Brief blogs for busy bees

Tag: five star review

Blog tour: I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory

Blog tour: I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory

Hello everyone! This is the most exciting blog tour I’ve been involved in all year, and I’ve been dying to share my thoughts on I Hold Your Heart – Karen Gregory’s third novel – with you all. I absolutely loved Countless and Skylarks left me […]

Review: Vote For Effie by Laura Wood

Review: Vote For Effie by Laura Wood

Effie Kostas is new at school and she’s struggling to fit in. She’s intelligent and confident, but she feels basically invisible until she gets into an argument with Aaron Davis – Student Council President – when he abuses his lunch pass privilege to buy the […]

Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Addie is heartbroken, so spending the summer in Ireland watching her Aunt Mel get married (again) is not the one.

It’s made even worse by the fact that her and Ian – her brother and her closest friend – are at each other’s throats constantly. He won’t let her forget the fact that she didn’t trust his advice earlier in the summer and it blew up in her face.

Oh, and then she misses her flight to Italy because Ian decides he’s going across Ireland on a road trip with Rowan (an internet friend he’s literally never mentioned before who he met through his secret indie music blog) to Electric Picnic to see his favourite band, Titletrack, perform their last ever show. Totally not part of their travel itinerary, particularly not in Clover, Rowan’s beaten up car which is barely roadworthy before they even start their journey.

But luckily she has Ireland for the Heartbroken, a travel guide to Ireland with challenges to complete in each location which promise to help the reader recover from their heartbreak. If Addie can’t have Italy, hopefully guidebook lady’s advice can save the day.

Love & Luck is the contemporary novel I never knew I needed. Every single part of this book appealed to me, and I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love with a book so fast.

I think part of the charm is that I relate deeply to both of the main characters.

Addie’s heartbreak is the violent, messy kind. She doesn’t sit around weeping and moaning; she gets in a fistfight with her brother and shouts so much that she can’t help but cry.

Meanwhile, Ian’s addiction to Titletrack reminds me of how palpable my excitement used to be every time I saw a new band live for the first time. His sadness at Titletrack’s impending split is something that every music fan will feel deeply, and I found myself wistfully wishing that I’d been able to travel across country to see some of my favourite bands’ final shows.

Each chapter of Addie’s story is followed by an excerpt from the guidebook, introducing a new location in Ireland for the group to travel towards. This structure pushes the story on incredibly quickly, because you learn about the place – in a fun, conversational way, completely at odds to what I’d expect from the narrator of a travel guide – and then barrel full steam ahead towards it, overcoming the many obstacles that crop up.

Jenna Evans Welch cleverly relates the stories of the locations and then links them to an aspect of the history of Titletrack, explaining the reason both Addie and Ian would be interested in each landmark they visit. I found myself getting overly invested in a fictional band, and my heart was racing when they finally took to the stage at the end of the novel!

This is a story that’s focused on getting past heartbreak with the help of your friends, not rushing headfirst straight into a new relationship. There’s obviously chemistry between Addie and Rowan but nothing happens between them and I appreciated that. When you’ve just been burnt by someone you thought you were in love with, it’s inadvisable to throw yourself at the next person you meet. It’s a shame that so many YA contemporary novels about heartbreak still fixate on this way of dealing with it.

I wasn’t aware that Love & Luck was a companion novel to Love & Gelato until I was already a fair way through the book, but having fallen in love with Welch’s writing style I’ve already bought the first book on my Kindle. I’ll hopefully get around to reading it sooner rather than later, because I know I’m going to fly through it just as quickly as I devoured this.

Alyce

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Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

“You know what I’m talking about,” she said. “You’ve known from the day we met. Even on text, where there are no inflections or nuance or tone for non sequiturs. You’ve always spoken fluent me.” When Sam’s ex-girlfriend Lorraine – the great love of his […]

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

‘It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.’  When Starr’s friend Khalil gets shot and killed by a police officer during a routine traffic stop, her world is turned upside down. Already struggling to juggle two personalities – the person she is in her ‘hood, Garden Heights Starr, vs. the person she […]

Blog tour: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Blog tour: The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Hello, and welcome to my stop on The Lost Man blog tour. I’ve taken part in the blog tours for both The Dry and Force of Nature, so I jumped at the chance to read and review another of Jane Harper’s novels.

My excitement grew when I learnt that this book was a standalone and not another Aaron Falk novel. Even though I absolutely love his character, I couldn’t wait to see how Harper’s writing changed with a completely new cast of characters.

I wasn’t disappointed.

If you don’t know what The Lost Man is about, check out the synopsis below, then keep reading to hear my spoiler-free thoughts on Harper’s third novel:

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

Dark, suspenseful and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.

As well as being Harper’s third novel, The Lost Man is the third of her books that I’ve given five stars to. It’s safe to say that she’s cemented herself as one of my favourite mystery authors, keeping me on the edge of my seat and making me consistently unable to predict the outcome to her stories.

