husband, David, and two young children their lives will never be the same. But Vicky will make sure life goes on...

These two women have been best friends forever, a lifetime of secrets lies between them and now Vicky is ready to step up into Anna's perfect shoes. But not everything is as it seems and as David begins to question Vicky's motives for walking into his life things might just get a little murderous.

The question on everyone's lips is, who killed Anna? And what actually happened on the night she died?

Nayu's thoughts
I'm fond of a good thriller (this one is a great one), and I love any story which heavily involves children, maybe because I have none and am eternally fascinated with how children think and act, in a non-weirdo kind of way. What you don't know is interesting, and while Vicky knew a little about Harper and Lewis, like me she fell in love with them. They are adorable! They are not perfect children, no child is perfect (or adult for that matter), but they do help cut through the grief of losing Anna. They are a big fat reminder that Anna is gone, which Vicky is painfully aware of, but they are one of the good things about Anna, which is a joy to read about, because Anna wasn't as nice as she seemed. 

A lot of times nice people are fully nice, but Anna is a case where nice was an external persona she wrapped herself in. She was downright awful to Vicky a lot of the time. Vicky obviously remembers those times as she struggles with the issues that her so-called best friend gave her. I liked how Dawn wove different timelines into the tale, because it shines a light on a past we only have Vicky's account of, it unlocks some mysteries that Vicky has in the present, and also gives a deeper understanding of who Vicky is. Vicky isn't entirely innocent just like Anna isn't. Dun dun DUN!!!!!! (I think you all know the music for that part.) 

Vicky both has and doesn't have an ulterior motive throughout the story. I think she had a vague idea of what she wanted to happen, but, understandably, she got used to living with David and the children, as seen when David's family come and disturb the nice routine Vicky has which makes her flustered and causes her to make decisions that aren't always wise. Did she kill Anna? Did David? Dun dun DUN!!!! 

Sorry, couldn't resist! Of course I am not going to tell you the answer - it would obviously spoil the plot more than alittle, and you really do need to read both timelines to understand the truth, which is a shocker. This is firmly on my reread shelf because of how much I like Vicky, despite her faults, and dislike Anna, because of how mean she is, and feel sorry for David too. So go read it! You won't regret it. 

Find out more from Dawn on her social media: 
Twitter: @DGoodwinAuthor
Facebook: @DGoodwinAuthor

Suggested read
For another single father tale check out  Fatal Option by Chris Beaky (Thriller, 10E/10E)

Novel Extract: Best Friends Forever Chapter 2

Vicky felt nervous as she rang the doorbell, which was silly because this house had been her second home for so long. But that was when Anna still lived in it. Vicky had known David a long time, but you could count on one hand the occasions they’d spent time alone.

She’d seen him at the funeral, of course. Not that she could remember much about it. She’d self-medicated with vodka in order to get through it. But she had been struck by how broken David had looked and she hadn’t known what to do with that. She wasn’t entirely sure what she had expected. He’d always been such a physical presence before, so to see him decimated, like an empty husk, had been a shock. Then her focus had shifted to Lewis and Harper, wide-eyed in their sombre, stiff outfits chosen specially for the occasion, and he had fallen out of her consciousness.

After that, it became harder to call him, ask him how he was, take that first step of reconnecting, especially as she was quietly battling with the gaping hole left in her own life. Anna had been her constant companion since they were thirteen years old, their only time apart being the university years when Anna had gone off to make something of herself (and meet David) while Vicky stayed behind and watched, an eyewitness to Anna’s much more exciting and privileged life. In those days, she had hoped that Anna would return to her; this time she knew without a doubt that she wouldn’t.

The only reason she had texted David last week was because the gnawing ache inside her couldn’t be ignored any more. She needed to maintain a connection to Anna somehow because without that, she felt like she was falling into a hole that she couldn’t claw her way out of, so she’d sent a tentative text. He hadn’t replied straightaway and she had tried not to read too much into it. But of course, she had analysed it endlessly, kicked herself for being too forward. The usual.

His reply came the next day. A simple message:

We’re okay. Kids would love to see you. David

She’d replied suggesting the following weekend when she didn’t have the dirt of a workday on her skin and they didn’t have the weight of school hanging over them.

And here she stood, her shaky knees clad in clean jeans that hung a little looser thanks to the most effective diet there is: grief. Anna would be pleased at that at least. Vicky’s hand hesitated over the doorbell, then she squared her shoulders, adjusted the heavy bag in her hand and pressed the buzzer.

