Monday, 31 July 2017


Hey guys, its Lydia here! I was trying to challenge myself to write a poem a week to keep up my creativity for university, but me being lazy didn't write anything last week. So now I must discipline myself, so I will be writing two poems this week to make up for last week. I hope you guys like this one.
I'm also posting my poems on my Tumblr account, search for Literature-addict and give me a follow.

Connection hums in the air,
Both hairs a flow of dark auburn,
And sapphire eyes stare in knowing recognition.
Identical voices, low and considering in passing questions,
Although polite, answering is plain and shallow.

An ignorant bond is known under crust,
Trying to push a paternal union.
But nothing can break an infinite void
Of infant screams unanswered, or grasping invisible palms –
With collection of missed calls, and promises unkept.

They felt the half-hearted appreciation, and struggling affection,
That showed in limp hugs and simple birthday cards -
That is never breathed, neither timeless bare concert seats, and the distant voice of bedtime stories.

Same hot blood revealed impersonal silences
Then only faded knowledge of each other.
Cherished love and kindness might be seen by acquaintances,

Yet time saw cold strangers.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs and Other Stories

Hello, it's Heather here. This has to be the most peculiar title for a book we’ve ever received, so my expectations for creativity were certainly high. As it’s a collection of short stories, I decided to structure my review differently for it. Many thanks to the author for letting me read this in exchange for a review.


Author: Andrew Kozma
Published: August 2016
Publisher: Self-published
Length: 44 pages
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Short Stories

Brief description (from Amazon)

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs is a collection of weird, speculative fiction containing four stories of people exploring strange places and situations, from a newly-discovered civilization of six-foot-tall talking slugs to being haunted by a man in a dark chocolate suit. Whether waking up in a prison camp or navigating a city full of copies of themselves, the characters in these stories are bent on understanding their world, even if that understanding also means the end of the world they thought they knew.

Andrew Kozma’s fiction has been published in Drabblecast, Albedo One, Interzone, and Daily Science Fiction. His book of poems, City of Regret (Zone 3 Press, 2007), won the Zone 3 First Book Award. His previous collections of short fiction are The Year of the Stolen Bicycle Tire and Other Stories and You Have Been Murdered and Other Stories.


Stammlager 76

The first short story is an ominous tale about a man that finds himself in Stammlager 76, a sort of prison, with no recollection how he got there, or an inkling of how/when he would be released.

“The weather was complicit, the clouds always hovering above like a woolen blanket, so textured, so gray, that the sky itched just to look at it.”

Kozma does a spectacular job at setting the atmosphere in this little story. I hope he doesn’t mind that I’ve included my favourite quote above – what a wonderful line! Whilst concise, as needs be in a short story, his description captures the mood beautifully, using the simile of the clouds being an itchy blanket to reflect both the dark, almost claustrophobic entrapment of the sky (usually a symbol for freedom in literature), and also the frustration of the narrator, as well as the foreboding sense of being watched from the verb ‘hovering’. This thoughtful style of description is apparent in all of his stories. I did, however, feel that the story should have been a little longer, even if it was just an extra page to provide more development on how the narrator settles in, or a scene in which he meets other prisoners (aside from Aaron).

The Man in the Dark Chocolate Suit

This one is about a man dressed in a dark chocolate suit that haunts the narrator and his friend Joe, appearing everywhere he goes.

This story immediately draws the reader in; this time using dialogue first to exert urgency before settling into the, again very well written, description. It’s a well-executed short story very reminiscent of the ghost stories I recall hearing at Brownie camp that’d leave everyone with bad dreams (but in a far eloquent style). My main criticism is that I’d have liked more in the in-between stages of this one, more about how the taunting figure of the man in the dark chocolate suit irked the narrator, why he appeared and how, though the ending of the story was very good.

We of the Future are the Ghosts of the Past

As the title insinuates, this tale uses the symbolic interactionist idea of people having different versions of themselves as we change so drastically over time. It also focuses on death.

This is my favourite story in the collection. Remarkably creative, surreal, and tragic in the most composed manner. Not only does it examine the self, but also the way love alters over time. Sure, like the other stories, there are many unanswered questions, but I really loved the ambiguity of it, letting the reader come up with their own theories. I also liked the length of it, it felt whole, the reader can be attached to the narrator without requiring any of his background, which is really difficult for short stories to achieve. The paragraph about her voice is exquisite, such a pure and lovely way to show his feelings towards her.
Another (slightly random) thing to commend for the author on here is that they actually understand death! There are so many novels I’ve read that romanticise death without comprehending that, yes, gas is released and muscles relax, so there will be a… smell… it’s gross but realistic, and slightly ruins every magical moment when someone dies and their partner cradles their dead body… which leads me to the question: did Harry Potter go through this process when he kind of died in the last book?

