Recent Reads: Sept 18, Part 1 #BookReviews

 

Recentreads

Here are some thoughts on my recently read books – yes, I’m very behind!

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Midwinterblood // Marcus Sedgwick // October 2011 // Indigo // Goodreads

I’m a huge fan of Marcus Sedgwick. He’s written some of my favourite books (My Swordhand is Singing; Blood Red, Snow White; She is Not Invisible), and I’ve been slowly working my way through his back-catalogue. Midwinterblood had been on my list for a while and I’m pleased I finally got round to it.

It’s an odd book, and I mean that in the best way. It’s one of those books that’s like reading a dream. It explores the theme of soulmates in that deliciously dark tone that you’d recognise in Sedgwick’s early novels if you’ve read any. It’s mysterious and tantalising, in that as you encounter the several versions of the protagonist, the truth feels like an unobtainable thing. I found that this forced me to keep reading, but in some ways made me want to give up too.

The setting helped too. I wonder if Sedgwick had Fair Isle in mind as that’s all I could think of as I was reading which made it all the more mesmerising. 

I can’t say Midwinterblood is gripping in the normal way a thriller or mystery book is, but its strangeness made it impossible for me to stop reading. 

unicorn rating 4

 

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My Name is Leon // Kit De Waal // April 2017 // Penguin Books // Goodreads

I heard Kit De Waal talk at an event long before I picked up this book. She is a truly inspiring woman, so it’s no surprise that this novel, her first, was nominated for various awards. 

My Name is Leon what I class as a quiet novel. It’s a small story making a big point, but it’s not throwing that point down your throat. I think it was a great idea to set Leon’s story in the 80s. It highlights the mindset of that decade and lets us contrast it with today. Are we backtracking to that time in terms of equality and race relations? Would mixed-race Leon have had the same opportunities as his white brother today? Maybe.

The whole of this novel is written from nine-year-old Leon’s POV which can’t be easy, but De Waal does an excellent job. Leon can’t quite make sense of what is happening and he often misinterprets things and lashes out. It must have been tempting for De Waal to explain or rationalise Leon’s behaviour at times, but she does it perfectly and sensitively through his actions alone.

I didn’t find this a mind-blowing novel by any means, but I definitely enjoyed its big heart.  

unicorn rating 4

 

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Ink and Bone // Rachel Caine // The Great Library #1 // July 2015 //  Allison & Busby // Goodreads

This series is a book-lovers dream. Rachel Caine is most well known for her Morganville Vampires series, so this is quite a departure for her.

Ink and Bone introduces us to a world where owning physical books is illegal. All books,  are contained by The Great Library, and therefore knowledge within those books is strictly governed. Protagonist Jess is a book runner – buying and selling books on the black market, but when he gets the opportunity to try-out as an apprentice for the Great Library, he learns just how corrupt the whole system is. 

Books, magic, adventure, danger, a dash of romance…whats not to like!?

I enjoyed this book. Sometimes I felt that Caine had maybe bitten off more than she could chew as the world and plot got a bit lost to me at times, but she always managed to pull it back into a believable world. I liked the mix of characters, especially the professors who were ruthless, but their humanity shone though when it need to. A fun, YA read. 

unicorn rating 4

 

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Cinderella Boy // Kristina Meister // July 2018 //  Triton // Goodreads

I knew I’d enjoy Cinderella Boy but I didn’t expect to not be able to put it down. I read it in one sitting on a lazy Sunday afternoon – I’ve not done that for a long, long time!

Cinderella Boy is a true coming-of-age tale. We follow Declan on his journey of self-discovery. From angst and torment to confidence and peace, it’s the story of a shy geeky kid exploring his gender-fluidity and becoming free from his anxieties.

I absolutely adored Declan. He had that great mix of vulnerability and strength, and I loved that although he was scared of being different and how people would react if they knew he was living as Layla as well as Declan, he knew that being both genders is who he is, and only by being himself would he be happy. It helped that he managed to bag a hot guy as both Layla and Declan.

This book wasn’t perfect, of course. I found it quite hard to believe that no one could tell that Layla was Declan…I mean just how good was that make up? It was also a little predictable at times, but it didn’t matter. It’s a wonderful, diverse story, a great romance, and the pages just seemed to turn themselves!

 

unicorn rating

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you thought!

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Recent Reads #Minibookreviews

Recentreads

Here are some thoughts on my recently read books

 

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Chiff Chaff // David Barnard //  February 2018 // Troubador Publishing // Goodreads

I really wanted to love this quirky book because I’m kind of obsessed with Orkney and Shetland. Not that I’ve been, but I’m pretty sure my dream home is around there somewhere.

