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  1. Lauren Oliver Before I FallMy Rating: 4/5

    Okay, let me clear something up from the outset. I am not a religious person and have never had any real belief in the `life after death' scenario. Having said that I try to be open minded, but struggled when reading the jacket for this particular book. I opened the book with a high level of trepidation. The only thing that was spurring me on was the outstanding review level of this book on various websites. Amazon was showing an outstanding review level of 4.5 out of 5 over 78 customer reviews. In addition to the high rating not one person had given it a score lower than 3!

    The book itself is quite an eye catching cover with a close up of a young girls face on it. You then open the book to read a two page prologue which gives you an insight into Sam and what she is thinking. As the first few chapters went by I found myself not having an awful lot of empathy with this seemingly spoilt brat of a girl. Sam Kingston is seen to be a typical American teenager that has everything at her feet. She is pretty, popular and has a close circle of friends as well as the popular boyfriend.

    We see Sam's first day speed by and before I knew it I was halfway through the book. There is no spoiler when I say that we relive Sam's day following her death as this is made clear from the outset. The whole point of the book is to follow her journey as she tries desperately to `get it right'. She struggles with things such as treating people in the right way and dealing with her true feelings towards classmates.

    Her friends Lindsay, Elody and Ally are all introduced very early on and I never really liked Lindsay, even at the end. We also see her old school friend Kent and the girl that is most unpopular in school. The book highlights just how much of an impact people have on each others lives in how they treat each other.

    Around the last few chapters I felt myself warming to Sam and realising that she is just a girl. Like many young girls, she makes mistakes and sometimes it takes a big event to make you see the error of your ways.

    The ending is not quite what I thought it would be but I was very happy overall with how the story was told. It is a book that should be taught in English in schools across the country. It has strong values within it and would benefit more than a few teenagers across the country.

    Although I had my reservations, I can see why this book has been so popular. It is all of life's emotions rolled into one. You will laugh, cry and sometimes be shocked at what you read. You will feel empathy as well as feeling angry; it's a book that will maybe make you look at things differently if only for a day!

  2. Leigh Russell Cut ShortMy Rating: 4/5

    When I read Leigh Russell's first book Cut Short, I enjoyed it but felt like the reader didn't get to know enough about the characters. This was my main gripe with an otherwise really enjoyable debut novel. I had high hopes for the second instalment and thankfully I wasn't disappointed. Having said that I think we have yet to see Leigh Russell's finest work and next year I think book 3 will show that. It almost feels like with each book you read you are building up to the bigger picture of Geraldine's life.

    Initially I felt like again we weren't seeing the real Geraldine and I was getting frustrated. However, by the time I finished this book I realised that this is perfect character building. She is a far from perfect person but is dedicated to her job. We see a lot more of her personal life in this book and it has given Leigh Russell a great platform for book three with a shock twist from Geraldine's past. I realised by the end that this type of writing just made me want to pick up another book and read more about her, perfect tactics Ms Russell!

  3. Kim Chambers Billie JoMy Rating: 4/5

    Billie Jo is an only child and is loved and adored by her father Terry. Terry and Michelle have been married for years and Terry is a well known villain in the area. Their marriage is far from perfect and their constant arguments are cause for concern to Billie Jo. Terry decides to confide in his young daughter that she won't have to put up with her drunk and waste of space mother for too long as he has met somebody else. Terry is involved with his secretary and she is pregnant and he is determined to start afresh. Life is about to deal Terry a blow and it will shatter Billie Jo's life.

    Shockingly I only picked up my first Kimberley Chambers book at the end of last month. Since then I have gone and brought her first two books and devoured them both. The Betrayer was Kimberley's 3rd book and was a first class read. Her second book published Born Evil I loved but it wasn't a patch on The Betrayer. Seeing as Billie Jo was her debut novel I knew I would enjoy it but figured it wouldn't be as good as her more recent stuff. It is obvious to me whilst reading her books that her writing got better and better with each book she produced. I cannot wait to get stuck into The Feud which is her fourth release. I think I didn't give KC enough credit as this book was a corker too.

    Her writing style like I have said before is NOT for the feint hearted. If you don't like swearing then her books are a definite no-no. Her debut novel starts out by introducing us to Billie Jo Keane is a young girl who has to deal with her parents constantly arguing. Not only that, but her mother is a drinker who doesn't care for Billie Jo and thinks only of herself. Within the first 30-40 pages I was enthralled by this eclectic mix of a family. The author has a great way of getting you into their lives very quickly and you feel a certain empathy with people very quickly.

    Just as I was getting my teeth into the beginning of the story a shocking twist is thrown straight at you, and was one that I didn't see coming. If I'm honest it threw me off balance and I wondered how the story would carry on. Thankfully I couldn't have been more wrong and you soon realise that this event is the catalyst for Billie Jo's life events.

    The story is stretched over a few years and we see large segments of peoples lives lived and the outcome of each bad decision made. In the first third of the book I (as usual) had my favourites and the ones that I loathed. What surprised me is that I didn't realise just how much that opinion would change by the end of the book.

