Wednesday, 27 September 2017

The How To Do Stuff (Right) Book

Hey everyone, it's Heather here. We've all just started university, so have each been a little busy with adjusting to a new home, new friends, and lectures - posting has been slow. We'll probably get back to a better pace when we've all settled in more. Anyway, massive thanks to Pegasus Publishing for letting me read this book in exchange for an honest review. I thought the title was suitable for starting a new chapter in my life!


Author: Glen P. Aylward
Published: August 2017
Publisher: Vanguard Press, Pegasus Publishers
Length: 223 pages

Brief Description (from Amazon)

In this humorous look at everyday life, psychologist Dr. Wayward explains how to deal with everyday situations using findings from his extensive (and field-tested) research. Learn how to do stuff (the right way) with Dr Wayward's expert advice on everything from wine tasting and buying a car to raising toddlers and maintaining the perfect garden lawn that's sure to impress those neighbors when they peek out from behind the curtains. Witty, smart and full of laughs, The How to Do Stuff (Right) Book will teach you to survive the modern world and its pitfalls, whether you're a technology-savvy Millennial keen on growing the perfect bonsai, or a Baby Boomer struggling to keep up with the advances of the twenty-first century.


It's going to be a short review because this is a non-fiction book, so there's less that I need to comment on. Each chapter of this book is dedicated to a random topic; like how to maintain a lawn, and how to do wine tasting. With 16 chapters, there's so many situations discussed that even if you don't drink alcohol, are allergic to pets, cannot drive, and have no garden, most of the other chapters will still be applicable at one point in your life. Chapter Twelve, which detailed how to survive living with an adolescent, was my favourite. Despite being in the later adolescent stage, looking back on the first two stages I could definitely see where the writer was coming from, and I know many of my peers were the same! Although the content of the book is interesting, Aylward's writing style is the highlight. Witty, clever, sarcastic and amusing, it's a fun read, so even if some of the situations written about are not necessarily relevant to the reader, they can be entertained by reading about it nonetheless. Many of the tips are genuinely quite useful to take on board, whilst others are more light-hearted, for instance a tip in the wine-tasting section is to avoid "asking the proprietor to break out the jello shots". 

The design of this book has really exceeded my expectations - this one looks really classy with an appealing and bold green cover. This kind of book would make a perfect stocking filler as well (we're fairly near Christmas... right?), and is the type of book that someone like my dad would adore to get as a gift. I loved how the book includes graphs and diagrams sometimes, and bullet point lists to make full use of formatting, making it extremely easy to understand exactly what the writer means.

This is a really funny book, definitely the sort of non-fiction book I like to read in my leisure time. I'd recommend it for most adults. Leave me a comment if you've read, or are curious about The How To Do Stuff (Right) Book below!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Written in Blood

Hello, it's Heather posting today! Oh my goodness. Just wow. This novel is phenomenal. It slightly reminded me of The Silkworm. I’ve been preparing for university, so it was a relief to tear myself away from the woes of how I’ll ever pay my student loans, and read this instead.


Author: Layton Green
Published: November 2017
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Length: 320 pages

Brief Description (from Amazon)

Detective Joe "Preach" Everson, a prison chaplain turned police officer, is coming home. After a decade tracking down killers in Atlanta, and with a reputation as one of the finest homicide detectives in the city, his career derailed when he suffered a mental breakdown during the investigation of a serial killer who was targeting children.

No sooner does Preach arrive at home in Creekville, North Carolina--a bohemian community near Chapel Hill--than a local bookstore owner is brutally killed, the first murder in a decade. The only officer with homicide experience, Preach is assigned to the case and makes a shocking discovery: the bookstore owner has been murdered in exactly the same manner as the pawnbroker in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.

With the help of Ariana Hale, a law student and bibliophile who knew the victim, Preach investigates the local writer's community. As their questions increase, a second body is found, this time eerily resembling the crime scene in a famous Edgar Allan Poe novella. Preach and Ariana realize that their adversary is an intelligent, literate killer with a mind as devious as it is disturbed--and that one or both of them may be his next target.


The detective protagonist, Joe ‘Preach’ Everson, is investigating the murder of a bookstore owner who was killed in a way that had remarkable parallels to that of the murder in the classic novel Crime and Punishment. As the novel progresses, more murders with links to literary classics take place, and Preach frets that, in the crucial moment, he’ll repeat an error he made earlier in his career. Along with Officer Kirby and aided with the help of Ariana Hale, who adores reading, they try their hardest to catch the murderer before anyone else is killed.

