Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi; Narrated by Bahni Turpin #AudiobookReview

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They killed my mother.They took our magic.They tried to bury us. Now we rise.

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden. 

Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.

I don’t often review young adult or fantasy novels on this blog, but sometimes a book comes along with such a buzz that it can’t be ignored. Children of Blood and Bone is one such book and, given the events that have occurred over the past few months, there has never been a better or more important time to read it.

Children of Blood and Bone is a young adult fantasy novel, the likes of which you won’t have read before. Quite a startling and ambitious novel in terms of breadth, scope, world-building and social commentary, it is a book that impresses  and informs on so many levels. Adeyemi has taken traditions from West African folklore and woven them into a fantasy world that is beautiful, detailed and all-enveloping, under-scored with a palpable anger that the author freely admits is what powered her desire to write the book.

The novel is set in the imaginary world of Orisha, which has its foundations clearly in Nigeria, where the maji people once possessed powerful magic, until that was taken from them and their leaders were brutally slaughtered by the king, the remnants of the race now living under oppression in a land where the colour of your skin determines your social standing. The story is told from the perspectives of three protagonists; Zelie, the daughter of a powerful maji leader who finds a way to tap into the remnants of her magic and the opportunity to bring it back to all he maji in the land; Amari, the daughter of the brutal king who has suffered her own form of oppression; and Inan, the son and heir of the kind who pursues Zelie in an attempt to apprehend her, whilst hiding his own dark secret. Each of these voices is clear and well-developed, and brings a different perspective to the story that helps the reader understand this world, its tensions and difficulties from all angles. It is a masterful technique.

The world that the author has built here is beautiful and evocative and detailed and fascinating, but also with recognisable parallels to our society and the fundamental inequalities that exist in it and have so recently resulted in uprising. Adeyemi explores all aspects of oppression and inequality through the story of Orisha, including addressing some of the misconceptions that arise on all sides and, interestingly, how inequalities of race, power, economic standing and gender intersect. Whilst this book is sold as a young adult fantasy novel, the book has so much to say to people of all ages and interests, I would urge anyone to read it, even if you think this genre is not usually for you. In addition to the social messaging, the book also involves a tender, enemies to lovers romance, which is developed beautifully and convincingly, in a way that enhances, rather than detracts from, the quest storyline.

The novel garnered a six-figure advance and has already been placed in production as a movie. It is the first book in a planned trilogy, with book two already in print, and which I cannot wait to read. I can completely understand why the book has merited all of this buzz, it is totally deserved. It is impressive, pacy and entertaining, but at the same time goes much deeper and rewards the reader with a complex reading experience. For anyone looking for a fiction book that explores the issues raised by the BLM movement, you can do no better than this.

The book is long, but does not lack in action at any point. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator was absolutely wonderful, she really brought each of the voices to life in an authentic way and I can highly recommend the audio version as a great value for money use of an Audible credit.

Children of Blood and Bone is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here. The sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance is also available now in all formats.

About the Author

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Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach based in San Diego, California. After graduating Harvard University with an honours degree in English literature, she studied West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil. When not writing novels or watching Scandal, Tomi teaches and blogs about creative writing on her website, named one of the 101 best websites for writers by Writer’s Digest. Children of Blood and Bone is her debut novel.

Connect with Tomi:

Website: https://www.tomiadeyemi.com

Facebook: Tomi Adeyemi

Twitter: @tomi_adeyemi

Instagram: @tomiadeyemi

Book Review: The Owl Service by Alan Garner #ThrowbackReview

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It all begins with the scratching in the ceiling. From the moment Alison discovers the dinner service in the attic, with its curious pattern of floral owls, a chain of events is set in progress that is to effect everybody’s lives.

Relentlessly, Alison, her step-brother Roger and Welsh boy Gwyn are drawn into the replay of a tragic Welsh legend – a modern drama played out against a background of ancient jealousies. As the tension mounts, it becomes apparent that only by accepting and facing the situation can it be resolved.

I read an article that a friend of mine had posted on Facebook recently about why people are turning to old, familiar, favourite books and TV series during lockdown, because they are comforting and known in a time of the new, strange and frightening. I, myself, have found this to be true, watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls and Midsomer Murders, and picking up copies of firm favourites from my bookshelf.

