Saph1re's Synopsis

Professional Reader80%Challenge Participant

 

 

 

Hi, I'm Jules.

 

The name Saph1re came about many years ago when I was setting up an eBay account, but every username I tried was taken. I happened to look down at my sapphire engagement ring and decided to spell it wrong, and guess what, it was available :-)

 

I love reading thrillers (especially dark psychological ones), horror, classics, historical fiction, science fiction, contemporary, women's fiction, and some romance, My least favourite genres are action and crime.

 

Although I've been rating books on Goodreads for years, I have only been actively reviewing books for authors and publishers since 2014, but loving every minute of it.

 

Favourite authors include Clive Barker, Joanne Harris, Daphne du Maurier, Philippa Gregory, Josephine Cox and Cecelia Ahern.

I'm 38, live in Cornwall, and I'm married with two dogs. I'm self-employed and sell novelty craft buttons online:

http://stores.ebay.co.uk/Punch-N-Julie

When I'm not working or reading, I love gardening, coastal and country walks, cooking and watching TV and films.

 

Some of my favourite films are The Neverending Story, Dirty Dancing, Grease, Lost Boys, Titanic, The Karate Kid, Interview with the Vampire, Hellraiser, Coyote Ugly, Stigmata, Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, Edward Scissorhands, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Short Circuit, WALL.E, The Silence of the Lambs, American Psycho, Jaws, The Perfect Storm, Carrie, Moulin Rouge, Django Unchained, Horns, Interstellar, Maleficent and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

 

 

NetGalley Review - The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep - Joanna  Cannon

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep caught my attention with the title alone. After reading this wonderful book, I have found myself looking at people, and wondering whether they are goat or sheep. Do they have a fleecy warmth to their character that draws me in and makes me want to snuggle them, or a goat-like stubbornness to them, and seem like the kind of person who would refuse to be herded by a shepherd, and likely to eat my favourite plants. I know, I need to get out more!

As for the book itself, I loved the characters and the overall feel to the story. This book is very much focussed on a variety of different characters, personalities, assumptions about others, community, secrets, faith and hope.

In short, the book is about two girls who decide to go on a mission to find their neighbour who has gone missing. In order to do this they decide they first need to find God, as he is everywhere, and will therefore know where their missing neighbour has gone.

I found this story nostalgic in places. I don’t really drink fizzy pop these days, but I used to love our Sodastream while growing up. I loved that burping sound it made. My favourite drinks would have to be traditional lemonade and dandelion and burdock (called dandruff and bird muck by my husband).

Overall, a great combination of funny, sad, endearing and thought provoking.

I would like to thank the publisher, Scribner for allowing me a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1443911227

NetGalley Review - My Girl

My Girl - Jack Jordan

My Girl is a fast paced thriller that just keeps on giving …and giving, even when you think there is nothing left to give!

I’m not going to say much about the plot, but it is one of those stories that makes you question how much you truly know those closest to you. You know the saying “crazy in love”, well this book gives that a whole new meaning.

This thriller is twisted and full on. Just when you think you’ve thought of everything, something else causes you to gasp and slap your hand across your mouth in surprise.

I highly recommend this to readers who enjoy fast paced thrillers and psychological thrillers.

I would like to thank the author for allowing me a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1632347298

NetGalley Review - The Museum of You

The Museum of You - Carys Bray

The Museum of You is a touching tale of grief and an interesting way of dealing with it.

I’m finding it hard to explain why I only gave this book 3 stars, as it is well written, emotional, funny, and Clover is a great character, but for some reason I just didn’t fully connect with it. Perhaps I just wasn’t in the right mood to read it at the time I did.

I’m certain lots of people are going to fall in love this book, so definitely well worth considering if you like the sound of the blurb.

I would like to thank the publisher, Random House UK, Cornerstone for allowing me a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1680755034

NetGalley Review - The Girl and the Sunbird

The Girl and the Sunbird: A beautiful, epic story of love, loss and hope - Rebecca Stonehill

The Girl and the Sunbird is a descriptive, atmospheric, emotional tale of love and heart breaking loss.

This is the story of a strong woman who endures a lot of heart ache, mostly due to the decisions her parents make for her at the beginning of this beautifully written tale.

Although a very different story, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my favourite Philippa Gregory book, A Queen’s Fool, during the early chapters of this book.

I loved that this book triggered lots of happy thoughts, such as my own love of birds, my trips to the Eden Project, where they have baobab trees, and memories of me playing croquet in the back garden with my family when I was a child.

