Welcome to Serendipity Reviews !

The original UK book blog that brings you all the latest book news straight from the publishers, along with book reviews and author interviews. We read and review all genres, although we love paranormal, fantasy and contemporary books.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Catch Me If You Cannes ( Part 4) by Lisa Dickenson

Thunk. Leo's head hit the deck and Jess gazed at him for a moment that stretched like a conveyor belt before her. The super yacht, however sleek and quiet it was, however much it whispered across the sea, motored with incessant white noise while she stared blankly.
"Stop - this isn't my boat," he said before going down. 
Published May 25th by Sphere. 
Just one week ago, Jess was safely tucked away in her quiet seaside home, running her cafe and not really doing much of anything. So what on earth has happened between then and now that has her stealing a superyacht from Cannes marina?

Leo. Leo happened.
Jess doesn't want to believe what everybody is saying about him. He's her Leo, with his lazy smile, soft kisses and firm hugs, and she knows he's a good man. But she can't deny that something isn't quite right so she just needs some time to figure things out. All Jess did was fall in love with a boy who liked Nutella. How has it come to this?
This is definitely the perfect ending to this lovely summery read. Everything comes right for Jess and Bryony in the end. I don't want to say to much as I don't want to spoil it for you as a reader. However romance is reignited and blooms rather than blossoms. Bryony finds her conscience. Jess and Bryony own up to some things they may not be proud off. And a massive party finishes off their time in Cannes. For these characters, their trip was definitely a holiday of a life time. 
If you heading abroad this summer, this book would a brilliant addition to anyone's Kindle. 
Now excuse me while I go in search of a yacht and a millionaire...

Monday, 25 May 2015

Stonebird by Mike Revell

“It’s there the night we go to visit Grandma.
Lying in the crypt at the back of the old church.
Cover art by Frances Castle and Nicola Theobold
Published in 2015 by Quercus
297 pages in hardback
When eleven-year-old Liam moves house to be closer to his grandma, he’s thrown into an unfamiliar place, with a family that seems to be falling apart.
Liam doesn’t remember what Grandma was like before she became ill with dementia. He only knows the witch-like old woman who snaps and snarls and eats her birthday cards. He desperately wants to make everything better, but he can’t.
Escaping the house one evening, Liam discovers an old stone gargoyle in a rundown church, and his life changes in impossible ways.
The gargoyle is alive. It moves unseen in the night, acting out Liam’s stories. And stories can be dangerous things…
But Liam’s grandma’s illness is getting worse, his mum isn’t coping, and his sister is skipping school.
What if the gargoyle is the only thing that can save Liam’s family?
I do rather have a passion for gargoyles, so I was immediately attracted to this lovely cover. I have rarely seen artwork more suited to the book inside than this.  (You can see how it evolved on Frances Castle’s blog.) The story is told by Liam, the boy with the dog in the picture, and that splendid gargoyle does indeed play a huge part.
Mike Revell has recreated a modern world that won’t date in months, in the way that David Almond did in ‘Skellig’. ‘Stonebird’ has much of that same meeting of magic with a family drama. It is scary at times, and deals with dark subjects like bullying and dementia. But the accessible writing in this compassionate tale makes it suitable for a wide age-range. I would include adults in that, especially anyone going through a similar situation.

Although intended for a younger readership, the importance of creativity through language in it also made me think of Sarah Crossan’s ‘Apple & Rain’.  There are flashes of the poetic but they don’t weight the story down. It leaves you with a sense of hope in spite of bewildering changes: something of the warmth of Frank Cottrell Boyce, but with a voice of its own. An impressive debut.

