Saturday 30 June 2018

Book Review - Whistle in the Dark

Title: Whistle in the Dark
Author: Emma Healey
Publisher: Viking
Release Date: 3 May 2018
ISBN-13: 978-0241327623

Jen and Hugh Maddox have just survived every parent’s worst nightmare.
Relieved, but still terrified, they sit by the hospital bedside of their fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana, who was found bloodied, bruised, and disoriented after going missing for four days during a mother-daughter vacation in the country. As Lana lies mute in the bed, unwilling or unable to articulate what happened to her during that period, the national media speculates wildly and Jen and Hugh try to answer many questions.
Where was Lana? How did she get hurt? Was the teenage boy who befriended her involved? How did she survive outside for all those days? Even when she returns to the family home and her school routine, Lana only provides the same frustrating answer over and over: “I can’t remember.”
For years, Jen had tried to soothe the depressive demons plaguing her younger child, and had always dreaded the worst. Now she has hope—the family has gone through hell and come out the other side. But Jen cannot let go of her need to find the truth. Without telling Hugh or their pregnant older daughter Meg, Jen sets off to retrace Lana’s steps, a journey that will lead her to a deeper understanding of her youngest daughter, her family, and herself.

My Review
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I've never actually read Emma Healey, I know her first novel was very popular but isn't really my go to genre. However this arrived and I thought it sounded interesting. The cover is very pretty and when you take the jacket off the book is embossed with birds, it's a nice effect -they've really worked on the presentation, I just hoped the inside would match up to it.
I started to read and was instantly intrigued, I wanted to know what had happened to Lana and how her parents were going to cope with the aftermath of it all. The book is narrated by her mother who I found to be funny, slightly neurotic, a bit of a hypocrite, totally insecure but very likeable - she was human, she gave off a real feeling of the sort of personality a real mother in her situation would be. Sometimes she was annoying and I wanted to shake her but other times she was very endearing, but all of her actions had an origin and a point to them, it is her way of dealing with the situation - not only the days of panic and grief when Lana was missing, but the not knowing what happened to her when she was gone. Lana also suffers from depression and has made suicide attempts in the past so Jen still has that worry on her mind - every time Lana leaves she wonders if she will see her again.
This book deals with some very sensitive and very sincere issues in a compassionate and concise way, it didn't feel like I was being preached at or warned or scared, but informed and understanding about the characters problems and how they do effect others. 
Lana herself is very closed off, she's quiet, doesn't want to engage and seems very unsure of herself, you could feel her pain and misery without even knowing the full story, despite her problems though she still has a wicked sense of humour and loves to wind up her mum, she's quite tongue in cheek.
The Dad doesn't make much of an appearance but when he is you can tell that he is a big support for both his daughter and his wife but also a voice of reason and he has some of the best one-liners in the book, I actually laughed out loud at times.
I read this book in 2 days, I had to know what was going to happen. There is quite a lot of descriptive text but to me it didn't feel slow or dragging, it all just helped set the scene and characters and I found myself turning the pages and racing through the story. I stayed up til almost Midnight to finish it as I just couldn't wait to find the truth of what happened to Lana.
Part of me was hoping for a more dramatic ending, some great revelation that no one was expecting, but then again the ending also felt right - you could completely understand why the author went that way and it did fit with Lana's character, it all made perfect sense and I loved that her mother was the one to discover the truth. 
This story is quite sad, but very moving and really makes you feel for the characters. It is a book that will take you on a rollercoaster of emotions but it will be a ride you won't forget. I really enjoyed Healey's writing style and would definitely read other books by her.

My Rating

Friday 22 June 2018

Book Review - Midnight

Title: Midnight
Author: Derek Landy
Series: Skulduggery Pleasant (Book 11)
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books
Release Date: 31st May 2018
ISBN-13: 978-0008284565

For years, Valkyrie Cain has struggled to keep her loved ones safe from harm, plunging into battle — time and time again — by Skulduggery Pleasant’s side, and always emerging triumphant.
But now the very thing that Valkyrie fights for is in danger, as a ruthless killer snatches her little sister in order to lure Valkyrie into a final confrontation. With Skulduggery racing to catch up and young sorcerer Omen scrambling along behind, Valkyrie only has twelve hours to find Alice before it’s too late.
The clock is ticking…'

My Review
I have loved the Skulduggery Pleasant series for years! I have met Derek Landy a number of times and have every single book signed in my collection. So I always knew that I would be buying and reading this book as soon as it came out. I collected my Special signed edition from the bookshop the day after it came out and couldn’t wait to get stuck in. With work and other commitments I didn’t get to dive in as quickly as I wanted to but finally last week I had the opportunity to sit down with the book and within 2 days I had completely finished it. That’s one thing I love about Landy’s books – they are so well written that you are guaranteed to be swept up into the world and carried along, you never want to put it down until you know what will happen next.
         As it’s been a while since I read the series I was worried that I wouldn’t remember what had happened in the last book, but there are enough hints and reminders within the story to bring it all back to you without feeling like he is rehashing something you’ve already read. Events and characters started coming back to me and I was once more immersed into that magical world.
         Valkyrie is back but still recovering from the whole Darquesse incident and trying to forget about the whole Cadaverous Gant thing, she’s woring with Skulduggery again and they are back on top form. The two of them together is the ultimate dream team, such chemistry! Their conversations never feel forced, they are so natural it feels like you are there talking to them as well. I love how Derek has developed them over the series too, they really do grow and adapt over the course and are always changing.
I really liked having more chapters with Omen Darkly too, he’s such a good character, kind of wimpy and pathetic but you know he means well and you can’t help but wish him well, I’m still waiting for him to turn around and save the day at some point. He has a good sense of humour and a bit of a no nonsense approach – although he day dreams a lot he does know what he wants, he’s just not sure how to get it. I also like that we saw a softer side to his brother, he’s not just the ‘chosen hero’, but a real person too.
When Alice is kidnapped Valkyrie must race to rescue her, but the rules are she can’t contact anyone for help, this is between her and Gant, and time is running out. Meanwhile Skulduggery is on his own mission. The suspense of the story is perfect, nothing is for sure, I kept wandering if Skulduggery would find Valkyrie or vice versa. Every time I thought I had figured out what would happen next, Landy would through in a curve ball.
The book ends with a bit of a cliff-hanger in that it reveals some things that you definitely want answers to! Derek Landy is such a tease with his books, so evil having to make us wait for the next one. But I just can’t get enough! Each book is just as incredible as the previous and Landy is a real legend of storytelling.

