Thursday 31 December 2020

Book Review - The Thursday Murder Club

 

Title: The Thursday Murder Club

Author: Richard Osman

Series: Thursday Murder Club (Book 1) 

Publisher: Viking 

Release Date: 3 Sept. 2020 

ISBN-13: 978-0241425442

Synopsis

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB


In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?
 

My Review

I am a bit of a Richard Osman fan, my husband and I love to watch his gameshow - The House of Games and have enjoyed watching him on other panel shows, so when I saw that he had written a book I was instantly intrigued and I added it to my wishlist. I'm not a massive crime novel fan, but i love Sherlock Holmes and what I guess you would call 'gentle murder mysteries'. So i believed I would be good with this one.

My husband being his amazing self, bought me this book as an extra Christmas present and having just finished another book, I dived straight in. The book is set in Coopers Chase Retirement Village somewhere around Kent. We meet Joyce who has just moved in, was an ex nurse and gets along with nearly everyone. She meets Elizabeth who has been at the village for a while and is quite the presence - commanding and persuasive. She is part of the Thursday Murder Club, a group who meet up every week to try and solve old crime cases, particularly unsolved murders. Part of this group is also Ibrahim - a retired psychiatrist and Ron who is very opinionated and likes to cause a stir. The club is just a bit of fun, until the builder and developer named Tony is murdered after leaving Coopers Chase, now there is a real death and actual suspects to look into, right on their doorstep. None of them are put off and piece by piece they start trying to solve the case. They manage to get on the good side of a young police officer who is looking for a bit more involvement and excitement in her career and through sharing information things start to add up, but then more bodies start to pile up, and more suspects come to light - are the group in deeper than they imagined?

I really liked Osman's writing style - at times I could imagine him reading it and it was just how he talks on TV, it had a real quaint feel to him and just made you want to read more. I like Joyce as a narrator, she has her own chapters that are presented more like diary entries, whereas the other chapters are third person and focus on different characters from in and around the retirement village.

Elizabeth is very headstrong and I had to remind myself that she was an 80 year old, not 50. She is still feisty and refusing to give into old age. I loved Ibrahim's calm nature and matter of fact, almost autistic personality. Ron is like a raging bull at times but you can tell he has a good heart. 

In fact, all of the characters have very distinct personalities and really came to life on the page, I could picture them all and could imagine the whole place and people, it is written so that it comes to life from the page, it all seems like you could go and meet these people.

I found the book a little slow in places but it would always pick up again and carry you through. Some of the revelations at the end were a bit confusing and I had to re-read a couple of paragraphs to make sure I had understood what had happened - particularly with Penny's story. But overall everything is tied together quite well and the ends are neatly folded. I am excited to see that there will be a second book out next September and I am curious to see where he takes it next.

I would definitely recommend this as an interesting, fairly fast paced gentle crime with great characters and some interesting twists.

My Rating


 
 
 

Book Review - The Cousins

 

Title: The Cousins

Author: Karen M. McManus 

Publisher: Penguin 

Release Date: 3 Dec. 2020 

ISBN-13 : 978-0241376942

Synopsis

The Storys are the envy of their neighbours: owners of the largest property on their East Coast island, they are rich, beautiful, and close. Until it all falls apart. The four children are suddenly dropped by their mother with a single sentence:
You know what you did.
They never hear from her again.
Years later, when 18-year-old cousins Aubrey, Milly and Jonah Story receive a mysterious invitation to spend the summer at their grandmother's resort, they have no choice but to follow their curiosity and meet the woman who's been such an enigma their entire lives.
This entire family is built on secrets, right? It's the Story legacy.
This summer, the teenagers are determined to discover the truth at the heart of their family. But some secrets are better left alone.
 
 

My Review

I absolutely love Karen McManus, i devoured all of her books during lockdown in May and was desperate for her to release something else. I was then browsing online one day and this popped up, so I decided to treat myself and order it (i needed to make up costs to cover postage anyway, but really who needs an excuse!)

This sounded quite different from her other works but I was excited to get stuck in. We have three cousins - Milly, Aubrey and Jonah, they haven't ever met their grandmother and haven't really met each other either. 24 years ago, their parents were sent away from their home with a note saying 'you know what you did'. All four of the Storey's deny knowing what that note means, and have just come to terms with life away from their mother and their legacy. But there is definitely something going on, as the once close siblings are now quite isolated and their children have grown up not really knowing the rest of their family or much information about their parent's past. So it comes as a shock when the 3 cousins receive a letter from their grandmother inviting them to her resort for the summer. Is she trying to finally connect with her grandchildren or is there something more sinister going on? The three reluctantly agree to go, keen to discover what really happened all those years ago.

The story is narrated by alternative perspectives, Milly,  Aubrey and Jonah. Each have agreed to attend for the summer for very different reasons, Milly and Aubrey soon become good friends, but Jonah just seems moody and unwelcoming. Straight away you see some cracks in the group dynamic but you also see that there is potential for more there.

The grandmother at the resort if very mysterious, she disappears almost as soon as the cousins arrive and very few people actually interact with her, of course this sets off alarm bells in the readers head and I must admit, part of the big twist and revelation at the end seemed quite obvious to me from fairly early on. 

This book was a bot slower than McManus' other works and I will admit that I didn't enjoy it as much, but regardless of that, it was still a good read and I finished it in 2 fairly short sittings. The story has enough drama and intrigue to keep you interested and wanting to know more, but I didn't feel like I connected or cared about the characters as much as her other books. In fact, my favourite character was probably Archer and he starts off very much as a side character, though he becomes more involved.

I was interested enough to see how the whole mystery panned out and that was enough to keep me hooked.  

This has in no way put me off McManus' works and I will still read everything that she releases as they are compelling little stories in their own right and I really like her style.

