Monday, 20 October 2014

Giveaway! Win a copy of THE SHAM by Ellen Allen. (INT!)


The Sham by Ellen Allen || Release date; Sept. 2014


When love leads to death, be careful who you trust…

Eighteen-year-old Emily Heath would love to leave her dead-end town, known locally as "The Sham", with her boyfriend, Jack, but he's very, very sick; his body is failing and his brain is shutting down. He's also in hiding, under suspicion of murder. Six months' ago, strange signs were painted across town in a dialect no one has spoken for decades and one of Emily's classmates washed up in the local floods. 

Emily has never trusted her instincts and now they're pulling her towards Jack, who the police think is a sham himself, someone else entirely. As the town wakes to discover new signs plastered across its walls, Emily must decide who and what she trusts, and fast: local vigilantes are hunting Jack; the floods, the police, and her parents are blocking her path; and the town doesn’t need another dead body.

WARNING: THIS BOOK IS UNSUITABLE FOR YOUNGER TEENAGE READERS. IT DEPICTS ADULT SITUATIONS, MURDER SCENES, CONVERSATIONS ABOUT SEX AND PROFANITY.

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Thanks to Ellen Allen I have TEN eBooks of The Sham to give away to TEN lucky winners!

The Sham is a YA Thriller with (see above) some scenes that are not suitable for younger readers --I hear the beginning of the book is particularly brutal - and it's been getting some great feedback on Goodreads: Take a look!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Please read the Competition Rules
*Please Note:Winners emails will be forwarded to the author -- eBooks will be sent directly from the author.

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Ellen Allen on her inspiration for The Sham

The idea for this book came to me in a nightmare... It was so vivid that I imagined I was 17 again, at school, in the same group of 4 friends that I used to hang around with. We were involved in a murder and cover-up. I started writing partly as a way to get it out of my head and then the characters turned into real people... and Emily and Jack were born.

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Listen to the playlist for The Sham

As I was writing the book, I had these songs in my mind
at key scenes in the plot; they make a great album:

1. Thomston, Burning out
Emily is forced to watch as four of her classmates bully
a small boy in the local playground. She meets Jack and,
together, they are able to save him. Everyone is
traumatized but Jack helps her to feel better: “I’m 
coming up, I’m too young to worry bout burning out”.

This is a very moody and atmospheric song for when
Emily finds out that her classmate – one of the
playground bullies – is dead.

3. Snakehips (ft. Sinead Harnett), Days with you
After tourists claim Jack is their long lost nephew,
someone called Matthew, Jack disappears and Emily
convinces herself that she really is “better off without
you”. It has a great vibe and it’s  very upbeat, even
though it’s sad.

4. Ed Sheeran, Thinking out loud
This is the music playing for Emily and Jack’s first kiss;
“Take me into your loving arms. Place your head on my
beating heart.” Aaaah.

5. Ella Eyre, Deeper
Jack doesn’t give away his emotions easily and this song 
perfectly encapsulates what Emily thinks Jack is feeling
– that he doesn’t want to commit – and how he should
“dig a little deeper”.

6. Lennie Kravitz, The Chamber 
The police manage to convince Emily that Jack is
actually Matthew. She’s angry, hurt, upset and feels 
betrayed: “You killed the love that was once so strong.
With no regret to what you did wrong”.

7. Jessie Ware, Wildest moments   
This song is playing over the speakers of the
supermarket café when Emily finally finds everything
out – about who Jack really is and who killed the girls. It
manages to perfectly encapsulate the complexity of
Jack and Emily’s relationship and the situation she has
to deal with at the end of the book; “we could be the
greatest, we could be the worst of all”.

8. Clean Bandit (featuring Jess Glynne), Rather Be
This song conveys the end of the book brilliantly and
leaves us on a really upbeat tone. It’s a tip top tune!


Follow on Twitter: @EllenWritesAll


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Friday, 17 October 2014

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham - Here's What I Learned.



"There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told," writes Lena Dunham, and it certainly takes guts to share the stories that make up her first book, Not That Kind of Girl. These are stories about getting your butt touched by your boss, about friendship and dieting (kind of) and having two existential crises before the age of 20. Stories about travel, both successful and less so, and about having the kind of sex where you feel like keeping your sneakers on in case you have to run away during the act. Stories about proving yourself to a room of 50-year-old men in Hollywood and showing up to "an outlandishly high-fashion event with the crustiest red nose you ever saw." Fearless, smart, and as heartbreakingly honest as ever, Not That Kind of Girl establishes Lena Dunham as more than a hugely talented director, actress and producer-it announces her as a fresh and vibrant new literary voice.

