The Fifth to Die – J. D. Barker

35683027Murder.

It’s a family affair.

In the second book of the 4MK series, teenage girls are going missing and turning up frozen. Detective Sam Porter and his team are brought in to investigate, and it’s not long before the murder’s are linked to none other than the notorious 4 Monkey Killer. Porter isn’t convinced, but he’s distracted. After getting so close to Anson Bishop (4MK himself) only to have him escape, Porter has never been more determined to find this cold-hearted killer. As more girls go missing and his team do their best to stop the body count rising, Porter tracks down Bishop’s mother and discovers that there is nothing scarier than the mind of a serial killer’s mother.

This book is, frankly, one of the best detective/crime novels I’ve ever read. I enjoyed it even more than book #1, The Fourth Monkey, and absolutely cannot wait for the next one to come out.

The team are fantastic and they really make this book great. Porter is a strong, complex lead, and a very convincing detective, while Clair, Nash and Kloz round out group brilliantly with their own personalities and light humour. I also really enjoyed Agent Poole with the FBI and the chapters written from the point-of-view of the girls who had been kidnapped. The story follows multiple simultaneous threads, told from the aspects of various different characters, which has the potential to be very difficult to follow. Surprisingly, the story flows exceptionally well and is an easy read (in terms of flow, not content).

The plot itself is fast-paced, well-developed and full of suspense. Every chapter is filled with drama and enough realism that it is completely believable (at least, believable for someone with no knowledge of what really happens when the police try to catch a serial killer).

There isn’t a single negative thing I can say about this book. Some of the kidnapping and torture scenes could be difficult for some readers, but for me they were an integral part of the plot and added an extra necessary darkness.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker

39866035When the Greeks sack her home, Briseis is taken as a captive to the Greek camp outside of Troy and chosen to become Achilles’ concubine – a prize of battle. She must quickly adjust from her life as a queen to that of a slave, serving the enemy. As the battle between the Greeks and the Trojans wages on, Briseis finds herself caught between two of the most powerful Greeks, and in an unprecedented position to observe the two men driving the Greek forces in what will become their final confrontation.

The Silence of the Girls is a re-telling of Homer’s The Iliad,  told from the point of view of a woman, held captive in the Greek camp. It essentially tells the stories of the women and girls who were unwilling participants and collateral damage in the Trojan War. It’s a really interesting point of view to read from and Briseis was a fantastic narrator, but the main character of the book was really Achilles rather than Briseis, which was a tiny bit disappointing.

The story itself was not actually the most exciting. Despite there being a war (with a good amount of gory, bloody detail), the plot was not particularly action-packed or eventful. However, it was excellently written and I was completely addicted. The characters were very strong, likeable and well-developed – even Agamemnon, who plays the ‘villain’ role. The author does an outstanding job of balancing the ‘good vs. bad’ aspect of the plot, with Briseis being surrounded by her enemies and still managing to forge friendships with them, whilst remaining loyal to her people. Although the Greeks are clearly presented as the enemy, they are not made out to be negative characters and they have likeable and individual personalities.

Some of the content is pretty horrific: the women are captured, raped and brutalised. It is not pleasant to read, but these aspects are not overly visual and are, unfortunately, an unavoidable feature of Ancient Greek fiction. To take this content out of the story would be a misrepresentation of the time.

I love Greek mythology in general, and The Silence of the Girls exceeded my expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Odyssey – Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

34068470.jpgThe Odyssey is one of the oldest known adventure stories in existence. It follows the epic adventures of Odysseus as he attempts to get home to Ithica after the Trojan war. Emily Wilson’s translation is the first English translation ever written by a woman, and it is truly fresh and modern.

How do you review a book like The Odyssey? The fact that it has been so popular for so long and has become one of the main go-to books for Greek mythology says everything you need to know about the story, so I won’t try to review that. Instead, I will focus on Emily Wilson’s translation.

