Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman

31199021._SY475_Fat Charlie Nancy’s life is pretty normal, until the day his father drops dead in a karaoke bar. Returning from London to Florida for the funeral, Fat Charlie makes a series of unexpected discoveries, including that his father was a god, and that he has a secret brother he never knew about. Fat Charlie unwittingly invites his brother, Spider, into his life only for him to decide to take it over completely, leaving Fat Charlie with little option but to take drastic measures to get his flat, his fiancé, and his life back.

I really loved Anansi Boys. I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan, and I think this might be my favourite yet. I had read American Gods before this, so I was familiar with Anansi already, but that is my no means necessary. This is NOT a sequel to American Gods, and the fact that Anansi appears in both is the only real link between the two.

The characters are excellent (as Gaiman’s characters usually are). I really liked Fat Charlie, and the way his confidence and personality grew throughout the story was very effective and realistic. Spider, Daisy, Rosie and her mum were all also brilliant, but the other top stand-out characters for me were definitely Maeve and Mrs Higgler.

The way race is represented in this book is, in my opinion, incredibly well done. All the main characters are black, but this isn’t explicitly mentioned for most of the book. Instead, it’s implied through their language and behaviours. I really liked that the protagonists were black without it being a gimmick or key plot feature (beyond the context of Anansi being an African god).

The plot isn’t particularly epic or fantastical. It is, essentially, one man trying to solve the problem of his charismatic brother, but with some mythology and magic thrown in. The magical aspect of this book is particularly good. I loved the way Spider’s magic worked; with things being a certain way or people thinking things just because he says so. He isn’t casting spells or really ‘doing magic’ as such, but he’s the son of a god, so if he says something is so then it must be.

I 100% recommend Anansi Boys to all Gaiman fans, fantasy or mythology fans, and all fiction readers in general. It’s Gaiman at his best, with all the thought-provoking depth of American Gods but much lighter and more humorous.

Finally, I read the version illustrated by Daniel Egneus, and the visuals are stunning. They complement the style and the story so incredibly well, I definitely recommend reading this particular version.

Goodreads | Amazon

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires – Grady Hendrix

49119425._SY475_The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a supernatural thriller set in a suburban community in Southern USA. The story centres around Patricia, a housewife who has recently moved to the area with her family, but is dissatisfied with her quiet suburban life. The one saving grace is her weekly book club meetings with the other wives in the neighbourhood, where they discuss true-crime and suspense novels. Then, a newcomer arrives in the neighbourhood and Patricia’s life is turned upside down. She, and her book club, are the only things standing in the way of a dangerous and terrifying threat.

I’d never read Grady Hendrix before, but I certainly will again. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is a real gem. The plot is strong, while the supernatural horror elements are really effective without being overly gory, and the writing is just phenomenal.

I also think the characters are brilliant. I could have read an entire book about Patricia and the other women just going about their daily lives and having their book club meetings, without any of the more intricate plot developments – that’s how good they are.

Some parts of the story were really frustrating. Namely, the husbands showing up and spoiling everything (of course). But the key reason it was so frustrating was that I was so invested in the characters and their story. Even the women who backed down against their husbands and didn’t help Patricia for the majority of the book were somehow still likeable, and it was easy to understand why they didn’t want to get involved. But, ultimately, this is a book of female solidarity and sisterhood (plus vampires), and I loved it.

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

Goodreads | Amazon

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep – H. G. Parry

50365831._SY475_Charles Sutherland has the ability to read characters out of their books. For his entire life, he has had to hide this ability, and his brother Robert has repeatedly had to come to his aid, to catch and put characters back in their books when he’s bought them out by accident. However, when Charley accidentally brings Uriah Heep into the real world, he comes with a warning: A new world is coming. But what will happen to the one that’s already here when it does?

I looooooooved this book. Loved loved loved it. The concept – characters being read out of their books and into the real world – isn’t new, but the way Parry does it is. The focus being on Dickensian characters worked really well, and I thought Parry’s analysis of different interpretations of the characters was really interesting. The beloved characters have clearly been well researched, and remain true to their original incarnations, but with more comedic personalities.

Rob and Charley were both fantastic lead characters, while Millie and the supporting fictional cast were delightful. I loved the Mr Darcys and Heathcliff, in particular.

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep is funny, exciting and very well-written. It isn’t exactly a fast-paced story, but it’s very eventful and captivating throughout. It’s the perfect mix of mystery, family drama and Victorian literature – a bibliophile’s dream.

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

Goodreads | Amazon

Survivors – G.X. Todd

44594516._SY475_In Book #3 of The Voices, the war between people who hear voices and those who don’t is coming to a head. When Pilgrim wakes up in a shallow grave, he can’t remember who he is or how he got there. But there is a voice in his head which tells him what he needs to do: Find Lacey. As Pilgrim travels north in search of Lacey, he finds himself back in places he had long forgotten, with people he had left far behind. War is coming, and he will need all the friends he can get.