My only criticism of this book is that I found the jump in time later on in the book to be a little too much for me personally, and it sort of briefly threw me out of the world I had become a part of. I had a mini panic that I might not be able to get back into the book, but luckily after a few chapters, I was sucked back into the tough and heart breaking life Iris experienced.

I would like to thank the publisher, Bookouture for allowing me a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1641824143

Book Review - The Caller

The Caller (The Organised Crime Team series Book 1) - M A Comley, Tara Lyons

I was invited to read this by one of the authors, in exchange for an honest review, despite her knowing I have a bit of an aversion to police procedural fiction. Brave woman.

This is probably one of the most police procedural focussed books I have read. Having said that, I actually really enjoyed it. I think it helped that I got to see the Organised Crime Team coming together at the beginning of the book, so I felt like I was at the same stage of the journey as all the characters, with regards to getting to know each other.

The Caller was fast paced, sometimes tense, and certainly very hard to put down. It left me feeling on edge and unable to fall asleep one night, as I was home alone.

I’m waiting for the panic to set in when a parcel is delivered. Thank goodness for the dog gate directly behind my front door. It may save my life. Failing that, there is always my huge softie of a guard dog who can protect me by drowning evil delivery men with his slobbery licks. While I was out posting orders yesterday, I actually helped a lost looking courier find a house. It was only afterwards that I thought, oh no, I hope my neighbour is okay. Slightly creepy timing, considering the subject matter of this book.

Having enjoyed this so much, I would happily read more in this series, and highly recommend it to those who love police procedural crime novels.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1657302590

Book Review - Delivered (The Monster Trilogy #3)

Delivered (The Monster Trilogy Book 3) - Marissa Farrar

Delivered does in fact deliver an action packed conclusion to The Monster Trilogy.

Denied (book 2) left me with the feeling of just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse. Needless to say that Delivered has somewhat of an action packed beginning, as it begins where Denied ended.

This fast paced dark romance is both thrilling and in places somewhat disturbing. As a woman, I did find it made me feel scared, trapped and unnerved in places.

In this final part of The Monster Trilogy we also get to see a couple of the characters develop further, as we discover even more about their past.

On a lighter note, there was also a cute mouse that managed to melt my heart.

Overall, a very enjoyable trilogy.

I would like to thank the author for a copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1657303114

Jules Just Read... May 2016

Girls on Fire - Robin Wasserman Relatively Strange - Marilyn Messik Another Love (No Greater Courage) - Amanda Prowse I See You - Clare Mackintosh The Insignificance of You - Tammy Robinson Dear Thing - Julie Cohen

So, I got through 11 books in May, which is the same as I managed in April. It was a bit naughty of me to acquire 17 new books in May though, as I'm meant to be trying to acquire less books than I read each month, otherwise I'll never get on top of my to be read pile.

 

My main achievement in May was finally reading some paperbacks. I've only read one other paperback this year (back in February), but managed to squeeze 3 paperbacks in over the last month. I've learnt how to turn physical pages and use a bookmark all over again, yay!

 

Those of you who follow my monthly updates regularly will know that I normally have a Book of the Month, but having read so many 5 star books this month, I have found it impossible to choose just one, as I loved all six of my 5 star rating books for different reasons.

 

5 Star Ratings

 

Dear Thing

 

Dear Thing is a beautiful, emotional and intense read. At one point I couldn’t read the words through my own tears.

This book was almost impossible to put down. I was about half way through, when I decided to continue it first thing the following morning, with the intention of reading a few pages while I drunk my cup of tea in bed. My intended quick morning read, turned into me crawling out of bed two hours later, having finished the entire book.

 

 


Relatively Strange

 

After reading the first few words of this story, I knew I was going to love it.

“I was five when I discovered I could fly, sixteen when I killed a man. Both events were unsettling in their own way.”

Relatively Strange is a fascinating story about growing up when you’re somewhat different to most of those around you. Enriched with some wonderfully quirky characters, this story made me think of Mary Poppins as a child and The Worst Witch.

 

Although there is action and excitement in the story, for me personally I think the strength of this book is the focus on human nature. The differences between individuals. That it is okay to be different. The value of knowing the difference between right and wrong. Choosing to do good with the personal strengths we each have. I think every reader could benefit from being reminded of the power and influence we each hold as individuals, and the importance of making the right choices.

 

I highly recommend this to fans of both adult and young adult fiction, those who like their books to be a little unusual, and those who are driven by great characters.

 

 

Girls on Fire

 

This completely sucked me in from the very beginning, made me feel nostalgic about my own adolescence, messed around with my memories, distorting them, then spat me out the other end wondering which my real memories were, and which I’d just allowed to be shaped to fit along with the storyline.

