Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter 1

So book number 37 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 5 of my holiday reads) is the wonderful Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone by J.K. Rowling.

‘Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So it has been 20 years since this book first hit the shelves and what a 20 years it’s been!  I wrote a little blog (see here) back in June on the anniversary of this novel being published, and it made me realise that it has been too long since I have read this series.  For the publishing world, for children fiction, for fans across the world, Harry Potter has proved to be a life changing experience.  J.K. Rowling found herself securely placed amongst the greats of children fiction: Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl to name just a couple.  However, Harry Potter achieved something else…it wasn’t only children wanting to read her novels full of witchcraft and wizardry.  Those people queuing at midnight for the release of the next book weren’t just parents hoping to please their children when they woke up.  Those queues were full of people of all ages, hoping to get their hands on a copy for themselves.  I was one of those people.  I remember my (now) husband driving me to our closest supermarket on our way home from a night out just so that I could grab a copy, which I promptly devoured and finished before the sun came up.  At the time I felt a little geeky (nothing new there!) but now I feel proud to be part of the Harry Potter generation.  What makes me feel even prouder though is watching my 10 year old son feast on this series…he can’t get enough and I love his enthusiasm.  We have many an animated discussion these days about everything Harry Potter!

So, back to my review.  There is actually very little I can say that you won’t think for yourself or have read elsewhere.  This is the start of an iconic series that I truly believe everyone should read (I have friends that have not read this series…I’m looking at you!!). Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone left me desperately wanting my Hogwarts letter as it introduced me to a whole new world, full of interesting people (good and bad), magical creatures and amazing adventures.  I look forward to picking up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets soon!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖 📖

Sneak Peak Book Review: Fix Me by Lisa M. Cronkhite

Fix Me

Book number 36 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 4 of my holiday reads) is Fix Me by Lisa M. Cronkhite.

‘Penelope Wryter‘s life has been a mess ever since her sister committed suicide a year ago. Now Pen’s hooked on Fix, an illegal drug that makes her feel, think, and see differently. The hallucinations are intense, but there’s one vision that keeps Pen coming back for more—Nate. He’s the only person who cares about her. Too bad he’s just a side effect of the drug. Pen knows she’s going nowhere fast. She’s desperate to change. But when she tries to say goodbye to Nate, he professes his love for her making her more confused than ever. Then, when a girl from school goes missing during a bad Fix trip, Pen realizes she may be in a lot more danger than she ever imagined. Unless Pen straightens up and faces reality quick, she might be the next missing girl on the list.’ (Thanks Netgalley!)

Firstly I should say that this novel is very different to novels I would usually pick up and read – I was very fortunate to be contacted by Lisa M. Cronkhite who asked me to take a look, and i’m really pleased I did!

This novel focuses on Penelope, a young girl who is grieving over the death of her sister whilst struggling with her addiction to the latest ‘fashionable’ drug, Fix.  As a YA genre novel, this book focuses on two incredibly important topics: drug addiction and mental health.  These are important subjects for everyone in my opinion, but getting young adults to read about them and their effects on people is so very important.

In the novel Fix is the most popular illegal drug in the U.S. and it was previously used to treat clinical depression until its effects were known.  We soon learn that Tabitha, Penelope’s sister, was clinically depressed before she committed suicide and had been treated with Fix.

We follow Penelope through her highs and her comedowns, as she battles to work out what is real and what is not – she knows she only see’s Nate when she’s under the influence of Fix, but he seems so real.  With girls going missing, Penelope has to work out what’s real and what’s not before it’s too late.

I definitely enjoyed this novel.  Like I said, it was different to what I usually pick up but sometimes that’s a good thing.  The drug abuse and mental health issues are so relevant at the moment, and both are topics that needs to be highlighted.  There is always help out  there if you are just willing to accept it.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and North Star Editions for an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

Sneak Peak Book Review: The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

The Austin Escape

Book number 35 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 3 of my holiday reads) is The Austin Escape by Katherine Reay.

‘Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath.  While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by the other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them. 

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.’ (Thanks Netgalley!)

So The Austen Escape is told from Mary Davies point of view.  Mary has a job she loves, although she is dealing with some career frustrations.  In addition she has a real crush on her colleague Nathan, not that she’s brave enough to do anything about it!  So when her lifelong friend Isabel convinces her to accompany her to England to immerse herself in a Regency Jane Austen themed experience, she finds herself going despite her misgivings.

