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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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 | 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 | Making Faces by Amy Harmon

YA Nick Sparks – take that as you will! 3.5/5 stars.

making-faces-by-amy-harmon

Thank you to Spencer Hill Press and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The UK paperback of Making Faces will be published on 21st February. If you can’t wait that long it’s already available to buy as an e-book.

The blurb: Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

My take:

Making Faces is a simple story containing a sweet, predictable romance. The strength of the tale is its characters who are pretty-much all likeable. However, I give particular praise to Harmon for making Bailey the stealth star of her book, his personality easily outshining those of the romantic leads. If Making Faces were refocussed so it was all about Bailey with everyone else as supporting cast, this could easily become a 5-star book. His character alone has earned this book an extra half star.

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ARC Review | The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

A quick, entertaining read. If you love gossip, this is one for you! 3.5/5 stars.

the-fifth-letter-by-nicola-moriarty

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

The paperback of The Fifth Letter will be published in the UK two weeks today on Thursday 23rd February. But if you can’t wait, the good news is that the Kindle Edition is already available for download.

The blurb: Joni, Trina, Deb and Eden. Best friends since the first day of school. Best friends, they liked to say, forever. But now they are in their thirties and real life – husbands, children, work – has got in the way. So, resurrecting their annual trip away, Joni has an idea, something to help them reconnect. Each woman will write an anonymous letter, sharing with their friends the things that are really going on in their lives.

But as the confessions come tumbling out, Joni starts to feel the certainty of their decades-long friendships slip from her fingers. Anger. Accusations. Desires. Deceit. And then she finds another letter. One that was never supposed to be read. A fifth letter. Containing a secret so big that its writer had tried to destroy it. And now Joni is starting to wonder, did she ever really know her friends at all?

My take:

The premise for this book is solid and intriguing. When reading the blurb, the mention of Joni’s “great” idea to get the friends to share huge secrets anonymously already had me thinking, “Well, that’s not going to go well, is it?!” So I was surprised that The Fifth Letter turned out to be a lighter book than I’d expected, although the dark undertones are certainly there. Moriarty could easily have taken this story into thriller territory if she had wanted, and the narrative walks a fine line between domestic melodrama, mystery and psychological thriller.

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ARC Review | The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

Adam Sharp’s best = just ok for me. 3/5 stars.

the-best-of-adam-sharp-by-graeme-simsion

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

The Best of Adam Sharp will be published in the UK this Thursday, 9th February.

The blurb: Can you define your life by a single song? Adam Sharp – former pianist in a hip Melbourne bar, now a respectable IT consultant in Norwich – can. And it’s ‘You’re Going to Lose that Girl’…

On the cusp of fifty and a happy introvert, Adam is content. He’s the music expert at his local pub-quiz and he and his partner Claire rumble along. Life may not be rock n’ roll, but neither is it easy listening. Yet something has always felt off-key.

And that’s his nostalgia for what might have been, his blazing affair – more than twenty years ago, on the other side of the world – with Angelina Brown, a smart and sexy, strong-willed actress who taught him for the first time, as he played piano and she sang, what it meant to find – and then lose – love. How different might his life be if he hadn’t let her walk away?

Then, out of nowhere, Angelina gets in touch. Adam has sung about second chances, but does he have the courage to believe in them?

My take:

I was delighted to get approved for an ARC of The Best of Adam Sharp as I’ve only heard good things about Graeme Simsion’s other books: The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect. Unfortunately, although it’s well-written, I didn’t like this book as much as I’d hoped I would.

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Review | The Skeletons of Scarborough House (The Chapelwick Mysteries 1) by Kitty French

A fun, funny, sparkling book! An absolute treat from start to finish. 4/5 stars.

the-skeletons-of-scarborough-house-by-kitty-french

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

The blurb:

** This book was previously published as Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency **

Scarborough House is haunted, and it’s not doing much for Donovan Scarborough’s investment portfolio. No one wants to buy a place with levitating crockery, or (the wrong kind of) rhythmic pounding throughout the night.