If you’re like me, and grew up in the 1990s, loved rock music and lived in Doc Martens then this may be the story for you. I saved up for my first pair of Docs in 1991 when I was just 13 years old (my dad paid half) and I lived in that pair until I was 17, having to buy a new pair as I had worn the previous pair out.

Be warned, this is a dark, gritty and twisted story filled with all the complex challenges of being a teenager. If you’re willing to read about alcohol, drugs, sexual experimentation, bullying, insecurities, death, Satanism, and general pushing of boundaries, then I highly recommend this book.

 

 

I See You

 

I found this book really hard to put down, especially the second half, which I lived and breathed until the very last page. I’m sure this thriller made my heart stop beating, not once, but twice, having to briefly stop reading in order to catch my breath. I can feel my heart racing just thinking of a couple of specific moments within the book.

The short chapters written in italics throughout the story were rather creepy and gave me the heebie-jeebies.

It would be misleading of me to say this is in any way the same as a TV mini-series I absolutely loved back in the late 1990s called Killer Net, but a couple of things about it really reminded me of it, so made it all that more exciting for me. If you love the idea behind this book, you may wish to watch Killer Net, as I suspect you’ll enjoy it too.

Crikey, what an ending to a great thriller... and breathe!

This is a psychological crime thriller, and for someone like me, who loves psychological thrillers but isn’t a huge fan of crime and police procedural, I think this had the perfect balance.

 

 

Another Love

 

Wow, this was a surprisingly emotional read which even brought tears to my eyes.

Another Love is about a woman and her relationship with alcohol. I went into this thinking I probably wouldn’t get very emotionally involved, but I could not have been more wrong.

Firstly, reading a character being described as a “bookish ginger-haired, spectacle-wearing girl” (I’m sure I know one of those) helped to get me onside.

With regards to the alcoholism, it was the gradual increase that helped me connect. In fact, I very much saw myself in Romilly, as I’m sure many others will.

 

I have felt frustrated by characters in books before, but it has been a while since I’ve been this frustrated. Romilly’s uncontrollable drinking and self-destructive side drove me crazy at times. I wanted to shake sense into her and throw away the bottle of booze she got her hands on. This book really did fill me with an overwhelming frustration, and I even had to rant about Romilly to my husband, as if she was a real person I was trying to help.

 

 

The Insignificance of You

 

The Insignificance of You is a coming of age story filled with emotion and a lot of firsts. First loss, first kiss, first love…

I’m not a big reader of Young Adult fiction, but when I heard that Tammy Robinson had written a YA story, I just had to try it.

As always, this author has allowed me to get to know even more wonderful characters. I loved both of the main characters, Tai and Skye. I liked being able to read a YA book that wasn’t overly melodramatic. Although they are teenagers, they had a level of maturity and depth that I could relate to. I also liked Skye’s mum and grandma (she was called Bubbles. I want a grandma called Bubbles), and I enjoyed witnessing the relationship between the three generations of women, what life threw at each of them and how they each dealt with it.

I loved the lighthouse setting, and the description of the stars in the sky. When I moved to Cornwall a few years ago, I too was amazed by how incredibly beautiful a clear sky at night looks without lots of light pollution. I live in a little hamlet that doesn’t have street lamps, and I’ve been known the wrap up warm in winter and sit outside in the garden late at night looking at the stunning star filled sky until my neck hurts and my nose has gone numb. Truly magical.

 

 

4 Star Ratings

 

 

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

 

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding is about the devastation of war and the impact it had on one particular family, after an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

I loved the style this book was written in and the way the story gradually came together. In places this was rather an emotional read, but overall a compelling story that felt very real.

 

 

When She Was Bad

 

When She Was Bad is another great psychological thriller by Tammy Cohen.

This author is so good at creating well developed and believable characters. It’s probably the thing I love most about her books, and throughout this story, I struggled to know who to trust.

 

 

The Good Kind of Bad

 

Initially I had mixed feelings about this thriller. I found the first half of the book to be a little slow. I didn’t warm to any of the characters, and found a couple of them infuriatingly annoying, and wanted to shake sense into them. The second half of the book was much faster paced and very hard to put down.

 

Moral of the story for me, is don’t marry someone after only three weeks of knowing them. If you’re living a boring, predictable life, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Careful what you wish for, as Mrs Petrozzi got a little more than she bargained for!

 

 

3 Star Ratings

 

A Drop in the Ocean

 

Imagine having the opportunity to move into a little cabin on a remote tropical island with seabirds, turtles and hardly any other people. Well, that’s what happened to Anna Fergusson. This story was set in a great location with an interesting mix of characters.

