Tag Archives: new release special

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart

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I wanted to read and review more YA and children’s books this year, so when this one caught my eye due to the interesting premise, I requested it and couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a delight…

When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, things don’t go as planned…

This steampunk adventure is huge fun that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until the end. Emmeline is brought up a solitary child in a creepy house infested with all sorts of dangerous creatures and is more or less left to get on with it as her scientist parents have to do a lot of travelling. Until a fateful day when everything goes wrong… Do try to avoid reading the blurb which is far too chatty and gives away more of the plot than is necessary. That said, there is plenty of plot in this action-packed story brimful of interesting, likeable characters. Generally I am not a huge fan of stories where yet another set of new characters pop up in each scene, but somehow O’Hart manages to pull it off. Other than Emmeline, whose gritty self-assurance gets her through all sorts of tight spots, my favourite character has to be Thing, the vagabond boy she encounters on the liner. But there are plenty of other enjoyable, strong-minded characters to choose from as steampunk tends to roll along with lots of action and relatively little angst. It was when Thing had a wobble about his grim childhood that I bonded with him and felt that vulnerability gave him more reader-appeal.

There is also a pleasing number of unpleasant villains ranged against Emmeline and the people trying to prevent the impending apocalypse – my favourite is Doctor Siegfried Bauer as he is so magnificently horrible, especially to poor Emmeline. But the North Witch is also a thoroughly nasty character who poses all sorts of problems. Once the action really takes off, we have the two main protagonists, Emmeline and Thing alternating in telling the story, occasionally interspersed by other members of the supporting cast. O’Hart’s strong writing and deft handling of the rising tension makes this a really gripping read that didn’t want to let me go when I should have been up and about instead of finishing the book.

The denouement has to deliver after so much energy and tension has been expended during the rising action and in this case, it does, while all the dangling plotpoints are satisfactorily tidied up. I’m very much hoping that this book does well, because although I cannot see any sign of this being the first in a series, I’d love to read more about Emmeline and her family in another madcap adventure. Recommended for precocious readers from 10/11 years old onwards.
9/10

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Keeper of the Watch – Book 1 of the Dimension 7 series by Kristen L. Jackson

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This one caught my eye owing to the fabulous cover and the idea of time travelling via a tatty old watch.

Chase Walker is beginning to doubt his own sanity. From the moment he turned eighteen, a strange paranoia has taken over his mind. It all started the moment he discovered his uncle’s old watch… The watch calls to him. Though it beckons, he resists. His body strains toward it, blood pulsing, heart pounding in a mysterious and primitive need to connect with his uncle’s old beat up watch. When sexy and mysterious Alyx saves his life, she promises answers. She talks of dimension travel, and wears a magical watch of her own…

I’ll be honest, I really struggled in the beginning stages of this one. The dialogue is rather clunky, which inhibited the characterisation, while both Chase and Alyx seem far younger than the average eighteen year old. I’ll accept that Alyx might be rather young for her age, but it was Chase’s character that appeared to be all over the place. And just as I was about to seriously consider consigning it to the DNF pile – the action finally kicked off and the book sprang to life.

Jackson’s writing tightened up and as she described the grim transformation in the parallel dimension, with the horrifying event that defines the rest of the narrative, I didn’t want to put this one down. Chase’s shock and gritted determination to fight back gave his personality a strength of purpose and clarity he had previously lacked, while I really enjoyed Alyx’s rather peeved response to his reaction. This sets up an interesting dynamic between them, which hooked me in and had me caring.

While the worldbuilding in the alternative dimension is rather sketchy, with very few details as to how the USA was so quickly conquered, I was prepared to give the author a pass on that one, given the real drama she managed to create. In the meantime, the long-running battle between the Hunters and Keepers goes on and the story is brought to a satisfying ending.

