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

My Week In Books. [6]

Each Monday I review the books I’ve read in the previous week in mini reviews.

Shooting Stars by Allison Rushby. Bloomsbury Childrens.
I liked the way this book throws you right into the action from the very beginning, the reader is introduced to the main character – teen paparazzo Jo – as she tries to get photographs of teen heartthrob Ned. I found that I liked Jo straight away, and then as the book progressed there was more and more to like. When she’s sent undercover to try and get highly private pictures of Ned at a rehab retreat her dilemma over whether she can bring herself to invade his privacy for the amount of money being offered feels genuine and draws the reader in.

I often find books where one character is hiding a pretty big secret from the other really stressful to read. There was a small part of this book that had me feeling a bit stressed but the way the plot is handled and evolves meant that I found myself really enjoying it. There’s a lovely blend of humorous moments and more thoughtful moments, the latter in particular may well leave readers thinking about our current celebrity culture and its cost.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally. Sourcebooks Fire.
I absolutely loved this book. I expected it would be one that I would really enjoy, I’m a huge sports fan so the idea of a book about a female quarterback trying to lead her high school team to the championship final sounded like something I’d really enjoy. I was hooked within the first chapter and I didn’t put it down until I’d read the final page. The plot is wonderful, yes it’s a story about high school football but it’s also a story about friendship, about love, and about family.

I loved Jordan and found that I could really identify with her, despite the fact I’d never been remotely sporty let alone so entirely sport driven. The various team mates who played significant parts in the book all made me smile, they really came across well as a group of friends who all cared for and supported each other. I found myself wishing I was part of their social circle! I have a feeling that when I’m deciding on my top ten reads of the year this book may well make the cut.

Love at Second Sight by Cathy Hopkins. Simon & Schuster UK.
I hadn’t read anything by Cathy Hopkins before but I knew lovely Liz from My Favourite Books is a big fan so when she offered me a copy of this to read I snapped it up. I have to admit that before I started reading I wasn’t 100% sure about it, the plot surrounds a teen girl being told by a clairvoyant that her true love from a former life is someone she knows in this life so she has a second chance of love with him. I needn’t have been concerned though, the plot is well constructed and really works.

Jo, the main character, is a lovely character. She’s a little bit different to a lot of the girls who get to take centre stage in YA fiction and I found this refreshing. Her friendship with Effy and Tash is lovely, I particularly liked the way that they complemented one another without having to agree on everything. I also liked the focus on genealogy within the plot, it was good to see it described well.

I enjoyed this read so much that I already have my next Cathy Hopkins on reserve at my local library.

Sammy Feral’s Diaries of Weird by Eleanor Hawken. Quercus.
This book is a lovely, quick, funny read that I’m sure middle grade readers will love. Written in diary form this is a really entertaining read about a boy whose family are all turned into werewolves at the zoo they run. After discovering his family’s misfortune Sammy is desperate to find a cure and to get them all back to normal. He’s helped along in his quest by the mysterious Donny and Red, a team of cryptozoologists who arrive at just the right time.

There are plenty of laughs in this book along with some moments that I’m sure the target audience will be appropriately scared by. I think this book has a lot of potential as a read aloud book, I can imagine a group listening very attentively to it. There are plans for a second book in this series, I’m looking forward to it already.