The house next door had a Team GB flag attached to the aerial of their car. It flapped and twisted with the rise and fall in the breeze. Olympics fever was starting to grow, even though the opening ceremony was still weeks away. Vicky wasn’t all that interested and figured the excitement would peter out before long.

The door was flung open almost immediately by Harper, who rushed at her legs with force.

‘Hey, Bug! Wow, I’ve missed you! You okay?’ Vicky dropped the bag to the floor and knelt down to hug her back. As she released her, she felt a smaller body climb onto her back. ‘Lou-Lou! There you are!’ Lewis hugged her tightly around the neck, threatening to cut off her air supply, but she didn’t mind at all. She felt her heart lift a notch for the first time in a month as pure love flooded through her for her godchildren.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Blog Tour: The Perfect Lie by Karen Osman (Thriller, 10E/10E)

Check out the rest of the stops on the tour - there was a part 1 too!

8th August 2019, Aria Fiction, 404 pages, Ebook, Review copy 

Summary from Aria Fiction press release 
Nothing has felt right since she told the lie...

Claire Carmichael leads a charmed life. She has two beautiful sons, Jamie and Joshua, and a handsome and successful husband who loves her. She has been taught well by her mother –the most important thing Claire has is her good reputation. He said, she said...

Even when she was in school, Claire had it all. She was clever, likable, and after passing the initiation tests, she was welcomed into the society of popular girls –The Queen Bees. So when a scandal threatened to ruin Claire’s reputation, the QueenBees closed rank to protect her, no matter who else got hurt.

Never forgotten, never forgiven...

Claire may have moved on from her school days, but for one person who she hurt irreparably, those memories are as fresh as blood. And all it takes to reap their revenge, is ONE

Nayu's thoughts
As a reader of other novels by Karen I expected this story to be a good one and oh boy it was! I feel blessed to read it in one sitting, because the anticipation of what happened next was true to the cliche of it being a page turner! 
I find I am fascinated with books that are about mothers because having children isn't something that is on the cards for me due to health reasons, so I tend to lap up all the chaos and anxiety of having a child in books. Claire may looked put together, but the reality is quite different. I want to rub my hands and laugh like a manic (the muwahahaaaa type) because oh boy I totally didn't see the major plot twist coming! I didn't see any of it coming. After all, hiring a nanny is a normal thing to do and normally they are perfectly lovely, right? Well you will have to wait and see about that, just like Claire did. 

Thankfully I didn't have to wait days to see that happen, unlike Claire who yes I did feel sorry for at various points in her tale, but she wasn't entirely blameless for the situation that unravelled every aspect of her life. Watching someone's life fall apart isn't pleasant and usually doesn't make me want to laugh like a manic. Our lives are tough, often more than one curve ball bouldering us over. Fictional lives are usually worse, and that in itself provides a comfort in real life, which is why thrillers are so fun to read. I didn't have to experience Claire's drama to empathise with her, and to want a good outcome no matter what she possibly deserved. She clearly loves her two boys, who made me smile with their playing and requests. She will do anything in her power to protect them, even if it ranges into it's own realm of insanity. I am not saying she is insane, just that she got blinkered to the bigger picture, and the choices she meant weren't necessarily the best ones, in my view. And other people's views in the novel (as well as everyone who is reviewing this book). 

It can be hard to write a review for a thriller, because the plot themes are cleverly woven and mentioning one aspect would ruin the enjoyment, so I have to be even more careful than usual not to say the wrong thing. I will say I disagreed with Claire's decisions at several points in her story, both when she is an adult (which honestly is a total myth, as growing up and being all wise and knowing what to do in every situation never happens. Ever.) and when she is a teen. Yes, I got to read about teen Claire, as a way to discover what she was hiding from all those she loved. It was so frustrating because as soon as anything juicy happened it would switch to adult Claire and I would read on, glaring at Karen in my imagination for writing clever end of chapter cliffhangers. Both teen and adult Claire make very stupid choices which had me shaking my head and wondering why on earth they chose to take that path in life, when, from an outsider, it clearly was going to lead to trouble. But, again, that's what makes novels - and thrillers - so exciting! 

I enjoyed wanting to yell at teen and adult Claire to seek help from others and to never give up of there being a sensible way out of the situation she got herself in. Okay she did seek help from the Queen Bees, but I wouldn't say that was the right help. Excuse my poor grammar but the Queen Bees getting Claire out of a mess in her teens caused an even bigger mess in her family and professional life during adulthood. The past always catches up with people, and did it catch up with Claire! 

