Book Review: Yesterday’s Sun by Amanda Brooke

I always make a point of checking out books from Richard and Judy’s book club, so when I saw the newest selection in Smiths recently I had a quick browse. Yesterday’s Sun by Amanda Brookes caught my eye because of the pretty cover and the recommendation on the front from author Katie FForde claiming it ‘Magical and Unputdownable’. When I read the synopsis describing the story of a woman offered a glimpse into her future by a mysterious Moondial I was sold.

Holly and Tom have just moved into their dream home and are about to embark on a new five year plan. For Tom this involves a family, but after a childhood of neglect and bitterness Holly isn’t so sure. When she comes across a box containing a glass orb and strange mechanical objects during the renovations, Holly doesn’t know what to make of them. Until it becomes clear that they belong to the stone sculpture Tom unearthed and plans on using as the centerpiece of their large gardens in the belief it’s a sundial. But when elderly neighbour Jocelyn tells Holly it’s actually a moondial, Holly is intrigued. One night when the moon is at it’s fullest Holly feels an irrisistable draw to the moondial and places the glass orb into the mechanical contraption she painstakingly put together. She isn’t prepared for what happens next. For Holly is offered a glimpse into her future. One which includes a beautiful baby daughter and for the first time Holly feels the stirrings of maternal instinct. But something is wrong with the picture of the future. It doesn’t include her at all. Holly must work out if she can change her destiny, or will it become a choice of Holly’s life for her daughter’s?

I love time travel stories. I love real life settings with a magical twist. I thought I was onto a winner with this one, it contained both elements and sounded incredibly emotional too. Unfortunatly this one fell short and left me disappointed.

I encounted problems very early on in the book. Amanda Brookes writing is very readable, but personally I didn’t find it at all convincing. Holly and Tom are in their early thirties, yet I’ve never met anyone of this age who talks the way they do. They just weren’t believable at all. Secondly, it’s a bit of cliche overload to the point of being cringeworthy at times. Finally it’s so sickly sweet, the scenes between Tom and Holly left me wanting to gag. If the writing wasn’t so easy going I would have given up very early on. Besides, I really wanted to know what the deal with the moondial was.

I actually thought the premise was a really good one. Imagine being offered a glimpse into a future which didn’t include you and the only way to save yourself was to sacrifice someone else? The workings and history of the moondial are what kept me going and were at times fascinating. But as Holly wasn’t interested in having children in the first place I wondered what message Amanda Brookes was sending out here. Tom is very persuasive and pressurising towards Holly in the early pages regarding her having children and Holly’s emotional attachment to the child she glimpses in the future is immediate. Is she saying that a womans role is purely motherhood? I’m not sure. I didn’t get it.

Maybe the book lacked a little emotional involvement for me. It’s written in a third person narraitive from Holly and tells rather than shows Holly’s turmoil. Again I thought the over sentimentalaity and outdated character speach distanced me. It felt like I was supposed to find this story heartrendingly sad but the truth is I didn’t. And I’m the biggest wuss going and cry at anything usually. I also saw the plot twist coming about 100 pages before it happened, convinced myself it couldn’t be that obvious and read on to find it actually was.

I did like the wise old neighbour Jocelyn however. She’s a figure of strength and the little glimpses into her story were fascinating. In fact, this is whose story I wanted to hear full stop. Everyone else were charicatures, and old fashioned ones at that and I didn’t like any of them. The other plus is that this is a pretty short book. It’s only just over 300 pages and an easy quick read to pass a couple of hours. Overall though this book wasn’t for me. Too syruppy, no emotional connection and the story was the wrong one, from the wrong person.

Published by Harper (Uk) January 2012

Dave Cousin’s Fifteen Days Without A Head Blog Tour

Today it’s our stop on Dave Cousin’s Fifteen Days Without a Head blog tour to celebrate publication of his book of the same name. Over to you Dave:

A Day in the Life of an Author – Photo Story! 
7:30 Get up, feed the cats. Make tea. 


8:00 Shower 
8:30 Get dressed to face arctic conditions in my attic workroom. 

9:00 Check e-mail and schedule for the day. 

9:30 Writing (in my special Word Wig and Cap of Inspiration) 

11:00 “Whose round is it?” Make tea. 

