Book Review: The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice by Katarina West

I’ve been a fan of Katarina West ever since I reviewed Witchcraft Couture way back when. So, when I was approached to give my thoughts on The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice, refusing was never going to be an option.

The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice tells the story of Irene Nylander, a frumpy Finnish woman who is ignored by her husband and constantly undermined by her mother-in-law, who she has given up everything to take care of. On her 50th birthday, Irene finds out her husband is having an affair and, absolutely distraught, she decides she wants to die. Prank-loving angel Aaron hears these thoughts and decides that Irene will swap bodies with Hollywood superstar, Mimi Kavanough.

Ok, I know what you are thinking. The body swap story has been overdone and yes, I would agree. But I think West takes a new angle in this book with the intervention of angels. So, the book tells the story of three people instead of two: Irene, Mimi and Aaron. And that makes it all the more interesting.

Aaron is the instigator of the body swap and so the story needs him, even if he wasn’t my favourite character. It was Irene who was my favourite character and I was cheering her on from the very first page. Immediately, I felt sympathy for her and I knew almost instantly I was going to like her. She brought an intense start to the book but that didn’t turn me off. I liked that she made me feel emotional, and, later on, she also brings some very warm moments to the story.

Mimi, on the other hand, is not likeable at all, staying true to the role of celebrity spoiled brat throughout. But she was needed to balance Irene and I think West used this relationship of sorts to come to a good conclusion for both characters (although there will be a second book, so the story is not finished yet!).

Overall, I liked this book. I was eager to find out what was going to happen next, just as eager as I am to read the next book. Even more so, I like West as a writer and I am happy to be on her creative journey as each book is better than the last. Pick this up for your next weekend read – it will leave you with a smile on your face.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Katarina West

Book Review: Penny White and the Temptation of Dragons by Chrys Cymri

If you are a fan of parallel worlds, dragons and mythical creatures, then Penny White and the Temptation of Dragons by Chrys Cymri is the book for you!

Penny White is an everyday kinda vicar in rural England whose life changes soon after she finds herself giving a dragon the last rites. She proceeds to become a part-time vicar in Lloegyr, a parallel world populated by many fantastical creatures who also share the Christian faith.

When I was asked to review this book, I was at first expecting the story to be a lot darker. But, as soon as Lloegyr and its wonderful creatures were introduced, I was immediately reminded of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and I knew Penny White was going to be a winner.

Cymri grips the reader from the beginning as the first few pages tell the death of a dragon on an English motorway. From there, we are brought on Penny’s journey in discovering Lloegyr. It was nice to discover this new world and its creatures at the same time as Penny; I felt her bewilderment and excitement at the same time. Nothing is presumed of the reader by the author so I didn’t feel left behind when it came to information.

Penny was a great character and very likeable, which I guess one wouldn’t often expect from a character who is a vicar. The book showed aspects of Penny’s faith and her commitment to it and I liked the theme of religion binding our world and that of Lloegyr together. It gave the message that we are all the same when it come down to it. But Penny also liked to drink whisky, was an avid Dr Who fan and grumbled about some of the tasks she had to perform as part of her daily duties and this makes her down to earth and relatable to the reader. I actually think that the character of Penny is based on Cymri herself and that made Penny all the more real to me.

I also enjoyed the theme of friendship in this book, especially between Penny and Morey, a gryphon who is Penny’s associate. Although Morey’s sarcasm and his tendency to be judgemental had Penny believing that they would not get along, they eventually become good friends, loyal to each other through tough times. We also see an unlikely bond form between Morey and snail shark Clyde, again showcasing the message of us all being equal and not judging a book by its cover (like I did before reading this. Oops).

I can’t really do anything but recommend this book, especially if you are the kind who loves getting lost in an alternate reality. And, if you feel cold turkey after finishing the last page, be comforted in the fact that there is more to come in this series.

I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

 

Penny White

Book Review: A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose by Cristina Hodgson

If you mention the word ‘thriller’ to me in relation to a book, I will snap it up straight away. This eagerness led me to review A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose by Cristina Hodgson.

A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose tells the story of its namesake, Chantelle Rose, who, desperate for change, finds herself an extra in a seedy film. The part leads her to a million-dollar role in an American film, and into the path of film star Lionel and the sultry Robbie. Besides the problem of falling in love with two men, Chantelle has to deal with someone who seems intent on scaring her – but who and why?

