Category Archives: Before the Blog reviews

Before the Blog review – Don’t Tell the Groom by Anna Bell

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title –  Don’t Tell the Groom

Publisher – Quercus

Originally posted – Goodreads

Read – 15-21 December 2013

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Penny has big dreams for her wedding day. She wants an unforgettable celebration, perfect down to the last detail, and has been saving for ages to make her dream a reality. When Mark finally pops the question, it’s the best moment of her life.

Until Penny checks her wedding fund and is horrified to discover something has gone terribly wrong. There’s far less money than she’d thought… and it’s all her fault. She can’t tell Mark the truth about what she’s done, or admit how much time she spends gambling online. Her only choice is to seek help for her addiction and get married on a drastically smaller budget.

Working under the pretence of surprising Mark with her plans on their big day, operation ‘Don’t Tell the Groom’ rolls into action, with surprising, hilarious and often moving results.

Penny has dreamed about her perfect wedding for years. She has mood boards, Jimmy Choos and Vera Wang dresses constantly on her mind. The trouble is her boyfriend, Mark, as not yet proposed. When he does she is overjoyed. They had been saving for the wedding so Penny knows that her dream wedding will now become a reality. However when she looks at the bank statement instead of there being £15,000 there is only £5,000.

Penny knows that she occasionally plays online bingo but is astonished to discover she has lost over £10,000 to it. Instead of admitting this to Mark, she decides to plan the wedding on a budget and persuades Mark to go along with a ‘Don’t Tell the Groom’ theme.

I was sent a copy of this book by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

3.5 stars

I have to start off by saying that at first I found Penny to be an annoying character. I had little sympathy for her that she ‘only’ had £5,000 to spend on her wedding, though that may be because I know from experience you can have the perfect wedding day on such a budget. She appeared selfish and self serving at first, sad because she couldn’t have the expensive dress or shoes, or the doves released at the castle reception. She was only concerned in keeping her gambling secret from Mark and not what he would want for his wedding day, and missed the fact that the wedding was just one day, failing to see the important thing was the marriage ahead. This however may have been the point, or at least part of it. As the story progresses you see Penny come to realise that the fancy cars and designer dress is not what she actually wants. She confronts her gambling addiction, finds inspiration in the most unlikely of places and makes genuine friends along the way. When it looks like the wedding may not take place she realises what is truly important.

This is a fun, easy read, I found myself flying through it towards the end. There are lovely characters to be found, with Mark, who obviously loves Penny, Penny’s friends, both old and new and Nanny Violet, who’s a driving force in the story.

There is another book featuring Penny coming out soon ‘Don’t Tell the Boss’ which I look forward to reading.

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Before the Blog review – Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title –  Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

Publisher – Headline

Originally posted – Goodreads

Read – 10 – 13 August 2013

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“The incredible novel from the author of Oscar-nominated THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. For fans of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME and THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER.

A powerful and important book for fans of Mark Haddon, THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK and Jay Asher.

How would you spend your birthday if you knew it would be your last?

Eighteen-year-old Leonard Peacock knows exactly what he’ll do. He’ll say goodbye.

Not to his mum – who he calls Linda because it annoys her – who’s moved out and left him to fend for himself. Nor to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing the unthinkable. But to his four friends: a Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour, a teenage violin virtuoso, a pastor’s daughter and a teacher.

Most of the time, Leonard believes he’s weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he’s not. He wants to thank them, and say goodbye.

In this riveting and heart-breaking book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick introduces Leonard Peacock, a hero as warm and endearing as he is troubled. And he shows how just a glimmer of hope can make the world of difference.”

I received this book as part of the Goodreads First Read giveaway.

It’s Leonard Peacock’s 18th birthday. It’s also the day he’s going to shoot his former best friend and then kill himself. Abandoned by his parents, Leonard wants to say goodbye to the four people he counts as his friends.