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You might have heard of Lena Dunham. She's the star (and creator) of HBO's Girls, she's won awards for her writing and for her acting. She has a unique red carpet style, along with a savvy social media sense, and she's just released her first book, a series of essays on life, love and everything called Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"

Lena Dunham is successful. Super successful. Her book deal alone banked her a whopping $3.7 million dollors. WOWZA! As such, Dunham has her detractors - a lot of them. People that want to see her fall, who want to see her fail. People who hate her for her success and her background, and, I dunno, maybe her red carpet style too. I'm not one of those detractors. I'm a fan of 'Girls,' and I read Dunham's book because I think she's a talent. I'm interested in what she has to say.

Here's what I "learned" from reading Not That Kind of Girl.

Dunham is a talent. Her writing is a pleasure to read; she has a style that sharp, witty, observant and always on-point. She has a special way with words. And she's funny.

If you're familiar with Girls then you'll know that Dunham's character in the show Hannah Horvath is extremely self-obsessed. Dunham too.

For Example: When Dunham's internet boyfriend dies (or maybe not - Igor's whereabouts are something of an unsolved mystery. Did Igor really exist - that's what I want to know!) - her immediate response is to ask her friend if Igor said he still liked her. It's like, I know he just died, or whatever, but was he still into me? (I'm totally paraphrasing, but you get the drift).  Another time, the cab she's riding in hits a pedestrian, and Dunham once again makes it all about her, proclaiming to lookers on, one and all: "It's my birthday!" She is secretly glad when her Grandfather dies. As she sees it, she "has a place to put all my sorrow now". I know, right.

As Horvath, Dunham likes to strip off on screen. She's an over-sharer, and she shares pretty much everything here. One aspect of her life that she doesn't over-kill with the over-share is her relationship with boyfriend Jack Antonoff. Because he matters. And I thought that was sweet. She talks about everything else though. And I mean everything else: her wonky uterus, her fears about death, her therapists, disturbing experiences with a disturbing guy called Barry and inappropriate teachers. All of that.

Dunham has cool parents. Artists, both of them. Lena's dad is an especially laid back customer, particularly when dealing with young Lena and the subject of forks. A total laugh out loud moment for me. Also, sick, Lena. Sick!

Dunham's upbringing, her whole world, is different to yours our mine. It's a pretty charmed world she lives in with easy-to-come-by jobs in designer baby boutiques and vegan dinner parties where the dress code is barefoot casual -  and, of course $3.7 million dollar book deals.

Dunham talks of the memoir she'll write when she's eighty - the memoir that will name and shame all those jaded Hollywood moguls who want to "steal her sunshine". Those Hollywood vampires who don't want her to succeed; the just want a piece of whatever magic she has that makes her successful. Dunham is too smart to fall for any of that. And I totally want to read that book.

This book, though. I wanted to love it, but I didn't. I liked parts of Not That Kind of Girl, but some of this book feels like filler: Lena's food diary, her worst email ever, the emails Lena would have sent if she were an ounce crazier/angry/braver. Also, I wasn't sold on the somewhat scatty, non-linear style of this book. It works in part, but I think it only works at all because Dunham is such a skillful wordsmith. And I guess, that in her hands, I expected something more.



My Rating: 3.5/5.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Cover Alert: Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer.


Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer || Release date: June 2015.

From debut author and poet Lexa Hillyer comes the lyrical story of four friends who receive an unlikely chance to relive the perfect summer... and the devastating secret that could unravel it all. Joy, Tali, Luce, and Zoe were once best friends, until Joy pulled a vanishing act and they all lost touch. But with the fateful flash of a photo booth camera, the girls are transported back in time, to the summer they were fifteen—the summer everything changed. Photos fade. Friendships dissolve. Summers end. But this one will change the girls forever...again. Elegant and evocative, Proof of Forever is one of those first novels that hooks from the beginning and builds toward a stunning—and unexpected—end, calling to mind Gayle Foreman and Anne Brashares. 

"The Sisterhood of the (Time) Traveling Pants for a new generation!"--Wendy Wunder, author of The Museum of Intangible Things and The Probability of Miracles

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Proof of Forever is the debut novel from Lexa Hillyer (co-founder of Paper Lantern Lit) and it sounds like a sweet, sweet summer read. With all this talk of second chance summers, I bet Proof of Forever will be a big hit with Morgan Matson fans when it hits shelves in June 2015. Also, Let's just talk about the cover: isn't it ADORABLE?  Love the use of photostrips as infinity symbol.  Very cute!


