Saturday, 29 June 2013

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth [Divergent Trilogy, book 1]

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her. (via Goodreads)

When I finally read The Hunger Games series last year, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it (I think I read all three books in a week!). So, because of that, I've been intrigued by what other bloggers and readers have been saying about Divergent. But it wasn't until I found a used copy for sale at a mere 20p that I seriously considered reading it.

My experience of Divergent is mixed. Although I didn't particularly like Tris at the beginning, she grew on me as the novel progressed. I enjoyed watching her relationships with the other characters unfold, and I particularly looked forward to any encounters with Four. Tris is strong, brave, and knows what it takes to survive in such an unstable environment (much like Katniss), so she makes a good role model for the target demographic.

There's also no mistaking the quality of Roth's writing style, which I loved for its vivid, cinematic tone. I felt everything Tris goes through, and saw everything through her eyes in remarkable detail. I also bookmarked several pages, just incase I want to revisit them for their descriptions or their wisdom.

However, as I've hinted, I didn't have a complete love affair with Divergent. It just seemed a little too slow, and much of the time I wondered when the build-up would finally reach boiling point. But I realise that all this detail is necessary, and this has lead me to assume that Divergent is actually the prequel to the really exciting stuff. For that reason, I am eager to read the next book, Insurgent, which I'll probably start as soon as I've posted this review!

Altogether, Divergent is an absorbing, wise, and occasionally romantic tale of survival against the odds. If you're wondering what the next Hunger Games will be, it'll probably be this – Divergent is also being made into a film starring Kate Winslet (who happens to be my favourite actress!).

Rating: 4 / 5

ETA: I've changed my rating from 3.5 to 4 as, a week later, I still can't get this book out of my mind!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Review: Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence—sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets—their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.

June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago. (via Goodreads)

I can't remember having read a novel consisting entirely of letters, so that was what attracted me to Letters from Skye. Unfortunately, though, my initial enthusiasm waned as I progressed through the pages.

Brockmole uses a lot of short sentences and repetition to try and create certain effects
(such as suspense), but it didn't work for me. I also found it difficult to believe most of the letters – they seemed too casual and I felt little bond between many of the characters. This was particularly true of Margeret's letters to her pilot, where I detected no passion towards him. It seemed as though she was only confiding thoughts and events without any real feeling.

Additionally, many of the character's voices sounded too similar and the contents of the letters were, at times, rather dull. The only thing which kept me reading forward was the desire to see how everything would work out between Elspeth and David – would they find their way back to each other? So, I guess that part of Letters from Skye was positive, and at the very least I could identify their connection.

But even so, I feel as if this novel could have been so much better had it been written differently. A disappointing read.

Rating: 2 / 5

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Guest post: The creation of Dead Reckoning by Paul McMahon

Please welcome Paul McMahon, who's here to write about the creation of his prison-comedy novel, Dead Reckoning.

You can think too much about writing – that’s the crux of it. This realisation is what inspired me to stop procrastinating and start to write my novel in the first place.

Before I write about my novel, I’ll give you an insight into how I wrote it, and suggest to you that my unusual approach freed my subconscious to write my story for me and what has made it so unique. I’ll give you a one sentence bio only because details from my background became relevant to my experiment. I’ve been a Prison Officer for over a decade. I undertook my training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and graduated in 2001 whereupon after securing an agent I quickly realised I loathed most acting industry folk and opted to work behind bars with people of the equivalent moral order.

As a Prison Officer I’m portraying the most complicated role of my life, engaged in psychological warfare all day long and I needed some kind of cathartic creative outlet. However I found writing daunting and I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. So Dead Reckoning began life as a writing exercise to combat what can broadly be categorised as ‘block’. The experiment consisted of playfully punching random keys on my computer, the letter combinations of which bore occasional thoughts and thereafter words which spun off into non-sequiturs, before breaking down into jibber-jabber and back up again cyclically, interspersed by the occasional mass word-cull. Not a conventional approach to writing – but then the resultant stream of consciousness, present tense, philosophical prison-comedy, is far from a conventional novel.

This strange practice isn’t as peculiar as it might seem as the product is – that I was actually writing. Even if the outcome is simply flexing your vocabulary in preparation, this is in my opinion infinitely better than introspectively strategizing without writing a word.

In light of my approach it goes without saying I didn’t plan a plot, but upon reading my ramblings after a long break I realised that when you string enough unconnected events together, a reader will imbue the order of them with meaning as we all bring a unique blend of subjectivity, when decoding the entangled semiotics in amalgamations of words. In this sense, the author really does die. Furthermore the characters themselves became compassionate even though I didn’t write any of them that way. My literary lesson was that as in life, sometimes good characters do bad things and bad characters do good things.