My Rating

Thursday 7 June 2018

Book Review - The Trilogy of Two

Title: The Trilogy of Two
Author: Juman Malouf
Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books
Release Date: 7 Jun. 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1782692041


Identical twins Sonja and Charlotte are musical prodigies with extraordinary powers. Born on All-Hallows-Eve, the girls could play music before they could walk. They were found one night by Tatty, the Tattooed Lady of the circus, in a pail on her doorstep with only a note and a heart-shaped locket. They've been with Tatty ever since, roaming the Outskirts in the circus caravans, moving from place to place.

But lately, curious things have started to happen when they play their instruments. During one of their performances, the girls accidentally levitate their entire audience, drawing too much unwanted attention. Soon, ominous Enforcers come after them, and Charlotte and Sonja must embark on a perilous journey through enchanted lands in hopes of unlocking the secrets of their mysterious past.

My Review

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
The premise of the story sounded really interesting to me – two young girls raised in the circus with amazing musical talents that become magical, it appealed to me in a number of ways which is why I accepted it for review. I love magic, I love Circus based stories and I love mysteries, we’re on for a winner, right!?
Sonja and Charlotte are twins, raised in a circus on the ‘Outskirts’ by Tatty – a lady covered from head to toe in tattoos. They have extraordinary musical talents that they perform in the ring but lately it’s started causing magical things to happen and the customers are getting freaked out. The girls must learn to control their powers or find somewhere else to live. The opening of the book was very exciting and powerful, it put you right into the moment and introduced you to the twins and I was encouraged. The writing style was a bit blunt – a lot of short sentences but I could get past that.
The twins hear about an audition for a famous music academy, and they decide it’s worth a try, even with the possibility of magical mishaps - and that’s when things go wrong, that night their talents get stolen, Tatty gets kidnapped and they end up on a journey to try and save themselves and their adoptive mother. Along the way they meet a host of characters and end up in a variety of different situations. However this is where the book went downhill for me, I found Sonja and Charlotte to be very annoying, Charlotte falls in love with every boy she meets, has no regard for anyone around her and basically ignores her twin, whilst Sonja complains about everything, whines that life isn’t fair and basically makes every situation ten times worse with her bad attitude. They were both very dislikeable characters and I found myself irritated by them and basically wanted to smack their heads together and tell them to grow up a bit. They didn’t really act like the twelve years they were supposed to be.
I also found myself getting confused with who everyone was, you meet so many characters, some that are only present for a few pages and then seem to disappear again but I was never really sure what their purpose was in the first place, and many of them have more than one name, it just got so confusing. Throughout the story they also traveled to a number of places and I found myself getting lost and very confused.
The twins meet a group of characters and they start to travel together to try and save ‘the key’ to the ‘Seven Edens’ (a concept that sounded really cool, like a whole other hidden world that is basically a paradise). Anyway, the team arrive at some sort of factory and the story started to get interesting, I found myself settling into the book again, there was a real edge of mystery and excitement, it was quite creepy but the imagery was great, I could picture all the children and the dark corridors and sinister people, I really found myself engaging with the story again, I started to read quicker again, and I actually wanted to know what would happen next, but that was over far too quickly and then they were out and back on the run again. I just found the whole thing very hard to follow and the writing style started to irritate me again, I wanted flowing sentences that would carry me through the story but I found them to be short and abrupt, very matter of fact and stilted. I just couldn’t get on with it. I found myself counting how many pages were left until the end, I just couldn’t get to grips with it.
I did like the introduction of Wolf-boy and his friend Moritz, they had some real personalities and added a bit of humour to the story. The villains were creepy and twisted just like villains should be, but I didn’t understand their motivation for what they were doing – they just seemed to be evil for the sake of it – at least with the Contessa anyway. With Katz you learn a bit more about his backstory which makes certain things make sense, but I just didn’t feel like I understood the purpose of it.
I also didn’t understand how Alexandria acted throughout it, without giving away any spoilers, her behaviour towards the twins did not match up with her feelings at the end, there was just no arc or development between the two situations and I wondered how anyone could act so coldly all those years if they were feeling something else. She was a mystery to me- although saying that, I loved her magical powers. She was a very cool woman and I did like her sassy attitude.
The book also has illustrations within of the characters, I can see the skill in the drawings but to be honest they kind of freaked me out a bit, they didn’t look quite human to me, and they didn’t add anything to the story, but some people may like them.
Overall I was disappointed with this book, I felt like it had so much potential but it left me feeling flat. There were moments that got me excited and carried me along but they were few and far between. There is a good baseline in there though but for me it didn’t reach it’s potential.

My Rating