Brief blogs for busy bees

Tag: book review

Rapid Reviews #3

Rapid Reviews #3

Oh boy, it’s already been over a month since I last posted. I wish I could say that things were going to start getting more frequent on here, but I can’t guarantee it! Throughout the last month I’ve continued binge reading NetGalley books from many […]

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 […]

Review: Monsters by Sharon Dogar

Review: Monsters by Sharon Dogar

I was extremely excited to see Monsters by Sharon Dogar on NetGalley, because I’ve been obsessed with Mary Shelley’s life since studying Frankenstein at university in 2017. Expecting a novelisation of her earlier years to bring to life all of the people I’ve studied so closely, I thought this was bound to be one of my top reads of 2019.

Unfortunately, Monsters was an absolute struggle. I knew as soon as I read the first chapter that it was going to be hard – it’s written in the present tense, which is an unusual choice and doesn’t lend itself well to storytelling – but it was like pulling teeth. I’m a fast reader, and it took me almost three weeks of constant reading to get through this story.

Yes, it’s important to focus on the fact that Mary Shelley’s father, William Godwin, completely disowned her when she decided to run away with Percy Bysshe Shelley. It’s also important that they were riddled with debt and had to flee locations across the continent when they couldn’t afford to pay the landlords. But the majority of the book is wholly centred on their monetary struggles, leaving the suicides of both Fanny and Harriet to happen in the last five percent (and for the deaths of two of Mary and Percy’s children, and the death of Percy himself, to happen in the afterword).

However, I do applaud Sharon Dogar for choosing the version of events she feels most likely to have happened and committing to it. A lot of authors would have written the romance between Bysshe and Claire far more subtly, as evidence of their suspected passion has been almost completely destroyed due to the removal of pages from Mary’s journal. It’s a brave move to make the events seem far more clear-cut, although it’s important to take it with a pinch of salt because there is no proof that Dogar’s version of their story is true.

If you’re interested in Mary Shelley but are planning on learning about her by reading Monsters because it isn’t non-fiction, I would highly recommend Charlotte Gordon’s Romantic Outlaws. Yes, it’s a non-fiction book, but it’s told in a narrative style that makes it more gripping than most stories (and 100% more engaging than Monsters). It also tells the story of Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, by running their lives parallel to each other, comparing and contrasting the events that they get up to.

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: 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: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Twenty years ago, Sammy Went was taken from her home in Manson, Kentucky. She’s now a photography teacher called Kim Leamy, living in Australia, completely unaware of her forgotten past until her long-lost brother Stuart tracks her down.

Flying back to America, Kim and Stuart try to get to the bottom of why she was kidnapped and how she ended up living on the other side of the world. Having lost her ‘mum’ years ago and unable to get the truth out of her stepfather, Kim has no choice but to dive into the deepest, darkest parts of Manson. Of particular interest a snake-obsessed cult called The Church of the Light Within, who seem to have brainwashed her mother shortly prior to her abduction…

When I first finished The Nowhere Child I gave it four stars, because it filled me with adrenaline. It has a hugely climactic ending that had me rushing to finish and a twist-filled resolution that I didn’t see coming, and it’s not often that thrillers surprise me!

However, after a couple of days reflection I’ve realised that one of the reasons I didn’t see the ending coming was because the red herrings placed throughout are done in an extremely unskillful manner, purposefully duping the reader and not making much sense to the wider plot.

The detective in charge of the case arranges a date with someone with the surname Leamy, making it impossible to believe it’s anyone other than Kim’s kidnapper – it’s a very unusual surname, after all – but she’s dropped in and then never revisited, so it’s not very satisfying to be misled in such an unsubtle way.

Then there’s the surname of the main family. A girl with the surname of Went gets kidnapped? Jeeeeeesus, that’s some heavy-handed naming. Cringe.