And so the process of writing a novel had started of its own volition. I wrote and read; selecting a detail that presented as interesting and then textually weaving it together with another detail, in an unrelated segment eventually yielding the bones of a plot, upon which I explored and expanded. This knitting together of plot points and characterisation happened over and over again until a basic narrative structure grew organically out of nowhere.

Once I’d an idea of a story I immersed myself in the protagonist and invented an entire back story for him in the same way actors who apply the Stanislavski approach do. I reverse engineered his character – writing in personality traits that would explain his decisions and the actions taken by him. Once I’d a fully developed character with clear motivations I allowed this to inform my overhaul of the entire body of work, meaning some major plot point alterations as they no longer fitted with the character. The novel naturally mutated. This approach was an uneconomical use of time for sure but it meant that the character and the narrative became inextricably linked in a manner that I don’t believe I could have accomplished tackling writing in the conventional sense.

Dead Reckoning is a tale revolving around addiction and staff corruption inside a fictional London prison. The plot is a vehicle for the exploration of the human condition and the struggle to find ones individual moral compass. The prison was useful for this being a universe in microcosm. A prison-comedy sounds like a malapropism but the humour within the hidden society of captives is what lubricates the necessary reciprocal social exchange relationships between staff and inmates, which allow each prison to operate in spite of massively disproportionate ratios in favour of the prisoners. In the job this is called ‘jail-craft’ or ‘banter’ and if you don’t have it you’re not going to survive. In light of this I felt the subject had to be tackled as a black comedy and I am incredibly proud that the lads and lass’s who work in prisons across the country and the prisoners who have read the book agree that the tone is spot on.

There are other ways to stimulate creativity that I found useful – I simultaneously undertook a Master’s Degree in Criminology whilst writing Dead Reckoning in order to get a better understanding of the academic view on the occupational culture of prison officers. I found gratifyingly that the conclusion of my thesis into ‘The motivations for discretionary rule enforcement amongst prison officers’, began to affect how I refined subsequent drafts of the novel. I was able to factor in endless empirical research to my characterisation – such as Muir’s 1977 typology of workplace behaviour – in the development of the protagonist Mr B and use Adams 1963 equity theory to explain Gav’s motivation for corruption. I believe the qualitative academic research I undertook and my first-hand experience of the prison system root this work of fiction in reality. It took a few years for Dead Reckoning to take shape and essentially write itself. This author saw marriage, fatherhood, bereavement, life threatening injury and separation, but the novel was always a constant place of refuge for me.

I’d be extremely grateful for any feedback from those of you that have read my Dead Reckoning already, as I love the fact that readers are actually helping me to better understand my own novel. Weirdly wonderful but true.

To find out more about Dead Reckoning, and to purchase a signed/dedicated copy, visit Paul's website. Standard copies can be purchased for Kindle and on paperback at
You can also follow Paul on Twitter.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Review: The Conquest of the Ocean by Brian Lavery

The Conquest of the Ocean tells the 5,000 year history of the remarkable individuals who sailed seas, for trade, to conquer new lands, to explore the unknown. From the early Polynesians to the first circumnavigations by the Portuguese and the British, these are awe-inspiring tales of epic sea voyages involving great feats of seamanship, navigation, endurance, and ingenuity. Explore the lives and maritime adventures, many with first person narratives, of land seekers and globe charters such as Christopher Columbus, Captain James Cook and Vitus Bering. (via

I don't read a lot of non-fiction but, when I do, I tend to look for books which will capture my attention in a variety of ways. This isn't to say that I've had much interest in seafaring previously sure, I've heard of the Titanic, and have wondered about explorers such as Christopher Columbus and Captain James Cook, but I've never sought out further information. However, that changed with The Conquest of the Ocean.

This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful books on my shelf. It's presented in standard hardback size, so nothing too bulky, and is wrapped in a striking dust jacket. Honestly, this dust jacket is attractive all on its own, with raised lettering and a combination of glossy and matte textures.

Inside, you'll find ivory coloured pages and a plethora of full-colour illustrations. These illustrations work to support the written content, which covers a vast amount of maritime history (5,000 years in under 400 pages!). Indeed, there's a lot of information in The Conquest of the Ocean and that makes the book perhaps most suited for those who, like me, don't know much about seafaring and want to learn more.