Friday, 22 May 2015

The Book Cycle with Jane Lovering

I am pleased to welcome, Choc Lit favourite and multi award winning, Jane Lovering, onto the blog, to talk about the recent book cycle for her latest novel, How I Wonder What You Are.
How I Wonder What You Are was conceived during a long, damp ride across the North York Moors. When you (well, by ‘you’ I mean ‘your horse’) is plodding through sodden peat and you are soaked to your sturdy underwear by a persistent low-flying drizzle, your mind tends to wander a bit, and mine wandered towards naked men. You know how it goes… And I wondered – what would I do if I found a naked man out here, in this weather?
Apart from point and laugh, of course.  Why would he be naked out here? Why wouldn’t he at least put some trousers on, even if it was only to stop me laughing?
And what would I do with him if I found him?
So began the process of writing the book.  I am not a great plotter.  In fact, forward planning further ahead than my next HobNob tends to be beyond me, I more sort of…point myself at a story and see what happens. I’ve always wished I could be one of those writers who has colour-coded Post Its and marker pens for each plot point and character, but I’m usually hard pressed in this house to find so much as one serviceable biro, so I don’t think it’s ever going to happen, quite honestly.  So I normally start with a couple of characters, in this case, Molly and Phinn. I knew I wanted Phinn not to be a traditional hero. I don’t really do those kinds of men who are billionaires despite never going to work, with huge muscles and a tendency to tell women what to do, so I made Phinn as far away from that as possible; a PhD Astrophysicist.
 I wrote the body of the book in six weeks, as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Because I’d already got the characters sorted in my head the actual writing came fairly quickly, once I have the people, the plots tend to sort themselves out while I sit back and eat biscuits. The main surprise while writing was how much Stan the horse managed to work himself into the book until, at the end, he plays a pivotal role.  But, I suppose, this is one of the problems of never plotting a book, sometimes characters won’t stay in the pigeonholes that the storyline dictates; they are like divas, always demanding that they are ‘in more scenes, darling’, until you give in and let them have their own way, and the book either flies or fTalls to pieces underneath their weight.
Caption: The two dogs are usually the reason Jane can’t find a biro!
Once I’d finished my fast write-through, I tweaked about with the storyline, while my wonderful beta-reader told me what was wrong with it (she lives in Spain, so she’s safe. She can criticise my work without having to worry that I’ll go round to her house and post pooh through her letterbox) and then I tidied it up and sent it out to my publisher.  
How I Wonder What You Are is a book I’m very proud of. It champions the unlikely hero – a man on anti-depressants, with a tendency to drink too much but mostly it champions a small, stout and bad-tempered horse called Stan. Horses make great heroes, I’ve found. Now, pass me the HobNobs…
Thanks Jane, for talking us through your book cycle for How I Wonder What You Are, which was recently published by Choc Lit.
Book Summary
It’s been over eighteen months since Molly Gilchrist has had a man (as her best friend, Caro, is so fond of reminding her) so when she as good as stumbles upon one on the moors one bitterly cold morning, it seems like the Universe is having a laugh at her expense.

But Phinn Baxter (that’s Doctor Phinneas Baxter) is no common drunkard, as Molly is soon to discover; with a PhD in astrophysics and a tortured past that is a match for Molly’s own disastrous love life.

Finding mysterious men on the moors isn’t the weirdest thing Molly has to contend with, however. There’s also those strange lights she keeps seeing in the sky. The ones she’s only started seeing since meeting Phinn …
To find out more about Jane Lovering:

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Where The Ideas Flow with Sarah Forbes

Today I'm pleased to welcome author, Sarah Forbes onto the blog, to talk about where she likes to write and let her ideas flow. Sarah is the author of Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-Offs, which was published at the beginning of May. This is the first adventure in a brand new series for Middle Grade readers.
I write at a little desk sitting in the window of our cluttered spare room. Beside me are boxes of books, because we just don’t have enough shelves for them all, a guitar and a violin (I play both, just very, very badly). It’s not a big space, but I feel very lucky because this window looks out on a park and I have beautiful trees to stare at when stuck for ideas. At the moment there’s a flowering cherry tree…  You can also see a smear on the window. My little nephew just walked past with my sister and I squished my nose to the glass to make them laugh. I will clean it, honestly.
I live in Edinburgh now, when when I lived in London I really liked having little things that reminded me of Scotland, so I have an old Dundee marmalade jar for my pens and pencils. There’s a quill in there – a gift from my friend Gwen when I left London. And an old-fashioned letter opener, so I can pretend I’m in an Agatha Christie novel when I’m opening boring electricity bills and the like.
I use a laptop, but keep big A4 pads nearby for scribbling on. As I was just finishing up work on Elspeth Hart and the Perilous Voyage, the second Elspeth Hart book, I have a sketched layout of the HMS Unsinkable, the ship they sail on, so I could be clear in my mind about where everyone’s cabin was! As you can see, I’m not much of an artist! I leave all that to James Brown. I also have my first ever reader review on the wall, from my friend Susan’s little girl. It makes me smile.

Finally, I keep some vintage children’s books in my writing room. There’s an Enid Blyton there from 1949. Like most writers, I love the smell of old books.
Thank you Sarah, for letting us look around your writing area. 
Published by Stripes Publishing on the 4th May 2015
Elspeth Hart and the School for Show-offs is the first adventure featuring the fabulous Elspeth Hart, a modern heroine with doodles on her trainers and unstoppable determination. Can you imagine never being allowed to play outside, dear reader? How about sleeping in a wardrobe every night? That's what life is like for Elspeth Hart. Ever since her parents were tragically washed away in a flood, poor Elspeth has been forced to live with her disgusting aunt, Miss Crabb, in the attic of the Pandora Pants School for Show-offs. Elspeth spends her days sweeping up mouse droppings, washing filthy pots and dodging Tatiana Firensky, the most horrible show-off of all. But what Elspeth doesn't know is that things are about to change...
To find out more about Sarah Forbes:

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Catch Me If You Cannes by Lisa Dickenson - Part 3