Sadly, I just couldn’t get into Chiff Chaff and had to DNF.  I didn’t even make it to the Chaff!

The writing was interesting. I liked the use of dialect and the descriptions of the landscape, but the 16 year old narrator in the first part of the book was too repetitive and muddling for my liking. It was too much effort to figure out what was going on, so I admit it – I gave up. A great idea, but it didn’t work for me. 

unicorn rating 2

 

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Final Draft // Riley Redgate // June 2018 // Amulet Books // Goodreads

It’s always interesting reviewing books a long time after you’ve read them. It really shows whether the book has staying power or not, especially for someone like me with terrible memory!

I read Final Draft in May, and while I probably couldn’t give you a concise synopsis, parts of it have definitely stayed with me. Laila was a great protagonist full of complexities and heart. She is probably the most diverse character I’ve ever read being pansexual, biracial, Ecuadorian, suffering from anxiety, and plus size, but I never felt like it was a tick-box-of-diversity book – Redgate made Laila 100% real. It’s a wonderfully modern coming-of-age story for anyone who’s ever felt different. So basically, for everyone, right? 

unicorn rating 4

 

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Leah on the Offbeat // Becky Albertalli // Creekwood #2 // April 2018 //  Balzer + Bray // Goodreads

The highly anticipated companion novel to best-seller Simon Vs was everything I hoped. In fact, I think I preferred it to the first book. Leah is like my spirit animal, I need her to be my bff. Maybe I can join her band…

Anywayyyy, in this Creekwood instalment, Leah takes the centre stage as she tries to keep her band together and figure out who the hell she is. I thought one of the most interesting parts of this story was that Leah is out (as bi) to her mum, but is struggling to tell her best friends, especially recently out Simon. It’s usually the other way round in coming-out stories. I guess it shows how much she thinks of her friends. 

Leah…is one of those great books that takes you right back to how it feels to be a teenager  approaching the end of high school. On one hand relief, on the other, crippling fear of the unknown and the inevitable fracturing of friendship groups. Another perfectly-crafted book portraying the complexities of friendships and growing-up by new fave Becky Albertalli. 

unicorn rating 4

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you thought!

Other reviews you may be interested in: Simon Vs the Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli // The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee and others

 

 

Reading Round-up: March/April 2018, Part 1 #MiniBookReviews

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I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but I’ve been pretty rubbish at posting reviews lately. I unfortunately don’t have the time (or the motivation) at the moment. I would, however, like to share a few thoughts on some of my recent reads…

 

Emily Windsnap and the Falls of Forgotten Island  ~ Liz Kessler

This book was so cute. I’d never read any Liz Kessler books before and I didn’t realise this was like book 7 in the series, but it didn’t matter at all. It’s a story about friendship, family, romance and a mysterious adventure involving an ancient prophecy, (I bloody love an ancient prophecy btw) and of course, Mermaids!

I thought it was paced well, and had some struggles and dilemmas in it that were perfect for the target age group, such as letting down your best friend, and being the third, all nicely topped off with some mermaid magic.

unicorn rating 4

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue ~ Mackenzi Lee

I’m so glad that this book was as good as I anticipated. It’s not a quick read, but totally worth the investment. There’s not that much historical YA out there, particularly LGBT historical YA, and this tale of travelling and debauchery is in a league of its own. It’s a great story, with truly diverse characters and not just for the sake of it like I see happening in YA a lot these days.

unicorn rating 4

 

Simon Vs the Homosapiens Agenda ~ Becky Albertalli

I knew I would love this book from the moment it came out, but I’m afraid all the hype did ruin it a little bit for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved it, and I loved the main characters, and the fact that books like this exist, but people were talking about it like it’s something new, and I didn’t think it was really.

unicorn rating 4

 

Member of the Family ~ Dianne Lake

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve had this weird fascination with Charles Manson, but I never really read that much about him in the time before the murders took place. This book, written by the youngest recruited member of ‘the family’, provides a lot of insight on that time when the group transitioned from a hippie commune, to a sadistic cult capable of the harshest of crimes. 

I found a lot of this book interesting but it dragged, especially in the beginning. I get that Dianne’s dysfunctional childhood is what paved the way for her joining Manson, but it could have been summarised a bit. I’m glad I read it though!

unicorn rating 3

More mini reviews will be posted tomorrow 🙂

This Week in Books 28.03.18 #TWIB

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next!