Although I didn’t completely fall in love with the story, I did enjoy it, and found it to be an interesting and thought provoking read, covering the subjects of Huntington’s disease and the conservation of turtles, both of which are expanded upon in the facts section after the novel, which I thought was an interesting and important addition.

 

 

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

 

This was an interesting read, but I didn’t fall in love with it.

I connected more with Allison than I did the main character, Sophie Stark, so although I was really getting into it at the beginning, my connection abruptly ended when the story shifted from Allison to a variety of other characters connected to Sophie. I did read it to the end, and also enjoyed the focus on Daniel, but never really got back into it the way I did at the very beginning, which is a shame.

 

NetGalley Review - S is for Stranger

S is for Stranger: a gripping psychological thriller - Louise Stone
I was attracted to S is for Stranger by its gorgeous cover. Based on a few other covers I’ve loved this year, I seem to have a thing for bright red and blue together.

This is a fast paced psychological thriller that had me gripped from the very beginning, and was so hard to put down.

As the story progressed, I really didn’t know who to trust, and ended up suspecting various characters. My gut feeling did end up being correct, but this story had me guessing and doubting my own assumptions throughout.

Great for lovers of fast paced psychological thrillers and suspense fiction.

I would like to thank the publisher, Carina UK for allowing me a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
 
 
 
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1648352367

NetGalley Review - Play Dead

Play Dead - Angela Marsons

Play Dead is another super-duper crime thriller by Angela Marsons.

I loved the storyline. Firstly, the body farm, oh my goodness. I didn’t even know they existed. You learn something new every day. It was like a horror version of Springwatch (I’m still coming to terms with this).

The topic of school bullying and the impact it had on those involved was interesting. A few names of bullies came to mind while I was reading this, making it impossible for me not to get emotionally involved.

I found the history of the killer both fascinating and heart breaking. Life can be so unfair to some people, and the damage caused by those who are meant to love and protect that person, can be shocking and sickening. This book triggered strong emotions while I was reading it, and my thoughts and feelings were quite torn at times, but I think I would have to agree with Kim Stone’s view on this matter.

Thank goodness it didn’t take too long to read this, as the dreams I was having while reading it were most bizarre. The first night I had a dream about a giant spider with a skull pattern on its body coming through a hole in my kitchen floor. The second night, I had a dream about having to remove dead bodies from walls of a military ship to stop it sinking as quickly. It’s probably a good job I don’t read crime novels too often, otherwise the men in white coats will be taking me away, and I won’t be able to write reviews, like this one.

If you enjoyed any of the earlier books in this series, you’ll love this one. Bring on book 5. Book 2 (Evil Games) is probably still my favourite in this series, but only just, as book 4 follows closely in second place.

I would like to thank the publisher, Bookouture for allowing me a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1635908729

Book Review - I See You

I See You - Clare Mackintosh

I found this book really hard to put down, especially the second half, which I lived and breathed until the very last page. I’m sure this thriller made my heart stop beating, not once, but twice, having to briefly stop reading in order to catch my breath. I can feel my heart racing just thinking of a couple of specific moments within the book.

The short chapters written in italics throughout the story were rather creepy and gave me the heebie-jeebies.

It would be misleading of me to say this is in any way the same as a TV mini-series I absolutely loved back in the late 1990s called Killer Net, but a couple of things about it really reminded me of it, so made it all that more exciting for me. If you love the idea behind this book, you may wish to watch Killer Net, as I suspect you’ll enjoy it too.

Crikey, what an ending to a great thriller... and breathe!

This is a psychological crime thriller, and for someone like me, who loves psychological thrillers but isn’t a huge fan of crime and police procedural, I think this had the perfect balance.

I would like to thank the publishers for a proof copy of this book, via THE Book Club (TBC) on Facebook, in exchange for an honest review.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1644761924

NetGalley Review - The Secret We're Keeping

This Secret We're Keeping - Rebecca Done

The Secret We’re Keeping is an emotional and heart-breaking tale of forbidden love.

This book is about a relationship that develops between a teacher and one of his fifteen year old pupils. Before reading it, I was a little cautious about it. There are so many potential things that could have made me dislike this book, but almost instantly I fell in love with this story.

I loved the style it was written in, the way it moved back and forth between the 1990s and present day, filling the reader in on what happened back then, and how that impacted on the two main characters over the years. Which leads me onto those characters. What great characters, very likeable and well-developed. It was impossible not to get emotionally involved in their lives, both past and present.

I couldn’t put this book down, didn’t want it to end, and oh my goodness, my heart and mind still haven’t quite worked out what to do with the ending. Such an emotional roller coaster that even brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion.