Though the reason why Leonard wants to kill himself is heart wrenching (I won’t mention it here so as to avoid spoilers), another layer to the sadness is the loneliness that Leonard feels. His friends are an elderly Bogart fan, a violin playing fellow student, a pastor’s daughter and his Holocaust teacher, none of whom he really knows.

He’s highly intelligent in some respects – recognising genuine works of art and being in advanced English for example but child-like in others. He says to himself if someone just wishes him happy birthday he’ll not kill his best friend and himself.

Despite the not so easy to read topic the boom itself is surprisingly easy to read. I found myself alternating between wanting to give Leonard a good shake and wanting to give him a hug.

Not my normal read but I’m glad I read it. A thoughtful and thought-provoking read. As Leonard may say Ubergood.

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Before the Blog review – Truth or Dare? by Laura James

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title –  Truth or Dare

Publisher – Choc Lit

Originally posted – Goodreads

Read – 29 November 2013
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“Love’s a dangerous game…

Kate Blair’s sick of unrequited love. She’s quietly waited for Mickey for the past six years and finding a compass-carved heart, with their initials scratched through the middle, only strengthens her resolve: no more Mickey and no more playing it safe.

It’s time to take a chance on real love and Declan O’Brien’s the perfect risk. He’s handsome, kind and crazy about her so it’s not long before all thoughts of Mickey come few and far between.

But old habits die-hard. Kate may have started to forget … but has Mickey?”
Kate has been in love with her friend Mickey since she was 11. She thinks that he only thinks of her as another little sister and she’s never taken the next step as she didn’t want to ruin her relationship with his sister Rose, who is her best friend.

The story opens in 1989 when Kate and Rose are 22. Kate lives alone, controlling her life with an almost obsessive compulsive nature and suffering from anorexia. Rose moves from one man to the next never thinking that she will be ready to settle down.

Kate believes she will never find a man she will love as much as Mickey but then meets Declan, Mickey’s boss. She soon falls for him and finds the feeling is mutual. Rose, meanwhile, attends a business meeting little realising she’ll meet someone who will make her feel completely different about monogamy. Whilst all this goes on it appears that Mickey has gone missing…

This is not a typical romance story. I started out reading thinking I could predict the whole story and I was wrong. I don’t want to go into what happens in this review as I think this would spoil it but I’ll just say the story is not full of happiness and joy. Difficult topics are dealt with including alcoholism and anorexia and there are some downright loathsome characters.

I’ll admit that I felt uncomfortable at some of the storyline but I think this is simply because I wasn’t prepared for the type of story the author told. I am however glad that I took the opportunity to read this book and would like to thank the publishers for providing me with a copy for review purposes.

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Before the Blog review – United States of Love by Sue Fortin

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title –  United States of Love

Publisher – Harper Collins

Originally posted – Goodreads

Read – 20-23 October 2013

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“Since splitting from her husband, single mum Anna Barnes is enjoying her new found freedom and independence.

However, she didn’t bank on working for Tex Garcia – or the sparks that fly between them. The gorgeous American chef is getting the locals hot under the collar and not just because of his culinary prowess!

One problem: Tex can’t commit and women pass through his life like dishes going out to service! Will it be the same with Anna? One thing’s for sure, this All American man is determined to break her self-imposed rule of never mixing business with pleasure – and add some spice into the mix…”

I received a copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

3.5 stars if that were allowed on Goodreads.

Anna comes with baggage – a teenage son, three jobs and an ex husband who’s not quite got his head around the ex part. Tex is a love ’em and leave ’em American who hasn’t really recovered from the death of his wife and hides behind shallow relationships, cutting and running when things get too serious. He sees Anna at first as the next in a long line of conquests but she is adamant she won’t fall for his charms, particularly when she starts to work for him.

This is a different type of love story in that we know Anna and Tex get together quite soon in the book. The story is about how their relationship develops and how they get over the obstacles in the path to true love.

This is a gently paced story but with lots of story arches, showing a whole host of problems that cause the romance to hit rocky ground.