Enough of talking cryptically, you need to go read this book which is on my ereader's re-read shelf, and check out Karen's other books too! I am so eager for her next book!

You can find out more on Karen's website, and her social media. 
Facebook: @KarenOsmanAuthor
Twitter: @KarenAuthor
Instagram: karenosmanauthor

Suggested read

Monday, 26 August 2019

The Retreat by Sherri Smith (Thriller, 10E/10E)

 13th August 2019, Titan Books, 432 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Summary from Titan Books
Katie Manning was a beloved child star until her mid-teens when her manager attacked and permanently scarred her face, effectively ending her career and sending her on a path of all-too-familiar post-Hollywood self-destruction.

Now twenty-seven, Katie wants a better answer to those clickbait “Where Are They Now?” articles that float around online. An answer she hopes to find when her brother’s too-good-to-be-true fiancée invites her to a wellness retreat upstate. Together with Katie’s two best friends—one struggling with crippling debt and family obligations, one running away from a failed job and relationship—Katie will try to find the inner peace promised at the tranquil retreat. But finding oneself just might drudge up more memories than Katie is prepared to deal with.

Each woman has come to the retreat for different reasons. Each has her secrets to hide. And at the end of this weekend, only one will be left standing.

Nayu's thoughts
Child stars going wild sadly isn't anything new, but what piqued my interest apart from it being a thriller and most of the cast dying by the end of the book was the horrendous treatment Katie had from her manager. That was absolutely appalling, and I felt sorry for her, as no one should ever have to suffer that. 

Katie's tale, like all thrillers, is full of many tense moments that make me thankful I could read it in one sitting without being interrupted. As the book gathers for the grand finale surprises pop up everywhere. There's also a lot of humour in this one. Katie really doesn't like her brother's fiancee. Her thoughts towards the woman made me smile, and I did feel sorry that Katie was kind of forced to be with her, but the fact she was with her friends made that a bit easier to bear, some of the time at least. Each woman is distinct in character, although I did prefer Katie the most. I honestly understood to some degree why the murderer did what they did - there were times where I got frustrated with how Katie & co acted. They did wind each other up a bit, and only had an occasional bonding moment. Mostly I couldn't believe how stupid Katie's friend with debt was: I knew from the outset her grand plan would cause great trouble. I am not a rocket scientist but there are certain jobs, for lack of a better word without spoiling the plot, that are insanely risky and not worth the risk. 

I had great fun trying to figure out who would survive, and who the murderer was. I don't think I did work it out before the big reveal, there was so much double-crossing and subterfuge I didn't have the head space to debate who hated the women the most. That retreat certainly was full of home truths and misfortune which should have capital letters for the impact they had on the story. It will be a while before I reread it, but I am already excited to pick up the hints about the murderer from the beginning, and to shake my head at the idiotic decisions made. People rarely seem to think straight when in a crisis in books! it is like watching a comedic horror movie when you know that opening the front door will get the character killed. 

Find out more on Sherri's website.

Suggested read 
For a thriller with a bit less humour but lots of thrills check out The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdi (Thriller, 9/10E) 

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Guest Blog Post + Review: The Mystery of Riverdale Tor by Amanda Wills (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

March 2019, Independently Published, 230 pages, Ebook, Review copy

Book Summary
A chilling attack. A killer dog on the loose. Can Poppy find the culprit before it strikes again?
Poppy McKeever is devastated when a dog attacks the sheep on her best friend Scarlett’s farm.
Feeling guilty that she did nothing to stop the attack, she makes it her mission to uncover the identity of the mystery dog.

But first there is a new challenge to overcome – a riding competition that will push the bond between Poppy and her beloved pony Cloud to the limits.
Will the pair triumph against the odds?

And can Poppy turn detective and discover who owns the menacing hound that has been terrorising the moor before it kills again?

Nayu's thoughts 
I've read several of Amanda's books in the past (see suggested read), and a close friend had just read this book when Amanda got in touch asking if I'd like to review. I instantly replied yes please! Animal stories, including ones about horses have a special place in my heart. In real life I am not a horse rider, and I am extremely wary of them if I am near them: they are big, I am small, they could do me damage is pretty much how my brain thinks. The same isn't true for horses in stories: I like to experience all aspects of horse care because it interesting and my fictional self would ride horses daily. 

