Book Review: Only Child – Rhiannon Navin

Book Review: Only Child – Rhiannon Navin

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Release Date:
February 8th 2018
Publisher: Mantle
Pages: 306
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

We all went to school that Tuesday like normal. Not all of us came home.

When the unthinkable happens, six-year-old Zach is at school. Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, he is too young to understand that life will never be the same again.

Afterwards, the once close-knit community is left reeling. Zach’s dad retreats. His mum sets out to seek revenge. Zach, scared, lost and confused, disappears into his super-secret hideout to try to make sense of things. Nothing feels right – until he listens to his heart . . .

But can he remind the grown-ups how to love again?

Narrated by Zach, Only Child is full of heart; a real rollercoaster of a read that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

Review

This is a brilliantly written debut focusing on a horrific school shooting and the rippling aftermath that the event has on the local community. It is powerful, heartbreaking and incredibly relevant given the current news and media. The book really hones in on the community and the lasting effects that this single event can have.

book cover (71)The book is told from the perspective of young Zach, who is a powerful and fascinating protagonist. Navin does a fantastic job of bringing him to life, Zach along with the rest of the characters feel very realistic and complex, each dealing with their own complex emotions and grief as they deal with all that has happened. I definitely felt myself becoming attached to Zach, you feel for this clever young boy as he retreats into his books and drawings, while his parents attempt to cope with their grief.

I also found it fascinating that Zach chose to represent his emotions with colours. He’s a bright and fascinating character and seeing him bring people together was part of the reason I loved this book so much. It is excellently paced and the writing style definitely hooks you in from the get go. It might be a difficult topic but it is absolutely worth while.

This book is by no means an easy read. It is hard hitting and emotional, but it is one that you have to read. It stayed with me long after I finished reading it and I found myself thinking about it throughout the day afterwards. As a debut it is stunning and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing what Rhiannon Navin has in store next.
4 stars

Book Review: Black Sugar – Miguel Bonnefoy

Book Review: Black Sugar – Miguel Bonnefoy

BOOK REVIEW (75).pngRelease Date: March 13th 2018
Publisher: Gallic Books
Pages: 112
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher sent me a copy of this book to review

Synopsis

On the edge of the Latin American rainforest, the Oteros family farm sugar cane in their remote corner of the earth. Cut off entirely from the modern world, life is peaceful, uneventful. Until, that is, a succession of ships arrive in search of Henry Morgan’s legendary lost treasure, said to be buried deep beneath the forest floor.

Soon, the isolated villagers are exposed to all the trappings of modernity, while the travellers’ search for booty unearths more than anybody could have anticipated…

And so it was that the treasure lay buried amid scraps of sail and a pirate’s corpse, preserved within the belly of the Caribbean…

Review

This short little book is full to the brim with pirates, treasure and family. It’s a beautiful book that focuses on the effect that the lost treasure of Henry Morgan has on the generations of a family. The story is well paced and enticing, drawing you in and painting a vivid picture of explosions, gold and rum.

book cover (68)I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this book. The story sounded fascinating and I must admit I was partly intrigued by that lovely cover, but the story within is so much more complex and layered that I imagined. So much happens in such a little book, but the writing is exquisite and really brings to life this fascinating period in history.

The characters were equally fascinating and well developed. It’s hard to imagination that there would be much character depth in such a short book, but it’s fascinating watching Serena grow from a young girl to someone who is much larger than life. She was by far my favourite character in the book, and while not necessarily likeable I thought she was an interesting and well rounded character.

Black Sugar was completely different to what I thought it was going to be like, but I enjoyed it immensely. Full of family life, ambition and desperation the story is complex and beautifully told. I highly recommend this lovely book, you’ll be completely immersed in the story and it stays with you long after you’re finished reading.
3 stars

Book Review: The Fear – C. L. Taylor

Book Review: The Fear – C. L. Taylor

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Release Date:
22nd March 2018
Publisher: Avon Books
Pages: 400
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review

Synopsis

When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey…

The million copy Sunday Times bestseller returns with a taut, compelling psychological thriller that will have you glued to the edge of your seat.

Review

This is one tense book. I love reading C. L. Taylor’s work but honestly, this might be her best one yet. Dark and gripping, this book will hook you from the very first chapter and will not let you go.

book cover (66)One of the things I really love about C. L. Taylor’s books is that they always keep me guessing. Psychological thrillers can sometimes be really predictable, but with The Fear I was constantly second guessing myself, completely unsure of what was going to happen next. This is an imaginative and twisty thriller and fans of Taylor’s work will no doubt enjoy it immensely.

