Book review: The Escape by C L Taylor

The EscapeThe Escape by C.L. Taylor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Someone is threatening Jo’s daughter and Jo will do anything she can to protect her. Honestly, this story is the stuff of every parent’s worst nightmare – the idea of someone taking away your child.
Jo does some extreme things, but you understand precisely why she does them.

There are enough twists and turns and subplots to keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time. It’s totally gripping. I raced through this book in a day… and then I went to check on my kids.

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Book Review: Popular by Mitch Prinstein

Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed WorldPopular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World by Mitch Prinstein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A completely fascinating book analysing years of research into the correlation between childhood popularity and outcomes in later life. Some of the longitudinal studies are fascinating. Basically, if you were well liked at school (not necessarily the same as having Popular kid status), you’ll be a happier, more balanced adult. We all knew that, really. But there’s interesting theories as to why that is – the evolutionary advantages of being social, the ability to perceive threats etc.

The style is very accessible and it’s an informative and interesting read. There are references at the back if you’re inclined to go find the original research.

If you’re a parent of a tiny baby, or expecting, or even the sort of person who is beat yourself up about your parenting skills, you might find that the last couple of chapters make you question your every interaction with your baby…

Overall, a great popular science book (see what I did there?).

I received a copy from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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Book review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1)A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I downloaded this book solely based on the cover. Look at it. Just look at it! How can you resist?
I know a 10 year old who is very keen on dragons, so I thought she might like it. Obviously, I can’t give a book to a 10 year old without checking the content is appropriate, so I thought I’d best read it before I gave her a copy.

Like all good fantasy, this is a well developed world. The social mores of Scirland are broadly similar to those of Victorian England. Lady Trent, now an old lady, writes the memoirs of her adventures. As a girl, she had to stifle her inclination towards science, until she meets he husband, Jacob, who encourages her in that direction and is generally, he greatest love and best friend.

If Amelia Peabody Emerson had lived in Scirland and studied dragons instead of Egyptology, this is the memoir she would have written. Given that I love the Amelia Peabody books, it’s no surprise that I adored this book.

Oh, in case you were wondering, there’s a bit of swashbuckling violence, death and a bit where she wonders about a threat to her virtue, but no sex in the book, so it’s perfectly fine to give to a 10 year old. Especially one who is obsessed with dragons.

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Book Review: Dissent by Katy Haye

Dissent (Echoes of Earth #2)Dissent by Katy Haye

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up because I’d read Discord and enjoyed it. The perspective in this book moves from Beth (in Discord) to her ex-boyfiend Hiran. It shows us what happens when the teens leave the school and go out into the colony. The Casians keep the humans there so that the humans can provide entertainment for them, like we keep animals in a zoo.
When things start to go wrong and the Casians decide to terminate their experiment with this batch of humans must come to an end, Hiran and his friends need to get everyone out of the colony and into the relative safety of the wasteland outside the bubble that they are kept in.

A good fun adventure, compelling and interesting. As with a lot of YA fiction, although the characters are young, they handle some deep emotional themes (like love, death and miscarriage). One of the things I really liked was how the ‘Aliens’ (technically, they’re not Aliens, they’re the new dominant species) were totally non-humanoid. There’s a brilliant conversation about how the sun and the stars are all wrong too.

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The Trouble With Goats And Sheep by Joanna Cannon

The Trouble with Goats and SheepThe Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s the middle of heat wave in 1976 and woman has disappeared in the avenue. Everyone is on edge. With this as the backdrop, Grace and Tilly (aged 10, ish) decide to go searching for God, just to be sure that he’s in the avenue, keeping everyone safe.

This is a story about small communities and groups judging people because they are different. It’s a bit like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, because the outcast is judged guilty by everyone, but everyone has their own reasons for acting the way they do.

This is a lovely immersive story. It took me a little while to get into it because I kept being distracted by the almost lyrical language. The characters were very well drawn and I kept thinking about them after I’d finished the book, which always a good thing.

I really enjoyed reading it. It evoked the 1970s spookily well.

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Goodreads Book Review: Wedding Bells by the Creek by Janet Gover

Wedding Bells By The Creek: A Coorah Creek NovellaWedding Bells By The Creek: A Coorah Creek Novella by Janet Gover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the Coorah Creek series (nearly all of them have made me cry – in a ‘good book cry’ kind of way) so, when I heard there was going to be a new novella – with a wedding in it, no less, I asked the author if I could have a review copy.

