Mini book reviews

Hi guys!

Just a quick post today. As I’ve been reading a lot recently, I thought I’d write some ‘mini reviews’ of some of my recent reads. Let me know what you think!

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The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis – 4.5*

As with a lot of recent novels, this book employs the ‘unreliable narrator’ trope, which I personally enjoy, but only when done right. I can happily confirm that this book is one of the ones which uses this technique successfully. As I was reading, I often felt one of the narrators (Jemma, our main protagonist) was being purposely misleading and, having read a book recently which flat-out deceives the reader (see Under Your Skin…), was worried that this book would take the same course. It doesn’t and in fact, uses the unreliability of Jemma to develop her as an interesting yet flawed 3-dimensional character. I found her character intriguing, which is good as the reader spends a lot of time ‘in her head’, despite there being several other minor narrators and a little bit of head-hopping, all of which add depth to the story.

At no point did I guess the ending (which is a feat these days..!) and when all was finally revealed at the end I felt a chill run down my spine. I can pretty much guarantee that you will have no idea as to what will happen in the end, and when you do find out, it will smack you in the face (in a good way, of course). Would recommend to anyone interested in domestic thrillers or unreliable narrators.

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – 5*

Heartbreaking, eye-opening, complex and sometimes chilling. Honestly, this book left me speechless. I read it all in a day. It feels weird to say I enjoyed reading it due to the subject it covers, but I did. It kept me hooked the whole way through and I think Asher dealt with a sensitive subject in a clever and absorbing way. I would recommend this book to anyone, although trigger warning (suicide is the main theme).

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He Said / She Said by Erin Kelly – 5*

Intriguing, unique and not at all predictable, He Said/She Said is part twisty thriller/part courtroom drama with a little bit of eclipse chasing sprinkled in for good measure. The characters are relatable and charming, yet flawed, and the relationships created by Kelly are intricate and believable. The main couple, protagonists Kit and Laura, are perhaps my favourite – I think Kelly manages to capture the ‘met-at-uni-been-together-since’ relationship delightfully. Although the novel explores distressing themes at times, it does so with the utmost care and sensitivity, resulting in an emotionally-charged book which raises some important questions and issues. A very clever, enjoyable and emotionally-complex read. I loved it!

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Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor – 3*

This book was completely different to what I expected, hence I’m finding it quite hard to review. The book is obviously amazingly written, fabulously plotted and creates a vivid and wonderful sense of place and time, but I couldn’t help but find it a little hard to follow sometimes, due to the vast amount of characters and the ‘omniscient head-hopping’. What one expects to be the main plot (the missing girl) although constantly there, is pushed to the background as the writing instead focuses on the effect this has on the village, more so than explicitly about the crime itself. This is not a bad thing, in fact, it’s a very interesting choice made by the author that ensures the books stands out, although may be a little disappointing for anyone expecting a ‘crime thriller’. Overall, this book is written wonderfully but sadly will not appeal to everyone due to its unique narrative style.

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Boundary by Andree A Michaud – 5*

A beautifully written and suspenseful literary work of which I enjoyed every page. Murder, mystery and folklore weave with vivid imagery and expertly created characters in this hauntingly memorable exploration of adolescence, sexuality and community. A time consuming yet massively rewarding read.

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Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy – 3*

Do Not Become Alarmed is a book unlike any I’ve ever read before, in a number of different ways. The narrative style is unique – as opposed to having one main character which the book follows throughout, this novel utilises a ‘head-hopping’ style of narration. Although not my favourite style, it works for this book, as it effectively allows us to experience the novel’s events from the POV of several of the characters. Although this sounds confusing at first, it’s not, as the characters are well-developed, believable and distinctive, and each bring something new to the story. It’s an impressive feat to manage to successfully write in this style, as I have read many books with multiple narrators that don’t work. That said, I think the novel would have been just as interesting (and perhaps easier to connect with) if it was written from the perspective of two of the protagonists, perhaps one adult and one child. This however, is just a personal preference of mine.

The writing is descriptive and vivid, the storyline is captivating and Meloy’s writing style is competent and enjoyable, although may take a little time to get used to at first. Although I would recommend this book to others, I would warn prospective readers to leave any expectations at the first page – to fully appreciate this book, one needs to read and enjoy it for what it actually is, as opposed to what they might expect it to be.