Poppy's adventure is made doubly appealing because her best friend has a farm (she possibly does, there's been a bit of time since I read the book) which is another topic I like to read about. What Poppy witnesses is horrific (not graphic, don't panic). I truly don't think it was her fault that she didn't realise what was happening at the time, or act on it, because people sometimes freeze in such situations. I can understand why Scarlett was so upset with Poppy, but it really wasn't Poppy's fault that the dog attacked the sheep. I think she was brave to investigate what was going on - with her little brother in tow, but then her friendship was on the line so she had to do all that should could because the adults didn't seem to be doing much.

There is bucketloads of emotion in the tale which I think will help readers deal with their own friendship complications, and understand that doing the right thing can be hard. Poppy had to give credit to her brother who wasn't a total hindrance to her investigation. The real culprit was a surprise, and a relief as I wanted the sheep to be safe again. Admittedly at first I thought it would be a mystery beast like a huge wildcat, so it being a dog was a little disappointment but that by no means affected my enjoyment of Poppy's tale. 

The tale wasn't all about the unpleasant parts of farm life, there were a lot of laughs to be had as Poppy trained with her pony (and Scarlett) for an event very similar to Handy Pony, which I know about through books and a family member did it when they were younger. It's an obstacle course for horses (if I recall correctly), something which Scarlett dismisses as too childish but Poppy coaxes  Scarlett's competitive spirit which has them both putting a lot of effort into the event. A big thank you to Amanda for writing a guest post and including a bunch of photos to go with it!

Find out more on Amanda's website

Suggested read
Check out Amanda's other books including The Golden Horse by Amanda Wills (Young Adult, 10/10E)

Guest Blog Post from Amanda

Many authors credit their muse for the stories that swirl around their heads, waiting to be written.

My muses are many, but they all have one thing in common – they are all of the four-legged variety!

I have been lucky enough to have pets all my life, from the longhaired tortoiseshell cat called Freddie when I was a baby, to Minstrel and Fudgie, the two cats we have now, with a few ponies, dogs, chickens, rabbits and sheep in between!

Being a passionate animal lover, I am endlessly fascinated by their characters and quirks, and I guess that’s why animals feature so strongly in my books.

The fact that I have been pony-mad for as long as I can remember was behind my decision to write pony adventure stories when I began writing children’s fiction seven years ago.

All the experts tell you to ‘write what you know’, and I knew exactly what it was like to be pony-mad and pony-less, and so the Riverdale Pony Stories were born.

Like my protagonist Poppy McKeever, I was lucky enough to have my own pony in the end, and Poppy’s beloved Cloud was based on my own once-in-a-lifetime pony, Hamilton.

Amanda with Hamilton
I owned Hamilton, a grey Connemara just like Cloud, for just over twenty years and we had so many happy times together. We may not have solved as many mysteries or enjoyed as many adventures as Poppy and Cloud, but when I’m writing the Riverdale books all I have to do is cast my mind back to my own teenage years with Hamilton and the scenes almost write themselves.

Amanda with Smudge
My first pony, Smudge, a Welsh Mountain pony, was a dab hand at undoing quick release knots. A talent that provided the inspiration for the mischievous Frank in the third Riverdale book, Into the Storm.

Amanda with Dobbie
These days I am lucky enough to ride Dobbie, a lovely dark bay Connemara, every Friday, and all his expressions and mannerisms find their way into my books.

The sheer joy of trotting down a country lane with a set of pricked ears in front of me is rocket fuel for my writing and I spend hours planning stories while I’m out riding. In fact, I regard my Friday rides as essential research. Virtually tax-deductible.

But it’s not just horses I love writing about. All the animals I have shared my life with provide inspiration for the four-legged characters in my books.

Poppy’s rather overweight cat Magpie is modelled on our own chubby cat Minstrel. Minstrel has the ability to convey her displeasure with the slightest flick of her tail or briefest narrow-eyed stare, a trait I passed onto Magpie.

Amanda's parents' German  Shepherd Ruby
My parents have always owned German Shepherds, dogs that are as brave and loyal as they are beautiful. When I wrote my only non-horsey middle grade book, Flick Henderson and the Deadly Game, I wanted my heroine Flick to have a dog. So, I gave her Gus, a gorgeous German Shepherd who accompanies her on her quest to find out what happened to her missing sister.

Fudgie, Amanda's cat
One animal who hasn’t made it into the books so far is our lovely tabby Fudgie. She is my constant companion when I'm at my desk and helps in a variety of ways, such as sitting on my hand while I'm trying to type and sprawling across the dictionary just when I need to look up a word. But it would be a lonely old business without her, and she will definitely make an appearance in a book before too long.