I chose to read this book based entirely on it’s title – I am a real lover of Jane Austen’s work, and am therefore always keen to read anything based on her novels, characters and the time period.  I was not disappointed.  There were references to characters and Austen quotes dotted throughout this novel.  In fact it highlighted that I really need to re-read more of her novels, rather than just my annual read of Pride and Prejudice.  Anyway, back to The Austen Escape

I enjoyed all of the characters within this novel, but particularly Mary.  I found her character flaws to be realistic, and I enjoyed going with her on her journey to both self-discovery but also to really seeing her friend Isabel and why she behaves the way she does.  The novel touches on mental health issues, which is something I actually would have preferred a little more of as it is a topic that we should all be talking about.  The book was ultimately about Mary working out what she really wants from life, something we all need to be encouraged to do at some point in ours lives.

So, in summary this book has Jane Austen, dressing up in Regency period gowns, friendship, love and self-discovery.  What more can you want from a novel?!

Out on the 7th November 2017, go and pre-order your copy now!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Fiction for an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse

Book number 34 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number two of my holiday reads) is Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard.

‘Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?’ (Thanks Amazon)

So we are onto book 3 of this series, and what a series it’s been!  French countryside, sunshine, wine, drama and romance, all wrapped up in three lovely novels.  Summer at the Little French Guesthouse was an easy read, in that it was easy to lose myself in it.  I loved the descriptions of the guesthouse itself with its quaint gites, the beautiful tranquil gardens and the diverse characters that cross the threshold to stay there.  I do love a novel set in the European countryside, it always makes me want to move there!

As for the characters, it was great to be able to join Emmy, Rupert and their friends again.  It was like reuniting with old friends…I knew their back stories and so just got to enjoy the current storyline.  We get to follow Emmy and Alain as they plan their beautiful wedding, although no wedding would be complete without a couple of twists and dramas thrown in for good measure! I must admit that I hadn’t exactly expected the secret…I was not surprised by where the drama originated but the secret itself was unexpected which was nice.

So, my rating.  If you are looking for a feel good, easy read romance full of beautiful scenery and old friends then this is the book for you.  I can only advise that you read The Little French Guesthouse (review here) and Return to the Little French Guesthouse (review here) first.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Girls of Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke

The Girls of Mulberry Lane

Book number 33 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book 1 of my holiday reads) is The Girls of Mulberry Lane by Rosie Clarke.

‘1938, Mulberry Lane, London. War is looming, but on Mulberry Lane there are different battles being fought… Perfect for fans of Nadine Dorries and Cathy Sharp.

Maureen Jackson is a prisoner of her father’s blackmail. Three years earlier, she’d been hoping to marry Rory, the man of her dreams. However, after her mother’s death, she was left to care for her overbearing father. Now Rory is back in London with a pregnant wife in tow to remind Maureen of the life that should have been hers.

As war threatens, Janet Ashley hopes to marry her sweetheart Mike, but her father refuses to grant them his blessing. Defying his wishes, Janet finds herself pregnant and her mother Peggy is determined to hold her family together at all costs.

Will the girls of Mulberry Lane manage to snatch happiness before the darkness of World War II descends?’ (Thanks Amazon!)

The Girls of Mulberry Lane – Peggy, Maureen, Janet and Anne are our ladies of Mulberry Lane.  Peggy is a hardworking landlady, wife to Laurence and mother to Pip and Janet.  Maureen is a young woman who lost the love of her life Rory after being blackmailed by her controlling father.  Janet is the daughter of Peggy, in love with Mike but held back by her father who refuses to allow her to marry.  Finally we have Anne, a schoolteacher involved in child evacuations who is in love with her married headteacher.

This novel is set in the run up to World War II, and as my loyal followers will know, this is my favourite time period for historical fiction.  Conscription is in its infancy, and young men such Pip eagerly wait to come of age so that they can sign up to fight in what they deem to be an exciting war.  For others, such as Laurence, the memories of the Great War are still too raw and feelings of dread are flooding them.