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Under Your Skin by Sabine Durrant – 3*

I loved this book right up until the last chapter. The writing was awesome, the narrator was engaging and I was hooked. That was, up until the reveal. WTF is up with the ending? No spoilers, but it was such a disappointment. The rest of the novel had been building up to the climax, so why did I feel that the climax and the ‘answer’ to all of my questions came out of nowhere and were added purely for shock value? I’ve noticed this with Durrant’s other book, Lie With Me, in which she did exactly the same thing – chose the most shocking ending and ran with it, despite its unbelievability.

It’s such a shame because I love her writing style, her creation of engaging characters and her ability to insert humour into her books. I was excited to spend my next Audible credit on one of her other books, but I won’t be doing that now 😦

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The Ridge by John Rector – 5*

Part Linwood Barclay, part Hemlock grove, this is hands-down one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. As cliche as it sounds, I read it in only a couple of hours and not once did I guess the ending or any of the twists, although expertly weaved flashbacks and carefully placed clues ensured that the eventual conclusion and reveal was satisfying and adrenaline inducing.

The writing is detailed enough to build a strong sense of place, but not too much so that the plot is bogged down by description, and the twist is one of the best I’ve ever read. Rector expertly creates a world which, on the surface seems idyllic, but it’s not long until the cracks begin to show, leaving the reader with spine chills and goosebumps aplenty.

I would 100% recommend this title and will be actively seeking other titles by Rector. Everyone should read this novel!

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The Last Girl by Joe Hart – 4*

I would describe this book as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale meets Scott Westerfield’s Uglies. Surprisingly enough, it works! I particularly enjoyed Hart’s third-person present narration – his ability to conjure up an almost tangible image using simple yet well-chosen words is a rare skill, which deserves applause.

One slight gripe I do have is that the middle of the novel dragged a little too much for my liking. The fast pace which I had grown accustomed to petered out and became almost painfully slow – I found myself skipping pages of description in several instances, hence why I have awarded 4 stars not 5.

It’s all too easy to leave too many unanswered questions in a series, but I’m happy to report that this was not the case with The Last Girl and I was sufficiently happy with the ending of the novel.

I would recommend this title and will hopefully get around to reading the rest in the series.

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The House by Simon Lelic – 5*

Part murder-mystery, part domestic thriller, The House is a purely unique thrill ride, of which I enjoyed every page. Written in a conversational style, this novel’s structure and narrative voice is fresh and new – the chapters alternate between our two unreliable narrators and protagonists, Jack and Syd, as they try to figure out what on earth is happening in their new house. The style is evocative of a kind of ‘journalistic conversation’ between the two, a style unlike anything I’ve experienced before and it works well, effectively portraying the vague sense of unease at the beginning of the novel, the paranoia and violence in the middle, and finally through to the explosive climax of which you won’t see coming. As tense as it is clever, The House is a wonderfully-crafted, clever and heart-wrenching novel, which will leave your heart racing.

Fun Fact

A quote from this review attributed to me can be found in the paperback version of this book!

 

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Where to find free and cheap eBooks – fiction and non-fiction

Free. Everyone likes that word. Free coffee. Free pizza. Free cinema tickets. Free eBooks.

If the latter phrase gets you hot under the collar then you are in the right place.

This blog post will explore three ways you can add to your eBook library cheaply or for free. The below methods can be used to discover both fiction and non-fiction books of all genres and topics. I personally like to download mainly non-fiction books about the craft of writing and fiction books of all genres, but you can tailor the methods to suit your needs.

Before we get started,  I feel the need to address the elephant in the room. As a writer, surely I should be supporting other writers by buying their books for a decent price, right? Of course! I’m not suggesting that from now on, you should exclusively read free and cheap Ebooks. You absolutely should not. Given a choice between a paperback and an Ebook, I’ll buy the former almost every time. BUT. There’s nothing wrong with expanding and adding to your collection by subsidising it with free Ebooks, especially as the authors themselves are the ones who are offering them to you. Therefore, all of the below methods are 100% legal, 100% ethical and 100% awesome.

Now that’s cleared up, let’s begin!

Bookbub /  Book Cave

As I reside in the UK, I’ll be discussing Bookbub, as opposed to Book Cave (which I think is the US equivalent?), although both websites do the same thing.

Bookbub is hands-down the reason I became obsessed with Ebooks. This is how it works.

You sign up to the website.

You put in your genre preferences.

Bookbub accumulates a list of free and heavily discounted books which you can purchase across a number of different platforms – Kindle, IBooks Kobo, Google etc.

You download the book through the vendor for free or cheap as you would a normal Ebook.

Voila. Easy.