My Rating


 

Saturday 19 December 2020

Book Review - Enola Holmes and the Case of the Missing Marquess

 

Title: Enola Holmes and the Case of the Missing Marquess

Author: Nancy Springer

Series: Enola Holmes (Book 1) 

Publisher : Hot Key Books

Release Date: 24 Sept. 2020 

ISBN-13 : 978-1471408960

Synopsis

Introducing London's newest and greatest detective: Enola Holmes

When Enola Holmes, sister to the detective Sherlock, discovers her mother has disappeared, she embarks on a journey to London in search of her. But nothing can prepare her for what awaits. She finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess, fleeing murderous villains, and trying to elude her shrewd older brothers-all while attempting to piece together clues to her mother's strange disappearance. Will Enola be able to decode the necessary clues and find her mother? 

 

My Review

I have always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and heard that there was a spin off movie but didn't get round to watching it (Still haven't but it's on my list). I was heading into hospital last week for surgery and my amazing best friend, who I always call my little sister, bought me this book to take in with me to help pass my recovery time. 

This book is quite short at just under 200 pages, but was perfect for a nice easy read without needing too much focus. I didn't really know what to expect from it but hoped I would enjoy it and I did.

Enola is 14 years old, lives in a big house with her mother and 2 assistants - Mr & Mrs Lane, and isn't afraid to be adventurous. Her mother has never forced her to be ladylike and actually likes to protest against the restrictions placed on women. Enola has always been a bit of a scandal, she was a very late baby in her mother's life and has been outcast by her older brothers Mycroft and Sherlock. Enola is free to roam the local town, go out riding on her bike and explore the local landmarks, but then one morning her mother disappears. Enola immediately goes out to try and trace her whereabouts, but nobody has seen her and she has left most of her possessions behind. It is a real mystery. Inspired by her brother Sherlock's mystery solving skills, Enola is convinced that she can do just as good a job, but when things get too complicated she ends up contacting her brothers for help. The pair treat her like a child and seem to show no real care about her mother, who it turns out has been gathering money from Mycroft under the pretense of hiring tutors and gardeners for the house, but in reality been hiding the cash. They conclude she has run off on her own and it's best to leave her to it. But Enola can't give up now and must know the truth, so she sets out for London to try and solve the mystery. On her way she gets caught up in another mystery that very nearly jeopardizes her life.

I loved Enola's attitude towards life in general, she is a lot like me in terms of being adventurous, stubborn and quite a tom boy. She doesn't care what other people really think, instead she is more determined to uncover truth and justice. She can be quite naive at times and jump into a situation without thinking first which ends up causing her more trouble in the long run. 

The story was good, it had enough twists and turns to keep me interested. The only downside for me was that it lacked the same level of description as a Sherlock Holmes book, with Conan Doyle's stories I always felt like I was right there with Sherlock and that I had a chance to solve the mystery before him if I was good enough. But with Enola, I felt like she was taking me along but I was only seeing what she wanted me to, which made me feel at a disadvantage. I enjoyed her adventure and the way she got involved in the case but it lacked the traditional Holmes charm.

It was a nice easy read which was perfect for the situation I was in, but overall I would like a bit more to the novel, just to really bring it to life. But definitely worth reading if you are a fan of the Holmes universe.

My Rating


 
   
 

 

 

  

 

Saturday 14 November 2020

Book Review - The Familiars

Title: The Familiars

Author: Stacey Halls 

Publisher: Zaffre 

Release Date: 24 Sept. 2019 

ISBN-13: 978-1785766145

 Synopsis
To save her child, she will trust a stranger. To protect a secret, she must risk her life . . .
Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn't supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy.
Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong.
As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the North-West, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her. But is there more to Alice than meets the eye?
Soon the two women's lives will become inextricably bound together as the legendary trial at Lancaster approaches, and Fleetwood's stomach continues to grow. Time is running out, and both their lives are at stake.
Only they know the truth. Only they can save each other.

  
My Review
This is definitely not my usual type of read, I picked it up in the bookshop a few months ago purely because I thought it was an absolutely gorgeous cover, in reality it shimmers and catches the light and when you look closely you start to see lots of other details in the artwork. With a cover that beautiful I had to pick it up. The first sentence of the synopsis put me off, it said 'In 1612...' and i almost put it down as I don't do Historical novels, but I felt like I should give it more of a chance, as I continued to look at it and saw that it was about witchcraft and mysteries I thought it sounded really good. I had a book giftcard to spend and thought I might as well try something different.
I started to read this last weekend and in one sitting I had got through 200 pages, I found Fleetwood to be a rather charming main character and I felt myself connecting with her and instantly wanting to know more. Likewise with Alice, she was a bit of a mystery but something about her would draw me in.
There is quite a lot of descriptive language and after reading 100 pages I realised that not an awful lot had actually happened when I thought about it, but those pages had drawn me in and kept me reading, at no point reading this book was I bored or fed up. Everything that is in there has been crafted beautifully so that the book still flows but you get that added information that brings the whole world to life and make it feel all the more real. In fact, the book is set against the frenzy of the real Pendle Hill Witch Trials, Fleetwood Shuttleworth, Alice Grey and the other characters are actual historical figures. King James I was obsessed with asserting power over the lawless countryside by capturing “witches”, knowing that the characters are based on real people made it even more captivating, if not a little creepy. Some of the characters aren't that friendly and the description of one of the witches was truly scary. But it is also fascinating to think that some of these things really did happen. The book has clearly been well researched and put together. 
Fleetwood may only be 17 but she has been married for four years and suffered from multiple miscarriages, when she finds herself pregnant again she starts to worry, feeling ill constantly, put off her food and very pale she isn't sure what's going to happen, then she finds a letter from a doctor that her husband has hidden - a letter that says she will die if she gets pregnant again. At once she is unsure what to do, then she meets Alice who manages to calm her and make her feel well again. The pair start up an unlikely friendship, but with accusations of witchcraft around, it's dangerous to be a woman.
I loved the relationship between Fleetwood and Alice throughout the book, it changes and strengthens as the novel progresses and their dynamics are brilliant.
Fleetwood also changes in herself, she goes from being rather meek and obeying her husband's wishes to being quite bolshy and outspoken, willing to fight for herself and her friends and I really enjoyed seeing that development and strength arise and come through.
I think Halls is an amazing author and i can't believe this is a debut novel, her writing is so swift and has the ability to captivate you within a story, I will definitely be reading anything else she releases. In fact I have her second novel 'The Foundling' at my side ready to start.
I would highly recommend this book if you want something you can really get stuck into with elements of magic, friendships, mystery and justice. A truly great read.
 
