Tag: four star review

TBR Jar Round #3

TBR Jar Round #3

Welcome back for another round of the TBR jar reviews! I only chose four titles out of the jar for April’s TBR as I already had a pretty busy reading month lined up what with reading the YA Book Prize shortlist and taking part in…

#stayhomereadingrush wrap-up

#stayhomereadingrush wrap-up

As if we weren’t already reading enough books in April, we decided to take part in the Stay Home edition of The Reading Rush from the 16th to the 19th. Adding three more books to an already bursting TBR might not have been the best…

TBR Jar Round #2

TBR Jar Round #2

Technically that title is a lie, because I’m no longer using my TBR jar. I have had to upgrade to a TBR bucket instead! But it still does the same job, it’s just a Halloween bucket rather than an unused travel mug meaning it is far more on-brand.

This is my second month picking titles out of my TBR jar, and after how unsuccessful last month was I was hoping to get some stronger picks this time around. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to like a few of them as soon as I chose them, but you’ll have to read on to see what I ended up thinking about each of the five…

Breaking the Lore by Andy Redsmith – 4 stars

I took part in the blog tour for Breaking the Lore last year, but I did not get the book read in time to post a review because I was in the midst of a terrible reading slump (#justpregnancythings).

Breaking the Lore follows a detective called Nick Paris who is investigating a rather mysterious suspected murder. The victim has been found crucified in someone’s back garden… But they’re a fairy, so they’re only a couple of feet off of the ground. Paris can almost believe that it’s a hoax, until a talking crow turns up on his doorstep and starts warning him about a demon threat. Huh.

If I’m being honest, I HATED the first 10% of this book, subconsciously abandoning it and completely forgetting I’d even started it until I pulled it out of my TBR jar. Malbus, the talking crow, is the best part of the book, so when he was found decapitated I was absolutely distraught – how could you kill off such a promising character after they’ve delivered such an ominous warning to our protagonist? Little did I know that the crow who was found decapitated wasn’t Malbus. He comes back into the story shortly after the place where I originally abandoned it, and as soon as he came back I started absolutely loving this clusterfuck of craziness.

If you love J.R.R. Tolkien’s world but find yourself craving an alcoholic British cop in the midst of the magical drama, this is the book for you. Fairies, dwarves, elves, demons – everything you could possibly imagine is present in this novel, and although it gets utterly wacky at points (a particular scene featuring Malbus serenading a conference of the best and brightest members of the police force springs to mind…) it’s a charming cheese fest and it works beautifully.

My only warning is that you need to love puns to read this book, because even though I’m a huge lover of pun-based jokes I still found myself rolling my eyes and groaning at a few of the jokes which are cracked. If you don’t like hammy humour then I’d definitely recommend skipping this book, because it’s a big part of Redsmith’s writing style and at points it strays dangerously close to ‘too much’ territory.

Since finishing Breaking the Lore I’ve discovered that the second book in this series, Know Your Rites, was released last July, so I’m planning on picking this up at some point in the next couple of months. I’m so glad I finally finished Breaking the Lore – I had completely forgotten that I’d started it, and if I hadn’t picked it out of my jar it might have been years before I attempted to tackle it again, but this was the perfect lighthearted read to ensure I started March off on the right note.

Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey – 1 star

Oof, this one hurts me. I was certain I was going to love Whistle in the Dark because I’ve heard such amazing things about Emma Healey’s debut novel, Elizabeth is Missing. I didn’t actually realise I had this book on my NetGalley because I have it sitting on my bookshelf, so I thought this story was going to be swiftly moving from my ‘read then donate’ pile straight onto my shelf of favourites.

Unfortunately, the exact opposite ended up happening. I’m about to get spoilery, so if you haven’t read this book yet it’s probably time for you to jump down to my thoughts on Furiously Happy

Whistle in the Dark doesn’t really tell a story. A girl goes missing during a vacation in the Peak District with her mother, and when she comes back she won’t tell anyone where she’s been. Her mother is worried that someone kidnapped her or took advantage of her, but Lana remains tight-lipped: is she protecting someone, or has she suppressed her memories of the traumatic event? Sounds like the makings of a perfect psychological thriller, right?

WRONG. This book has such a brilliant premise, but it doesn’t live up to it AT ALL. It starts to try to address so many different, interesting plot lines, then abandons them and jumps off on other tangents. There are a slew of almost thought-provoking inclusions – the struggles of parenting a child with depression, self-harm, sperm donation, religion – but in the grand scheme of things every single one of them falls short.

