Thursday, 23 March 2017

Book Review: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

Read: March 18-19  Verdict: 4 Stars

I received this book from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.

This book has trigger warnings for OCD, anxiety, sexual assault. **

Amber Reynolds is in a coma. She can't remember what happened to her but she soon realises she didn't end up in hospital by accident.  In flashbacks, Amber slowly begins to remember the days leading up to her accident and begins to suspect everyone around her. The only problem is, Amber is prone to lying. So what happened to her, and who's really to blame?

This book was definitely the definition of a thriller for me. I was so tense reading this book - I could feel my whole body on edge, my heart was racing at times. There were a few moments i actually felt the urge to throw the book across the room because of what was happening or what was being implied and I couldn't handle it but at the same time, I needed to keep reading! This is a book that will leave you gasping, shaking, yelling at the pages and feeling utterly baffled at the same time, and I love it.

I went into this book only knowing three things - the main character was in a coma, she believed her husband no longer loved her and that she sometimes lied. Within a few chapters of the book, I began to soften towards Amber. There were a lot of things seemingly going on in her life that made me feel for her and i wanted things to work out for her. But then a while later, I reminded myself with one of the facts - Amber was prone to lying so how could I, as the reader, believe anything she was saying? Suddenly, Amber changed and became an unlikable character to me and I loved this transition. There were moments I felt for her and other moments when I just had no idea what was happening or who I could believe. I felt completely lost but in a great way, and in a way I come to expect great thrillers to make me feel.

Eventually some things begin to add up, and I eventually guessed some of what was going to happen but it didn't take away any enjoyment of the book for me. It was a really great read. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Book Review: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Read: March 5-7  Verdict: 4.5 stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

When Tea’s beloved brother Fox dies, killed by a demon like creature called a daeva, she discovers she’s a bone witch when she literally raises him from the dead. Now Tea has to learn how to be a proper asha (witch) and learn about her new skills which involve singing, dancing, runes and even necromancy.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It’s really unique and I don’t think I have read anything much like it before. I really love that Tea was so young when we meet her and start following her journey. She’s only thirteen so as a reader, we really get to see her develop into a scared young girl into a confident young woman. Saying that, she is still only 15 when the book ends so there’s still a long way to go which is exciting.

I loved the world and the world building. There was a lot of kingdoms, eight to be exact, and we do learn gradually about most of them and the rulers, as well as the Faceless - rebels who can use dark magic, much like the magic Tea has, to do terrible things. I found the world itself to be very multi-cultrured in how its described and the different people and where they all come from.

I thought the back and forth between each chapter was very interesting as we are seeing Tea starting out and then an older Tea who has done something wrong, been cast out but is obviously still extremely strong. So even though we see her struggle, we know she gets there in the to become one of the best asha’s ever.

I loved her relationship between her brother Fox. i had a total crush on him - I loved that he was able to take part in some of her lessons and the link they had. There was a lovely closeness between them that was also a nice teasing relationship the way you’d expect a brother to be with his little sister.

Tea’s constant references to her ‘dead love; got a bit annoying in the future parts of the book. While I understood her fury, I felt like we as readers didn’t need the constant reminder and learning more about Tea she would be doing what she was doing for more than just revenge. I also wasn’t surprised at the little twist when it came to that love - I was actually expecting it.

I can’t wait for the next book in this series, as it left off at a point where a lot of stuff was about to go down and i can’t wait to read all about it. This definitely has a lot of potential for a strong, unique YA fantasy series with a cast of great characters. Definitely worth a read!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Book Review: Dancing in the Rain by Lynn Joseph

Read: September 27-28  Verdict: 4 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

This middle-grade book is set during the events of the September 11 attacks in New York and focuses on two different families and how they deal with the effect the attacks have on their families.

Elizabeth’s father and Brandt and Jared’s mother both work in the attacks and they end up meeting together in the Dominican Republic and realising they can help each other heal their families. This book is whimsical and a bit magical in places with dreamy writing and a childlike optimism that really seems to beam from the pages. I really enjoyed it. It was avery quick read and I read it in two short sittings but I was really invested in the story and I really connected with Elizabeth and Brandt in particular and just how lovely they were. I really wanted to hug them. Brandt’s reactions to his mom and brother Jared (who appears to be slightly on the autistic spectrum possibly) was really wonderful and it made me think of all the things children can probably see and understand around them that adults can’t.

