Tag: book review

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…

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…

Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

‘When my sister was eight years old, she disappeared. At the time I thought it was the worst thing in the world that could ever happen. And then she came back.’

It’s hard to share my thoughts on The Taking of Annie Thorne without getting spoilery. I’m warning you now, I’m going to give away EVERYTHING in this review. That’s why I’ve waited until after publication date to post it, because it makes me feel a little less guilty for being unable to resist going on a bit of a tirade.

If you haven’t read The Taking of Annie Thorne and want to retain some element of surprise, look away now.

The rest of you ready? Well, let’s dive right into this then.

The Taking of Annie Thorne focuses on Joe Thorne, Annie’s older brother, who has returned to the town of Arnhill with revenge in mind. Revenge against Stephen Hurst, his old ‘friend’, a man who he has some serious dirt on.

The dirt? That Stephen murdered his sister, Annie.

Everyone thinks Annie disappeared for two days before she came back, covered in dirt and acting differently, but Joe remembers the truth. He knows that the head injury inflicted by Stephen’s crowbar isn’t something that an eight-year-old could have survived, and whatever came back from the mine wasn’t Annie.

So Joe has returned to Arnhill, planning to threaten Stephen into giving him enough money to pay off his gambling debts in return for his continued silence. But Stephen Hurst has always been a powerful man, and Joe’s plan isn’t going to go as smoothly as he was expecting it to.

I was enjoying The Taking of Annie Thorne until it took the turn into the fantastical. Expecting a traditional psychological thriller – child gets kidnapped, returns marked by the events that they’ve experienced and changes their family’s lives for good – I didn’t see the twist of Annie’s death coming. It ruined the entire story for me.

The first half of the novel blew me away. The foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed, but the brutal way that Joe is treated by the people from his past upon his return to the village was shockingly violent. It made the story far darker than I was expecting, making me excited to find out exactly what happened to Annie all those years before.

It was a shame that the reveal caused my enjoyment of the book to plummet so rapidly. Perhaps I would have felt differently if C.J. Tudor had focused on why the events happened, but instead the characters seem to blindly accept the fact that something about Arnhill makes children come back from the dead.

There are some insinuations that the land itself is magical – the tragic events take place a burial ground filled solely with children’s bones – with hints towards the same thing happening to more children after Annie. However, there’s no concrete history that cements it in the story of the village and makes it more believable.

It gives it the impression that C.J. Tudor was halfway through the story, had an idea and decided to turn it on its head, but didn’t completely think things through. This becomes even more apparent during the last couple of chapters, where nonsensical events happen like dominoes falling. It made me feel as though my copy was missing a chapter or two at the end that actually explained things, but unfortunately that was not the case.

I’ve seen a lot of rave reviews for The Taking of Annie Thorne, so I’m definitely in the minority having not enjoyed this novel. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I’d known what I was letting myself in for, but I’ve also never been a huge fan of novels which blur the lines between genres, so perhaps this was never meant to appeal to me.

If you’ve already read The Taking of Annie Thorne, let me know what you thought in the comments down below!

Alyce

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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.…

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 has to be at her majority white private school, Williamson Starr – Starr now has to contend with police interviews and the constant worry that One-Fifteen is going to be found innocent of murdering one of her oldest friends.

‘I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. 

I’ve tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr and signed every petition out there. 

I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down. 

Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.’

The Hate U Give is extremely hard to review, because it’s hard to put into words exactly why I loved it so much.

It’s unapologetic, attacking the American justice system and the systemic racism authority figures exhibit towards black people (even touching upon what happens when the authority figure is black).

It’s educational, breaking down stereotypes while offering a realistic snapshot of everyday life in the ‘hood. Filled with references to Huey Newton and The Black Panthers – a political party which I’d never heard of before – it’s the perfect way to begin learning more about black history.

It’s powerful, a pull no punches debut. Reading this book you’d genuinely believe Angie Thomas had been releasing novels for decades, because it takes a remarkable amount of bravery to write such a politically charged first novel.

But it’s also much, much more.

There are bits that will have you laughing out loud, which I certainly hadn’t expected. The conversations between Starr and her family had me giggling, all of them trying to out-sass each other – particularly her mother, Lisa, who takes no shit from any member of the clan.

Meanwhile there are bits that are utterly infuriating. The close-minded attitude of Hailey, one of Starr’s white friends, had me wanting to tear my hair out. Some of the things she said weren’t even that extreme, but they were still aggravating. It made me take a moment to think about how I’d feel if I was experiencing constant low-level discrimination on a daily basis and how quickly it would add up.

A book that makes you have to physically stop and think is rare, but I lost count of how many times I had to pause to take everything in during The Hate U Give. From Khalil’s funeral to the riots which erupt across Garden Heights, it’s surprising that a book focused on such serious subjects has had such a success in the mainstream, but it’s proof that this is a relevant subject which the general public are heavily invested in.

One of the aspects that stands out the most was the incorporation of online activism, and the way that it bled into the real world. As so many young people are heavily involved in online activism, it’s important to raise awareness of the good that it can do. It’s impossible for people to claim that sitting in front of a screen can’t do any good, because every little helps.

It don’t matter if you’re black or white, The Hate U Give teaches a very important lesson to all. I strongly believe it should be made required reading. However, I’m hoping that it’ll be a lot less relevant in five or ten years. It shouldn’t be possible that this book was released almost two years ago and there are new cases from the past six months – like those of Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. and Jemel Roberson – in which black men have been killed by police officers who have faced little to no repercussions.

If you haven’t read The Hate U Give because you’ve been scared that it won’t live up to the hype, don’t be. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I wish I’d read it sooner.

Alyce

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Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Mossbelly MacFearsome is a dwarf warrior on a mission. His nemesis, Leatherhead Barnstorm, has stolen the Doomstone Sword and is planning to use it to bring about the end of the human race. It’s up to Moss and his recently elected Destroyer, Roger – an…

Review: The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

Review: The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

‘I couldn’t look anywhere without seeing his silhouette; his ghost crawled from the sewer drains. But in a town covered in residue, how could there have been such a lack? Outrage. Sound. Where were the sirens? The panic? Benjamin Whitaker was dead! Dad was dead!…

Review: The Colour of Shadows by Phyllida Shrimpton

Review: The Colour of Shadows by Phyllida Shrimpton

When Saffron discovers a briefcase in the attic of her family home, she discovers that her father has lied to her. Ten years ago, he told her that her mother was dead, but she’s alive and out there somewhere and Saffron is determined to find her.

Saffron runs away from home, unwilling to be around her father or his new wife Melanie for a moment longer. But when her oldest friend Tom refuses to let her stay with him, telling her instead to just go home, Saffron ends up sleeping rough and discovering there’s a lot more to life than designer labels and having a walk-in wardrobe.

I wasn’t a fan of Phyllida Shrimpton’s first novel, Sunflowers in February, but I decided to give The Colour of Shadows a chance. There aren’t many young adult novels that feature the characters running away from home or sleeping on the streets, but it’s a scarily common problem – over 100,000 young people asked for help regarding homelessness last year, according to Centrepoint.

However, it feels like Phyllida Shrimpton knew that she wanted to talk about homelessness and abandonment and had to string together a very unstable plot to allow her to explore the issues. It just doesn’t hold up under questioning.

If I found a briefcase in the attic filled with cards to my supposedly dead mother, I would assume that my father had kept them for sentimental reasons. I wouldn’t assume that it meant that she was actually alive.

Then again, if I was Saffron’s dad I would have disposed of the briefcase when I moved into a larger home with my new wife, rather than keeping it and risking one of my children discovering it…

Another aspect that doesn’t compute is Saffron’s age. Throughout the first few chapters I believed Saffron was supposed to be 13 or 14, but the way she was stomping around the house and refusing to let anyone speak screamed pre-teen behaviour. Then it was revealed that Saffron is actually meant to be 17. I was baffled. Some of her childish, spoilt behaviour can be explained away by her upper middle class background, but it makes the narrative jarring. I kept thinking I was reading a middle-grade book rather than a YA with a protagonist in her late teens.

Shrimpton gets points for discussing homelessness so cleverly, tearing down preconceptions regarding homeless people that I’m sure a lot of readers will unconsciously believe. She also explores the difficulties of being a young carer, although I hope she goes into this topic in more detail in a future release, as I can only think of one other YA novel focused upon the subject (Tender by Eve Ainsworth).

But although The Colour of Shadows is filled with important topics, I just can’t rate this novel higher than two stars. The plot is just far too transparent, and I feel as though the story needed to be stronger to make this book a success.

Alyce

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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…