Book Promo & Giveaway: Manipulated Lives by H.A Leuschel

Welcome to another book promo on Lipsyy Lost & Found where I’m always thrilled to support indie authors & publishers. This time the promo is for a collection of five stories exploring the theme of psychological manipulation from five different perspectives.

Manipulated Lives ~ H.A Leuschel

image001Publication date:  8th June 2016 by H.A Leuschel
Genres: Literary & General Fiction, Novellas, Suspense

Five stories – Five Lives. 

Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?


Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim. 


In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual.

First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret.

All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.

Goodreads // Amazon // Facebook

*GIVEAWAY*

The author, Helene is giving away copies of one of the stories from the collection entitled Tess and Tattoos. Simply head to her website, enter your email and tadaaaa!

Meet the Author

H.A. Leuschel

Helene grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. 

She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

 

If you’d like me to promote your book, please get in touch via the email on my contacts page 🙂 Thanks to Helene for getting in touch!

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Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee #BookReview #JulyReleases

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brokenbranches

Title: Broken Branches
Author: M. Jonathan Lee
Series: n/a
Format: Paperback ARC, 294 pages
Publication Details: July 27th 2017 by Hideaway Fall
Genre(s): Thriller/Mystery; Horror
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

Review

The cover of this book is so perfect it’s hard to put into words. It’s dark, beautiful and mysterious, which is exactly how I’d describe the story within.

Broken Branches is about the Perkins family, in particular Ian and his wife Rachel, who move into the cottage where Ian grew up. The cottage with the huge, ominous looking tree outside; the cottage where bad things happen.

I found the book a little slow to start with but before I knew it couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those stories that never quite gives you the answers you want. You know the type; the type of story that drives you mad in the best possible way.

There had been talk of ‘the curse’ since Ian’s childhood when his uncle died, but he never truly believed it until he inherited the cottage himself. This threw up many questions in itself – why would he move into a house with such a bad history? Other curiosities in the story (and believe me when I say it’s full of them), surrounded Rachel who is extremely distant and aloof from the start – was she depressed? Mentally ill? We’re not quite sure.

Ian delves deeper into his family history, and that of the cottage, in order to learn more about the curse, thinking that proving the existence of it will solve everything including whatever it is that’s wrong with Rachel and his marriage. But of course it only drives them further apart as Ian get more and more obsessed. He loses his job and sinks into a frenzied, isolated existence where the tree is always lurking in the background, and someone keeps moving his research around.

I think Broken Branches’ success comes from the masterfully layered atmosphere that just gets creepier and creepier as the story goes on. M. Jonathan Lee has done a wonderful job in creating suspense and intrigue, and there are some great horror elements in it too. I’m not sure I’d even want to read this on a stormy night…

unicorn rating 4

Can you Keep a Secret? by R.L Stine #BookReview #FearStreet

canyouTitle: Can You Keep a Secret?
Author: R.L Stine
Series: Fear Street Relaunch #4
Format: Digital ARC, 784 pages
Publication Details: April 12th 2016 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre(s): Horror, YA
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

R.L. Stine has built his legacy on scaring children and teenagers. Now he’s back with another spine-tingling tale of horror in this new Fear Street book about temptation, betrayal, and fear.

Eddie and Emma are high school sweethearts from the wrong side of the tracks. Looking for an escape their dreary lives, they embark on an overnight camping trip in the Fear Street Woods with four friends. As Eddie is carving a heart into a tree, he and Emma discover a bag hidden in the trunk. A bag filled with hundred-dollar bills. Thousands of them. Should they take it? Should they leave the money there? The six teens agree to leave the bag where it is until it’s safe to use it. But when tragedy strikes Emma’s family, the temptation to skim some money off of the top becomes impossible to fight. There’s only one problem. When Emma returns to the woods, the bag of money is gone, and with it, the trust of six friends with a big secret.
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Review

This is the second of the new Fear Street books I’ve read and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them both. Can you Keep a Secret? was a bit on the tamer side as far as the horror element is concerned, but it made up for it with an intriguing mystery. 

Emma, her boyfriend Eddie and four friends find a briefcase full of money in the woods and they agree to keep it hidden and then share it when they feel any danger or chance of exposure may have passed. But can they trust each other?