"You think Leo is a drug smuggler? That's ridiculous. Jess raised her eyebrows at Bryony, though her heart was beating fast. Ridiculous. It was time to turn this conversation off and retire to dreamland again. She slapped a smile onto his worried face. 'Okay, I'm going to go back to sleep.'
Published by Sphere in May 2015
Things could not be going better between Jess and Leo. Every moment they spend together is lovely and sunkissed and full of anticipation. Jess hasn't felt like this in a very long time and she doesn't want it to end. Sure, Leo is a bit vague about certain areas of his life but that doesn't mean anything.
Suddenly Jess's perfect holiday romance isn't looking so great and she has a choice to make - should she ignore what Bryony is telling her and keep living the dream, or should she run the risk of losing Leo in order to prove her friend wrong?

So it's really clear that something isn't right with the perfect Leo, much to Jess's dismay. She can't get her head around the fact that Bryony might be right and Leo could be a drug's dealer. Everything was running along so smoothly until this. Jess has to make a decision to either help Bryony find the truth, or follow the feelings creeping through her heart. Jess has extremely good intentions, but just one look at Leo and she is too smitten to really care. 
I did struggle with how easily Jess forgot and forgave Leo, when a stranger boarded the boat. I don't know if I would've been able to get over the intrusion as easily as she did. Bruno, the intruder, is a rather scary character and does add a sense of danger to the story, really making it seem that Jess and Bryony have got into this whole Cannes situation, way too deep. 
Near to the end of this section of the story, an unexpected love triangle develops. I'm not going to say too much as I don't want to spoil it, but I was surprised to see it appear.
I loved the scene with Veronica where she tells all her secrets to Bryony, falsely believing they will appear in the Times. A brilliant, yet surprising LGBT twist. 
The drama really starts to build back up in this part of the book, as the girls stumble through one lie after another. I loved it when Jess's family turned up unexpectedly, causing a few of their lies to crash and burn.  The ending was hilarious, leaving me intrigued as to what happens next. I'm really looking forward to finding out how this story ends. A great summery read. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Twitter Picks - Eating Disorders

After finishing The Time In Between by Nancy Tucker, which I reviewed yesterday, I asked on Twitter for more recommendations on books dealing with eating disorders.I was given some fantastic books to choose from ,so I thought it would be good to share them on here. Let me know if you have any more books dealing with this subject, that you think I should read and I will add them to the list. 
The following two books were recommended by Olivia Mead - @MeadOlivia, who is a fabulous sales and PR person from Hot Key Books/Piccadilly Press. Both of these books are published by Hot Key Books. 
Paperweight by Meg Haston
Seventeen-year-old Stevie is trapped. In her life. In her body. And now in an eating-disorder treatment center on the dusty outskirts of the New Mexico desert.
Life in the center is regimented and intrusive, a nightmare come true. Nurses and therapists watch Stevie at mealtime, accompany her to the bathroom, and challenge her to eat the foods she’s worked so hard to avoid.
Her dad has signed her up for sixty days of treatment. But what no one knows is that Stevie doesn't plan to stay that long. There are only twenty-seven days until the anniversary of her brother Josh’s death—the death she caused. And if Stevie gets her way, there are only twenty-seven days until she too will end her life.
In this emotionally haunting and beautifully written young adult debut, Meg Haston delves into the devastating impact of trauma and loss, while posing the question: Why are some consumed by their illness while others embark on a path toward recovery? 

I Heart Beat by Edyth Bulbring
Beatrice has got a deadbeat mum, an addiction to online messaging and an aversion to the sun. If she could stay inside all summer she most absolutely would. Except she's being shipped off to stay with her 'Grummer' - a grandmother she barely knows - while her mum has another go at rehab. If Beatrice is going to have any chance of having some peace she will need to distract Grummer with a husband. Unfortunately there aren't many eligible bachelors hanging around this cranky old dorp.
Her plan is simple: identify the target, establish contact and ensure eternal love. But all does not go to plan for control-freak Beat. Suddenly she finds herself ditching the factor 50 for freckles from swimming in the reservoir; her cucumber and tea-only diet is overtaken by peanut butter sandwiches, and the very important 'rely on no-one' policy has to make room for Toffie; a boy with a bike, a shock of red hair and a love for the natural fauna of South Africa.
Beat always knew that love was found in unexpected places. She just never thought that it might find her.

The following book was recommended by Charlotte Morris - @charlieinabook. Charlotte is a publicity assistant at Orion. 
Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.
Everywhere she turns, someone feels she's too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself? 
The latest powerful, original novel from Hannah Moskowitz is the story about living in and outside communities and stereotypes, and defining your own identity.