If you enjoy character driven novels about controversial romance, with some suspense and a lot of emotion, then this is probably the book for you.

I would like to thank the publisher, Penguin UK (Michael Joseph) for allowing me a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1477965239

NetGalley Review - The Gut Health Diet Plan: Recipes to Restore Digestive Health and Boost Wellbeing

The Gut Health Diet Plan: Recipes to Restore Digestive Health and Boost Wellbeing - Christine Bailey

I think this will be a valuable book for anyone struggling with long term digestive problems. I’ve had problems for years, and it wasn’t until I started to completely change my diet that I experienced huge improvements.

For me personally, I didn’t get much out of this book, as it turns out I’ve pretty much tried everything mentioned. However, that does put me in the position to confirm that these changes do work.

This book covers a variety of digestive symptoms, so you can choose the options and changes that best suit you personally.

The main things that helped me was cutting out gluten, yeast, cow’s milk (I seem okay with butter and hard cheese), onions and garlic (okay with a small amount of chives). I also only consume small amounts of refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol. My doctor was impressed when we were discussing what I did and didn’t eat, and it turned out I was following the low FODMAP diet without even knowing what it was. I do now eat a few foods that are high FODMAP, but still find my symptoms are more settled if I don’t have high FODMAP fruit and vegetables too often or in too high quantities.

There are also tips on supplements that may be useful, and I can say that a few of these have worked very well for me too.

Lots of great recipes are included in this book, and I have made a note of a few I would like to try myself.

Having ME/CFS, I still feel far from well, but having a natural, healthy diet and avoiding foods that increase unpleasant symptoms, while also taking supplements to help support my digestion, has not only helped with digestive symptoms, but reduced headaches, generalised pain, insomnia and night sweats, many of which return if I dare to go near gluten, yeast, onions or garlic.

I read a Kindle version of this book, but I think this would work better as a physical book, as it would be easier to navigate and jump to and from pages you require.

I would like to thank the publisher, Nourish for allowing me a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1647509398

Saph1re's Shelf Stacking - May 2016

So here are the 17 books I added to my bookshelves in May. As usual, not enough hours in the day to read them all. Why can't I stop myself shelf stacking?!

 

 

Amazon Kindle Freebies

 

The Punch and Judy Man

 

Twisted Dreams (The Dhampyre Chronicles #1)

 

Wildflower Bay: Part One

 

Someone Else's Skin (DI Marnie Rome #1)

 

 

Amazon Kindle Bought

 

Willow Walk (Banktoun #2)

 

 

NetGalley

 

The Sister

 

S is for Stranger

 

My Girl

 

The Couple Next Door

 

Play Dead (D.I. Kim Stone #4)

 

The Gut Health Diet Plan: Recipes to Restore Digestive Health and Boost Wellbeing

 

 

Signed Books

 

(Received as a gift from the author)

 

Even Stranger

 

 

Paperbacks from Publishers

 

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

 

I See You

 

 

Review Requests Received

 

The Reflections of Queen Snow White

 

Delivered (The Monster Trilogy Book 3)

 

The Caller (The Organised Crime Team series Book 1)

My life just got even stranger...

The kind, generous and talented Marilyn Messik gifted me a signed copy of her new book Even Stranger (plus chocolates), which is book 2 in this 'strange' series.

 

I recently read and loved Relatively Strange, so I'm really looking forward to reading this one soon too. It is also lovely that book 2 can now keep book 1 company on my signed books shelf.

 

Exciting book post from the publishers of I SEE YOU, by Clare Mackintosh

28th May 2016 - A week ago, publishers, Sphere, kindly sent me a proof copy of I SEE YOU, by Clare Mackintosh, in exchange for an honest review. This will be published on 28th July. I'm not quite half way yet, but really enjoying it so far. Can't wait to read more later today.

 

Book Review - A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding: A Novel - Jackie Copleton

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding is about the devastation of war and the impact it had on one particular family, after an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.

I loved the style this book was written in and the way the story gradually came together. In places this was rather an emotional read, but overall a compelling story that felt very real.

The definitions at the beginning of each chapter were fascinating and gave me an insight in to Japanese culture, and how it differs so much from that of my own culture. Some of the views of women and their place in society made me grateful for the time and place I grew up, as I am lucky to have had so much more freedom and respect.

I think this would appeal to fans of both contemporary and historical fiction, and especially those who enjoy family sagas and stories that focus closely on a few specific well developed characters.

I would like to thank the publishers for a copy of this book, via THE Book Club (TBC) on Facebook, in exchange for an honest review.

 

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1628847541