book review


Book Review: Batman Nightwalker – Marie Lu


Series: DC Icons #2 (See my review of Wonder Woman Warbringer here!)
Release Date: January 2nd 2018
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 272
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: The lovely folks at Penguin Random House kindly sent me this book to review.

Synopsis

Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.

In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

Review

This is the second book in the DC Icons series. Anyone who has seen my review of Wonder Woman Warbringer or my favourite reads of 2017 will know that I absolutely adored it and couldn’t wait to get my hands on book two. Growing up I absolutely adored Batman, and I was so excited to see what Marie Lu would do with the story – she definitely didn’t disappoint.

The story is full of Gotham’s trademark darkness and corruption, but Bruce Wayne is just a young boy who lost his parents during a mugging gone wrong. One rash decision leads Bruce to community service and everything begins to hype up from there.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s completely different to Wonder Woman, which was quite funny and full of adventure. Nightwalker on the other hand is darker and more tense, and I was definitely hooked in from the start. The characters that Marie Lu has created are fantastic – I loved Madeline the Nightwalker that Bruce befriends. I also loved seeing Bruce’s relationships develop with characters we are already familiar with like Alfred and Harvey Dent.

The book is well paced and there’s plenty of action and mystery to keep you wanting more. The book isn’t a terribly long one, and I ended up reading it in a few sittings. I did prefer the previous book Wonder Woman as I felt this lacked the surprise twists and turns of Warbringer. That being said the book is still a terrific read and if you’re a fan of Batman or superhero fiction, it’s definitely one to pick up.


Book Review: How to Stop Time – Matt Haig

Release Date: July 6th 2017
Publisher: Canongate
Pages: 325
Find it: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: The folks at Canongate kindly gave me a copy of this book.

Synopsis:

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret.

He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he’d never witnessed them first-hand. He can try and tame the past that is fast catching up with him.

The only thing Tom mustn’t do is fall in love.

Review:

I was really struck by the eye-catching cover for How to Stop Time and so when I picked it up and read the synopsis I just knew I had to read it. I really loved this book and absolutely raced through it. The writing is so addictive that I honestly couldn’t put it down. I loved the premise of this book, mainly because it was a unique spin on the being who lives for centuries idea. Tom is not immortal, he simply ages slower than the rest of humanity. It’s a rare condition, and this idea makes the book seem all the more believable.

I loved reading about Tom in different time periods, as he interacts with some of those most well known in history, each time period really comes alive and Haig’s writing really brings out the sights, sounds and smells of those periods. I think it’s definitely a mark of a fantastic story and a fantastic writer that each time period is so distinctive and vivid. The book is of course split into two different points, one from Tom’s past as he adapts to live in different periods, and his present day life as a history teacher in London.

This book was really the kind of book that sucked me in for hours on end, and definitely stayed with me after I finished reading it. There’s been plenty of hype about this book, and in this case I can say it is absolutely justified. It’s beautiful and will make you happy and sad in equal measure. Tom is a wonderful protagonist and this is a stunning book. This is my first time reading a book by Matt Haig, but after this whirlwind it definitely won’t be my last.


Book Review: Spontaneous – Aaron Starmer


Release Date: May 16th 2017
Publisher: Canongate
Pages: 368
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I received a proof of this book from the folks at Canongate.

Synopsis:

Mara’s senior year is proving to be a lot less exciting than she’d hoped, until the day – KABAM! – Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period. Katelyn is the first, but she won’t be the last senior to explode without warning or explanation. The body count grows and the search is on for a reason, while the students continue to pop like balloons. But if bombs or terrorists or a government conspiracy aren’t to blame, what is?

With the help of her oldest friend, her new boyfriend, a power ballad and a homemade disco ball, will Mara make it to graduation in one piece? It’s going to be one hell of a year, where the only test is how to stay alive and where falling in love might be the worst thing you can do . . .

Review:

This was such a fun and quirky YA read and I raced right through it. The story follows Mara as she’s finishing her last year at high school in a quiet American town. Things go from bad to worse when her classmates start exploding, and no one can figure out why – or who’s going to be next. When I read the premise I wasn’t sure this was going to be for me, but the spontaneous combustion plot works really well and I found myself really enjoying this unique little book.

The book is divided into really short chapters (which is great for ‘oh I’ll just read one more…”). The book is full of bleak, dark humour and I really enjoyed that about Spontaneous. The characters are dealing with such a horrific event, but they power through to try and save the rest of their class. I also loved that weaved in the story was the usual YA tropes like new relationships, friendship and finding yourself.  Spontaneous is a clever little book and one I think YA readers will really enjoy.