My Rating

 
 
 

 


 

Saturday 7 November 2020

Book Review - Storm Watcher

Title: Storm Watcher

Author: Maria V Snyder 

Publisher: Leap Books, LLC 

Release Date: 5 May 2013 

ISBN-13: 978-1616030339

Synopsis

Luke Riley is lost. His mother's recent death has set Luke and his family adrift. Even though his father, twin brothers, and their three Bloodhounds are search and rescue volunteers, they have been unable to rescue themselves and become a family again. The summer after sixth grade looms in Luke's mind as a long, lonely three months where the only thing he can look forward to is watching The Weather Channel. Luke is fascinated with the weather, but since his mother's death in a storm, he is also terrified. Even the promised 13th birthday present of a Bloodhound puppy fails to lift Luke's spirits. He would rather have a different breed - a petite Papillon, but his father insists he get a Bloodhound.

When Luke decides to get the Bloodhound from Willajean, a dog breeder who owns Storm Watcher Kennel, he works out a deal to help at her kennel in exchange for the expensive dog. Thrilled to have a summer with a purpose, Luke befriends Willajean's daughter, Megan and together they plan how Luke can get a Papillon puppy instead of a Bloodhound. But nothing seems to work as they struggle with stubborn fathers, summer storms, unhelpful siblings, and hidden guilt. Can one little white dog really save both families?
 

 My Review

I have been a fan of Maria V Snyder's for years, having read the Poison Study series, I had never heard of this short novel before, but my mum received a signed copy and was awesome enough to lend it to me. Being busy at work, it's sat on my shelf for at least a month, but I finally got some down time today so I picked it up. At only 184 pages I knew it wouldn't take me more than a couple of hours, so was perfect to dip into. 

Luke has recently lost his mum and his whole life has changed, his brothers constantly pick on him, his dad is always busy and his friends don't know how to act around him, fearing a long summer ahead of him on his own, he's not holding out much hope for anything. Then he makes a deal with Willajean, a local dog breeder, if he works on her farm with her 30+ dogs for the summer, he can have a puppy of his own for free. Suddenly the summer is looking more interesting, especially when he meets her daughter - Megan. The pair strike up a friendship and Luke is learning a lot about dogs and about himself. I actually really liked that Snyder kept the pair as friends, there isn't the complication of a romance mixed into the story, just friends being there for each other.

Luke is obsessed with the weather and has a fear of storms, it's something that he has always been afraid of, a fear which only got worse after his mum was killed in a car accident caused by a lightning strike. There is a lot about weather in this book, and Snyder's past as a meteorologist clearly shines through, it wasn't too heavy or in your face though, just neatly weaved within the story. 

The characters are all very believable and you see them grow and develop over the story, I have always found Snyder to be an excellent creator of realistic characters. I think my favourite was Megan, she had more to her than originally meets the eye.

My only criticism of this book was that the ending felt quite abrupt, I honestly think that this book could have done with another 50-100 pages to fully wrap it up. I wanted more from the all and to know what came next. 

It's quite a simple story, it's aimed at middle grade - 9-14, so there are obviously limitations to the story and writing, but even so there is enough content there to create interest and there are plenty of messages and things to take away from the story. 

I would recommend this as a nice simple easy read that will sweep you away for a couple of hours, but it's definitely not on the same level as her other work. 

 My Rating

     


Wednesday 12 August 2020

Book Review - Dumplin

 Title: Dumplin

Author: Julie Murphy

Series: Dumplin (book 1)

Publisher: HarperCollins 

Release Date: 4 May 2017

ISBN-13: 978-0062327192

 

Synopsis

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body.

With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any girl does.

Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

 My Review

I am a huge fan of Dolly Parton, so when I saw an advert for a new Netflix film called Dumplin' where the main character is also a fan and uses her music to guide her in life, i knew I wanted to see what it was all about. I watched the film and really enjoyed it, but then I realised that it was based on a book so I had to source a copy. However I usually always read a book before a film as I don't want any preconceptions of the story or characters, so I have had the book sitting on my shelves for a few months now. However I was in the bookstore the other day and saw that there was a follow up book called 'Puddin' so I decided to give Dumplin' a try. 

Dumplin' lives in a quiet little village where nothing ever really happens, except the annual beauty pageant that takes place. It is the biggest and most important moment in every girls life, except Willowdean, she isn't exactly the pageant type. Except her mum is a former winner and now runs the pageant so expectations are high. Willowdean is on the larger size, her mum is always trying to get her to diet or giving her disapproving looks, but Will is happy with her body, or at least she thinks she it. That is until she meets Bo, a hot co-worker who seems to show an interest in her, suddenly she is questioning why he likes her, how can he when she looks like she does? Suddenly Willowdean is looking for answers, and she thinks she can find it inside the pageant. 

I remembered bits of the film but not much, so it was nice to approach the book with fresh eyes. Willowdean is the sort of character that you can't help but like straight away, she has a sort of southern charm about her and she is quite frank in her opinions which is refreshing. Her friendship with Ellen is lovely and the girls make a great pair. But even that doesn't necessarily last, which gives a whole different dynamic to the story which I actually really enjoyed. 