This may be initially why I was drawn to grab my copy of The Owl Service from my bookcase, but once I had read it again, I realised that this book no longer felt familiar to me at all and that coming back to this as an adult was a totally different reading experience, and not a comforting one at all. Somewhere between my last reading of this book, which must have been in my mid-teens, either I or the book had changed and become strangers who had to learn to relate to each other in a different way.

The book I remembered from my childhood was a slightly spooky story about a dinner service whose pattern came to life if you made the owls and odd things happened to the children who found it. When I read it now, I wondered why the book hadn’t terrified me as a child, and realised I had not really understood the story at all, because it is really about a trio of children being drawn against their will into an ancient magic that repeats itself by manifesting through a set of people down through the centuries.

This is marketed as a children’s book, but it isn’t really a book that can be properly understood by children. So much of what is going on in the story is inferred, rather than outwardly expressed, and would be much too complex and subtle for a child to understand. Alan Garner’s writing is very sparse, lacking description and embellishments, but this makes it all the more powerful in some ways, because there is so much room for the imagination to do its work, and we all know from childhood nightmares what our imaginations can conjure when given free rein. And, I think, that having lived and experienced so much, sometimes adult imaginations can produce some truly terrifying thoughts, especially in a time of heightened alarm such as we have at the moment.

This is a really powerful and evocative story, written in a bare writing style, which is a feat of magic in itself. But I don’t think I have had such a profoundly different reading experience from the one I expected as when I picked up this book after a gap of 34 years. Going back and rereading the same book does not always mean you get the same story.

The Owl Service is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Alan Garner was born in Congleton, Cheshire, in 1934. His began writing his first novel at the age of 22 and is renowned as one of Britain’s outstanding writers. He has won many prizes for his writing, and, in 2001 he was awarded the OBE for services to literature. He holds two honorary doctorates and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. In 2004 he co-founded The Blackden Trust http://www.theblackdentrust.org.uk

Tempted by… Between The Pages Book Club: Are You Watching? by Vincent Ralph

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Ten years ago, Jess’s mother was murdered by the Magpie Man.

She was the first of his victims, but not the last.

Now Jess is the star of a YouTube reality series and she’s using it to catch the killer once and for all.

The whole world is watching her every move.

And so is the Magpie Man.

Today’s Tempted By… is a book I picked up after reading a review by Gemma on her blog, Between The Pages Book ClubI don’t read huge amounts of Young Adult literature (probably because I’m a middle-aged adult!), but Are You Watching? by Vincent Ralph sounded like a book that would appeal to all ages.

This book was recommended to Gemma by a fellow blogger and, as good books always are, Gemma’s subsequent recommendation appealed to me for a number of reasons. Gemma’s review makes it sound like the kind of book you can’t put down, and I really like the premise of a girl using a reality TV show to hunt down the killer of her mother. It sounds very different to anything I have come across before, and I am intrigued to see how the plot plays out. I think the blurb is really clever at being enticing without giving too much away!

I like the thought of the plot being terrifying, who doesn’t enjoy a good scare from time to time, and Gemma says that she didn’t guess who had done it, so the mystery sounds complex too. When an admired blogger gives a read five stars, calls it one of her books of the year and tells you she read it all in a day, it is definitely something I want to pick up!

Make sure you pop over and check out Gemma’s review of the book and her blog in general. I really love the quote she has at the top of her homepage, it is a sentiment I could not agree with more!

Are You Watching? is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Tempted by…my way by starlight: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer @waybystarlight @BrigidKemmerer @KidsBloomsbury #ACurseSoDarkAndLonely #Cursebreakers #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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Fall in love, break the curse.
Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall, is cursed. Forced to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he can only be freed by love. But at the end of each autumn he is transformed into a beast hell-bent on destruction, and after so many failed attempts, his kingdom and its people are barely holding on.

Harper’s life has never been easy, but she’s learned to be tough enough to survive. She won’t let anything hold her back, not her cerebral palsy or her mother’s deteriorating health. But when she is sucked into Rhen’s world, nothing is as it seems. Powerful forces are standing against Emberfalll … and it will take more than a broken curse to save it from utter ruin.

This week on Tempted by… I have a genre I don’t read very often, Young Adult, and I was persuaded to step out of my comfort zone and pick up this copy of A Curse So Dark and Lonely  by Brigid Kemmerer after I read this review by Kaite at my way by starlight.