When the inevitable happens and the money goes missing Emma and Eddie don’t know who to believe, and to make it worse they’re pretty sure the people who hid it in the woods in the first place are on their tails. It’s not long until they realise just how out of their depths they really are. 

I enjoyed the thriller-aspects of this story, and as a result the pages flew by. The scarier elements that you would expect from a Fear Street novel came from nice touches like Eddie working in a Pet Cemetery, and Emma’s debilitating nightmares about wolves which get worse as the tension mounts.

As always, R.L Stine’s writing feels effortless and is easily relateable. Like his other books they have just enough violence, suspense and and horror to keep you interested whilst remaining suitable for all ages. I would have liked Can you Keep a Secret? to have been a little darker, however.

unicorn rating 4

2015 ‘Horror Tag’ Book Reviews (so far) #HorrorOctober

HorrorOct2015

You know guys, Horror is not just for October, so I thought I would post all the reviews I’ve written so far this year that I included in the ‘Horror’ tag. I kind of thought I’d need to do it in at least two parts but on further inspection I realised just how few horror books I actually read this year (excluding my Horror October picks). Shame on me!

Anyway, as we slide head first into the final few days of October, here are the horror books I’ve reviewed so far this year.

Get Ready to Shudder: Frozen Charlotte

frozencharlotte
Author: Alex Bell
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details: January 5th 2015 by Stripes Publishing
Genre(s): Horror; YA
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

We’re waiting for you to come and play….Dunvegan School for Girls has been closed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and students are long gone. But they left something behind…Sophie arrives at the old schoolhouse to spend the summer with her cousins. Brooding Cameron with his scarred hand, strange Lilias with a fear of bones and Piper, who seems just a bit too good to be true. And then there’s her other cousin. The girl with a room full of antique dolls. The girl that shouldn’t be there. The girl that died.

Review

This book actually gave me nightmares (well, it gave me one – it was pretty awesome).

For starters, creepy-ass miniture porcelain dolls with their hands outstretched like they died reaching for you. Dolls that are everywhere, even in the walls. Dolls that whisper. Dolls with needles… But more about them later…I’m getting ahead of myself.

For the purpose of context, I’m a huge horror fan, especially as far as films are concerned, and I’m constantly disappointed that I never find any of them scary any more. I must be desensitised or something. To a certain extent, it’s the same for books, but I do find it easier to get creeped out by a good horror book than a film…and oh my, this book creeped me the hell out, so major props for that!

And it wasn’t just the creep-factor that was good about this book, I literally could not put it down. I was sneakily reading it at work and stayed up wayyy past my bed time to finish it off!

Frozen Charlotte is centred around Sophie and the events which follow her best friend Jay’s sudden death (it’s right at the beginning so hardly a spoiler). Jay downloaded a Ouiji Board app on his phone and he and Sophie play around with it, mocking it, like you do. But when Sophie calls on the only person she knows who has passed away – her cousin Rebecca – things go a bit weird to say the least.

To cut a long (not that long to be fair) story short, the app tells Jay he will die that very night…and of course, he actually does. Cue devastated Sophie trying to make sense of it all through the grief. And what better place to go than to an old converted schoolhouse on the blustering and foggy Isle of Skye.

It is her Uncle James’ home, and the whole family are clearly still suffering the loss of Rebecca. Everything about the place is wrong. From a parrot called Dark Tom who literally screams bloody murder all night long and young Lilias who has a phobia of bones (even her own), who once tried to cut out her collar bone, to Cameron, the musical protégé who got burned during the death of his sister and has never been the same again, and Piper who is trying to hold the whole thing together but is strangely obsessed with the Frozen Charlotte dolls.

I really wish I’d read this book for Horror October instead of Doll Bones. This was exactly the thing I was looking for. It was so good, and so creepy, at one point I had to put it down because I was shuddering so much internally. I couldn’t keep away for long though, I HAD to find out what the hell was going on!

The only tiny grumble I had with it, was that I couldn’t decide how old the characters were. It seemed inconsistent a lot of the time. Sometimes they seemed older than they should be, and then I’d get thrown by talk of first kisses and such, and visa versa. In the same way I couldn’t decide if Frozen Charlotte was aimed at the YA market or just had young characters. But you know what, who cares! It was great!

unicorn rating 4

Originally posted 26/01/2015

The Girl With all the Gifts

girlwith
Author: M.R Carey
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 460 pages
Publication Details: June 19th 2014 by Orbit
Genre(s): Horror; Science Fiction
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from Dora. Thanks Dora!