Happy Wednesday blog friends. Here’s what I’ve been reading this week…

Now:

 

Member of the Family: Manson, Murder and Me ~ Dianne Lake

I don’t read a huge amount of true crime but I’ve always had a weird fascination with Charles Manson, so I had to pick this up when I spotted it in the library last week. Not much to report so far, but hoping it’ll be an interesting read.

memberofIn this poignant and disturbing memoir of lost innocence, coercion, survival, and healing, Dianne Lake chronicles her years with Charles Manson, revealing for the first time how she became the youngest member of his Family and offering new insights into one of the twentieth century’s most notorious criminals and life as one of his “girls.”

At age fourteen, Dianne Lake—with little more than a note in her pocket from her hippie parents granting her permission to leave them—became one of “Charlie’s girls,” a devoted acolyte of cult leader Charles Manson. Over the course of two years, the impressionable teenager endured manipulation, psychological control, and physical abuse as the harsh realities and looming darkness of Charles Manson’s true nature revealed itself. From Spahn ranch and the group acid trips, to the Beatles’ White Album and Manson’s dangerous messiah-complex, Dianne tells the riveting story of the group’s descent into madness as she lived it.

Though she never participated in any of the group’s gruesome crimes and was purposely insulated from them, Dianne was arrested with the rest of the Manson Family, and eventually learned enough to join the prosecution’s case against them. With the help of good Samaritans, including the cop who first arrested her and later adopted her, the courageous young woman eventually found redemption and grew up to lead an ordinary life.

While much has been written about Charles Manson, this riveting account from an actual Family member is a chilling portrait that recreates in vivid detail one of the most horrifying and fascinating chapters in modern American history.

Then:

 

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Emily Windsnap and the Falls of Forgotten Island

This was my first Emily Windsnap book and it was great. Cute, with a great adventure…and I love a good prophecy! I was also really pleased that it read well as a stand-alone.

 

Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda ~ Becky Albertallisimonvs

I knew I would enjoy this book, but I do think it was hyped up a bit too much. I was expecting something more unique, but that’s not to say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, because I did!

Next:

 

Either Anything You Do Say, or Mother of EdenWhat would you go for?

anything Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.

But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it’s him; the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.

Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most – make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong?

 

 

mothereden“We speak of a mother’s love, but we forget her power.”
Civilization has come to the alien, sunless planet its inhabitants call Eden.

Just a few generations ago, the planet’s five hundred inhabitants huddled together in the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees, afraid to venture out into the cold darkness around them.

Now, humanity has spread across Eden, and two kingdoms have emerged. Both are sustained by violence and dominated by men – and both claim to be the favored children of Gela, the woman who came to Eden long ago on a boat that could cross the stars, and became the mother of them all.
When young Starlight Brooking meets a handsome and powerful man from across Worldpool, she believes he will offer an outlet for her ambition and energy. But she has no inkling that she will become a stand-in for Gela herself, and wear Gela’s fabled ring on her own finger—or that in this role, powerful and powerless all at once, she will try to change the course of Eden’s history.

 

What have you been reading this week? Leave a comment/link and I’ll do my best to take a look 🙂

This Week in Books 10.01.18 #TWIB

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

Happy Wednesday everyone, I hope you’re all having a good week! Here’s what I’ve been reading…

Now:

Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha

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I’m about 1/3 through this and it so wasn’t what I was expecting…but it’s really interesting.

A charming memoir of one woman’s unexpected journey from country chic to backwoods barnyard.

Just as the Great Recession was easing in some parts of the country, Jennifer McGaha experienced an economic crisis of epic proportions. Her home was in foreclosure; she had $4.57 in the bank; and worst of all, she had recently discovered that she and her accountant husband owed four years of back taxes to the state of North Carolina and the IRS. And then things got really bad…

Flat Broke with Two Goats takes readers on a wild adventure from a Cape Cod-style home in the country to a hundred-year-old, mice-infested, snake-ridden cabin in a North Carolina holler. With self-effacing humor and unflinching honesty, Jennifer chronicles the joys and difficulties of living close to nature, and in the process she comes to discover the true meaning of home.

Then:

Renegades ~ Marissa Meyer

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I’m so pleased that I liked this! Meyer is back on form. Review to follow!

Secret Identities. Extraordinary Powers. She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies—humans with extraordinary abilities—who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice—and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

Next:

 Veronica’s Bird ~ Veronica Bird & Richard Newman

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I will be part of this book tour at the end of the month, so I must start it ASAP. I’m intrigued to see what stories Veronica tells about prison as I also work in one. Should be interesting!

Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the Fifties as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. However, a glimmer of hope revealed itself as she, astonishingly to her and her mother, won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates.