I went into this book anticipating a challenge. In fact, it was a very engaging and surprisingly easy read. It is long (so, so long) and repetitive so it still took a long time to get through, but thanks to the modern language and style of translation, it was incredibly readable. I’ve never read another version, so I cannot compare this one against another, but having read this one, I honestly can’t see why anyone would choose to read any other version.

The book starts with an introduction from Emily which was, frankly, fascinating. It is, essentially, an essay on The Odyssey, outlining the reasons behind her translation choices and highlighting interesting points about the characters and the original author.

This book will definitely be in my top books of 2018, and I have no doubt it will become the modern must-read for Greek mythology.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Narrows – Travis M. Riddle

42348486Oliver, Sophie and Davontae have returned to their home town of Shumard, Texas for the funeral of their friend, Noah. Each are dealing with the shock and loss in their own way, but things take an unexpected turn when Oliver gets a glimpse of a world parallel to their own. Visited by a dark being known as the Knave, Oliver soon finds himself dragged into a chilling adventure and questioning what really happened to Noah.

First things first, I have to say I adore the cover of this book. It’s a beautiful piece of artwork and it represents the story very well. I also adore Travis’ writing, and this one certainly did not disappoint. The Narrows bears some close similarities to Stranger Things with it’s dark, mysterious ‘other’ world (and I have to admit, I was a little bit sceptical about this shared theme when I started reading) but it’s such a different story and actually very original.

Although it is, essentially, a horror story, this book also contains a lovely story of friendship, with fantastic and realistic relationships between the group. It also deals – very sensitively, I thought – with the aftermath of suicide and the way people process the loss of a friend to suicide. The Narrows is a book filled with heart, alongside the creepiness and gore.

Oliver was a great character. He, of course, does the typical lead-character thing of heading off into the danger alone, which is usually something that really frustrates me, but his reasons for not including his friends are properly explained and completely understandable. Plus, he does go to them for help eventually. My personal favourite character, however, was the Knave. He’s super creepy and evil, and just generally fabulous.

One of the characters, Sophie, is transgender and this element was pulled of incredibly well. It was great to see the representation, and it wasn’t forced at all (as these things can often be). The fact that Sophie used to be a boy is mentioned only for context and fitted in perfectly without becoming a focal point for the story.

I actually can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about this book. Read it.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

29748925Lazlo Strange, junior librarian, has always dreamed of seeing the lost city of Weep. For years he’s been obsessed with the Unseen City, so he can’t believe it when a hero known as the Godslayer arrives and offers him the opportunity, not only to see Weep, but to save it.

The dream chooses the dreamer. Not the other way around.

Strange the Dreamer is magical and magnificent. It delivers everything a reader could possibly want from a fantasy story. I honestly can’t remember the last time I was so emotional about a book. Laini Taylor broke my heart with the ending.

This book is filled to the brim with wonderful characters (especially Lazlo, Sarai and Sparrow) who were really well developed and endearing. Even the ones we don’t actually get to know that well (like Eril-Fane and Azareen) and aren’t supposed to like (like Thyon Nero) are interesting and obviously complex.

During the first half of the book, I was completely entranced by Lazlo’s side of the story. However, Sarai’s parts were a little bit uneventful and the language was too flowery. Although description and scene-setting is important, I do like stories to get to the point a little quicker than they do in this book. But once things finally got going, wow, it was worth the wait. Immersive, romantic and completely irresistible.

It’s long, but I never lost interest and Laini’s writing is truly mesmerising. Book #2, The Muse of Nightmares, has already been pre-ordered.

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Home – Amanda Berriman

38457392Jesika is four and a half. She lives in a flat with her little brother, Toby, and her mum, who is struggling to make ends meet. Jesika struggles to understand everything that’s going on, and has to deal with a lot when her mum and Toby get ill. All she knows is that she loves her mummy and doesn’t want to live anywhere but with her.

Home is a very special book. It is written entirely from Jesika’s point of view, which is brilliantly done. Her thoughts and feelings are entirely realistic and it’s really easy to understand why she reacts to things the way she does. The writing really feels like it’s coming from the mouth of a 4-year-old. I loved the touch of misspelled words to enhance the experience of reading from a child’s perspective.