11:15 Writing not going so well. I knew I shouldn’t have removed the Word Wig. 

11:30 Book delivery saves me from further torment. Martha does a quick check for illegal substances. 

12:00 Lunch with author friends from The Edge. More tea. (left to right: me, Katy Dale, Sara Grant, Bryony Pearce, Miriam Halahmy) 

1:00 Off to do a school author visit, loaded up with props. 

5:00 Back for a well-earned cuppa. 

5:30 Check e-mail and update website. 

8:00 Catch train into London for book launch. 

12:00 The end of another exhausting day in the life of an author. Bed.

Two brothers. One cartoon dog. And a load of trouble.

Meet Laurence, fifteen years old and six feet tall. Very soon, he’ll dress up as his mum and impersonate a dead man on the radio. Meet Jay, his six year old brother. He looks like an angel but thinks he’s a dog. He’ll sink his teeth into anyone who gets in the way. Today is Tuesday and the next fifteen days will change the boys’ lives for ever.

Published January 2012 by Oxford University Press

Check HERE for my review of this brilliantly funny and touching book!

Book Review: 15 Days Without A Head by Dave Cousins

Fifteen year old Laurence hasn’t had the best upbringing. With an alcoholic mum and a six year old brother Jay who thinks he’s Scooby Doo he’s left to pick up the pieces in their chaotic life more often than not. But when their Mum doesn’t come home one night, Laurence has to face his biggest challenge yet. Over Fifteen days Laurence does everything he can to keep their dysfunctional family together, but with no money and a nosy neighbour poking their nose in it isn’t easy. Dreading the authorities getting involved and the thought of being separated from Jay, can he get his mother back before anyone finds out and the family is torn apart for good?

Until I started reading this book I had very little idea of it’s subject so was somewhat surprised to find such a powerful and touching story. This is a very real story of neglect and life with an alcoholic parent and one I’m sure too many children across the globe live with everyday. My heart went out to Laurence, who at fifteen years old has to be parent to his younger sibling for most of his childhood. With a responsibility a lot of adults couldn’t cope with and zero resources, I admired his loyalty and determination to to keep his younger brother with him. 

This could quite easily have been a depressing read, but with Dave Cousins humour it has plenty of moments of lightness which had me laughing out loud at times. In one scene where, in his desperation to get money from his savings account, he tries dressing up as his mother, I was almost crying with laughing. The author has a natural comedic talent and the brothers plight is made all the more poignant by moments like this. I also felt very angry at times while reading this book, that a mother could just abandon her children for the sake of a drink. Yet Laurence never waivers in his support and belief in her. He recognises her alcoholism as an illness and his insight into it is thought provoking.  

15 Days Without A Head is one of those books that encourage thought and education about it’s topics without you even realising. Despite it’s dark subject I found it quite uplifting and hopeful by the end. A brilliant book that I’ll be encouraging my own teenager to read and one I recommend highly. 

Published by OUP January 2012
Thanks to the publishers for sending an advance copy for review. 

Book Review: The Night Before Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

All Lydia’s ever wanted is a perfect Christmas… 

So when her oldest friends invite her to spend the holidays with them, it seems like a dream come true. She’s been promised log fires, roasted chestnuts, her own weight in mince pies – all in a setting that looks like something out of a Christmas card. 

But her winter wonderland is ruined when she finds herself snowed in with her current boyfriend, her old flame and a hunky stranger. Well, three (wise) men is traditional at this time of year… (From

A few weeks ago I found myself making a nightmare journey by train all in the name of childcare. Four times. On one of my bad tempered treks across the country I realised I’d forgotten to pack a book, and considering I had 3 hours to pass without a child panic set in. With Tesco being the nearest and only open shop that sold books that’s where I headed. It’s only a small shop though and had a limited selection of books but this one appealed with it’s stunningly pretty cover and festive synopsis. 

My forgetfulness turned into a blessing though as I thoroughly enjoyed Scarlet Bailey’s debut novel from beginning to end. This is chick lit at it’s best and ticks every single box. A likable and relatable heroine, an awkward situation with hilarious and cringeworthy moments and not one but three potential love interests. Throw into the mix three interesting and different girl friends, an emotional birth and CHRISTMAS and this is a winner. If you’re a fan of chick lit then you’ll love this one. 