Will is not afraid to speak her mind but she also has doubts. She wants to get along with others but won't stand for anyone who makes her or her friends feel bad. She has self-doubt, worries about friends and family and she is mourning the loss of her aunt. She makes mistakes and doesn't  always do whats best for those around her or herself, but she means well and tries to do the right thing. Overall she is a really realistic character and someone who I imagine I would have been friends with at school.

There is a bit of a love triangle story but it isn't overdone or too cliched so it works really well and keeps the plot moving. I enjoyed meeting Will's new group of oddball friends and am excited to learn more about them in the next book. 

This book is a really easy read and is a real feel-good book. It asks you to think about expectations that society and others may cast upon you and what it is that you really want out of life. It's about looking for the things that make you who you are and loving yourself for being that person. 

This book has a real charm about it and is a really enjoyable read.

My Rating      


Saturday 1 August 2020

Book Review - What's A Girl Gotta Do?

Title: What's A Girl Gotta Do?
Author: Holly Bourne
Series: The Spinster Club (Book 3)
Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd
Release Date: 1 Aug. 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1474915021

Synopsis
HOW TO START A FEMINIST REVOLUTION:

1. Call out anything that is unfair on one gender

2. Don't call out the same thing twice (so you can sleep and breathe)

3. Always try to keep it funny

4. Don't let anything slide. Even when you start to break...

Lottie's determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. Shame the trolls have other ideas...




My Review
I've been powering through this series, but I was always hesitant about this book as Lottie is very loud and shouty and I was worried how she would come across in this book. I knew it would be focused heavier on the feminist issues and I wasn't sure if it would come over in the best way.
Lottie is always the strong one, the most opinionated, and the most clever. Her parents are expecting her to go to Cambridge and study politics with the hope that one day she will be Prime Minister. But things are never simple, especially when you have strong beliefs. Walking to school one day, Lottie is confronted by a couple of men and feels threatened by their sexual innuendoes. Deciding that she never wants to feel that way again, she starts her new project. For one month she will call out every little piece of feminism that she sees, no matter how petty it may seem. The more aware people are, the easier it will be to change things. But there is more to deal with than Lottie first thought, and this may turn out to be the longest month of her life.
The idea behind this story was good, raising awareness and calling behaviours out, but with Lottie's attitude, the whole thing came across as very aggressive and I felt like she made things a lot worse for herself and others. It was so over the top.
Throughout the book, Lottie gets called all sorts of names, one of them being 'man-hater', she argues that she is a true feminist and is fighting for equality for both genders, but a lot of what she does is very one-sided. There is one scene when Will comes to her house for a visit and makes a comment about how her room is decorated and then calls her 'psycho'. She immediately blasts him as sexist and says he can't call her that just because she is passionate and emotional. Then in the next breath calls him a c*ck. That to me is then sexist the other way. You can't tell someone off for calling you a name, and then calling him one in return. Unfortunately this happens quite a few times throughout and it makes it all seem a bit hypocritical to me.
My other issue is that the story is too much in Lottie's head, and follows a pattern of 'I'm angry, I'm tired, I can't do this, I have to do this...' pretty much on a loop, I understand this is an emotional project and that she is bound to struggle, but nothing ever seemed to change or resolve. Lottie is very pig-headed and refuses to back down on anything - even when I think she is definitely wrong.
I do think the issue of feminism is important - but to use Will's word - 'Equalitist' would be a better phrase - making life equal for BOTH genders, this book to me came across as very women based and in fact a bit sexist towards men.
Once again the other characters are in the background but don't really develop much. At one point I was only still reading because I wanted to know what would happen to Megan, but apart from her few odd appearances and the idea that 'something has happened' - it never goes anywhere else.
I just felt that this was a really disappointing end to what was a fairly good series, I really liked Evie and Amber and felt them grow a lot as characters, but this book just fell a bit flat for me and I had to really push myself to keep reading. I kept going to hear about Megan, and to see if Lottie actually manages to get into Uni - which you still don't find out! (I'm assuming she does).
Overall, this book just didn't do it for me, it felt quite aggressive and angry. There is quite a lot of strong language in the book too. Worth reading to finish off the series, but not the best.

My Rating






Wednesday 29 July 2020

Book Review - How Hard Can Love Be

Title: How Hard Can Love Be
Author: Holly Bourne
Series: The Spinster Club (Book 2)
Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd
Release Date: 1 Feb. 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1409591221

Synopsis
All Amber wants is a little bit of love. Her mum has never been the caring type, even before she moved to California, got remarried and had a personality transplant. But Amber's hoping that spending the summer with her can change all that.

And then there's prom king Kyle, the guy all the girls want. Can he really be interested in anti-cheerleader Amber? Even with best friends Evie and Lottie's advice, there's no escaping the fact: love is hard.