The story begins in a fun and lighthearted manner – and continues that way throughout. This bothered me. It is not until halfway through the book that it takes a sinister turn, one which, unfortunately, was not sinister enough for me. What I was met with was more curiosity than suspense. Admittedly, some bits of the story threw me off but, overall, the outcome was more on the obvious side for me. This placed A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose in the “holiday read” genre rather than the “alone at night in stormy weather” genre I had been expecting.

That is not to say that I didn’t like the book because I did. It just wasn’t what I was expecting. By the end I was looking forward to what will come next for Chantelle. A character who started out irritating me in the beginning eventually found a place in my heart ( I really didn’t like how few questions she asked about what she was getting herself into regarding the mysterious Hollywood role). It also took me a while to warm to her because of the fact that Chantelle isn’t a complex character; it was pretty obvious what her desires and intentions were. Robbie, Lionel and Gabby, on the other hand, had more of a hidden depth, which is what bought my curiosity (nosiness) out while reading.

Overall, I would recommend A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose to anyone looking for a romantic poolside story with a bit of an edge. Don’t expect a major thriller and you will enjoy this book just fine.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Chantelle

Book Review: The Heart of the Hydra by A. Mangina

When I was approached to review The Heart of the Hydra by A. Mangina, this is how it was sold to me:

“I will come right out and say that a reader should be open-minded when reading this book. It is a blend of satire, romance, and comedy. There are elements of erotica in it, too. This is a romance novel unlike any I’ve read, which is why I simply had to publish it for the author.”

With my constant longing to try all things new, how could I refuse?

The Heart of the Hydra tells the story of the two main characters, Nick and Harper; their own personal issues, how they meet and how their relationship evolves. Nick is an introvert, an extremely good-looking one, who is unable to form relationships due to a terrible secret he keeps hidden. Harper is an overly sarcastic girl who covers everything with a joke. She has moved to South Harbor to get away from the tragic loss of her boyfriend.

Let me start with the writing style of the author. The book opens with a friendly tone and each chapter alternates between Harper and Nick. This friendly tone continues for the entire book and is infused with laid back language, blunt honesty and lots of comedic speech. This, for me, made anything that could be deemed as shocking in the book, well, less shocking. It felt like two friends telling me their story and like I would be like real-life friends, I was accepting of both Nick and Harper.

Both characters are relatable in some ways even if they aren’t your typical romance novel characters. All of us have hidden our true feelings with jokes and laughter at some point, we have felt the nerves at the beginning of a new relationship, and we certainly have had many insecurities. So, we feel for and we route for Nick and Harper and we eventually learn that The Heart of the Hydra is more about acceptance than it is about romance. And we learn this, feeling every emotion along the way, by reading the wonderfully descriptive language of the author.

One thing that I didn’t like so much about the book was that the ending was a bit obvious, but I don’t think it is the ending which is the most important piece of this story, it is the journey.

Overall, I would certainly recommend The Heart of the Hydra if you are looking for a romance story which is not your usual Nicholas Sparks kinda thing. This book didn’t shock me but I would repeat the advice I was given about going into it with an open mind. And if you don’t have an open mind but still decide to read, you will probably finish the last page of the book with one.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Heart of the Hydra by A. Mangina

Book Review: The Heart of the Hydra by A. Mangina

Book Review: City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff

It frightens the life out of me but I absolutely love anything from the horror genre. That’s why I couldn’t resist the opportunity to review City of Ghosts.

City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff centres around Jackson Stone, an American tourist in China who breaks away from his group to spend the night in the abandoned city of Hensu. When residents were forced to flee Hensu, not everybody got out alive and Jackson is determined to get the paranormal recording which will turn him into a best-selling author. But he gains so much more when he meets soft-spoken Chinese woman Yuèhai.

I read this book in two days – I couldn’t put it down – so you know it was a good one. For me, it had everything I wanted in a horror story. It was fast-paced, intriguing and chilling and Moncrieff has a way of writing which has the reader feeling tense throughout the story. What I really liked was that it wasn’t just about Jackson and his experiences with Yuèhai. Yuèhai’s story was a fascinating story in itself and would have made for a novel in its own right. She wasn’t the most likeable character, but she did bring tears to my eyes in the end.

In fact, most of the characters in this book weren’t particularly likeable – but that doesn’t mean they weren’t interesting. Especially those you would call the ‘main characters’: Jackson, Kate, Harold and Yuèhai – very different people formed as three-dimensional characters, thanks to the skill of Moncreiff. Kate, a medium was probably my favourite character (always a bonus to have a strong female character), but it was Harold, the tour guide, who intrigued me the most. It was obvious from the start there was something shifty about him and his character brought a lot of mystery to the story.

