T5W – Characters’ Fitness Routines You Want

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Thoughts on Tomes. (You can find the Goodreads group for it here) This week’s topic is Characters’ Fitness Routines You Want. Fortunately, this is open to interpretation: it can be any kind of ‘fitness’. That means fit and healthy characters, or ones whose routines involve a decent amount of food. I suspect that my list will include more of the latter*…

*Update: It turns out characters who stuff their faces with cake and pizza at every opportunity are pretty rare in the books I read.

  1. All of the gods in Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – As gods, this bunch are blessed with beauty and grace, and are muscular and powerful (think Thor), and yet they have regular feasts and eat and drink an insane amount (again, Thor). I would like their fitness regime because they don’t really do a lot, but stay beautiful and healthy through god-power. Which would be ideal.30809689
  2. Mma Ramotswe in The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall-Smith – Mma Ramotswe has no fitness regime (other than drinking tea), and instead prides herself on her traditional build. I love this view that big is beautiful (although she does do a fair bit of skinny-shame which I don’t agree with). 816167.jpg
  3. The Shadowhunters in The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare – The Shadowhunters (i.e. Jace, Clary and the others) train every day. This keeps them in peak physical condition, but it’s more than just a work out. The exercise their minds as well and improve their skills, doing something they love with their friends which makes it fun rather than just hard work. 256683.jpg
  4. Lula in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich – Lula runs around all over the place helping Stephanie catch criminals, and then chows down on pizza, fried chicken and copious amounts of doughnuts. She’s proud of her figure and maintains her fitness as she wants, regardless of what anyone else might think.6853

Okay, try as I might, I can’t come up with a fifth character whose fitness routine I’d want. To be honest, it’s not something I take much notice of when I read. So there’s my Top 4 instead!

Are there any obvious ones I’ve missed out? What characters’ fitness routines would you want?

All That’s Left to Tell – Daniel Lowe

35056167This is a difficult book to sum-up, but I’ll do my best!

Marc Laurent, having been taken hostage in Pakistan, receives a visitor every night. He is bound and blindfolded, and then a woman named Josephine comes to question him. To begin with, she only wants to know who to contact to ransom him, but soon her questions become more difficult, more probing, as she asks why he didn’t go home for his daughter, Claire’s, funeral. Josephine begins to tell Marc a story about his daughter’s life had she not been killed, and in turn Marc starts to tell his own stories about Claire’s life. As truth and fantasy become so mixed that Marc can no longer tell which is real, a father and daughter start finding ways to understand each other again.

All That’s Left to Tell is a compelling slow-burner, and truly fascinating. Like Marc, I found myself utterly pulled in by Josephine’s stories, and desperate to find out what happened to Claire despite knowing it wasn’t real. There are stories within stories and trying to work out which were true and decipher the meaning behind Josephine’s story-telling was both fun and frustrating.

Not knowing which parts were real and which were made-up made this book a unique read: mysterious, engaging and unlike anything I’ve read before. It is skilfully written and completely engrossing, despite the plot not being very eventful or exciting. I highly recommend it.

Goodreads | Amazon

Last Seen Alive – Claire Douglas

34204310In Claire Douglas’ gripping new thriller, secrets and lies begin to tear up the lives of Libby Hall and her husband, Jamie. Following a fire and a tragic miscarriage, Libby and Jamie receive a note asking for them to do a house swap by a couple needing to be near a hospital for the sake of their daughter. The timing couldn’t be better, so Libby and Jamie agree to exchange their flat in Bath for a secluded house in Cornwall. But when they reach their temporary home, Libby can’t shake the feeling that they’re not entirely alone. Their marriage is about to put through the wringer as Jamie learns that some secrets are better shared, and Libby’s past threatens to catch up with her.

Last Seen Alive drew me in on the very first page. I’d previously read and loved Douglas’ Local Girl Missing, so had high hopes and was not at all disappointed. The story progresses slowly but, instead of being boring, this gently builds up the tension to unbearable levels. You know something is coming, but it is impossible to guess what.

I liked Libby. She clearly has problems, but these are revealed quite slowly which allows time to develop a connection with her, which stops her paranoia and insecurities from becoming annoying. It is obvious that there problems have stemmed from something in her past – even if we don’t know what – rather than her just being a wimpy character.

Every aspect of the story is engaging and intriguing. There’s a big twist (which I totally did not see coming) and it’s a good’un. Shocking and unpredictable, but makes complete sense. And that ending! (Read it and you’ll understand).

Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!