I really loved the very last scene in the book. It really came alive for me and I actually felt a bit emotional at imagining everyone together, and beginning to heal and realising there were so many things life had to offer when you’re able to look past that grief. This book is about loss, grief, companionship and support and it’s really lovely and I definitely recommend it to everyone to read.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Book Review: Something in Between by Melissa De La Cruz

Read: September 22-24  Verdict: 4.5 Stars

Jasmine De Los Santos is the All-American girl. She’s cheer captain, a shoe-in for valedictorian and a top-class student who has just won the prestigious National Scholar award but then Jasmine’s world crumbles when she finds out she is undocumented.

“I love my country. I love America. Being American is as much a part of me as breathing.”
This was a really great book and really gave me a look into the struggles and fears of being being an undocumented immigrant in the States, or indeed in any country in the world. Jasmine is perfect - almost too perfect. She is cheer captain, valedictorian, popular, beautiful, really, really clever but she definitely goes through a momentous journey of self-discovery once she finds out she’s an “illegal alien”. Jasmine’s identity crumbles and we are really with her along the way as she has to pick up piece by piece of herself and figure out who she is now.

“'I don’t even know who I am anymore.’I really don’t. I feel like a ghost in my own country. No matter what I do, I feel like I’m fading, like I’m becoming a shadow.”
I liked Jasmine’s strong roots with her Filipino background and family. A lot of her experiences with her family seem very close to what I would expect of families from different cultures. She’s encouraged to be American and strive for the American dream but she still needs to be a good Filipino girl who doesn’t go to parties and kiss boys, etc. She loves the Philippines and misses her family vacations to Manila. But that doesn’t mean she wants to live there. Jasmine is torn in a lot of way, she’s not Filipino, but suddenly she’s not American either. Who is she?

I really loved Jasmine’s relationship with Royce. I liked that it was going all sorts of ways at first because it was a text communication and it felt very real. They were just so super cute and I really enjoyed all of their best moments and when they weren’t at their best, I wanted them to make-up. I like that,because this book spans almost an entire year, we see a lot of the ups and downs of their very real relationships. They fight with each other and almost break up a few times over silly things like everyone has done with their partner but eventually they both come around, meet up and apologise They actually talked a lot of stuff out with each other all the time which was refreshing for a YA romance where we normally see things being bottled up for way too long. Their romance just seemed like the real deal to me - plus, I can totally see them being a power couple when they’re older.

“Most of all, I like how he looks into my eyes like he’s seeing past the image everyone else sees into who I really am beyond all the things that I do. And he thinks I’m beautiful.”
I do think this book got a little bit long-winded at times and there were times I wanted Jasmine to stop waffling on and get to the point of things or let me know what was going on with the stuff that was actually important to the plot of the story. This story does take place over the course of the year so a lot of stuff happens, I just don’t think Jasmine needed to describe every single thing. I also wasn’t mad for the side-plot that was Mason. It was a bit predictive and boring, and there were parts I didn’t think made that much sense about him.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I loved the story but I also enjoyed that it was a diverse book that opened my eyes into how some things around undocumented immigrants are handled in the States and how unfair some of the cases can be. i also liked the brief forays in the Filipino traditions and food, etc that Jasmine’s family indulged in.

“I’ve come to think of America as an open window - open to new possibilities, to the new life promised to those who journey from far away to reach its shores."

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Book Review: Iron Cast by Destiny Soria

Read: September 7-8  Verdict: 4.5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback. 

Ada and Corianne are living in Boston in 1919 and are extremely skilled hemopaths. Hemopathy is a form of magic where the people with the power of hemopathy can create illusions through art whether it be a wordsmith, a songsmith or an artist. The Hemopathy Protection Agency (HPA) is closing in on Ada and Corianne’s tails and they are at risk at being thrown into an asylum and losing everything and everyone they love.

