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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Review | Mystery at Maplemead Castle (The Chapelwick Mysteries 2) by Kitty French

Another sparkling story from Kitty French. 4/5 stars.

Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French

Thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Maplemead Castle is crawling with ghosts, and the new owners need them gone. When Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency arrive on scene, they quickly identify the troublemakers swinging from the chandeliers… literally.

A century ago, stunning trapeze artist Britannia Lovell plunged to her death, and has done every night since. But did she really just fall, or was there something more to her demise?

Forced to work with Leo Dark, her scoundrel ex, and infuriating, irresistible reporter Fletcher Gunn, Melody’s investigative powers are under strain (i.e. lost in a pink mist of lust and confusion). She needs her team on top form, but best friend Marina’s cake pipeline goes AWOL, assistant Artie’s distracted by a giant sausage roll, and the pug is scared witless by a lion.

Somewhere, hidden in the castle, is a heart-breaking secret, but what will it take to find it? And is there a chance it could set Britannia free, or is she doomed to repeat her last fateful act forever?

My take:

I recently caught up with book 1 of the Chapelwick Mysteries and thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t want to repeat the review for that book here, but safe to say that book 2 is another funny ghostbusting adventure with Melody and friends. If you enjoyed book 1, you’ll love book 2.

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Review | At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

Chevalier continues to be a master of historical fiction. 4/5.

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: 1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.

1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.

My take:

I’ve enjoyed all of Tracy Chevalier’s books. I leapt at the chance to request her latest without even reading the blurb, so confident was I that it would be good. And she hasn’t disappointed me.

Chevalier excels at capturing the atmosphere of a time and place. At the Edge of the Orchard transports the reader to mid-nineteenth-century America, where we struggle through the mud of the Black Swamps of Ohio before being whisked away to the hills of California to marvel at the redwoods and giant sequoias.

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Review | Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister

A confident debut. Gillian McAllister is a talent to watch. 4/5.

Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister

Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: It all started with the email.

Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him.

But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

My take:

In her well-written debut, McAllister gives us a realistic portrayal of a romantic relationship tainted by secrets and suspicion. All the characters, even those who only appear for a few moments, are fully-fleshed out. The author also creates a pervasive atmosphere of doubt and distrust which gradually creeps into every corner of the story and has the reader questioning everything, turning the pages just as the main character trawls the internet, hoping to get to the elusive truth.

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Review | A Secret Garden by Katie Fforde

A story to pack for your holidays. 3/5 stars.

a-secret-garden-by-katie-fforde

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Lorna is a talented gardener and Philly is a plantswoman. Together they work in the grounds of a beautiful manor house in the Cotswolds. They enjoy their jobs and are surrounded by family and friends. But for them both the door to true love remains resolutely closed.

So when Lorna is introduced to Jack at a dinner party and Lucien catches Philly’s eye at the local farmers market, it seems that dreams really can come true and happy endings lie just around the corner. But do they? Troublesome parents, the unexpected arrival of someone from Lorna’s past, and the discovery of an old and secret garden mean their lives are about to become a lot more complicated…

My take:

It’s been quite a while since I read anything by Katie Fforde, so I jumped at the chance to request an ARC of her latest book from NetGalley.

A Secret Garden is a pleasant, predictable, light romance. It made me laugh out loud twice, and that’s impressive as most books just earn the occasional smile or snort.

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Review | The Mystery of the Painted Dragon (The Sinclair’s Mysteries 3) by Katherine Woodfine

The best kind of children’s book: one big and little kids can enjoy! 4/5.

the-mystery-of-the-painted-dragon-by-katherine-woodfine

The blurb: When a priceless painting is stolen, our dauntless heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves faced with forgery, trickery and deceit on all sides!

Be amazed as the brave duo pit their wits against this perilous puzzle! Marvel at their cunning plan to unmask the villain and prove themselves detectives to be reckoned with – no matter what dangers lie ahead…

It’s their most perilous adventure yet!

My take:

The Mystery of the Painted Dragon is the third of Katherine Woodfine’s Sinclair’s Mysteries and is every bit as enjoyable as the first two installments in the series. And beautiful… look!

Katherine Woodfine Sinclair Mysteries book covers

I love these books. They are fun mysteries set in London at the start of the twentieth century. Our amateur sleuths are two independent young ladies – Lil and Sophie – who are smart, resourceful and tenacious. For me, how they take care of themselves and each other is the best thing about these stories. This book has added girl power with the appearance of the Suffragette movement, making the feminist message all the more obvious.

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