Kaite writes about this book with such passion and tenderness, explaining how it helped her out at a really difficult time. This is what all of the best literature does, transports you to another time, place or simple headspace just when you need it. It made me wonder if the book could do the same for me. In addition, who doesn’t love a fairytale retelling, and Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourites. I have discovered some of my favourite reads by being persuaded by other bloggers to step out of my comfort zone over the past three years, so I look forward to seeing where this book takes me.

This spirit of wanting to experience books that are out of my normal genre choices is one of the main reasons I was attracted to Kaite’s blog in the first place. She reads in quite different genres to me, but her reviews are always heartfelt and inspiring. And she also has an awesome Bookstagram feed which is gorgeous and fills me with jealousy and inspiration at the same time. Make sure you visit Kaite’s lovely blog at my way by starlight.

And is you have been equally tempted by this review to want a copy of A Curse So Dark and Lonely, you can get a copy here. Book 2 in the Cursebreaker series, A Heart So Fierce and Broken is also out now.

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green #BookReview (@johngreen) @PenguinUKBooks @PenguinRHUK @penguinrandom @TheFictionCafe #FictionCafeBookClub #FictionCafeReadingChallenge2019

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‘It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.’

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred thousand dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

This is the first book I have chosen this year as part of the 2019 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. (If you love books, you must check it out, it is the friendliest part of the internet for bibliophiles). The challenge is to read a new book every fortnight that fits the prescribed category for that two-week period.

The first category is ‘A book about mental health.‘ I have vowed to try and pick unread books from my TBR to fit the challenge categories, rather than buy new ones, which is where this comes in. It has been sat on my shelf since publication. Well, its time has finally come!

Is it safe to admit that I have never read a John Green book before? I know I’m probably the only person left on the planet who hasn’t read ‘The Fault In Our Stars,’ but I’ve avoided it as I thought it would really upset me. I decided it was about time I did read one, since he is one of the biggest selling authors on the planet, and I had this book waiting that seemed to fit the category. I bought it last year mainly because of the title, which piqued my curiosity and, I have to say, I was very happy when I got to the part when the title finally became clear!

So, what did I make of my first John Green novel? Well, the man can certainly write. His characters were fully developed and very intricate. I enjoyed his prose style and he obviously has a good grasp of how people, especially teenagers, tick. The book, whilst seeming to cover a very small life, explores in detail a terrifying and truly problematic mental health issue for the main character, Aza, and how this impacts every part of her life, severely, to the point that she can barely function in any ordinary way. The mystery part of the story is incidental and heavily side-lined, and the main focus is most definitely on the mental health topic and, in this, I think the blurb is a little misleading. Anyone buying this book looking mainly for a detective story is going to end up a little disappointed.

It’s quite clear that I am not the target audience for this book. It is definitely aimed at the YA market and, to be honest, those of a maturer persuasion looking back with years of like experience may find the adolescent navel-gazing a little self-indulgent. But this is how life is when you are a teenager. You do believe you are the centre of the world and your problems take on a magnified importance that can be over-whelming. Perspective comes with age and experience (hopefully, not always). Kids are monumentally self-absorbed and Green captures this very well and reflects it in his writing. And there is no doubt that any deviation in your personality from the norm at this age is terrifying. That’s not to say that mental health issues in adolescents should be trivialised or discounted. They are a real issue, and actually a lack of experience and perspective can magnify them and make them much harder to manage successfully. Aza’a issues are extreme and would be horrifying for anyone to deal with and, for me, the thoughts that she is experiencing are grotesque and would be impossible to live with, for child or adult. The author does an amazing job of displaying Aza’s thought spirals and the perpetual horror she is trapped in as she fights, and fails, to control them.

This book is an illuminating portrayal of the effects mental health issues can have on every part of a person’s life, and how surmounting these things can seem impossible. I think it will be more appealing to younger readers, just because of the focus on teenage lives, but the writing is without doubt compelling and it was a rewarding read. A little too harrowing emotionally to be classed as enjoyable, but definitely illuminating.

If you like the sound of the book, you can get a copy here.

About the Author

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John Green is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Looking For Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars, and Turtles All the Way Down. He is also the co-author, with David Levithan, of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. He was the 2006 recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award, a 2009 Edgar Award winner, and has twice been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Green’s books have been published in more than 55 languages and over 24 million copies are in print. John is also an active Twitter user with more than 5.4 million followers.