I loved this - the setting, the AMAZING female friendships, the magic system. It was great. At the start of the book, I felt like as a reader i had been thrown into the quick of it and it took me a while to really gather the details of the story around me and get into it but soon it wasn’t long before I was devouring each chapter.

Ada and Corinne are amazing characters - strong in themselves, their powers, their opinions. They’ve been allowed blossom into amazing women by their protector Johnny Dervish who looks after them by running a club where hemopaths perform. The brief romances the girls have are very much in the background and the main relationship focused on in the book is the girl’s friendship which I loved.This book contains characters of colour and different sexuality and no fuss is made of either (except some of the racism Ada experiences as a black woman in 1919 America).

The story was engaging and really kept me on my toes as the girls showed more of their powers (I really loved their way of practising their illusions against each other as a game) and then as they tried to solve the mystery of the asylum’s basement. There were twists and turns, especially in the second half and it left me gasping and not knowing what would come next. 

And can I say how beautiful it is that at someone's last moments, Corianne has the power to send them anywhere in the world for their dying breath. So emotional and beautiful

I really loved the end, and I hope this isn’t the last of Ada and Corinne cause I'd love more.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Book Review: Burnt Paper Sky/What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan

Read: 18-29 August   Verdict: 5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Rachel’s 8-year-old son Ben is missing. One moment he was with her, the next he ran around the corner and vanished. Now Rachel is trying to hold it together while the police desperately try to find him before it’s too late. This has also been published under the title What She Knew.

This book was absolutely excellent and I just couldn’t put it down! I read the majority of it in more or less one sitting. I was immediately sucked into the story - the pain and anguish pouring out of the words from Rachel’s POV - was agonising yet addictive to read. I felt her pain as a mother who didn’t know where her son was was done really well - the range of emotions, the desperation, the media’s vilification of her for her reactions. All done great.

Burnt Paper Sky is highly descriptive and at first I thought it might be too much but then after a couple of chapters it began working really well. I feel like i got a good feel of Rachel and the other POV in the book - the detective James ‘Jim’ Clemo. Clemo’s chapters really wrapped up the police investigation for me, seeing how they were pursuing leads and filling in what Rachel couldn’t tell the readers. His back and forth storyline of how the case affected him was done very well and i think highlighted an important point that different cases can affect different police officers and it’s not just the parents or family who suffered from PTSD, depression or anxiety after such an incident (I think Clemo’s chapters with a therapist also highlight how important it is to talk about your feelings and thoughts as well.)

There was a great point in this book as well in how the media treated Rachel as a single mother who had lost her son. Within a day the media and public had turned on her because she didn’t act like the meek, crying woman they wanted her to be. She showed anger and appeared a bit unstable (all understandable really given the situation) and suddenly she was acting oddly while the crying father who had walked away from his wife and son for another woman was shown in a good light. I think it highlighted the gap in how media sometimes treats women versus men very well. And it also highlighted how social media today and comments under articles affect people in the middle of the story and how hard it is to get away from them.

I was a bit surprised by the outcome but not too surprised as it’s the type of story that really makes you suspect everyone! I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. Fantastic read.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Book Review and Author Q&A: The Salt Marsh by Clare Carson

Read:July 5-7    Verdict: 3 Stars

Sam Coyle’s father was an undercover cop and her whole life he taught her to be wary of everyone and everything. Now her father is dead and Sam is having a hard time getting over it. Then Sam’s boyfriend disappears, she gets strange messages on her answering machine and it appears like someone is after her. Sam ends up on a mission to find out what’s going on and just might end up leaving a trail of bodies in her wake.

This is a suspenseful mystery novel that manages to tie in the fear of nuclear disaster with family ties and legacy as one woman figures out who she is and if she really is her father’ daughter. Sam is a thoughtful, mature character who despite only being 20, seems to be able to look after herself and doesn’t hesitate to get things done. There were times she could be a bit hasty in going and leaving places but that was okay in the end. I enjoyed getting glimpses of her relationships with the men in her life - her dad, Luke, Dave and eventually even Sonny, and how they all ended up shaping her a little bit and helping her. This book definitely had me suspecting everyone all the time though I wasn’t that surprised at the conclusion.

