?

Log in

Bird by Crystal Chan

The Blurb On The Back:

Grandpa stopped speaking the day he killed my brother, John.


His name was John until Grandpa said he looked more like a Bird with the way he kept jumping off things, and the name stuck. Bird’s thick, black hair was like the head feathers of the blackbirds, Grandpa said, and he bet that one day Bird would fly like one too. Grandpa kept talking like that, and no one paid him much notice until Bird jumped off a cliff. From that day on, Grandpa never spoke another word. Not one.

The day that Bird tried to fly, the grown-ups were out looking for him – all of them except Mom and Granny. That’s because that very day, I was born.


The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

Crystal Chan’s debut middle grade novel is a beautifully written story about grief and loss that was deservedly nominated for the 2016 Waterstone’s Book Award. Jewel is an easy protagonist to love – smart, lonely and desperate for more from her family, each of whom is too wrapped in their own grief following her brother’s death to give her the time and care she deserves. Her budding friendship with John and the slow – and emotionally devastating – reveal of his own problems, is wonderfully portrayed and I always believed in Jewel’s reactions to the same. There’s an air of magical realism to the story – particularly shown through the actions of Jewel’s father and grandfather as they use traditional techniques to try and stop the duppies from hurting Jewel (and thus showing how much they love her) and it’s left to the reader to decide whether they’re real. The book is a must-read for anyone who wants to read books with more diversity, especially as Chan shows the culture clash between Jewel’s mother and father, made worse by their grief and helplessness at the death of their son and a scene where Jewel’s mother takes her to see a priest is especially poignant. I couldn’t find anything to nitpick in this book – it’s a stunning read from start to finish and I can’t wait to see what Chan does next.

Natural Causes by James Oswald

The Blurb On The Back:

Sixty years ago a young girl was brutally murdered – her internal organs were removed and her body mutilated. Until now she lay undiscovered, sealed in an underground chamber.


For the Edinburgh police force the six-decade-old case is not a priority, but Detective Inspector McLean is haunted by the dead girl’s ritualistic murder and the six trinkets placed carefully around the body.

As a wave of high-profile and bloody murders hits the city of Edinburgh – each one bearing an uncanny resemblance to the last – the same name begins to recur. As McLean digs deeper he must question just how many coincidences there can be, realising that the most irrational answer might be the only one possible …


The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

James Oswald’s debut crime novel (the first in a series) is a great addition to the crowded Tartan noir field, introducing a detective with an interesting personal background and adding a genuinely creepy supernatural twist. What I really loved about the book was the confidence with which Oswald reveals McLean’s character – I liked the slow reveal of key facts about his background, the relationship with his grandmother, his romantic life (which leaves a lot of gaps that I assume will be explored in future books) and his professional relationships. Although Duguid is too thinly drawn to be a truly interesting antagonist, I enjoyed the characterisation of Chief Superintendent McIntyre (whose part politician, part pen pusher and part station mum) and Grumpy Bob’s loafing makes an interesting foil to McLean’s dedication. There are some first novel issues with the book – the pacing sags in a couple of places, a sub-plot regarding crime scene photo leaks doesn’t get a satisfying resolution and the coincidences do veer towards contrivance at times. I could have also done without the love triangle element for McLean, mainly because it was one element too much for an already packed story and if I’m being picky, then I wished the supernatural elements had been threaded through a little earlier and a little more vigorously to give more oomph to the conclusion. This aside though, I really enjoyed this book and kept turning the pages and will definitely be reading the next in the series.

13 Days Of Midnight by Leo Hunt

The Blurb On The Back:

Luke Manchett is 16 years old. He’s just inherited $6 million from his estranged father.

Life is great.

But the cash comes with a catch.

Luke’s dad was a necromancer, which means the inheritance also includes 8 murderous ghosts … Ghosts who want revenge.


The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

Leo Hunt’s debut YA supernatural thriller is a mixed affair that didn’t quite work for me. I picked it up because I loved the premise and was interested to see what Hunt did with it but what sealed the deal was the cover blurb, which recommends it for fans of Derek Landry’s SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT series. Unfortunately, I think that comparison raises expectations that are too much for the material. Luke has a great first person voice and I completely believed in him as a teenage boy and his relationship with his mum and dad. I also believed in his crush on Holiday and how his attitude to Alice is informed by his desire to fit in with the other kids at school and because he genuinely thinks she’s weird. The supernatural elements start off with a suitable creepiness – I particularly enjoyed the introduction of the Judge and the Vassal and was hoping from more from the other 6 ghosts. The problem is that the Fury (the main antagonist) is pretty two-dimensional and the other ghosts don’t really get a lot of page time and the Fury’s desire for vengeance against Luke didn’t make a lot of sense. I also found the inevitable romance between Luke and Alice to be unnecessary and a bit jarring not least because of their lack of chemistry on the page and Alice is basically relegated to a sidekick part. Mainly though, there just wasn’t enough humour or action in this book for me while the set up-for a sequel doesn’t have enough to make me read on, although I will check out Hunt’s other work.

Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens

The Blurb On The Back:

Things had changed at Deepdean. All of the rules had bent, and the power had moved. Elizabeth Hurst’s reign was over, and none of us knew what would happen next.


Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have returned to Deepdean for a new term, but nothing is the same. There’s a new Head Girl, Elizabeth Hurst, and a team of prefects – and these bullying Big Girls are certainly not good eggs.

Tensions are running high. Then, after a fireworks display on Bonfire Night, Elizabeth is found – murdered.

Who might have committed such foul play? And with Deepdean running riot, and their own friendship falling apart, can the Detective Society solve the case?


The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

The fourth in Robin Stevens’ MURDER MOST UNLADYLIKE SERIES puts bullying and the need to protect secrets at its front and centre while also putting stress on the Wells and Wong friendship. The novel deals with bullying in a historically believable way (specifically the way in which it’s institutionalised and ignored by the staff) but in a way that also feels very contemporary. I also enjoyed the stress put on Wells and Wong, in part because Hazel is hiding her correspondence with Alexander but in part because Daisy is – for all her strengths – remarkably pig-headed and unthinking in the way she treats her friend. There’s more development of the other girls at Deepdean – particularly Beanie (who I love) and Lavinia who brings some much needed snark to proceedings and Stevens does well at showing how the revelation of secrets pits the school years against each other as each vies to fill the power vacuum. The plot hinges on working out the timings of the murder, which is intricately done and I had to read it through a couple of times to work it out for myself and I also enjoyed how the events in this book harken back to those in the first, providing some welcome series continuity. The book ends with a set-up promising to move the action to Cambridge and offering the return of Alexander (doubtless creating more tension between Hazel and Daisy), which I am definitely looking forward to reading.

Time Of Death by Mark Billingham

The Blurb On The Back:

The missing.


Two schoolgirls are abducted in the small, dying Warwickshire town of Polesford, driving a knife into the heart of the community where police officer Helen Weeks grew up. But this is a place where dangerous truths lie buried.

The accused.


When family man Stephen Bates is arrested, Helen and her partner Tom Thorne head to the flooded town to support Bates’ wife – an old school friend of Helen’s – who is living under siege and convinced of her husband’s innocence.

The dead.


As residents and media bay for Bates’ blood, a decomposing body is found. The police believe they have their murderer, but one man believes otherwise. With a girl still missing, Thorne sets himself on a collision course with local police, townsfolk – and a merciless killer.


The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

The 13th in the TOM THORNE SERIES is another gripping crime thriller filled with twists and turns that touches on mob mentality and how it’s stoked by irresponsible tabloid journalism. The best thing about the book is that Thorne and Weeks’ relationship is central to it and I really welcomed Weeks’ character development as we learn more about her family background and childhood, even though it’s built on an idea that I find overdone for female characters in crime fiction. What’s interesting is how little Thorne really knows about Helen, how timid he is at asking her what’s going on and how the age difference between them is perceived by others and I’ll be interested to see what happens between them in the coming books. Although the pacing is great, I found the killer a little unbaked and I found it difficult to believe that Brigstocke did so little to bring Thorne back into line when he’s clearly still under a shadow from the Nicklin affair. I also thought that both Thorne and Weeks were more than a little naïve in their suggestion to a key witness to go to the press and I wanted to see more of the fall out of that. That said, this held my attention from beginning to end and I will definitely check out the next Thorne book.

Seoul Survivors by Naomi Foyle

The Blurb On The Back:

According to the Mayan Calendar the world as we know it is about to end – but despite the threat of impending eco-apocalypse, Sydney Travers, an impetuous blonde runaway, is determined to reinvent herself as a top hi-tec fashion model in Seoul. The glitzy Asian metropolis is also a haven for Damien Meadows, an inept drug smuggler and untrained English tutor desperate to buy a fake passport to the planet’s safest terrain. For Lee Mee Hee the road to the city is slick with tears: grieving the loss of her newborn son to famine, she lets a kind Foreign Aid medic smuggle her from North to South Korea in the bottom of a truck.

Assessing all three from a seclude mountain villa is Dr Kim Da Mi, a maverick Korean-American bioengineer with a visionary scheme to redesign humanity and survive the coming catastrophe. Mee Hee and her fellow refugees are offered sanctuary – in return for signing up as surrogate mothers – but convincing prime Caucasian specimens Sydney and Damien to donate their DNA is a more complex procedure. Over a long hot summer, seduction bleeds into coercion and mutual betrayal, until Lucifer’ Hammer, the long-prophesied meteor, nears the Earth and the ruthless forces backing Dr Kim demand a sacrifice …


The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

Naomi Foyle’s cyber thriller has some great ideas and slick plotting and I loved the South Korean setting but for me it lacked an emotional heart, particularly as every character except Mee Hee has their own personal agenda that involves manipulating and using the people around them, which made it difficult for me to root for or empathise with any of them. I loved the portrayal of technology here – the way Foyle shows the evolution of phones as design accessories was great – but at times there was too much going on, e.g. the meteor (which only some people take seriously), nuclear terrorism, the idea of building surrogate bodies, genetic manipulation, futuristic theme parks – so that not all of them were, for me, developed in a coherent way, which robbed some of them of their potency. The characters at times risk also falling into cliché – notably Dr Kim (whose motivations don’t get sufficiently explored) and Johnny Sandman (who’s a violent abuser with woman problems) and I was concerned that Mee Hee is a completely passive character who is never in control of her destiny. While this book didn’t quite come good for me, there is nevertheless enough here for me to want to check out Foyle’s other work.

Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

The Blurb On The Back:

Criminal prodigy KAZ BREKKER has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to clam it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward)
(and spend it)


Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.


The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

Leigh Bardugo’s YA fantasy heist novel is an exhilarating and exuberant read set in the same world as her bestselling GRISHA TRILOGY – think OCEANS’S ELEVEN with a fantasy twist. The plot unfurls at a rollicking pace and the fun lies in how Bardugo puts obstacles in the path of her gang of thieves and shows them overcoming them. Although the gang themselves are taken from stock stereotypes, Bardugo invests enough in their backstory and relationships with each other to make you care about what happens to them – especially the apparently heartless Kaz, who I found fascinating both because of what happened to make him as he is and because of his fractious relationship with Inej and his ambitions for his future. I also enjoyed the expansion of the Grisha world and the hints of what is happening in Ravka following the dreadful civil war – this book draws more from Dutch, Chinese and Scandinavian influences in its world building and I enjoyed how Bardugo twists and makes them her own. The pace is relentless with Bardugo switching points of view to keep the action coming and seamlessly reveal backstory and as a result, I was gripped from beginning to end. The book ends with a set-up for a sequel, which I will most definitely be checking out.

Silenced by Kristina Ohlsson

The Blurb On The Back:

Fifteen years ago a young girl was brutally attacked as she picked flowers in a meadow near her parents’ Swedish country home. The crime went unreported; the victim silenced.


Cut to the present. It is a bleak February morning in Stockholm, when Alex Recht’s federal investigation unit is assigned to two new cases.

A man has been killed in a hit and run. He has no identification on him, he is not reported missing nor wanted by the police. Investigative Analyst Fredrika Bergman has the task of finding out who he is.

At the same time, a priest and his wife are found dead in their apartment. All evidence suggests that the priest shot his wife and then committed suicide. But is that all there is to it?

Two different cases, seemingly unrelated. But it is not long before the investigations begin to converge and the police are following a trail that leads all the way back to the ‘90s, to a crime that was hushed-up, but whose consequences will reach further and deeper than anyone ever expected.


The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

The second in Kristina Ohlsson’s BERGMAN & RECHT SERIES (translated by Sarah Death) is a slick crime thriller that nevertheless didn’t quite pull together the threads enough to provide a satisfying ending. I hadn’t read the first in the series, but Ohlsson provides enough information so that it isn’t necessary to do so (although it would perhaps help in explaining some of the relationships – notably Fredrika’s role within the team and the tensions it’s created). Ohlsson’s got an easy style and I enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book and the way she ties the different plot lines together, utilising different points of view to provide information but leave enough mystery to keep the reader interested. Unfortunately, I didn’t think that there was enough of a pay-off to the different mysteries – in particular the revelation of the antagonist and their motivation was somewhat vague and I wasn’t completely convinced by the explanation for how it was all pulled together or why. I also felt that the storyline involving Alex’s relationship with his wife and his growing concern that his wife is keeping secret wasn’t developed enough on page to have the impact it was clearly intended to have, which is a shame because there was a lot of potential there. All in all, while this book didn’t quite come good for me, there was enough here to make me interested in checking out the rest of this series and Ohlsson’s other work.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the review copy of this book.

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting

The Blurb On The Back:

Seventeen-year-old Charlaina knows she has exceptional but perilous powers.


In the far future, in a land controlled by an aged and ruthless queen, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. Even acknowledging a member of the ruling class while they are speaking their native tongue is punishable by death. Charlie can understand all languages, a secret she must protect to stay alive.

When she meets the alluringly handsome Max, who speaks in a language she hasn’t heard before, she is intensely attracted to him. Max believes that Charlie is the key to something bigger and he pledges to protect her. But as war descends, can she trust him?


The Review (Cut For Spoilers):Collapse )

The Verdict:

Kimberly Derting’s YA dystopian novel (the first in a trilogy) has some great ideas – particularly those about language and communication and how it can both bring people together and keep them apart – but the romance element is shallow (essentially based on love at first sight) and the rebellion plot doesn’t have enough time to develop, relying on a number of plot jumps and reveals that didn’t really satisfy me. This is a shame because there is some good writing – notably the relationship between Charlaina and her younger sister, Angelina and Charlaina’s friendship with Brook. Unfortunately I found Max to be an underdeveloped character – there’s no real basis shown for his feelings for Charlaina or his motivation in protecting her. Similarly, I found the resistance underdeveloped and I wasn’t completely sure what they planned to achieve after overthrowing the Queen (who I found two-dimensional). I have to admit to also being a little bored the idea that only a queen could rule the country and wished that there had been more exploration of ways to make democracy work (although this may come in later books). I’m not sure whether I’d continue with this trilogy but I will check out Derting’s other work.

Latest Month

May 2016
S M T W T F S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031    

Tags

Syndicate

RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow