Monday 22 July 2013

Review: A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet.

Yet James couldn't resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.

Soon the two were inseparable and their diverse, comic and occasionally dangerous adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other's troubled pasts.

A Street Cat Named Bob is a moving and uplifting story that will touch the heart of anyone who reads it. (via Goodreads)

A Street Cat Named Bob tells the true story of how the lives of an unlikely duo – a former addict turned street musician and a streetwise ginger tomcat – became enriched after a chance encounter. Through Bob's presence, James is given a sense of responsibility which propels them both towards a future more loving, structured, and hopeful than ever.

I came to really love Bob and his very unique personality. I don't think I've heard of a cat with such natural patience and intuition, and you can clearly feel the bond between him and James. I also really appreciated reading an insider's perspective on the lives of people who live and work on the streets. My views on buskers, Big Issue sellers, and other street dwellers have certainly changed, and I'm going to make sure to show them more courtesy next time I'm out and about.

But that's not to say that A Street Cat Named Bob was perfect. The writing isn't particularly well-crafted, and I did note a cliché or two. However, to pay too much attention to this would be to miss the heart and honesty of the story and storyteller. And this is certainly a very honest book with a lot of heart.

Overall, A Street Cat Named Bob is an eye-opening tale about a man who found new hope through the unwavering love of a feline companion. If you're an animal lover who's looking for an easy summer read, I highly recommend this.

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Review: The Girl Behind the Fan by Stella Knightley [Hidden Women trilogy, book 2]

Warning: There are spoilers beyond this point. Check out my review of The Girl Behind the Mask first.

Hurt and confused by the sudden end of her strange love affair with Venetian millionaire Marco Donato, Sarah Thomson is persuaded to take her bruised heart to Paris by her ex-boyfriend Steven, who is hoping for a reconciliation. While she and Steven rekindle their psychologically and sexually tortured relationship, Sarah tries to forget her yearning for Marco by throwing herself into a new project: a study of the life of notorious nineteenth-century courtesan, Augustine Levert, whose sensual charms parted many a man from his fortune.

But when her life begins to parallel Augustine's story, Sarah realises she will never erase Marco from her heart. Faced with a choice between safety and overwhelming passion, will both women make the right decision? (via Goodreads)

Though it started off a little slowly, it wasn't long before I found The Girl Behind the Fan even more absorbing than its predecessor.

Much like The Girl Behind the Mask, there's a good balance between the stories, and the switches in perspective are well-timed. I loved how a few of the latter chapters would end on a cliffhanger for one of the girls and, instead of immediately finding out what happens to her, the next chapter changes its perspective to the other girl. Sure, I might have cursed the book at the time, but I quickly realised this as a fantastic way of creating suspense.

But that's not to say that there's a shortage of suspense within the rest of the novel. The Girl Behind the Fan is darker than the previous instalment, what with the return of Sarah's ex-boyfriend Steven and the introduction of Augustine Levert's turbulent life, so there are a variety of uneasy, and sometimes shocking, occurrences.

I also loved Augustine. Her narrative is utterly compelling and at times heartbreaking, so I couldn't help but feel an attachment to her. Be prepared to have some tissues to hand whilst reading her point-of-view!

Altogether, The Girl Behind the Fan continues Sarah's unique tale with great sensuality, intelligence, history, and a beautifully realised Paris. By then end of it, you'll be begging for the next book – I know I am!

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday 15 July 2013

Closed for entries | Win Romancing the Bookworm swag or an giftcard! {International}


In celebration of her latest novel, Romancing the Bookworm, I've teamed up with the wonderful Kate Evangelista to bring you this fantastic giveaway!

There are two prizes up for grabs. The first is a Romancing the Bookworm swag pack filled with all sorts of goodies (see pic) and the other is a $10 giftcard.

To be in with a chance to win, simply complete the tasks on the Rafflecopter form below. You have between 15th July and 1st August at 12am (London time).

This giveaway is also international. Woohoo!

Also, if you want to know more about Romancing the Bookworm, read my interview with Kate here.

Good luck, everyone!

