Book Review

July and August 2015 Reads – Part 2.

Day two of my catch up with the books I read in July and August.

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton. Bantam Press.
I’ve read a few of Sharon Bolton’s earlier books and really enjoyed them so I jumped at the chance to read her newest. Set on the Falkland Islands, the book follows three former friends as the community is torn apart when a child goes missing. The plot has bucket loads of tension, I found I spent most of the time wondering who to believe – at various points I decided I didn’t believe a single one of the characters!

I loved the Falkland Islands setting of the book, I’m always keen to explore new places through literature and this book certainly allows you to do that. Sharon Bolton’s writing really evokes a sense of the place, I feel now that if I ever visited I would feel like I was returning rather than being there for the first time. This is yet another excellent book from this author, she’s so consistently good!

Stitch Head: The Beast of Grubbers Nubbin by Guy Bass. Stripes Publishing.
This is the 5th book about Stitch Head, I hadn’t read any of the previous ones but hoped it wouldn’t matter. Essentially it didn’t, the story is told in such a way that you understand that these characters have spent time together already but you can follow this plot completely without knowing what happened. I think I would have got even more from the reading experience with prior knowledge but that just means I’m going to have to catch up and re-read – I’m glad to spend more time in the world of these books!

The story itself is fun and fast-paced, Stitch Head and his fellow are playing host to a group of children who they rescued in a previous book. There’s a monster about however and they all start to suspect each other. The book is illustrated by Pete Williamson, his art adds a lot to the reading experience. I enjoyed the resolution of the story, it worked really well and left me keen for the next story.

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
This book has an interesting premise, when Kelsey’s identical twin sister is killed in an accident can’t bring herself to break the news to her sister’s boyfriend who is currently serving in the armed forces. Instead she pretends to be her sister and finds herself falling deeper into the lie she is spinning. I was intrigued by the idea of the story but wasn’t sure whether I’d enjoy the way it played out. Many of the fears I had for the plot were unfounded, it works pretty well though I did feel the resolution to the story came a little quickly and easily.

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell. Bloomsbury Children’s.
I really loved this book. It’s incredibly atmospheric, it reminded me a little of Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child which I also loved. The book is written in such a way that really evokes the setting, I felt like I was actually walking alongside the characters for much of the story.

The book is set against the backdrop of early communist Russia, something I studied a little in my GCSE History lessons but don’t feel I know a lot about. This didn’t matter, the necessary aspects of Russia at that time were woven easily into the story and I never found myself wondering about anything. I loved Feodora, the main character, she’s a great blend of tough and vulnerable – the sort of character you’d happily spend time around. The wolves that are under her care are also wonderful characters, they’re so distinct and as fully realised as the human characters

I haven’t yet read Rooftoppers, this author’s previous book which won the Waterstones children’s book prize 2014 but based on how much I loved this I know I need to read it sooner rather than later.

Almost Grace by Rosie Rowell. Hot Key Books.
I have really mixed feelings about this book. There were aspects I loved, particularly the South African setting and the idea of the group of friends going away together for a holiday after finishing their education. I didn’t however enjoy much of the main character’s storyline, particularly her relationship with . This doesn’t seem like the healthiest of relationships and at times I just felt a bit uncomfortable reading.

My overarching feeling at the end of the book was that I wanted to read other YA books set in countries I don’t usually see in books. This in itself makes me realise this book was a bit of a miss for me.

Remix by Non Pratt. Walker Books.
Trouble was one of my favourite books last year so my hopes for this book were high. It definitely lived up to them, it’s another brilliant, realistic YA read, this time set at a music festival. Told in dual narrative best friends Kaz and Ruby are off for a weekend of music and fun, but the unexpected presence of the two boys who’ve broken their hearts puts an unexpected spin on things.

I’m a huge fan of books with multiple narratives providing this is done well, Non really, really does it well. The voices are distinct and the perspectives wind brilliantly around one another. On top of this the characters behave in an entirely believable manner, poor decisions and all, and are allowed to be teens which is just brilliant. I loved this book and I know that my music obsessed teen self would have probably loved it even more.

The Secrets of Sam and Sam by Susie Day. Red Fox.
I absolutely love Susie Day’s series of books featuring Pea so I was really excited when it was announced that she was going to be writing a companion novel that focused on Sam and Sammie who lived next door. Sam and Sammie are boy and girl twins who are very different, they have different interests, different personalities and different challenges facing them. With a school residential trip looming these challenges become all important – how can Sam tackle some of the adventurous activities when he’s so scared of heights and how can Sammie share a room when no one can see how good a best friend she could be?

At the same time that the twins are preparing for their trip their mums also seem to be keeping secrets, and Mum K is writing her book about child development based on bring the twins up. This adds further layers to the story, most entertainingly the excerpts from the book that come complete with corrections by Sammie. The way each of the individual plotlines plays out and wraps round the others is brilliant, this is such an excellent addition to the series of books focusing on Pea and her family.

I’ve commented before about how brilliant Susie writes books featuring diverse characters. This book is no exception to that, characters differences are acknowledged and included and happen to just be. This whole series should be an automatic inclusion in school libraries as far as I’m concerned.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

Book Review : The Secrets Between Us by Louise Douglas.

A chance encounter: When Sarah meets dark, brooding Alex,she grasps his offer of a new life miles away from her own. They’ve both recently escaped broken relationships, and need to start again. Why not do it together?

A perfect life: But when Sarah gets to the tiny village of Burrington Stoke, something doesn’t add up. Alex’s beautiful wife Genevieve was charming, talented, and adored by all who knew her. And apparently, she and Alex had a successful marriage complete with a gorgeous son, Jamie. Why would Genevieve walk out on her perfect life? And why has no one heard from her since she did so?

A web of lies: Genevieve’s family and all her friends think that Alex knows more about her disappearance than he’s letting on. But Sarah’s fallen in love with him and just knows he couldn’t have anything to hide. Or could he?

As soon as I read the synopsis for The Secrets Between Us I knew it would have to be one of the books I picked for the Transworld Book Group challenge, I hadn’t heard of Louise Douglas but this sounded like a great read with plenty of intrigue and tension. I’m pleased to say I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The plot is wonderfully twisty – we see everything from Sarah’s point of view, from her first meeting with Alex to her attempts to integrate herself into his life. The plot works really well from this perspective, we as the reader get to form opinions of characters and question their motives and actions in the same way Sarah does. It also means that the mystery of what happened to Genevieve feels very real and very significant, I found myself suspicious of so many characters.

Sarah is a really interesting character, when we first meet her she’s just broken up with her partner after experiencing a huge trauma, and this vulnerability stays with her. I spent a lot of the book feeling worried for her, both that she might be in the same sort of harm Genevieve was and what the effect of her new living situation would be on her.

I found this book really gripping, I got completely swept up in. I loved the way it was written, you never get the sense of knowing completely what’s going on – you’re always waiting for the next twist to pull you off in a new direction. I’ll certainly be looking out for more by Louise Douglas in the future.

The Secrets Between Us is published in paperback by Bantam Press in the UK priced £12.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : “Black Swan Rising” by Lee Carroll.

I must admit that I haven’t read a lot of grown up urban fantasy though I’ve covered a lot of the YA bases. I was really intrigued therefore to read this, the first installment in a new urban fantasy trilogy.

Garet is a jewellery maker living and working in New York. She stumbles across an antiques store when she’s looking for shelter from the rain and is asked for help by the owner. He has a silver box with a seal that matched the ring Garet wears, an heirloom passed down from her mother. He’s unable to open the box so asks Garet if she would be able to do so. Taking the box and agreeing to open it is a life changing moment, she falls into a new life realising that everything she thought she knew is wrong, or merely half a truth.

I really enjoyed this book. Garet is an intriguing character and the life she finds herself catapulted into is a fascinating one. It works really well, in the same way Harry Potter worked, having the main character know nothing about the fantasy world so that the exposition feels neither clunky or shoehorned in. I loved the way that the supported cast of characters were introduced, and how they fit into the knowledge of our world whether it be Shakespearean characters or more recent internet slang. There’s a really interesting mix of supernatural beings involved in the plot, which I found refreshing.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and will certainly be looking forward to reading the other two books in the trilogy.

“Black Swan Rising” is published in paperback by Bantam Press on 25th November 2010 in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

The Summer Reading Challenge: “Lockdown” by Sean Black.

This was my fourth and final choice from the Transworld Summer Reading Challenge. Whilst chick lit is a favourite genre of mine I also love bloke lit so I thought it’d be good to include a new bloke lit author in my selection. Within a few chapters of this book I was very glad I’d picked it.

Lockdown is the story of Ryan Lock, a security expert employed by a company that is involved in testing products on animals. Within the early chapters everything blows up, the pace picks up and I found myself swept away in the story. I found the characters interesting and engaging, and the New York setting worked really well.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and will be looking out for the next instalment in the series. I think I’ve found a new must read author!

This was my fourth and final read for the Transworld Summer Reading Challenge, I’ve really enjoyed being involved in it and am looking forward to getting involved with any future challenges they hold.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

The Summer Reading Challenge : “The Wish” by Sasha Blake.

This is the third book that I have read for Transworld’s Summer Reading Challenge. Whilst I have enjoyed my previous two books this one sadly fell a bit short for me.

I had some problems with the structure of the novel. It is divided into 4 books, and then these are divided into small sections of between a few paragraphs and a few pages. Each little section is labelled with where the action is taking place and vitally when. This is not a book written in a linear fashion, the first book in particular jumps forward and backwards. Unfortunately I found this off-putting and had to flick back a number of times to work out what was going on.

The plot is Las Vegas centric, complete with scandal, warring families and secrets threatening to bubble over. To begin with I enjoyed the plot but as the book progressed I found myself sighing as it got more outlandish.

“The Wish” is not a book that I would normally have picked to read, and that is the beauty of this Reading Challenge. I’m glad to have given it a try but it isn’t one for me.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

The Summer Reading Challenge : “After You” by Julie Buxbaum


After enjoying “Guilty Pleasures” I was really looking forward to seeing what the next of my books from Transworld was going to hold. “After You” appears to be marketed towards the Jodi Picoult reading market, it comes complete with a quote from her on the front cover. I’ve read most of Jodi Picoult books so thought I’d probably enjoy this one too. I actually found it to be a more straightforward read than most Jodi Picoult, it was less focussed on issues and moral debates.

“After You” tells the story of Ellie who travels from America to London when her best friend Lucy is murdered. Lucy leaves behind a husband and daughter, both of them are reeling from the loss. As Ellie begins to help them find their way forward she starts to realise that maybe their lives aren’t the only ones that are broken.

I thought this book was well written and very easy to get stuck into. I read it in two sittings, but if I’d started reading it earlier than I did I would probably have stayed with it until the end. The characters were all well crafted, I especially fell in love with Lucy’s daughter Sophie, a bookworm whose thirst for knowledge has left her socially isolated. I loved the fact that all of the characters were there for a reason, they all had their own plotlines rather than being there simply for padding.

I shall definitely be looking to read more by Julie Buxbaum.