This is the author’s debut but she still clearly has her own style and voice, which can only grow with any further works from her.

I really enjoyed the scenes set in Texas on Tex’s ranch. In fact it would be great to see a sequel based around the ranch and it’s inhabitants!

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Before the Blog review – Death at Charity’s Point by William G. Tapply

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title – Death at Charity’s Point

Publisher – Mysterious Press

Originally posted – Goodreads

Read – 24-27 October 2013

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“Brady Coyne never meant to become a private lawyer to New England’s upper crust, but after more than a decade working for Florence Gresham and her friends, he has developed a reputation for discretion that the rich cannot resist. He is fond of Mrs Gresham – unflappable, uncouth and never tardy with a check – and he has seen her through her husband’s suicide and her first son’s death in Vietnam. But he has never seen her crack until the day her second son, George, leaps into the sea at jagged Charity’s Point.

The authorities call it a suicide, but Mrs Gresham cannot believe that her son, like his father, would take his own life. as Brady digs into the apparently blemish-free past of the upper-class prep school history teacher, he finds dark secrets. George Gresham may not have been suicidal, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t in trouble.”

Brady Coyne is a lawyer to the elite. He spends his days tending to the needs of the upper echelons of Boston society, be it registering patents for an elderly inventor or dealing with the custody battle of a dog and her pups. One of his more established clients is Florence Gresham. Florence first hired Brady 10 years ago to investigate the death of her eldest son Win, who was reported killed in the Vietnam war. That time all Brady could do was confirm Win’s death but Florence, practical and unflappable simply paid him his fee and retained his services ever since.

Nothing seems to phase Florence, not even the suicide of her husband Dudley. However, when her second son, George, also appears to commit suicide the facade begins to drop and Florence instructs Brady to look into the death of George, adamant he would not have committed suicide.

Brady, despite his misgivings, begins to delve closer into George’s death. At first all is as it would first appear. The Pathologist stands by his finding of suicide and the presence of a note supports this. Colleagues at the elite prep school George taught at can shed no light on why he would want to take his own life, nor can find a reason why someone would want to take it. However, about a quarter of the way through the book clues start to appear to hint that George’s death may not have been a suicide after all.

This is the first novel I have read by this author and so did not know what to expect. I forgot that this was written in 1984 and found it reminded me of Perry Mason.

This is quite a gently paced story, there are no car chases or shoot outs. I guessed where the story was heading but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it. Although the story was about the death of George he was almost a background character, with Brady being the main focus.

I enjoyed reading this and will definitely read more of this series.

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Before the Blog reviews – The Sentinel by Holly Martin

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title – The Sentinel

Publisher – Self published

Originally posted – Goodreads and Amazon

Read – 7-15 December 2013

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This book starts with a bang, literally and continues at the same pace. Eve is 17. Her world changes when the coach she is travelling on is involved in a horrific crash. As the coach teeters on the edge of a cliff she watches as her teachers seemingly do the impossible – they pull the coach to safety.

She soon finds out that she is The Sentinel, created to save the world and that all the people she has ever known are her Guardians, pledged to protect her from those who don’t want her to fulfil her destiny.

This is the debut novel of Holly and she provided me with a copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review.

This book reminded me of Twilight, despite being nothing like it! For want of a better explanation it seems to have the same `atmosphere’ as Stephanie Meyer’s series. Yes it is a paranormal young adult romance but that is really where the similarity ends.

Eve is a strong character, accepting almost without question that she is different and that the world is full of beings and creatures that humans are unaware of. She is perhaps a little too accepting, there are very few occasions where she questions what she is being told.