The next book was recommended by Hannah Sheppard - @YA_Books. Hannah is a literary agent with DHH Literary Agency. 
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson 
“Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.
Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.
Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

Book blogger Jim - @YAYeahYeah recommended the next  book. 
Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig
Leslie Hiller is a bright, attractive, talented teenager who leads a privileged life in New York City. She is also a perfectionist. When Leslie starts to diet, she finds herself becoming obsessed, getting thinner and thinner, until she is forced to realize that her quest for perfection is killing her.First published in 1981, this groundbreaking novel has been lauded by countless librarians, educators, and teenaged readers. This new edition features an afterword by the author in which she discusses her own struggle with the disease, the difficult road toward recovery, and the lasting effects on her life.
Perdita - @perditact co author of Waiting for Callback, written with her daughter Honour, due to be published later in 2016 offered the following two suggestions. 

Only Ever Yours by Louise O Neill.
In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.
For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.
Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.
But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..
And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.
Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known. 

Girls Under Pressure by Jacqueline Wilson - Middle Grade
Magda is tall and glamorous, Nadine is willowy and 'gothic' and Ellie, well, Ellie is just plain normal. The three girls have been best friends 'forever' but now Ellie is convinced she's fat; Nadine wants to be a model; and Magda worries that her appearance is giving guys the wrong idea... They all long to change their looks and they're all under pressure!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

The Time in Between by Nancy Tucker

When I wake up, it is because someone has poured poison into my mouth; sluiced it around my gums, dripped it between my teeth. The poison is sharp and spiky inside me; it arcs my tongue, bitterness clawing at the insides of my cheeks. As the poison trickles over my soft palate, I absent-mindedly conclude that I will be dying today. Accept with heavy boredom, that today, at fifteen years old and five foot three inches tall, I will be dying. 
Could be worse.
Published by Icon Books in April 2015
When Nancy Tucker was eight years old, her class had to write about what they wanted in life. She thought, and thought, and then, though she didn’t know why, she wrote: ‘I want to be thin.’

Over the next twelve years, she developed anorexia 
nervosa, was hospitalised, and finally swung the other way towards bulimia nervosa. She left school, rejoined school; went in and out of therapy; ebbed in and out of life. From the bleak reality of a body breaking down to the electric mental highs of starvation, hers has been a life held in thrall by food.

I don't think I really knew what to expect from this book. I can't remember the last time I read anything autobiographical. If I'm honest, it is normally the type of book I would steer clear from. However, Stevie, also known as vlogger, Sable Caught, kept telling me how amazing this book was and how everyone should read it. So I caved in and read it.

To say I loved it would seem wrong, because it covers a really dark time in the author's life. I was captivated by and engrossed in this book. My eyes were blown open by the full effects of an extremely severe eating disorder. When I think of anorexia nervosa, I usually just imagine haunted faces,  protruding bones and a ghost like appearance. I've never really thought about what might be going on inside their heads. This book really gets to the deepest part of Nancy's thoughts and feelings as she lets that inner voice consume her.

We all have inner voices that we need to learn not to listen too, but every so often they take control, creating hysteria and severe panic in our lives. Often we have the tools to brick that inner voice back up behind the wall of reason and learn to make our own decisions. People suffering with any form of mental health, don't have that luxury and they need extra help to control the voice. Nancy struggled with that voice for twelve years, with the voice winning most of the time. It took a long time before Nancy could start to turn away from the voice. That is upsetting to read about.

The book is written in various formats, using scripts, diary entries and letters alongside normal prose to show the true reality of the destructive nature of an eating disorder. The writing is beautiful, almost poetic in nature. The author has a real talent with words, quietly invading your mind, and pulling you into her past.  I found it quite unusual that none of the other people in Nancy's life are mentioned by name. I thought it might be because it was Nancy's story and she didn't want us to lose focus from the situation she had created. Perhaps it was also to protect the people around her, who I imagine struggled with this book and the part they played in her journey.

At times, I found myself  annoyed with her parents, for not noticing sooner and not realising their words acted like catalysts in her self destruction, but then I thought how easy it was for a child to hide their eating habits from an adult and how a flippant comment can so easily be taken to heart. As the illness became stronger, Nancy became devious in her actions. She knew exactly how to wear her mother down , which resulted in the  focus dissolving from her eating habits. She became more elaborate in her excuses for not eating; an obsessive compulsive desire for food to look perfect before she would eat it.

It seemed that many of the people surrounding Nancy, didn't really  know how to cope with her illness, so it wasn't a surprise that her friends drifted away from her.

I never realised that anorexics went to the furthest point they could go by fasting for weeks on end. I can't even imagine what that must be like. I can't go without lunch, let alone food for days.

This isn't a glorified account of how to be anorexic. Far from it. This is the truth of how anorexia or bulimia can destroy everything within you as well as around you.  A must read in all secondary schools. I really hope this book gets the critical acclaim it so rightly deserves. I also hope the author is staying strong on her road to recovery and never returns to the dark places it previously took her.