Goodreads | Amazon

Fatal Masquerade by Vivian Conroy – COVER REVEAL

Today is a very exciting day, because it’s the big Cover Reveal day for Vivian Conroy’s latest Lady Alkmene Mystery book: Fatal Masquerade. I love the glitz and glamour of this detective series, and am thrilled to be able to show off the new cover, right here on The Story Collector!

Lady Alkmene and Jake Dubois are back in a gripping new adventure facing dangerous opponents at a masked ball in the countryside.

The 1920s have never been more murderous

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Fatal Masquerade (A Lady Alkmene Cosy Mystery, #4)

Lady Alkmene Callender has always loved grand parties, but when she receives an invitation to a masked ball thrown by Franklin Hargrove – oil magnate, aviation enthusiast and father of her best friend, Denise – she’s never seen such luxury. The estate is lit up with Chinese lanterns in the gardens, boats operated by footmen float across the pond and the guest list features the distinguished, rich and powerful!

But below the glamour, evil is lurking. When a dead body is discovered, it forces Lady Alkmene to throw off her mask and attempt to find the true killer before Denise’s family are accused. If only her partner, Jake Dubois, weren’t hiding something from her…

This case might just be more dangerous than either of them could have imagined.

Goodreads | Amazon

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The How I Choose My Books Tag

I haven’t done a tag in a while, so thought I’d better get round to doing one I was tagged in recently. The How I Choose My Books Tag was created by The Bookish Underdog, and I was tagged by Darque Dreamer Reads. Both of these blogs are beautiful and definitely worth checking out.

1. Find a book on your shelves with a blue cover. What made you want to pick up this book?

Strange The Dreamer – Laini Taylor.

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This book was EVERYWHERE in the lead up to its publication. I’ve read some of Laini’s books before and adored them, and the pre-order version of this book came with a lovely shiny cover and blue sprayed edges. I just couldn’t resist.

2. Think of a book you didn’t expect to enjoy but did. Why did you read it in the first place?

The Evil Seed – Joanne Harris.

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I wasn’t sure about this book to begin with. I really wasn’t keen on the cover, but it’s about vampires so there was hope (I like vampires). I’d read some Joanne Harris before and really loved it (Runemarks and The Gospel of Loki – both based on Norse mythology so very different subject matter) and I needed to add a bunch of cheapish books to my kindle before I went on holiday. The Evil Seed was 99p at the time so I figured I’d just give it a go. Glad I did.

3. Stand in front of your bookshelf with your eyes closed and pick up a book at random. How did you discover this book?

Heartland – Lucy Houssom.

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I saw TorUK tweet about this book (coming soon), along with a new cover for the first in the series. I had never heard of it, but I really loved the look of the cover so I sent them a cheeky tweet and ended up being sent a copy of each! So I have Tor to thank for helping me to discover this.

4. Pick a book that someone personally recommended to you. What did you think of it?

American Gods – Neil Gaiman.

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After I enjoyed Good Omens so much, my dad recommended this one for me to try next. My parents got me the massive illustrated version for Christmas and I managed to get it read before the TV adaptation started. I. Loved. It. I thought it was meaningful, thought-provoking and (obviously, being Gaiman) brilliantly written.

5. Pick a book you discovered through book blogs. Did it live up to the hype?

This Is How It Always Is – Laurie Frankel.

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I saw a lot of reviews of this book before I managed to get my hands on a copy. When I did I had very mixed feelings. On one hand, I was thrilled because the proof copy I had was shiny, gold and pretty. On the other hand, I was a little sceptical because there was A LOT of hype. It did live up to it though.

6. Find a book on your shelves with a one word title. What drew you to this book?

Defender – G.X. Todd.

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I saw a giveaway for this book on Facebook and, after looking up the synopsis, decided it sounded really intriguing. It didn’t have a cover at the time, but the blurb was enough to gain my interest. I entered the giveaway and won a limited edition hardback!

7. What book did you discover through a film/TV adaptation?

The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien.

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This is the only book (that I can think of) that I’ve read after seeing the film of first. However, I have a couple more lined up because the films were or look fantastic: Before I fall by Noah Hawley, and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

8. Think of your all-time favourite books. When did you read these and why did you pick them up in the first place?

The Call of the Wild – Jack London.

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This has been my favourite book since childhood. My mum must have given me this to read because I read it very young and the copy I have was most definitely not new.

Now You See Me – Lesley Glaister.

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I picked up in a bookshop in my early teens when my dad took me in and told me I could have any one book I wanted. The title drew me in first, and then so did cover and blurb. The story is emotional and beautiful.

Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.