I enjoyed following the stories of these women, particularly Peggy and Maureen, as they entered the uncertainty of wartime.  I really understood what they were feeling, and I wanted to follow their stories.  I felt that The Girls of Mulberry Lane gave a realistic depiction of women during early wartime Britain, as we learnt their hopes and fears for their friends, family and the future.  The strength these women showed during this time is very clearly exhibited in this novel.

If I have any criticism it would only be for the ending – without wanting to give too much away I finished the novel wanting to know more about how the story ended for Peggy, Maureen and Janet.  I felt it ended a little too abruptly for my liking.  This however is the sign of a good novel…I didn’t want it to end!

Published in August 2017, this is a fabulous piece of historical fiction for 2017 – it’ll be hard to beat this in my opinion!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley for my advance reading copy, in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: What It Takes by Sonya Loveday

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Book number 32 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is What It Takes by Sonya Loveday.

‘Gracen Lowell is on the hunt for a man—but not just any man. He has to be ‘the one’. Her only problem is that no one she’s dated has ever measured up to the charming qualities of her best friend.

Slade Owens knows no matter how much he loves Gracen, he’ll never be what she’s looking for. And he dang sure isn’t going to stick around to watch her fall in love with someone else. Slade leaving the Owens’ family farm for an out-of-state job should put enough distance between the two to allow him to move on with his life and Gracen to search for her happily-ever-after.

Gracen knows asking him to stay isn’t fair. Slade thinks leaving her behind is the only thing to do. Inexplicably drawn together, the best friends must decide if they have what it takes to own up to their feelings… before it’s too late.’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Slade and Gracen have been best friends for as long as they can remember.  The only problem was that they’d loved each other for as long as they could remember too, except both were too scared to tell the other for fear of destroying their close friendship.  Everything changes when Slade decides he can no longer move on, nor can he wait or watch Gracen fall in love with someone else, and so decides to leave his home at the Owen’s family ranch to work on a new ranch out of state.

I enjoyed both Slade and Gracen’s characters and their relationship.  The love they both felt for one another, as well as the fear they both felt at acting on that love, was realistic.  I struggled a little though with the idea that as soon as Slade said he was leaving they both felt they could act, having spent years loving each other in secret.  It seemed like a real waste, given that, as a man of his word, they both knew that acting on their love wouldn’t stop him moving away.

The introduction of Clint gave a new element to the story that I wasn’t expecting, and also highlighted a very important issue (that I won’t give away here but is something that everyone should be aware of).

I enjoyed this novel, it’s a good piece of chick lit that I would happily recommend to others.  Published in May 2017 this is a new novel for you all to go out and get your mitts on! Enjoy!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗

Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reading copy, provided in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Stolen by Kelley Armstrong

Stolen

Book 31 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Stolen by Kelley Armstrong.

‘Elena Michaels is a wanted woman. Ten years ago she was transformed into a werewolf by her lover. Her transformation makes her powerful. But in the wrong hands, it also makes her deadly.
And now, just as she’s coming to terms with it all, a group of scientists learns of her existence. They’re hunting her down, and Elena is about to run straight into their trap. But they haven’t reckoned on Elena’s adoptive family, her Pack, who will stop at nothing to get her back.
They haven’t reckoned on Elena, either. And that’s a very big mistake . . .’ (Thanks Amazon)

Stolen is the second book in the Women of the Otherworld series.  I read Bitten, the first in the series a while ago, so it took me a few chapters to reacquaint myself with Elena, Clay and Jeremy but reacquaint myself I did!  Bitten introduced us to these characters, however Stolen saw them develop more, particularly Elena.  Her strength, even outside of the pack is clear, as she fights for her survival without their assistance.

It is clear that these novels centre around Elena, however we also learnt more about Clay, her friend, lover and mate.  Clay likes to be in control (except when it comes to Jeremy, Pack Leader) and so it was interesting to see him lose control when he loses Elena, and how he copes with that.

This series is full of fantasy mixed alongside reality.  Stolen introduced the idea that werewolves weren’t the only fantasy creatures that existed in the world, a concept that I’m sure will be explored more in the rest of the series.  I am looking forward to seeing how these different creatures will interact, particularly given the Packs previous existence which appears to have been very anti outsiders.  Bring on the next book, Dime Store Magic!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