Bookbub will also send you a daily email of the books it thinks you will like (the list has about 7 or 8 titles depending on how many genres you have ticked). I personally look forward to my Bookbub email and I almost always find one or two titles that I like and download. Although you may not have heard of a lot of the titles, that doesn’t stop them from being decent novels (although I have had a couple which were absolutely terrible). Bestsellers appear on the list fairly regularly, slashed from about £8.99 to about £1.99 give or take.

 

Subscribe to author websites and blogs for fiction

Anyone who spends enough time on the internet will realise just how easy it is to ‘accidentally’ gather free Ebooks from bloggers, website owners, authors and writers who are keen to expand their readership or get subscribers. They generally offer the Ebook in exchange for your email address (fair swap IMO). Below are two of my favourite authors and bloggers, both of whom are currently offering free Ebooks and amazing website content. Honestly, every writer should visit these websites, free Ebooks aside!

Joanna Penn 

KM Weiland

 

Amazon

Simply go to the Kindle store on a computer, type in your keyword or phrase (example: novel writing, blogging, how to start a business) and search. Then sort the search results by price, low to high. BAM. The free ones will come up first, followed by the cheap ones. If you’re not sure about a key-word, just write free. This also works on fiction. Simply select the genre instead of typing a keyword.

 

Below is what happens when you type Free into the kindle search bar. TADA.

 

 

Netgalley

For all of us ‘book bloggers’, the Netgalley website offers the exciting opportunity to download and read Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) of new and just-published books, delivered straight to your chosen E-reader in exchange for a review. You need to ‘request’ some of the books (meaning you won’t necessarily be eligible to receive all of your chosen ones), but there are many which you can download straight off the bat. You even get to call yourself a professional reader which, let’s be honest, is amazing!

 

And that’s it for now. Go forth and enjoy your eBooks!

 

 

 


Her: book review

her book review

Her

Harriet Lane
Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2015
4.5/5

“Two women; two different worlds.

Emma is a struggling mother who has put everything on hold.
Nina is sophisticated and independent – entirely in control.

When the pair meet, Nina generously draws Emma into her life. But this isn’t the first time the women’s paths have crossed. Nina remembers Emma and she remembers what Emma did . . .

But what exactly does Nina want from her?

And how far will she go in pursuit of it?”

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Harriet-Lane/dp/0297865056

Although I bought Her at a recent book sale, I first saw it advertised on the tube on my way to work. I was instantly attracted to the intriguing tagline: “You don’t remember her, but she remembers you.”

It is pegged as a thriller – my current favourite genre, so when I saw it at the sale, I picked it up immediately and bought it without even reading the blurb; rebellious, I know!

The positives

The design of the book is awesome, but sadly, the ‘highlighter yellow” doesn’t photograph well. I did my best though…

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The tagline is metallic, hence you can’t see it very well in the photo, but it looks great in real-life. The inside cover is as cool as the outside, with reversed out quotes on the left and the publisher logo printed on the right.

The book is written in stunning first-person present, which results in a fast-paced, immediate and wholly absorbing narrative. Set in modern London, the novel focuses on ‘frenemies’ Nina and Emma, two middle-class women whose lives are soon entwined, no thanks to Nina and her relentless lust for revenge. Lane’s writing evokes perfectly the bourgeois lifestyle, complete with snobbery, and the often-destructive need to keep up appearances.

The novel is narrated by both Nina and Emma, in alternate chapters. Often, Emma will narrate a scene, and immediately after, Nina will narrate the same scene but from her P.O.V. One would be wrong to assume that this re-telling gets repetitive and boring; quite the opposite is true. It is interesting to see the contrast between how the two girls feel toward one another and how they feel about certain events. It also offered a chilling insight into Nina’s mind. By structuring the novel this way, Lane manages to portray Emma’s ignorance toward Nina’s true motives, resulting in steadily rising tension, as she is dragged further and further into Nina’s web of deception.

Although Lane’s style is quite wordy, the words are well chosen, and the description is vivid. She manages to evoke perfectly, not just setting and character, but also the superficial, poisonous society in which the women live. When I first began reading the book, in one of the earlier chapters, Emma lists off lots of (rather fancy sounding) names. At first, this annoyed me – I was never going to be able to remember all of these names, let alone keep up with what was going on in these character’s lives. BUT I soon realised that Lane had cleverly used this to further emphasise Emma’s hectic, and often shallow lifestyle.