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs

At the title of this novel, of course I was curious about the whole slug thing, and I have to say that I was not disappointed. Taking a more light-hearted style, this is literally about Roger going on holiday to Slugland, which is inhabited by giant slugs.

“…but I’d never believed I’d actually see a slug as tall as a man, wearing a fanny-pack, carrying a briefcase.”

Quite possibly the best quote I have ever included in a review. I cannot express my joy at having gone from three albeit very deep and eloquent short stories to this. It’s not often that writers can write well in both comedic and serious tones. The writer clearly had a lot of fun with this one, it’s uplifting and amusing. Roger himself was very distant, I’d have liked to have understood the appeal to going to Slugland more. Was it a little bit too weird for me? I’ll admit, the relationship between Roger and Shelly was concerning and perhaps a little too bizarre for me.

All four stories show an immense amount of creativity and are a fun, quick read.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Strange the Dreamer

Hello everyone! It's Shani here today with another book review! Today - if you hadn't guessed from the title - I will be reviewing Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer.

Published: 28th March 2017
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Author: Laini Taylor
Length: 532 pages
My Rating: 5/5

Brief Summary: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.
What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

I have many things to say about this book. One of the things I will say is that it has the best book I have read in 2017 so far. The plot is fantastic, though at times a lot to get your head around as a majority of fantasy books are, and Taylor's language is exquisite. I think it's amazing how Taylor manages to craft this completely new world which is very different and yet in certain aspects very similar to our own. Fantasy is my go to genre, it always has been since I was a child, and Laini Taylor's Strange the Dreamer has captured everything which I look for in the genre such as magic, distant lands, gods and goddesses, a sprinkle of romance, and excellent world building. 
The first few chapters of the novel can be slightly slow placed which was a bit off putting at times but this was also needed to introduce certain concepts about Taylor's world and mostly importantly build a foundation for the city of Weep where the majority of the story takes place. Taylor's world building is wonderful and her descriptive language really gives the reader a clear image of what the fantastical world of Zosma and Weep look like. I especially loved reading about Zosma's library where the protagonist, Lazlo Strange, lives as a librarian. It was so wonderful to read about books being written about in such a lovely manner and Lazlo's deep love for books captured my own, and many other readers, deep infatuation with reading which I thought was lovely coming from a male protagonist. 

This leads me on to my next point: Lazlo Strange. I adored Lazlo as one of the protagonists so much. He isn't your typical male protagonist, he is shy, overly polite, not very physically strong, and lives in a fantasy world. Lazlo is also abused a lot as a child, he is brought up in an Abbey for the first thirteen years of his life, and sometimes this sort of abuse can make a character turn guarded and nasty. Not Lazlo Strange my dear readers. Oh no, Lazlo takes what happened to him as a child and is nice to everyone because of what happened to him, which I loved about his characterisation. He doesn't act like a victim, even though he has suffered a great deal during his early childhood, and he still treats everyone, even those who do not deserve to be treated with kindness, with a gentle manner and this sort of attitude is so inspiring. To be nice to people even if they aren't necessarily nice to you. It's a motto I live by (Lazlo is a total hufflepuff) and it was lovely to see Lazlo's attitude towards people being unaffected despite what happened to him as a child. He is also obsessed with stories. Stories about the lost city of Weep in particular. I was able to connect with Lazlo for a number of reasons and this made me love his character from the moment Taylor introduces him to the reader. If anything Lazlo is one of the most atypical male characters I've read about in long while and it was refreshing to have a male perspective in YA literature because the majority of protagonists in the genre now are female. Especially since Lazlo is the least brooding, mysterious male character ever unlike the majority of the YA genre. 

Whilst this book is in the YA fantasy genre I didn't feel like I was reading YA fiction. Maybe it's due to Taylor's beautiful language or the complexity of her world, but I didn't feel like I was reading YA fiction especially because the amount of dark themes in the novel such as enslavement, torture, death, rape and imprisonment. Some of these dark themes aren't mentioned but rather subtly implied by the writer but even so the Gods in this book are not very nice people and they have done a lot of terrible things to the citizens of Weep, as has the 'Godslayer' otherwise none as Eril-Fane the man who destroys all the Gods to the children of the gods. I won't relay any spoilers but lets just say Eril-Fane does some appalling things as well and that the point of this novel is that the citizens of Weep and the masochistic Gods are just as bad as one and other. 

Another aspect which I adored was the relationship between Lazlo and Sarai. There was something so beautiful and yet fragile about their relationship, their entire worlds were coming apart at the seams and they only cared about making sure the other one was safe. It was so sweet to watch how their relationship grows... but the ending. The plot twist - sort of plot twist? - at the end of the novel tore me to pieces. Now, I don't tend to cry when I'm reading. Normally I'm very good at not crying even if the books is very emotional. That seemed to go straight out the window when I got to the end of Strange the Dreamer because I was crying so much! I'm not even sure why because everything... Well the majority of things gets resolved, but I need the next book now! It's killing me I need to know what's going to happen!