The plot of The Nowhere Child is intelligent, but these simple choices definitely detract from the impact of the book. It’s frustrating, because they’re such easy things to change, and I’m surprised that they weren’t altered during the editing process: if the red herrings had been gentle hints rather than forceful shoves in the wrong direction it would have been a far more enjoyable novel.

However, those aspects are only enough to get me to drop my rating down to three stars, because I still enjoyed the majority of The Nowhere Child. Bouncing from the present day back to when Sammy was taken, we get to learn more about the Went family and the people of Manson, and I found myself interested in all of their stories.

This book features a very strong cast of characters, from Sammy’s mother – struggling with post-natal depression and embraced by a cult – to Sammy’s father, who himself is struggling with his sexuality. Although I didn’t like some of the characters, I enjoyed reading about all of them, and I would have happily read this as a duology – one book taking place at the time when Sammy was taken, and one picking up the story twenty years later when Stuart managed to track Kim down.

I’m certainly going to be looking out for Christian White’s work in the future, because The Nowhere Child shows an author with a lot of potential. It’s not a surprise that it’s won the same award that The Dry by Jane Harper took home a few years ago (and you all know how much I love The Dry!) so hopefully I’ll enjoy Christian White’s future novels just as much as I adore Harper’s.

Alyce

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Review: This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

Review: This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

After Shane Ferrick dies in suspicious circumstances, rumours point the finger of blame in a few different directions. At the party where Shane was last seen alive, Juniper, Gavin and Brett all did terrible things to him, and everyone knows Parker hated Shane after he […]

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 […]

Review: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Review: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

‘It was a winter they would tell tales about. A winter that arrived so sudden and sharp it stuck birds to branches, and caught the rivers in such a frost their spray froze and scattered down like clouded crystals on stilled water. A winter that came, and never left.’

When Mila’s brother Oskar vanishes, her older sister Sanna is sure he has abandoned his family just like their Papa did years before.

But Mila knows Oskar wouldn’t do that, and she’s pretty sure it has something to do with the mystical man who stayed on their property the night before he disappeared.

A mystical man who didn’t sink into the snow.

A mystical man who knows their names.

Setting off on a journey across a land trapped in an eternal winter, Mila must enlist the help of a mage called Rune if she is to have any hope of finding her brother, let alone saving him.

There isn’t actually much to say about The Way Past Winter. I enjoyed it to start with, but the journey across the frozen lands quickly became stale and repetitive and stopped holding my attention. I found myself grateful for the book to be over, rather than dreading the story coming to an end.

I loved The Girl of Ink and Stars and hoped that The Way Past Winter was going to captivate me just as much, but this novel had less of a spark than Millwood Hargrave’s debut.

However, there were some aspects that were written brilliantly, and they’re the reason that I decided to write a full-length post.

The way Millwood Hargrave writes about grief is highly accurate. Mila’s Mama dies in childbirth and her Papa can’t handle it, so he walks out on the family and never returns. It’s not the best way of dealing with the situation, but that’s the thing about grief: it’s messy and personal and everyone copes in a different way.

I also loved the fact that the focus was entirely on family. Mila tries to leave her family behind when she goes looking for Oskar, but Pipa knows her well enough to know what she’s trying to do, and it isn’t long before Sanna follows her as well.

However, the characters didn’t feel all that well-developed, so I didn’t emotionally engage with any of them. This is particularly true about Rune, the mage who helps Mila on her journey, who we learn hardly anything about. I was so interested in his story, which made the focus on family both a blessing and a curse – if it doesn’t directly relate to Mila or her siblings, it’s hardly developed.

If you haven’t read any of Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s novels yet, I wouldn’t recommend starting with The Way Past Winter, but it is still a enjoyable and rather short story that you’d probably be able to read in one sitting.

Alyce

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Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

New girl Anna Clark moved from Birmingham to Scotland to escape something terrible that happened in her past. But you can’t outrun your demons quite that easily, especially not when they’re plastered all over social media for the world to see. While the other students […]