    The story itself is like I said pretty fast paced and with the initial shocking twist I wasn't expecting too many surprises. Although there weren't any major plot twists I was quite surprised how things eventually turned out. This book, like the other two I read were everything I want from a great crime read; characters that have real strong personalities, great settings with real authenticity, and a great plot. Kimberley Chambers can do no wrong in my eyes; she is a serious contender for becoming the number one British Crime writer this year. She is showing the public what crime writing should be about and I would imagine making a few of the `old-timers' quake in their boots.

    Highly recommended author, if you haven't read her before give her a go and start at the beginning with Billie Jo, you won't be disappointed.

  4. Sheila OFlanagan A Season To RememberMy Rating: 4/5

    This book is not Sheila O'Flanagan's usual offerings and is more like a collection of short stories all brought together. This book opens at The Sugar Loaf Lodge and we meet the owners Neil and Claire. They are suffering in the economic crisis and are worried that at the beginning of December they still have many rooms available. Thankfully they appear to have a Guardian Angel and surprisingly all of their rooms are eventually booked.

    The Sugar Loaf Lodge has a number of rooms and each room is named after a mountain, and so too is each chapter. Each room and chapter tells us a different story about its occupants and how they ended up at the Lodge for Christmas.

    We meet some really interesting characters and it's surprising just how much we learn about each of them and their situation. That's not to say that each person has a happy ending but it definitely gives you an insight.

    I have personally found myself wondering what various people are doing and how they came to be at a certain place. Although normally in my situation it is when I am killing time in an airport and trying to work out who is flying where and who is married to who. This is what in one respect drew me to the book. Usually I am not over keen on short stories but this seemed so different.

    The book focuses on the place but then integrates everybody's story and take on the situation. The characters were also fantastic and were an eclectic mix of people which kept it interesting. We meet a young girl who is heartbroken and trying to move on, a young coupled looking for peace and quiet, and a family group as well as others. The family group that appeared in this story were actually the family that appeared in Sheila O'Flanagan's book `Anyone but Him'.

    Although not a hefty book like hers usually are, this was still a decent size read at 320 pages. The title indicates along with the timing of publication that this was a Christmas themed book. I must be honest and say that this was a wonderfully light and easy read for any time of year. Sheila O'Flanagan has still produced a great book with her absorbing style of writing that fans like me love.

    There is no predictability to this book as there is no real depth to the linking of characters and we only see short snippets of their life, but in my opinion this is what stands this book apart a little bit. It was very refreshing to read something where you don't wait for the linking of characters to come together and you are just finding out about each characters life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think it would make a lovely present at this time of year!

  5. Kim Chambers Born EvilMy Rating: 4/5

    Debbie Dawson makes the fatal error of falling in love with Billy McDaid. When Debbie announces to her mother June that she is pregnant by the low life drug dealer Billy, June realises that life will never be the same. Debbie's brother Mickey has just come out of a stint in prison and is determined to make his life better and that includes protecting his mother and sister. When Debbie gives birth to Charlie, it seems that the little boy is pure evil. Not only is he sadistic and nasty, he is about to be the start of what tears the family apart.

    I have only recently discovered Kimberley Chambers having read The Betrayer which was a first class read. Born Evil was the second book Kimberley Chambers wrote and although I loved it, it wasn't as good as The Betrayer. I think this is a sign that Kimberley Chambers is getting better with each book she writes.

    Probably the first thing to note is that this book is gritty realism at its best and that includes swearing and violence. If this isn't something you particularly like then maybe this isn't the book for you. Having said that, it's not something that bothers me and I think it adds to the realism of the characters and setting.

    This book starts by introducing us to Debbie at a young age when she first meets Billy and we get to see just how destructive he is on her life. When she falls pregnant she decides that although young she wants to make a go of it with both Billy and the baby. I admit that although Debbie is the centre of the story I didn't really warm to her that much. By the middle of the book I wanted to strangle her for her stupidity, and by the end of it I hadn't made my mind up what sort of a person she was. The fact that I got so irritate by her can in my opinion only be a sign of good writing on the author's behalf.

    The book is staggered over the years and we see Debbie move on from her life with Billy to one where she spends time with her mum June and her brother Mickey. In addition to this we have Mickey's best friend Steve who I adored. The story itself was weaker than her other book but only in the sense that I could see what was coming. Although this wasn't as good as the first I read I still thought that it could walk all over the kind of books Martina Cole is producing right now.

  6. Erica James Promises PromisesMy Rating: 4/5

    Erica James books have always been a source of enjoyment for me. Yes she produces Chick Lit romance books but she always manages to integrate a dose of realism without it becoming too depressing.

    In this book Erica's writing style is as ever so easy to get along with. You are swept away with the characters as they are introduced to you and you find yourself feeling like you want to be a part of what is going on.

