Book Review: The White Hare – Michael Fishwick

Book Review: The White Hare – Michael Fishwick

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Release Date:
March 9th 2017
Publisher: Heads of Zeus
Pages: 256
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 2..5/5

Synopsis

A beautifully written coming-of-age novel from an acclaimed literary voice.

A lost boy. A dead girl, and one who is left behind.

Robbie doesn’t want anything more to do with death, but life in a village full of whispers and secrets can’t make things the way they were.

When the white hare appears, magical and fleet in the silvery moonlight, she leads them all into a legend, a chase, a hunt. But who is the hunter and who the hunted?

In The White Hare, Michael Fishwick deftly mingles a coming-of-age story with mystery, myth and summer hauntings.

Review

book cover - 2019-03-17T225218.697This book is a quick and interesting read that touches on that difficult topic of grief. The book follows Robbie, a young boy who’s dealing with the death of his mother and the remarriage of his father. The book is a short one – under two hundred pages and most likely you’ll get caught in this fascinating story and read it in one sitting.

The White Hare is a bit of a strange book, it is at times eerie, and I wasn’t always 100% sure what was going on, or where the plot was heading. I enjoyed the mixture of folklore, magic and realism, but I did feel like the ending left me with quite a few questions. That being said, it is a lovely read, watching the characters grow as they deal with the grief of losing their loved ones – Robbie’s friend Mags is dealing with a death also.

I really liked the characters in The White Hare – Robbie who acts out because he misses his mum, best friend Mags who knows more than anyone else about the white hare myth, and Robbie’s dad who’s just trying to do his best. They are very realistic characters, each trying to deal with their grief in the best way they know how.

I loved the idea of the white hare legend – which I won’t say too much about so as not to spoil the story – but I would have loved to know more about this myth and where it all started. I thought The White Hare had a really nice satisfactory ending, and overall the book is a good read. If you’re stuck in doors on a wintery Sunday this month, The White Hare is that perfect magical and heartwarming read to get caught up in.
3 stars

Book Review: The Devil’s Highway – Gregory Norminton

Book Review: The Devil’s Highway – Gregory Norminton

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Release Date:
January 25th 2018
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Pages: 224
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Three journeys. Three thousand years. One destination. The Devil’s Highway is a thrilling, epic and intimate tale of love, loss, fanaticism, heroism and sacrifice.

A Roman road, an Iron Age hill fort, a hand-carved flint, and a cycle of violence that must be broken.

An ancient British boy, discovering a terrorist plot, must betray his brother to save his tribe. In the twenty-first century, two people – one traumatised by war, another by divorce – clash over the use and meaning of a landscape. In the distant future, a gang of feral children struggles to reach safety in a broken world. Their stories are linked by one ancient road, the ‘Devil’s Highway’ in the heart of England: the site of human struggles that resemble one another more than they differ.

Spanning centuries, and combining elements of historical and speculative fiction with the narrative drive of pure thriller, this is a breathtakingly original novel that challenges our dearly held assumptions about civilisation.

Review

overThis is a fascinating little book that explores three different journeys at different time periods. At just over two hundred pages that’s quite a lot of ground to cover, but this short read is well paced and full of history and imagination. Spanning across three thousand years, all three perspectives have one destination in mind: The Devil’s Highway.

The three different time settings show life in Britain at completely different times. One is kind of present day setting featuring a young solider returned from Afghanistan, attempting to find a way to live a normal life as a civilian. There is also a future wasteland in which much of what we know of society has broken down, including speech. Finally there is a Roman perspective, in which a group of rebels are attempting to launch an attack on their Roman overseers.

Each story feels realistic and well thought out, the characters are well portrayed and Norminton subtly weaves the similarities between each time period, while still making them feel unique and interesting. Although I enjoyed reading all three, I found the story of the Romans and the Celts to be the most fascinating.

I did find the wasteland future perspective a little difficult to enjoy, the breakdown of language makes it a bit of a difficult read, and that took away some of my enjoyment of the story. Overall I found this an engaging and enjoyable read. The Devil’s Highway is a really original read, and one that manages to pack a lot into such a small space. If you’re looking for a book that is clever and subtle, this should definitely be your next read.
3 stars

Book Review: The Reason You’re Alive – Matthew Quick

Book Review: The Reason You’re Alive – Matthew Quick

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Release Date:
July 5th 2017
Publisher: Piacador
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

After sixty-eight-year-old David Granger crashes his BMW, medical tests reveal a brain tumor that he readily attributes to his wartime Agent Orange exposure. He wakes up from surgery repeating a name no one in his civilian life has ever heard—that of a Native American soldier whom he was once ordered to discipline. David decides to return something precious he long ago stole from the man he now calls Clayton Fire Bear. It might be the only way to find closure in a world increasingly at odds with the one he served to protect. It might also help him finally recover from his wife’s untimely demise.