She perhaps has little time to do anything other than accept without too many questions as many attempts are made on her life, interspersed with learning her new powers and responsibilities, and of course falling in love. The love story between Eve and Seth is a core part of the story and a lovely journey as a reader to take. Eve comes across as a genuinely kind girl, whose natural instinct to care for others soon has an effect on her Guardians, who aren’t built for human emotions and she soon accepts that it is her destiny to save the world, even if it means dying in the process…

This is the first a series of books and as such sets the scene for the rest of the series but there’s plenty of action, love and story development to make it an excellent opener. It is well written, drawing you in from the beginning and I soon found myself on the final few pages, knowing that there wouldn’t be an ultimate denouement but eager to find out what would happen. I look forward to the next in the series and seeing what’s in store for Eve and her friends.

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Before the Blog Review – Not Another Happy Ending by David Solomons

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title – Not Another Happy Ending

Publisher – Mira

Originally posted – Goodreads and Amazon

Read – 10-11 Oct 2013

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I received a copy of this book from the publishers via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

I have to admit that before I received this book I was not aware of the film on which it is based so came to read it without any preconceptions.

Jane is a struggling writer, receiving rejection letter after rejection letter in response to her first manuscript entitled ‘The Endless Anguish of My Father’. Tom is the publisher who is looking for the book that will establish his company amongst the big publishing greats. Initially rejecting Jane’s novel he agrees to publish it, so long as she agrees to extensive re-writes. Working together on the re-writes brings the two closer together until Tom changes the title of novel and the two no longer speak.

The book is launched and becomes a best seller, throwing Jane into the limelight, and leaving her with the pressure of writing an equally amazing second novel. However the angst and sadness that drive Jane to write her first novel have apparently disappeared, she has a new boyfriend, Willie, who is adapting her first novel as a screen play and has reconciled with her father who had walked out on her in her 7th birthday. With the new found contentment in her life she suddenly finds she has writer’s block and is unable to finish the second novel.

Meanwhile Tom needs Jane’s next book. His company Tristesse is nearly broke and he’ll have to sell if the book isn’t finished and released soon. He finds out Jane is blocked and realises that the only way to get her writing again is to make her miserable. So he starts out on his quest to restore writing order with his flatmate Roddy in a madcap plan that includes kidnapping her umbrella plant and starting a fight on a bus.

I have to say I really enjoyed this book. There were places where I laughed out loud, Roddy in particular had some of the funniest lines and he and Tom made a good comedy duo.

There were some parts where I could guess what was going to happen but this didn’t detract from the book, in fact I think I would have been disappointed if my surmises had been wrong!

This book was adapted from the screenplay of the same name. Whilst I can imagine this book as a film it wasn’t at the forefront of mind whilst I read it. Having read books that weren’t based on screenplays but obviously written in the hope that they would be one day and been distracted by it. Thankfully that wasn’t the case here.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable, light-hearted, romantic and funny read.

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Before the Blog review – Sense & Sensibility – Joanna Trollope

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title – Sense & Sensibility

Publisher – Borough Press

Originally posted – on Mrsbbooks2011/blogspot.co.uk,  Goodreads and Amazon

Read – 13-14 Sept 2013

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“Two Sisters who could hardly be more different.
Elinor Dashwood, an architecture student, values discretion above all. Her impulsive sister Marianne displays her creativity everywhere, as she dreams of going to art school. But when the family finds itself forced out of Norland Park, their beloved home for twenty years, their values are severely put to the test.
Can Elinor remain stoic knowing that the man she likes has been ensnared by another girl? Will Marianne’s faith in love be shaken by meeting the hottest boy in the county? And when social media is the controlling force at play, can love ever triumph over conventions and disproval?”
4 of 5 stars

I was lucky to receive this copy from @writingatrosys via Twitter and am grateful to them and Harper Collins for allowing me an advanced copy. This review first appeared on Mrsbbooks2011/blogspot.co.uk

I’ll start by saying I love Jane Austen. Hers are the books I turn to when I don’t know what to read next. They never fail to re-ignite my love of books and remind me of the joy of reading. I am always wary of Austen inspired work because as good as some of them are they don’t tend to live up to the original. However I was intrigued to hear about The Austen Project launched by Harper Collins. Each of the six completed published works of Austen is being re-written by six literary greats, bringing them squarely into the 21st Century. The first offering is Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope.