So, if you're interested in the fantasy genre then I would recommend Strange the Dreamer. It's honestly so beautiful and needs more love. 

Storm of Attraction

Hiya, it's Lydia here. Today I'm posting a review on the book Storm of Attraction by Lily Black. I hope you guys enjoy the review as much as I loved reading the book.

Author: Lily Black
Published: January
Publishers: Red Adept Publishing, LLC
Length: 250 pages
Genre: Romantic, Thriller, Contemporary

Description from Amazon 

Alexa Wolving has just one rule: never give a guy a second chance. That works just fine in the safe life she’s built. In the charming town of Willowdale, her day job as a librarian balances perfectly with her evening job as a black belt instructor. But when she attracts the attention of a stalker, Alexa’s carefully built world begins to crumble.
Drew Cosimo knows he broke Alexa’s heart five years ago when he took his first Ranger assignment and disappeared from her life. Now that he’s out of the army, he’s moving back home to Willowdale. He’s not looking for a fight, but making peace would be easier if Alexa hadn’t told the entire town he was a money-grubbing jerk. Despite the tension between them, Drew is quick to offer his protection when a stalker forces Alexa from her home.
As the stalker’s attacks escalate, Alexa and Drew are forced to face their painful past and the simmering attraction between them. They must fight to save each other before everything they care about goes up in flames.

I recommend that readers should only read this book if they are fifteen and above.


Romantic and intriguing are two of the many words I would use to describe this novel; while it was heart warming, it was also racing and hair-raising. I'm not the sort of reader who usually goes for thriller themed books, I would most likely let the other bloggers read and review it. However, Storm of Attraction has opened up a new and interesting genre for me to explore in the future.

The plot and story-line was written well, it wasn't too fast-paced, and yet it wasn't too slow that the reader fell asleep. The reader is taken on a climbing journey, that meets a climax towards the end of the novel that wonderfully reveals the face of Alexa's stalker. Even though I liked how the stalker was unmasked, I felt that the suggestion of the stalker written to near the beginning, and that it would have been better for the writer to let the reader discover for themselves why all these strange and eerie things were happening to Alexa. However, this is just my opinion and may be my format as a writer emerging into this review.

When reading I instantly knew that the author is a feminist, much like myself. However, while most female readers love an independent and strong minded heroine, they don't need to be told this all the way through the novel. I understood that Alexa was an emancipated young woman from a few simple descriptions, but from reading this in almost every chapter it made Alexa's sense of independence repetitive. But what I did like about Alexa is that she realised that her almost extreme sense of independence was stopping her from ever finding love and happiness in the future, and for me personally this the characters realisation of her faults was my favourite part of the book. It showed the true essence of being human, understanding our faults and finding a way to overcome them. For myself, this is what makes a really good writer, someone who captures a sense of human life within language, and Lily Black did just that.

Another aspect I found interesting about Storm of Attraction was its parallels between love and obsession. This gives the reader clues and makes them aware of the difference between the two emotions. The stalker is most indefinitely a psychopath, and wants to possess and control Alexa. The reader sees this from the third person narrative Black uses, where we can see into the mind of the stalker and hear his twisted and dark thoughts. Though this can be disturbing for some readers, I again liked how there was a sense of darkness that contrasted with the light of Alexa and Drew's relationship.

The books other main character, Drew Cosimo, is kind hearted and basically any persons dream guy. He cooks, he's handsome and he likes cats. However, what I liked most about his character is that he desired Alexa in the beginning, but that sense of lust changed into something futuristic and long-term, and within this he realised that he wanted to progress in the direction of a stable and martial relationship. Personally, I believe that this is how love should progress. You desire another person, and then, once you've spent a substantial amount of time with them, you develop a sense of protection and deep respect for them.
While I did like Drew, at times I felt that Black didn't let me discover his sense of character for myself and that she told me all of his feelings. The book had quite a telly narrative, and for some stories it can work quite well, however, when it is used excessively it can make the reader feel as if they can't think for themselves.

Aside from the small things I criticised, overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and highly recommend it to anyone looking for an engaging and gripping read.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Bag (The Bucket Series)

Hey, this is Heather posting today. Many thanks to Pegasus Publishers for letting me read this in exchange for an honest review. The cover art for this book is stunning.


