Review | Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

A bold reimagining of Shakespeare’s stormy tale of vengeance, forgiveness and the power of theatre. 4/5 stars.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

The blurb: Hag-Seed is a re-visiting of Shakespeare’s play of magic and illusion, The Tempest, and is the fourth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

The Tempest is set on a remote island full of strange noises and creatures. Here, Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, plots to restore the fortunes of his daughter Miranda by using magic and illusion — starting with a storm that will bring Antonio, his treacherous brother, to him. All Prospero, the great sorcerer, needs to do is watch as the action he has set in train unfolds.

In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever…

My take:

As part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project, Atwood is one of several authors invited to reimagine one of Shakespeare’s stories. Hag-Seed is Atwood’s take on one of the Bard’s last plays, The Tempest. If you’d like to know more about the other authors involved in the project and the stories they were asked to tackle (for example, Tracy Chevalier’s take on Othello), you can find out more here.

I studied The Tempest for 2 years at school and so it’s probably the Shakespeare play I know the best. This definitely influenced my enjoyment of Hag-Seed, which I’m not convinced you’d get a lot out of if you know nothing about the original play.

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Review | The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers 1) by Becky Chambers

Excellent sci-fi for readers looking for characters to love. 4.5/5.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The blurb: Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

My take:

This has been sitting on my TBR for quite a while and I’m delighted I finally managed to get the chance to read it (thank you to my local library). I’ve been experiencing a bit of a reading slump recently, but this book was terrific and I looked forward to every second I had the opportunity to pick it up.

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Review | The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

Good historical fiction and a reminder to follow your dreams 3.5/5 stars.

The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: In Edwardian England, aeroplanes are a new, magical invention, while female pilots are rare indeed.

When shy Della Dobbs meets her mother’s aunt, her life changes forever. Great Auntie Betty has come home from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. Della develops a burning ambition to fly and Betty is determined to help her.

But the Great War is coming and it threatens to destroy everything – and everyone – Della loves.

My take:

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The characters are mostly likeable, although it did take me a while to warm to the protagonist, Della. The historical research behind this story is meticulous and the (often surprising) details regarding the early days of aviation, the First World War and other small period touches all serve to give a vivid sense of the era and the male-dominated field Della chooses to navigate.

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ARC Review | Final Girls by Riley Sager

A slow-burning thriller with a decent final pay-off. 3.5/5.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book. Final Girls will be published on 13th July.

The blurb: Each girl survived an unthinkable horror. Now someone wants them dead…

They were the victims of separate massacres. Grouped together by the press, and dubbed the Final Girls, they are treated like something fresh out of a slasher movie.

When something terrible happens to Lisa, put-together Quincy and volatile Sam finally meet. Each one influences the other. Each one has dark secrets. And after the bloodstained fingers of the past reach into the present, each one will never be the same…

My take

The premise here is terrific. The question “what happens to the lone survivor once the credits of a horror movie end”? makes for a great set up and interesting story. However, I felt the overall pacing of the narrative was slightly off.

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ARC Review | One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

The Breakfast Club with a murder. What’s not to like? 4/5.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. M. McManus

Thank you to Penguin Random House and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book. One Of Us Is Lying is published tomorrow, June 1st.

The blurb:  Five students go to detention. Only four leave alive.

My take:

I can imagine the pitch for this book: “The Breakfast Club set in 2016, but the nerd dies and the other 4 are suspects”. As high-concept pitches go, that’s a cracker.

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Review | The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

3/5 stars

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

The blurb: Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before. Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners. But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…

With an unforgettable cast of characters that includes young girls with special powers, handsome gardeners, irritable ghosts and an array of irresistible four-legged friends, The Keeper of Lost Things is a debut novel of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that will leave you bereft once you’ve finished reading.

My take:

I want to stress that I’ve given this book 3 stars – which for me is a “good” rating – because overall it was enjoyable. What follows may sound like I’ve listed everything I didn’t like about it, so I want to start by saying I’m not trying to put you off and I’m sure there will be many readers who will love this story!

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Review (spoiler-free) | Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) by Sylvain Neuvel

 4/5 stars

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

Thank you to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: I won’t post the blurb for book 2 here because it contains spoilers for Book 1: Sleeping Giants (click for my review which features the blurb for book 1). Enough to say that this series features mysterious, giant alien robots and the team of people trying to figure out what they’re doing on Earth.

My (spoiler-free) take:

It’s nearly a year since I read and reviewed the first of the “Themis Files”: Sleeping Giants. I enjoyed the way that book told its story, giving us information through interview transcripts, letters and reports. Waking Gods uses the same methods and returns to the same characters as book 1, but I didn’t enjoy this installment quite as much as the first. Perhaps some of the novelty of the form has worn off? That said, don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to enjoy and appreciate in Waking Gods and if you liked Sleeping Giants I highly recommend you get a copy of the sequel.

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ARC Review | The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

An insight into one teenager’s life with Asperger’s. 4/5.

The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

Thank you to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book. The State of Grace is published this Thursday, 6th April.

The blurb: Grace has Asperger’s and her own way of looking at the world. She’s got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that’s pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn’t make much sense to her any more.

Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it’s up to Grace to fix it on her own.

Whip-smart, hilarious and unapologetically honest, The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas is a heart-warming story of one girl trying to work out where she fits in, and whether she even wants to.

My take:

Being a teenager is complicated for most of us. Navigating a world of mean-girl politics, annoying parents, evil teachers and a new interest in boys and/or girls, all while in the middle of a hormone storm, is a tricky business. Add to this a lack of sensory filter and a difficulty picking up the non-verbal cues most of us read without trying, and you have an idea of the world in which Grace is doing her best to get by.

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Review | The One by John Marrs

Undeniably gripping, but lacking heart. 3.5/5 stars.

The One by John Marrs

A huge thank you to Inge over at The Belgian Reviewer for my copy of The One which I won in her recent giveaway. Thank you!

The blurb: How far would you go to find THE ONE?

One simple mouth swab is all it takes. A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

My take:

This book is a true page-turner. The story is told from five different character viewpoints in short, alternating chapters, meaning there is always enough going on to keep the reader interested. Each chapter moves one of the character’s stories forward to a cliffhanger before switching cruelly to the next. This method makes it hard to put the book down, particularly if you’re more invested in one or two of the stories than the others as you are driven to read quickly to get back to your favourite plot strands.

Cutting rapidly between different viewpoints is also a great way to keep the reader in the dark, and the book certainly delivers on surprises and twists.

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Review | The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

I hope Spielberg has already optioned this. 4.5/5.

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

Thank you to Faber & Faber and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book. The Impossible Fortress is already available to purchase in ebook form.

The blurb: It’s 1987. Billy Marvin, the tallest boy in ninth grade, has just witnessed history. Wheel of Fortune presenter Vanna White is on the cover of Playboy. Billy and his friends, Alf and Clark, know that if they can get hold of the magazine, their world will change. For ever.

But as Billy says, ‘No shopkeeper in America was going to sell Playboy to a fourteen-year-old boy.’

As they set out on their mission to find the most wanted images in America, they’re blissfully unaware of the dangers, dramas and garbage dumpsters that lie ahead. And of how a girl called Mary might just change one of their lives. For ever.

My take:

When I first saw this book on NetGalley, all it took was a quick read of the blurb to convince me I would enjoy it. I knew I had slim chance of getting a copy from the US publisher, but I gave it a try… and failed. Cue bitter disappointment. So obviously I was thrilled when the UK publisher approved my request and it turns out my hunch was correct: The Impossible Fortress is delightful.

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