In this book we meet up with Ed Collins again (grumpy old bugger from Coorah Creek Christmas) who is a significantly happier man now that he’s reunited with his estranged son. We also meet Helen (mum to Tia from Little Girl Lost) who is searching for reconciliation. If anyone can understand just how hard it is to heal old rifts, it’s Ed.

I liked that Helen and Ed are a little older. I also liked the connections with the town. I feel like it’s a real place.
Oh, and did I mention the puppies? There are puppies.

The ending was lovely, but it was bittersweet because it felt like the end of the series.

Usual disclaimer- Janet and I write for the same publisher. I asked for a free copy so that I could read it early. This is an honest review.

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Goodreads Book Review: The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

eThe Summer of Impossible ThingsThe Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a sucker for a time travel novel and this one’s a good ‘un.
While visiting her late mother’s home town, Luna starts experiencing these weird episodes where she’s transported back to the 1970s at a crucial point in her mother’s life. She could save her mother from a terrible event in the past (which in turn could save her mother’s life in the present). However, in doing so, she would erase herself from existence.

The writing is brilliantly evocative of the a hot Brooklyn summer and, in places, incredibly poignant. The story was incredibly compelling. The bits about Saturday Night Fever were really fun.
The only niggle was the ending where all that had changed about the narrator was her eye colour (not terribly likely, but then again, the book is about impossibly things, I guess).

All in all a compelling and immersive read.

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Goodreads Book Review: Generation Decks by Titus Chalk

Generation Decks: The Unofficial History of Gaming Phenomenon Magic the GatheringGeneration Decks: The Unofficial History of Gaming Phenomenon Magic the Gathering by Titus Chalk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw this on Netgalley and picked it up because I used to play Magic back when I was at uni (in the mid 1990s) – not at any professional level, just sitting on the floor of my friends’ rooms. So when I saw a history of the game, I was intrigued.

The book is part chronicle of the journey of Wizards of The Coast from start up to global behemoth, part memoir/love letter to the game that changed the author’s life.

I hadn’t appreciated just how popular the game was/is. It was fascinating reading about the ragtag beginning of it and the various commercial decisions that made it stand out from the rest of the roleplaying/table top games available at the time. The evolution of Magic:The Gathering and the evolution of the internet seem to have coincided and helped each other out.

I was particularly interested in the section about how women playing the game are treated (and how WOTC is trying to fix the gender balance at professional level). I only ever played with friends (mostly male, all of them nice), so I never really had to face the misogyny described. On the other hand, I have had the odd ‘a girl in the comic book shop’ moment. It’s a shame that a game that embraces outcasts has created outcasts of its own.

This is an interesting book if you know about the game already. If not, it’s still an interesting book about a business.

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Book Review: The Little Teashop of Horrors by Jane Lovering

Little Teashop of HorrorsLittle Teashop of Horrors by Jane Lovering

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a fan of Jane’s books – I like the mixture of comedy and darkness. I wasn’t expecting a teashop book from her, to be honest. Anyway, we have a book about a tea shop. In Yorkshire. So there are scones and fairy cakes and raspberry crunch. There are also birds of prey. Owls! Hooray!

The heroine, Amy, had grown up being told that she’s nothing much to look at and not terribly good for anything. She has a pretty best friend, who isn’t very nice to her, and a grandmother who has old fashioned views about, well, everything. In reality, Amy is clever and capable and very, very kind, but she’s been taken advantage of so often, she’s pretty much come to expect it.

The hero, Josh, is oh, so broken. He’s very sweet (and good looking, although he does his best to hide it). He’s in love with Amy right from the start, but too messed up to do anything about it. As you know, I love a beta hero. I thought Josh was wonderful.

Amy runs the cafe in Monkpark Hall – a stately home that is open to the public. I loved the view of a stately home from behind the scenes. The staff (many of whom come from generations of people who worked at the Hall) feel that the house somehow belongs to them as much as they belong to it – something the new administrator who comes in fails to recognise until it’s too late.

I really enjoyed reading about Amy and Josh (and Skrillex). I especially liked the fact that, by the end of the book, they were healing each other, but the problems had not miraculously gone away (because deep seated problems rarely do that!). All that talk of cake has made me hungry now. I shall have to go and hunt me down some pudding.
The usual note – Jane is a friend and we both write for the same publisher. I was a fan of her writing before I even met her. I got a review copy of this book from Netgalley, in return for an honest review.

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nest review.