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My family recommended this book to me and I absolutely loved it. I’ve re-read it a few times since, and I even persuaded my boyfriend to read it (he doesn’t read much).

I Tag…

City of Novels // Rustling Reads // Lots of Livres // Bibliophile Soprano // The Bookish Baker // That Book Gal // Serial Bibliophile // Reading with Lori // Between the Pages.

 

T5W – Book Covers You’d Live In

118368Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme run by Thoughts on Tomes. (You can find the Goodreads group for it here) This week’s topic is book covers you’d live in! What this means is books with covers that you’d like to be transported into. So, here’s my Top 5!

  1. The Waking Land by Callie Bates – I love the magical forest vibe of this cover, and the shiny leaves on the hardcover version. It just looks like it would be such a beautiful forest to walk through and, as far as book covers go, this one if pretty stunning. 34610036
  2. Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop – To be honest, the picture on this cover just looks like such a beautiful holiday destination, and I know the pictures in this book are photographs of real places so being transported there wouldn’t be entirely impossible! 29082369.jpg
  3. The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams – I love a castle, and the one on this cover looks particularly dark and mysterious. I would love to see what the rest of the world in this book looks like. 29927235
  4. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – Now, I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in this cover (it looks cold) but I would definitely like to visit and meet the fantastical Russian spirits described in the story. 25489134
  5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – The clothes of the silhouettes on this cover look fantastic and I love the mysterious black and white effect. It really makes me want to go to the night circus and see what it’s all about. 10860047.jpg

So that’s my Top 5 Book Covers I’d Live In! What covers would you like to be transported into?

Spotlight: Links by Lisa Becker

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Release: 1st August 2017 (Today!)

In high school, Charlotte Windham was a typical student going through an awkward phase – glasses and all. She harboured a crush on Garrett Stephens, the teen heartthrob everyone can’t help but fall for during that unfortunate ugly duckling phase of one’s teen years. Flash forward fifteen years later, and Charlotte and Garrett have a second chance encounter at a Los Angeles restaurant. However, this time around, Charlotte has levelled the playing field. She’s a bestselling novelist and no longer “Glasses,” the humiliating nickname Garrett called her in high school. In short, she’s a catch now and, thanks to corrective eye surgery, it’s not just her eyes that see better… so does her heart! Garrett hasn’t fared poorly either, transforming from teen heartbreaker to adult lothario. A now successful professional golfer, he’s recently suffered a major setback in the form of a possible career-ending injury. With the upper hand, can Charlotte forgive Garrett for his past ways, and for his more recent Don Juan lifestyle? Will she even want to? And, can Garrett change his ways for a second chance with Charlotte, who may just be the perfect fit for him?

BUY LINKS HERE: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Kobo


Excerpt:

I stand but hesitate when I see Tamika’s disapproving look. Fi notices as well. “It’s okay, T. I got this,” she says, motioning for me to follow her back. When we get to her small office, she closes the door and gestures for me to sit on a red vinyl chair, circa 1972. She stands in front of me, leaning against the desk, and crosses her arms in front of her chest. “Spill!”

“Where should I start?”

“At the beginning.” She walks around to her chair behind the desk and pulls out a yellow legal pad.

For the next half hour, I go over my encounter with Garrett, from the moment we bumped into each other and he didn’t recognize me, to the embarrassment of being called ‘Glasses.’

Fi takes notes furiously on her pad and grins, nods, and cringes at all the appropriate times. When I finish, she puts her pen down and asks, “Do you want the ‘best friend experience’ or the ‘brilliant legal mind experience’?”

I can’t help but laugh. “Are they mutually exclusive?”

“They are,” she says nodding.

“Okay. I want the best friend experience.”

She rushes around from behind the desk, wraps her arms around me soothingly. “I’m so sorry, hon. That sounds just awful. Let’s go get margaritas tomorrow and drown our sorrows in tequila and lime wedges.”

“Thanks, Fi. You’re the best.”

“Anytime,” she says, rubbing my back. She pulls away and walks around to the back of her desk. She sits down and puts the legal pad to the side. I can’t help but notice the writing scrawled across it.

“Just for kicks, what would you have said if I had asked for the ‘brilliant legal mind experience’?”

“You sure you want to know?” Her lips pull into a grim line. Honestly, I’m not sure I do want to know, but curiosity gets the better of me.

“Lay it on me,” I say.

“You need to get laid. Not the kind of bland, missionary style sex you had with Alex. You need hot heat, sweating up the sheets, crazy animal sex.”

I bust out laughing. “That’s your brilliant legal advice. Crazy animal sex?”