Goodreads // Purchase

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.” Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

Review

***THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS***

The Girl with all the Gifts has everything. It’s a great mixture of classic horror, modern dystopia and fast-paced thriller.

I was worried that I’d ruined my experience of it having already read reviews and knowing what the ‘twist’ was, but I don’t think it hindered it at all. Plus, said twist is revealed pretty early on, so it’s not such a huge spoiler.

I was completely engrossed in Melanie’s story, and thought she was a great protagonist. In the beginning I felt sorry for her, being locked up, and the way her and the other children were treated. I think M.R Carey did a great job of bringing Melanie to life as a regular (albeit genius) child, and gradually revealing to the reader, and to Melanie herself that she is in fact a monster – a zombie to be exact.

The use of the school-room setting, Melanie’s genius-like intelligence and her love of stories enables the reader to see her as child first, and a zombie second, making it almost impossible not to root for her the whole way through.

I thought the relationship between her and teacher was kind of creepy at first, as I’m sure was supposed to be point, but they ended up being a great duo.

There were a few moments when I found myself losing interest, but I was quickly pulled back into this action-packed, rollercoaster of a ride. It’s one of the better zombie books I’ve read, and felt fresh and thought-provoking.

Having just started working in a prison, I read this book on another level too. The Girl With all the Gifts raised a lot of questions about imprisonment and human rights. I felt like it proposed many questions about incarceration, rehabilitation, having the mental strength to fight against your inner nature, and being able to embrace your future and let go of the past.

It was a really surprising read, one that I think would make a great book club selection.

unicorn rating 4

Originally posted 11/05/2015

Twisted Dark, Volume 1

twisteddark
Author: Neil Gibson
Series: Twisted Dark #1
Edition: Digital, 196 pages
Publication Details: April 24th 2012 by T Publications
Genre(s): Graphic Novel; Horror
Disclosure? I downloaded a copy for free from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads // Purchase

The first volume in Neil Gibson’s acclaimed series of twisted tales contains 12 individual and unique stories which are all related. The stories vary from 10 year old girls to Colombian drug lords and everything in between. It is left to the reader to find the connections between the stories – some connections are immediately clear whilst other connection only become clear in later volumes. This series is designed for re-reading. The author describes the genre as psychological thriller, but the books contains horror, dark (at times demented) stories incorporating every human emotion, illegal activity, and brutal reality. Using various illustrators allows each story and character to develop their own form. Twisted Dark has been embraced by the comic book world receiving critical acclaim and a cult following. If you haven’t read one yet, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Review


Oh what can I say about this one!?

I was really intrigued by the idea of this as I’m a horror fan and enjoy some pretty twisted shiz on occassion. LOL. But I just wasn’t feeling it unfortunately.

Twisted Dark contains short stories which all have a dark, twisted reveal at the end, and link together in some way. I thought this was a great idea, and liked the look of the artwork, but it didn’t quite pull it off for me.

I think my main problem with it was that it was trying too hard to be shocking, but it just wasn’t. I think maybe I’m just not the target audience. I can imagine that had I read this when I was 15 and all ‘I hate the world, and everyone in it’ then I would have probably loved it. But, without being in that frame of mind, this just seemed a little…lame.

It also didn’t help that the digital version I had wasn’t great quality and the illustrations were a bit blurry, and the text was quite hard to read sometimes. I tried to look past this, and maybe I would have liked it a little better if the artwork was more appealing, but I still doubt I would have loved it.

I’m glad I gave it a go though, and would recommend it to a younger audience who have more patience than me and will reread it to find all the hidden connections – something I just couldn’t be bothered to do I’m afraid.

unicorn rating 2

Originally posted 23/05/2015

The Curse of Crow Hollow

crowhollow
Author: Billy Coffey
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 414 pages
Publication Details: August 4th 2015 by Thomas Nelson
Genre(s): Horror
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

Everyone in Crow Hollow knows of Alvaretta Graves, the old widow who lives in the mountain. Many call her a witch; others whisper she’s insane. Everyone agrees the vengeance Alvaretta swore at her husband’s death hovers over them all. That vengeance awakens when teenagers stumble upon Alvaretta’s cabin, incurring her curse.