The story remains the same. The Dashwood girls, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret lose their father and due to antiquated inheritance terms Norland, their home for 20 years passes to their half – brother John and his scheming wife Fanny. She wastes no time in moving into Norland and persuading John that the help to his sisters and stepmother he promised to his dying father amounts to nothing more than allowing them to live at Norland rent free until they find somewhere else.

The Dashwoods are soon offered a cottage by Sir John Middleton, a distant relative and they soon move to Devon. Each are leaving behind something that they love, for Margaret it is her private school, Marianne, Norland and for Elinor it is Edward Ferrars, the younger brother of Fanny, who disapproves of the friendship between the two.

Once ensconced in Barton Cottage the girls soon become involved in the comings and goings of the Middletons and Mrs Jennings, the mother-in-law of Sir John. Here they are introduced to Colonel Brandon who soon falls for Mariannne. She however believes him too old for her but soon falls for John ‘Wills’ Willoughby who rescues her when she suffers an asthma attack. A romance between the two quickly develops but just as quickly ends with Wills sudden departure, leaving Marianne heart broken.

Meanwhile Elinor is befriended by Lucy Steele, a friend of Mrs Jennings, who confides that she is secretly engaged to Edward Ferrars, the man Elinor can scarcely admit to herself she loves and with whom she now barely sees. For those of you who have read the original you know how the rest of the story goes, for those of you who haven’t I don’t want to spoil it by saying any more.

The difficulty with re-writing such a book and making it fit with 21st Century lifestyles is that many of the social conventions are no longer an issue. Ms Trollope deals with them deftly, showing that for some the most important thing is still money and status and not love. The use of modern conveniences felt natural, cars replaced carriages, the modern cottage replaced the old idea of Barton cottage to show how keenly the Dashwoods felt the loss of their old home and Facebook and Twitter replaced the newspapers and gossip grapevines utilised by Jane Austen. Nothing jars when reading the modern version as I thought it may.

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Before the Blog Review – Taking the Fall – AP McCoy

Title – Taking the Fall – AP McCoy

Publisher –Orion

Originally posted –Shaz’s book blog and  Goodreads

Read – 16 November to 3 December 2013

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“Duncan Claymore could have it all. He’s one of the country’s up-and-coming young jockeys and this year his sights are set on getting right to the top. He has the talent and the tenacity, but he also has his demons, and it’s these that threaten to overthrow his burning ambition.
Duncan was taught everything he knows by his father, Charlie, a former trainer whose career and reputation were destroyed when a series of bitter rivalries got out of hand. It ruined him and Charlie hasn’t been able to set foot on a racecourse since.

Now, with his father’s health rapidly declining, Duncan is desperate to beat the best and at the same time take down the men responsible for Charlie’s ruin. But can he do both or must he choose between his family and his future?”

3 of 5 stars

This review first appeared on www.shazsbookboudoir.blogspot.co.uk

I received a copy of this book from Sharon and the publishers and this is my honest review.

This is the first novel by champion jockey A.P. McCoy and he has naturally fallen back on his 18 year career in horse racing to set his first novel in the horse racing world.

The story is set in 1979 and focused on Duncan Claymore a young, cocky jockey. He has two dreams, to become Champion Jockey, and to get revenge on the three men who ruined his father. His dad, Charlie, was a horse trainer, who was small time, but after a series of wins, becomes more successful. But his success upsets some powerful men who set out, and succeed in ruining him. Now Charlie is suffering from dementia and Duncan wants to get revenge on the men who put an end to his dad’s racing career and for Charlie to know they have been brought to their knees. As Duncan becomes more successful on the track he comes closer and closer to his enemies but when it comes to his plans for revenge will he fall at the first hurdle?