The book is told from the point of view of main protagonist Mara, who is rude, says exactly what she thinks and ultimately hilarious. I loved seeing the story unfold from her perspective – how her friendship with Tess and relationship with Dylan in particular are fascinating to watch and excellently plotted. If you’re looking for a fun and quick YA read – and one on a topic you’ve probably never read anything about (I mean how many YA books are there about spontaneous combustion really?) then Spontaneous should definitely be your next read.


Book Review: Behind the Lie – Amanda James


Release Date: 21st April 2017
Publisher: HQ Digital
Pages: 208
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I won a copy of this book on Twitter.

Synopsis:

Who can you trust, when you can’t trust yourself?

Holly West has turned her life around. She’s found a successful and loving husband in Simon and is expecting twins. She is definitely a woman who has taken back control of her future.

Until she gives birth, only for one twin to survive. Holly can’t let it go.

Holly’s world is in a tailspin and suddenly she can’t trust herself or anyone else. No one believes her, not her husband or her best friend. Because she thinks she knows the truth…her son is still alive and she won’t stop until she finds him.

Review:

When I read the synopsis for this I thought it sounded like a really great read, but unfortunately it just wasn’t for me. I thought the plot was a really fantastic premise. If your child had been taken and you couldn’t prove it who do you trust? How do you get someone to believe you when you aren’t even sure yourself? I found parts of the plot a little unrealistic, but overall it was an exciting plot that was well paced.

One of the things about this book was that I guessed the ending almost immediately. This put me off a little bit, as I was pretty much just waiting for a reveal I already knew was coming. I thought the book was written well, but I didn’t enjoy the story as much when I knew exactly what was going to happen. The one other thing that kind of put me off this book was that most of the characters are really unlikeable. I didn’t like Holly at all, or connect with her in any way. Her husband is horrible and  the on again off again boyfriend Jowan didn’t click for me either. I did really like the settings, and the comparison between beautiful freeing Cornwall – where Holly wants to be, and foggy and restrictive London where she has to be.

I think this book definitely has lots of potential, and I know a lot of psychological thriller fans will absolutely adore this. I don’t want to say too much about the story line because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone , but the plot is well devised and there are a few twists along the way that I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy. Overall however, this one just wasn’t for me.


Book Review: One of the Boys – Daniel Magariel


Release Date: 6th April 2017
Publisher: Granta Books
Pages: 160
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Granta kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

The three of them—a twelve-year-old boy, his older brother, their father—have won the war: the father’s term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their Kansas home and drive through the night to Albuquerque, eager to begin again, united by the thrilling possibility of carving out a new life together. The boys go to school, join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. But soon the little missteps—the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters—become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching their father change, grow erratic, then violent.

Review:

This was a really fascinating book that stayed with me long after I’d finished reading it. The book follows the lives of two young brothers as they move to a new town and a new life with their father. This book really doesn’t hold anything back, and shines a light into the deepest parts of this dysfunctional family dynamic. One of the Boys is quite a short read, it’s only around 160 pages, and yet there is so much contained within those pages.

One of the Boys is a wonderfully written book, and the characters are what truly brings the book alive. You definitely get attached, feeling a whole range of things – at times I felt anger, at others pity and sadness. It is a heartbreaking story, and one you aren’t likely to forget. Told from the perspective of the youngest son (the characters are not named), the book is a fast paced and hard hitting read. I read One of the Boys in one afternoon and I think that made the story even more intense, as the tension continued to build and build. If you’re planning to read this one, definitely set aside some time to read it in one go.

This book is by no means an easy read – you question how a father can treat his children that way, and the bleak reality of this story, but nevertheless it is a fascinating read, and one that touches on so many subjects – drugs, abuse and relationships to name but a few. If you’re looking for a book you can read in a single sitting but will stay with you long after, One of the Boys is definitely the captivating book you’re looking for.


Book Review: The Mother of All Questions – Rebecca Solnit


Release Date: May 25th 2017
Publisher: Granta Books
Pages: 176
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Granta kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Following on from the success of Men Explain Things to Me comes a new collection of essays in which Rebecca Solnit opens up a feminism for all of us: one that doesn’t stigmatize women’s lives, whether they include spouses and children or not; that brings empathy to the silences in men’s lives as well as the silencing of women’s lives; celebrates the ways feminism has shifted in recent years to reclaim rape jokes, revise canons, and rethink our everyday lives.

Review:

This is the first book by Rebecca Solnit that I have read. I’ve heard such fascinating things about Men Explain Things to Me so I jumped at the chance to read the follow up. In this selection of essays Solnit touches on a number of different topics, including silence, rape jokes and the way in which rape victims are often seen as partly to blame.