A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness. That was until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the fire.

He soon began to take control over her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as cheap labour on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away from him and applied to the Prison Service, intuiting that it was the only safe place she could trust.

Accepted into the Prison Service at a time when there were few women working in the industry, Veronica applied herself every day to learning her new craft even training in Holloway Prison where Myra Hindley was an inmate. With no wish to go outside the prison, Veronica remained inside on-duty. While her colleagues went out to the pub, the theatre or to dine she didn’t feel able to join them.

Her dedication was recognised and she rose rapidly in the Service moving from looking after dangerous women prisoners on long-term sentences to violent men and coming up against such infamous names as The Price sisters, Mary Bell and Charles Bronson. The threat of riots was always very close and escapes had to be dealt with quickly.

After becoming a Governor, Veronica was tasked with what was known within the Service as a ‘basket case’ of a prison. However, with her diligence and enthusiasm Veronica managed to turn it around whereupon it became a model example to the country and she was recognised with an honour from the Queen. With this recognition the EU invited her to lead a team to Russia and her time in Ivanovo Prison, north east of Moscow, provides an illuminating and humorous insight into a different prison culture.

Through a series of interviews with Richard Newman —author of the bestselling A Nun’s Story— Veronica’s Bird reveals a deeply poignant story of eventual triumph, is filled with humour and compassion for those inside and will fascinate anyone interested in unique true life stories, social affairs and the prison system.

What have you been reading this week? Leave a comment/link and I’ll do my best to take a look 🙂

Alone by Cyn Balog: Spotlight Tour, Review & Giveaway!

Welcome to my spot on the Alone blog tour

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About the Book

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Publication date:  November 7th 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre(s): YA, Horror

When her mom inherits an old, crumbling mansion, Seda’s almost excited to spend the summer there. The grounds are beautiful and it’s fun to explore the sprawling house with its creepy rooms and secret passages. Except now her mom wants to renovate, rather than sell the estate—which means they’re not going back to the city…or Seda’s friends and school.

As the days grow shorter, Seda is filled with dread. They’re about to be cut off from the outside world, and she’s not sure she can handle the solitude or the darkness it brings out in her.

Then a group of teens get stranded near the mansion during a blizzard. Seda has no choice but to offer them shelter, even though she knows danger lurks in the dilapidated mansion—and in herself. And as the snow continues to fall, what Seda fears most is about to become her reality…

Goodreads // Amazon

Excerpt

Sometimes I dream I am drowning.

Sometimes I dream of bloated faces, bobbing on the surface of misty waters.

And then I wake up, often screaming, heart racing, hands clenching fistfuls of my sheets.

I’m in my bed at the top of Bug House. The murky daylight casts dull prisms from my snow globes onto the attic floor. My mom started collecting those pretty winter scenes for me when I was a baby. I gaze at them, lined neatly on the shelf in front of my window. My first order of business every day is hoping they’ll give me a trace of the joy they did when I was a kid.

But either they don’t work that way anymore, or I don’t.

Who am I kidding? It’s definitely me.

I’m insane. Batshit. Nuttier than a fruitcake. Of course, that’s not an official diagnosis. The official word from Dr. Batton, whose swank Copley Square office I visited only once when I was ten, was that I was bright and intelligent and a wonderful young person. He said it’s normal for kids to have imaginary playmates.

But it gets a little sketchy when that young person grows up, and her imaginary friend decides to move in and make himself comfortable.

Not that anyone knows about that. No, these days, I’m good about keeping up appearances.

My second order of business each day is hoping that he won’t leak into my head. That maybe I can go back to being a normal sixteen–year–old girl.

But he always comes.

He’s a part of me, after all. And he’s been coming more and more, invading my thoughts. Of course I’m here, stupid.

Sawyer. His voice in my mind is so loud that it drowns out the moaning and creaking of the walls around me.

Seda, honey?” my mother calls cheerily. She shifts her weight on the bottom step, making the house creak more. “Up and at ’em, buckaroo!”

I force my brother’s taunts away and call down the spiral staircase, “I am up.” My short temper is because of him, but it ends up directed at her.

She doesn’t notice though. My mother has only one mood now: ecstatically happy. She says it’s the air up here, which always has her taking big, deep, monster breaths as if she’s trying to inhale the entire world into her lungs. But maybe it’s because this is her element; after all, she made a profession out of her love for all things horror. Or maybe she really is better off without my dad, as she always claims she is.

