Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

juniper.jpgThe idea itself is lovely. Dealing with grief by tracking it daily via a happiness index. For each person the index would be different of course, because what makes one person smile or feel a moment of happiness isn’t always the same for another person.

Think about what kind of things make you happy each day. Even the smallest things count. A memory, an interaction, a piece of chocolate or perhaps just relaxing after a long day.

Since the death of her sister Camilla, Juniper has been desperately trying to find her happy. She is so grief stricken that she is trying to grasp what she can from life.

She is also trying to fulfil what she believes to be her sister’s last wish. A letter to her love. So Juniper takes it upon herself to find the mysterious recipient. She is also really invested in making the people around her happy. She does this by playing matchmaker, by saving those around her from possible negative thoughts and bad intentions.

In her quest to survive day by day and to not crumble under the weight of her personal loss, Juniper inadvertently finds herself building friendships, experiencing love and learning a few hard lessons along the way.

The focus is on the people left behind, as opposed to a lot of books that seem to make the dead the main characters. What’s done is done and those who are gone aren’t coming back, so let’s concentrate on the living.

The author tries not to delve too far into the teen drama or rather make the scenarios too candy floss sweet or unicorn eccentric. It is passionate without being soppy, witty without being ridiculous and is realistic in a down-to-earth way.

Definitely a read I would recommend.

Buy Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @thatjulieisrael visit julieisrael.com

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

saint deathSomehow I missed the fact this is classed as Young Adult, and to be perfectly frank it doesn’t really belong in that sub-genre.

It is gritty, hardcore and it forces reality right down the readers throat. It was one of those books you finish and think ‘wow.’ At the same time you can’t really identify why. It is just a whirlwind of brash hard-hitting realism.

Faustino is looking for a way out of his slum existence. He is tired of being surrounded by uncertainty, violence and death. Each day is a struggle and the only opportunities for any kind of advancement in life are being part of a gang or a possible escape across the border. However the Coyotaje isn’t always the solution desperate people think they will be. They are ruthless groups/gangs with only one concern, to make money. They feed on the desperation of the innocent.

The descriptive scenes of the gambling are right on the button. People with the itch always think they can find the gold at the end of the rainbow. Just one more hand of cards, just one more attempt to outwit lady luck. Ultimately Faustino holds the weapon of his own self-destruction.

Sedgwick doesn’t pull any punches, he just whacks the reader right around the head with a literary crowbar. It’s hard to pinpoint why it is such an unusual read, perhaps it’s the gritty realism and the lack of compromise. Sedgwick is relentless in the portrayal of his authentic characters and the setting. Kudos to him for the merciless ending.

Buy Saint Death at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Blog-Tour: Sleeper by J.D. Fennell

Today it is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Sleeper by J.D. Fennell. Along with the About the Author and About the book features, I am also delighted to feature a fantastic Q&A with J.D. Fennell, and hey of course last but not least, my review of Sleeper.

About the Author

J.D. was born in Belfast at the start of the Troubles, and began writing stories at a young age to help understand the madness unfolding around him. A lover of reading, he devoured a diverse range of books – his early influences include Fleming, Tolkien, Shakespeare and the Brontës.

He left Belfast at the age of nineteen and worked as a chef, bartender, waiter and later began a career in writing for the software industry. These days he divides his time between Brighton and London, where he lives with his partner and their two dogs.

Visit sleeperbook.com  or you can follow @jd_fennell or @DomePress on Twitter or on facebook.com/JDFennellAuthor/

Buy Sleeper

About the book

Sixteen-year-old Will Starling is pulled from the sea with no memory of his past. In his blazer is a strange notebook with a bullet lodged inside: a bullet meant for him. As London prepares for the Blitz, Will soon finds himself pursued by vicious agents and a ruthless killer known as the Pastor. All of them want Will’s notebook and will do anything to get it. As Will’s memory starts to return, he realises he is no ordinary sixteen-year old. He has skills that make him a match for any assassin. But there is something else. At his core is a deep-rooted rage that he cannot explain. Where is his family and why has no one reported him missing?Fighting for survival with the help of Mi5 agent-in-training, Anna Wilder, Will follows leads across London in a race against time to find the Stones of Fire before the next air raid makes a direct hit and destroys London forever.

