First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Walker Books, for accepting my request to read and review Twitch via NetGalley. Best known for being the author of The Battle of the Beetles series (and co-author of Adventures on Trains with …
Tag: four star review
It doesn’t look as though there’s going to be another D.I. Ray Drake novel for a while, so I’ve decided to tell you my thoughts about the first two books in this series in this quick series review post. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Sphere, for accepting my request to read and review the first book via NetGalley, and to my mum for lending me her copy of book two!
The Two O’Clock Boy (also known as His First Lie), introduces us to D.I. Ray Drake. Drake is an enigma. He has a murky past which he refuses to talk about, his wife has recently passed away, and his relationship with his daughter has become increasingly estranged following the loss of her mother.
When figures from Drake’s past being turning up dead, murdered by a mysterious culprit nicknamed Two O’Clock Boy, Drake will go to whatever lengths necessary to conceal his past. Even if those lengths involve putting his job (and his family) at risk…
The Two O’Clock Boy is utterly brilliant. The slippery slope of corruption which Drake finds himself sliding down is gripping, and it was impossible to resist reading just one more chapter to see how much further Drake would go. The extended cast of characters is interesting too – particularly Flick, a fellow police officer who has a lot of family drama going on behind the scenes. This book follows multiple characters to craft a detailed and immersive crime story which views the case from all angles, and each viewpoint is equally interesting. Often with crime novels which switch from person to person, I find myself struggling to stay connected to the story and desperate to get back to one or two of the key players. The Two O’Clock Boy was the complete opposite, and the switching of viewpoints kept the pace driving forward at an irresistible rate.
There are a lot of flashbacks and these break the story up nicely. However, it was a bit of a shock to the system when we first travelled back in time, as I haven’t read too many crime novels which utilise non-chronological timelines, and it took me a little while to get my head around it.
My only issue with this novel is that it feels as though there’s a bit too much going on at points. The first chapter features some very important foreshadowing (I’m warning you of that now so you remember to keep it in mind throughout your reading of the story!), but by the time it became relevant I’d completely forgotten that it had happened because so much had gone on.
I gave The Two O’Clock Boy four stars, and I was very excited to carry on with the second book in the D.I. Ray Drake series.
Unfortunately, It Was Her did not live up to my expectations. Admittedly, these were very high. After reading The Two O’Clock Boy I thought I’d discovered a new favourite crime author, so I was hoping that the sequel was going to be a five star.
I can’t say too much about how It Was Her starts without spoiling the events at the end of The Two O’Clock Boy, but I will say that something occurs which causes a dramatic amount of strain and tension between Drake and Flick. I wanted to see how that story was going to play out, and I wanted to learn more about Drake’s past. Instead Mark Hill decided to focus on a new series of crimes across London.
In It Was Her we follow three characters who are breaking into wealthy people’s homes while they’re away on holiday or business trips so they can see how the other half live. One of their excursions gets interrupted when the homeowner returns early, and the series of break-ins quickly morphs into a series of murders.
Unfortunately, after how interesting The Two O’Clock Boy was, I found myself struggling to care about the new characters or their motivations. I wonder whether I would have enjoyed to plot of It Was Her if it was the case which was used to introduce Drake, as I would have been even more invested in the events in The Two O’Clock Boy if I had already been intrigued by Drake’s character and desperate to find out more about his past.
While The Two O’Clock Boy kept me on my toes and was unpredictable, I was disappointed to discovered I’d worked out the big twist in It Was Her very quickly. I kept hoping that something else was going to happen so that I could experience the same level of shock and surprise that had me tearing through the pages of book one in my excitement, but unfortunately It Was Her is rather predictable.
That being said, the tension throughout still had my heart in my throat. A subplot develops between Drake and Flick’s new boyfriend which kept me intrigued – and caused even more strain in the relationship between the colleagues – and I found myself wanting to spend more time focusing on that drama, rather than the crime. That’s not how you should feel about a crime novel, but it’s evidence of how brilliantly Mark Hill crafts his characters.
I ended up giving It Was Her three stars, because although I still loved these characters and enjoyed Mark Hill’s writing style, the story just wasn’t as good as I was expecting.
I am hoping that Mark Hill chooses to continue the D.I. Ray Drake series, as It Was Her was released in 2018 and there’s currently no news on a third book. Mark Hill is now writing as M.K. Hill and releasing the D.I. Sasha Dawson novels, so I will be picking those two books up sooner rather than later. It Was Her had a cliffhanger ending, so I hope we get to know how Drake’s story continues.