The way the book is organised also gives readers the option to choose how they'd prefer to use it. For example, you could read it cover-to-cover such as I did, or you could go straight to something specific. This is all made possible by a detailed contents page and index. There's also a glossary which explains some of the more technical terms used in the book.

Overall, The Conquest of the Ocean is a wonderfully presented, well-written, and easy-to-follow work of non-fiction. If you're interested in learning more about the history of seafaring and love aesthetically pleasing books, I would definitely recommend this.

Rating: 4 / 5

To learn more about The Conquest of the Ocean, and to download a sample chapter of the book, visit DK's website.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Interview with Kate Evangelista – author of Romancing the Bookworm

I'm delighted to welcome author, and my lovely friend, Kate Evangelista to the blog. Her latest novel is Romancing the Bookworm, and it's due to be released on July 9th. You can find its blurb, plus links to Kate's blog and social networking accounts, at the bottom of the interview.

Q: Your upcoming novel, Romancing the Bookworm, is a new adult contemporary romance, whereas your earlier releases were young adult fantasy novels. What encouraged this change in direction?
A: When I first started taking writing seriously, I actually began in the adult romance genre. But as I reached the part where it got steamy between the characters, I just couldn’t move forward. I remember blushing so hard. So, I backtracked and started writing young adult. Twilight was really popular at the time and I thought if she could do this then I can too. But as I kept writing YA, I felt like I didn’t quite fit into this genre as well…or should I say my characters didn’t quite fit in. Then New Adult burst onto the scene and I tried it and loved the experience. I could push my limits as a writer with the issues the characters go through or the situations they get into. I think I’ve found the genre I’m most comfortable with now. My not-so-little corner of the publishing industry!

What can readers expect from Romancing the Bookworm? Is it a gentle tale of romance or something more sensual?
It’s very steamy. There’s a scene involving waxing a surfboard that you won’t want to miss!

Judging by your Twitter feed, you’re certainly a productive writer! How do you stay motivated? Do you have a day-to-day routine?
I read somewhere that being a writer is giving yourself homework every day for the rest of your life. I’ve gotten to a point in my career where, if I don’t write something in a day, I get the shakes or I feel really guilty. It’s like you practice and you practice and, finally, you need to write or your day doesn’t feel quite right (it rhymes! *laughs*).

As for a daily routine, I begin my day taking care of all my social media. I answer emails from my editors, come on twitter and reply to interactions, then I hop on to Facebook. Then, after lunch, I get cracking and write or edit well into the evening. Sometimes I have to force myself to stop because I won’t be able to go to sleep if I don’t power down.

You’re currently residing in the Philippines. At any time, have you found that your location has made it more challenging to become a published author?
I think the only challenge I face is access to conventions. I really want to attend RT and BEA one day. I’m saving up now. But, other than that, the internet makes being a published author so much easier. I wouldn’t change anything about where I live…right smack dab in the middle of a mango grove. Being in the middle of nature is really conducive to feeding my muse.

Finally, what projects are you currently working on? Do you have any other genres up your sleeve?
Lots. I’m in edits for the sequel to Reaping Me Softly called Unreap my Heart. I actually think of it as the real first book in the series and Reaping is the prequel to it. I can’t wait to show everyone Balthazar.

I’m also editing my first dystopian New Adult called Impulse. It’s fast paced and adrenaline driven and really, really dark. I’m so excited about it.

For Til Death, I’m deep into edits for that as well. And readers should watch out for Savor, Luka’s long awaited book.

So while y’all are waiting, please add Romancing the Bookworm to your to-be-read list. Tamara and Xavier’s story is really something you need to bring with you to the beach!

It's spring break, and Tamara Winters would rather stay on campus and read romance novels than flaunt her size-fourteen body on a beach. But her best friend, Ronni, has other ideas. Against her wishes, Tamara is whisked away to picturesque Maverick Bay, where she's wrangled into waiting tables with Ronni at the Shore Shack for its busy week leading to Maverick's Surf Invitational. There she meets fellow schoolmate Xavier Solomon, the Invitational's organizer and campus womanizer by reputation. From the moment Tamara sees him emerging from the waves like a hero in of one of her romance novels, all she wants to do is run away from the feelings he inspires in her.

Little does she know Xavier has been watching her for weeks now. In fact, after failed attempts at asking her out on campus, he's concocted a crazy plan: fabricating romantic situations straight out of her favorite books. Xavier quickly realizes that if Tamara gets a whiff of his designs, he might as well spell CREEPER across his forehead. Yet as they grow closer, he's convinced it's a risk worth taking. What he hasn't planned on, of course, is his drug-addicted, alcoholic stepbrother, who decides to join the fun and put a wrench in Xavier’s scheme.