Connect with John:

Website: http://www.johngreenbooks.com

Facebook: John Green

Twitter: @johngreen

Instagram: @johngreenwritesbooks

Tempted by….I Should Read That: Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand @clairelegrand @HarperCollins @IShouldReadThat #bookbloggers #bloggerlove #readingrecommendations #booklove #SawkillGirls

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Who are the Sawkill Girls?

Marion: The newbie. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.

Zoey: The pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.

Val: The queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives; a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.

Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires. Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight…until now.

Continuing my series spotlighting fabulous fellow book bloggers who have enticed me to buy books on the back of their reviews, today we have Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand, as featured in this blog post by Justine on her wonderful blog, I Should Read That.

I really enjoy reading Justine’s reviews as she tends to read very different books to the ones I normally choose, so her blog opens up some different options to me and I am very keen to widen my reading horizons based on the recommendations of other bloggers whose opinions I trust. Justine is refreshingly honest in her reviews but always constructive and I respect her opinions.

When I read the review for this book, the first thing that drew me to it was the very striking cover art which I just love (we all know what a sucker I am for an attractive cover!). I was then intrigued by the description of the book as a mixture of Young Adult and horror. I don’t read a huge amount of either, so I thought this was a book that would be something different to break up my usual genre choices, and Justine’s description of the writing led me to believe it was a book I would enjoy. Although there were some negatives in the review, these actually made me want to read the book even more, to see if I could spot which aspects Justine is referring to her in her review and whether I agree with her.

I am looking forward to getting around to the book soon. If you would like to get your own copy of Sawkill Girls, you can find it here.

Make sure you check out Justine’s wonderful blog here. I love her tag line – ‘Books, cats, nonsense.’ Pretty much all you need for contentment!

Wild Blue Wonder by Carlie Sorosiak #BookReview (@carliesorosiak) @panmacmillan #WildBlueWonder #NetGalley

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“In the summer we all fell in love. By the winter we had fallen apart. For Quinn and her sister, Fern, and brother, Reed, summer means working as counselors at their family’s summer camp: months of bonfires, bunks, and friendships made and broken. But last summer was different. Last summer they all fell in love with the same boy – Dylan, their best friend since forever, suddenly seen through new eyes. Six months later and everything has changed. The summer camp is empty and covered in snow, and Quinn, Fern and Reed aren’t speaking to each other anymore. Something happened that summer that tore them apart, and their memories won’t let them forgive.”

There is a part in Wild Blue Wonder where one of the characters, who is British, says “I always wanted to go to American summer camp as a little boy’ and I could completely relate to him in that moment because I have ALWAYS wanted to go to an American summer camp. Since I am a 46-year-old British woman this probably isn’t going to happen to me now, but I am a tiny bit obsessed with all things American and summer camps seem like one of their better ideas that we should probably have over here. They always look like such great fun in the movies – camp fires, s’mores, singalongs, sports, water fights, friendships . My sister went as a camp counsellor to one in Canada and she said it was amazing. It is probably one of those things that might not translate well, as we don’t have those vast remote forests over here, but I have to admit that, as a parent about to face those long summer holidays with two kids to amuse, packing them off for a week or so for some good, outdoor fun has its appeal…

Anyway, one of the things that drew me to this book on NetGalley was the setting in an American summer camp, deliciously set in one of my favourite corners of the US, the state of Maine. I was expecting a very light-hearted, teenage angst coming-of-age story but this book really surprised me because it had so much more depth than I was anticipating.

The story is written from the main character of Quinn, a seventeen-year-old girl whose parents’ run a summer camp called The Hundreds where, every summer, Quinn and her brother and sister are counsellors. The book is written partly as Quinn addressing a person off stage, who we come to realise is Dylan, a friend of the family and camp counsellor and the central story revolves around the relationship between Dylan, Quinn and her siblings and the happenings at the camp the previous summer. There is a dual timeline with the previous summer’s drama slowly revealed amidst chapters set in the present, which is the subsequent winter, and the contrast between the bustling seaside town and camp at the height of summer, and the quiet, dead time in the winter is a revelation and something that few people think about I guess. I have certainly never considers what happens to these places when the short summer season is over.

The contrast in seasons cleverly mirrors the mental state of several of the protagonists as Quinn and her family struggle with the aftermath of things that happened during the last camp season and the author does a fantastic job of really bringing the location and environment to life. I really liked the quirky nature of the camp and Quinn’s eccentric family. The amazing, close, inter-generational relationships they clearly have before the dramatic events of the summer make the disintegration of those relationships even more heart-breaking later.