Being critical

Lane does an amazing job at creating tension throughout – often, I couldn’t put the book down as I was desperate to find out the awful thing that Emma had done. The one (very tiny) criticism I had when I initially finished the book is that this ‘awful’ thing, the one that had inspired Nina’s eventual retribution, seemed very minor, and not very awful at all. I didn’t understand why Nina hated her so much, and I definitely didn’t think it warranted Nina’s horrific final act of revenge. Despite this, the more I think about it, the more I realise that maybe Nina wasn’t as mentally stable as I first believed. Perhaps Emma’s actions had affected her more than I initially thought. This is the only way I can justify her overreaction to Emma’s wrongdoing. 

In conclusion

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Her. I loved Lane’s writing style, the book was fast-paced, absorbing and un-put-down-able. I would very much recommend this novel and look forward to reading more of Harriet Lane’s work!

Has anyone else read this book? Let me know what you think!


Book review: Day Four by Sarah Lotz

Day Four
Sarah Lotz
Hodder & Stoughton 2015
3.5/5

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Day-Four-Sarah-Lotz/dp/1444775367

“Four days into a five day singles cruise on the Gulf of Mexico, the ageing ship Beautiful Dreamer stops dead in the water. With no electricity and no cellular signals, the passengers and crew have no way to call for help. But everyone is certain that rescue teams will come looking for them soon. All they have to do is wait. That is, until the toilets stop working and the food begins to run out. When the body of a woman is discovered in her cabin the passengers start to panic. There’s a murderer on board the Beautiful Dreamer… and maybe something worse.

When I stumbled across this novel at a book sale recently, the overall design of the book (my copy has fancy purple-edged paper, an attractive design, and a matte finish cover), along with a quick read of the blurb convinced me to add Day Four to my (already heaving) shopping bag. Although the above synopsis suggests that it is a murder mystery novel, one would be wrong to classify it as such – the murder mentioned is only one small element of this paranormal thriller.

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Second image sourced from http://carabas.co.uk/tag/monthly-book-recommends/

Only after I bought the novel, did I realise that it was the sequel to Lotz’s previous book, The Three. Although it is marketed as a ‘stand alone’ story, (reviews suggest that the links between the two are loose), I debated long and hard as to whether or not I should buy and read the latter first. The decision to dive straight into Day Four was made mainly because the blurb intrigued me so, but also because I wanted to figure out whether or not it was worth spending more money on an author that I had no previous experience of reading.

The book is mainly written in third-person, which happens to be my least favourite tense. Despite this, Lotz’s writing style is enjoyable – she writes simply, and her use of description is vivid yet sparing, with no unnecessary words or extended descriptions. Lotz sets the scene well and I found it easy to imagine the cheap and cheerful Beautiful Dreamer. Unlike a lot of novels, the pacing was perfect – the sense of despair aboard the ship increases gradually as life on-board begins to get more and more unbearable.

Although I enjoyed the overall narrative of Day Four, Lotz’s use of characters disappointed me somewhat. Instead of having one or two main characters, the novel had several, all of which took it in turns in being the view-point character. Each protagonist had several chapters dedicated to them throughout the novel, which made it hard to follow what was going on. Just as soon as you got into one character’s storyline, the chapter ended and another began, along with either a new character storyline or a continuation of one which had happened several chapters back. Thankfully, each character has a nickname which appears at the beginning of the chapter (‘the Devils Handmaiden’ for example) which helped in navigating the chapters, and also added another level of characterisation.

Because of the extensive character-hopping, I found it hard to become attached – I didn’t find myself ‘rooting’ for anyone in particular. Although each of the characters seemed ‘fleshed out’, their development and backgrounds appeared to offer no real depth to the plot. I believe the novel would have been equally as entertaining, if not more so, if it had focused on only one main character.

Day Four is my first experience of reading a supernatural thriller so I was excited to see how Lotz would interweave supernatural into the novel. Overall I was a little disappointed – although the sporadic paranormal events were creepy there was very little build up to them. I had read some reviews where reviewers had described the book as ‘terrifying’ so was really expecting to be scared out of my wits! This didn’t stop me from enjoying the book as a whole though.

The twist and the ending had promise but were not as chilling as they could have been. I was left feeling a little confused as to what had actually happened. This could well have been intentional – the ending is perhaps meant to be ambiguous and echoes the confusion aboard the boat. 

Although some of the elements of the novel were a little disappointing, I really enjoyed reading Day Four, so for that reason alone, I would recommend it. I looked forward to reading it, and it had me hooked right up until the end. I also enjoyed Lots’z overall style, and have read some rave reviews about her other book The Three, so will be purchasing and reading that in the near future!

Has anyone else read this book? Do you agree or disagree with my comments? Comment below!