Author: D.J. Cattrell
Published: June 2017
Publisher: Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers
Length: 347 pages
Genre: Children's/Teenage Fantasy

Brief description (from Amazon)

The day had finally come for Sarah to meet her sister Rachel after eight years. Being in a different world, Sarah was determined to be re-united with Rachel back in her original world, with The Bag'. But does that solve all the problems? The witch, The Esmeralda', makes her way into her new world aiming to take hold of The Bag' from Sarah. What is so precious about this bag? Sarah must protect it and its contents, and is willing to give up her life to save the world from the witch's evil doing. Will Sarah survive? And, if Sarah does survive, which world will she choose to live in? (


I’m a massive fan of the genre children’s/teenager fantasy so my expectations were pretty high. It’s crucial for children and teens alike to expand their imagination by reading fantasy novels. Through reading fantasy, we can manipulate our own minds to appreciate the bizarrely beautiful mundane elements of our own world that someone from another world would notice. It’s also wonderful to provide us with some escapism, I recall spending many dark nights in Harry Potter’s wizarding world, adventuring with Lyra and Will in Philip Pullman’s dark material and hobbling along with the hobbits and elves of Tolkien’s literature when my own life was stressful and sleep troubled.

The pacing of the novel is rapid.  I did feel it was a little too fast at the start but had I read the prequel I’d probably not have had this issue. It’s often difficult for writers to include enough description yet still captivate their readers for this audience, but this is definitely a success story for that. Imagery, plot and dialogue were all in the ideal ratio. There are some illustrations too, whilst these aren’t really needed as the imagery is more than adequate in allowing the reader to visualise what is happening, I still enjoyed looking at them. The plot is good, certainly a page turner, though the end still leaves the reader questioning what will happen next, which is excellent if the author is planning to write another book. I was also pleased that the writer had come up with their own creatures to fill this world with, like the cuddly rocks and Jasban.

The characterisation was definitely another highlight. I adored the Jasban, which are playful critters, especially the contrast between them and the grouchy but equally lovable white tiger. The Esmeralda was an excellent villain, cruel and literally feeding from the pain of others, she struts around with a confidence reminiscent of Jadis from C.S. Lewis’ Magician’s Nephew, capturing followers through the power of her eyes. My favourite character, followed closely by the endearing Robin, had to be Mrs Mole. Mrs Mole’s perspective was such fun to follow; an avid rule enthusiast distraught from her husband leaving her and left feeling pretty desolate, she consumes herself with caring for her plants, disapproving of Sarah and being a Guide leader (I’m hoping the sequel might give her some more happiness). Her journey shows the most satisfying character development and there’s some spectacular imagery as she joins Sarah on her adventure. Rachel, however, confused me, particularly her claim that ‘ruler’ (as in the item in your pencil case) is improper, and that it’s really called a ‘rule’. I checked the Oxford Dictionary and for the British, a ruler is definitely acceptable terminology for a tool used to measure lengths and draw straight lines with. That’s not to say that she’s a badly written character though – sure, she’s pompous and a know-it-all (except about rulers, it seems), but some of the best people in this world are.  

Some authors can be pretty daunted by the children-teenager bridge in literature, so I really have to commend the writer for going for this audience. The writing style is fun to read, but uses mature language, a lovely balance that should help younger teenagers to keep reading. However, throughout there was a case of overly ‘enthusiastic’ punctuation in which a lot of sentences ended with an exclamation mark. I’d really advise writers and editors to check before publishing to reduce exclamation marks – they should be used only sparingly to make full impact when necessary. Children’s literature does tend to use more exclamation marks than most, but even so, consider that authors like Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and F. Scott Fitzgerald all used less than 500 of them per 100,000 words. It’s a minor thing to nag about, and normally I’d completely ignore it, yet the book itself is written so well that it doesn’t require them.

Only one element of the novel did I really dislike: the rabbit incident. This is a really small part of the book and not really needed to fabricate the storyline, it’s more included to demonstrate how poorly Sarah adapts to our world as she takes the Guides rabbits and makes rabbit stew with them… then uses the skins to make the Guide leader, Mrs Mole, slippers. Maybe I’m a little biased? I’ve kept rabbits since the age of three – my bunny Tilly is currently parading round my bedroom floor as I write this (she was rather startled by the lightning last night so was owed some cuddles). So, I’ll admit it, I adore rabbits and the thought of someone doing that to Tilly quite frankly is horrific. This meant that for the remainder of the book, I was ‘stewing’ about why rabbit stew is even a thing! I know I’ve ranted too much on this one point, but needless to say I was not amused by it, particularly for the age group it's aimed at. As a counterpoint to this, I know that rabbits are eaten in the wild and that Sarah did not realise how traumatising her actions would be to the other children… but I still don’t forgive her.

Aside from the rabbits, I really enjoyed this novel and will definitely try to get hold of the prequel sometime. If you’ve read or are reading this book or even just love the genre like I do, please let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

She Will Always Remain

Hi guys, it's Lydia here. This is probably the latest post I've ever written, but I finally found some time to edit and share this poem. I wrote this a few months ago, in a pretty horrible time for me. But I found that writing about my anxiety and picturing it as a living breathing person helped me focus my mind, it gave me a sense of clarity. Obviously anxiety or any mental illness has no form or shape, but for each person I think the way they visualise and imagine their illness is different to each individual mind. But tell me what you think and if you feel comfortable enough share your experiences with how your or a loved ones mental illness effects your way of life.