This is my first book by J.H. Moncrieff and I am hooked! I really can’t wait to see what comes next in this series ( I hear it centres around Kate, which I am thrilled about!).

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff

City of Ghosts by J.H. Moncrieff

 

Book Review: Ascenders: Omorrow by C.L. Gaber

If you read my review of Ascenders: Skypunch by C.L. Gaber back in September, you will know that I have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment in the series. Last week, I finally got my hands on Ascenders: Omorrow and I devoured it in just a few days.

Omorrow sees protagonists Walker and Daniel, as well as a bunch of their friends – and enemies – travel back to the past to scour New York for the secret writings of Albert Einstein. But, one step wrong from anyone could mean rewriting history or banishing themselves from existence entirely.

I mean, what else can I say? Gaber has absolutely nailed it again. When an author decides to publish a series, there is always a chance of the story becoming poorer as each book is published. Not the case here. Omorrow has the same suspense and thrill as the previous books, even more twists, and, if possible, more emotion. I feel truly invested in Ascenders at this point so I experienced every ounce of pain and joy along with the characters. How could I not? It feels like reuniting with old friends every time I open their new book.

What I really want to focus on in this review is how amazingly Gabor tells a story. She leaves you chopping and choosing about what is going to happen next and her character development is up there with the best. Yes, like I said, the characters are very familiar to me at this stage, but this book really brought me to a new layer of their personalities. It is wonderful to see a previously perceived one-dimensional character such as Eddie reveal what really lies deep inside. For him and for other characters, we gain a sense of understanding about why they act like they do, in the afterlife and when they were on Earth.

You may remember me mentioning somewhere else on Joyful Antidotes that I really love when a fictional story recalls a time in history. In some ways, we had this in the past Ascenders books as students in the Academy found themselves taught by Kurt Cobain and Steve Jobs, among others. Omorrow, however, without giving away any spoilers, helps the reader discover what it was like to live in New York during different periods of time and that, for me, was the icing on the cake.

So, I will finish this review like I have finished the others, by stating how much I loved this book! Seriously, go now and catch up before the fourth part is released at Christmas. I can’t wait!

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Ascenders: Omorrow by C.L. Gaber

Book Review: Ascenders: Omorrow by C.L. Gaber

Book Review: Trust Me by Gemma Metcalfe

I have been absolutely spoiled when it comes to books these last few weeks. It seems like each one I pick up is at least as good as the last – if not better. Let me introduce you to another of those books.

Trust Me is a fast-paced, tension-filled book from Gemma Metcalfe. It tells the story of Lana, a call centre employee in Tenerife trying to sell holidays to the island. With the pressure of getting fired on her back if she doesn’t make a sale today, Lana calls Liam. What she didn’t know beforehand was that Liam was intending to kill himself that very moment. Lana wants to keep Liam alive and Liam wants to tell his story to someone before he dies, resulting in a book filled with unravelling secrets both never thought they would share.

This book caught my interest right away and I couldn’t wait for a spare moment to make headway with it. There are basically two main characters in the book, Lana and Liam, and the story alternates between the present time and their past. The book is short and easy to read and continues this back and forth structure throughout. Now, if you had just read those two last sentences the word ‘boring’ might have popped to mind. But this is a story which will keep you turning page after page after page. And best of all? It is a truly a unique story, something the thriller genre can often lack.

Why was this such an addictive book? Because it just kept you guessing. I don’t think I have ever read a book with so many well-plotted twists and turns, all of which I never saw coming. Even the very last pages had me shocked. But, Trust Me wasn’t just about shocking the reader. The character development was great for a short book. I really found myself empathizing with Lana and Liam and even found myself becoming emotional during certain scenes. I needed to find out more about them so, again, I was completely sucked in.

Basically, you just have to get yourself a copy of this book. It will make your heart race, your spine tingle and your eyes want to race on and read faster than you can keep up. This is a fantastic debut from Gemma Metcalfe and I can’t wait to see what she delivers next.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Trust Me by Gemma Metcalfe

Book Review: Trust Me by Gemma Metcalfe

Book Review: The Chosen Path by Jason Hershey

Remember a while back I posted a review of To Die To Live by Jason Hershey? Well, I am back with the next part of Theo’s journey and it is equally as gripping.

The Chosen Path sets Theo in Kansas where he has started university. The story recalls a particular point in his life as he meets and falls for fellow student Sabrinna.

