Monthly Archives: May 2015

Not one blog, but two!

Intro to my new blog. Hope you’ll visit me there soon 🙂

Glitter & Toast

Sometimes (surprisingly), I do have things to share that are not book related, and so I have decided to create a new blog, separate from my jansbookbuzz.wordpress.com blog!

So here it is, Glitter and Toast! Yes, I know it’s a strange name, but it gives a pretty apt description of the variety that makes up the spice of my life. There are my everyday, mundane ramblings – the normal stuff that makes up the hectic day of a mother of four kids of very varying ages … the toast.

Toast

And then there are my random forays into more exciting exploits: my love of theatre, and my regular visits and interactions with all things related to it; my social media mania; and many other little gems of life that arrive to uplift me from my regular routine … the glitter!

Glitter2

Both the glitter and the toast are vital to my existence…

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BOOK REVIEW – Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

Follow You Home

Many thanks to the author and to Tracy Fenton of THE Book Club (Facebook) for my advanced copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Ask anyone in THE Book Club on Facebook if Mark Edwards can put a foot wrong, and the answer will be a resounding ‘NO!’ His latest book, Follow You Home is proof positive of his talent as a creator of thrilling fiction that you just CPD (Can’t Put Down!).

Laura and Daniel are on the trip of a lifetime through Europe; one last big splurge before returning to London to settle down to ‘grown-up’ life. Everything has been meticulously planned, except for having their passports, cash and travel tickets stolen from them on a train-ride through Romania. They are unceremoniously evicted from the train in the middle of nowhere. It’s night-time: dark, scary and impossible to navigate, until they unexpectedly come across a house and have the most terrifying experience of their lives.

Back in London they make a pact never to speak of what they witnessed in Romania. Until strange and inexplicable things start happening to them, and they are forced into circumstances they never could have imagined.

Edwards is a master at drawing us into the lives of his characters. Daniel is a fairly uncomplicated person who just wants to live a simple, happy life. He is not equipped to cope with what he’s going through, although he does prove his mettle quite capably. He’s a very likeable guy. In comparison, Laura is quite a complex individual who had a challenging childhood and who quickly falls back into long-buried habits when faced with an unimaginably horrible situation. All of the supporting characters are well developed, their roles and purposes clearly defined, regardless of how peripheral some of them are.

This is a page-turner par excellence! With twists and turns that are impossible to anticipate, including a depiction of Romania that will send chills down your spine, the author skilfully interweaves the perspectives of all his characters. It’s done at just the right pace, in Goldilocks style: not too quickly, not too slowly, but just right!

Follow You Home is due for release on 30 June 2015, and it’s well worth the wait!

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BOOK REVIEW – Never Smile at Strangers by Jennifer Jaynes

Never Smile at Strangers

Thank you to the author and to Tracy Fenton of THE Book Club (Facebook) for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

It’s hot and sultry in the Louisiana bayou town of Trespass. Time seems to be moving extremely slowly for Haley Landry. Her father died in a tragic accident and since then her mother has withdrawn from life. Her best friend Tiffany drives her mad with her never-ending demand for attention and drama. Her boyfriend Mac isn’t even behaving like his normal dependable self. And then Tiffany disappears. One minute they’re having a fairly un-enjoyable evening out at a local bar; Haley goes to the bathroom, and when she returns, Tiffany is gone! And so follows the prolonged, torturous agony of not knowing what happened to her.

As we trudge through the unbearable heat and boredom of a small-town summer, everyone wonders what happened to the wayward teen. But the young girls of Trespass don’t seem too bothered by her disappearance. They still hitchhike at will, trusting everyone, with absolutely no regard to their safety. I did find this strange, but put it down to small-town mentality (I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but I do assume that there is a measure of security in a small town community that might not exist for those of us who are big city dwellers, and who tend to be more wary and cynical).

Jaynes develops her characters well. They’re all a little world-weary, even the younger ones, and the families are all more than a little dysfunctional. But the strong message that is relayed is that they’re all searching for something that they feel will offer them a sense of security. They’re all quite adrift for various reasons and don’t seem to have anything or anyone to depend on. Tiffany’s disappearance just adds to the overall fog of utter despair that hangs over the town.

Although the reader knows without a doubt that Tiffany has met with the worst kind of trouble, we don’t know what’s happened to her. All is revealed … without a revelation of ‘whodunnit’. Clever, clever, clever writing! We follow the perpetrator’s story throughout the book, in intermittent chapters, and I must admit I had absolutely no clue who it was until the author surprised me with her shock ‘A-ha moment’!!

How well do we ever know the people who we think we know well? This is a skilful observation of human behaviour in extreme circumstances. When you feel desperate who do you trust? Who do you turn to? Can you be sure you’ve chosen correctly?

I can highly recommend this book. It draws you in, and you won’t put it down until you’re done!

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BOOK REVIEW – Evil Games (D.I. Kim Stone #2) by Angela Marsons

Evil Games

Thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for the advance copy I received in return for my honest review.

DI Kim Stone is back! If you thought Silent Scream was good, then you’re in for a massive treat because somehow Angela Marsons has managed to do the impossible: the second in the DI Kim Stone series is even better than the first!

Can you say ‘sociopath to the max’ 10 times! In psychiatrist Alex Thorne, Marsons has created a villain so evil and twisted that you can’t help but marvel at her wicked brilliance. It’s Kim’s job to prove that Thorne is a manipulative, deceitful conniver without an ounce of moral fibre – the true epitome of a sociopath.

