the lost art of sinking – naomi booth

The Lost Art Of Sinking – Naomi Booth

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

I must admit, when I first saw it, I was expecting a full length novel, but at just 137 pages, it is most definitely just a short novella.

The blurb states that the girls of Class 2B have been perfecting the art of fainting. I found this first line really intriguing, as I did the first part of the story.

Esther, like many girls in her class have been holding their breath or hyperventilating and competing amongst themselves to see who can be the first to pass into a graceful faint.

Although set in North England, for some reason, this had a whiff of the Japanese about it – I could imagine it being a typical Japanese schoolgirl obsession, so the juxtaposition with hearty English girls compared to my internal pictures made it even more compelling.

I really wanted to know more about the schoolgirls, why they had ALL started doing this, what made them continue, how they practiced, but we only followed Esther’s story, and the story left school and followed her through relationships and her life where she continued the practice.

I did enjoy the gentle following of what on the surface was the life of a ‘normal’ young girl leaving home and seeking her own place in the world through varying relationships, coming to terms with the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death and her interaction with her father. However, I felt that the auto-asphyxiation part of it was just an addition to add an interesting element to a rather dull character.

I would have loved more of the group mentality surrounding it, rather than following Esther alone.

An unusual, interesting little story, but not one that I think will stay with me particularly.

 The Lost Art of Sinking by Naomi Booth will be published on 1st June 2015.

grim – various authors (edited by christine johnson)


I received this as an Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

This is a collection of short stories, based on the ‘classic’ fairy tale (some more obviously based than others), but all with a dark, unusual or sinister twist to them – and many feeling a lot more contemporary.  The authors chosen are some of the best young adult writers of today, including a couple of my daughter’s favourite authors – Amanda Hocking and Julie Kagawa.

I read it with the intention of ‘checking out’ its suitability for my 14 year old daughter.

I haven’t read many collections of short stories, which is a bit odd, considering I’m more likely to write them myself, and the fact that I have a very short attention span.  However, the issue with any kind of compilation is that it is likely to be a bit hit and miss – you can’t please everyone with every inclusion.

Luckily, the first story The Key by Rachel Hawkins had enough pace, intrigue and mystery to set the pace. It wasn’t overdoing the fairy tale aspect, and it wasn’t too in-your-face supernatural to be a turn-off.

The stories were extremely diverse, which made the collection all the more engaging – from a psychic girl wondering whether to trust her boyfriend, to a musician inheriting his father’s muse, a rock band called Skin Trade or a re-imagination of The Snow Queen.  Just a couple of the tales were slightly near the mark, making me wonder whether they were ENTIRELY suitable for a 14 year old – but in the greater scheme of things, that’s probably just me being overly-sensitive, as they were not particularly graphic.

The standouts for me were The Twelfth Girl by Malindo Lo – an intoxicating schoolgirl tale of the ‘in’ crowd, all night parties, alcohol and hidden tunnels – The Raven Princess by Jon Skovron – an unexpectedly sweet story of a beautiful princess cursed to live as a raven – and my personal favourite Beauty & The Chad by Sarah Rees Brennan – a highly entertaining retelling of Beauty & The Beast.

In this the Beast was actually a surfer dude type called Chad who had been transformed and transported to the world of fairy tales, and just misses his frat mates and his X Box. The dialogue is clever, and Chad’s annoyance at the animated items within the castle trying to ‘serve’ him constantly had me grinning throughout.

A lovely collection, easy to read, and enough to have at least a few stories that you’ll be glad you read. A good YA alternative to Kelly Link’s Pretty Monsters, which I love! I think The Faery Handbag is my favourite short story ever.

Grim by Christine Johnson will be published on 25th February 2014.

beyond belief – helen smith

Beyond Belief

Celebrated magician Edmund Zenon is causing a stir at the annual ‘Belief and Beyond’ conference in Torquay, where the great and the good (and not so good) of the country’s psychic community come together. having spent his life denouncing the existence of ‘messages from beyond the grave’, he has decided to back up his beliefs with hard cash – offering a £50,000 reward to any who can prove to him that they can communicate with the dead.

However, famed psychic Perspicacious Peg predicts that a murder will occur at the conference, so together with the organiser hires the services of self-styled sleuth Emily Castles to try to change the course of fate.

With philosophy professor Dr Muriel once again at her side, Emily travels to the sleepy English Riviera expecting the whole weekend to be a farcical joke – but could Peg be right?