One thing which pleasantly surprised me was the setting of Keswick in the Lake District. I spent a couple of the best years of my life living there and now live just half an hours drive away, but never have I come across a book set in this part of the world. I loved how Scarlett Incorporated the area into the story, bringing it to life with genuine passion and even throwing in a bit of local dialect which made me chuckle. I do have one issue though. Why in all the time I’ve spent here have I failed to find myself a Will Dacre (whose surname even lends itself nicely to the area)? *Swoon indeed!* Moody, broody and earthy, I LOVED him. 

I also loved the fact that the book is set over a few days of Christmas. Often a *Christmassy* looking book like this only features the season briefly but this is full on festive right the way through. All the tensions, romance and humour of Christmas are captured beautifully and I went from laughing to sympathising to feeling all warm and fuzzy throughout. The story moves at a fast pace and I couldn’t put it down and after my train journey stayed up into the small hours just devouring it. 

The Night Before Christmas absolutely hits the spot if you’re looking for a lighthearted romantic festive comedy. Despite being Scarlett Bailey’s debut I found the pacing, writing and character development accomplished and confident. It was a joy of a read which left me feeling happy and cosy, delivering everything I wanted…with tinsel. I’ll certainly be looking out for more from this author in the future and recommend you treat yourself this book to curl up with over Christmas. You won’t be disappointed.

Published by Ebury Press October 2011

Book Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

In the beginning, there’s a boy standing in the trees . . . .
Clara Gardner has recently learned that she’s part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn’t easy.
Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there’s another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara’s less angelic side.
As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she’d have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?
Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart. (From

I’ve read a fair few Angel themed books over the last year, so it was going to take something pretty special to blow me away. Fortunately, Unearthly was just that. Beautifully written, captivating and with it’s very own twist, it was everything I’d hoped for and more. 

In Cynthia Hand’s debut novel we meet Clara, who is aware she is part Angel and has a purpose to fulfill on earth. I liked how this time we have a lead character who already knows what she is, there’s no journey of self discovery here as such and despite her awkwardness, she’s a strong solid character. She’s incredibly believable and easy to relate to too, suffering the same insecurities as other teens despite her super powers making her good at everything. This is used to cause conflict in Clara’s life as she attempts to hide them and not stand out. In fact Clara is played down quite a lot in this book and comes across as pretty much a very ordinary girl, which makes the fact she is special all the more exciting.

One of my favourite aspects of the book was the relationship between Clara and her small but tightly knit family. Her Mum is wise, caring, cool and a little bit of a pain in the butt all at once She’s a woman (or half Angel) with quiet strength and fierce loyalty to her children. I love how she isn’t over looked as a character. Given a fascinating back-story of her own, she isn’t just the ‘required parent’ but very much a part of this story. I also really loved the interactions between Clara and her younger brother, Jeffrey. I thought the sibling relationship was portrayed fantastically, reminding me of my own with my brother.

I also LOVED the Love Triangle in this book. Usually I find it very easy to pledge my allegiance to one side or another in love triangles. This time though my heart shifted between charismatic Christian and broody cowboy Tucker. Actually, the cowboy bit may have just swung it in the end 😀 While there’s nothing particularly new about this tug of love, it is well written and builds nicely.  It will certainly get your pulse racing with it’s 2 for 1 swoonliness and what more can you ask for really? 

Unearthly was more than I expected and has easily won it’s place as one of my top angel themed books. With a fresh take on Angel Mythology and a mysterious plot revealing some unexpected twists it’s addictive reading. I flew through it in one sitting and left thinking ‘wow!’ And luckily it doesn’t stop there, the ending sets up nicely for a sequel, Hallowed, due for release next year. Final thoughts on Unearthly? It’s Divine…and I highly recommend it!

Published by Egmont (UK) May 2011
Many thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.

Book Review: Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien

After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.

Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.
Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, BIRTHMARKED explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where one girl can make all the difference, and a real hero makes her own moral code. (From

Birthmarked is a book which pre-reading was on my radar but not a ‘must have’. I thought it sounded interesting but wasn’t overly excited about, perhaps because it sounded similar in many ways to a lot of other books I’d read in recent months. I ended up buying it when using an amazon voucher, with a few pounds left over and it being one of the cheapest books on my wishlist, meaning I wouldn’t over spend. However reading it completely surprised me and I actually think this book is a real gem, one which deserves a little more hype and shouting about because it is really very good.

