the-last-beginningTitle: The Last Beginning (The Next Together, #2)

Author: Lauren James

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Walker Books

The Blurb

The epic conclusion to Lauren James’ debut The Next Together about true love and reincarnation.

Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives. But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history?

Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation? For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future.

The Review

The Last Beginning is the follow up to The Next Together which was, personally, my most surprising read of the year. It was surprising because I never expected to really enjoy a Time Travel Sci-Fi Historical YA Romance but I genuinely did. I also loved the small novella Another Together that accompanied The Next Together. The third in the series is also pretty awesome.

The Last Beginning follows Clove, the child of Matt and Kate. Clove has no idea that her parents Tom and Jen are not her birth parents and when she finds out who her actual parents are a whole can of worms (wormholes) is opened and it is up to Clove to fix things.

I genuinely loved The Last Beginning. I loved it for many reasons; the first being that I don’t feel like James was flogging a dead horse. She did a sequel which introduced a new protagonist but claimed the original story thread. That is impressive as is the ability to plan ahead with a story. Time travel is a phenomenon that when I think about it too much my head gets all lost in the paradox but James addresses this and it all seems to work out. Huzzah.

Seriously though, The Next Together series is ridiculously good. It is clever, witty and engaging. If you like your YA fiction to be a bit different then you must read this series.

The Last Beginning (The Next Together, #2) by Lauren James.

For more information regarding Lauren James (@Lauren_E_James) please visit www.laurenejames.com.

For more information regarding Walker Books (@WalkerBooksUK) please visit www.walker.co.uk.

4-stars

 

The People We Were Before Book CoverThe Blurb

If war is madness, how can love survive?

Yugoslavia, summer 1979. A new village. A new life. But eight-year-old Miro knows the real reason why his family moved from the inland city of Knin to the sunkissed village of Ljeta on the Dalmatian Coast, a tragedy he tries desperately to forget.

The Ljeta years are happy ones, though, and when he marries his childhood sweetheart, and they have a baby daughter, it seems as though life is perfect. However, storm clouds are gathering above Yugoslavia.

War breaks out, and one split-second decision destroys the life Miro has managed to build. Driven by anger and grief, he flees to Dubrovnik, plunging himself into the hard-bitten world of international war reporters.

There begins a journey that will take him ever deeper into danger: from Dubrovnik, to Sarajevo, to the worst atrocities of war-torn Bosnia, Miro realises that even if he survives, there can be no way back to his earlier life. The war will change him, and everyone he loves, forever.

The Review

Wow. What can I say about The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe? My mind has been blown apart by this novel.

Ok, let’s start here:

I was born in 1983. I was raised in Liverpool and I have spent my years trying to consume as much information and knowledge as I could. Yet I knew nothing about the war in Kosovo. Sure I had heard about it on the news but I was too little to comprehend what was happening. This book, The People We Were Before, has changed that somewhat. I’m shocked at my ignorance of a genocide that took place in my lifetime and I knew absolutely nothing about it. Nothing.

The People We Were Before could be described in many ways: a family saga, a romance, a thriller, historical fiction, war story. It cannot be pigeonholed into just one category.

Thorpe’s story focuses on Miro, a young boy whose family has just moved to the Dalmatian Coast with his family amidst the stirrings of political strife. The story develops along with Miro’s change from boy into man; the trials and tribulations that grown up life bring shakes Miro’s world to the very core and his life mirrors the chaos of the warzone that is developing in Dubrovnik.

Thorpe’s character development is tremendous. I truly felt the familial ties between Miro and his brother Goran, I enjoyed the friendships that Miro developed and I fell hopelessly for his love story with Dina. I became part of the story with them. When an author can so seamlessly transport me to another world I know that I am reading something pretty special.

Whilst normally I am a character driven reader it was the descriptions of the abject horrors of war that really packed a punch with me. The panic and the mayhem that Thorpe portrays in The People We Were Before is astounding. My heart was beating wildly throughout most of the book as I felt true panic for Miro and co.

The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe is the most ambitious debut I have read in a long time and fortunately for Thorpe she delivers.

The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe is available now.

5 Stars

The People We Were Before Tour Poster

A Week in ParisThe Blurb

A captivating story of love, courage and survival set in wartime Paris and the early 1960s, by the bestselling author of The Silent Tide

1961: Born on the day that WW2 broke out, 21-year-old Fay Knox cannot remember her early childhood in London, before she moved to a Norfolk village with her mother, Kitty. Though she has seen a photograph of her father, she does not recall him either. He died, she was told, in an air raid, and their house destroyed along with all their possessions. Why then, on a visit to Paris on tour with her orchestra, does a strange series of events suggest that she spent the war there instead? There is only one clue to follow, an address on the luggage label of an old canvas satchel. But will the truth hurt or heal?