I’ve seen a lot of different reviews since I finished this book, and all of them have said that they were impressed by at least one section – either the beginning, the middle or the end – so they’ve felt justified in giving Whistle in the Dark three stars minimum. Meanwhile there’s me, the salty little sausage in the corner, who can’t think of a redeeming thing to say about the entire novel. The beginning was intriguing for all of five minutes, the middle perfectly showed the paranoid musings of an anxious mother (and then showed it perfectly over and over again, as Jen repeated her worries so regularly that I began to worry that I was pressing the back button on my Kindle rather than reading further into the book), while the ending was possibly the worst thing I’ve ever read.

Turns out, Lana went into a cave to OD, passed out, came around and got lost in the cave and managed to find her way out three days later. We learn this because Jen goes exploring and gets lost in the same cave… But gets out within a couple of hours. How long are we supposed to believe Lana was unconscious?! None of it added up, and it’s the least satisfying pay off I’ve ever gotten from a ‘thriller’. I’m still going to pick up Elizabeth is Missing, but I wish I’d trusted the Goodreads ratings on this one.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson – 5 stars

Furiously Happy is superb. As you can tell by its full title, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, this non-fiction title follows journalist Jenny Lawson as she experiences mental illness but does her best to continue living life to the fullest, taking awful situations and making light of them.

I knew I was going to love this book as soon as I saw the cover, but little did I know that that crazy-ass raccoon is actually taxidermy. We actually follow him on some pretty wild adventures of his own over the course of this book (the mental image of two taxidermy raccoons – oh yes, he has a brother – attempting to ride cats is one which will stick with me until the end of my days) so if you’re not a fan of taxidermy, or the kind of people who own taxidermy, then you’ll want to walk away now.

Yes, this book is so stuffed with hyperbole that it would make a really great pillow, but I loved every single far-fetched, utterly unbelievable moment of it. There are poignant moments which slow the pace down dramatically, but as someone who related to a lot of the ways Jenny Lawson described her mental illnesses it made this book feel like talking to an old friend. In act, I loved this book so much that I ordered Jenny Lawson’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, the night that I finished Furiously Happy.

I’m definitely going to be following The Bloggess and will be inhaling Jenny Lawson’s posts as soon as she writes them in the future.



The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson – 4 stars

When I picked The Morning Gift out of my TBR jar, I was expecting it to be a children’s title, as the only Eva Ibbotson novels I’ve read in the past have been middle-grade. Although some people have described The Morning Gift as YA I definitely feel as though it falls in the historical fiction genre, as the pacing is much slower than your average YA release.

Not only that, but this story is intensely character-focused. Set during World War II, we follow Ruth Berger as she gets separated from her family and trapped in Vienna, where the Nazis are preparing to march upon the city. Forced to marry a friend from her childhood to get British citizenship so that she is able to rejoin her family, it isn’t long before Ruth manages to get to safely. Her new husband, Professor Quin Somerville, promises that he will use all his power as a famous paleontologist to get their marriage annulled as quickly as possible so that Ruth can marry her childhood sweetheart, Heini. His only conditions? That Ruth must promise to pursue higher education, and that she may never contact him again.

Ruth agrees to these conditions quickly, but due to some mixed messages she ends up enrolling in his class at college. Ruth and Somerville do their best to pretend that they don’t know each other, but their chemistry is unmistakable, not only causing tension between Ruth and some her classmates but also conflicting Ruth herself.

A lot of this novel relies on a lack of communication between the characters, which is one of my least favourite tropes and is probably the only reason that I didn’t give The Morning Gift five stars. If it was only used once I may understand, but with it cropping up a few times throughout the course of the novel it made some parts of the story a little unbelievable. That being said, as it was a historical novel this did annoy me less than novels which rely on this trope and are set in modern times – it’s not like Ruth and Somerville could have just messaged each other on Facebook to get to the bottom of things!

Overall, this story is remarkable. Eva Ibbotson’s magical use of language imbues each of the settings with vibrancy, from the local café to Somerville’s estate, and each member of the large cast of characters comes to life too. Some of the characters are only mentioned once or twice but are still very memorable, as Ibbotson gives each of them unique traits to make them more realistic. Yes, the story does drag at times – descriptions are definitely prioritised over the plot and the pacing – but that makes the payoff at the end of this story all the sweeter, and I found myself enjoying it far more than I normally like historical fiction.

Eva Ibbotson was one of my favourite authors when I was a child, so I’m glad that her writing still appeals to me now, fifteen years later. She has so many novels which I’m yet to read, and I’m looking forward to exploring more of them – and rediscovering my old favourites – in the future.

Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer – 4 stars

I’m beginning to wish I’d reviewed Call It What You Want as soon as I’d finished it, because as time goes on I’m struggling to remember why I liked this story enough to rate it four stars.

Following Maegan and Rob – a girl whose perfect scholarship sister has just announced she is pregnant, and a boy whose father attempted suicide after being caught embezzling millions of dollars – this is a much darker contemporary than I had expected after seeing the cute cover sprinkled with origami hearts.