Caragh O’Brien captures in Birthmarked some of my favourite qualities of dystopian fiction: poetically beautiful prose, a strong brave lead character and most importantly a believable world. It isn’t a flashy romance or an action packed epic, though there is a little bit of that, but reminds me more in style of Carrie Ryan’s The Forest Of Hands And Teeth in many way, minus the zombies obviously. The setting is desolate, the society almost cult like and the situation utterly convincing and shocking.

Gaia is a fantastically created character. She’s clever, brave and strong and her story captured me from the beginning. Within the first few pages we see her question her society and I knew I was going to love her. In many ways an unlikely heroine, her humbleness and quiet strength appeals greatly. Although the story is largely centered on Gaia’s struggle there is just the right amount of romance, and while it is definitely not the focus of the story, it is tragically intense…just the way I like them.

Everything about this book was a win for me. The pacing is perfect throughout, swooping easily between thought provoking and quiet poignancy to breath stopping action and gut wrenching romance. For the duration of this story I was immersed in Gaia’s world to the point everything around me faded into the background, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from it. If like me you’ve been dithering over this book then my advice is go for it. If you’ve been dismissing it as another fluffier, romance driven dystopia, it’s not. This one has real meat on it’s bones. With the promise of an exciting sequel, Caragh O’Brien is an author I’ll be watching out for in the future.

Published May 2011 by Simon & Schuster UK. 

Book Review: Die For Me by Amy Plum

My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything.

Suddenly, my sister, Georgia, and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent.
Mysterious, sexy, and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen.
Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies . . . immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind.
While I’m fighting to piece together the remnants of my life, can I risk putting my heart—as well as my life and my family’s—in jeopardy for a chance at love? (From

Yes I’ve said it before; I am a sucker for a pretty cover. And just look at this one…beautiful * sigh * How could you not lust after such a gorgeous book? The appeal doesn’t end there though. Reading the synopsis had me drooling. A tragic heroine…check, mysterious and handsome hero…check, stunning setting of OMG Paris! …check check! Amy Plum’s debut seemed to have it all.

Die For Me brings something new to the YA paranormal genre…Revenants. I had no idea what a revenant would be and part of the fun of this book was discovering just that, so I’m not going to spill any beans there. I loved the idea behind them though and thoroughly enjoyed discovering their secrets.

The book starts off fantastically and is incredibly readable; in fact I read it in just a couple of easy sittings. I liked main character Kate and got behind her right away. She’s a loner and struggles to make friends, hiding behind her vivacious sisters limelight. She reminded me a lot of myself. Vincent is an intriguing character too; handsome and mysterious with an air of danger to begin with, he’s pretty hot! Die For Me doesn’t just centre around him though, there’s a whole family of Revenants and I loved hearing the stories and influences behind each of them and seeing the dynamics behind the tightly knit group.

While Die For Me offers an original and different story, it does tread a well worn path at times and has a familiar feel to it (dare I mention the ‘T’ word?) The setting and the paranormal creatures may be something new, but at times the similarities were almost too glaring. There was one notable absence though…no love triangle..yay! Though there are hints that one character may wish there was, I’m hoping this isn’t something that’s continued into the next book.

Despite groaning a little bit when things became just a little bit too ‘Twilighty’ (There, I said it!) I did really enjoy Die For Me. Amy Plum’s writing is easy and compelling. There’s enough new stuff to keep the reader interested and by dripping information in slowly it has a mysterious quality that will ensure you’re glued to the pages. On the romance front it certainly doesn’t disappoint, with both the gorgeous setting and doomed love between Kate and Vincent causing me to swoon repeatably. There’s also a nice bit of action to keep the book exciting and a very well drawn and believable creepy villain to loathe. If you like Paranormal Romance, then you’ll love Die For Me and I recommend it.

Published by Atom (UK) May 2011
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.

Book Review: Forgotten by Cat Patrick

With the intrigue of “Memento” and the romance of “The Time-Traveller’s Wife”, “Forgotten” is the perfect YA novel. 

Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that’s left is a note telling her about a day she can’t remember. The whole scenario doesn’t exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can’t seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can’t make sense of, she realizes it’s time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future. 

Part psychological drama, part romance, and part mystery, this thought-provoking novel will inspire readers to consider the what-if’s in their own lives and recognize the power they have to control their destinies (From

Warning: Reading the first page of Forgotten causes you to enter a time slip, where before you know it 3 hours have past and you’ve just read one of the most addictive and original books of your life.
Yes, I am not over exaggerating. I picked up Forgotten one afternoon planning only to read a couple of chapters before getting on with my day. But I found myself physically unable to stop reading. The story wasn’t just good, it was gripping and almost like outside forces had me glued to the pages.
Cat Patrick’s debut novel stands out with its original plot, like nothing I have come across before. 16-year-old London goes to sleep and instantly forgets the day before, but in a bizarre twist of fate can ‘remember’ the future. She manages to get through life in her endearingly haphazard manor by writing important stuff down from the day before and looking to the future to find clues to the people around and their relationship to her. Sounds complicated? Well it is, but the author manages to make a complex situation extremely plausible and for the reader it all makes perfect sense while locked in London Lanes world.
London herself is a very likeable character. Like a broken bird I had the overwhelming feeling of wanting to protect her. This isn’t an action packed adventure and she’s no kick ass heroine, but her quiet determination, confusion and vulnerability meant she crept right under my skin directly to my heart. My favourite part of the book was the fledgling romance between London and the extremely gorgeous Luke. Imagine falling in love every single day with the same person? Cat Patrick perfectly creates that first rush of love and attraction not once but many times over, and boy is Luke a worthwhile candidate! It’s so beautifully romantic and exciting it left me gasping at times.

Forgotten is a stunning mix of romance, psychological thriller, paranormal and mystery. I can understand why the publishers compare it to The Time Travellers Wife in some ways. It has that same unique and achingly romantic quality and crosses between genres so effortlessly it will appeal to many. It’s a rare book which I know I could read over and over again and never tire of and one I’m slightly sorry to have already read as I’ll never get that first time again. A five star book and a new author to watch out for very carefully in the future.

Published June 2011 by Egmont (UK)
Thanks to the publishers for providing a  copy for review

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, 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 to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating 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 a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her. (From

It’s very rare that I mange to read a full 500 page book in one day, no matter how hooked I am. I have a six-year old daughter who demands much of my time and rarely lets me read as she gets on with something quietly. So the fact I read Divergent in its entirety the day it arrived speaks volumes. Ok, I’ll admit it, I enlisted the help of the unpaid babysitter who sits in the corner (TV), ordered takeaway so I didn’t have to cook, abandoned any kind of housework and bribed my daughter continuously to let me read just a few more pages. Even she became obsessed with my reading progress that day asking ‘How many pages have you read now Mummy’ and appointed herself my official reading cheerleader. That’s how good this book is. Once started you won’t be able to stop until you have devoured every breath taking word.
As one of my top 3 anticipated books for 2011, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. Of course being so excited can often lead to over anticipation with the book becoming a let down. Absolutely NOT in this case, Divergent was everything and much, much more than I was hoping for and has easily shot straight to my top read of the year, the last two years in fact. It’s going to take some beating.
For once I’m going to refrain from hashing over the plot, I couldn’t do it’s intricacies justice and really don’t want to inadvertently give anything away that will spoil the book, so readers can go into it the same way I did. What I will say though is that Veronica Roth’s dystopian world is exquisitely built with complexities and detailing that will force the reader right into the very heart of it from the moment they pick up the book. It’s clever, exciting, brutal, jaw droppingly shocking and intense.  I adored lead character, Tris, the underdog who comes into her own. She’s brave, loyal and intelligent, fierce and compassionate in equal measures.  Then there’s Four (Tris’s coach in the new life she chooses) the HOTTEST, most swoonworthy guy ever. I’m slightly obsessed by him, I’ve even dreamt about him and I completely fell in love with him. The romance between Tris and Four is solid, real and beautiful. It developes at the right pace, it has the right amount of intensity and passion, yet it doesn’t overwhelm the story at all. Divergent is an action packed and exciting read set in a brutal and violent world after all and the balance between action and romance is perfect.