This is an intricate study into the heart and mind of pure evil. As the body count rises and a race against the clock ensues, one can’t help but feel one’s heart rate and blood pressure rising as we do our best to keep up with the chase. With every shrewd twist and turn of the plot I actually felt breathless at times, marvelling at the skill and expertise that were applied to ensuring that no loose ends were left and that all questions were eventually answered.

DI Kim Stone reminds me of that quote from Shrek ‘Ogres are like onions: they have layers’. This describes her perfectly. Just when you think you know and understand her, she’ll surprise you by doing something totally unexpected! The banter between her and her trusted team – especially Bryant who does his best to look out for her, as much as she’ll allow – is quick and easy. She knows that at all times, despite her harsh exterior and sometimes inexplicable behaviour, that she has their unequivocal support. Each of their characters has been allowed to develop and I can’t wait to read more books in the series so I can get to know them better.

This book is fast-paced, well-constructed and gives us a chilling look at some of the most contemptible individuals who really are the dregs of humanity. On the bright side (yes, there is one), there are also those who are full of compassion and empathy, willing to reach out a hand to those who need it.

Well done to Angela Marsons who is establishing herself as a tour-de-force in the crime thriller genre!

Evil Games will be published on 29 May 2015.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Lost Child by Ann Troup

The Lost Child

Thank you to NetGalley for sending me this book in return for my honest review.

The idea on which this book is based is by no means a new one: a child disappears, is presumed dead, but then unexpectedly returns many years later. However, Ann Troup presents a thoroughly refreshing view on the original concept.

Troup’s writing flows in such a way that it is a delightfully easy-to-read story. Her writing has a comfort and ease to it that I found thoroughly enjoyable, making me finish the book much sooner than I would have liked!

Elaine Ellis’s mother has died, and not knowing where she would have wished her ashes to be scattered, Elaine decides that the best place would be where her mother grew up, in the village of Hallow’s End. She settles into the holiday cottage she’s rented and quickly gets to know the locals and the story of the disappearance of 3-year-old Mandy Miller, something the village has never quite managed to put behind them, even though it happened 30 years ago.

As Elaine starts to unwind and get used to her surroundings, she establishes a relationship with troubled teen, Brodie and becomes enmeshed in the girl’s fixation with little Mandy’s disappearance.

This is not your everyday mystery or thriller. It’s an intricate look at the complexities of various relationships – between siblings, parents and children, partners and even with those who we find ourselves forced to co-exist with in close proximity. There are twists, surprises, and ‘A-ha’ moments aplenty! Troup’s characters are well-developed and engaging. Some are likeable, some are not; some are easy to understand, others are frustrating in their inability to react and interact as we’d like them to.

The Lost Child is well-written and exciting, and you won’t want to put it down until the very last word! It’s due for release on 19 May 2015.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Happy Hour Choir by Sally Kilpatrick

Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this book in return for my honest review.

Beulah Land is the shamed daughter of a preacher. Cast out from her family and community for being pregnant at the age of 16, she lives with her beloved (but prickly) piano teacher Ginger.

Beulah has made a life for herself singing and playing piano in the local bar, The Fountain. But with Ginger’s failing health and the arrival of handsome new preacher Luke, she finds herself propelled onto a new and unexpected path. It is Ginger’s wish that she takes over from her as the church pianist, which unsurprisingly meets with much disapproval from the church stalwarts and local gossips.

Then she is tasked with forming a new church choir, and so begins a journey filled with new friendships and frustrations as she puts together what begins as a rag-tag bunch of locals, but ends up being something close to family! There’s also the possibility that Beulah finally has the chance to find happiness and acceptance with the affable Luke.

This is a sweet book. I know that doesn’t sound complimentary, but it’s a great description for what is an enjoyable, quite uplifting read. It wavers between which audience it’s aimed at though. I’m not sure if it would be classified as Women’s Fiction, or Christian Fiction, so I’d say it probably hovers somewhere between the two.

I’m not a Christian, so I did find some aspects of the book a bit confusing. I don’t know if it’s the done thing for a preacher to hang out in the local bar, or if this was just a tactic used by Luke to try and understand and gain the support of his new community. I did enjoy the interactions with the local, so-called upstanding citizens who somehow fail in their quest to claim the moral high ground with their constant gossiping and judgemental behaviour. They were quite comical and added to the picture of a community consisting of all types.

Ultimately this is a story of overcoming the odds and of choosing and creating your own support system, when you’ve been sorely let down by those who you should be able to rely on.

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BOOK REVIEW – Welcome to Wherever You Are by John Marrs

Welcome to Wherever You Are

Thank you to Tracy Fenton of THE Book Club (Facebook), for the ARC I received in return for my honest review.

Take a bow John Marrs, because with this book you surely take your place amongst the top storytellers currently out there! After his brilliant debut ‘The Wronged Sons’, this much aniticipated second novel  certainly doesn’t disappoint!

The story centres around the Venice Beach International Hostel in LA, where travellers from all walks of life find a haven from the road. There are 8 main characters and Marrs quickly draws us into their lives in such a way that you can’t help but keep reading, eager to know their personal stories. I loved the short chapters that still managed to concisely alternate between each character’s current and past situations.

Marrs develops his characters wholly and perfectly. They’re all running from something, or towards something – even they aren’t sure! You’ll love them and then you’ll hate them, and then you might like them, just a little bit. Either way, you will feel like you know them as well as your own family. But each one is holding a secret very close to their chest, which is why they’ve landed up where they are, hoping that they can blend in and maintain some sort of anonymity, while they contemplate their next move.

There are many unexpected twists and turns along the way. There are quite a few gobsmackingly ‘gasp-out-loud’ moments. But hold on tight for the ride because this book will take you on a roller-coaster ride that you won’t want to get off!

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