Saturday 13 July 2013

Review: The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

Yellow fog is swirling through the streets of London, and Sherlock Holmes himself is sitting in a cocaine-induced haze until the arrival of a distressed and beautiful young lady forces the great detective into action. Each year following the strange disappearance of her father, Miss Morstan has received a present of a rare and lustrous pearl. Now, on the day she is summoned to meet her anonymous benefactor, she consults Holmes and Watson. (via Goodreads)

This was my first foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes and I absolutely loved it!

Though it was written in the 19th century, a time noted for its long novels, The Sign of Four is fast-paced and very easy to read. There’s no superfluous information – the reader is given the necessary facts and developments in an orderly and effective fashion, with remarkable descriptions and delightful humour thrown in along the way.

But it’s far from a mindless read. Through prompts and questions from Sherlock Holmes, a teacher among other talents, Watson, the narrator, must fill in the blanks even when the former already knows the answer. He wants Watson to use his brain too and this, in turn, encourages the person reading.

The mystery itself is a very exotic one involving a disappearance, a few Indians, some Asian islanders, and valuable treasure. But if that’s not enough to keep you entertained, just leave it to the wonderfully quirky characters. Watson is lovable and inquisitive, and he always manages to ask the right questions. Holmes is a remarkable master of all trades, and his innovative thinking never fails to induce a sense of wonder.

Altogether, The Sign of Four is an impeccably written mystery filled with never-ending wit, excitement, beautifully described locations, fantastic characters, and plenty of puzzles. I can’t wait to read more of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's masterpieces!

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Saturday 6 July 2013

Vintage Paris in postcards

Paris. I love Paris. And lately it seems as though Paris is everywhere, including amidst the storylines of several books that I have lined up to peruse over the coming weeks. Let's just call this 'The Coincidental Summer of French Reading'! Not that I'm complaining – it has, after all, been nearly a year since my last visit, so there must be something subliminal going on here.

But in addition to visiting this romantic city vicariously through the printed word, my vintage postcard collection appears to only have created space at present for those sporting Parisian photographs taken during the early to mid 20th century. Thank goodness eBay has plenty of these to whet my appetite!

So, I thought I'd share a few of my favourites here.

I love trying to find (or create) a story behind each photograph. Perhaps one day I'll use some of these as inspiration for a novel...?

Click on any postcard to enlarge the image













Monday 1 July 2013

Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth [Divergent Trilogy, book 2]

One choice can transform you, or destroy you. Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love. (via Goodreads)

Well, this is more like it!

While Divergent took me around a week to finish, I read Insurgent in just over 24 hours! It's safe to say, then, that this is definitely my favourite out of the two. There were so many occasions in which I felt absolutely compelled to read on, and I hated having to emerge from my Kindle to do things like sleep!

The stakes are even higher in Insurgent, and the plot is a lot faster. Many of the events which happen at the end of Divergent are brought into wider context and are addressed in some fashion, and Tris must figure out ways to deal with the repercussions of her actions. The results are mind-blowing, exciting and, occasionally, tragic – I lost count of the amount of times I muttered, 'Oh my God' and fist-punched the air!

And I continue to love these three-dimensional characters; particularly Four. Like Tris, I crave his presence and savour their interactions. Their romance is probably my favourite out of any young-adult novel I've read (and, for once, there's no love triangle!). There are also many new faces, as the reader is transported directly into the heart of new factions (and non-factions) only mentioned in Divergent.

I truly admire Veronica Roth for creating such a world. It's unique, well-timed, full of wisdom, wit, intelligence, and it's completely unpredictable. Plus, with Insurgent, she's managed to accomplish what a lot of authors haven't – she has composed a central novel in a trilogy even better than the first.

Now, just two parting thoughts:
  1. Why, oh why, isn't Allegiant out until October? I need more... stat!
  2. I have a serious Post-ridiculously-great-read Hangover. What the hell am I going to read next?!

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Bloglovin' time!

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Happy July, fellow book lovers!

This is just a quick post to let you know that I'm now on Bloglovin' – a clean, simple website where you can follow and keep up-to-date with all your favourite blogs.

I realise I'm a little late posting this, as Google Reader is officially shut down today, but better late than never, right? So if you want to follow my posts using Bloglovin' just click on the bird on the left (or the button on the right!). See you there!