The description throughout is thoughtful and illustrative, I particularly enjoyed the imagery of Damian Black’s house, which was pretty much the ideal horror writer’s home. The dialogue is also expressive and interesting. What really stands out is the plot, however. I found myself gasping out loud and texting friends frantically towards the end about the amazing twists and turns. As usual, I failed to guess who the culprit was – I love the feeling a reader gets when the detective finally realises who the killer is. The only slight criticism that could be put forward would be that everything is a little too convenient in terms of who-knows-who, but given that the place is quite small, and most of the main characters grew up in the area, this is definitely excusable.

Normally, I chastise authors for taking too much time to write about romance, but Ari is lovely and actually helpful in solving the crime; their relationship doesn’t distract from the story and develops at a natural pace. I think most readers can also relate to Ari, I’m sure most of us would love to work in a bookstore. And Preach is such a brilliant character. His backstory unfolds through his therapy sessions, making the reader really see how much suffering and guilt he’s endured (despite him never being at fault), it was a very clever idea to include the therapy sessions - lots of authors overlook the mental strain solving crime can have. I was delighted to have a protagonist who had emotions, empathy and vulnerabilities, and going against his past self. There’s a bit where Ari analyses him, and he does the same back, and it’s fascinating to see these impressions, and how they were formed.

There are some dark themes in the novel, so anyone under eighteen would not be advised to read this. Other than that, any fans of the dark crime genre will be sure to enjoy this. I’m definitely going to look out Layton Green’s books in the future, leave me a comment if you’ve read this!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Sweet Reality (Reality Star)

Hey, it’s Heather posting. We’ve all been devouring our university reading lists, so these last few weeks have been spent basically becoming books (I swear my hair smells slightly like the paper somehow now). Needless to say, after a week of reading Shakespeare, however wonderful that may be, I was in dire need of something lighter, and thus was delighted to read the sequel to America’s Next Reality Star (see my review on that), Sweet Reality. Many thanks to the author for letting me read this in exchange for an honest review.


Author: Laura Heffernan
Published: September 2017
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Length: 236 pages

Brief description (from Amazon)

Jen Reid's life after walking off a reality show has been great--she's gone from being a broke twenty-four-year-old Seattleite with no love life and no job to the twenty-five-year-old who got the guy, moved to Miami, and is starting a bakery with her best friend. She thinks her showmance love might be about to propose. And with mouthwatering goodies based on everyone's favorite shows, her business, Sweet Reality, is destined for success.

That is, until a killer competitor opens right across the street. If she's going to save Sweet Reality, Jen has to come up with a secret ingredient--like the recipe that won Totally 80s Bake-Off. Jen can get it--if she steps back into the spotlight. Soon she and her boyfriend are out to sea on a cruise ship full of reality stars, including her nemesis, Ariana; her lying, cheating ex; and some wicked producers looking to bring the drama. Separate cabins, "surprises" from her past, and scenarios tailor-made to spark fights are just the beginning. But with her self-respect, her business, and her future on the line, the fallout from this made-for-TV plotline will be all too real . . .


I sometimes struggle with reading sequels. The first book is often so much better than the second or third, which can sometimes ruin the entire series for you. Even years later, the prospect of reading the Hunger Games frightens me because Peeta’s character turns so nasty in the third book, and poor Prim had such a rushed death scene. Honestly though, I’m so glad I persisted with this one because it’s just as well written as its predecessor.

In my review for the prequel, my main criticism was that the ending felt hurried, so I had high hopes that this novel would tie up some of the loose ends – something definitely achieved. Jen’s about to open a cake business with Justin’s sister, Sarah, with the unique selling point of the baked goods being reality television themed. Meanwhile, Justin’s finishing his studies in law and helping the others out with the legal side of opening the shop. The couple also decide to go on a cruise for reality television stars, in which a few familiar faces pop up again. Typically, Jen gets the worst luck possible and finds herself stuck on a cruise with her enemy, Ariana, and her ex-boyfriend, as well as the wife he hid from her throughout their past relationship.

Jen definitely retains the same flaws as in the last book; she’s easy to agitate, insecure, bitter, has severe trust issues… this is excellent. Jen is far from a perfect person, that’s what makes her real and relatable, especially after the last serious relationship she had. Similarly, Justin is so stressed out with family problems, worrying over when to propose, and his academic results, that we see some of his less ideal boyfriend traits. Ariana’s character has a very clever and interesting twist at the end, making her character have dimensions and development which I adored. Another praise has to go to the author for including a deaf character, and subtly approaching the challenges the deaf have to face, I really hope that in the next book we see more of this character, or Jen learns sign language. Ed and Rachel are such lovely people, wonderful friends for Jen to have made, I can only compliment them too.

Friendships were another highlight of this novel, both old and new ones, Heffernan wrote them with the perfect amount of banter and support that’s realistically involved. The relationship between Jen and Justin was so problematic though, that I have to confess I kind of hoped they’d break up at times – it’s clear that Jen needs more time to realise that she can fully trust Justin, and they could certainly use a bit more communication. Maybe she needed more of a break after her last relationship? Although, they did have a couple of calmer, cute moments.