I hear her whistling “My Darlin’ Clementine” as her slippered feet happily scuffle off toward the kitchen. I put on the first clothing I find in my drawer—-sweatpants and my mom’s old Boston College sweatshirt—-then scrape my hair into a ponytail on the top of my head as I look around the room. Mannequin body parts and other macabre props are stored up here. It’s been my bedroom for only a month. I slept in the nursery with the A and Z twins when we first got here because they were afraid of ghosts and our creepy old house. But maybe they—-like Mom—-are getting used to this place?

The thought makes me shudder. I like my attic room because of the privacy. Plus, it’s the only room that isn’t ice cold, since all the heat rises up to me. But I don’t like much else about this old prison of a mansion.

One of the props, Silly Sally, is sitting in the rocker by the door as I leave. She’d be perfect for the ladies’ department at Macy’s if it weren’t for the gaping chest wound in her frilly pink blouse. “I hate you,” I tell her, batting at the other mannequin body parts descending from the rafters like some odd canopy. She smiles as if the feeling is mutual. I give her a kick on the way out.

Despite the morbid stories about this place, I don’t ever worry about ghosts. After all, I have Sawyer, and he is worse.

As I climb down the stairs, listening to the kids chattering in the nursery, I notice the money, accompanied by a slip of paper, on the banister’s square newel post. The car keys sit atop the pile. Before I can ask, Mom calls, “I need you to go to the store for us. OK, Seda, my little kumquat?”

I blink, startled, and it’s not because of the stupid nickname. I don’t have a license, just a learner’s permit. My mom had me driving all over the place when we first came here, but that was back then. Back when this was a simple two–week jaunt to get an old house she’d inherited ready for sale. There wasn’t another car in sight, so she figured, why not? She’s all about giving us kids experiences, about making sure we aren’t slaves to our iPhones, like so many of my friends back home. My mother’s always marching to her own drummer, general consensus be damned, usually to my horror. But back then, I had that thrilling, invincible, first–days–of–summer–vacation feeling that made anything seemed possible. Too bad that was short lived.

We’ve been nestled at Bug House like hermits for months. Well, that’s not totally true. Mom has made weekly trips down the mountain, alone, to get the mail and a gallon of milk and make phone calls to civilization. We were supposed to go back to Boston before school started, but that time came and went, and there’s no way we’re getting off this mountain before the first snow.

Snow.

I peer out the window. The first dainty flakes are falling from the sky.

Snow. Oh God. Snow.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book. I’m a huge fan of YA Horror , as regular readers will already know, and I wish there was more of it. So when a new one comes along it makes me happy. And Alone wasn’t a disappointment.

The success of Alone for me was all about the creepy old hotel that had been used as murder mystery venue. It provided such a perfect setting, with lots of red herrings. There were also lots of twists and turns, and I definitely didn’t see a few of them coming.

I wasn’t completely won over by Seda, the protagonist (and less so by her mother!) but it didn’t bother me as much as it has done in the past. I was still invested in the story, and although I never quite trusted her as a character, I still wanted Seda to come out of it alive!

Alone also struck me as a story that would make a great teen horror film. I don’t often think that when reading because I enjoy the medium of novels so much (obviously), but I couldn’t help but picture it as a horror movie on this occasion.

Overall, Alone is a fast-paced, compelling read which I couldn’t put down. There were some great twists and unique elements, and now all I want to do is go on a murder mystery weekend. Maybe not one quite so realistic though…

 

Meet the Author

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Cyn Balog is the author of a number of young adult novels. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at http://www.cynbalog.com.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

 

 

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

This Week in Books 08.11.17 #TWIB

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

Here’s what I’ve been reading this week…

Now: Heir of Locksley ~ N.B Dixon

I was sent this by the publisher and I’m very pleased so far, loving it! Gay Robin Hood – Yes!

Robin of Locksley is a rebel, more comfortable roaming Sherwood Forest with his longbow and courting the village girls than learning how to run a manor.

An innocent flirtation with a peasant girl soon lands Robin in trouble, and worse, he finds himself inexplicably attracted to Will Scathelock, his best friend since childhood. Robin must decide whether to follow the rules of society or his own conscience.

Meanwhile, his neighbour, Guy of Gisborne, is anxious to get his hands on the Locksley estate and he will do anything to make it happen—even murder.

Then: Alone ~ Cyn Balog

This book was great! I’ll be part of the blog tour early next week so will post my review then.

Next: ???

I honestly don’t know, but probably something Christmassy as I’m getting into the spirit already.

What have you been reading this week? Let me know in the comments or leave your link.

Apart from this post and any outstanding reviews, I’m taking the rest of the month off. Happy reading, Everyone!