The essays were intelligently written and I found them very enlightening. My one issue with this book is that there is quite a bit of repetition. Some of the essays reference previous essays in the book and provide a summary of what I have just previously written. I’m aware that this is because the essays featured in different places before they were collated, but I found it a tad grating to have so much repetition.

The writing is easy to follow, it isn’t too overly complex and really breaks down our society and drills at the heart of many of the problems we face. I particularly enjoyed “Men Explain Lolita to Me” and the discussions around books that women should not bother reading. I definitely think this book is essential reading for any feminist, and I’m definitely planning on picking up some of Solnit’s previous writings. This book is passionate, thought-provoking and definitely the best non-fiction book I have read in 2017.


Book Review: Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye – Tania del Rio & Will Staehle


Series: Warren the 13th #1
Publisher: Quirk Books
Pages: 224
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Quirk Books kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

Meet Warren the 13th, a cursed 12-year-old Victorian bellhop who’s terribly unlucky . . . yet perpetually optimistic, hard-working, and curious. Orphan Warren’s pride and joy is his family’s hotel, but he’s been miserable ever since his evil Aunt Anaconda took over the management. Anaconda believes a mysterious treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye is hidden somewhere on the grounds, and she’ll do anything to find it. If Warren wants to preserve his family’s legacy, he’ll need to find the treasure first—if the hotel’s many strange and wacky guests don’t beat him to it! This middle-grade adventure features gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page and a lavish two-column Victorian design that will pull young readers into a spooky and delightful mystery.

Review:

This beautiful hardback book has been on my TBR shelf for a little while now, so when I ended up with a day off on Halloween, I knew it was the perfect time to start on this terrific series. I must say that the illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning, and the layout and design is just terrific. It makes for pure enjoyment reading Warren the 13th, and I am hooked on his story. ~

The book is the perfect children’s/Middle Grade story. There’s plenty of adventure as Warren looks after his hotel, and the story is chalk full of magic and mystery. There’s witches, strange creatures and fascinating contraptions. The story moves along at a good pace, and it’s exciting to see Warren complete all the tasks in order to save his home. I loved the setting of this strange Victorian hotel, it was beautifully described and illustrated, and it certainly put me in a spooky Halloween mood!

I also adored the characters. Aunt Anaconda is a perfectly evil villain that both adults and children will love. I particularly liked Warren’s tutor, the old Mr Friggs who hides himself in the library. Our main protagonist Warren is a magnificent main character, a young man trying to look after his family legacy, and protect those he cares about. If you’re looking for a fun and charming read this autumn, I guarantee you’ll love Warren the 13th from start to finish. The book comes to a satisfying ending, but this is only the beginning on Warren’s tale. I for one can’t wait to find out what’s next in store for Warren and his friends in Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods!


Book Review: Seeing Red – Lina Meruane


Release Date: August 3rd 2017
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Pages: 170
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I obtained a copy of this book from ReadersFirst

Synopsis:

Lucina, a young Chilean writer, has moved to New York to pursue an academic career. While at a party one night, something that her doctors had long warned might happen finally occurs: her eyes haemorrhage. Within minutes, blood floods her vision, reducing her sight to sketched outlines and tones of grey, rendering her all but blind. As she begins to adjust to a very different life, those who love her begin to adjust to a very different woman – one who is angry, raw, funny, sinister, sexual and dizzyingly alive.

Review:

This was a bit of an unusual read for me. This isn’t the kind of thing I would normally pick up, but they eye catching cover definitely stood out, and after reading the first impression on ReadersFirst, I dived right in. The book is very beautifully written and explores some really interesting things – when your life is altered so completely, how do you cope? It was fascinating to what Lucina as she attempted to adjust to life as almost blind.

The book is an intense read, and packs a lot into the small 170 pages. The one thing that really stuck out for me is the effects that Lucina’s blindness has on her relationships – friends, family and her partner all become altered in the face of her disease.

The book is at times harrowing and sad, Lucina is a really fascinating character and the stream of consciousness style of the book really lets you inside her thoughts and feelings. She’s angry and funny and determined, all things that make for a wonderful protagonist.

The book is broken up into very short chapters – only a few pages at a time and I did find these short chapters that then often jump to different locations and times a little jarring, but overall this semi-autobiographical novel is a beautiful and intense read that I enjoyed immensely.


Book Review: Bloodprint – Ausma Zehanat Khan


Series: The Khorasan Archives #1
Release Date: October 19th 2017
Publisher: Harper  Voyager UK
Pages: 400
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: Harper Voyager kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis:

In the lands of Candour, the Talisman threaten the authority of the Council with their growing indoctrination of the masses based on their rigid, oppressive interpretation of the Claim; a text orally transmitted from generation to generation, which they have appropriated in order to gain power. Tasked by the Council to fight this is Arian, aided by companion Sinnia and young boy Wafa, who must find the Bloodprint, legendary manuscript the Claim is based on, in order to stop the Talisman and re-establish the truth.

Review:

Bloodprint is the first in a new series by crime author Ausma Zehanat Khan. I confess I’ve always wanted to read The Unquiet Dead and haven’t quiet gotten around to buying a copy (that has since been rectified). Going into The Bloodprint I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but from the get go I was absolutely hooked, and I loved this book from beginning to end.

This book is steeped in blood and action – there is plenty of fast-paced plot to keep the fantasy fan happy, but The Bloodprint is so much more than that. With women living in a male dominated world – they are treated like slaves and not allowed to speak unless permitted by their husbands – is in many ways relevant to today’s media.

One of things I did love most about this book was the immense detail that Ausma put in. The book is very finely crafted, with the history and mythology really bringing the book to life. I’d love to spend an hour picking Ausma’s brain to find out where all these fascinating ideas came from. Her research must have taken a really long time to complete, and it really adds to this excellent story. The Claim is similarly a really fascinating aspect of this book. A magic that celebrates the written word is not something that I’ve come across before, and I really loved this unique concept.

Characters can make or break a book, and The Bloodprint is no exception. Our two main characters Arian and Sinnia are fabulous. Warrior women fighting to break slave trains and save the land from Talisman rule, their sense of companionship and friendship is a wonderful aspect of this book. I also similarly loved Wafa, the young child that Arian and Sinnia rescue. There is also a romantic element of the book (which I won’t say too much about so as not to ruin anything) but it is not in your face, and adds to the story without taking over.

There;s also plenty of mystery, and the reader is left with more than a few questions (I needed book two yesterday). There’s also a few shock twists a long the way, and not everything is as it seems. It really strikes home that in a world fraught with danger, who can you really trust? Each person is often out to further their own gains. I must also say that the cover design is gorgeous, my proof copy is beautiful but I cannot wait to go and buy a finished one for my favourites shelf. This is a truly superb read, and definitely sits in the top of my favourite books of 2017.


Book Review: The Book of Fire – Michelle Kenney

 

Release Date: 27th August 2017
Publisher: HQ Digital
Pages: 384
Find it on: Amazon. Goodreads.
Source: I was kindly given a copy of this book at YALC.

Synopsis:

Life outside the domes is not possible. At least that’s what Insiders are told.

Twins Eli and Talia shouldn’t exist. They’re Outsiders.

Their home is a secret. Their lives are a secret. Arafel is a secret.

An unexpected forest raid forces Talia into a desperate mission to rescue her family while protecting the sacred Book of Arafel from those who would use it as a weapon. As Talia and her life long friend Max enter the dome, she makes some unexpected discoveries, and allies, in the form of rugged Insider August, that will change the course of her life forever.

She’ll stop at nothing to save her family but will she sacrifice her heart in the process?

Review:

This is a vivid and wonderfully written dystopian fantasy. The one thing that I really adored about Book of Fire is the imaginative setting and exciting plot. After a nuclear war, only those who live inside the dome are supposed to exist, but Talia and her family exist on the outside, and they thrive in the natural environment. When part of her family are captured, Thalia has to venture into the dome to save the ones she love. But all is not as it seems inside the domes, and she has some tough choices to make in order to survive and find her way out. I really loved the idea for this book. On one side the outsiders, those living in harmony with nature, living in treehouses and working with the land. On the other those that used technology to live an advanced and clinical life.

Book of Fire is a really interesting read, and it puts forth some really interesting questions about the way we live and the advancements of technology – just because we can doesn’t mean we should. The plot was well paced, with plenty of mystery and action to keep the reader intrigued. There were a few times when I just couldn’t put the book down, so desperate was I to know what was coming next. The world building is also superb, laying down the foundations and ideas well, without dumping all the information on the reader.

The characters in Book of Fire were also fantastically written. Thalia who will stop at nothing to get her family back, her wise caring grandfather and my personal favourite is definitely the mysterious August, he’s part of the elite inside the dome but he isn’t all that he seems. I thought the characters felt very human, the make mistakes and stupid decisions, they aren’t perfect all rounded people. These excellent characters are really what made the book for me and I was rooting for them almost from the get go. Book of Fire is a fantastic read and I really can’t wait to find out what’s next in store.