Again, this is a wonderfully well-written story and makes for an easy read. I actually read The Chosen Path in an hour, not solely because it was little over 100 pages long, but because the beautiful prose flows so well. It had me gripped. I was inside the mind of Theo. I felt what he felt and at times the story was so relatable I also relived feelings I haven’t felt since I was a teenager. It reminded me of the excitement of going on a first date, but also the fear and dread which lies behind.

There was only really one character in this book: Theo. Everybody else was more or less a support act. And like in Hershey’s last book, I very much enjoyed the character of Theo. The other character which mainly features, although always through the eyes of Theo, is Sabrinna. Actually, you learn quite a bit about Sabrina and the type of person she is even though she is not a prominent character. For me, there was one main reason Sabrinna featured in this story, besides her being Theo’s love interest. I feel it was to send the message about how dangerous and cruel it can be to base your happiness around someone else.

Towards the end, The Chosen Path was built up to suggest what the next choice Theo makes could be. But, it ends on a cliffhanger. Not that it needed it for me to want to read the next instalment. I’m already waiting.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Chosen Path by Jason Hershey

Book Review: The Chosen Path by Jason Hershey

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Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

How do you review a book that has been reviewed probably a million times before? You just go for it, I guess!

Murder on the Orient Express is another of Agatha Christie’s famous novels centring around detective Hercule Poirot. This time Poirot finds himself aboard a snowdrift stopped Orient Express when an American traveller is found dead in his compartment; murdered, of course. 

This was my first Agatha Christie novel, and I don’t think it will be my last. I tended to stay away from Christie’s novels in the past as I had somehow garnered the perception of them being cheesy, but that wasn’t the case at all. However, if you are more a fan of contemporary novels, then you might have a problem. This story was written in 1934 and you can tell, in terms of the writing style, the behaviour of the characters and, sadly, the casual racism dropped throughout.

Nevertheless, the writing style made this book very easy to read (although there were bits of French scattered here and there). The story followed a very logical order, beginning with the arrival of Poirot on the Orient Express, to the murder, the questioning, analysis of evidence and finally, the big reveal. In some ways, this logical narrative bored me and I sometimes found the story repetitive, particularly when it came to the other passengers’ alibis. However, I wouldn’t say this was a complete turn off as I still found it an intriguing story that kept me sucked in. Except for the ending. I was not satisfied by the outcome at all. But, then again, the trick is on my because I was nowhere near figuring it out.

I ultimately read this book because Murder on the Orient Express is being released this year as a new film starring Johnny Depp. If you are interested in seeing the film, I recommend reading the book first. Especially those of you are fans of old school detectives; it will be fascinating to see how Poirot is played out on the big screen today.

Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Book Review: Blood Master: Book 1 of The G.O.D.s Series by Kirsten Campbell

You know what? I am really getting into sci-fi/dystopian type novels. I would never have thought it but the more I read the more I like. And this one was pretty unique.

Blood Master: Book 1 of The G.O.D.s Series by Kirsten Campbell is set in 2052 when 2/3 of the world’s population has been wiped out by the Great War, the Clover Virus and the Death Plague. The only person to have survived the plague and the only living albino left is Griffin, who begins his story in hiding from the Guild Faction but ends up living at the Brotherhood Fortress after rescuing Tassata from the Guild. The Guild believes Griffin will transform into a G.O.D., a Genetically-enhanced Omni-Dimensional being and are currently tracking him. But is all as it seems?

I want to jump in immediately to rave about Campbell and her writing style. What an imagination this woman must have! She has created this whole, fascinating world which is hard to do, especially in a book of 449 pages. Yet, she manages to draw the reader in with her simple yet descriptive language. Naturally, in a genre of this kind, there is some scientific language at play, whether real or make-believe. This book has a lot of it but it didn’t go over my head. I felt like I understood the explanations without really having to try.

The book has some strong characters but most certainly it is Griffin and Tassata who lead the way. I admired Tassata more as she was a strong female character, the first female in the Brotherhood on her way to becoming a Guardian. I also liked the relationship between Griffin and Tassata, although I must say it did become cheesy at times. Lerin, grandfather to Tassata and leader of the Brotherhood, was also interesting. I’m looking forward to learning more about him as there was indication there are some hidden depths to him.

One issue I had with this book was that it was a bit drawn out. Some reviews I have read stated that it is the first half that drags, but for me, it was the second. I think this was because it read almost like a prequel. It was Griffin’s story about he came to be at the fortress and I feel I could have read that after at least book two (which is currently on my to-read list) or beyond.

Overall, this was a nice read and I won’t hesitate in picking up the next book. Let’s say I have to. I need to find out what happens to Griffin. Something tells me life at the fortress won’t be all plain sailing.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Blood Master