The first part of this week’s catch up on the books I read in July and August.
Reasonable Force by C.T. Sullivan. Pegasus Publishing.
This book is a debut novel published by an independent publisher and therefore something that would generally pass beneath my radar. I was approached for a review however and the book sounded interesting to me, so I duly received a copy and got reading.
There are a number of plotlines within this book, they’re well balanced and directly affect one another so that as something changes for one character you find yourself wondering what impact that’s going to have on the other characters. The initial event, where Nick kills an intruder and Nathan advises him on how to cover it up, throws up some interesting discussion about how much force is reasonable in a burglary (hence the book title), but the ever evolving situation means that the plot moves further away from this as time goes on.
There was a lot to enjoy about this book, as I say there were some interesting thinking points, and I found I liked some of the characters. One thing that didn’t work well for me was the character of Mel, Nick’s wife. She doesn’t get the same attention or development as the other characters, instead existing as a convenient (and unfortunate) plot device on a couple of occasions – there was a point where she suddenly made a statement about religious beliefs that had a significant impact on the plot, this came out of nowhere and also didn’t appear to then be applied consistently for the remainder of the book.
The overall flow of the book worked well. There is a real tension in Nick’s plotline in particular, I found myself getting quite anxious on his behalf – I was definitely invested in his story and was satisfied with the overall ending of the book.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Tor.
Before reading Uprooted all I had seen about it was glowing praise. It almost started to become a little intimidating as a prospective reader, what if I was The One who didn’t like it. Eventually I decided I needed to just dive in and hope for the best.
This book is every bit as good as everyone had said! I was immediately drawn into the world created by the author, a world of magic and wonder, and of an evil wood determined to wreak havoc and misery. It begins with the choosing, an event that happens every ten years when the Dragon – an aging wizard who acts as guardian to the people living in the villages surrounding his tower home – chooses another young girl and whisks her away to said tower for ten years. When Agnieszka is unexpectedly chosen her life is instantly turned upside down.
There is something very sympathetic about Agnieszka, the reader is straight away drawn to her cause – I think because of the downright unfairness of what is happening to her. This is good because as the plot develops Agnieszka becomes, rightly, obstinate and focused and this feels right rather than petulant as it may have done if the reader didn’t care about her story this way. I loved her as a character and I loved reading her story.
For Holly by Tanya Byrne. Headline.
This book is wonderful. It’s a slow burner that draws you deeper and deeper into the characters’ lives, pulling you into their world and making you entirely invested in what happens to them. I read it over a couple of days and whenever I wasn’t reading I was thinking about the book and wanting to get back to reading it. Typical of a book from this author this book is twisty and tugs you emotionally – I loved the way I kept thinking I had worked out what was behind the story and then quickly realised I still wasn’t right.
One thing I really liked about this book was its structure. The story is told in a non-linear manner, the jumps in time are seamless and work brilliantly. On top of this the story is a continual stream and whilst initially I found this a bit unusual (I’m very much a read to the end of the chapter type of reader) the more I read the more I loved it and the more I felt it served the story well. This is a stunning book, definitely one of my best of 2015.
The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. Random House Children’s Publishing.
This is a fantastic debut novel with a truly brilliant concept – Cara and her family suffer dreadful accidents for a month each year, serious accidents that involve hospital visits and necessitate the removal of anything potentially dangerous from the home. The story follows the characters as they enter this year’s accident season and explore both what is happening to them and why it might be happening.
This is a really difficult book to review as the twists and turns and reveals are so deftly handled and I desperately don’t want to give even the tiniest hint away. I really recommend this book, I’m looking forward to re-reading it with the knowledge I picked up while I read it for the first time.
Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten. Electric Monkey.
Some books start great and then lose something along the way, sadly for me this was one of those books. The book begins by introducing us to the main characters in what appears to be a fairly standard contemporary novel. Part way through big twists and reveals change the course of the book and this for me was where I found myself disconnecting from what I was reading. I don’t mind big reveals or twists if they feel like they’ve been coming all along but in this book they just don’t work that way unfortunately and I found the more I read the less I was actually invested in what was happening.
Sister, Sister by Jess Bright. Oxford University Press.
This book grabbed my attention with its title – there was an American tv show with the same title back in the 1990s. When I read the synopsis, that the book was about a girl who suddenly discovers a whole family she doesn’t know that includes a half-sister who is seriously ill I was really intrigued to see how the story would work, particularly for the tween audience it appeared to be aimed at. Very quickly after I started reading I became impressed – this continued for the entirety of the book.
Willow, the main character, was easy to identify with – particularly with her love of writing. I clearly remember how much I loved reading about characters who liked to write too, this book would have been a very easy sell to younger me. I thought she was a very real character, she reacts to the situations she’s experiencing in what feels like a very genuine manner – her life is turned upside down and at times she doesn’t handle it brilliantly, I like it when authors allow characters to be real. There are strong themes in this book of friendship and of family, and of the overlap between the two. This is a debut novel and an accomplished one at that, Jess has revealed the cover of her new book this week – based on the synopsis I’m already looking forward to it!
Homecoming Ranch by Julia London. Montlake Romance.
I’m a long time fan of contemporary romance, if I see one that has some reference to a ranch in the title or blurb chances are I’ll be clicking buy before I’ve stopped to think about it. This was one such purchase.
The book is not narrated by one of the main characters but instead one of the supporting cast. This seemed like an interesting choice, it didn’t necessarily always make that much sense as a choice but I found that I quickly forgot about this most of the time while I was reading.
The main plot focuses on Madeleine and Luke, she is one of three half sisters who’ve recently inherited the ranch in question and he is one of the family whose home it used to be. They naturally butt heads immediately, and continue to do so for much of the book. They both have other things going on in their lives – this makes their story work even better and makes them more rounded characters. I enjoyed this book and am glad that there are follow up books featuring the other sisters – I think they’ll be automatic purchases too!