As David confronts his past to salvage his present, a poignant portrait emerges: that of an opinionated and goodhearted American patriot fighting like hell to stay true to his red, white, and blue heart, even as the country he loves rapidly changes in ways he doesn’t always like or understand. Hanging in the balance are Granger’s distant art-dealing son, Hank; his adoring seven-year-old granddaughter, Ella; and his best friend, Sue, a Vietnamese-American who respects David’s fearless sincerity.

Through the controversial, wrenching, and wildly honest David Granger, Matthew Quick offers a no-nonsense but ultimately hopeful view of America’s polarized psyche. By turns irascible and hilarious, insightful and inconvenient, David is a complex, wounded, honorable, and loving man.

The Reason You’re Alive examines how the secrets and debts we carry from our past define us; it also challenges us to look beyond our own prejudices and search for the good in us all.

Review

bookThis is a fascinating read from author Matthew Quick of Silver Linings Playbook fame. The story follows David Granger, a veteran of the Vietnam war. After his brain surgery to remove a tumour David attempts to right some of the wrongs he’s done in his life as well as salvage his relationship with his son Hank.

I’m not sure how I feel about this book. It was a really interesting read, David recounts some of the horrors of his experience in Vietnam, as well as his adjustment to civilian life. I have mixed feelings because I found it difficult to get on with our protagonist, he was brash and had some very pointed political and social opinions. I preferred the second half of the book much more to the first, particularly as the story started to unfold and you learn more about his life as banker and family man.

The plot is an interesting one, particularly relating to the mysterious Clayton Fire Bear that David mentions throughout the book. I like the personal way the book was written, almost as if the reader is having a conversation with the main character. This is my first book by Matthew Quick, and while I didn’t absolutely love it was a unique and interesting read, and I look forward to seeing more from this author.
3 stars

Book Review: The Island – M.A. Bennett

Book Review: The Island – M.A. Bennett

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Release Date: 25th July 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 304
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I was sent a copy of this book through ReadersFirst

Synopsis

Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand? And what kind of school ranks its students by how fast they can run round the school quad – however ancient that quad may be? When Link runs the slowest time in years, he immediately becomes the butt of every school joke. And some students are determined to make his life more miserable than others . . .

When a school summer trip is offered, Link can think of nothing worse than spending voluntary time with his worst tormentors. But when his parents say he can only leave Osney School – forever – if he goes on the trip, Link decides to endure it for the ultimate prize. But this particular trip will require a very special sort of endurance. The saying goes ‘No man is an island’ – but what if on that island is a group of teenagers, none of whom particularly like each other? When oppressive heat, hunger and thirst start to bite, everyone’s true colours will be revealed. Let the battle commence . . .

Review

I really enjoyed M.A. Bennett’s S.T.A.G.S, a story about an elite boarding school and a group with a penchant for blood sports. After reading the synopsis for The Island I was really looking forward to diving in but it turned out to be a completely different story to what I thought it was going to be.

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The story follows Link, a young school boy who is treated horribly by everyone at his school. He is bullied, victimised and made to feel inferior because he prefers books to sports. When he is forced to attend a ‘Preparation for Life’ summer camp, his plane crash lands, leaving Link and all his classmates stranded on a desert island. This time the roles are reversed as Link has the knowledge to survive on this small strip of land.

The story felt very Lord of the Flies and there were parts of it that I really enjoyed. It was paced well and I found the story really interesting. The main thing for me was that the characters were so unlikeable. Link was a horrible protagonist, the other kids on the island were typical stereotypes of people – the athlete bully who isn’t very smart, the side kick best friend who is hiding a secret and turns it on everyone else because he is scared he will also be bullied, the emo girl who doesn’t care and the beautiful girl who is only concerned with herself. I hoped that on the island they would become more than their stereotypes but that didn’t really feel like the case.

The story is well written and it was easy to dive in and out of. There are some plot twists along the way, though I guessed quite early on what was going to happen. There is also a last chapter which occurs many years after the events on the island. This chapter felt so unrealistic and so unlike the rest of the book in tone. It definitely felt like a departure from the power struggle and story of revenge. While this book wasn’t my favourite I did enjoy the parts on the island and the way they related music to how you view a person. If you’re a fan of adventure stories or light thrillers, this might be just the book you’re looking for.

Book Review: A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – Yaba Badoe

Book Review: A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – Yaba Badoe

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Release Date: 7th March 2018
Publisher: Zephyr
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Fourteen-year-old Sante isn’t sure where she comes from, but she has a recurring dream of escaping a shipwreck in a sea chest as a baby with her lifelong companion, golden eagle Priss. In the chest was an African bamboo flute, a drum and a dagger inlaid with diamonds. Sante was found and raised by Mama Rose, leader of a nomadic group of misfits and gypsies. They travel around contemporary southern Europe, living off-grid and performing circus tricks for money. Sante grows up alongside two twins, knife-thrower Cat and snake-charmer Cobra, whom she is in love with. During a performance in Cadiz, Sante recognises two men from her dream. They come after her to retrieve the treasures from the sea chest. Sante finds out that she is an Ashanti princess, whose parents probably perished in the shipwreck. After Cat rescues a beautiful red-haired girl called Scarlett from a gang, Mama Rose’s band are forced to flee the city. But Sante and Cobra stay behind, determined to find out more about her family and where she came from.

Review

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a magical realism novel that follows fourteen year old Sante and her friends as they live off the grid and travel around Europe. Sante has a recurring dream about a shipwreck and longs to know the meaning of her dreams and what really happened to her parents.

Untitled design (52)I really wanted to love this book, I thought it sounded like a really fascinating book and I loved the blend of real life and magic but in truth it fell a little flat for me. I thought the cover was stunning and the story was a wonderful mix of magic and folklore, but for I couldn’t connect with the characters and the plot felt a little chaotic for me.

Badoe has a really beautiful writing style and this was the part of the book I enjoyed the most. I liked our protagonist Sante well enough and she undergoes a massive amount of character development in the book but I just didn’t fall in love with the story the way I was really hoping to. I liked seeing her relationships with the rest of the circus troupe – how they look after each other and become such a close knit family.

The story highlights a lot of really important issues, focusing on human trafficking, refugees, friendship and family. The plot is pretty quick paced and the world building was interesting. Overall this book is a fascinating debut and I definitely want to read more from this author but was a bit on the disappointing side. If you’re a fan of magical realism or quick paced stories, this one might be just what you’re looking for.

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Book Review: My German Brother – Chico Buraque

Book Review: My German Brother – Chico Buraque

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Release Date: 5th April 2018
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 207
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Ciccio already has many problems: romantic failure, an older brother who seems intent on breaking the heart of every beautiful woman in São Paulo, a distant and larger-than-life father. When Ciccio finds, among the many of his father’s books that line the walls of their house, a troubling letter dated ‘December 21, 1931. Berlin’, his existential crisis only intensifies.

It seems that his father once had a child with another woman – a German son whose fate remains unclear. Ciccio sets out on a mission to locate his lost half-brother, and to win the respect of his father. But as Brazil’s military government cracks down on dissent, and rumours of arrests and disappearances spread, while Ciccio has been out looking for his German brother, he finds that he has taken his eye off his immediate family…

In writing My German Brother, acclaimed Brazilian novelist and musician Chico Buarque was driven by the desire to find out what happened to his own German half-brother – whether he survived the war in a bomb-ravaged Berlin, whether he had joined the ranks of the Hitler Youth. His novel has been a project of a lifetime, one that makes use of what happened, what might have happened, and pure imagination, in order to weave together the threads of narrative and arrive at a truth.

Review

Untitled design (38)This is a fascinating book about a young Brazilian man who discovers a letter suggesting that his father might have had another son whilst he was in Germany. The story follows his life as he becomes obsessed with this idea, imagining the life of his half brother.

The book was told in a really interesting way, My German Brother is an interesting come of age tale and one of the aspects I really enjoyed was that although the book is fiction it is partly based on the author’s life and his experience of finding out his father had a child in Germany. I found the idea so interesting as he imagined the endless possibilities of his brother’s life, especially at a time when Europe was dealing with the horrific events of the Second World War.

The author has a really great writing style and I loved some of the light-hearted aspects that counteracted some of the more heavy topics, they are quite a few sordid moments as well which I found a little off putting. Overall the book is a really fascinating read and at just over 200 pages it’s definitely worth picking up.
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Book Review: The Lost Witch – Melvin Burgess

Book Review: The Lost Witch – Melvin Burgess

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Release Date: 2nd August 2018
Publisher: Andersen Press
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Bea has started to hear and see things that no one else can – creatures, voices, visions. Then strangers visit Bea and tell her she is different: she has the rare powers of a witch. They warn her she is being hunted. Her parents think she is hallucinating and needs help. All Bea wants to do is get on with her life, and to get closer to Lars, the mysterious young man she has met at the skate park. But her life is in danger, and she must break free. The question is – who can she trust?

Review

Growing up I really loved Melvin Burgess’s books. I’ve read Bloodtide and Bloodsong more than a few times so when I heard he was writing a story about a young teenage girl who discovers she has magical powers I added it straight to my wish list. I must admit that after reading it I was a bit disappointed and it didn’t really live up to my expectations.

book cover (18)I found the pacing for this book to be quite off, the first few chapters were incredibly slow and I had to put the book down for a week and go back to it – which isn’t really something I do. I then felt the later chapters that had quite important scenes in them completely raced through and I didn’t get enough detail.

I really liked the Norse mythology elements and the way that Burgess wove that into the world building and the magic the characters could do. I also found the characters really interesting, Bea has some tough decisions to make about her future and I enjoyed seeing her develop as a person and own up to her mistakes. I also really liked Silvis, the one character who seems to really want to help Bea survive. The writing style felt very different to other Melvin Burgess books I’ve read and although I enjoyed it I definitely preferred the style of his previous books.

The book also deals with some pretty difficult topics such as abuse both physical and mental, rape, murder and blaming the victim which came as a bit of a shock as it definitely wasn’t what I was expecting. The book is certainly a dark one and was a bit of  a struggle for me finish. If you’re interested in witchy stories that touch on difficult issues, this could be just the book for you but for me it was big disappointment.

3 stars