I make no secret of the fact that I love Helen Smith’s writing.  This is the second full-length outing for Emily Castles, and like Invitation to Die, it is quintessentially English.  You can almost taste the cream tea while you’re reading it!

I love the traditional gathering together of the suspects again – and conferences allow this to happen in a contemporary setting, making Emily Castles a young Miss Marple in training for the tenties (I have no idea what we’re calling this decade!).

An easy, quite short read with some wonderful larger than life characters. Emily herself as a character is a little neutral and understated – again, I think much like Miss Marple – allowing the rest of the cast to have their time  to shine – some of them for less time than others!

I’m definitely looking forward to Emily’s next outing. We’ve had a Romance Writer’s convention, a psychic conference – I wonder what will be next. A Morris Dancing competition? A Women’s Institiute gathering? A country fayre? Sheepdog trials? I can’t wait!

Beyond Belief will be published on 28th January.

reality boy – a s king

Reality Boy – A S King

I received Reality Boy as an Advance Review Copy, although it was actually published on 22nd October. I’ve not read any AS King books, and originally got it as I thought my daughter may enjoy it.

Everybody knows who Gerald Faust is – or at least they think they do. When her was five, his mother invited a TV crew in to document their life as part of a reallity show. The day the crew turned up, complete with the show’s ‘nanny’, was the day that Gerald started to have anger issues – and he has remained angry ever since.

So, twelve years later, Gerald is finally at an age where he is an adult and can start leaving his childhood and past behind – isn’t he? Can he ever shake the image that everyone has of him? Will Gerald ever be able to lead a normal life? Is there anything at all that could stop Gerald from feeling so angry?

First of all, my daughter read this on holiday and absolutely loved it – although, being a bit prim for a 14 year old, she was a little surprised that I let her read a book with some rude words in it!

I don’t know what I was expecting from it, but this wasn’t it.

I loved the way that King just drip-dripped Gerald’s back story. When we first meet him, we think that he was obviously a child with issues, that the presence of the TV crew had highlighted, and that his poor parents must have had an awful time with him.

As we progress through the book, learning more of Gerald’s side of the story, and some of the scenes that occured off-camera, we see that things weren’t actually how everyone remembers them being – and perhaps Gerald is owed a huge apology from the people closest to him.

Gerald was an immensely likeable character – and he became more likeable as the book went on. The more we learned about him, the more we understood the reasons behind his actions earlier on.

I’ve always wondered what happens out of camera-shot on reality shows, but, just like everyone else, I’m prone to make decisions about their character based on their screen time. It’s human nature, isn’t it? However, reading this book makes you take a moment, to ponder on what actually is ‘reality’.

table for seven – whitney gaskell

Table For Seven

“Meat loaf,” Fran said, wondering if anything sounded less hip and cool.  unless meat loaf was so old-fashioned, it had suddenly become trendy again.  Probably not, she decided.  Unless it was made with bison meat and pureed rutabaga.

I was fortunate to get this as an ARC to review.

On New Year’s Eve, Fran & Will Parrish decide to host a dinner party for a few select friends.  The evening is such a success that they agree to hold it monthly, with one of them hosting each month.

The guests are Fran & Will, perfectionist Jaime and her husband Mark, Fran’s friend Audrey who was widowed very young, Mark’s friend Coop who is around temporarily from his exotic job and Fran & Will’s elderly neighbour Leland who can certainly give ‘the young ones’ a run for their money!

The story then plays out over the next year, based around each dinner party.

Is Jaime and Mark’s relationship under threat from the constant attention needed by his daughter from his previous marriage?  Does Fran need more than Mark is able to give her?  Is Audrey ever going to be ready to allow love back into her life?  Is Leland right about bacon? (Yes. He is!)

I really enjoyed this story. It’s refreshing to read about people more my age (you know, 29…ahem) who are still going through all the same stuff with their relationships and hang-ups as those in your ‘average’ chick-lit about people in their early 20’s.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re married, widowed or a parent – life doesn’t stop dead once you hit 35 or 40…it carries on, and so do all the insecurities and self-questioning that goes with it.

There are some great conversation pieces in this – including a long discussion about bacon (which can only ever be a good thing!).  The characters really came to life, and I felt quite attached to them. *I* wanted to be part of the dinner club!  However, there were a few moments that felt a bit ‘obvious’ (mainly based around Mark).

It’s warm and witty without being soppy and sentimental, with some great lines that give an insight into human nature.

Table for Seven will be published on 23rd April 2013.

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