I enjoyed both Maegan and Rob’s stories individually, but I begin to feel conflicted when I consider their romance. Maegan is vilified for cheating on the SAT, while everyone at school presumes Rob must have been involved in his father’s crime as he worked at his office, so it makes sense that they are drawn together as they can relate to each other’s struggles… But something about it still fell flat for me. Their relationship seems to develop very quickly, going from gentle flirting to intensely serious in a split second, and I just wanted this to be a bit more of a slow burn. They’re both have some trust issues, finding it hard to develop friendships because of the judgment that they’ve experienced due to their situations, and it would have been nice if this had been addressed more.

That being said, I obviously did enjoy it enough to give it four stars at the time! The writing is easily digestible and despite the length of this story we devoured it in a couple of sittings. Brigid Kemmerer also writes really great friendships: the interactions between Rob and the librarian will forever warm my heart – we stan a supportive adult who just wants to discuss books – and the friendship which develops between Rob and Owen (one of the victims of his father’s crime) is heartwarming to the max. I also loved the way Kemmerer tackled the relationship between Rob and his ex-best friend Connor: it’s a brilliant glimpse into the dynamics and intensity of male friendship, which isn’t focused upon too frequently in YA.

I’m definitely planning on reading more of Brigid Kemmerer’s work in the future, but I’m not sure I understand the hype that her writing attracts just yet. A Curse So Dark and Lovely is one of the other titles in my TBR jar, so I’m hoping I’ll pick that out sooner rather than later, but we also own Letters to the Lost, so I’ll be putting that on my TBR at some point over the next couple of months.



As you can see, this round of the TBR jar was far more successful than the first! I’ve already picked out the titles for April’s TBR – only four titles this time, as we’ve got a pretty full on month with the O.W.L.S Magical Readathon, and I’m also attempting to read the YA Book Prize shortlist in its entirety – but I’ll get a post up soon with my thoughts on the new picks.

See you soon!

Alyce

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TBR Jar Round #1

TBR Jar Round #1

I have a NetGalley addiction. I check the site at least twice a day, and I request something nearly every single time I’m on there. I’ve tried – oh, I have TRIED – to stop myself, but there just doesn’t seem to be anything I…

Blog tour: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Blog tour: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Foul is Fair blog tour. It has been a whopping six months since I last took part in a blog tour – I know, where has the time gone?! – but when Meghan from Wednesday Books reached…

Blog tour: Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Blog tour: Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Fallen Angel blog tour. This is the first Chris Brookmyre novel I’ve ever read, but as soon as Caolinn invited me to take part I knew I had to say yes – she described Fallen Angel in a way that made me desperate to read it.

As always, I’m going to share a little bit about Fallen Angel with you before I share my thoughts. It’s extremely difficult to say anything about this book without giving it all away, so I’m not going to be going into details, but I think the synopsis sells itself…

To new nanny Amanda, the Temple family seem to have it all: the former actress; the famous professor; their three successful grown-up children. But like any family, beneath the smiles and hugs there lurks far darker emotions.

Sixteen years earlier, little Niamh Temple died while they were on holiday in Portugal. Now, as Amanda joins the family for a reunion at their seaside villa, she begins to suspect one of them might be hiding something terrible…

And suspicion is a dangerous thing.

Fallen Angel is told in an extremely intriguing way. Beginning with a murder – a man slumped over his desk, a nearly invisible needle mark nodding towards the cause of his death – it’s pretty obvious that the body belongs to recently deceased world famous professor Max Temple.

The Temple family gather together at their villa for the first time in almost two decades, summoned at the behest of their mother Celia. The matriarch of the family, Celia is determined that her family are going to honour their dead father properly, scattering his ashes near the bench that he loved and putting all of the drama from their last couple of visits far, far behind them.

At their neighbour’s villa, Canadian nanny Amanda is watching the events unfold. A huge fan of Max Temple and his ability to demolish the arguments of conspiracy theorists, Amanda can’t believe it when she stumbles upon a conspiracy involving the Temples themselves. Because Max’s granddaughter, Niamh, died the last time the family were all together, but the internet is convinced that of the Temples is responsible for her death – and that the rest of the family have all been covering it up.

When the police arrive at the villa and another death is announced, Amanda knows there is something fishy going on with the Temples, and she’s determined to use her talents as an investigative journalist to uncover the buried truth.

Chris Brookmyre has chosen an interesting way to tell the story of the Temple family, as it jumps between multiple perspectives but Amanda’s is the only one told in first person. This choice was hard to adjust to at first, but it ended up making me feel far more invested in the story: a little splash of kinship with Amanda made me care a lot more about the mystery.

The Temples are very difficult to empathise with. All of them are rather selfish – although most of them have extremely good reasons for their behaviour – but if it hadn’t been for the down-to-earth attitude of Amanda I wouldn’t have enjoyed this book as much.