This story is recommended for fans of multi-dimensional travel at the younger end of the YA age range.
7/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc Shadow Play: A British Police Procedural – Book 20 of the Bill Slider Mysteries by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

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It was the author’s name who caught my eye when trawling through Netgalley – Cynthia Harrod-Eagles is my mother’s favourite writer and when I reviewed her book The Hostage Heart, I was favourably impressed, although it isn’t normally the type of book I read.

When the body of a smartly-dressed businessman turns up in the yard of Eli Simpson’s car workshop, DCI Bill Slider and his team soon surmise that the victim was someone’s ‘enforcer’. So who was Mr King? Who was he the muscle for? And what did he know that made someone decide to terminate the terminator?

This isn’t a cosy mystery – the cover makes that very plain. But neither is it some grimy, downbeat murder misery, where the main protagonist is fuelled by anger as he wades through a depressing cityscape awash with social deprivation. There isn’t anything wrong with the above – I just want to make it plain exactly what this book is about, because I’m not sure the cover fully conveys that.

Bill Slider is happily married to a musician, so he occasionally has to work from home when she is off playing in an orchestra somewhere. I like the fact that he isn’t some drink-soaked depressive with no home life – and that he also has a reasonable relationship with his superior, who he mostly likes and respects. There are likeable, chirpy characters in his team, who we learn about while they trudge through the various leads.

As for the murder – it’s a while before the team manage to get their teeth into this one and as I haven’t read the previous 19 books, I would suggest this is a useful entry point. I had time to get my bearings and work out what was happening to whom before the plot really took off. Though this isn’t a foot-to-the-floor action thriller, it’s far more the steady accumulation of clues through hard graft and constant checking.

I found the actual unravelling of the mystery unexpectedly engrossing as we begin to learn snippets about this rather shadowy character. By the time I’d reached the final quarter of the book, it was something of a struggle to put it down, while I read far longer than I’d intended to get to the end and discover whodunit. Harrod-Eagles writes characters very well as the final denouement produced a satisfying end to a solidly good murder mystery.

The next time I need a fix of a quality murder mystery, I shall definitely be going back to this series and sampling more of Bill Slider’s adventures – it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Keeper by Kim Chance

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I really liked the look of the cover – and the words witch and bookworm turning up in the same paragraph meant I was scurrying to request this YA offering.

When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

As the rest of the blurb is somewhat chatty, I have decided to leave it out. Lainey is an endearing protagonist whose genuine shock upon finding a hidden layer of her life had me immediately on her side. The inevitable loss of pace as she struggles to come to terms with what is happening to her is nicely mitigated by her loyal, geeky friend who and watches scads of supernatural/superhero stories and is beside herself with excitement to find that her life is suddenly mirroring those of her heroes. Chance is deft with the humour while keeping up the pace and tension. And indeed, the pace never truly lets up as Lainey is confronted with one disturbing truth after another, as the situation becomes ever more desperate. For she is confronted with a truly horrible antagonist. I very much like the fact that despite never leaving Lainey’s viewpoint, we become fully aware of just what a nasty piece of work The Master is. We are also very clear as to why he is so strongly motivated to get hold of her and while she is ‘the chosen one’ that rapidly becomes far more of a life-shortening burden as Chance relentlessly continues to ramp up stakes. This book became quite difficult to put down once we reached a certain stage.

The inevitable romance was well handled, though I was intrigued when Lainey’s ear tips kept getting hot every time she was too close to her heartthrob. I was pleased to see that the romance stayed firmly within the bounds of the YA genre and didn’t stray into New Adult territory. As ever in a successful fantasy adventure, the supporting characters were also key to providing a rounded, entertaining story that kept the pages turning. And just when I thought I knew where this one was headed, it took off into another direction.

At present, it is being presented as a stand-alone, however, I really would like to see what happens next, and I am hoping this story is sufficiently successful that the publishers will request another book. I, for one, want to read more about Lainey and that grimoire…
8/10

Review of NETGALLEY arc We Care For You by Paul Kitcatt

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When I read what fellow book blogger, Ana, from Ana’s Lair had to say about this offering, I immediately hightailed it over to NetGalley to request it. I was delighted when I was approved and bumped it up to the top of my pile because I was so keen to read it.

Margaret Woodruff is slowly dying in a care home. When her son is presented with the chance of exceptional care in her final months, he finds the offer hard to resist. Winifred is assigned to Margaret’s care. She’s a Helper: a new kind of carer that’s capable, committed and completely tireless – because she’s a synthetic human being.

This is ambitious book is not only a gripping story about what happens to an old lady in a care home, but it is also a discussion about what it means to be human. Kitcatt isn’t afraid to hold up the pace of his unsettling story to provide detailed conversations between Margaret and Winifred, which have stayed with me since I finished reading the book. I’m not sure if I agree with the conclusions he comes to, but they are certainly food for thought and I do thoroughly agree with the prevalent view throughout the book that the life experience gained by the elderly is essentially thrown away in our modern society. This is in sharp contrast to almost every other culture throughout history, where the wisdom of the aged is valued and held in high regard. Although the conclusions that Winifred come to are somewhat worrying…

Any niggles? Well, I do have one. I’m still scratching my head as to why Kitcatt has set the book in 2022, given the sophistication and real-life appearance of the robot. That is only four years away and I simply don’t believe we are anywhere near producing an artificial being with that sophistication and complexity to be rolled out and fully interact with a very fragile human being in the manner described in the book. To be honest, when I saw the date I nearly didn’t continue, being rather nerdy about this sort of thing. While I’m aware, great strides have been made in the field of AI and robotics. I simply don’t believe we are within touching distance of the likes of Winifred and her hub.

However, the writing is sufficiently good and the book has been produced to a high standard with solid formatting, so I decided to proceed and give the author a pass on the unrealistic timeline. Other than that, this is an engrossing read with some important things to say about what we value as a society and a species, and though I thought I knew exactly what the ending would be, that final twist did leave me with a shiver up my spine. All in all, this is a memorable and unsettling read, recommended for anyone who enjoys near future science fiction relating to our current society.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Shadow Weaver – Book 1 of the Shadow Weaver series by MarcyKate Connolly

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I was drawn to this one by the lovely cover and interesting premise. The idea of using shadows to weave magic intrigued me so I requested it from Netgalley.

Emmeline has grown up with a gift. Since the time she was a baby she has been able to control shadows. And her only friend and companion is her own shadow, Dar. Disaster strikes when a noble family visits their home and offers to take Emmeline away and cure her of magic. Desperate not to lose her shadows, she turns to Dar who proposes a deal…

I’m leaving it at that as far as the blurb is concerned as I think it gives rather too much away. However, I found this book far more of a nuanced read than I had been expecting. Emmeline is feared by the servants and barely tolerated by her parents, who are clearly at a loss to know what to do about her. Left to her own devices, she spends her time sneaking around the grounds and the house, eavesdropping on conversations and playing tricks on the servants, or playing with the shadows.

I very much liked the fact that as her circumstances change and she finds herself with other people, she slowly begins to question her own behaviour. This isn’t a quick transformation and the book is as much about Emmeline’s own self-realisation as it is about the story of her emerging magic. The worldbuilding is well handled. Initially we don’t know all that much about what is going on in the wider world, apart from the snippets that Emmeline gleans from her snitching expeditions. However, as she leaves the family home and encounters other people, she learns just how much people with her gifts are being hunted and what they have to do to evade capture and a terrible fate. I very much liked the idea that people are invested with magic if they are born when a particular comet passes over every twenty-five years.

Emmeline’s growth and increasing discomfort with her own behaviour is one of the main themes throughout the book, as is the comparison with dark and light. While the imagery is obvious, it works well and is well aimed at a young audience. There is plenty going on in this well-written, pleasingly plotted book to keep an independent reader between the ages of 9-12 engrossed and I thoroughly recommend it. While I obtained an arc of Shadow Weaver from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Liar in the Library – Book 18 of the Fethering Mysteries by Simon Brett

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Simon Brett is patron of the West Sussex Writers club, so I have had the pleasure of hearing him speak a number of times. His witty take on the world pervades this pleasing cosy mystery.