Q&A

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’ (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know) I love reading and always have a book to hand. Here are my recent three: Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follet; I Let You Go, by Claire Mackintosh and right now I am reading Spellslinger, by Sebastian De Castell. Three wonderful books, all quite different.

Books or authors which have inspired you to put pen to paper? John Irving is amazing. Stephen King. Sarah Waters. Ken Follett. Authors that make me want to be a better writer are Thomas Harris, Ian McGuire and Hanya Yanagihara.

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it) I really enjoyed Allied with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. It is set during the same time as Sleeper and gave it a resonance for me. It is also gripping with a great twist.

Are you more of a movie night or series-binger kind of guy? (Combinations are possible) Definitely a series-binger, because there is a greater scope to tell a story and develop characters. Game of Thrones is a good example here.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? I’d like to meet Thomas Harris for lunch or dinner and learn as much as I could from him.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Sleeper!

Sleeper is a YA adventure set in the Second World War with flair of fantasy and an essence of a dystopian setting.

What made you pick the WW2 time period for your setting? I’m fascinated by London during the Blitz, a city collapsing under the nightly air attacks. Also, I really wanted to set an action/adventure with fantastical elements during a familiar time in our history. Second World War London just seemed the perfect setting for a thriller. I had to write it.

During the story I think readers may often find the borders between good and bad guy skewed when it comes to VIPER and The Fellowship. Do you agree with that assessment, and if so was this intentional on your part? Yes and No. Yes, the Fellowship are good, however, they turn a blind eye to the Pastor’s methods because they understand what is at stake for the world. VIPER will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. They may employ regular people, who do not share their ambitions, or are unaware of who they are working for, to help achieve their goals.

Will has been defined, trained and lived as a member of VIPER for many years. Isn’t there some part of him which is subconsciously loyal to VIPER? I’m afraid you will have to wait until the next instalment to find that out. *smiles*

So, you have this incredible weapon with as yet not completely explored powers, doesn’t even a teeny weeny piece of Will think about taking control of the weapon himself? Ha! That would be telling. For now I will refer you to the previous answer.

Sleeper. Liberator. Executioner. Does Will secretly enjoy being each one of these identities? Will is driven by revenge. I would say he does not enjoy being that type of person, however, it does change him and give him purpose.

Will we be seeing more of Will in the near future, and will his sidekick be returning? Will and Anna shall return next year with velocity.

Thank you for answering all of my questions, even the odd ones! Thank you Cheryl. I really enjoyed answering them.

Review

Fennell has chosen an interesting setting for his dystopian young adult series. It takes place in the early 1940s during WW2. So you not only get the general gist and flavour of life during the Blitz, you also feel the intensity of the devastation the war leaves in its wake.

I have to say that although this is pegged as young adult it is also a book I would buy for a younger reader. Readers will be able to identify with the characters, the historical context and also the why of what makes Will tick.

What makes him push forward is the strong desire to fulfil his mission, which is even the case when he suffers from a bout of amnesia. He somehow always manages to find the right way even when the deck is stacked against him.

Will is nothing if not determined, despite all the obstacles and extremely dangerous situations he stumbles in and out of. He has been a part of VIPER since his pre-teens and is well versed in the megalomaniacal manipulations of this organisation. They will do anything to control the world and more importantly to get their hands on the powerful Stones.

What can I say it’s a story with a lot of potential. The author ends the book with the kind of hook that will keep the readers trailing along behind that fishing rod with the wriggly wee plot enticing them to follow along right behind him.

Fennell has created a fast-paced adventure with plenty of scope for future books. Sleeper is a captivating combination of history infused with futuristic and dystopian elements, and let’s not forgot the mystery surrounding Will. Ancient artefacts and puzzles worthy of a young Indiana Jones adventure will keep readers both young and old wanting the next instalment of this series sooner rather than later.

Buy Sleeper at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

To buy Sleeper (hardback)

To buy Sleeper (paperback)

Goldsboro Books are also selling limited edition hardback signed and numbered editions

Publisher website: www.thedomepress.com

Publisher Twitter: https://twitter.com/DomePress

Publisher Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thedomepress/

Walking Barefoot by Grace Coleman

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Walking Barefoot by Grace Coleman. Aside from my review, info on the author and the book you can also download a free copy of Walking Barefoot on Smashwords. Only today…for 24 hours!