There are two stories running alongside each other throughout Fallen Angel, with the story periodically jumping back to that fateful visit to the villa sixteen years before. I did find the conclusion of the present day story predictable, however I was impressed by the resolution of the mystery of Niamh’s death – I was guessing up until the big reveal and I was so close yet so painfully far.

If, like me, you haven’t read any of Chris Brookmyre’s novels yet, I think Fallen Angel is a great place to start. With similarities to the case of Madeleine McCann, Fallen Angel is the perfect book to pick up if you’re always interested in unsolved mysteries and can’t wait to get to the bottom of the unknown.

Before I go I’d like to say a huge thank you to Little, Brown for allowing me to get involved in the blog tour for Fallen Angel.

I’m definitely interested in reading more of Brookmyre’s work now. If you’ve read any of his other novels, is there anywhere you would recommend I start?

Alyce

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Review: Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale

Review: Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale

“I’m not just happy, Eff, I’m Happy Girl Lucky. People have always said that’s what I am, but I’ve never really understood the expression before… because why can’t boys be it too? But now it truly capsules me perfectly.” Happy Girl Lucky introduces us to…

Review: Proud anthology

Review: Proud anthology

I was lucky to be invited to Stripes YA Afternoon Equali-tea back in January, where I picked up an early copy of Proud. Since Proud was announced last February, it’s been my most anticipated release of 2019, so I’m so excited to be able to…

Blog tour: Trapped by Nick Louth

Blog tour: Trapped by Nick Louth

Hi there! Last week I took part in the blog blitz for Vivian Conroy’s A Testament to Murder and I told you that I had another exciting Canelo blog tour coming up, and today’s the day.

As always, I’m going to give you a bit more information about the book before I share my thoughts on it. Hold onto your seatbelts, because this is going to be a bumpy ride.

The cover of Nick Louth’s Trapped

Two desperate criminals. Something she never saw coming. A searing suspense thriller from bestselling author Nick Louth.

In Manchester, two hardened gang members on the run take Catherine Blake and her one-year-old son hostage at gunpoint. She is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Held in a Transit van, Catherine needs a plan fast. But it means diving into her captors’ risk-drenched world, and playing them at their own game.

Catherine has been through cancer, miscarriages and five draining years of IVF in order to have her son Ethan. He is the most precious thing in the world. She may be terrified out of her wits, but she’d do anything to protect him. Anything, no matter the cost…

Brace yourself.

A nerve-shredding suspense thriller you won’t believe until you have experienced it yourself, Trapped is perfect for fans of Cara Hunter, J.P. Delaney and Rachel Abbott.

Trapped is a standalone, following Nick Louth’s highly successful releases The Body in the Marsh, The Body on the Shore and Heartbreaker. If you’re interested in ordering a copy, you can get it on Amazon for only £1.99!

It’s difficult to write a review of a book like Trapped without giving away any spoilers, but I’m going to try my hardest.

The majority of Trapped is narrated by Catherine’s husband, Geoffrey. I was hooked by the writing style instantly because it’s very similar to The Innocent’s Story by Nicky Singer, which is one of my favourite books.

Geoffrey is fatally struck by the kidnappers’ vehicle as they take his wife and child, giving him the ability to move freely between the minds of each of the characters. This allows the audience to have a behind the scenes look at the thoughts and motivations of each of the kidnappers and Catherine herself, but also lets us look into the minds of the hardworking police officers and siege negotiators who strive for a peaceful end to the confrontation.

Nick Louth has obviously researched the subject extremely thoroughly, with the attention to detail completely absorbing you into the story and making you feel as though you’re watching the events play out on a live news broadcast.

However, a twist towards the end of the story dampened my satisfaction of the book. It felt like a neat and well-crafted thriller, but the second half of the story causes the events to unravel slightly, and no matter how much explanation is weaved through the book it still feels as though there are a few holes in the story. That’s the only reason I didn’t give Trapped five stars, deciding instead to give it four. I can’t go into my specific reasons for that without giving everything away, so I’d recommend you pick up a copy and find out for yourself what I mean!

About the author:

Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992, while working for Reuters, that give him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies, and been translated into six languages.

The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror, Mirror, subtitled ‘When evil and beauty collide’, was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, was published by Canelo in September 2017.

Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married and lives in Lincolnshire.

I hope you enjoyed my stop on the Trapped blog tour! If you’ve read any of Nick Louth’s other novels, please let me know which one you’d recommend I read next. I’m certainly intending to read more of his work after enjoying this one so much.

Alyce

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Review: Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan

Review: Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan

A school ski trip turns deadly when a storm springs up out of nowhere, cutting the town where the group are staying off from the rest of the world. The ski lifts are out of action, the townsfolk seem to have evacuated and the teachers…