Spring break is proving hotter than Tamara expected. Will her romance novels be able to compete? 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Life of Pi DVD giveaway – the winner!

I'm happy to announce that the winner of my Life of Pi DVD giveaway is Helen Dickinson!

Congratulations, Helen! I've sent you an email, and you have one week to respond before the giveaway is redrawn.

To all who missed out, don't worry – I'll be holding more giveaways in future. Stay tuned!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Happy Birthday, Life Between Pages!

I would say it's hard to believe that my blog is two years old today, but that would be a lie! Truly, it's been an amazing journey and what is difficult for me to grasp is the good fortune I've had thus far.

I expected little when I started writing Life Between Pages. It began because of the stacks of books lying about my house which needed reading, and I saw a blog as being the perfect way to get them read, record my perspectives and improve my writer's voice.

And although I have now read a few of the books which were previously collecting dust, their absence seems to have only made room for more! I guess that's what happens when one is not only an impulsive shopper (I need rehab!), but also when one has the privilege of working with, and on behalf of, talented authors, publishers, and other representatives of such a fantastic industry. I am grateful to them for believing in me and my little blog, and for trusting me with their craft.

Thank you, also, to my fellow book bloggers, and to those who stop-by every now and again to have a read. I definitely wouldn't have reached this point without so many clicks and comments. Having almost 50,000 blog views in two years is crazy!

I may not be posting as much these days, but this isn't because of waning enthusiasm. Life Between Pages has given me confidence and a direction in life which I've never had before, and there is no way I'd abandon it now. Indeed, we'll be around for years to come, even if it does mean only four or five posts a month due to a busier life.

Finally, here are links to some of my favourite posts from year two, month-by-month.

June 2012:
January 2013:

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Review: All I Want is You by Elizabeth Anthony

Set in a country house in the 1920s, this tale of forbidden love between a kitchen maid and her aristocratic master is perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey.

1920. Seventeen-year-old Sophie is a scullery maid at a large country house, Belfield Hall, but what she truly desires is to dance on stage in London.

Glamorous Lady Beatrice offers her assistance, though not without an ulterior motive. A new heir - the seductively handsome Lord Ashley - is about to arrive at the Hall: a man that Beatrice will do anything to ensnare... even if she has to exploit her young maid.

What she doesn't know is that Sophie has met Ash once before. And as Lady Beatrice's devious plan unravels, Sophie has two choices: refuse to be a mere plaything for the man she loves so desperately, or give in to the thrill of unimaginable sexual pleasure... (via

I'm a massive fan of Downton Abbey, and of course I loved Fifty Shades of Grey, so I have to admit that I was pretty intrigued when All I Want is You popped through my letterbox. But, then again, I was also weary historical romance novels which tend to take 'modern liberties' have a track record of getting on my nerves (see my review of Julia Quinn's The Duke and I). How would I end up feeling about this one?

Well, All I Want is You starts like a normal historical novel. In the beginning, Sophie describes her life as a young girl and the lead-up to becoming a maid at a big house. It seems to show more of an accurate portrayal of a servant's life than even Downton Abbey (it's fair to say that the staff at Downton are perhaps a little too spoilt to be believed!). However, these accuracies fade as soon as the expected sexual side of the plot begins to develop.

At first, I found it really hard to accept that all these people could be that forward and blasé about sexuality. Surely they would have been a little more careful about discussing sex it in those days, and would have chosen their partners with greater care? This certainly wasn't so in Sophie's version of 1920s England.

And that's the point. All I Want is You isn't supposed to be an accurate historical representation of love, sex and hierarchies in the 1920s it's supposed to be enjoyed for what it is, and that is a powerful story of forbidden romance. So when I finally managed to wrap my brain around this realisation, I really started to enjoy the novel.

In the end, I managed to finish All I Want is You in about three days, all because I could barely put it down! I became addicted to Sophie and Lord Ashley's love story, and I couldn't wait to find out how they would resolve the many complications getting in the way of their relationship. One of these complications is the seductive and relentless Lady Beatrice, who will do anything to exploit those who get in the way of her plans.

There are plenty of sex scenes in the book and they can be quite graphic, though they are tastefully written. But, be warned, many are not for the squeamish!

In summary, All I Want is You is a wonderful, addictive tale of romance in an alternative 1920s England. If you enjoy an intense love story and don't mind some modern touches blended within a historical period, I'd highly recommend it. My only complaint now is having to wait for book two to find out what happens next!

Rating: 4 / 5