1937: Eugene Knox, a young American doctor, catches sight of 19-year-old Kitty Travers on the day she arrives in Paris, and cannot get her out of his mind. She has come to study the piano at the famed Conservatoire, and lodges at a convent near Notre Dame. Eugene and Kitty will fall in love, marry and have a daughter, but France’s humiliating defeat by Germany is not far behind, and the little family must suffer life under Nazi occupation. Some Parisians keep their heads down and survive, others collaborate with the enemy while others resist. The different actions of Eugene, Kitty and their friends will have devastating consequences that echo down the generations.

The Review

I’ve never been an avid reader of historical novels. In part, this is due to the fact that I only have interest in certain parts of history (I know, I’m awful). I think my aversion to historical fiction, in particular to wartime fiction has been that my mother tends to read nothing but. However, I am not one to be prejudice and I gave Rachel Hore’s A Week in Paris a read.

I must say, A Week in Paris is a wonderful, heartbreaking, and harrowing story of a young family trying to survive occupied France and the repercussions that are still felt nearly two decades later. The characters are wonderfully crafted as is the tale of mystery.

However, I personally found sections of this book a bit of a chore to read. For me, the pacing was all wrong which is a shame because the actual story is rather interesting and the factual element made it all the more compelling.

If you like historical fiction then please give A Week in Paris a read – more so if you are interested in wartime France.

A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore is available now.

35 Stars

Title: Darkwood

Author: Rosemary Smith

Pages: 99 Pages

The Blurb

In the Spring of 1865, Silvia Harvey travels to Dartmoor.
She is to meet her fiancée, her cousin Gareth.
It is a match enthusiastically arranged by her family, as were the marriages of her mother and grandmother.
But Silvia’s hopes of a whirlwind romance are quickly quashed.
Gareth, though handsome, is cold and aloof. He has pale blue eyes that his smile has never reached.
Arriving at the historical house of Darkwood, Silvia finds herself increasingly isolated by her fiancée’s distance from her.
Matters are made worse by the presence of the lovely Estelle Benedict, who is as cruel as she is beautiful.
Left to her own devices, Sylvia explores the many rooms of the grand building, and finds a painting of her beloved grandmother Lizzie.
The face has been cruelly slashed, and she worries of the real story behind her grandmother’s fate…
Can Lizzie uncover the true history of the old house which seems to haunt its corridors?
Can she warm the heart of Gareth, and free him from the grasp of the vicious Estelle?
It will take a strong spirit to lay bare the secrets of Darkwood…

The Review

Darkwood is a historical romance which is set within the confines of a familial estate. Two cousins, Sylvia and Gareth, are set to have an arranged marriage due to a clause in their spiteful grandfather’s will.

Before the wedding, Sylvia sets out to find out the secrets of Darkwood and the details of her beloved grandmother’s passing. She is also determined to ensure that she is marrying for love and not just for money.

On the surface the plot of Darkwood seems like an excellent read. It has passion, drama, family feuds and romance; unfortunately, the promise of a great story is let down by a few things. Firstly, the story is very rushed. For example the character of Gareth – who to begin with is frosty and arrogant – suddenly changes with no real explanation or character development. Secondly, the writing reads like an instruction manual – then I went outside, then I pulled my coat closer, then I got in the carriage etc. It was clunky and uncomfortable.

I do believe that Darkwood, in the right writer’s hand, could have been excellent. Unfortunately, it fell a little flat.

Darkwood by Rosemary Smith is available now.

Darkwood

Synopsis

It is early in the 20th Century and the times are changing. For Hazel Louise Mull-Dare the changes are having a massive impact. She was there the day that Emily Davison was knocked down by a horse at the Epsom Derby and from that moment on she becomes obsessed with the rights and wrongs of the world.

Having lived an extremely sheltered life, Hazel – the daughter of a gentleman – looks at the world with wide eyed optimism and ends up landing herself in a spot of bother when she befriends the wrong sort of girl. Her life is further awash with turmoil when her father loses all of their money (and potentially their social status through gambling. It is these outside factors (among plenty of others) that force Hazel Louise Mull-Dare to grow up and to take stock of what is really happening in the world.

Review

Hazel is the second book that I have read by Julie Hearn and I have to say I liked it more than Rowan the Strange. It pains me to say that because I really enjoyed Rowan the Strange; as did the KS3 students that I read it with two years ago. Once again, Hearn has come up trumps. She has a brilliant ability to create believable and likeable historical fiction for children.

What is marvellous about Hearn’s style is that she uses history and the social changes to mirror the protagonist. In this case, the protagonist Hazel is growing up and becoming a young woman in a time when women were coming into their own. They were fighting for the vote and trying to gain independence; Hazel’s life has been so very sheltered that she gains independence through knowledge. As she learns the secrets of her family, the truth about so-called “friends” and the realities of what is expected of young women she becomes more and more incensed to have control.

It is this sort of fiction that is vital for young adults. Exposing young adults to fiction with a factual base is key to peaking curiosity and helping them realise the “what” and “when” of how modern day society was created and the sacrifices that people made; in this particular case, the fight for votes by the Suffragettes.

Hazel by Julie Hearn is available now.