Thank you so much for reading this review. If you’ve read either of M.K. Hill’s novels, let me know if you’d recommend them down in the comments!
See you soon,
I’ve finally finished Sword in the Stars, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the two books in the Once & Future duology. I’ve already discussed Once & Future over on my Booktube channel, so make sure to check that out as well if …
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Muswell Press for accepting my request to review this title via NetGalley.
Scent tells the story of Clémentine, a perfumer trapped in a failing marriage. Tensions between Clémentine’s son Bastien and his father Édouard have been high for a while due to Édouard’s distaste for Bastien’s sexuality. When this causes Bastien to move out, the gulf between Clémentine and Édouard seems insurmountable.
Clémentine buries herself in her work, hiring a new shop assistant called Suzanne, but when a high-profile magazine article focusing on Clémentine is published it allows a figure from her past to track her down. Clémentine must learn to come to terms with past mistakes and tackle the problems in her marriage to allow her to turn and face the future.
The main reason that I requested this book was because of the bisexual representation. As far as I can remember, I haven’t read a single adult novel with a bisexual protagonist before, and I was fascinated to see how Isabel Costello would explore the subject. The answer? With aplomb.
The relationship between Clémentine and Racha is stuffed with desire. The sex scenes fell on the right side of descriptive, focusing more on how the girls feel about each other, and this somehow made the novel even more erotic. There aren’t many sex scenes, and the ones that are included are not overly dwelled upon, so if you’re a reader who doesn’t often pick up erotic novels please don’t let this inclusion put you off.
When Racha reappears, Clémentine is certain that she’s out for revenge. Something terrible happened to Racha which caused the end of their relationship, but Clémentine hasn’t seen her since. She believes Racha has been biding her time, plotting her revenge during the intervening twenty years. There is an element of malice in some of the things Racha says, adding a delectable amount of tension to the story.
This tension combines with the non-chronological timeline to give Scent a perfect pace. Although Costello takes her time lingering over the scents of the perfumes in Clémentine’s shop, building a complex and detailed picture of Paris using the evocative descriptions of the smell of the setting, the majority of this book doesn’t feel slow. My favourite chapters were the ones told in the 90s, when Racha and Clémentine meet and begin falling in love. I found it impossible to put the book down as I couldn’t stop wondering what could happen to cause their relationship to go so terribly wrong.
That being said, things fell apart towards the end of the novel. When the alternating timelines cease, the pace slows down dramatically. I found myself wanting to see more of Clémentine in the fallout of the incident, seeing how she came to terms with the end of her relationship with Racha, and I even wanted to see more from Ludo! It made me wish that this book had been a sequel, so that I could have fully experienced their summer of love and gotten to know these characters more intimately.
However, the ending of the novel does focus more on Clémentine’s relationship with Édouard, so if you’re a fan of domestic dramas centred on marriage and parenthood, this will be right up your alley. The characters are all well-fleshed out, and at times Clémentine’s story feels less like reading fiction and more like talking with a friend. This is achieved by layering up the subplots beautifully: none of them detract from the main plot, but instead they add layer upon layer to the lives of Clémentine and all of the other characters, making them all feel like real people.
I wasn’t impressed with the ending of the story, but I can understand why Costello chose to wrap it up the way that she did. It wasn’t what I personally wanted to happen, but I was satisfied to see Clémentine getting to a point where it looked like her life was taking a turn towards the happier.
All in all, this was a highly enjoyable novel. I’m definitely going to be reading more from Isabel Costello in the future!
Once again, a huge thanks to Muswell Press for allowing me to read and review Scent.
Thank you for checking out my review,
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books for accepting my request to read and review Rules For Being a Girl via NetGalley. Rules For Being a Girl is a book I wish I could give to my …
It’s hard to review It Sounded Better in My Head, because the reality is that not a lot happens in this book. That being said, I bloody loved it. Main character Natalie gets a nasty surprise for Christmas when her parents announce that they are …
There have been quite a few books inspired by King Arthur published in recent years. Here Be Dragons by Sarah Mussi, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White, Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke… The list is endless.
However, I don’t think any of them live up to Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn. Combining Black Girl Magic with a fresh twist on the Order of the Round Table, this is a captivating debut which I found ridiculously hard to put down.
When the book begins we meet our protagonist, Bree, on the night that her mother dies in a car accident. It’s made worse by the fact that Bree had a huge fight with her mother the previous night, leaving her to come to terms with the knowledge that the last words she said to her mother were ones said in anger.
Their fight was about Bree’s enrollment in an Early College program. Bree signed up without her mother’s permission, thinking she wouldn’t get in (but if she did, attending the university where her mother studied had to sweeten the deal, right?!). But Bree’s mother wasn’t ever going to let her daughter go there, and Bree is left with no idea why.
Unfortunately, Bree’s mother’s secrets end up causing her to get embroiled in more trouble than either of them could have anticipated. Before lessons begin she goes to a party where she meets a mysterious guy called Sel. She spots something strange that nobody else seems able to see, and Sel ends up doing something to her memories… Something that makes her wonder if her mother’s death wasn’t a simple accident.
Bree is left questioning the truth about the world around her, fighting with her best friend Alice, and being assigned a (startlingly attractive) peer mentor. How will Bree get her head around the new world she’s discovering while still struggling to cope with her grief?
Going into Legendborn, all I knew was that it was a King Arthur retelling. The last King Arthur retelling I read was one which seriously disappointed me, so instead of intriguing me that aspect made me put off reading this book for longer than I should have.
I wondered how a King Arthur retelling set in America was going to work, but Tracy Deonn does a wonderful job of explaining the history of how Arthur’s descendants came to be across the pond. She has obviously put a lot of work into researching not only the original legend, but the history of America itself as well.
At its heart this story is a scathing look at the way that generations of Black people have been treated in America – from back in the days of slavery up until today, when Bree experiences microaggressions and prejudiced comments just because of the colour of her skin. It’s empowering, it’s a call to arms, and it’s high time that we get more YA fantasy retellings written by Black authors about Black characters.
I absolutely love Bree. Although she is a Chosen One (and that’s not my favourite trope!) she is such a well-crafted character that I can almost overlook it. As well as dealing with the discovery of a magical underworld, she’s also dealing with developing feelings for Nick, the strain that the Early College program is putting on her relationship with her best friend, and her mother’s death. That adds up to a ton of character development, which Tracy Deonn ekes out and takes time with. Bree doesn’t change within a few pages, and throughout the novel we get a lot of her inner monologue as she struggles to decide what to do about the situation she has found herself in and the way that it is changing how she sees herself.
The other aspect of the story that I really enjoyed was the possible love triangle between Bree, Sel and Nick. I wouldn’t describe Bree and Nick’s relationship as instalove because it does take her a little while to trust him enough to let him in, but their romance does develop quite rapidly. However, the friendship between Bree and Sel was what I was living for. They have a lot in common, and even though he’s the bad guy at the beginning you quickly learn that there’s a lot more going on under the surface. I’m describing this as a possible love triangle because by the end of the first book Bree and Sel’s relationship is still purely friendship, but I have strong feelings towards these two and I hope that they end up developing strong feelings for each other! It’s been a while since I’ve felt this drawn to a YA romance, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Tracy Deonn takes these characters in the as-yet-untitled second novel in the Legendborn series.
There are only two reasons why I didn’t give this book five stars. The first is a very minor one, but it’s the overly repetitive descriptions of the way that each boy smells. I was reading this book aloud to Sean and I lost count of the amount of times I said the words ‘laundry and cedar’ or ‘whiskey and cinnamon’. Those descriptions are very vivid and vibrant, but when they kept getting repeated every couple of pages it threw me out of the story entirely.
The other reason that Legendborn ended up being four stars is that the ending is too rushed. For a book which comes in at just over 500 pages, the climax takes place over just a couple of chapters, and I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if the action at the end of the novel had played out more slowly. I loved the fast-paced nature of a certain reveal, but as a whole the book had such slow pacing and I really savoured the level of world-building that Tracy Deonn was putting into the story, so for the ending to be a complete 180 was a bit of a shame.
That being said, this is one of the best YA fantasies I’ve read in a long time. I loved the fact that it included such a unique twist on the King Arthur legend, I really enjoyed the unique magic system and I think it’s brilliant that this book sits beautifully between YA and Adult – definitely sitting at the older end of the YA fantasy spectrum.
Tracy Deonn is an author to watch, that’s for sure. I’m eagerly anticipating news about the sequel to Legendborn, and I’m already looking forward to rereading this story in preparation for Bree’s tale to continue.
Are there any other King Arthur retellings that you’ve read and would recommend? Please leave them down in the comments!
Thank you for reading,