When an author event at the local library ends in murder, Jude finds herself a suspect in the waspishly witty new Fethering mystery. Having been booked to give a talk at Fethering Library, successful author Burton St Clair invites his old friend Jude to come along. Although they haven’t met for twenty years, Jude is not surprised to find that St Clair hasn’t changed, with his towering ego and somewhat shaky relationship with the truth. What Jude hadn’t been suspecting however was that the evening would end in sudden, violent death. More worrying, from Jude’s point of view, is the fact that the investigating police officers seem to be convinced that she herself was responsible for the crime. With the evidence stacking up against her, Jude enlists the help of her neighbour Carole not just to solve the murder but to prevent herself from being arrested for committing it.

Set in a small village literally a stone’s throw from where we live in Littlehampton, which is mentioned several times in the book, I’ll freely admit that one of the attractions with this entertaining whodunit is the fact that I recognise the towns they visit. It is rather fun to so clearly visualise the setting during the investigation, even if the village of Fethering is a construct. Of course, the book would be a downright trudge if that was the only thing going for it, so the fact that I really like Jude and her relationship with her rather prickly neighbour, Carole. It’s a bonus they are both retired and of a certain age – while I haven’t yet retired, I’m also well into middle age and it’s a solid pleasure to read a book with two female protagonists who reflect my own age-group. It doesn’t happen all that often…

Jude is a thoroughly likeable protagonist, who during the story becomes the chief suspect in the murder. These days, with our overloaded justice system, it’s all too believable to see a scenario where she could be imprisoned for perpetrating a crime she didn’t commit, so the stakes in this case are far higher than terminal boredom. What turns this readable adventure into pure delight, however, are the acidic observations Jude and Carole both have on the world and the characters around them. Brett doesn’t hold back from having a pop at the state of the publishing industry and the struggles rural libraries are having to keep going, amongst other aspects of life in modern England – as well as the protagonists’ observations about the other characters they come into contact while on the case. Several times I giggled aloud at a nicely pithy phrase.

Any grizzles? Well, I was rather taken aback at having a crucial scene in the book where Jude is explaining the denouement glossed over in half a page, rather than being given the reactions of the characters involved. As the stakes were so high at this stage, I expected at least the first section to be fully depicted and the fact it wasn’t jarred with me. This is, after all, one of the planks of this particular genre and while Brett often successfully plays with readers’ expectations, this time it didn’t work. However, that is the only niggle and it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker. I found the ending not only satisfying, but unexpectedly poignant. If you are looking for an entertaining cosy mystery with a thoroughly modern take on the genre, then go looking for this offering – it reminded me all over again why I enjoy Brett’s writing so much. While I obtained an arc of The Liar in the Library from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Frequency of Aliens Book 2 of the Sorrow Falls series by Gene Doucette

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I really liked the cool cover and the blurb which sounds sharp and funny, if a tad chatty. I’ve only included part of it…

Becoming an overnight celebrity at age sixteen should have been a lot more fun. Yes, there were times when it was extremely cool, but when the newness of it all wore off, Annie Collins was left with a permanent security detail and the kind of constant scrutiny that makes the college experience especially awkward. Not helping matters: she’s the only kid in school with her own pet spaceship.

I found this one difficult to put down once I got used to the narrative. The story is pacey and due to the humour, feels quite different from, say, Fade Out, which I have also recently read and reviewed. This could so easily have been a grim tale of humanity facing a possible apocalyptic threat and while events are stacking up and there is a definite sense of unease, at no stage did the tone alter. I found it quite refreshing.