It attacks in happy hours,
Laughter escaping open mouths.
In times not foreseen, when minds are running water.

She appears as mist, that thins through floorboards.
Or beady spiders twitching in bedroom corners.
The Lady of 'ifs' and 'buts', whose face appears despite comfort.
The Monstrous Mistress, white fingers shadowing true sight,
Watery grey eyes that loom in waking sleep.

In minds blank peace she calls -
Her cold caress breathing in ears,
You've forgotten something.
Her purple lips gleeful in anxious agony.
Lounging, watching as fingernails stab palms,
As fidgeting eyes scan around frightful,
Finding something, someone to stop her presumptions.

As clammy backs cool, the echoing thuds reside.
She crawls back through silky glass.
Into innocent eyes, down, down within
She sings I am you. I can never leave.

Thursday, 13 July 2017


Hello everyone! It's Shani and today I'm going to be reviewing Pipeliner by Shawn Hartje.

Published: November 30th 2016
Publisher: Self-published
Author: Shawn Hartje
Length: 249 pages
My rating: 3.5/5

Hartje's novel Pipeliner follows the narrative of a teenage boy called Jason Krabb, a high school student and aspiring guitarist. The novel follows Jason through his 'coming of age' period where he inevitably matures a great deal. The novel is set in the 1990's and has a range of references through out the course of the novel which make the novel really feel within the time frame that Hartje has set it in.

One of the key things which I enjoyed about Hartje's novel was the characterisation of Jason. It was interesting to read the novel from a male's perspective, as a majority of the novels I read are either written in a third person narrative or a first person female narrative. Male perspectives are sparse in the genre of YA literature and even in some of the adult genres which I have read. So, delving into Hartje's seventeen-year-old character of Jason was intriguing. Jason has a great ambitious, as many teenagers do, to become a guitarist. However, Jason doesn't quite realise the amount of effort it will take him to achieve this goal and seems to overestimate his ability to become a popular guitarist. I loved the fact that Jason's older brother attended Princeton it showed a great contrast between the two characters, and also implied that perhaps Jason felt overshadowed by his elder sibling - a trait which many readers can relate to if they have any older siblings. It was fun reading about Jason's journey but at times I felt that Jason's aspirations were somewhat dull and cliche.

One of Jason's main ambitions throughout the novel is to find himself a girlfriend and to party as much as he can. This concept that Jason 'needed' to find a girlfriend irked me slightly as it seemed to be one of the biggest things on his mind throughout the novel. I just wished he had slightly more ambition than to simply get a girlfriend and party as much as he liked, but then this was also interesting because Hartje was presenting me with a perspective which I hadn't considered before.

Hartje's pacing of the novel was at times a little slow but his language in the novel was refreshing and kept me reading despite some of my reservations about his themes. I felt that the sexual scenes in the novel were perhaps unnecessary. Whilst I understand that the novel is a 'coming of age' I felt that the sexual scenes didn't need to be in the novel and could have been implied, rather than explicitly described. The substance abuse as well - drugs are mentioned quite a lot in the novel - I think this is perhaps why I couldn't find myself being able to relate to the story because whilst it did in some ways describe the typical life of a teenager coming of age, I felt that it was at times stereotypical though this may have been the writer's aims to create a slightly cliched perspective on teenagers for humour.

Overall, I did enjoy aspects of Pipeliner and I believe that it would be an enjoyable read for those who are able to relate to the story more. Perhaps because I was born towards the end of the 1990's and therefore have no recollection of the era that I didn't enjoy it as much as other readers may!

If you are interested in reading Pipeliner than here is the link for the Kindle Edition:

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

To the girls who feel like they aren't enough

There is a girl staring at me in the mirror.
Her face is cracked. Crooked.
I know not of her pale complexion, her awkward angles
Her limbs which tremble like a new born fawn, her limp hair.
But her glacier eyes are mine.

There is a girl staring at me in the mirror.
I beam at her. Yet she is wallpaper and her image does not waver,
'Who are you?' I begin to ask but her mouth moves along with mine
I falter.
'I am you' she whispers 'I am what you will become'

There is a girl staring at me in the mirror.
She is still. Quiet. Subdued.
I want to ask her, who has done this to you?
But an eerie smile is tugging on her lips
She has done this to herself.

There is a girl staring at me in the mirror.
With a gaunt frame and bloodied fingernails.
'You are enough' I tell her
The tendrils of her inky black hair hiss at me
'I will never be enough!'

There is a girl staring at me in the mirror.
She is beautiful and broken and she cannot see it,
She cannot see that flowers bloom when she smiles.
The sweetness that leeks from her every pour, the selflessness of her open outstretched palms
She does not see these things.