The Fear is fast-paced, but you’ll no doubt be racing to find out what happens next. I found myself trying to read little snippets at every opportunity of the day. I devoured this book in a few days because it doesn’t let up, leaving your heart pounding. I found it interesting that the book focused on the topic of grooming children, a subject which is often explored in crime fiction. The Fear puts a different slant on things, bringing new ideas to this well used topic.

C. L Taylor writes really fascinating characters and that is definitely the case with The Fear. Her characters feel like real people, all working to their own motivations and schemes. I thought Lou was a particularly interesting one, she’s flawed and damaged but ultimately trying to do the right thing. The characterisation and development in this book is brilliant and you definitely become attached to the characters.

The Fear is a completely unputdownable book. If you’re looking for a twisty, turny thriller that will keep you hooked well over the Easter break, The Fear is exactly what you’re looking for.
4 stars

Book Review: Dracula: Rise of the Beast – David Thomas Moore

Book Review: Dracula: Rise of the Beast – David Thomas Moore

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Release Date:
March 13th 2018
Publisher: Abaddon Books
Pages: 304
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review

Synopsis

An anthology of stories exploring the secret history of the world’s most iconic monster

That the cruel, ambitious monster of Bram Stoker’s most famous novel was once Vlad III Dracula, Voivode of Wallachia – the Impaler, to his enemies – is known. A warleader in a warlike time: brilliant, charismatic, pious, ferociously devoted to his country. But what came of him? What drove him to become a creature of darkness – an Un-Dead – and what use did he make of this power, through the centuries before his downfall?

Decades after the monster’s death, Jonathan and Mina Harker’s son Quincey pieces together the story: dusty old manuscripts, court reports from the Holy Roman Empire at its height, oral traditions among the Szgany Roma people who once served the monster.

Review

Dracula by Bram Stoker is one of my all time favourite books and I love reading different versions of the stories around Vlad the Impaler. This book is an anthology of stories about the famous Vlad Dracula, written by five different science fiction/fantasy writers. I enjoyed this so much as each story was from a different time period, giving a different perspective and a different side to the infamous vampire.

book cover (52)Surrounding the stories are a series of emails between Dani, the person trying to piece together the story and Quincey Harker, son of Jonathan and Mina from the original story. I thought this was an excellent touch and really brought the five stories together. While there’s only five stories in the book, I read through them pretty slowly, taking my time to really enjoy the different ideas.

I’m not going to go into each story but many of them are told as though from letters and extracts from diaries. I really enjoyed this way of telling the stories, making it seem like Quincey and Dani have uncovered secrets from history. The stories differ in topic and theme, dealing with war, families, friendships and even a bit of romance. The stories were all well written and paced excellently, making this a really fantastic read.

I enjoyed each of the stories in their own right, but there were two in particular that really stuck out for me. First Nobelesse Oblige, which was the story of Dracula’s encounters with the infamous Countess Erzsébet Bathory. I thought she was a fascinating character, strong and determined to fight against Dracula. I also really enjoyed Children of the Night which is written as a long letter recounting the events that leads to Dracula falling in love with a mysterious young woman who is not all that she seems.

If you’re a fan of Dracula this is a must read. If you love anthologies and short stories with a bit of twist, you’ll absolutely love this.
4 stars

Book Review: To Kill A Kingdom – Alexandra Christo

Book Review: To Kill A Kingdom – Alexandra Christo

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Release Date:
March 6th 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 358
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I received a copy of this book through ReadersFirst

Synopsis

I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.

There are seventeen hidden in the sand of my bedroom. Every so often, I claw through the shingle just to check they’re still there. Buried deep and bloody.

Princess Lira is siren royalty and revered across the sea until she is cursed into humanity by the ruthless Sea Queen. Now Lira must deliver the heart of the infamous siren killer or remain a human forever.

