I received The Toymakers in exchange for an honest review
I read this novel over Christmas, and it was the last book I read last year. It was the perfect finish to my 2017 reading; not quite what I expected, but something even better.
The cover and blurb for The Toymakers alludes to it being a heart-warming, whimsical Christmas tale. I expected something light-hearted, and I got that in places but a lot more as well. Don’t be fooled by the cute, festive cover – this book has hidden depths.
“Are you lost? Are you afraid? Are you a child at heart? So are we.”
Teenager Cathy is pregnant and scared. She wants to escape the control of her parents and, when she sees this advert in the newspaper, she sees an opportunity to do so. She embarks on a journey to London, to Papa Jack’s Emporium. Continue reading
I received The Child Finder in exchange for an honest review
This was a surprise gem of a book. At first glance, I took it for a regular missing child mystery – a plot which has been covered many times – and I nearly passed it up. I’m so glad I didn’t because this is an elegant, atmospheric novel which tells a fairly unoriginal story in a unique, creative way.
Set in the heart of an Oregon forest, where it seems to always always be snowing, this is a beautifully atmospheric tale – you can almost see the snow topped mountains and feel the bitter cold. Denfeld makes the missing child story her own, bringing her setting and characters to life with rich, almost lyrical prose, interweaving fairy tales and magical realism with dark reality. Continue reading
Happy new year, folks! I hope you all had a great one. I can’t believe it’s my third year of doing a yearly wrap-up on this log – seriously, where does the time go?! I’ve got pretty busy this year and unfortunately my blog and my reading have been neglected – I set myself a challenge of 55 books this year and only got through 40, my lowest yet. But I did read some good ones, and I enjoy looking back at them, so here goes my top ten for 2017… (covers link to Goodreads or my review) Continue reading
There’s been countless takes on Conan Doyle’s famous detective over the years but, as far as I’m aware, this is the only series that was officially sanctioned by the Estate. And I’m so pleased it was Horowitz that was given that honour, as I loved his take on Sherlock Holmes.
The plot itself opens in typical Holmes style, with a frazzled client turning up at 221B Baker Street. I found the section a little slow, as personally I didn’t really enjoy this story; ‘The Man With the Flat Cap’. If you’re feeling the same as I did, hang on, – there’s a much deeper, darker mystery here still to be explored; The House Of Silk.
The House Of Silk is a great modern take on the classic series; it retains the atmosphere of the era and captures the characters wonderfully, but eliminates some of the more archaic language and views which (I’m sorry to admit) held me back from completing loving the original books. Continue reading
I received Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore in exchange for an honest review
This was a wonderful, quirky surprise, quite unlike anything else I’ve read this year. A twisty mystery thriller, packed with eccentric characters, bookish references and hidden secrets.
The Bright Ideas Bookstore has its regulars, those bookseller Lydia has affectionately named ‘Book Frogs’. Mainly men, the Book Frogs are lost and lonely, those who’ve slipped through the cracks of society and finding a peaceful refuge in the store. And they seem harmless, until Lydia finds one of them hanging from the ceiling, with an old photograph of her tenth birthday party in his pocket.
Joey was a little different, but Lydia liked having him around the store. “He was a shattered young man, Lydia often thought, haunted but harmless – a dust bunny blowing through the corners of the store.” His death shakes Lydia, but she’s drawn in deeper when she finds out he’s left the entire contents of his flat to her, including a stack of books with hidden messages which leads her on a journey into her own past. Continue reading
I received I Know a Secret in exchange for an honest review
This is the twelfth in the Rizzioli ad Isles series, and Tess Gerritsen has done it again! Fast becoming one of my favourite thriller authors, Gerritsen has really mastered creating unputdownable stories which explore complex issues and characters without ever dropping the fast pace.
The story opens, as most of them do, with a body. This one is of Cassandra Coyle, a young amateur film maker who specialises in the horror genre. There’s something horrific about her death too; her eyes have been gauged out and placed in her had post-mortem. Our resident Doctor, Maura Isles, struggles to identify a cause of death, and so the mystery begins.
