The Mystery of Three Quarters – Sophie Hannah

38448673In this brand new Hercule Poirot novel, four people have received identical letters accusing them of the murder of Barnabus Panby, signed by none other than Poirot himself. But Poirot never sent these letters, or has ever even heard of a Barnabus Pandy. So begins an inquiry to discover whether Mr Pandy was really murdered, and who sent the fraudulent letters?

Sophie Hannah’s revival of Hercule Poirot is difficult to criticise. I have always been a fan of the TV version of Poirot played by David Suchet, though I admit I have never actually read one of Agatha Christie’s Poirot Novels. Because of this, I can’t compare the new Poirot to the original, but I can say that he matched up to the one in my head very nicely. He is as wonderfully eccentric and self-impressed as I remembered, and I loved him.

Likewise, the other characters were exactly what you would hope for in a Poirot novel. Hercule’s trusty sidekick, Catchpool (whose viewpoint we follow throughout the book), was a particular favourite of mine. He was able to point out Poirot’s many flaws from a position that didn’t create conflict or hinder the storytelling, while his narrative voice was very likeable and strong.

It took me a while to get into both the writing style and the plot but, once I did, I really enjoyed it. The story line was quite straightforward with no particular twists, but there was a good balance between mystery and light-hearted humour, making it an entertaining read.  I wouldn’t say it grabbed me enough to make me particularly want to read more of the new Hercule Poirot mysteries, but it was very enjoyable as a one-off.

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

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The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

35663816This family drama follows the live of four siblings who visit a fortune teller who tells each of them the date they will die. Burdened by this knowledge, the Gold siblings make very different decisions about how to live their lives. Simon and Klara both run away to San Francisco to follow their dreams, while Daniel becomes an army doctor and Varya turns to science.

It took me a really long time to get into the story. I found that for the whole first part, following Simon, I didn’t really care about the characters or what was going on. It wasn’t until Klara’s section that I got more interested, but then I began to lose interest again reading about Daniel and Varya.

The Immortalists is based on an interesting concept and had quite an intriguing opening, but after the first death the plot became surprisingly predictable and was pretty depressing throughout. None of the Gold children lived happy lives and it wasn’t much fun to read.

I saw so many positive reviews and comments about this book before I read it, but I was really disappointed in the end. I could just never get into it enough to enjoy the story or develop much interest in the characters.

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

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Vox – Christina Dalcher

40023560A new government is in power and life has changed drastically, but only if you’re a woman. They’re no longer allowed to work, to own a passport, or even to have their own bank account. But most significantly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write, and all women are permitted to speak only 100 words a day. In this terrifying dystopian future, scientist Jean is determined to reclaim her voice. For herself, for her daughter and for all women.

I loved the concept of this book. It’s along the same vein as books like The Handmaid’s Tale, but from a different angle: language. It is a truly horrifying possibility, and the slow oppression of women in this book is disturbingly believable.

I did have two main issues that hindered my full enjoyment of this book. Firstly, the main character: Jean. She was just so unlikable. She was annoying and quite aggressively opinionated, but incapable of making much of a stand, which leads on to my second issue. The author obviously finds language fascinating and has extensive knowledge on the subject, but at times this came through too heavily via the main character, making her seem like a know-it-all. I don’t begrudge her interest in language or her knowledge (I also studied English Language at university and find it fascinating), but I didn’t enjoy the preachy way it came out in her writing.

It’s difficult not to find flaws in dystopian books of this nature, and even more difficult to pick out the aspects I did enjoy. However, I got though this book in quite a short space of time because it was certainly very readable and puts forward a disturbing and thought-provoking idea.

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

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Moira Ashe: Kindred Spirits – Brendon Bertram

40898924.jpgHaving been exposed as a werewolf and forced to abandon her life in Quinn, Moira Ashe flees to Trident Bay in the hope of finding transport across the sea. Denied by every ship in the port, she turns to Caspian, the chieftain of Trident Bay, who enlists her help in defeating the legendary Terror of Trident Bay. Caught up in an uprising and a surprising romance, Moira’s plans to escape go awry and the risk of her identity being discovered increases.

I enjoyed this book immensely, as I did the first. It is short and sweet with an action-packed and fast story. As this is the second book in the Moira Ashe series, I would say it is important to read the first book: Enemy Within. They flow directly into each other and a lot of the plot and character development would be missed if you dove straight into book #2.

Surprisingly, in this one, there was somehow time for there to be a couple of dull parts. In such a short book, I didn’t know this was possible, but the parts where Moira was learning how to fight with an axe and, frankly, the romantic and sexual aspects were pretty boring.

Although I didn’t love the romantic angle of the story, I very much enjoyed the political plotline, with the peasant uprising and the secret committee meetings. They added an extra layer to the story on top of Moira’s general escape plan and fight against the Terror.