My Review
I was a little bit hesitant about this book, the main character in this one is Amber, after reading the first book in the series, Amber was my least favourite character, constantly moaning because she is tall and ginger - like those are the worst things to be in life. You are who you are, and Amber needs to accept herself, but she seems to use it as an excuse or defense as to why things don't go right. I was worried this whole book would be her whining and moaning, but I wanted to give her a try.
These books can be read as stand-alone novels, but there are odd references to events from 'Am I Normal Yet', so I would recommend reading them in order.
Amber is 17, her mum left 2 years ago and she hasn't seen her since. Stuck in the UK with her dad, wicked step-mother, and younger step-brother from hell, Amber is desperate to have an adventure and get away. Her mum is now living with her new husband Kevin in America, they run a summer camp together and have agreed to let Amber come over for the summer. Amber is going to work at the camp teaching Art, but she is more excited to be able to spend some time with her mum. But nothing ever works out as expected.
Amber struggles with the fact that her mum still hasn't changed and doesn't seem to be that interested in her, she spends more time with her husband or surrounded by loud screaming camp children than with Amber, but seems to be happy with a 2 minute conversation. Amber makes new friends at the camp with the other counselors, finding an instant connection to Whinnie and an instant attraction to Kyle - your typical High School hottie, Prom King and all together smart guy, but the problem is, all the girls like him, so why would he ever look at Amber.
The actual plot and idea of this book is really good and I enjoyed seeing Amber grow and develop and experience the Summer Camp environment. She is a very realistic character in that she is very flawed, she makes stupid decisions, becomes irrational, angry, happy all at the drop of a hat. She has a lot of issues to deal with and she doesn't always confront them the right way - but that's what makes her human.
I really liked Kyle as a character, for once Bourne has written a male character who is not a jerk, but a genuinely nice guy. But I had to admit that he got on my nerves a bit, Amber would ask him questions about his life and he would just reply that he was 'boring', that there wasn't anything really notable about him and that he always just does 'what's expected of him'. I mean, what does that even mean!? It felt to me that he was hiding something or just trying to be annoying. He knew so much about Amber's life and past, but could barely talk about his sisters or upbringing. But overall he is a nice character and you can't help but want them to end up together.
The other characters at camp are just there to bump the story, they don't have much character development and are pretty forgettable, a bit like in the first book. They serve their purpose and then fade away.
Evie and Lottie still appear, but only over video chats and emails as they are still in the UK. I love how strong their friendship bond is and how supportive they are, but I have to admit the Feminist rants get on my nerve a bit. Now before you blast me and call me anti-feminist, I'm not. But I believe more in equality for everybody. Men and Women should be equal - that is true feminism, but a lot of the time, I feel like these girls only focus on how to make women better, how to boost women's rights, and yet they hardly ever focus on men's disadvantages. At one point, Kyle discusses male stereotypes and how 'nice guys' are never seen as a positive thing, that you have to be tough and strong to be a 'man', Amber agrees with him, calls Kyle a 'nice guy' but confirms that she still finds him attractive - then changes the subject. It just feels very one sided and a little bit like I'm being told off throughout Lottie's rants.
Overall though, the story-line is good and I definitely started to like Amber a lot more. If you want a good summer romance novel, then this ticks a lot of boxes. Although it's nearly 500 pages, it's actually quite a quick read.

My Rating






Sunday 26 July 2020

Book Review - Am I Normal Yet?

Title: Am I Normal Yet?
Author: Holly Bourne
Series: The Spinster Club (Book 1)
Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd
Release Date: 1 Aug. 2015
ISBN13: 9781409590309

Synopsis
All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

My Review
I have heard a lot about Holly Bourne and know her books have been very popular but I'd never read one before. I was in my local discount bookstore last year and they had this trilogy as a set for only £5. I thought it was worth a try at that price so I bought them, but never got round to reading them. As I still have a bit more time on my hands at the moment with lockdown life and now the summer holidays, I am still working through my shelves and happened to grab this one.
I like the title, thought it was quite funny, as many a time I have wondered if I myself am normal! I wasn't overly excited by the blurb, I wasn't really sure what to expect, it sounded like it could be quite serious, but I was willing to give it a go.
We are introduced to Evie, our main protagonist who is about to start college and get her life back on track. She is desperate to fit in and appear to be like everyone else. But her last few years have been anything but normal, Evie was diagnosed with OCD - and ended up in hospital and on meds to help her control her anxieties. She has been working with a therapist and is slowly starting to lower her dosage. But how simple can it be to try and start all over again, and not let anyone know that you went crazy.
I really like Evie as a character, she is funny and witty and smart. She knows what she does isn't normal or rational, but understands that she has an illness, something makes her act this way and it's hard to control. She hates it when people misuse the term OCD or crazy, and is hurt by the stigma that comes with it all, so much so that she tries to hide it from everyone. I understand that urge to appear normal to others, but whilst you are reading you can't help but will her to tell someone, reveal it to her friends.
Evie is in a lot of ways a very normal teenager, she likes to hang out with her friends and she has crushes on boys, quite a few boys overall - she isn't really sure what she is looking for or how she should feel - again, pretty normal teen!
I found her 'friend' Jane really annoying, obsessed with the lead singer of a band and changing herself to appeal to him whilst dumping Evie continuously - but I think you are supposed to dislike her, but at the same time Evie still cares about her, and the writing is so good that a part of you looks for redeeming features within her too. Hoping she will snap out of it and help Evie.
Evie's 2 new best friends are cool, Lottie and Amber. I preferred Lottie of the two - very smart and sassy. Amber I found a bit of a whiner, always moaning about the fact she is tall and that boys don't like her - like that is the most important thing in life to focus on (i suppose for some teens it is). But I really wanted her to just accept herself and mature a little bit.
I really enjoyed Evie's style of narration, she is very funny - it reminded me a bit of Georgia Nicholson books by Louise Rennison, that sort of quick-witted, light-hearted silliness with some serious issues woven in to make you think and increase your awareness without feeling like you're being preached to.
Although this book was over 400 pages, I read it in 2 quick sittings, it is so easy to get absorbed in and the writing just flows that you will be through 100 pages before you realise what you've done.
This is a great way of introducing some more serious issues, such as the OCD and the true effect it can have on people without feeling that you are being lectured.
This book is fun and interesting and definitely worth a read. One of the better contemporary YA's I've read in a while.

My Rating




Friday 24 July 2020

Book Review - The Order of the Key

Title: The Order of the Key
Author: Justine Manzano
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Release Date: 9 July 2020
ISBN-13: 978-1684335046

Synopsis
Jacklyn Madison never expected to be attacked by a beast on an evening snack run. Add a rescue mission enacted by a trained regiment of teenaged warriors, and her night officially becomes just like a scene from one of her beloved comic books. Turns out, her parents were once members of the Order of the Key, gifted humans that protect humanity from creatures spilling through inter-dimensional rifts. Unable to control her newfound abilities, Jacklyn and her family rejoin the Order.
After an attack on their headquarters leaves Jacklyn questioning their leadership, Kyp--the boy who led her initial rescue--reveals a darker secret. The Order's leader may be corrupt, and Jacklyn's questions could put her family in danger. Drawn into the search for proof, Jacklyn must use her guts and magical brawn to protect her family, her friends, and herself from the monsters spilling from rifts, and those hiding within the Order.