Now a sickness moves through the Hollow. Rumors swirl that Stu Graves has risen for revenge. And the people of Crow Hollow are left to confront not only the darkness that lives on the mountain, but the darkness that lives within themselves.

Review

I finished this book last week and I’m still not quite sure what I think about it. What I am sure about though, is that Billy Coffey is a talented writer.

Crow Hollow is a small southern town with a secretive, tumultuous past. When a group of teenagers celebrate a birthday in the mountain’s mines, they disturb the equilibrium between the town and the resident weirdo, old Alvaretta Graves.

The younger generation in Crow Hollow grew up swapping fanciful stories about Alvaretta ‘the witch’, but most of them think it’s just small-town superstition… little do they know that their parents know a lot more about the mysterious Alvaretta than they could ever imagine.

I can’t even go into what I liked and disliked about this book without first saying just how much Coffey’s style reminded me of Stephen King. It was uncanny, and actually really distracting because that’s all I could think about the whole way through!

The Curse of Crow Hollow is narrated by a local who is introducing an out-of-towner to Crow Hollow and the events that recently occurred – it was very Needful Things, but worked well.

I loved how a very simple plot of ‘teens partying goes wrong’ becomes something much more complex. There’s superstition, politics, secrets and confessions, and Coffey brings it all together with some great scary moments and well executed spooky atmosphere throughout.

I also really liked the mystery surrounding the parents and what they ‘did’ to Alvaretta in the past. It was interesting to see their reactions when you find out that their children are basically being punished (in some pretty horrible ways) for something they did – it reminded me of A Nightmare on Elm Street a little bit.

The other King-esque trait was the abundance of characters, but unfortunately this is what let it down for me. I didn’t feel the vast amount of characters were developed enough, and I never really cared about any of them individually, which considering what happens to them, is pretty bad, and my interest really waned because of that.

Despite not loving the characterisation (or the whole Christianity thang going on), I really enjoyed Coffey’s style. It made for a really intriguing, atmospheric read, and I’d certainly like to see more from him.

unicorn rating 3

Originally posted 10/08/2015

Beneath the Lake

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Author: Christopher Ransom
Series: N/A
Edition: Kindle, 449 pages
Publication Details: September 10th 2015 by Sphere
Genre(s): Horror
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

Thirty Years Ago: On a camping trip by a remote lake, the Mercer family enjoyed the vacation of a lifetime – until a violent tragedy forced them to make a decision that would haunt them for ever.

This Summer: When the younger Mercers learn their father is dying, the family reunites at the lake, seeking a second chance to put their lives back together. But something is waiting . . .
Four Days of Hell: Also arriving at the lake are estranged son Raymond Mercer and an alluring stranger, Megan, both ignorant of the family’s secrets. Within hours, they are all trapped in a relentless nightmare and fighting for their lives. Some places are better left. Some secrets are better forgotten. Some people are better dead.

Review

Oh, I wanted to like this so much…but it was a bit of a let down. I really liked Ransom’s debut The Birthing House, but I’ve tried a few of his other books and they haven’t had the same impact on me…(that was one creep-ass read). Unfortunately, Beneath the Lake was a similar story for me.

It started off so well! The opening was full of unexplained, extremely bizarre happenings which urged me to read on. Then we are catapulted 30 years ahead without knowing what actually happened that day at the lake- but knowing it was something terrible- and now the estranged Mercer family are planning a reunion there.

It all sounds good right? Well, it was for a while, but intrigue turned to boredom somewhere in the middle and I found it a struggle to get to the end. It just fizzled out for me I’m afraid.

I thought this had an interesting plot, but it peaked too soon, giving way to bad pacing. It did succeed in keeping me guessing for a while, and I did detect a constant uneasiness, but it just wasn’t enough to keep me hooked.

unicorn rating 2

Originally posted 15/09/2015

The Reckoning Stones by Laura DiSiverio

reckoningstones
Title: The Reckoning Stones
Author: Laura DiSilverio
Series:
Edition: Digital Review Copy, 360 pages
Publication Details: September 8th 2015 by Midnight Ink
Genre(s): Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

After accusing the pastor of her close-knit religious community of molesting her, fourteen-year-old Mercy Asher is branded a liar and publicly humiliated. She runs away on the night someone beats the pastor into a coma and kills his wife.