However, the catch with using any form of omniscient viewpoint – where the narrator is driving the story forward instead of the main characters – is the narrative can tip into being a mouthpiece for the author. So as I read on, I became aware that Doucette isn’t a fan of the military mindset, while feeling protectively admiring of isolated, rural settlements like Sorrow Falls.
Is this a major problem? It certainly wasn’t for hundreds of years, or for the likes of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. However the current fashion is for our protagonists to tell the story from their viewpoints within the story, on the grounds that no one has an overarching, ultimate view of what is happening – and that is exactly what is going on throughout this book. If Doucette wasn’t so deft with his humour, I think I would have had more of a problem with the viewpoint but because his wry irreverence permeates the story, he manages to pull this one off.

Other than that, the writing is slick and effective, while he keeps the pace rolling forward. All the main characters were reasonably appealing, although I did find the bloodthirsty survivalists a little unnerving and wondered if Doucette is playing too much with stereotypes in his characterisations. However, the denouement and ending was well handled and I enjoyed reading this sufficiently that I will be looking out for the first book in the series, The Space Ship Next Door.

8/10

 

ANNDDD…

Just Books features an extract from Dying for Space as well as an article by yours truly about a very awkward conversation I had that led to my changing the setting of the Sunblinded trilogy just days before I released Running Out of Space.

Hywela Lyn features another excerpt from Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is on the wrong side of Sarge. Again…

Comfy Chair Books has posted another slice of Dying for Space in which Elizabeth is finding herself right out of her comfort zone at one of her father’s fancy banquets. In addition, there is an article about how I used food and dining as part of the worldbuilding in this book.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Fade Out by Patrick Tilley

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I saw the funky cover and was hungry for some science fiction, so requested this one. It wasn’t until I featured it as a Tuesday Teaser, I realised it was a re-release of a book first published in 1977. So I was intrigued to know whether it would seem overly dated.

Patrick Tilley’s brilliant bestselling thriller of humanity’s first contact with advanced alien intelligence is a high-tension tour-de-force that will leave you thinking long after you have turned the last page.

While I don’t like overly chatty blurbs that give away a quarter of the main plotpoints before you’ve opened the first page, this one seems on the terse side – however, it does give you a very clear idea of the genre and what to expect.

The first thing to say is that if you have a major problem with limited omniscient viewpoint, then this one isn’t for you. While there are a number of main characters, Tilley regularly slides out of their heads and into neutral storytelling mode. As it is a classic narrative mode for this genre, I didn’t have a major problem with it and Tilley certainly couldn’t have covered all the angles he wanted to if he’d chosen any other viewpoint option. The next issue that struck me was how male and pale the cast were – no women or ethnic diversity within the higher government circles or the leading scientists brought in to examine what was going on. Given the book was apparently rewritten and updated, I think it is a shame this aspect was neglected.

So, the story. The way it builds up is excellently handled and I love the consequences and cost involved in the alien intrusion. I was also gratified that answers didn’t fall into anyone’s lap. The alien technology and motives are a genuine puzzle and folks are left guessing for a long way through the book. Other readers have mentioned how very America-centric the story is – but I do think that is probably a realistic take on the way things operate at the top in that government these days. What is intriguing is how that viewpoint genuinely hampers their ability to get to the truth of what is going on and the politicking and negotiating around the Russians is both funny and terrifying – as well as being spot on.

This tale is as much about our society and what we value as much as about the aliens. There is much to admire about this book and I thoroughly enjoyed most of it – however given the unhurried pace throughout most of it, I found the abrupt rush in the final pages rather jarring and wondered if this was the first in a series. It appears it isn’t. That said, it is still an interesting read and recommended for science fiction fans who enjoy reading the likes of Clarke and Heinlein. While I obtained an arc of Fade Out from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

8/10

 

ANNDDD…

Bibliophile Ramblings has featured an excerpt from Dying for Space as part of the blog tour…

Sunday Post – 10th December 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’m on the last lap of writing the notes for next term’s Creative Writing course and should be finished in time to take them into Northbrook and get them all photocopied on Tuesday, which is the day we break up for Christmas – if I can squeeze in the chore in amongst the Christmas cheer at the end of another successful term.