There is a girl staring at me in the mirror.
Her face is cracked. Crooked.
And I wonder when did we become so invested in reinventing ourselves
That we forgot who were along the way?
'You are enough' I tell her.

There is a girl staring at me in the mirror.
'You are enough!' I tell her.

- Shani

America's Next Reality Star

Hi folks, it's Heather here, hope your summer is going swell. Many thanks to the author for letting me review it in exchange for an honest review. There's a sequel to this coming out soon so expect another review in September! 


Author: Laura Heffernan
Published: March 2017
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Length: 256 pages

Brief description (from Amazon)

Twenty-four-year-old Jen Reid had her life in good shape: an okay job, a tiny-cute Seattle apartment, and a great boyfriend almost ready to get serious. In a flash it all came apart. Single, unemployed, and holding an eviction notice, who has time to remember trying out for a reality show? Then the call comes, and Jen sees her chance to start over—by spending her summer on national TV.
Luckily The Fishbowl is all about puzzles and games, the kind of thing Jen would love even if she wasn’t desperate. The cast checks all the boxes: cheerful, quirky Birdie speaks in hashtags; vicious Ariana knows just how to pout for the cameras; and corn-fed “J-dawg” plays the cartoon villain of the house. Then there’s Justin, the green-eyed law student who always seems a breath away from kissing her. Is their attraction real, or a trick to get him closer to the $250,000 grand prize? Romance or showmance, suddenly Jen has a lot more to lose than a summer . . . (


Poor Jen! Having just lost her job, home and boyfriend after it’s unraveled that there’s a very interesting reason why he hasn’t proposed, she’s definitely going through a rough spot. The chance to win a quarter of a million by becoming a reality television star certainly appeals to her at this time. The show in question is an intriguing concept called The Fishbowl, in which a selection of people (the fish) are put in a glass house that resembles (you guessed it) a fish bowl. Like most reality shows, there’s a confessional booth, challenges and lots of snarky attitudes.

The pacing of the book is good, with healthy doses of comedy to reflect Jen’s personality, meaning that the story is pretty much optimum for entertainment. Despite all the little details, I still felt like I was yearning for more – like how exactly the personality test and psychiatric assessment were done in the application process. The ending was especially rushed and left me feeling a little dissatisfied if I’m totally honest, but considering there’s a sequel out I’m hoping that that will answer my many questions about how Jen will proceed after the Fishbowl. As I said earlier, the plot is intriguing (even for someone that’s never watched reality television) and I caught myself up till the early hours of the morning when I decided I’d read just thirty more pages, which transpired into a hundred and fifty.

The characters were a bit over the top, like Birdie speaking in hashtags, but given that this is a comedy book, it only added to the amusement factor. I really enjoyed watching as different characters were developed, particularly Rachel and Justin, who Jen’s feelings on changed drastically as the story progressed. Joshua was perhaps the most infuriating individual I’ve ever read about; I completely shared Jen’s dislike of him. Ariana, though very attention seeking and dramatic, I thought was treated a bit too harshly by the others, Jen reacting to the majority of her antics. I’d have enjoyed to have read more about her journey in The Fishbowl and seen her attitude alter. The platonic relationships in the novel were excellent, really well written; many authors can get overly distracted by romance and leave out friendships entirely.

The challenges themselves were inventive, it’s clear that the author had a lot of fun coming up with them and putting Jen in uncomfortable situations, especially those involving her sexual tension with Justin. Again, I’d have liked to have seen more of them though! I was particularly fond of the reference to the Triwizard Tournament from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Nominations were again well written, with Jen’s stress blatant from her prying to find out who the other contestants would vote her.

Teens and adults alike would probably enjoy this the most, there’s a sprinkling of adult language but nothing offensive. If you’ve read or are planning to read this, leave me a comment below! I’m going to end this post with my favourite quote, which surmises Jen perfectly;

“I wouldn’t let this b*tch get the best of me. Kill ‘em with kindness, like Mom always said.”

Monday, 10 July 2017

The Existence of Pity

Hello, it's Heather! Many thanks to the author for sending this to us for an honest review. This made a very pleasant summer read that I'd definitely encourage others to look at.


Author: Jeannie Zokan
Published: October 2016
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Length: 256 pages

Brief description (from Amazon)

Growing up in a lush valley in the Andes mountains, sixteen-year-old Josie Wales is mostly isolated from the turbulence brewing in 1976 Colombia. As the daughter of missionaries, Josie feels torn between their beliefs and the need to choose for herself. She soon begins to hide things from her parents, like her new boyfriend and her explorations into different religions. Josie eventually discovers her parents’ secrets are far more insidious. When she attempts to unravel the web of lies surrounding her family, each thread stretches to its breaking point. Josie tries to save her family, but what happens if they don’t want to be saved? The Existence of Pity is a story of flawed characters told with heart and depth against the beautiful backdrop of Colombia. (


This novel is honestly as sweet as apple pie, I adored reading it for a bit of escapism. It’s told from the perspective of Josie, who is growing up in Cali, Columbia, with her Baptist Missionary family. Overshadowed by her brother Aaron who deceives his parents into believing him to be innocent in every way, Josie starts to question her religion and has to battle between staying true to herself or making her family happy.