Prince Elian is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world and captain to a deadly crew of siren hunters. When he rescues a drowning woman from the ocean, she promises to help him destroy sirenkind for good. But he has no way of knowing whether he can trust her…

Review

To Kill a Kingdom is a book that really caught my eye and gained a lot of buzz on social media. The story follows two characters: a siren Princess named Lira who is killers princes so she can steal their hearts. The other is a the Heir to the throne of Midas, one of the most powerful kingdoms. Although he is next in line for the throne he much prefers being aboard his pirate ship, attempting to rid the world of sirens forever.

book cover (3)This was a really fun and enjoyable read. The story is told in alternating points of view between the two characters and I really liked seeing things from each characters perspective. To Kill a Kingdom is a dark and sinster retelling of The Little Mermaid, but it is so much more gripping and enticing than the Disney version. The plot draws you in early on and I was eager to know how the story was going to end. I really liked our two main characters though I would have loved the opportunity to get more from the cast of secondary characters. Elian’s sister, Madrid and Khalia. I really enjoyed the banter between the Elian and Lira, and it was interesting watching their relationship develop,

The writing was captivating and the story definitely had a few twists that I wasn’t expecting. The story could have done with more solid world building and I would have loved to learn more about the different kingdoms and to delve more deeply into the magic system. Overall it was a fun swashbuckling adventure and if you’re a fan of retellings, this definitely shouldn’t be missed.
4 stars

Book Review: This Mortal Coil – Emily Suvada

Book Review: This Mortal Coil – Emily Suvada

BOOK REVIEW (61)Series: This Mortal Coil #1
Release Date: 2nd November 2017
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 464
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I picked a copy of this up in my local bookshop.

Synopsis

Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

Review

This book has been on my TBR for a while and I finally got around to picking it up. It was so fast-paced and exciting that I absolutely whizzed through it and I’m so glad I chose this one because I now cannot wait for book two.

book cover (35)The world building in this book is so superb. There’s so much technology and science woven into the story and it’s well thought out and explained. Although there’s plenty of tech and science speak it’s well explained to the reader and doesn’t take over the story. This was probably my favourite aspect of the book, learning more about the virus and the genetic enhancements people have made.

The book is a fair size – nearly five hundred pages – but it is so action packed that it feels like quite a quick read. The chapters are also quite short a lot of the time and that definitely made me say ‘oh just one more’ on more than a few occasions. There’s plenty of surprise twists that I absolutely did not see coming and definitely made my brain explode. I also really liked the characters in This Mortal Coil. Cat is an excellent protagonist, she’s incredibly smart, stubborn and brave.

A slight word of warning though that romance does feature quite heavily within the plot. I’m not a particularly big fan of romance books so this was the one aspect of the story I didn’t really enjoy, I wanted to skip the romance and head straight for the action and the saving the world-y situation. Despite that I really enjoyed this story, it was original exciting and I definitely need to know what happens next.
4 stars

Blog Tour: Sleeper: The Red Storm – J. D. Fennell

Blog Tour: Sleeper: The Red Storm – J. D. Fennell

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Series: Sleeper #2
Release Date: 25th October 2018
Publisher: The Dome Press
Pages: 288
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.

Synopsis

Sleeper spy Will Starling has been drafted in to the SOE, joining forces with the French Resistance in the fight against the Nazis; but Will’s memory is fractured and only occasional flashbacks reveal fragments of his past. Despite this, he has not forgotten his pledge to find and rescue his sister, Rose – if she is still alive. When his mission in France is compromised, Will suspects he’s been betrayed.

Back in London he hears that VIPER are in league with the Axis powers and are developing a new and deadly weapon. As he and MI5 agent Anna Wilder set out to destroy it, their every move is anticipated by their enemies. Who is the mole in the British Secret Service? As they close in on VIPER’s Swiss headquarters, it seems no one can be trusted. Are Will and Anna able to prevent the unleashing of the Red Storm that will bring mass destruction on a scale even the Nazis haven’t dreamt of?

While Will tries to save the world, Rose has become the key to VIPER’s future plans and is drugged to dull her kinetic powers. But Rose faces danger from an unexpected enemy and her time is running out.

Excerpt

A Sniff of Betrayal

Chartres, France, 14th July 1943, the following evening,

Untitled design (22)Will Starling lies on his belly, concealed under bushes and weighed down by a backpack crammed with twenty-five pounds of Nobel 808 explosive. It is a warm summer evening, his clammy face mists up the lenses of his contact, Canadian, 6×30 binoculars. He blows on them before wiping the glass with the cuff of his shirt. Adjusting the focus, he watches the blurred shades of green and grey form into lush green meadows and the sturdy steels legs of a towering pylon, an immense obelisk transmitting power from Paris through to Chartres and beyond – power the Nazis were using to their advantage. Will takes stock of the tower, sweeping the binoculars up the ugly lattice structure. It would take a lot of explosive to bring it down.

‘Is it clear?’ asks Emile.

Will nods. ‘It’s clear.’