To sum up, I LOVED this book big time. I found it hugely addictive and couldn’t part from it for a second I was that engrossed and involved in it. I think I read it with my eyes on stalks, my mouth hanging open and with my heart pounding throughout, It’s the most exciting book I’ve read for a long time. The final pages set up fantastically for the sequel and the wait for it is going to be sheer torture. Seriously, if there is one book you must buy this year it’s Divergent, I whole-heartedly recommend it and then some. Just make sure you have a spare few hours because I’m warning you, once you start you won’t be able to stop.

Published by HarperCollins May 2011
Many Thanks to the publishers for providing me with a copy for review.

Book Review: Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. She eats lunch with the other girls from the track team, but they’re not really her friends. Mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her, and avoiding the popular girls who call her “Choker” after a humiliating incident in the cafeteria. 

Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe’s on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara’s life changes overnight. Zoe gives her a new look and new confidence, and next thing she knows, she’s getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she has her BFF there to confide in. 

But just as quickly as Cara’s life came together, it starts to unravel. A girl goes missing in her town, and everyone is a suspect—including Ethan. Worse still, Zoe starts behaving strangely, and Cara begins to wonder what exactly her friend does all day when she’s at school. You’re supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger? (From

I love a psychological thriller. Last year I read and was thoroughly blown away by Rebecca James’ Beautiful Malice and the synopsis for Choker reminded me of that a little. So with a creepy and intriguing synopsis and the prettiest cover, I couldn’t resist. Well one things for certain, that pretty cover is a complete contrast to what’s actually inside this book. I love that! Don’t be fooled, this isn’t a fluffy tale at all and at times was quite disturbing.
Choker follows Cara, a girl who isn’t just a loner at school but is pretty much abandoned by her workaholic parents too. It’s clear right away she’s not happy at all. Disliked by the popular girls at her new school, who are no doubt suspicious of her shy and nervous disposition and sense her vulnerability (making her an ideal target for their bullying) she does her best to go unnoticed. But when she chokes in the school canteen and is subsequently saved by school hottie and her secret crush, Ethan, she becomes centre of attention and earns the nickname Choker. Not only was it excruciatingly embarrassing though, but Ethan is the boyfriend of biggest bitch of all, ringleader Alexis, who makes it her mission to see Cara’s life is as miserable as possible. I really, really felt for Cara in this section, Woods recreated the pain and humiliation Cara feels perfectly.  In her home the loneliness she felt as she wandered about on her own was palpable.
When Zoe turns up the book takes a decidedly sinister turn. I really don’t want to say too much about this, as it would completely spoil the book for those who hadn’t read it, but I definitely felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as she arrived and I looked forward to being completely freaked out.  Sadly, I felt the book lost a little of it’s tension as I became increasingly annoyed with Cara, who appeared to be just plain stupid. I kind of lost my belief in it for a while, her situation at home didn’t ring true, the developing relationship with Ethan wasn’t genuine in my eyes and Zoe became a bit of a cliché. If I’m I honest, I wasn’t that enthralled and the middle of this short book dragged for me. At just over 200 pages I’d expected to rush through it but I kept loosing concentration and putting it down. However, the writing was beautiful and there remained enough mystery to keep me going.
So I was all ready for not liking this book at all and wham! Elizabeth Woods delivers one hell of an ending that completely took me by surprise. Suddenly all the faults I’d picked with it made sense, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it sooner. It was a real ‘OH MY GOD!’ moment and everything I’d wondered about suddenly made sense. I’m not sure if that means I’m not very good at spotting the clues or Woods was clever enough to completely disguise them, then slap me in the face with. Either way, I ended up finishing the book in shock and awe.

Choker is Elizabeth Woods debut novel, and despite the niggles I picked I would definitely read more from this author. I’d have liked a bit more to this book I think, a few more pages could have easily  been afforded and used to build more atmosphere as well as create a more convincing relationship with Ethan. However I did very much like her writing style and ability to recreate feelings so vividly, at times I almost felt them myself. And that ending completely redeemed the book for me and left me speechless. I’d recommend Choker to anyone who likes a thriller and a possible quick read, although I will warn you that some scenes are disturbing at times (particularly if you really like animals) and wouldn’t advise this book for under 14’s. Overall a promising debut with a winning ending.

Published by Simon & Schuster USA January 2011