My Review
I was given this by a family member to read so we could compare opinions on the book. I have never heard of the author before so was pretty open minded going in.
The blurb sounded ok, I like fantasy style books so it looked like it would fit my tastes, but I was surprised by how much was given away, it tells you straight away that the leader is corrupt - this is something that could have been used as a shock reveal within the book, but here you go into the story knowing that it's going to end up in fights and danger. This kind of ruined it a little bit for me, I like to figure out what a character is like from how well they are written, this was just handed across on a platter.

The book starts by introducing Jacklyn, a typical high school girl - a bit of a nerd but also quite athletic, someone who doesn't really fit in and wonders why, but also doesn't take any rubbish from others and at least has the courage to stand up for herself against the bullies - even if that does mean taking a few punches. Things then escalate pretty quickly - on her way home from school she gets attacked by strange monsters and mysteriously saved by a duo who seem to know everything about her. They save her, but not before she kicks a bit of butt herself, but with her new found powers acting like a beacon to every monster in the area, her family pack up and move to the 'Orders' headquarters.
Once there, Jacklyn is put through all sorts of tests and trained in the ways of the Order. But problems build up and there are plenty of fights between the members of the Order and the leader, and between extra monsters that seem to be able to break through the protection wards - 'i wonder how that could happen'? Oh yeah, the leader is corrupt!

There are a host of characters, Jacklyn herself who I feel has the potential to be quite a good lead heroine but just needs a bit more substance. We then have Kyp - the guy who rescues her, again he has the whole mysterious, broody teen thing going on and comes across quite interesting but I want to know more about him. You learn a little bit about their childhood but not a lot overall, it just leaves them all feeling a little bit 2-dimensional. Of course, we also have the traditional love angst, one minute Kyp and Jacks are madly in love, then they are arguing, then one of them is disappearing or giving the silent treatment or acting like an ass, and then they are in love again. It's a bit too much turmoil for such a short book.
I liked Cass as a character, she is Kyp's guardian, but unfortunately she doesn't feature that much which leaves you wanting to know more about her and a bit frustrated that she only appears when it's convenient for the story. It's pretty much like that for all the other characters, Gana, Juliana, Kylie, Ross etc.

The story is quite well paced for the first half, just revealing enough to keep you interested then throwing you into a bit of action. The second half of the story then seems to go into overdrive and suddenly everything is happening, people are dying, fighting and running. It was just a blur of action.
For the most part, I would say that the story was pretty predictable, I could guess who would die, who would run, who would return etc. Nothing about this book surprised me.
At only 220 pages it was an easy enough read and fairly enjoyable, but I think that it could do with some more background, more character development and more variety of pacing. Change the synopsis to take out the reveal of the leader being corrupt and this could be a winning story. Just feels like it needs a bit of work at the moment.
But if you want a really easy, quick fantasy escape this is still worth giving it a go.

My Rating

Saturday 18 July 2020

Book Review - Rebellion

Title: Rebellion
Author: Kass Morgan
Series: The 100 (Book 4)
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
Release Date: 15 Dec. 2016
ISBN: 978-1473648883

Synopsis
The Colonists and the Earthborns are celebrating their first holiday together when, to everyone’s horror, they’re attacked by a group of strangers whose unusual battle cries fill the air. The newcomers kill scores of people, seize prisoners, and pillage crucial supplies. When hotheaded Bellamy and his analytical girlfriend Clarke discover that Wells, Octavia and Glass have been captured, they vow to get them back at all costs. But as they go after their new enemies, Bellamy and Clarke find themselves increasingly at odds, unable to agree on a plan to save their friends.
Meanwhile, Wells, Octavia, and Glass are being slowly brainwashed by their captors, religious fanatics with one goal: to grow their ranks and “heal” the war-ravaged planet… by eliminating everyone else on it.
But centuries of radiation exposure have taken their toll, forcing the cult to take drastic steps to survive. And unless the rescue party arrives soon, the teen captives will face a fate more terrifying than anything they could imagine. In this thrilling fourth installment, the hundred fight to protect the people they love on the dangerous planet they always dreamed of calling home.

My Review
So, I have been making my way through this series and feeling a little bit more disheartened with every book, the whole plot just seemed to be getting more contrite. I have never seen the TV show, so all of my opinions are about the book alone.
After reading book 3, I had mixed emotions, the story is still fast paced and the characters still likeable enough but there were quite a few things that irked me within the storyline. I actually thought the third book ended fairly solidly and could have been left as a trilogy, but i had the books in a box set and knew there was a fourth, so I was intrigued to see what could be added in to make another story,
I have to admit that I read the blurb of this one and immediately thought 'oh for goodness sake, help me'. But i wanted to give it a chance and see if the author could pull it off. The whole cult narrative is so overdone, i didn't have much hope, but we shall see.
***This review contains spoilers***
The 100 have overcome dangerous landings on earth, healed many injuries, fought off ferocious Earthborns and overcome Vice Chancellor Rhodes and his maniacal schemes, so what should they do next - oh yeah, have a party!
This book starts with them all preparing to have a great feast, Bellamy of course senses something wrong, but everyone ignores him. They elected him as a Chancellor on the new democratic council and supposedly put their trust in him, but as soon as he mentions danger, they basically say he is crazy. And what happens - they get attacked again!!!
Out of the four main narrators, Wells and Glass get taken by the attackers as hostages whilst Bellamy and Clarke get left behind to stage a rescue mission.
The Cult they get taken by celebrate the earth and have apparently been traveling across the world, infiltrating settlements and camps, killing people, stealing supply and kidnapping people - but yet no one has ever heard of them before. Their camp is only 2-3 days walk away from our 100's base - yet no sign or signal from them before this attack. Seems a little bit too convenient for them to just pop up now!
Well and Glass are taken along with a number of others from the camp, but they are put into rooms with each other (separating boys and girls of course), but there is nothing to stop them from talking or planning to escape to escape, on top of that - they are only in the camp for a couple of days before they are trusted enough to be given responsibility and even guns! Is it just me or did you think brainwashing usually took longer than that?!
Bellamy and Clarke are once again having thier ups and downs, playing the whole 'he/she doesn't trust me' thing that is getting really tiresome now. We also have 'Paul' introduced - a man who used to be a guard on the ship and now thinks he knows best and is gods gift. As far as I can tell, he is only there to be an annoyance and cause a rift between Bellamy and Clarke, as he continually flirts with Clarke.