‘We should hurry, no?’ whispers Claudette.

‘Not just yet,’ says Will. His eyes follow the sun as it sinks and disappears behind a distant forest. The sky is brushed with an amber glow and provides enough light for them to carry out the operation without attracting unwanted attention with torches.

Emile and Claudette huddle on either side of them. Despite being the leader of this mission, he can’t help feeling like a spare wheel. His companions are newlyweds. Emile is athletic and handsome in a typical Gallic way and Claudette is pretty with dark hair and a wicked sense of humour that has Will laughing out loud sometimes. They are hopelessly in love, living each day as if it were their last. It is the perfect disguise for being amongst the occupying German forces, who find them innocuous and therefore ignore them.

Untitled design (23)Behind the smiles and sunny expressions, however, Emile and Claudette detest the Nazis, their feelings buried deep, emerging in the hidden meeting rooms of back-street bars and cafes where Will and other members of the Special

Operations Executive and French Resistance meet to discuss the latest orders from London.

‘Before we go, I have something to ask you, mon cher,’ says Claudette.

Will hands the binoculars to Emile.

‘Oui, ma cherie?’ says Emile, scouring the landscape.

Claudette snorts. ‘I was talking to Will.’

Like Will, Claudette has just turned eighteen. She has become like a sister to him and, despite remembering almost nothing about his real sister, he has, on occasion, had to stop himself from calling Claudette by Rose’s name. He knows he should have kept his distance, but Claudette’s personality, her humour and passion are just too seductive.

He often thinks about Rose and wonders if she is like Claudette. In his dreams she appears in snapshots. She seems innocent, fragile, but also stubborn – nothing unusual in any of those traits. However, Rose was not like other girls. Will had acquired secret research papers authored by his father, which revealed a little more about his past. His father had worked for Teleken – a VIPER-funded, scientific organisation that had developed a wonder drug, which allegedly gave the user kinetic powers. Will’s father had championed it and his mother had agreed to be one of the guinea pigs. However, the drug had been a failure. None of the guinea pigs had developed anything other than the need to vomit for three hours after taking it. All except Will’s mother, that is. She had vomited the morning before taking the drug, unaware that she was pregnant with Rose.

Neither Will’s father nor his mother could have anticipated what fate had in store for them. The drug had fed the foetus and seemingly modified Rose’s genetic make-up. Will’s father had no explanation as to how this could have happened. A miracle of modern science, he had concluded.

In the paper, Will’s father described how, at the age of five, Rose had lost her temper and her scream had caused all the windows in the house to shatter. Reading this had stirred an uncomfortable and frightening memory for Will. He remembered his parents being confused, scared even, and recalled a terrified Rose sobbing and apologising for something she knew she had caused but had not been able to control.

In another episode they had been in a local park on a sunny afternoon. Their mother had been unpacking a picnic and an eight-year-old Rose watched on as Will and his father tried out a new cricket bat. His father had bowled a googly, catching Will off-guard. Will had whacked the ball with fervour and accidentally sent it spinning towards his mother. As he panicked and cried out, the ball suddenly stopped in mid-air and spun slowly before flying obediently into a smiling Rose’s waiting hands. To his parents’ horror, other people had witnessed this event. This had been the beginning of the end. Soon after that, the agents of VIPER had come for Rose and the family.

Review

Sleeper: The Red Storm is the second instalment in the series following sleeper agent Will Starling as he attempts to fight against the Nazis in World War II. The first book in the series is an explosive, action packed story and I was so excited to find out what was in store next for Will and his friends. If it’s possible The Red Storm is even more of an intense wild ride, and I loved every second of this thrilling story.

The story picks up several years after the events in the first book. Will has grown but he’s still searching for his sister. The plot hits the ground running and doesn’t let up the entire time. There’s twists and turns and plenty of exciting moments. I really enjoying getting to see the characters I’ve become familiar with, especially seeing Will continue to grow and learn new skills. Along with the old faces there were a few new characters which added another dynamic to the plot. The characters, like the plot are well developed and expertly created. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next for them.

In this series J. D. Fennell has created a really fantastic setting. Europe during the Second World War really comes alive and you can easily become completely absorbed in the explosions, fighting and espionage. I certainly found myself saying ‘oh just one more chapter’ more than a few times in my desperation to know what was going to happen. It’s intense, action packed and unputdownable. The Red Storm certainly lives up to the first book in the series and ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, making me desperate to know what’s coming next in this well crafted series.
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