Two decades later, Mercy has become Iris Dashwood, an emotionally troubled but brilliant jeweler. She thinks she’s in control of her life until news of Pastor Matt’s miraculous awakening broadsides her and leaves her unable to design. Iris returns to Lone Pine, Colorado, determined to confront her past to restore her creativity.

Iris reconnects with her mother, best friend, and boyfriend who harbor secrets she must unearth to find a killer. In the final reckoning, the truth may cost more than she anticipates. Will it bring redemption…or devastation?

Review

The Reckoning Stones is a tightly woven, compelling mystery set in a tiny community in Colorado. But Lone Pine isn’t your average community. It’s inhabitants are all deeply religious and must live within certain rules and strict codes of conduct.

Iris, hasn’t been back to Lone Pine for twenty years, but she can’t put it off any longer, she has to face the very thing she ran away from, she has to free herself of her past.

Initially, I wasn’t sure about this book at all. I was intrigued by the synopsis but the first few pages really failed to pull me in. However, something finally kicked in a few chapters later and I was hooked.

I’m not religious in the slightest, and this book certainly made me glad of that; it doesn’t exactly paint a good picture of people of faith (albeit extreme faith). Lone Pine is much more than a community, it’s more like a cult which lives by, and governs its own rules, and that’s what I found really interesting about it (I’m strangely obsessed with cults btw).

I was with Iris the whole way through. I felt so sickened by what had happened to her all those years ago, and how the community still ostracised her. I liked that she was a complex character who was so strong in some ways, and so vulnerable in others.

Overall, I thought The Reckoning Stones was a great mystery, and one that I became completely engrossed in. It’s about facing your demons, overcoming your past and getting what you deserve, no matter how long it may take.

unicorn rating 4

Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel

charlieTitle: Charlie, Presumed Dead
Author: Anne Heltzel
Series: Unknown
Edition: Digital ARC, 272 Pages
Publication Details: June 2nd 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): Thriller; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I was provided with a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

In Paris, family and friends gather to mourn the tragic passing of Charlie Price—young, handsome, charming, a world-traveler—who is presumed dead after an explosion. Authorities find only a bloodied jacket, ID’d as Charlie’s. At the funeral, two teens who are perfect strangers, Lena Whitney and Aubrey Boroughs, make another shocking discovery: they have both been dating Charlie, both think Charlie loved them and them alone, and there is a lot they didn’t know about their boyfriend. Over the next week, a mind-bending trip unfolds: first in London—then in Mumbai, Kerala, and Bangkok, the girls go in search of Charlie. Is he still alive? What did their love for him even mean? The truth is out there, but soon it becomes clear that the girls are harboring secrets of their own.

No one knows whom to trust in this thrilling tale of suspense and deception.

Review

Charlie, Presumed Dead has been described as Gone Girl for the YA generation, and I can certainly see why. It is a story of secrets and lies, of twists and turns!

Charlie’s plane blew up. They never found his body, but there’s no way he could have survived that. At his funeral, two very different girls are mourning the loss of their boyfriend and it’s instantly obvious to both of them, that they didn’t know Charlie as well as they thought.

They may be polar opposites, but Lena and Aubrey now have two things in common. They both loved Charlie, and they’re convinced he’s not dead. Together, they set out on the trip of a lifetime to discover the truth. How could Charlie have deceived them so completely? Was there more to his apparent death than they first believed?

The more Lena and Aubrey share with each other, the more bizarre the truth seems. Not only was Charlie dating them both and living a double life, but they each knew different versions of Charlie. Lena’s Charlie likes one thing, but Aubrey’s Charlie hates it. As they discover more of these inconsistencies, they become more and more convinced that Charlie is not dead at all…and they’re determined to find him and get the answers they deserve.

For most of this book, I was intrigued enough to keep reading, but it wasn’t hugely exciting. I liked the dynamic between to two girls, but I never felt like either of them really loved Charlie, so I wasn’t convinced that they’d go to such measures to find out if he was still alive or not, and because I didn’t know much about Charlie, I didn’t really care that much either.

However, as the story developed and the strange clues as to Charlie’s death – or lack there of- were dangled in front of me, I got more invested. I loved the idea that Charlie was not only living a double life, but that he also had different versions of himself for different people. He was a dark, complex character who was slowly brought to life by these two girl’s memories of him.