Survivors is the third book in one of my favourite series of all time. The characters are unbelievably good – I was beyond happy to have Pilgrim back (apologies for the slight spoiler, but yes, Pilgrim is alive), though I did miss Lacey in this book. But that’s part of the brilliance of this series. Each book so far has focused on different characters so, although I missed reading about some of my favourites, the story stays fresh and interesting.

It is 100% necessary to read the first two books before this one: it would not work at all as a standalone novel. It had been quite a long time for me between reading this book and the previous, and I did struggle a bit at times to remember who was who – because we do meet characters that we’ve come across before. Luckily, the story is so good that, in the end, it didn’t really matter that I was a bit lost at times. I completely loved it.

Todd’s writing is phenomenal, and has only improved book-by-book. The world-building and character development go a long way to create a totally immersive reading experience. Plot-wise, not a huge amount actually happens until later in the book. Instead, we get an insight into Pilgrim’s past and how he got to where he is now. But the lack of a completely action-packed plot does not lesson how good this book is at all. If anything, the change of pace from books 1 and 2 worked remarkably well.

The Voices is a must-read series for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction.

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

Goodreads | Amazon

War of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

44780383._SY475_Following on from the events in book #2, Reign of Mist, tensions are running high across the realm. Bleak and Casimir are searching for the one thing that might give them an advantage over Ines, while the others are preparing for battle.

The Oremere Chronicles has been one of my all-time favourite fantasy series. It has everything: magic, action, humour, spunky characters, giant wild cats, friendship, betrayal, epic battles, a little bit of romance, fantastic world building and great plot development.

There are so many strong female characters. These books are very feminist and filled to the brim with powerful women, but the male characters aren’t pushed to the side or forgotten. Every single character brings something significant to the story, and they all have unique, memorable personalities despite there being so many different characters. I could go on for hours about each character individually, but my best advice would be to read the book and fall in love with them yourself.

There is a teeny bit of romance, but that is very much a minor element in the plot. It was actually a cross between very enjoyable and quite frustrating because I shipped everyone in this book. Especially Bleak – I shipped her with almost every other character: Dash, Bren, Fiore, Cazimir, Henri, even Swinton once or twice. To be honest, I think I’d have been happy with any outcome on that front.

Being the third and final part of the trilogy, the story comes to an eventful – and at times traumatic – climax. I won’t spoil it, but prepare to weep in between moments of triumph.

Overall, this series was truly excellent. I loved every second of all three books, and War of Mist did not let the series down at all. It might even have been my favourite. I can’t wait to see what Helen Scheuerer comes up with next.

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

Goodreads | Amazon

Reign of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

39216289.jpgIn book #2 of The Oremere Chronicles, it is all kicking off. As more people learn the truth behind the deadly mist and King Arden’s treachery, war is brewing. Scattered across continents, Bleak and her friends are forced to choose sides, forge their own alliances and prepare themselves for the battles ahead.

I adored book #1 in this series, Heart of Mist, so I was really excited to get straight on with reading book #2. It didn’t disappoint.

At the start of the book, all our main players are separated and spread out across the continents. This meant there were a few different threads to follow simultaneously. Initially, I was concerned that this would make the story too complicated (and one of my favourite things about this series has been the relationships between characters, so splitting them up was not so good), but fortunately the whole gang was reunited fairly quickly and all my concerns were dispelled.

The plot progresses much quicker in this book. There are a lot of characters to follow and a lot of politics to cover, but none of it felt rushed or lacking in detail. The pacing was pretty much spot on to keep the story moving and maintain excitement. The story really comes to life through Scheuerer’s brilliant writing, fantastic characters and strong world-building.

I haven’t enjoyed a YA fantasy series this much in so long.

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

Goodreads | Amazon

Heart of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

34865933All Bleak wants is a cure for her power. The ability to hear the thoughts of others may seem like a gift, but when the only way to drown it out is through copious amounts of alcohol, it’s more of a curse. Despite never telling anyone of her abilities, Bleak is suddenly snatched from her home by the King’s Army and summoned to the capital. But the journey doesn’t quite go according to plan as Bleak is rescued by the queen of a nation if female warriors, the Valian Kindred. Saved from one form of captivity and pulled straight into another, Bleak finds herself right in the middle of a power-struggle, with a much bigger role than she ever could have anticipated.

It’s really difficult to guess which YA/New Adult Fantasy books are going to be good, and which are going to be mediocre. As a serious fantasy lover, I haven’t come across many that I thought were bad, but truly great ones are few and far between. Heart of Mist is one of them. I absolutely loved it, from cover to cover.

I pretty much loved every character. Bleak was probably my least favourite, but she’s got tough competition and, with the full cast supporting her, she’s a fantastic protagonist. I adored Fiore from the moment we meet him and thought he would be my instant favourite, but then we were introduced to the Valians and suddenly everyone was my favourite. Even Swinton really grew on me as the story progressed.

The plot is fairly slow paced, but because the characters were so fantastic and I know there’s more to come in the series, I was totally fine with the pacing. The story has a good amount of depth to it, with the main story line being backed up by a couple of mysteries which I’m really looking forward to finding out more about.

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

Goodreads | Amazon

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.

Goodreads | Amazon

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.

Goodreads | Amazon

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.

Goodreads | Amazon