Luckily, Melody “I-See-Dead-People” Bittersweet has just launched her own ghostbusting agency with best friend Marina, geeky, keen Arthur, and a one-eared pug called Lestat. They’re quick to take the case, even if it has already sort of (definitely) been given to Leo Dark, Melody’s rakish, despicable ex.

Melody soon discovers the resident phantoms are three brothers, one who was murdered at twenty, while the others lived to old age. But did the family exile the right person, or did the true killer get away with it?

Donovan Scarborough doesn’t care who solves the case. Whoever gets rid of the ghosts gets paid. Can Melody and her new crew untangle the mystery, and bring the brothers peace, before Leo? Or will his distracting sexiness and Melody’s bonkers family cause the agency to fall at its first hurdle?

My take:

After a week of literary fiction and psychological thrillers, this book was a much-needed breath of fresh air. The characters are terrific, as long as you don’t mind quirky. If quirky sets you teeth on edge, this definitely isn’t one for you.

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Review | The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Highly entertaining and creepy. 3.5/5 stars.

the-girl-before-by-jp-delaney

Thank you to Quercus Books and NetGalley for the e-ARC.

The blurb: “Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.”

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

My take:

This book will do very well. The premise is great, if rather batty (who would honestly agree to live in a house with so many restrictive rules. You’re not allowed books! Come on!). The story is entertaining with an impressive number of twists to keep you guessing. When it comes to uncovering who was responsible for Emma’s death, there are enough plausible suspects to keep you intrigued.

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Review | Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

A melancholy story of a broken family told in fantastic prose. 3/5 stars.

swimming-lessons-by-claire-fuller

Thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for giving me a copy of the book.

The blurb: 

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.

Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her.

My take:

Firstly, and because cover designers often don’t get enough credit for their work, I’d like to say that whoever designed the book cover deserves heaps of praise. It’s beautiful.

Back to the contents…

As with Our Endless Numbered Days, Swimming Lessons showcases Claire Fuller’s wonderful descriptive prose. Every landscape, location (the Swimming Pavillion is a brilliant idea for a setting) and mood is captured evocatively, pulling the reader into and along with the story.

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ARC Review | The Book of Mirrors by E. O. Chirovici

An interesting approach to story-telling, but not the gripping thriller I was expecting. 3/5 stars.

the-book-of-mirrors-by-e-o-chirovici

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book to read and review.

The Book of Mirrors will be published on 26th January.

The blurb: When big-shot literary agent Peter Katz receives an unfinished manuscript entitled The Book of Mirrors, he is intrigued. The author, Richard Flynn is writing a memoir about his time at Princeton in the late 80s, documenting his relationship with the famous Professor Joseph Wieder.

One night in 1987, Wieder was brutally murdered in his home and the case was never solved.

Peter Katz is hell-bent on getting to the bottom of what happened that night twenty-five years ago and is convinced the full manuscript will reveal who committed the violent crime. But other people’s recollections are dangerous weapons to play with, and this might be one memory that is best kept buried.

My take:

My review will be spoiler-free in the sense that I won’t talk about “whodunnit”. However, I will discuss what this book is not and that might be considered a spoiler by some. You’ve been warned!

Perhaps I went into this book with the wrong expectations. From the blurb and the intriguing first part of the story – full as it is of mentions of secret memory manipulations experiments – I was expecting the narrative to develop as a thrilling, complex, mind-bending mystery, something akin to Danny Boyle’s film, Trance.

Well, that’s not what this book is. In fact, The Book of Mirrors is more an exploration of memory than a thriller or mystery. If you’re interested in a meditation on the subjectivity and unreliability of recollection or memory loss, then this is a story for you. If you’re after an edge-of-your-seat whodunnit, then I’d pick up something else.

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