The start of the book reveals a massive plot spoiler, which I’d have been tempted to leave out, however I actually have to commend the author for doing it as I was in a state of anticipation throughout. It means you progress through the novel querying the how’s and why’s of the situation, rather than the what. The plot itself develops steadily throughout so that you’re never resumed to feeling even an inkling of boredom, there’s always some drama. I have to say that the ending was spectacular and concluded in exactly the right way, though I’d personally be very happy if the author decided to write a sequel.

I loved the snippets of the way life works in Cali – being from dreary England we often read about the sunshine of America, so it was nice to drift further down to Colombia, a country less explored in literature. It was also nice to read about Aunt Rosie, who comes to visit from the States, and some of the other people that joined the missionary camp that were also from there. Through their reactions, the reader was able to fully understand how even minor earthquakes are very scary and the difference in food. The religious theme in the novel was one of my favourites as Josie starts to stray away from her own church and explore other forms of religion. It was interesting to see how Blanca and Aunt Rosie were more open to this than some other characters. Furthermore, how vital Josie’s faith was in keeping her controlled in some pretty stressful situations.

The characters are really fun to meet, from the effervescent Aunt Rosie whose always open to new experiences and offers Josie comfort when she’s down despite living far away, to their motherly maid Blanca. Josie is a wonderful protagonist; brave, adventurous, nosy. She thinks with her heart, wanting to stay true to herself but sometimes making irrational decisions as a consequence. The book has an endearing family feel to it initially, and yet as the story goes on it is not quite as idealistic as appearances may suggest.

Overall, the novel is a lovely read, very easy to get through quickly and perfect for summer. There are some controversial topics discussed, but the author does so delicately with openness to different perspectives. The writing style has an excellent description to dialogue ratio and shows thoughtfulness. There’s nothing graphic, so most age groups will be able to read this without any qualms!

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

Hello everyone! It's Shani here today, finally back after the nightmare known as A Level exams. The last few months it's been difficult for my colleagues and I to read because our time was mostly taken up by revision and preparing for our final exams, but it's officially summer now and that means plenty of time for reading!

I decided that before I go to University (if I'm lucky enough to get in) that I wanted to reread the last few Harry Potter books. I've been listening to the first three (Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, and Prisoner of Azkaban) whilst I was revising - audio books were the only thing keeping me going during exam season - so I decided to read the last four books over the next week. I finished the Goblet of Fire yesterday and I knew that I wanted to review it immediately.

Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: 8th July 2000
Publisher: Children's Bloomsbury
Length: 636 pages
My Rating: 5/5

It's been about four years since I properly sat down and read The Goblet of Fire, and I must say it resonated with me just as much as the last time I read the novel. Harry Potter, a fourteen year old wizard who attends the magical school of Hogwarts for Witchcraft and Wizardry, is about to face his biggest challenge yet when he is chosen to compete in the Triwizard Tournament. What strikes me most about this book is Rowling's ability to introduce more adult themes in the novel, and how her writing seems to evolve as Harry grows up. The Goblet of Fire has a more serious tone and themes such as death, torture, and manipulation are discussed in great detail. That's one of the main things I've always adored about the series. The reading age seems to change as Harry ages making the last few books more complex and adult.

Rowling's characters of Harry, Ron, and Hermione also shift in this novel. The reader is shown a more vulnerable side to Harry, and the relationship between the three friends is tested multiple times during the narrative. Rowling portrays a realistic friendship between the trio, they bicker a good deal of the time, but they always manage to sort out their differences and rally together when they need to. I liked this aspect of the novel because I felt that the reader could connect to the characters more as Rowling explored their flaws in more depth then she has previously done, thus strengthening the trio's friendship even more as they come to accept each other's quirks and flaws.
The writing, as usual, was exquisite and captivating. Rowling has a certain flow in her writing, her language is never too complex but it isn't simplistic either, and her vast vocabulary of magical spells and enchantments always leaves the reader intrigued and excited.