This story is a fascinating insight into the racing world and I enjoyed this aspect of the book. It was good to follow Duncan become more successful as a jockey, finding a second family with his racing friends. I grew to like Duncan the more I read about him, he didn’t seem a very sympathetic character at first but his love for his father, horses and his friends soon shone through and I found myself wanting him to get his revenge – but not if it should cost him all the progress he had made in his own racing career.

I don’t want to go into details here as to what Duncan’s plan is to get revenge on his father’s enemies, or who those enemies are, as that would spoil the story.
I admit I didn’t class this as a traditional thriller, I didn’t feel that the pace was such as I would expect in such a novel but I did become more intrigued as to how Duncan would get his revenge as the storyline developed. This book would appeal to anyone who has an interest in horse racing but don’t let it put you off if you don’t. I had little knowledge about this before reading this novel but enjoyed reading this fictionalised account of the racing world.

I’d like to thank Orion Publishing for providing me with a review copy and Sharon for allowing me to guest review on her blog.

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Before the Blog Review – Tinder – Sally Gardner

Title – Tinder – Sally Gardner

Illustrated by David Roberts

Publisher –Indigo

Originally posted –Waterstones.com and Booklikes

Read – 27-31 October 2013

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“Otto Hundebiss is tired of war, but when he defies Death he walks a dangerous path. A half beast half man gives him shoes and dice which will lead him deep into a web of dark magic and mystery. He meets the beautiful Safire – pure of heart and spirit, the scheming Mistress Jabber and the terrifying Lady of the Nail. He learns the powers of the tinderbox and the wolves whose master he becomes. But will all the riches in the world bring him the thing he most desires?

Fairy tales are often the cruellest stories of all; in this exquisite novel Sally Gardner writes about great love and great loss.”

4 of 5 stars

I received an advance copy of this book from Waterstones.com in exchange for a review.

Otto Hundebiss is 18, a soldier in the 30 years war since he was 14. He’s seen his family slaughtered and killed his fair share of soldiers and civilians. One fog filled morning he sees the Spector of Death walking towards him, the ghosts of dead comrades and enemies walking behind him.

Escaping Death he runs into the forest, soon loosing consciousness due to his wounds. He awakes to be faced by a strange man wearing clothes that make him look like a beast. This half beast half man treats his wounds and before he departs gives Otto dice he must use to show him which direction to take next.

Throwing the dice Otto sets off on his journey into the unknown, going deeper into the forest where dangers, both human and animal, are always present. He soon comes across two mercenaries and, driven by hunger is contemplating how he can overcome both of them in his weak state. Whilst he watches them, waiting for them to fall asleep he sees a man. At this Otto steps out to fight the soldiers too. To his horror the man appears to turn into a wolf, chasing after the soldiers. Otto is left in fear, especially when he hears cries of terror from deeper in the woods. He soon runs off into the forest.

It is here he meets Safire, a girl with flame red hair and with whom he falls in love with. She soon vanishes and he sets off in search of her. On his journey he comes into contact with the Lady of the Nail, a malevolent sorceress who tricks him into facing three wolves to recover a tinderbox. But what is so special about this plain old tinderbox and how can it help him find Safire?

This story is based on the fairy tale The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Anderson. I am not familiar with this fairy tale but after reading Tinder I will be seeking it out.

This is a deliciously dark tale. It has an ethereal quality to it and not just because it is a tale of werewolves and magic. Yes it has a love story in it and yes werewolves are involved but this is no Twilight.

The author’s use of imagery is brilliant. I could easily imagine the fog filled battlefronts, dark forests and narrow streets of Safire’s home city. The final published version will contain 100 pages of illustrations by David Roberts. The sample illustrations in the proof copy show how good these will be. They perfectly matched my imagination which shows the talent of the the storyteller and the illustrator.

This is labelled as a YA book. There is some language and are some scenes that may not be suitable for the younger end of this age range but I feel that this book would appeal to older readers just as much and will appeal to readers of both genders.

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