*To claim your free copy of Walking Barefoot simply visit Smashwords on the 25th of April and enter the discount code FR64E at check out. There are no limits to the number of downloads but hurry, this code will only be active for 24 hours!*

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/715754

About the Author

About the author: Walking Barefoot is Grace Coleman’s debut novel. It began 6 years ago in a Byron Bay basement and had significant re-sculpturing after a Curtis Brown novel writing course in 2013. When not pretending to be an author, Grace Coleman is TV Scheduler who lives and works in London.

Visit gracecoleman.co.uk/

About the book

Set in a futuristic London in a world ravaged by war, Walking Barefoot explores the life of Will, past and present. The cocksure eighteen year old who goes travelling in a bid to find himself. The city living adult who struggles to be happy despite his well paid job, upper quadrant apartment and sexy girlfriend. When nightmares begin to haunt his sleeping and waking life Will is unsure whether he is suffering from the illness that killed his father or being led by unseen forces to uncover a city-wide conspiracy. As his paranoia heightens he must ask himself – is he willing to lose himself to find the truth?

Review

Imagine being able to transport yourself to the place of your dreams in the blink of an eye. A bit like time-travel without the whole time-space continuum aspect of it all. In a world full of constructed reality and a life lived nearly entirely inside glass walls, it is no wonder some people try to live vicariously through others and any means possible.

Will has decided to do the equivalent of a gap year before settling down to the dreary business of life. He is fascinated by the places and countries his father once visited.

Continents, countries and towns that are virtually non-existent in the history books, the minds and memories of people. Places slowly deteriorating, decaying and disappearing from sight and mind. Will wants to walk in his father’s footsteps. To smell the fresh air and to experience new worlds.

Years later, as his career is ascending into the higher echelon, his mental health starts to deteriorate. At first he thinks it is just stress and pressure, but then Will starts to question things. What is reality and what is fantasy?

You know what they say, it’s not paranoia if they are really out to get you. Will is convinced that there is something untoward going on. He is determined to get to the bottom of things, except he isn’t entirely convinced that his fears and hallucinations aren’t just an indication of mental health issues.

Coleman has created a world built on dreams within conceptual hallucinations. It is a futuristic story with a very subtle dystopian undertone. Think Matrix with a side-order of end of the world angst and a tiny slice of horror. Although the author brings the story to a conclusion, I do think a sequel could be a possibility, then again that may just be wishful thinking on my part.

Buy Walking Barefoot at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Giveaway

*To claim your free copy of Walking Barefoot simply visit Smashwords on the 25 April and enter the discount code FR64E at check out. There are no limits to the number of downloads but hurry, this code will only be active for 24 hours!*

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/715754

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

flora banksThis book is one of those little gems shining through in a sea of books.

Barr manages to present a rather tragic story with an incredible amount of humour, love and compassion.

The reader meets two versions of Flora, actually make that three, because there is also an in-between grey area. We meet docile Flora, the girl who follows rules and listens to her parents. Then there is Flora the impulsive adventurer. The girl who is off her meds. Third Flora is the girl who exists in the confusion of post-tablets and pre-clarity.

Flora has problems with her short term memory. She relies on post-it notes, written messages on her arms and a handwritten book of memory props to get along every day.

Now at this point I have to wag a finger at any a parent who would leave a vulnerable child, teen or young adult alone based on the assumption that another teen will be looking in on them. Teenagers can be as flighty as birds and as dramatic as a reality TV show character on LSD.

So Flora is left to her own devices and ends up coming off her medication. Even before that she spends an unhealthy amount of time obsessing about being kissed by her best friend’s boyfriend. The kiss becomes a pivotal part of the story, her obsession and a possible recovery.

Her search for Drake is a bold one, but it is also one ridden with dangers. The fact she is lucky enough to encounter people who care, which is perhaps a scenario we all wish for, if one of our children were alone and in trouble. Flora is halfway across the globe searching for love, and the only person who is aware of her exploits is her brother.

Barr makes an important point when it comes to vulnerable people and independence. Are they hindered by their loved ones when it comes to evolving, growing up and being able to make their own decisions? The gut instinct to keep them safe may also be the factor keeping them from moving forwards.

I really enjoyed the read. It is funny without being insulting, it is realistic without bending the boundaries of imagination and it definitely pulls on the heartstrings. I would love to know what Flora gets up to next. At this rate she may end up in a tent on top of Mount Everest.