This is a great series, very fast-paced and quick to get through.

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

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Do Not Disturb – Claire Douglas

40194371.jpgHaving opened a hotel in a small village in Wales with her mother, Kirsty anticipates some challenges. Living and working under the same roof as her mother at the same time as raising her two daughters and trying desperately not to put any stress onto her husband, who has suffered from severe depression in the past, certainly isn’t easy. What she doesn’t anticipate, however, is the return of ghosts from the past and their guest-house becoming the scene of a murder.

Do Not Disturb is incredibly suspenseful. The twists and secrets are revealed very slowly throughout the story which, although frustrating because I spent much of the book unable to work out what was going on, definitely kept me interested. Claire Douglas’ writing is always skilful; she definitely knows how to write a psychological thriller.

The characters were a little problematic for me. Kirsty, Adrian, Kirsty’s mother and Selena were all pretty difficult to get along with. It made it hard to really support any characters, but at the same time it meant nobody was quite clearly innocent.

I especially enjoyed the reveal in this book. It was unexpected and entirely plausible. I was gripped throughout.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley 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 Winters – Lisa Gabriele

41554703Drawn into a whirlwind romance, a young woman moves into the grand, secluded mansion of her fiance, Max Winters. But the house is drenched in memories of his dead wife, Rebekah, and their teen daughter, Dani, is determined to make her life a living hell. As the future Mrs Winter’s fears grow, she is dragged further and further into the family’s dark secrets.

The Winters is apparently a re-telling of the classic novel Rebecca. This information doesn’t seem to be made as obvious as it perhaps should be. I haven’t read Rebecca so can’t make comparisons, but it feels important to note than the story isn’t entirely original.

The unnamed lead character is incredibly annoying. It also seems very unlikely that someone so self-deprecating and self-conscious would ever end up with a man like Max Winter. It frustrated me to no end that she let him shout at her and make unreasonable decisions like keeping the greenhouse locked without any explanation or discussion. Their relationship was very one-sided and I kind of hated her for being so weak and useless. Also, I didn’t see how she could have spent her whole life on an island and not have made a single friend or important relationship. Yes, she has no family, but how has she lived this long without a single friend or close acquaintance. I just didn’t find it believable.

I didn’t love this book, or particularly like it. But, I did read it all the way to the end, so it wasn’t completely bad.

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

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Sea of Rust – C. Robert Cargill

32617610.jpgThirty years since the humans lost the war against artificial intelligence, not a single human remains. But the robots do not live in peace. Two powerful supercomputers wage war against each other, absorbing free robots into enormous networks known as One World Intelligences (OWIs). Brittle is one such free-bot fighting to remain autonomous, picking apart robot carcasses in the sea of rust to find the parts she needs to survive.

Post-apocolyptic, robot stories are not uncommon, but Sea of Rust somehow manages to bring something fresh to the genre. The personalities of the robots are complex and engaging (my favourite: the Cheshire King), bringing humour and tenderness to an otherwise quite dark story.

The AIs did appear to be surprisingly unintelligent. In a world inhabited entirely by robots, it didn’t make that much sense that they didn’t manufacture new parts themselves, or that they didn’t all reach the same calculated conclusions on how to live peacefully. On the whole, they acted an awful lot like the humans they had wiped out.

Other than that, the story (in my opinion) was very well thought out and believable. Every element of the story of the destruction of humanity and the rise of the robots makes complete sense and is entirely (and rather scarily) plausible. It is only the robot’s failure to survive afterwards that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

There is a lot of action and drama. Sea of Rust would make an excellent movie.

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

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A House of Ghosts – W. C. Ryan

40789530It’s 1914, and Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering on his island off the coast of Devon in order to try to contact his two sons who were lost in the war. However, his guests each have their own agendas and, with the arrival of a storm, find themselves trapped on the island with the ghosts, their own secrets, and a killer.

The surface appearance of this book is that it is a ghost story. The title and cover are a little but misleading, because it is, in reality, it’s a murder mystery novel with themes of espionage, most easily compared to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It is a bunch of different characters, bought together for a weekend of seances and spiritual contact, trapped on an isolated island when a murder takes place. With the exception of Donovan and Kate – our two detectives sent to the island on a mission by the military – every character has a motive, so every character is a suspect. There’s plenty of tension and red-herrings to keep the story interesting.

I liked Kate and Donovan and their budding romance. They made a good team and I would be interested in more books following them on future missions. I also really liked Count Orlov, but some of the other characters were a bit weaker and not so well developed throughout the book (Madame Feda and Captain Miller-White, in particular).

Despite not exactly being a key feature of the story, the ghostly elements do add a lot of atmosphere and really pad out the plot which was, at times, quite weak. I enjoyed this book, but I found it a bit too long and I did get lost occasionally trying to work out the point of every direction the plot went in.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley 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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