Last Sunday evening Frances and I attended the Wrap Party to celebrate making Tim’s film. It was boisterous and noisy, which was you’d expect with 20+ teenagers and it was lovely to see her joining in, being right in the thick of it. My amazing mother turned 82 on Tuesday, so my sister and I went down on Wednesday and took her out for lunch, stayed overnight and then had coffee with her before driving back on Thursday morning. On Wednesday evening, we popped round to see the new house my nephew and his girlfriend have recently bought and are doing up.

On Friday, Tim passed his Speaking and Listening exam with flying colours and Himself also got through a major milestone so will shortly be resuming his train driving duties – a huge relief. We celebrated by going out to lunch to The Arun View, which is right on the river and had a delicious meal as they had plenty of vegetarian options. Yesterday I worked most of the day and today will doing be the same, though we are popping out to do some shopping. I am horribly unprepared for Christmas, but to be honest until Friday was out of the way, Himself and I weren’t feeling very festive.

This week I have read:
Split Feather – Book 1 of the Daughter of the Midnight Sun by Deborah A. Wolf
Siggy Aleksov sees demons and talks with creatures she knows aren’t really there. Taken from her family as a child, she is dogged by memories of abandonment, abuse, and mental health issues. Siggy suffers from a hot temper, cluster headaches, caffeine addiction, and terminal foul language.
I really enjoyed this gritty, unusual urban fantasy that spends much of its time in one of my favourite settings – Alaska. Despite Siggy’s significant problems, she is portrayed without any self pity, yet also without dismissing the enormity of her issues, which is a difficult path to tread. A memorable, gutsy protagonist. I shall be reviewing this one in due course.

 

 

Fade Out by Patrick Tilley
Patrick Tilley’s brilliant bestselling thriller of humanity’s first contact with advanced alien intelligence is a high-tension tour-de-force that will leave you thinking long after you have turned the last page.
Hm. I enjoyed a lot of the story and the slow burn anticipation to discovering what the aliens are all about and what will happen next… Not sure about the ending. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 3rd December, 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Deadly Dance – Book 1 of the D.I. David Vogel series by Hilary Bonner

Teaser Tuesday featuring Fade Out by Patrick Tilley

Review of Language of Power – Book 4 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

Review of A Local Habitation – Book 2 of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

Friday Face-off – Do not go gentle…featuring Knights of the Borrowed Dark – Book 1 from the Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

Review of Falling Apart – Book 2 of the Otherworlders series by Jane Lovering

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Christmas Alphabet: R for Roy Orbison (Pretty Paper) https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/12/09/christmas-alphabet-r-for-roy-orbison-pretty-paper/ Thom delivers another classy article full of knowledge and passion about a wonderful track – this site is a gem…

The Best Villanelles in English Poetry https://interestingliterature.com/2017/12/06/the-best-villanelles-in-english-poetry/ By coincidence, we’ve been looking at villanelles in this term’s poetry workshop during my Creative Writing course, so I was delighted to see this excellent article – I think there is another one to add to this marvellous list, ‘Villanelle’ by Weldon Kees.

Hope https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/12/09/hope/ Inessa always takes amazing photos – but these are extraordinary. They brought tears to my eyes…

Gift Ideas for the Book Lover on your Holiday Shopping List https://thebookishlibra.com/2017/12/08/gift-ideas-for-the-book-lover-on-your-holiday-shopping-list/ Some fabulous ideas here for that special person in your life who also loves books.

Discussion: Fear of Reading Up All the Good Books http://avalinahsbooks.space/discussion-fear-good-books/ I think it’s one lots of passionate readers have after they have finished a wonderful book with a sigh of pleasure – and Evelina tackles it head-on😊

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.