Buy The One Memory of Flora Banks at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Blog-Tour: Winter Halo by Keri Arthur

Today is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Winter Halo by Keri Arthur. It is the second book in the Outcast series. (The first is City of Light). Enjoy the fantastic Q&A with Keri Arthur and my review!

About the author

Keri Arthur is the New York Times bestselling author of the Outcast series, including City of Light, as well as the Souls of Fire, Dark Angels, and Riley Jenson Guardian series. She has written more than thirty books and has been nominated in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Awards and has won a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy.

About the book

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Souls of Fire novels comes the second in the futuristic fantasy series that will make you want to keep the lights on…

When the bombs that stopped the species war tore holes in the veil between worlds, they allowed entry to the Others. Now, a hundred years later, humans and shifters alike live in artificially lit cities designed to keep the darkness at bay…. The humanoid supersoldiers known as the déchet were almost eradicated by the war. Ever since, Tiger has tried to live her life in peace in hiding. But in the wake of her discovery that Central City’s children are being kidnapped and experimented on, Tiger’s conscience won’t let her look the other way. The key to saving them lies within the walls of a pharmaceutical company called Winter Halo. But as she learns more about the facility, Tiger’s mission is derailed by a complication: Winter Halo’s female security guards are being systematically attacked by an unknown force.  Now Tiger must summon all her gifts to stop those responsible for both atrocities—no matter the cost to herself.

Q&A

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’ (readers love to get to know all about their favourite authors)

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms want to know) Anne Gracie’s The Summer Bride. I waited so long for Daisy’s story, and I loved it!

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it) I recently watched Spectre on Blu-ray, and was ever so glad I missed it at the movies! I couldn’t believe how bland/blah it was. I’m a huge James Bond fan, but in this, Daniel Craig wasn’t even trying.

Are you more of a Game of Thrones or Outlander, a movie night or sitcom kind of  gal? (Combinations are possible) I haven’t watched either Game of Thrones or Outlander, and have no intentions of ever watching the former. I do, however, love Westworld. I’m also a huge lifestyle program fan (mostly British–Great British Bake-off, Escape to the Country, Location Location, etc). I also love the Aussie versions of those shows.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? I’d love to have met Dick Francis, because he is one of my all time favourite authors. And for one out of left field, I would love to have met John Constable, and have him teach me how to paint just like him.

Something you treat yourself to, now and again? (Cream éclairs, doughnuts and chocolate totally count) Shoes. Totally shoes. I have something of a fetish for them  😀

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Winter Halo.

I really enjoyed the mixture of genres in Winter Halo, a dystopian tale with sci-fi elements and a portion of urban fantasy. Was mixing the genres something you set out to do or did the ideas evolve as you were writing? I’ve never been a planner when it comes to my writing. I usually set out with a vague idea and the story and setting develop from there. That’s what I love about writing–the discovery of where it’s going!

Was it your intention to get both the readers and even the characters to question the humanity of the genetically modified dechets or to be more specific questioning Tiger’s humanity? That developed as the story developed. In truth, what does make us human? Is it as simple as the nature of our birth? Is it higher brain capacity, the ability to think and feel? Or is it something more indefinable? Why are we considered human, and yet the great apes, who share something like 98% of our DNA, are not? I’m not sure The Outcast Series answers these questions, but I’d like to think it at least gets those who read it thinking about things like acceptance and tolerance. We really need a lot more people thinking about those in the current clime.

Staying with that line of questioning, Tiger was created with a specific purpose in mind, and although she acts as programmed she is also capable of acting independently. Is her initial programming the reason why she was engineered the reason some characters don’t trust her or is it because she doesn’t conform to their preconceived ideas of the dechet? Most humans and shifters only ever had contact with the soldier dechets. Very few people outside the Humanoid Development Program ever knew about the existence of dechets such as Tiger, who was developed as a lure–a seductress designed to infiltrate shifter encampments and steal battle information. The other characters views are tainted by their experiences with the soldiers; they’re having to battle ingrained beliefs about what dechets are with the reality Tiger presents to them.

Tiger carries around an extreme amount of guilt about the ghosts (children). She seems to blame herself for their deaths. Is that why she is willing to go the extra mile to try and save the living children? Yes. She’d been assigned as the children’s guardian while waiting reassignment, and she believes she failed in that duty, even though she almost died trying to save them. It’s that guilt that drives her to save Penny and Jonas, and keeps her involved in not only the quest to find the rest of the missing children, but to stop those who want to give the vampires and wraiths light immunity.