The characters are beautifully drawn and sympathetic and I really felt for Quinn and everything she was going through. I could feel all that teenage pain and confusion acutely and I was racing to the end to see how it finished and I felt like it was a very realistic portrayal of what it is like to be dealing with those teenage feelings and how difficult it can be to deal with those feelings when people don’t talk to each other.

The writing is really beautiful and evocative and Carlie has some lovely turns of phrase that perfectly sum up what she is trying to convey. “When we press our hands together, it’s like my skin knows his skin.” I understand precisely what she is trying to convey here, I recognise that feeling completely and there were a lot of moments like that throughout the book. It was a joy to read.

This book explores some difficult subjects and a real range of reactions and emotions and was a very captivating and emotional read. I closed the book with a warm and satisfied feeling, which is the most I ever ask from a book and I really enjoyed it. So much so that I have bought a paperback copy to give to my three teenage daughters to pass around; I am sure they are going to love it.  Although, they may start pestering me to go to an American summer camp themselves once they have read it.

Wild Blue Wonder is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

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Carlie Sorosiak grew up in North Carolina and holds two master’s degrees: one in English from the University of Oxford and another in creative writing and publishing from City, University of London. Her life goals include traveling to all seven continents and fostering many polydactyl cats. She currently splits her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, hoping to gain an accent like Madonna’s.

Connect with Carlie:

Website: https://carliesorosiak.com

Twitter: @carliesorosiak

Instagram: @carliesorosiak

Goodreads: Carlie Sorosiak

 

On The Horns Of A Dilemma

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I was going to start this post by apologising, yet again, for the lack of regular updates. However, I read a post earlier this week by another book blogger on the topic of pointless blogging guilt, so I won’t. This is my blog, which I am writing purely for fun, and I am doing the best I can given all the other current demands on my time and energy, so we will all have to be content with that for now!

Doubtless you will want an update on my progress and I am pleased to report that I have not yet succumbed to temptation and I have not purchased any books so far this year, which is good going. Cora, who blogs over at Tea Party Princess asked me how I am doing it. Sheer force of will and a good dollop of stubbornness (which my family and friends will know I have in abundance), plus giving any place that harbours books a very wide berth. I even sent my step-children into Waterstones the other week to collect my copy of Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project , which has been sat there since December waiting to be picked up, because I daren’t go in myself for fear of falling off the wagon.

However, I now find myself on the horns of a dilemma, and would seek guidance from you as to how to reconcile the problem with my current challenge.

Wednesday was my elder daughter’s 12th birthday (Happy Birthday, Mini-Me – please stop growing or I will have to stop calling you that) and she was given a copy of Caraval by Stephanie Garber. My sister, who has read the book, mentioned that it had some adult themes and suggestive passages in it that I may be uncomfortable allowing Mini-Me to read and suggested that I might want to read it first.

So here is my quandry. I have pledged not to buy, beg, borrow or steal any new books in 2017, but only read books that were in my TBR pile on 1 January 2017 and this book does not fall in to that category. I really do not want to fail in this challenge. At the same time, I do not want to allow Mini-Me to read anything unsuitable and I cannot really expect her to wait until next January to read her new book just so I can read it first.

What do I do? Is Caraval suitable for a 12-year-old who is fully conversant with the birds and the bees but not especially worldly for her age? If I read the book now, have I failed in my challenge? If I don’t, and allow Mini-Me to read it, will she be turned off literature, except books about horses, forever? (Although, they can be less than innocent – hello, Jilly Cooper!*) My sister is rather more prudish than I am (sorry, C, but you know it is true, it is one of your most endearing characteristics) so it may be that something she thinks is suggestive, I will think is perfectly acceptable. Maybe I should give it to a third party to read and assess in my stead – any volunteers? Has anyone read this book and can let me know what they think?

Any guidance gratefully accepted. Will I give in and read the book (which I really want to, it sounds great)? Will the challenge be all over? Will Mini-Me read the book and be scarred for life? Will C enter a convent? Tune in next week to find out what happens following this exciting cliffhanger!

*Before anyone calls social services, I have not allowed my daughter to read Riders yet, or any other Jilly Cooper for that matter, although I love her and do have the complete set!