The book itself is still fast paced and has plenty of action to keep the plot moving, but I just found a lot of it to be very unbelievable. I found myself getting frustrated with the characters and rolling my eyes at the ridiculous events and actions they were forced through. I was also hoping for Clarke's parents to play more of a part, as their return was really hyped up, but as far as I can tell, they are just more background players. You don't learn about anything they did in those few years they were wondering on earth or how they survived. They just fade into the background.

The ending is all neatly wrapped up, so hopefully it will be left there, as I really don't see anywhere else this could now go.
Overall, I feel quite disappointed with this book and I was hoping for more. Overall I think that book 1 is very good and enjoyable, but it slowly goes downhill after that. I just expected something that would wow me.

My Rating


Wednesday 15 July 2020

Book Review - Homecoming

Title: Homecoming
Author: Kass Morgan
Series: The 100 (Book 3)
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
Release Date: 26 Feb. 2015
ISBN: 978-1473610798


Synopsis
Weeks after landing on Earth, the Hundred have managed to create a sense of order amidst their wild, chaotic surroundings. But their delicate balance comes crashing down with the arrival of new dropships from space.
These new arrivals are the lucky ones—back on the Colony, the oxygen is almost gone—but after making it safely to Earth, GLASS’s luck seems to be running out. CLARKE leads a rescue party to the crash site, ready to treat the wounded, but she can’t stop thinking about her parents, who may still be alive. Meanwhile, WELLS struggles to maintain his authority despite the presence of the Vice Chancellor and his armed guards, and BELLAMY must decide whether to face or flee the crimes he thought he’d left behind.
It’s time for the Hundred to come together and fight for the freedom they’ve found on Earth, or risk losing everything—and everyone—they love.

My Review
This book starts exactly where book 2 ended. All these books feel like one long story that has been split into separate books, not sure why - maybe it just makes them more accessible to more people. Either way, the story is the same, and I must admit there is something satisfying about finishing another book.
Anyway, we are still with our four narrators - Wells, Bellamy, Clarke and Glass.
We have moved forward with the settlement on Earth, Wells is taking charge, Ballamy and Clarke are finally together and life seems to be ticking along, but this is all soon disrupted by the crash landing of the remaining ships carrying the few survivors from the evacuation from space. Hurtling Glass and numbers of civilians towards the earth.
As I say, we are straight back into the action and I like how the two groups are brought together. Showing the different dynamics between the 100 who have been on Earth a few weeks and actually adapted and survived in stark contrast to those fresh off the ship.
I actually ended up reading this in two sittings, the first I got about 100 pages in, then a few days later I sat and managed to finish the other 250 ish pages in one go.
I don't know what it was about this book, but I wanted to keep reading because I really wanted to know what would happen, but I was also slightly bored in places - this never slowed my reading down as it is quite an easy read, but there were certain things I would skim read slightly.
We are not supposed to like him, but I despised Vice Chancellor Rhodes, but not in a compelling 'what will he do next' way, but in a 'get over yourself and b** off' kind of way. I didn't see him as a legitimate bad guy or threat, just as an annoyance and it bugged me how much power he managed to have. And the way things ended with him annoyed me too, I mean come on. He was right there!!
I've always been on the fence with Glass, I liked her a lot more in book 2, but in this one, she is about as much use as a wet blanket, she becomes quite whiny and just an inconvenience, her and Luke are totally irresponsible and even when his life is at risk she can't quite take charge. I get her situation is over-whelming and rather extreme, but come on girl - pull yourself together.
Clarke is still growing as a character and I like her development, but her obsession with the radio got a bit out of hand, I didn't believe she would neglect her doctor duties to spend hours twiddling buttons.
Wells has his moments where I love him as a character and I'm hoping desperately things will work out for him, and I want him to get everything he wants and deserves. But at other times, he annoys the heck out of me, he becomes really self-obsessed and focuses on all the negative things he has done, and suddenly every problem in the world is his fault. We do find out in this series that he did a horrible thing, that yes was quite catastrophically bad, but he can't change it and really just needs to focus on making up for it with his actions from now on.
There were a few other things that bugged me, for instance Wells insists that Kendall is up to something, this then gets ignored for over 200 pages, then she reveals to be a bad guy - and Wells is shocked! Why is he shocked - he'd already worked this out and had tried to warn others. Trust me, it wasn't a shock to anyone.
There are also a lot of questions that are left unanswered in this book, I'm hoping they will be resolved in the fourth, final book.
This review makes it sound like I hated this book, but honestly I still enjoyed it overall, they are still very quick and easy reads and the characters are likeable enough. There is enough action mixed in to keep things fresh and exciting, and I am intrigued as to where this will go next.

My Rating








Monday 6 July 2020

Book Review - Day 21

Title: Day 21
Author: Kass Morgan
Series: The 100 (Book 2)
Publisher: Hodder Paperback
Release Date: 25 Sept. 2014
ISBN-13: 978-1444766905

Synopsis
No one has set foot on Earth in centuries -- until now.
It's been 21 days since the hundred landed on Earth. They're the only humans to set foot on the planet in centuries...or so they thought. Facing an unknown enemy, Wells attempts to keep the group together. Clarke strikes out for Mount Weather, in search of other Colonists, while Bellamy is determined to rescue his sister, no matter the cost. And back on the ship, Glass faces an unthinkable choice between the love of her life and life itself.
In this pulse-pounding sequel to Kass Morgan's The 100, secrets are revealed, beliefs are challenged, and relationships are tested. And the hundred will struggle to survive the only way they can -- together.