As a reader, I've always been enticed by the 'tragic hero' such as Hamlet and Macbeth, and Rowling seems to mold Harry into this category in this particular part of the series, though he isn't entirely a tragic hero for he doesn't have a 'fatal flaw' he seems to suffer like one. Throughout the entire book the reader feels a sense of catharsis for Harry, we are aware that Lord Voldemort (spoiler if you haven't read the book) is coming after Harry and the reader cannot help but fear the inevitable moment when Harry is forced to face the Dark Lord. This sense of pathos which the reader cannot help but feel throughout the novel, as Rowling increases the tension through Harry's various tasks in the Triwizard Tournament and the fact that his scar burns on multiple occasions, comes to a breaking point in Chapter Thirty-Two Flesh, Blood and Bone where Harry and Cedric Diggory come face to face with the Dark Lord, and Cedric (once again a spoiler if you haven't read the novel) is murdered. I felt that whilst Rowling had dark themes in the previous novels and throughout The Goblet of Fire, this particular chapter shifts the entirety of the series. Not only is Harry, a fourteen year old boy, forced to witness the death of a friend but young readers are forced to read the death of a beloved character. Cedric Diggory was an innocent student and he was senselessly murdered for no reason at all. This sudden shift in the novel not only has a detrimental effect on the readers but on Harry as well, who is traumatised and exhausted by the end of the novel.

The Goblet of Fire has always been one of my favourite books in the Harry Potter series not only because it paves the way for darker themes and more round characters, but Rowling's dialogue is more humorous and witty in this novel, especially from Harry who's sarcasm seems to know no bounds. This new, refreshing dialogue reflects once again how Harry is growing up and therefore his language is changing. I also loved the characters of George and Fred Weaseley who never fail to make me laugh. The only issue I had with the novel was the irritating character of Rita Skeeter, and that's simply because she is meant to be a frustrating character for the reader anyway. Other than that, the pacing, the narrative, and the characters were all spot on and I know that I will be reading Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire again and again in the coming years.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Revenants - The Odyssey Home

Hello, we're back (this is Heather posting)! Now that exams are out the way, we hope to be updating this a lot more. I need to really really apologise to the author of this one – I said I’d read the novel during the start of my exams but underestimated the amount of time I’d have to read so had to pause it up till now; so, better late than never, here’s my review. As usual, it’s an honest review in exchange for a free read.


Author: Scott Kauffman
Published: December 2015
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing
Length: 306 pages

Overall Rating


Brief description (from Amazon)

A grief-stricken candy-striper serving in a VA hospital following her brother's death in Viet Nam struggles to return home an anonymous veteran of the Great War against the skullduggery of a congressman who not only controls the hospital as part of his small-town fiefdom but knows the name of her veteran. A name if revealed would end his political ambitions and his fifty-year marriage. In its retelling of Odysseus' journey, Revenants casts a flickering candle upon the charon toll exacted not only from the families of those who fail to return home but of those who do. (


Struck by grief at the death of her brother Nathan, Betsy responds to her brother’s death by slacking in school and struggling with life in general, going through a rebellious stage of life. However, as she works in the Veterans hospital, she gets more determined to help and work out the secret of the anonymous patient locked upstairs who seems to only be alive through the twitching of his finger. Betsy is an intriguing character to follow and has some great character development throughout (she’s also a book nerd so naturally I liked her).

The content and topics covered in the novel were well-executed. I loved how bold the book was, addressing alcohol and drugs as well as the ugly, less poetic side of grief. It was really interesting to see the different perspectives as to what war meant and whether enlisting is good or bad. Perhaps best of all were the patients in the hospital; having just done an exam on how war is portrayed in literature, I applaud all authors that draw attention to the survivors of war and those at home, suffering the aftermath. Their injuries were all severe, and Betsy was initially shocked and rather scared of them, this stigma was interesting to view; Betsy’s maturing and adaptation even more so. Their injuries are looked at both with compassion, understanding and a little bit of humour, making its portrayal realistic.

The author chose to instill proper dialect and speaking style from the Ohio area. At first, I was slightly concerned that this could become too much; I’m sure we’ve all heard stories whereby the styling of a character’s voice becomes superior to their emotions and backstory. But Kauffman succeeds in shaping endearing characters, using the dialogue tone as a charming addition that does not override the plot. With a lot of characters, it can be challenging for authors to make each memorable enough, yet again Kauffman succeeded. During conversations in the book, I got a little confused as to who was speaking sometimes, so would recommend putting in a few more ‘[…] said’ here and there, but other than that the characterisation was great.

I was warned that the first fifty pages have been flagged as less eventful than the remainder of the novel – I actually didn’t find this was the case. Many authors use the standard rule of having a very dramatic opening to draw the reader in, then toning it down a little, but that does not mean that it is essential to all novels. Personally, I really enjoyed the start of the novel, and the middle, and though I liked the ending too I did think that it could have been more concise. Points of the book moved at an excellent pace, others were a little slow, but I was never bored.

My only qualm with the book was its use of the ‘n’ word in description, whilst I understand that it was not intended in such a way, it can be seen as racially offensive. Because of this, some swearing and darker topics, this is definitely a book for older readers. Anyone interested in war, like I am, will be sure to appreciate how its aftermath affected those at home – something the author definitely succeeded in, making it a lovely read.