As usual, Heffernan writes in an imaginative way, including snippets of private interviews, news reports, and standard narrative. This creative written style is lifted even more by the measures of humour and drama, poor Jen really has to go through some mortifying situations. And, oh my goodness, that secret ingredient had me laughing out loud. I’d really recommend this series for anyone that wants a funny, light read.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

When Life Gets In The Way

Hey its Lydia here! I haven't posted for a few weeks now, but here's my next book review. I ate this book up!

Author: Ines Vieira
Published: 1st August 2016
Publishers: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Romantic-comedy, Teenage love
Length: 314
Rating: 18+

Description from Amazon

A wise man once said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Cassandra Mackenzie had only one plan. Get into Berkeley, University of California. That was her one purpose and nothing was going to get in her way or sidetrack her from that one goal. Her life would finally begin once she moved from the quiet streets of Plymouth, Massachusetts to the sunny hills’ of San Francisco. That is if her family doesn’t fall apart before she can make her dreams come true. Isaac Silva never made any plans his entire life. His only objective was to have the nightmare he lived day in and day out, to finally come to an end. To Isaac, graduating wouldn’t mean college, it would mean freedom. But when these two meet, all bets are off. “When Life Gets in the Way” is a story about overcoming diversity and the grueling challenges that illness and violence can cause. But it is also a story of experiencing that one feeling that surrounds us all. Love It can either make you or break you.


I have many words to say about When Life Gets In The Way. My first initial reaction when I first started reading on my iPad was, why is the font so big? And that it was longer than I expected it to be. However, I came to realise that something had happened when I was sent the PDF file, and actually the book is only just over three hundred pages long - the fundamental struggles of being a reader and reviewer.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the duel narratives of Isaac and Cassandra, where in each chapter the reader hears the perspective from each of their point of views. As both a reader and writer it was quite refreshing to hear a male voice in a YA romance book, something I haven't often come across until now. It brought a sense of masculinity to a genre that is mostly seen to be read by women, and it also allows readers to see inside the brain of a teenage boy, understanding all his deep thoughts and emotions. It was wonderful to read, as for many years men weren't known to be in touch with their emotions as much was women are, however the reader has such an intimate relationship with Isaac's thoughts that really their should be no emotional division between men and women.

The language used amongst the pages was very figurative, expressive and seemed to capture the characters emotions well. However, while it was lovely to read and imagine, there were parts were I thought the language was quite dull and literal. So there was a strange sensation of euphoria combined with an ache for something more descriptive. What was also captivated well was a sense of reality. In Vieira's book, her characters battle with the unfortunate circumstances of life, one being mental illness and domestic abuse, elements which hundreds of people daily are burdened with. Even though it can be distressing and heartbreaking for a reader to imagine, it brings a sense of human life and the realistic tragedy that people face in their lives. Although I enjoyed the language, some of the dialogue irritated me somewhat. The repetitive use of the word 'baby' when Isaac and Cassandra tried to sooth each other became slightly corny and cliche at times. However, it may be a British thing, as people in romantic relationships, definitely the ones I've been around, don't refer to each other like that. It is probably me just being picky, but every time I read the word, it reminded me of a pop song.

While I'm a reader for about forty per cent of the time, the other sixty is critically analysing the book: its style, language and foundation of plot. I was really impressed with the plot, the story started quite calmly, then as the reader was introduced to more and more characters, and each event starting to unfold, the tension rose really well. Along with the sexual tension between Isaac and Cassandra, meeting the climax of when they had sex. Moving on, love and the implication of love engulfs this story entirely. Obviously, Isaac and Cassandra are at the center, but I like how the author draws comparison to different relationships and marriages, especially the parents of the younger characters. What was quite touching and sentimental is that love changed the two main characters. Isaac, who thinks that to love and be loved is impossible, discovers that, despite all the odds he is able to love. Then Cassandra learns through love that the future cannot be controlled to suit ideas and ambitions, she sees that life and love are a rattling time bomb, patiently waiting to explode, no matter how hard you try, you can't keep it honed in.

I don't particularly have a favourite characters, but the one I most relate to is Cassandra. Like her, I'm always afraid of the future, and my brain is always filled and fueled by buts and what ifs. I too always want to keep the future safe and confined, but inevitably life is anything but smooth. So I really see myself in this characters, as I don't always put myself out in the world enough or take risks, but by the end of the book she finds herself within Isaac.

All the while when reading I couldn't help but be reminded of Nicholas Sparks books, so if you enjoy him as an author, then this book is definitely for you! I hope you enjoyed my review, go check out some of the other reviews on our blog by my co-writers Heather and Shani.