The book’s plot around the nuclear power plants and protests went a bit over my head as it’s set in the 80s and I wasn’t even born yet so I don’t have a really clear idea of the time when people were protesting Sellafield and Chernobyl was still a clear memory for everyone. It was definitely interesting and it set the scene a lot. There were times I forgot the book was set in the 80s as it was a bit timeless like that and I’d only remember when she checked the answering machine at her house.

I really loved Sonny and thought he was a mysterious, anti-hero character. He was dark and handsome but he was also ruthless. Yet, he showed remorse for the things he’d done from crying after he finished ‘a job’, to his renewed faith and the crosses on his arms for his victims. I think I would have liked more flashbacks or something with Sam’s previous history with Sonny and how it all went down with her dad. I’m very surprised we didn’t get an actual flashback of that day.

Overall, this was tense and suspenseful with also a hint of the supernatural about it. Sam is a bit obsessed with witches and witchcraft and some of her interactions with people definitely left me feeling a bit spooked. Everything tied in nicely at the end and I enjoyed it.

Q&A with author Clare Carson

1. What inspired the idea of this book?

This is the second book I’ve written about Sam, the daughter of a police spy. Orkney Twilight, the first book dealt with Sam finding out about her father’s work. It was partly inspired by my own childhood – my dad was an undercover policeman - as well as my love of spy thrillers. The Salt Marsh comes from the same sources of inspiration – but in this book, Sam has to deal with the legacy of her father’s enemies.

2. Crime/mystery novels often have complex plots and a lot of little things that lead into big reveals. Did it take you long to map out how everything would come together?

I spent a week or so mapping out the plot – but I changed it as I went along. And then I changed things around again when other people read it and gave me helpful feedback. Working out what goes where and when to reveal details is one of the hardest things, I find, about writing a crime/mystery. I definitely need somebody else to read my draft with a fresh pair of eyes to help get it right.
3. The Salt Marsh is set in the backdrop of people protesting the nuclear power plants in the 80s. Was the small power movements around the nuclear power plants, such as the protests planned by Sam and Luke, something you wanted to educate your readers on?
I write about things that interest me and I like characters – particularly women - and plots that have one foot in relationships and one foot in politics. They are easier to find on TV than in contemporary crime/thriller fiction: the German TV show Deutschland 83 - about the son of a Stasi spy and German peace movements - was great. I also loved Grace, the police spy’s daughter, in Peaky Blinders. Sam is a similar character – the daughter of a police spy, she is pulled in different directions by her politics and her personal loyalties. The Salt Marsh is set in 1986. Protest movements around nuclear power and weapons were a big part of the eighties, so those issues were a good entry point for the story. I do think, though, that the people’s power politics of the eighties and the issues around nuclear power and safety have a lot of resonance with the politics of today – so I hope readers find it interesting and can relate to it.

4. There's a feel of the supernatural in this book with mentions of witches, light and dark magic and crow dancers. What made you decide to add this to the book and give Sam 'a witch's mark' in the form of her birth mark?

I like to weave mythology and magic in my plots because, as Sam discovers, in the world of spying it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between fact and fiction. The idea for the witch’s mark came from a book called Daemonologie which was written by King James 1 in 1597. He writes that you can tell a witch by her mark, and when you find the mark, burn the witch. Sam is worried that she has inherited her father’s sins and enemies – so the birthmark seemed like a good way of conveying those fears.

5. Sonny is an intriguing character. He's dark and handsome but also a killer. How was it developing his character and turning him into a partner in crime in a way for Sam.
I like difficult characters from tough backgrounds who are trying to make sense of their own history. They are interesting to write. During the eighties and early nineties I met quite a few men who were damaged by their part in the fight against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa: deserters from the brutal South African army who didn’t want to fight for apartheid, and African National Congress exiles who had been traumatized fighting against the apartheid government. The character of Sonny draws on these people in different ways. So it was interesting for me to build Sonny’s story, show both his strengths and his flaws, and explore his relationship with Sam.