The characters shine through again in this instalment; I love the story arc of Jane Rizzioli and Maura Isles and their strong friendship (although I don’t think you need to read all the books in order to enjoy this one), unbroken by the countless murders the two have seen. In this novel we have a third point of view, Holly. Holly was fascinating to read as well – she certainly knows a few secrets and it’s unclear until the very end whether she’s a culprit or another victim.
The body count and the suspect list increases, as Gerritsen unfolds a mystery which stems back decades, linking to an old unsolved case of a missing nine-year-old girl, and a scandalous child abuse case which connects the victims. It’s one which not only kept me on tenterhooks, but it’s deeper and more multilayered than many in this genre.
I already know that Gerritsen has a background in medicine which helps with those oh-so-authentic (and gory) autopsy scenes, but this novel feels well researched in other areas too. The tale is rich in symbolism, from religious iconography to to horror movie classics, and clues are scattered behind throwaway lines, just tantalisingly hidden from view until the big reveal. It’s an intelligent story, yet it’s a page-turner too – a rare and extremely satisfying combination.
I received I Am Behind You in exchange for an honest review
This was a bizarre book. Simultaneously bleak, brutal and beautiful but, above all, weird. It won’t be for everyone, but I enjoyed how different it was.
We meet four families from vastly different backgrounds, from a footballer and his wife to a same sex couple of farmers, who gradually found solace in each other when they lost their wives. What the group has in common is that they’ve all got secrets, and they all wake up one day to discover all signs of life have disappeared from their campsite. Continue reading
I received Artemis in exchange for an honest review.
I have to admit, when I initially heard the premise for Artemis, I was nervous. Andy Weir’s debut worked because, despite being sci-fi, it felt like realism. Every step of the main character’s journey and struggles on a failed mission to Mars felt meticulously researched. Can the author pull off that same feel of authenticity in a new novel set in an entirely fictional city on the moon? Turns out, the answer is yes!
I loved Artemis. I loved the incredible world-building, the high-stakes heist and, most of all, the protagonist, Jazz. This wiley, feisty, street-smart character is a rebel with a heart; she seems to have split readers but I am firmly in camp Jazz. She’s got confidence and wit in bucket-loads and it was fantastic to read. I’m so glad the author opted for diversity here, with a Saudi Arabian woman from a Muslim family as the main character, for me it strengthened the novel as a whole. Continue reading
I saw one reviewer describe It as a story of the ties that bind, and I think that’s a pretty much perfect description. In a nutshell, It’s about a group of friends, the self-named ‘loser’s club’, who face an unspeakable horror when they’re young. When It returns 27 years later, they each leave their new lives behind to come back and defeat it together.
Stephen King’s imagination is like no other, and his depiction of an unspeakable terror which will take on a different form dependent on the viewers’ own fears allows that imagination to run riot. It preys on children because they’re weak, but also vulnerable and susceptible to the powers of the imagination in a way that adults just aren’t. The children in this story believe easily and bond quickly, and the bond they forge at that age is almost unbreakable. That’s why, when decades later they receive the call, the bunch regroup without question. Continue reading
So, I’m a little late posting this one – and given the weather’s turn it’s hard to believe that less than a month ago I was seeing out the last of the summer in Crete. But, I was, and so this book packed with Cretan history seemed like the perfect pick for my trip. Victoria Hislop’s much-hyped debut, hailed as a ‘beach book with a brain’, offers an insight into some little-known (or at least to me) Greek history. With a historical drama and touching family saga played out against the natural beauty of the island of Crete, it seemed ideal for my recent holiday. But it’s not without it’s flaws.
I knew little about the island of Spinalonga before this book, but after reading it’s an island I won’t forget in a hurry. This was Greece’s leper colony from the early 1900s through to the 1950s; one of the last European leper colonies in existence. The disease of leprosy was misunderstood, and victims were often feared and demonised. Hislop frames her story around a village family who are inflicted by the disease, and the majority of the tale is set between Spinalonga and Plaka, a small town opposite the the island, during this period. Continue reading