“Yes. That’s my brilliant legal advice,” she says with complete seriousness. “Listen, hon, it’s been a year since that insecure jerk Keane dumped you. I have no doubt it’s been even longer since you’ve, well, you know.” She wags her eyebrows up and down. “Before that, you only seriously dated Travis the cheater and Alex who, let’s face it, despite being completely gonzo for you, was a cold fish and a bore. It’s time to stop comparing every man to this fantasy of Garrett Stephens and just do it with him to get it out of your system. He asked you out for Saturday night. Go! Enjoy!”

“I don’t compare every man to Garrett,” I snap at her.

“Don’t you?” she asks, looking down at me sternly.

“I’m offended you even suggested that.” She looks at me, her sharp eyes boring into me, like she can read my every thought and knows I’m full of it. I imagine this is how she bears down on witnesses on the stand. I don’t like being on the receiving end of that look.

“Even if that’s true,” I start and she nods her head, “and I’m not conceding it is.” I point my finger at her. “Even if he did mean to ask me out, there’s no way it’s a good idea. He’s a total player. It would only be one night of fun and I don’t think I could get over that kind of hurt.”

“Then you need to get over it now. Sorry for the tough love, hon, but you need to move past the fantasy of this man and find someone passionate and amazing who is deserving to love you for all of the great things you have to offer including your messed-up childhood and your incredible success today.”


Q & A with Lisa Becker:

Tell us about your newest release.

A light-hearted, second chance romance, Links explores what happens when nerdy girl Charlotte Windham reconnects with her unrequited schoolgirl crush, star athlete Garrett Stephens, 15 years after high school.

Did you have an unrequited crush in high school?

I’m not too ashamed to admit I had such a fierce crush on a boy, I willingly sat with him in the bathroom at parties while he puked up wine coolers, just so I could spend time with him. Thankfully, that soul-crushing time in my life in over, but I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if I came upon that secret crush today as a confident, successful woman.

Can you tell us more about the main character(s)?

Charlotte Windham was a typical ugly duckling in high school — glasses and all. Highly intelligent and immensely talented, she’s become a breakout success with her best-selling novel, The Crossing Guard.  In school, she harboured an unrequited crush on Garrett Stephens, the teen heartthrob and star athlete who’s gone on to become a professional golfer suffering a possible career-ending injury. The book explores what happens when these two former classmates have a chance encounter in a Los Angeles restaurant, 15 years after high school. With the upper hand, can Charlotte forgive Garrett for his past ways, and for his more recent Don Juan lifestyle? Will she even want to? And, can Garrett change his ways for a second chance with Charlotte, who may just be the perfect fit for him?

Imagine Links would be turned into a movie, who would you cast for the main characters?

I would love to see someone with the emotional range and depth of Maggie Gyllenhaal to play Charlotte. I think she could make her come across as vulnerable, successful, intelligent and passionate. For Garrett, we would need someone who is classically handsome and oozes charm. Matt Bomer, who pulled that off perfectly on White Collar comes to mind.  If he’s not available, let’s just say, I would love to be at the casting call for that role.

You have also published other books, can you tell us more about them?

I’m most known for the Click trilogy comprised of Click: An Online Love Story, Double Click and Right Click.  The series follows a young woman’s search for love online in Los Angeles with the entire series unfolding in emails between our heroine, her friends and her hilarious dates. Fraught with BCC’s, FWD’s and inadvertent Reply to All’s, readers will cheer, laugh, cry and cringe following the email exploits of Renee and friends. And ultimately, they will root for Renee to “click” with the right man.

What do you have in the works?

I’ve just wrapped up a contemporary romance called Starfish, which examines the unlikely relationship between a regular girl and a touring guitarist in a band. When it comes to romance, you just can’t pass up the idea of falling in love with a rock star.


About the author:

thumbnail_Lisa%20Becker%20headshot_jpg.jpgLisa Becker is a romance writer whose previous novels include Click: An Online Love Story, Double Click and Right Click. The books, about a young woman’s search for love online in Los Angeles, have been called, “a fast read that will keep you entertained,” “a fun, quick read for fans of Sex and the City,” and “hard to put down.” The first in the series was optioned for a major motion picture.

Lisa’s writings about online dating have been featured in Cupid’s Pulse, GalTime.com, Single Edition, The Perfect Soulmate, Chick Lit Central and numerous other book blogs and websites.

As Lisa’s grandmother used to say, “For every chair, there’s a rush.” Lisa is now happily married to a man she met online and lives in Manhattan Beach with him and their two daughters. So, if it happened for her, there’s hope for anyone!