Proof of Forever
@Lexa_Hillyer

Reviewed by Arianne: Louder Than Words by Laura Jarratt.


Product details:
Publisher: Electric Monkey.
Paperback, 461 pages.
Release date: June 5th 2014.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: 12+
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.

Rafi hasn't spoken for eight years. It's up to her to tell her brother's story now that he can't speak either ...

Rafi idolises her seventeen-year-old brother, who is popular, generous and a borderline genius. Ever protective, Silas always includes her when he's with his friends, so Rafi gets to hear all sorts of things that younger sisters wouldn't normally be a part of. Like the time Silas hacks a gaming site to help out his friend Josie, who has been trashed by her ex.

With Josie, Rafi finds herself with a proper friend for the first time in her life. As they grow closer, she realises that she wants to find a way back into the world – she wants to learn to speak again. But Silas has found a new interest too – and it’s taking him away from everything that was once important to him. Can Rafi find the words to save her brother?

I love Laura Jarratt’s books. Both Skin Deep and By Any Other Name, while not perfect, are hard-hitting, dramatic and deeply moving. Laura Jarratt is so underrated as an author – I’m constantly recommending her work so that more and more people can read and enjoy her wonderful additions to the YA shelf – but for me, Louder Than Words only further cements her right to be named one of the foremost UKYA writers being published today.

 Louder than Words possesses many of the same qualities as her previous books, but with the fascinating and unique twist of the main character being unable to speak. Rafi is the kind of character we’re always asking for more of in YA. She is flawed and wise and naïve and complex, and most surprisingly, funny. You’ll never have to fear being unable to relate to her as a protagonist, as she’s actually one of the most realistic characters I’ve seen leading a UKYA novel all year.

 I didn’t connect with the other leading characters, particularly Josie, as much as I did with Rafi, but I still appreciated their role in the novel. There’s a focus on friendship and loyalty that you don’t often see in young adult books these days, and it helped to ground the novel amidst the chaos of other storylines. We only see Silas through Rafi’s eyes and his letters, but he’s vital to events of the book –and, since I kind of love the name Silas, I was pretty much always going to be intrigued by him here. He undergoes a radical transformation that I didn’t really engage with, and I ended up really hating Lara, but it’s necessary to highlight the thematic issues of the book, which include activism, trauma, loss, grief and coming of age.

 Backstory and plot are, of course, key to understanding and enjoying this book. Written in Jarratt’s classic and straightforward style, Rafi’s story is delivered with finesse as well as a flair for twists and turns. Just like By Any Other Name and Skin Deep, Jarratt unleashes an unexpected skill towards the book’s finale; it’s as tense and gripping as any crime drama. If you can stick with the slow beginning and immerse yourself in the book’s world, you will be soundly rewarded. 

I wasn’t as emotionally invested with this book as I wanted to be – there are only so many times long-term readers can be hit with the same wave of shock before it becomes regular and unimpressive – but what’s really fantastic about Louder than Words is that it’s a true standalone, so you don’t need past experience of the author or even the genre to dive right in. In a world where everybody’s trying to make concepts and series last forever, the short, sharp burst of story found within these pages is really refreshing. 

In short: original, compelling and well-written, Louder than Words is another worthy contribution to YA from the great Laura Jarratt. It lacks a little of the same shine seen in her previous books and it will never be one of my favourites, but it should definitely be on your TBR list. 


--Arianne.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Book Review: Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young.



Product details:
Publisher: Piatkus.
eBook, 336 pages.
Release date: October 7th 2014.
Rating: 3½ out of 5.
Ages: Adult.
Series: On Dublin Street #5.
Other Books in Series: On Dublin Street, Down London Road, Before Jamaica Lane, Fall From India Place.
Source: Purchased.

Shannon MacLeod has always gone for the wrong type of man. After she drifted from one toxic relationship to the next, her last boyfriend gave her a wakeup call in the worst possible way. With her world shattered, she’s sworn off men—especially those of the bad-boy variety.

Cole Walker is exactly the sort that Shannon wants to avoid—gorgeous, tattooed, charming, and cocky. But his rough exterior hides a good man who’s ready to find “the one.” He’s determined to pull Shannon from her self-imposed solitude and win her heart.

