I received The Poison Garden in exchange for an honest review
This book opened with a bang and ended leaving me wanting more. A great read, it definitely cements Alex Marwood as one of my newer favourites in the writing crime world.
She sets the scene with an incredibly chilling scene when two detectives are called to secluded area in Wales to discover a mass suicide; bodies piled upon bodies in the remote countryside. “The faces are blue, and green, and black. Mouths gape at falling rain. Fingers claw the empty space around them.” Continue reading
I received Miracle Creek in exchange for an honest review.
I love how you never know what you’re going to get from a debut novel, and I love it even more it when a debut comes along that’s as powerful and intelligently written as this one. I have no doubt it’s going to be a huge success.
It’s hard to categorise this book, but at its heart I think it’s a character-focused drama. It combines segments of the past with an on-going courtroom drama around a fire at a controversial HBOT treatment centre. Could the fire have been started by protesters against people putting their disabled children through undue stress? By the owner, a Korean immigrant who’s sacrificed everything for his family but is still struggling and could come into a huge insurance payout? Or the frazzled mother, at the end of her tether with endless treatments and caring for her child? Or someone else? Continue reading
I received How To Be Famous in exchange for an honest review
The prequel to this, How To Build A Girl, was a surprise hit with me back in 2015 when I read it and I didn’t even realise a sequel was out until it popped up on Netgalley! This novel brings us back to Johanna but in a very different environment; gone is the family dynamic (she barely even mentions her family from back home) and here instead is the big city, rock-n-roll lifestyle, all told from Johanna’s quirky, unique point of view. You don’t need to have read the first novel before this one; just enjoy being thrown into Johanna’s wild, young, 90s British lifestyle. Continue reading
I received The First Time Lauren Pailing Died in exchange for an honest review
I was drawn to this novel because it’s about parallel lives and I love the simple but evocative cover which just screams 1970s Britain to me (even though I never lived in this era, I love books that evoke past eras and this one definitely does). But if you go into this expecting some weird and wonderful sci-fi, you may be disappointed. This is actually a simple but effective character study about a British girl called Lauren and her family, and a few of the lives she may have lead. This book didn’t suck me in at the first page; it’s not an in-your-face, punchy story – it’s a slow, subtle and thought-provoking relationship drama. It took me a little while to warm to, but after a while I was hooked.
Essentially, Lauren Pailing leads a pretty average life. She has a happy childhood, she grows up (in some lives), studies, works, falls in love, marries and starts a family. The beauty in this story is in the ordinary. It shimmers with the emotions of the every day; a mother’s love for her child; a husband’s love for his wife. In some of Lauren’s lives she dies young, and we follow the grief of those left behind. In some she lives on, but the tone feels more and more fragmented as her other lives begin to catch up with her.
This book was in some ways more and some ways less than I expected. The concept of past/parallel lives isn’t explored as much as I’d hoped – there’s actually a lot less lives than I’d expected – but there are some interesting takes on it in the final third when Lauren begins to attempt to confront her past. I felt for small characters in this story more than I’d expected, while my feelings for Lauren remained fairly neutral – I didn’t dislike her, but I didn’t love her either. There’s a feeling of displacement throughout the novel and her changing lives which maybe stopped me associating with her as much, but overall it works – I was sucked into the subtle drama of the lives of Lauren and those around her. The author effortlessly captures life, love and loss in a relatively short, quiet novel. It didn’t quite tick all my boxes but there’s something quite beautiful about this debut novel – I’ll be looking out for more from this author.
So, after reading ADSOM back in the 2016 I finally got around to reading the other two books in the trilogy and it was awesome and magical! I very rarely read YA these days and I when I do I like to pick my titles carefully; there’s been such a surge in YA fantasy it can be difficult to sift the average from the gems. This series is definitely an absolute gem. A stand-out read I’d recommend to readers of all ages, this series has some of the most creative and original world-building I’ve read, along with relateable characters and a strong plot which never wavers along the way.
A Gathering Of Shadows
Pirates, princes and magical tournaments are the focus of this middle novel as we rejoin Lila, now a member of The Night’s Spire sailing the seas around Red London, and Kell and Rhy as they deal with the consequences of Kell’s decision to save Rhy’s life by bonding it to his own. This book is all about character and world development as relationships are strengthened and explored and the world beyond the Londons is opened up. We follow Lila exploring the pirate world and learn more about the Maresh family’s relationship with the neighbouring countries. But, despite this perhaps being considered the filler novel of the series, there’s plenty of action too. I absolutely loved the Essen Tach – the magical tournament which saw the nation’s strongest magicians pit their skills against each other in epic live battles. And, in a different London there’s a darker threat gathering power ready for the final instalment…
A Conjuring Of Light
So, we come to the finale which is all out action. I don’t want to go into too much detail in case anyone hasn’t finished the series but there is an awesome villain fully worthy of the series finale; a true embodiment of the darker shades of magic. After following the character arcs through books one and two I was fully rooting for all our characters (although Lila has to be my favourite) and this book picks up immediately where AGOS left off. I read these two back to back and I really feel that way gave the best impact – I just wish I’d read them back when I read the first! This one’s fairly lengthy at over 600 pages, but it packs in so much action it really doesn’t feel that long, and now I’ve finished the series I actually miss the characters. One small negative I have would be that there’s a little more romance as the story goes on which I didn’t think was really needed, but I was happy with how all of the characters’ stories ended.
Surely now there has to be a film of this series – and anyone else want Maisie Williams to play Lila?! It may be because I was watching the final series of GOT while reading these books, but I think she’d be a perfect fit. I’ll keep hoping…
I received The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone in exchange for an honest review
I’m on a roll with Australian authors this year, and this is yet another awesome Australian novel. A clever, multi-layered and slow-burning drama mystery, reminiscent of The Virgin Suicides, I really enjoyed this one.
The story of young girls going missing is not an uncommon one in novels, but this one has a slightly different take on the genre. It’s less a thriller; it more starts off as a meandering memory of childhood as our protagonist Tikka reflects on the summer the Van Apfel girls disappeared. She and her sister Laura grew up in a close-knit Australian community, just down the road from the three Van Apfel sisters Hannah, Ruth and the enigmatic Cordie, and the five are firm friends from the beginning.
Days spent baking under the hot sun, squabbling over ice creams and lounging by the pool are vividly brought to life with beautiful writing, and the small-town atmosphere, stifling heat, the sibling relationships and childish outlook feel incredibly authentic. Continue reading
I am a huge, long-standing fan of Jodi Picoult; her books never fail to disappoint in tackling topical issues in a sensitive, knowledgeable manner. This book was no exception, and while it fell a little short of some of her best works for me, it’s still an original, informative look at the topic of abortion.
Picoult presents to us both pro-choice and pro-life, and the greys in between in her vast cast of characters in this story of a hostage situation at an abortion clinic. Told backwards, the story starts on the verge of the hostage negotiator Hugh making a break-through and works backwards to explain how all of the characters got there. Continue reading
I received The Dangerous Kind in exchange for an honest review
This release was the first I’ve heard of this author, but it’s getting some strong early reviews and I love a good crime thriller so I’d thought I’d give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed – this is a gritty, fast-paced read which had me racing through the pages, and it tackles some hard-hitting topics along the way.
Jessamine is an established radio broadcaster at the BBC, working on a show which explores convicted criminal’s histories to ask whether their crimes could have been prevented. All of the crimes they present are closed cases, but when she’s approached one day about a current missing person, Cassie Scolari, she’s intrigued. In a separate narrative we’re introduced to Rowena, thirteen and living in care when she’s drawn into a seedy paedophile network. Continue reading
I received The Rosie Result in exchange for an honest review
This final instalment was the perfect rounding off to what’s been a thoroughly enjoyable, heartwarming series. We’ve followed Don from a geeky, relatively isolated 40-year-old virgin professor to an established family man and entrepreneur with a close, supportive network of friends around him. This final instalment also delves a little deeper into the topic of autism, a theme which has lingered in the background of all the novels and is finally tackled head-on.
The Rosie Result begins ten years after the last instalment, The Rosie Effect. Rosie and Don are back in Australia and their son, Hudson, is having problems at school, forcing Don to think back to his own adolescent years. Continue reading
I read and fell in love with The Secret History a couple of years ago, so it was inevitable that I’d get around to this one at some point, and with the film coming out later this year, I decided it was time to give this epic 800-pager a try.
I have to admit my love for this one wasn’t as strong as The Secret History, but it does cement Tartt as one of the best wordsmiths around, in my humble opinion. With plenty of pages to play with, she captures scenes and atmospheres so well, bringing New York, Las Vegas and Amsterdam to life in her own way. Nothing is rushed, every word feels considered and perfectly placed.
This book is vast, in length and subject matter as we follow the protagonist from a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, through some tumultuous teenage years in Vegas and back to New York and beyond as as adult. Everyone seems to have different opinions on which parts they prefer; personally I loved his New York beginnings; the loss of his mother in a museum bombing and his struggling to adjust to life with the Barbour family was beautifully written. Continue reading