There were a few things I found a bit off. The tone for one. It definitely read as an adult book (which isn’t a bad thing), and Lena and Aubrey seemed a lot older than they were supposed to be, despite Aubrey being quite sheltered. I don’t know why, but it just made for a strange tone as I was expecting more of a YA feel.

Charlie, Presumed Dead was a standard 3 unicorns for me the whole way through, it was good, but not great. However, I had to resist the urge to bump it up by the end…because OMG that ending! It was seriously worth it just for that. It was a total game changer, and now I can understand why some of the boring stuff had to happen.

I know that’s quite vague, but this is a spoiler-free zone. Just read it, and persevere until the end!

unicorn rating 3

Charlie, Presumed Dead is due to be released June 2nd

Lazy Saturday Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Finds1
Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Series: N/A
Edition: Kindle Edition, 385 pages
Publication Details: February 11th 2014 by Crown
Genre(s): Sci-Fi
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it

Goodreads // Purchase

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Review

The Martian is like the most intense science lesson you never had.

Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, presumed dead. As the first line perfectly describes he’s ‘pretty much fucked’. But Mark Watney is also the most ridiculously resourceful astronaut there ever was, and he’s not about to give up.

He spends his days planning and problem solving in order to figure out how to keep himself alive until he can be rescued, whilst reluctantly listening to disco music and watching old 70’s sitcoms left behind by his crew-mates.

The story is told in the form of daily logs from Watney, in his smart-ass, witty voice, and also from the perspective of the NASA team who are trying to save him now that they’re aware he’s alive.

I was totally engrossed in this story, and rooting for Watney the whole way through. The book mixes hard science (something I know very little about) with fantastically real science-fiction which makes for an intense read. At times I did get a bit bored of all the minuscule details of Watney’s potato farm and water reclaimer, but all the little details added to the real-ness of the story.

I was surprised by how funny this book was too, which was all down to the characterisation of Watney. He was hilarious, and NASA’s reactions to him just made me laugh even more. If anyone could survive alone in space, it would be someone like Mark Watney.

I thought this was a really clever book. It had its ups and downs, but overall I found it interesting, exciting and hard to put down.

unicorn rating 4

Frighteningly Festive: Dying For Christmas by Tammy Cohen

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Title: Dying For Christmas
Author: Tammy Cohen
Series: N/A
Edition: Digital ARC, 274 pages
Publication Details: November 20th 2014 by Transworld Digital
Genre(s): Thriller, Crime
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy from the publisher/author in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads
Purchase.

I am missing. Held captive by a blue-eyed stranger. To mark the twelve days of Christmas, he gives me a gift every day, each more horrible than the last. The twelfth day is getting closer. After that, there’ll be no more Christmas cheer for me. No mince pies, no carols. No way out …

…But I have a secret. No-one has guessed it. Will you?

Review

This was my first read of Tammy Cohen, who has also published books under her full name Tamar Cohen. The name stood out to me and I only realised after finishing the book that she teaches at the local university here. How weird is that?

Anyway, Dying For Christmas is a psychological thriller/Crime drama with more twists and turns than Alton Towers. And to carry on the theme park analogy, my enjoyment of it rollercoastered a lot too.

The story is told in two halves, the first detailing Jessica Gold’s kidnapping and captivity, and the second following the case after her release.

This is one of those books that is difficult to discuss without giving away spoilers and ruining the enjoyment for others, so forgive me for not going into detail here. What I can say though, is that Dying for Christmas was a quick, enjoyable read but not without its flaws.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the constant switching of perspective from Jessica and Kim, the detective leading the investigation into Jessica’s disappearance. I found myself skipping the parts about Kim and the strain her job is putting on her home life – I didn’t warm to her for some reason, and didn’t really care what was happening outside of the investigation.

I also didn’t like how cynical Kim was about the disappearance. All of the evidence suggests that the kidnapper is psychotic, but all of a sudden Kim seems to have doubts after obsessing over finding her. It didn’t ring true to me.

All of that aside, this book was full of twists and turns which makes a great read, even if I did feel a little cheated in a way. I never knew what to expect and the surprises kept on coming right through to the end. Dying for Christmas is not your average festive read, but certainly an interesting and clever one.

unicorn rating 3

Dying for Christmas is available in paperback now from Waterstones. Click here for details of 30% off!