My Review
This book continues on exactly where book 1 finished, in fact it feels like it was one story that has just been cut in half. There is barely a breath between the events and it carries on exactly the same way.
We still have our four principle narrators, Clarke, Wells, Bellamy and Glass. Three of them struggling on earth with the rest of the '100', and one still on the ship.
The group on Earth are being attacked by a mysterious group - it is now clear that they are not alone as they thought, there is a group of people - 'earthborns' roaming around and they don't appear to be too friendly. The camp is now under threat but no one is quite sure how to deal with the problem. Bellamy just wants answers, and his sister back. He is willing to do anything to get her return, even if that means violence. Wells just wants to keep the peace, but try and do what is right. And Clarke is torn between the two, but should she follow her head or her heart.
Glass meanwhile is still on the ship, trying to make things work with Luke, but when the ship starts to lose Oxygen and danger is now a reality, she has to decide what she really wants, and who she wants it with.
This book reads much like the first, the pacing is very similar and there is still the mixture of character and world building, mixed with plot twists and action. I like that we get to see all the characters grow and we see more of their personalities emerging and the changing dynamics within the groups.
Events get a bit more tense and exciting throughout this book and I read it in 2 short sittings. I'm still really enjoying the series and I definitely want to know what happens next, so although I'm not blown away, it is compelling enough to make you want more. There is something about these books, they come across quite simple and easy, but they are tough to stop thinking about.
Definitely worth a read.

My Rating

Saturday 4 July 2020

Book Review - The 100

Title: The 100
Author: Kass Morgan
Series: The 100 (Book 1)
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
Release Date: 29 Aug. 2013
ISBN-13: 978-1444766882

Synopsis
No one has set foot on Earth in centuries -- until now.
Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth's radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents -- considered expendable by society -- are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life...or it could be a suicide mission.

CLARKE was arrested for treason, though she's haunted by the memory of what she really did. WELLS, the chancellor's son, came to Earth for the girl he loves -- but will she ever forgive him? Reckless BELLAMY fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only pair of siblings in the universe. And GLASS managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind's last hope.

My Review
I've had this as a box set series on my shelves for a couple of years, bought because I love Dystopian fiction but not really a priority. Again, whilst I have a bit of extra time during Lockdown, I decided to give this series a try, the books themselves are pretty short, just over 300 pages with quite big writing so I knew it wouldn't take me long to read.
I have never seen the TV show or heard anything about the series really so I was going in with fresh eyes, not expecting much but hoping for the best. I liked the sound of the premise of the story - radiation on earth has driven civilization to flee onto spaceships and live in space. But after centuries of orbiting, those in charge are trying to decide if Earth could be safe again. Deciding that a group of 100 juvenile prisoners are expendable, they are sent on a ship pod to Earth to test out the condition of the planet and find out if it could be made habitable again.
The book is split between 4 different narratives, something I have found is becoming more popular in books. I always struggle to get into these at first but but the 6th or 7th chapter I usually have the different characters in my head and start to notice their individual styles of talking.
Our first narrator is Clarke, a young girl who lived in the upper class part of the ship, her parents well known scientists. She is haunted by things she knows and has seen. But her secrets go far deeper than anyone knows and she is grateful for a second chance, even if it is likely to be a suicide mission. I didn't dislike Clarke, but i didn't particularly like her either. She is very self-centered at times, internalizing all her problems instead of asking for or accepting help. However as the book progressed and she took on more of a main role, I did start to warm up to her a bit more.
Then we have Wells - the Chancellor, so used to power. But he is not particularly like his dad. Wells tries to do the right thing, but it nearly always ends up in a disaster. He is the typical nerdy best friend that means well and will probably end up being more of a hero as the books progress, but at the moment he's just a bit hopeless.
Our third narrator is Bellamy, a rogue who wasn't supposed to be on the ship. He snuck on so he could protect his sister. They are the only siblings in the whole galaxy after birthing laws were introduced to prevent over-crowding on the space ships. Bellamy is the devil-may-care character that you can't help but like. He has an air of cocky assurance and can come across as a bit full of himself, but he really does care about his sister and those around him. He can hunt, he's well-built and he has charm.
Lastly we have Glass, she didn't want to go to Earth, she just wants to be back with her boyfriend Luke, so she sneaks of the Space pod back onto the main ship, but things are just as dangerous there, and true love never does run smoothly. I quite like Glass as a character, she has a bit of attitude and she isn't afraid to go after what she wants but I did find her chapters became a little bit slower than some of the others - I wanted to know what was happening on Earth more than her tangled love life on the ship. But this did get more interesting as teh book went on and she developed more of a stronger personality.
There are a number of background characters - obviously we are dealing predominantly with a group of 100 - but they don't push in too much or interfere and are only mentioned when it is necessary so it keeps the story fresh and alive.
I found the book to be very fast paced, but it felt like this book was still working as a set-up to the rest of the series. There are still a lot of things we don't know and a lot of secrets that will have to be revealed. However what we are given is quite gripping and certainly makes you want to read on.
I read this in 2 sittings, though almost 200 pages were done in one lot. Once I got into the story I wanted to keep going to find out where it would take me. The book ends on a cliffhanger right when things start to get properly interesting, so I will be going straight onto book 2.
If you want a fairly easy read, with some dystopian and sci-fi elements then this is definitely worth a read.
I wouldn't say that I loved the book but I certainly want to keep reading and I enjoyed what I read, so it's certainly got some true positives to it. I think you should definitely give it a try.

My Rating