Tiger and her relationship to sex is quite an intriguing aspect of the story. Tiger uses sex to obtain information and achieve her goals. Her relationship with it is very calculated. Will we see her experience sex in a different way when and if she finally does have intercourse because she wants to and not because she has to? I really can’t answer this question, because it would step into spoiler territory!

Will we be seeing/reading more about Tiger? If the answer is yes (hopefully) will it be soon (no pressure *laugh*)? I’ve planned the Outcast Series as three books, so yes, there will be more of Tiger after Winter Halo. The third book is tentatively called The Black Tide, but I’m not sure when it’ll be out yet. Hopefully by the end of 2017 or beginning of 2018.

Thank you for answering all of my questions, especially the odd ones! You’re welcome–and the odd ones were fun!

Review

Despite being a successful award winning author I don’t believe Keri Arthur really gets the recognition or attention she deserves for her writing. Regardless of the genre, sub-genre or the topic, Arthur always gives her readers a run for their money.

Winter Halo, which is the second book in the Outcast series, is a perfect example of her ability to flow seamlessly from one genre to the other within the same story. It’s a dystopian extravaganza with sci-fi elements and an urban fantasy flair.

It is set in a world of genetically enhanced soldiers, shifters, ghosts, vampires and perhaps a few humans. Tiger is determined to save a small group of children, who have been kidnapped with the intent of committing unimaginable atrocities.

Watch this space for the Tiger and Jonas saga, because it is definitely coming. The sexual tension between the two of them is like a volcano set to erupt. No pun intended. Okay that’s a lie it’s totally intended. Jonas can’t help but be drawn to the feisty dechet, perhaps because she is the complete opposite of what he thinks she should be like.

Instead of hard cold reasoning there is a strong compassionate vein, and her ability to communicate with ghosts makes her seem more humane instead of like the genetically enhanced soldier she actually is.

One of the more fascinating aspects of Tiger is the way she compartmentalizes her actions, emotions and choices. Her sexual activities are sorted into boxes labelled ‘a means to an end.’ All business all the time. Maybe it is time she did it for herself and for the pleasure instead.

I am looking forward to the third part in this series, especially a possible Tiger and Jonas relationship. Winter Halo is an action driven read with creative ideas, intricate world-building and plenty of potential for further development.

It was, as always with a Keri Arthur book, a read I would recommend.

Buy Winter Halo at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Readers from the US and Canada also have the fantastic opportunity to take part in a giveaway for City of Light and Winter Halo by Keri Arthur by retweeting the giveaway on Twitter. Or just comment below. (Winner will be notified at the end of the tour) Good Luck!

Dear Charlie by N.D. Gomes

dear-charlieThere are plenty of fictional approaches to school shootings and massacres, and quite a few of them are really good.What makes Dear Charlie an interesting read is the fact it is written from a different perspective. Instead of the voice of the victims or the survivors, it’s the voice of the killer’s family.

In general they tend to be absolutely slated and portrayed in an overwhelmingly negative light by the media, the world and the people around them. In the majority of cases they are just as shocked by the actions of their children, siblings, grandchildren or family members, as every other person. Tragically they are also often the first victims in these kind of situations.

Sam has gone from being the younger brother of the artistic and supposedly happy Charlie, to the brother of a killer. His mother and father are now the parents of a killer. People look to them for answers and they also blame all three of them.

Pair those emotions, projected on them by others, with their own feelings of guilt, inadequacy and shame, and it’s no wonder they all begin to fall apart. To top it all off both Sam and his mother have to contend with the reactions of the people they interact with on a daily basis. Sam suffers terribly at the hands of his cruel peers.

In a way you can almost see how someone could be pushed to breaking point, although it does take a specific combination of events, triggers, characteristics and perhaps even mental health issues for a mass-killer to emerge and act upon their dark fantasies.

I enjoyed the way Gomes shows the disintegration and isolation of the family unit, the difficulty Sam experiences and his search for answers, all in equal measure. The reader experiences the confusion and the constant question of why, and of course the realisation that sometimes you don’t get the answers you need or want.

It was almost a perfect read except for a slight deviation into an en vogue YA narrative towards the end. Up to that point Gomes keeps it brutally realistic and void of any superfluous information, scenes and emotions. It is a really good read.

Buy Dear Charlie at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.