Author links:

Website: www.lisabecker.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ClickAnOnlineLoveStory

Twitter: @lisawbecker

Instagram: lisawbecker

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/1486731.Lisa_Becker

YouTube: https://youtu.be/BSwM4S3l9Pc

Friend Request – Laura Marshall

34660765When she receives an unexpected Facebook friend request, Louise’s life is thrown off-kilter. She is a single mother with a successful career, but a friend request from Maria Weston, a classmate who went missing- presumed dead – over twenty-five years ago dredges up unpleasant memories from Louise’s time at school and an awful secret from the night Maria disappeared. As Maria’s messages escalate, Louise reconnects with the people from her past to uncover the events of that terrible night, and discover the true identity of the person behind the messages.

The story switches between past and present, as Louise processes current events and looks back on her time at school. Despite the mixed timelines, the story flows well and is easy to read. It is, essentially, about the effects of bullying and a word of caution against sharing too much personal information on social media. It is an engaging mystery/psychological thriller with very current themes.

I didn’t get on well with any of the characters, but particularly Louise. I found her weak and difficult to support. Unsurprisingly, my inability to relate to or empathise with the main character did hinder my reading experience to some extent. However, despite my lack of connection with the characters, the story was engaging and kept me interested throughout. Friend Request is relevant and intriguing, but I have read better thrillers this year.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

T5W – Series That Got Better

 

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I wanted to start doing some posts other than just reviews, so I’m having a go at a couple of weekly memes. Top 5 Wednesday is a meme run by Thoughts on Tomes and you can find the Goodreads group for it here! This week’s topic is series that got better as they went on. (I’m glad I only have to choose 5 because these are rare).

  1. Penryn and the End of Days by Susan Ee – I loved these books. I loved Penryn, Raffe, Penryn’s mum, and all the other characters that pop up. The romance was very fun and managed to carry on developing throughout the series without getting annoying. And there are no love triangles!!! (No love triangle in a paranormal YA series? What is this witchcraft?!)
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  2. The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare – Although this series had some weak points, I did really enjoy them the whole way through and there was some lovely character development (especially with Simon).
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  3. Runemarks by Joanne Harris – Sort of not a series because there are only two books, but they’re both just brilliant. Wonderful and interesting characters (based on Norse gods) and a very eventful plot.
  4. The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich – The first book was fantastic and, for at least the first 15 books, they just kept getting better. Unfortunately, 20+ books in a series is rather ambitious and they have started to go downhill in more recent instalments.
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  5. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – (Obviously). You just can’t go wrong with a bit of LOTR.
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    So that’s my Top 5 series that got better. What series did you love that got better with each book? Let me know if there are any you think I’d enjoy!

The Vorrh – B. Catling

30145285Okay, so usually I try to write my own mini synopsis of the book, but explaining The Vorrh is way too hard so I’m going to take the blurb provided on Goodreads:

Bakelite robots lie broken – their hard shells cracked by human desire – and an inquisitive Cyclops waits for his keeper and guardian, growing in all directions. Beyond the colonial city of Essenwald lies the Vorrh, the forest which sucks souls and wipes minds. There, a writer heads out on a giddy mission to experience otherness, fallen angels observe humanity from afar, and two hunters – one carrying a bow carved from his lover, the other a charmed Lee-Enfield rifle – fight to the end. Thousands of miles away, famed photographer Eadweard Muybridge attempts to capture the ultimate truth, as rifle heiress Sarah Winchester erects a house to protect her from the spirits of her gun’s victims.

I don’t really know how to review this book. It’s a special one, for sure, but one I didn’t totally get. There are a load of different storylines, which was confusing and difficult to see how they all connected – like a whole bunch of voices all speaking at once – and I still don’t fully understand the entire premise of the story. For the first half of the book I didn’t know what was going on, but I powered through and WOW. Despite my lack of understanding, I was completely engrossed. I was able to start seeing connections between the individual plots and felt a real connection with some of the characters. By the last quarter, I couldn’t put it down.

Catling’s writing is so poetic and beautiful – a work of art more than just a story. Although that is in many ways a good thing, it also made the book more difficult to read. None of the phrasing was straightforward, and I had to concentrate quite hard to find the meaning behind the beauty.

I think really my main problem with The Vorrh was that it is so unbelievably stunning and creative (also with some very weird content) that I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. This is more a criticism of my own lack of imagination than Catling’s abilities as an author, and I would definitely recommend at least giving it a try. I get the feeling that this book will be very marmite: you will either love it, or hate it.

Many thanks to Coronet and Bookbridgr for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon