Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Arrowood by Mick Finlay - review

Publisher: HQ

London Society takes their problems to Sherlock Holmes. Everyone else goes to Arrowood.

1895: London’s scared. A killer haunts the city’s streets. The poor are hungry; crime bosses are taking control; the police force stretched to breaking point. While the rich turn to Sherlock Holmes, the celebrated private detective rarely visits the densely populated streets of South London, where the crimes are sleazier and the people are poorer.

In a dark corner of Southwark, victims turn to a man who despises Holmes, his wealthy clientele and his showy forensic approach to crime: Arrowood self-taught psychologist, occasional drunkard and private investigator.

When a man mysteriously disappears and Arrowood’s best lead is viciously stabbed before his eyes, he and his sidekick Barnett face their toughest quest yet: to capture the head of the most notorious gang in London. (Publishers' blurb)

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an open and honest review.

When I read about this book on Twitter, I had to have it. It was such a creative idea to explore a less famous contemporary of Sherlock Holmes and the book has received great reviews. This is an adult book, instead of my usual YA, but I'm really glad I read it.

The world building was stunning, evoking the time period and London setting in detail but without weighing down the narrative. There was a real sense of unease with the recent, unsolved Jack the Ripper murders still playing on people's minds.

I also really liked Arrowood and Barnett, his sidekick and the novel's narrator. Their characters and relationship between them provided light relief but also touched on some emotional subjects.

The case was well-plotted and built to an exciting conclusion. I possibly missed some of the Sherlock Holmes references that other reviewers have mentioned but I still really enjoyed unpicking the mystery.

This was a promising start to a series and one that I'll definitely continue reading.

Monday, 20 March 2017

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus - review

PublisherDelacorte Press (30 May 2017)

The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide. (Extract from the Publishers' blurb)

I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest review.

I was so excited to read this book and it started off well. I found the premise of The Breakfast Club with murder so intriguing and the tension mounted throughout. However, there were elements of the plot that I didn’t enjo
y and I would give a definite trigger warning about the treatment of depression.

The main characters were interesting and well-developed, though some of them defied stereotypes and others reinforced them. I liked reading about the events from four viewpoints and thought the four distinctive voices were very strong.

In terms of the thriller aspects, I found this book exciting and I enjoyed trying to work out the clues. It was so fun trying to decide who was lying and who was responsible. Unfortunately, there were plot points that I found disappointing and that stopped me from giving the book a higher star rating overall.

This book had great potential but for me it didn’t quite match up to the exciting premise and title.

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Square Root of Summer review - British Books Challenge

Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books

Author: Harriet Reuter Hapgood

This book deals with subjects of grief and loss in a very sensitive manner but it may be triggering for some people.

Last summer, Gottie's life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason, the boy to whom she lost her heart wouldn't even hold her hand at the funeral. This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Former everything. And as life turns upside down again she starts to experience strange blips in time - back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then . . .
During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tries to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last. (Publisher's blurb)

The Square Root of Summer has been on my TBR pile for ages so the British Books Challenge was the perfect opportunity to read it. The challenge involves reading at least one British book per month. You can read more about it or sign up here.

This is a fantastic book with a lot of unique qualities. My favourite aspect is that it's about a girl who is a genius at Maths and Science. I wish that wasn't such a rarity in fiction and I hope this book encourages more authors to cover these subjects. 
The book was also based on a very original concept. I love how it was inspired by Harriet Reuter Hapgood's German mathematician grandfather and her obsession with YA romance. I thought that these passions came across in the writing and that the deep issues were complimented well by the romantic story lines.

There was an interesting cast of supporting characters and I particularly liked Gottie's family. The descriptions of their relationship and their grief were dealt with in a very real, sensitive manner. I find this a difficult subject to read about and I thought this book handled it really well.

Another great thing was that Gottie felt like a real teenager. I think some YA books have the message that all romantic encounters are perfect and they don't always deal with the day to day reality of being a teenager. Gottie's relationships felt real and messy, and a standout moment for me was when she unexpectedly had her period. This was a definite theme of my teenage years and I'm so glad this book dealt with this subject so honestly.

This book has wide appeal in terms of the sci-fi and romantic elements and I'm looking forward to more books by Harriet Reuter Hapgood.

If you liked the sound of this, now try The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor - review

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton (28th March 2017)

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around - and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he's been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries - including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo's dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? (Publishers' blurb)

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Laini Taylor is my favourite YA author, so reading this book could have gone either way. How could anything live up to the rich and devastating world of Daughter of Smoke and Bone? Somehow, I loved this book just as much and it left the same lasting impression on me. Days after I finished reading, I'm still flooded with emotions whenever I think about it.

One of my favourite things about this book is the writing style. The descriptions are consistently beautiful and evocative, whether dealing with a dream landscape or the mysterious city of Weep. Laini also infuses her writing with witty dialogue and humour, which was a refreshing contrast to the lyrical descriptions.

Another strength of this book is the characters. I can only think of Philip Pullman and JK Rowling who create characters that I care so deeply about and that are so multifaceted. The shifting third person perspective between Sarai and Lazlo worked really well and by the end I couldn't decide which character I responded to more. I appreciated the secondary characters, especially the warrior leader Eril Fane and Lazlo's antagonist Thyon Nero. (I even love their names...)

The plotting in this book is also really on point. Laini Taylor is a master of writing books that don't resemble anyone else's, and I loved trying to work out where this was going.

This book will give you a full emotional workout and suck you in to a dazzling world. It's one of the best YA books I've ever read.