Book Review

Last Week in Books.

Today I thought I’d round up the books I read last week. There were 3 books, a mixture of adult crime and young adult contemporary novels that all delighted me in different ways.

Life or Death by Michael Robotham. Sphere. Out now.
This is a fantastic adult thriller about a man who escapes prison a day before his ten year sentence is up. The big question is why would someone escape prison, knowing that if they get caught they’ll end up serving a whole lot more time, when they only have a day to go. This is a fast paced, tense read that drops little hints and red herrings all of the way through. When the answer to the why is finally revealed it makes so much sense, but at the same time wasn’t something I’d particularly considered myself until that point. There are twists and turns all the way through, and unexpected reveals that made me audibly gasp.

Audie, the main character, is a fascinating, unlikely hero. I was also really drawn to many of the supporting characters – even those who I disliked strongly. I have to admit there was a moment when one of the very dislikeable characters did something awful and I considered putting the book down. I was so desperate to see this character get their comeuppance and so I continued and ended up feeling entirely satisfied. This is an unusual crime book considering it essentially comes after the prison part of the story, but it’s a definite new favourite of mine.

All of the Above by James Dawson. Hot Key Books. Out now.
I always enjoy the books that James Dawson writes and this is no exception. Set in a small seaside town, the story follows Toria as she starts in the sixth form having moved over the summer. This sort of move is always going to be hard, but for Toria the changes of moving somewhere much smaller and less cosmopolitan feel like it’s harder than it needs to be. She quickly finds herself accepted into the friendship group of the alternative kids, the ones who fit together because they don’t fit anywhere else.

This is a story about love; romantic love and platonic friendship love. It’s about finding your place and about the inevitability of change. There are so many aspects to this story, but nothing feels short-changed. The characters are imperfect and the relationships can be messy, but then life is imperfect and messy.

Threaded through this novel are poems written by Toria. I enjoyed their inclusion a lot, it felt sometimes as though they told the reader more about Toria than her own narration did. This feels like a different sort of book from the author, but a welcome progression.

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp. Sourcebooks Fire. Out 5th January 2016
Oh my gosh this book! It’s hard to read and brilliant and gripping and emotional and relevant… and I really don’t know how I’m supposed to review it in a coherent manner. I finished it on Friday and have found my thoughts returning to it so many times already.

This Is Where It Ends begins on an ordinary day, at an ordinary American high school. The reader is introduced to the characters, and it’s all going very nicely until the main thrust of the plot kicks in. One angry teen has returned to the school to exact his revenge, and proceeds to begin his killing spree in a cold, calculating manner. The book is told in an almost minute by minute manner, moving between the characters we were introduced to in the opening – so we get to see the dreadful events unfold from a number of perspectives.

There is so much brilliance in this book. Its cast of main characters is well established, they’re diverse and representative and I found myself quickly entirely invested in them and downright panicked at the idea they were in such huge danger. When some of them made decisions that are admirable yet entirely terrifying I found myself struggling to turn the page and find out what happened next. The conclusions to the book are awful (you can’t expect anything different from a book about such an incident) and yet perfect – I found myself questioning some of them and each time came to the conclusion that they were exactly right.

This is a debut novel. It’s absolutely incredible and deserves to be the beginning of a very long career for Marieke Nijkamp.

My copies of all three books were all provided in for review consideration. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : Hollow Pike by James Dawson.

Something wicked this way comes…

She thought she’d be safe in the country, but you can’t escape your own nightmares, and Lis London dreams repeatedly that someone is trying to kill her.

Lis thinks she’s being paranoid – after all who would want to murder her? She doesn’t believe in the local legends of witchcraft. She doesn’t believe that anything bad will really happen to her. You never do, do you?

Not until you’re alone in the woods, after dark – and a twig snaps…

Hollow Pike – where witchcraft never sleeps

I was very excited when a copy of this dropped through my letter box, I’ve been aware of it for a while from reading other book blogs and it sounded like my kind of book. Witchcraft and legends and countryside woods are all things that together suggest a good, scary read. It’s been a while since I was properly scared by a book, I wondered if Hollow Pike would be the one to manage it.

I was gripped by this book within the first few pages, I started reading it at work and it was so hard to stop reading when it was time for me to go home. Lis has moved from Bangor to Hollow Pike to live with her sister after bullies at school made her life hell. I found that I straight away felt a connection to Lis, my own high school experience was absolutely horrendous and so I felt like I completely understood where she was coming from. The book follows Lis as she starts a new life at a new school, and the difficulties that come from joining a new well established social structure complete with its own awful bullies. At the same time that she’s working out where she fits into her new school there are strange things going on too, and she keeps having the same scary dream that feels so real.

I really liked Lis, as I’ve already mentioned I found I could identify strongly with her, and I loved her strength and determination. Whilst Laura, the ringleader of the bullies, was an entirely dislikeable character I think she was really well created and at times worryingly believable. Danny was one of my favourite characters in the book, as soon as he appeared as a potential romantic interest for Lis I started to fall for him, I was really pleased with the way we got to know him throughout the book.

This book most definitely managed to scare me. I read the majority of it through the day and was really glad I did, I think if I’d read it at bedtime I wouldn’t have got much sleep – as it was I found myself thinking about it as I went to bed and could hear the wind whipping through the trees that surround my house. I found that the last few chapters in particular made for tense reading.

I’m pretty sure that over the next couple of weeks book blogs across the UK are going to be featuring lots of glowing reviews for this book, and it absolutely deserves them. It’s a gripping read that scares and thrills in equal measures. The fact that this is a debut novel makes the book an even more exciting prospect, James Dawson is definitely going to be an author to watch in the years to come.

Hollow Pike is published in trade paperback and hardback by Orion in the UK from 2nd February 2012. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.