I loved Jesika’s personality. She is a sweet and brave little girl, and impossible not to love. At times, it was kind of frustrating to read because, being so young, Jesika doesn’t understand everything that’s happening and doesn’t tell the adults. She comes so close a few times and I was practically yelling out at the book when she forgot or got too scared. I can’t remember the last time I was so emotionally invested in a story.

Trigger warning: this is a very emotional story and one thread involves child sexual abuse, but it isn’t graphic or descriptive and, though upsetting, I didn’t find it too difficult to read.

Home is completely addictive and fantastically well written. Quite possibly the best book I’ve read this year.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchage for an honest review.

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Hunted – GX Todd

34209822In book #2 of The Voices series, it seems everyone is searching for Lacey. Albus, a man with no voice of his own, is led by the voice of his lost sister with one goal: find and protect the martyr. He and his friends must find her, before anyone else does. Before Posy, and the evil voice inside him – The Other – can.

This series is so good, omg. I can’t even tell you. I’ve seen surprisingly few post-apocalyptic books around recently, and The Voices is based on a really scary and interesting concept: voices in our heads that caused humanity to break down and drove huge numbers of people to kill themselves. It is terrifying and super interesting.

But not only is the concept great, so is the story. I was a tiny bit disappointed at first that the story wasn’t being told from Lacey’s point-of-view (like book #1 is), but after a while, I realised that this was actually a good thing. Firstly, it gave the book a fresh angle. Secondly, I got a bit of a YA vibe from Defender, although it isn’t a YA book. This time, that vibe was gone. I think this was down to the story being told from the point of various adults so, as much as I love Lacey, that teen-vibe was gone – which, for this kind of book, was a good thing.

The characters in this book are just fantastic. Lacey and Voice in particular, but every single character (even the awful, mean ones) bring important something to the story. Also – no spoilers – but EEK big news regarding one of my other favourite characters! Book #3 right now please!!

Basically, you have to read this book.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Girl in the Tower – Katherine Arden

34731459This is Book #2 of one of my favourite books of last year (The Bear and the Nightingale), so I was beyond excited to be offered the opportunity to read an advance copy. I had verrrrrrry high expectations, and I was not disappointed. Vasya, facing the choice between marriage or life in a convent, decides instead to run away and travel. Her adventures soon take her to Moscow, where she finds herself having to defend the city and the Grand Prince from something awful.

Katherine Arden’s writing is fantastic. She weaves clear and enchanting images, and no part of the story is boring. Every single word was a joy to read. There really aren’t many books I’ve come across that are quite as magically well-written. That being said, there was, sadly, a bit less magic in the book than in the first, but there was still just enough to keep it special.

Vasya and Morozko are two of my favourite characters to ever exist. Vasya is strong and determined – and nothing like the usual fantasy heroines – while Morozko is a powerful and compassionate… What a babe. I just love him. And I can’t not mention Solovey: I’m not usually a fan of horses in general, but his connection to Vasya throughout the story is so lovely.

My one and only criticism of this book is the ending. It was abrupt and kind of unsatisfying, I was completely unprepared for it to end when it did (and not just because I enjoyed the book so much I didn’t want it to end). There seemed to be a lot of only partially resolved threads, and the ending just felt very sudden. It was quite a jarring and unsatisfying end to my reading experience.

However, the abrupt ending does not take anything away from the magnificence of the rest of the story. I cannot wait for the next book. 10/10. 5 stars. Full marks.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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My Top Ten Books of 2017

Hi Guys! As the year ends, it’s time to look back and choose my Top Ten Books of the year! This was super difficult this year (my list originally contained 20 books, and whittling it down was hard). So here we go, the best ten books I read in 2017 (which I believe were actually all published this year too):


Gather The Daughters by Jennie Melamed
35066549Gather The Daughters tells the story of an end-of-the-world cult founded years ago when ten men colonised an island. It’s a society in which men reign supreme, breeding is controlled, and knowledge of the outside world is kept to a minimum. Girls are wives-in-training: at the first sign of puberty, they must marry and have children. But until that point, every summer, island tradition dictates that the children live wildly: running free, making camps, sleeping on the beach. And it is at the end of one such summer that one of the youngest girls sees something so horrifying that life on the island can never be the same again.