At its core, The Lost Man is a tale about coping with adversity. Of course, the characters are all learning to cope with their grief at losing Cam, but as we learn more about each of their back stories it becomes apparent that nearly every member of this family has had a tough time of it.

Nathan has been an outcast – almost completely on his own in the outback – for a decade after making a decision which still haunts him. Liz, their mother, dealt with her abusive husband until his death, but each day she’s forced to confront the lasting impact of his actions. Then there’s Ilse, Cam’s wife, who’s adjusting to life without her husband while rapidly discovering he might not have been the man she thought he was…

The most impressive thing about The Lost Man is how few characters there are. It’s pretty obvious that Cam’s death wasn’t a straight-up suicide: I don’t think there’d be as much of a story here if that was the case, so I’m not counting that as a spoiler! But even though the action solely takes place on Cam’s farm, making the narrative stiflingly intimate, I still gasped with shock when Harper revealed exactly who was involved in his death.

It takes a special kind of writer to pull the wool over my eyes, because I’m notorious for seeing twists coming from a mile away, so I’m impressed that Harper has managed to do it not once, but three times. I’m already highly anticipating her fourth novel, and I’m looking forward to discovering whether she’s going to write another standalone or whether she’s going to catch up with her old friend Aaron Falk again.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to both Grace Vincent and Caolinn Douglas from Little, Brown, who are tireless supporters of Jane Harper and have put in a huge amount of work to run this blog tour. If you’ve got the time, you should check out the Little, Brown Twitter page to read some more of the posts on this blog tour – there are some brilliant bloggers involved, and I’m honoured to be one of them.

Alyce

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Review: At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

Review: At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

‘Even when there’d been a whole universe to explore, Cloud Lake and Tommy had been my everything. “So that’s it?” I said. “I’m just supposed to go on living my life no matter how much the universe takes from me or how small it gets?” Dr. Sayegh nodded. “It’s what the rest of us do, Ozzie.” Ozzie’s boyfriend, Tommy, has vanished. […]

Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

‘I’m so unwhole. I don’t know where all the pieces of me are, how to fit them together, how to make them stick. Or if I even can.’ Self-harm is a sensitive subject, no matter what form it takes. Some people find reading about cutting triggering, while others find it makes them feel seen and understood for the first time in months or years. It’s difficult to write about, […]

Review: Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Review: Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

‘This is the true core of human nature. When we’ve lost the strength to save ourselves, we somehow find the strength to save each other.’

California has been experiencing a drought for a while. The Tap-Out has led to the introduction of the Frivolous Use Initiative – fining people for watering their lawns or throwing water balloons – among other things, but it’s too little, too late. The damage has already been done.

Although it’s a surprise when water stops running through the taps, it feels inevitable. The government brings in desalination tanks to filter the saltwater from the ocean, so Alyssa and Garrett’s parents head down there to try and get their family some water… But they don’t come back.

Luckily, their next door neighbours are doomsday preppers whose son has a huge crush on Alyssa. Kelton offers them water to get them through the day, and after a couple of harrowing events they – along with Jacqui, a girl they meet during an encounter with some “water zombies” – head across the country in search of the family’s Bug-Out.

Dry is thrilling because it feels realistic. With devastating wildfires breaking out across California every year, destroying huge swathes of the land and taking lives, the idea of a drought being so bad that all water completely dries up isn’t that bizarre. As the events unfold, you remain gripped and unable to put the book down because you just can’t wait to see what happens next, the same way that it’s difficult to turn the live coverage on TV off when a natural disaster is unfolding.

As well as jumping between multiple perspectives (primarily Alyssa and Kelton, but with more introduced) there are also ‘snapshots’ laced throughout the story, adding layers to the world and drawing you even further in. Following people trapped in airports, stationary cars jammed on the freeway and pilots unable to help thousands in need, the depth of world-building and attention to detail is astounding.

If you can, I highly suggest setting aside a chunk of time before you start reading Dry, because as soon as the tension starts building it’s very hard to pull yourself out of the story. I made the mistake of picking Dry up in the middle of the night when I couldn’t get back to sleep, and I ended up staying awake for three hours to finish it – it was impossible to resist turning another page, and another, and another…

You’ll find your mouth drying out and feel thankful for every bit of liquid you drink while you’re reading it. It’s also made me much more careful with water; I’ve never been particularly wasteful, but I’ve found myself taking shorter showers and using the tap less throughout the day. If everyone who reads Dry makes the effort to cut down on their water usage even by a little bit, it’ll make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.

Alyce

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Review: Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

Review: Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

There’s something different about Clementine, and Jago is the only one who can see it. He ceaselessly bullies her at school and before long Clem snaps, shoving him across the room with an unnatural strength. Clementine is suspended, so her father takes the opportunity to […]