    In this case it is meeting the three main characters and their husbands' wives or children. Maggie is the first we meet and I instantly loved here character. She is a woman that cleans houses for a living and is constantly being put down by her mother in law, or being bossed around by her slob of a husband. Next comes Ella and initially I wasn't sure about Ella, but as time goes on you really warm to her and can see that she is suffering to get through the feeling that she has wasted many years on a man who cannot commit to her for all the wrong reasons. Lastly we meet Ethan who although selfish, I couldn't help but really like.

    The story is told from all of their perspectives which makes it easy to follow each thread. Ethan's wife was despicable and a great bit of character writing from Erica James. This latest book was a pretty hefty offering at 448 pages but no sooner had I started it I was turning pages incredibly quickly.

    The story itself was told really well because although it's essentially a romance book, it's what I like to call reality romance. We see the realities that maybe we know happen in real life. We see women that stay with the wrong man, women that marry for the wrong reasons and men that have affairs because they are unhappy. It is told with sympathy but a good old dose of reality.

    By the halfway mark I decided to give up on the idea of finishing my much overdue ironing and devoured the second half in one foul swoop. I finished the book feeling happy that the ending was as I thought, yes a tad predictable but still it was the ending that I had hoped for. Once again Erica James has created a very good Chick Lit books that her fans should love, I know I did!

  7. James Patterson Cross Fire
    My Rating: 3/5

    I feel a terrible burden when I pick up a James Patterson book these days. The man is a legend who has produced some fantastic work that has earned him the right to be called one of the bestselling authors of all time. A staggering figure is that in 2007 one in every fifteen hardback books sold was a James Patterson. I myself seem to have a love-hate relationship with his work.

    Lately I haven't been over enthused with any of his offerings and his best book in the last few months has been without a doubt `Worst case' which is another popular series of books featuring Michael Bennett. It seems that all of his co-written books have been a pile of rubbish and it makes me wonder just how bad his books can get. I was however looking forward to his new release Cross Fire, his 17th in the Cross Series of books. When the book arrived my first thought was that this book would be the one that cemented my loyalty to JP and why I always pre-order his books no matter how disappointed I was with the last one.

    In this latest instalment we again get drawn straight in at chapter one. JP's infamous style of his short sharp chapters is there in abundance, which I confess I love. Alex is written exceptionally and as soon as you pick the book up you feel like you are getting reacquainted with an old friend. Nana is also still around as are the kids and you felt like you are once again part of the Cross' hectic family life.

    The story itself is the major let down for me. James Patterson in the past has come up with storylines that have had me staying up overnight to finish a book or being so engrossed that I miss my train stop. This book is certainly not up to what I would call his best standards. I thought the plot jumped and many of the chapters felt almost unfinished.

    We see the re-appearance of an old adversary in the form of Kyle Craig. I was looking forward to this element of the story as you feel like you have seen Alex' life up close and personal in all of his books. For me the first half of the book featuring Kyle Craig was okay but the second half was abysmal. It felt rushed and unfinished and had an element of laziness to it.

    Overall the book was very average and again I finished it feeling that dreaded sense of disappointment returning. I don't know why his books just don't seem to hit the mark anymore and I find myself wondering if Alex Cross is running out of steam. In comparison his Michael Bennett novels are picking up pace and fast becoming favourites of mine. All in all, if you are expecting another corker in the Alex Cross series you may be disappointed.

  8. Veronica Henry HoneycoteMy Rating: 4/5

    Having never read Veronica Henry I had no idea what to expect. I also wasn't aware that Honeycote was part of a series, luckily for me I picked up the first book. The start of the book is great and tends to draw you in to the characters from the first few pages. We get a great perspective from the author of the setting of Honeycote House and it seemed very picturesque.

     Initially, I only found I had one problem with the story, there were quite a few characters and for some reason their names just didn't gel with their personalities. I can't explain why but for me I struggled until at least the halfway point to gel the names to each character. Thankfully that was really the only criticism I had. I adored the Liddiards even though they were all far from perfect.

    Veronica Henry certainly doesn't shy away from creating multiple stories and characters, and although some people may not like that I absolutely loved it. Yes there were multiple things to see develop but it gave you even more as a reader to get your teeth in to. I managed as usual to either love or loathe certain characters very soon after starting to read and that pleases me because I feel like the author is making me feel emotion either way.

    Around the halfway point things really pick up and we see a chain of events start that affect every member of the family and believe me there are quite a few of them. In addition to Mickey and Lucy we see their three children Patrick, Georgia and Sophie. We also have James Liddiard and his girlfriend Caroline, The Liddiard daughter's friend Mandy and his dad, as well as numerous village characters that are all an integral part of the story.

    Her writing style flows easily ad it was a pleasure to read, none of the chapters were a struggle and I thoroughly enjoyed it and left wanted to find out what happens next for all of them. Thankfully the next book in the Honeycote series is on my to tread list so I wont have to wait that long. Veronica Henry manages to create a chick lit book that has great characters, storylines that make you want to laugh or cry and some good old fashioned smut. Just my kind of book!