 


The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
25489134At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
34200289Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully time-tabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

Then everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living–and it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.


Frostblood by Elly Blake
32618150Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.


Defender by G X Todd
29758033In a world where long drinks are in short supply, a stranger listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.

The moment locks them together.

Here and now it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice. Those who do, keep it quiet.

These voices have purpose.

And when Pilgrim meets Lacey, there is a reason. He just doesn’t know it yet.


One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
32887579Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.


See You in the Cosmos, Carl Sagan by Jack Cheng
2594057711-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like.

But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.


Wondrous by Travis M. Riddle
wondrousMiles went to sleep tucked tightly in bed in his Austin apartment and woke up in the middle of a damp, dark forest in the kingdom of Rompu, a land being torn apart by a civil war between its king and queen.

Miles has few companions in this kingdom, which is filled with fantastical creatures yet sprinkled with familiar items like digital clocks and vinyl records. As he searches for a way to return home, he discovers that certain memories trigger magical abilities. But as he struggles to make sense of this new world, his thoughts are punctuated by painful memories of his sick grandmother, quarrelling parents, and an icy school therapist.

When Miles learns that a monstrous entity flying through the countryside and killing for sport was summoned from a portal to another realm, he believes this creature is the key to learning how to open another rift and return home. Tracking down this beast and mastering his newfound magical abilities may be the only way for Miles to help save Rompu and get back to his family in Texas.


Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
26198476Graham Cavanaugh’s second wife, Audra, is everything his first wife was not. She considers herself privileged to live in the age of the hair towel, talks non-stop through her epidural, labour and delivery, invites the doorman to move in and the eccentric members of their son’s Origami Club to Thanksgiving. She is charming and spontaneous and fun but life with her can be exhausting.

In the midst of the day-to-day difficulties and delights of marriage and raising a child with Asperger’s, his first wife, Elspeth, reenters Graham’s life. Former spouses are hard to categorize – are they friends, enemies, old flames, or just people who know you really, really well? Graham starts to wonder: How can anyone love two such different women? Did he make the right choice? Is there a right choice?


The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
untitledWhen Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure–a silent companion–that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition–that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.

 


Because I had such a tough time choosing the best this year, here’s a special mention of those that almost but didn’t quite reach the Top Ten:

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli; The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker; Final Girls by Riley Sager; The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown; and The Cows by Dawn O’Porter.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

34200289Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. She goes to work, she goes home, and every weekend she treats herself to a couple of bottles of vodka and a frozen pizza. Everything is fine. Until an unlikely friendship and an unhealthy crush start to dredge up memories from the past, and a childhood trauma she has thoroughly suppressed.

This book is amazing. I loved everything about it. The writing style is strong and easy to read, while the story is perfection. I loved the characters: Eleanor and Raymond in particular. It took a little while to warm up to Eleanor, but once I got to know her better she really grew on me. The relationship between Eleanor and Raymond was a pleasure to read, and I found myself really genuinely caring about them, as though they were real people.

One of my favourite things about this book is actually the lack of romance. The story is about Eleanor, the way she lives, and her eventual recovery. Although the relationship between her and Raymond is charming and integral to the story, that isn’t what the book is about. It isn’t a romance novel, and is all the better for it.

The balance between humour and tragedy was very well done. Taking serious and sad topics and turning them into a warm, witty and enjoyable story takes some serious skill, and Gail Honeyman clearly has oodles of skill.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is full of emotional and impact, but none of it is forced or sentimental. It is a thoroughly enjoyable book that I would recommend to everyone.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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