As Shannon opens up in the face of Cole’s steady devotion, the passion between them ignites to blazing levels. But when Shannon’s past comes back to haunt her, her fears may destroy the trust Cole has built between them—and tear them apart for good…


 Note: This is a next-in-a-series book. As such here may be spoilers for previous books in the series in this review.

Some girls love a bad boy, but, at twenty-four and after a series of toxic relationships, Shannon MacLeod has had enough. Cutting ties with a past that casts too many dark shadows over her life, Shannon relocates from Glasgow to Edinburgh, where she plans to start afresh – and men are most definitely NOT on the menu. First up, Shannon needs a job; and her new job as a receptionist at a renowned tattoo studio seems like a perfect fit. That is, until she meets her new boss: Cole Walker is just the kind of guy Shannon does not want in her life. Confident, cocky and good-looking in a ‘he so knows it’ kind of way, Cole sets his sights on Shannon from day one, flirting with her to the point of distraction, or maybe harassment. Shannon has seen it all before. Cole Walker is just another tattooed bad boy who doesn’t want to take no for an answer. But Shannon isn’t interested in him – she’ll never be interested in a guy like Cole Walker – not after what happened back in Glasgow.

 Hold up. Rewind. Cole Walker – bad boy?!

 Now, if you’ve followed this series from the start, you’ll know that Cole Walker is anything but a bad boy. Yes, Cole may look like a bad boy, with all his tattoos and his cocky attitude (I partly blame Cam for that!), but readers know him to be kind and caring, loyal, and above all, respectful towards women. After all, he was practically raised by his sister – the feisty Jo- who would not put up with any bad boy behaviour from her wee brother. Cole’s attraction to Shannon is immediate and his flirting a little OTT at times - but what we already know (and what Shannon pretends to have forgotten) is that these two met once before – nine years ago – and they had an undeniable connection. So, when they meet again, Cole is over the moon. But Shannon isn’t the girl he met all those years ago – a whole lot has changed since then. Shannon shuts Cole’s advances down – she just doesn’t want to know. But why? What has happened to this girl to cause her to act this way? And can Cole break down her defences and find the warm, friendly, funny girl he met on Scotland Street all those years ago? 

Shannon has been badly burnt by past relationships, yes, but I have to admit she made a bad first impression on me with her treatment of Cole. That said, Cole is not perfect here. He’s Shannon’s boss, and for me, he totally overstepped the mark by coming on so strong in a work environment. I mean, if this was real life, Cole Walker would be in trouble. But, it’s not real life, and so I’m not going to harp on about that particular aspect of the story. It annoyed me a little bit, I guess, as did Shannon who would tell everyone around her that in no way was she judgemental while very obviously judging everyone on sight. She judges Cole for his looks, attitude (he’s good-looking and knows it), and his tattoos, and later she judges her sister (who, admittedly, is not very nice) for not having any tattoos because in Shannon’s opinion she’s not at all creative and is happy with the way she looks without any artificial enhancement (which sounds like a pretty good way to be if you ask me!) I wasn’t a huge fan of Shannon, truth be told; she was a little too hostile, a little too opinionated, and little too cold at times for me to ever really warm to her. Her attitude towards Cole thaws as time goes on, and she’s got a good heart underneath that tough exterior, but at the end of the day, she just wasn’t a favourite of mine. 

Still, while Shannon’s character was something of a miss for me, I definitely enjoyed this latest instalment in the On Dublin Street series. The first book (Joss and Braden) is still my favourite (and the hottest!) but this was a good read, with secondary characters such as Rae (Shannon’s colleague and flatmate) a particular (foul-mouthed!) highlight. The tribe is back too – that’s what the ever expanding cast of characters from previous books is now fittingly referred to – so we meet Joss and Braden, Cam and Jo, Nate and Liv and Hannah and Marco (and all their kids!) in the course of this book, and I’m pleased to report that apart from one medical emergency everyone is doing very well. By the end of this book Braden is in his mid-forties – can you believe that so much time has passed?! He’s still got it, though. Shannon totally comments on his hotness. In fact, Shannon comments on everyone’s hotness. Hey, I guess all those guys are really hot! 

So, will Cole win Shannon over so that they can start on adding to that ever-expanding tribe? If you’re a reader of these books, then you know the answer to that! These books sure do follow a formula, and it’s a winning one at that!

 Echoes of Scotland Street is yet another compulsive read from Samantha Young with well-developed characters, sparky dialogue and some of the hottest bedroom action you’ll see this year with one of the hottest guys in town. Cole Walker – you were definitely worth the wait!
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