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Review: The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story - Sarah Dessen

I received a copy from Netgalley.


Normally I love Sarah Dessen books. I have loads of them and usually devour them in a couple of days. A new Dessen book is an autobuy for me, I’d already pre ordered and wasn’t actually expecting to get approved for the review copy but I did.


Sad to say though I really did not enjoy this book at all. It felt very poor in comparison to the others I’ve read. The story was slow paced, I felt like the characters had no depth to them. The only character who got a backstory or any insight into was the main character, and even she was about as interesting as dry toast. Everything else felt like cardboard.


Generally I love how characters in these type of books come somewhere for the summer where there’s a family connection and hidden secrets and stories the main character never knew emerges and she discovers things about herself and what she wants for her own future and grows as a person. I didn’t get a sense of that from this book at all. There’s also usually a great family dynamic as well. Didn’t feel that either.


So very disappointed with this one.


Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins UK, Children’s for approving my request to view the title.  

Review: Violet

Violet - Scott Thomas

I received a copy from Netgalley.


The synopsis of this one caught my attention when browsing Netgalley. I usually like small town haunted houses with a secret and especially ones where someone’s coming back to a childhood home.


The novel started out interestingly enough. However, it felt very long winded and over written after a while and failed to keep my attention from about half way through. I did find myself skimming over the latter parts of the novel as I was mildly interested in how it all concluded. It took forever for anything to remotely happen.


The story stars with the heroine Kris going back to her hometown with her daughter after losing her husband in an accident, Kris appears to be a workaholic vet and the daughter has withdrawn and seems to be struggling to cope. Kris feels a fresh start will help them move on.


Arriving at the house they find it overgrown and the estate agent lied about the condition of the house  - it’s got a bit of a reputation in the town. It’s so slow and boring as Kris and the daughter start to clean the house and Kris finds mementos of her childhood and starts remembering things she’d forgotten. Creepy things start happening.


Whilst visiting the local town Kris learns about a series of murders and missing children. The daughter starts talking to someone who isn’t there – an invisible friend. More creepy things start happening. Kris remembers more stuff from her own childhood and her own creepy invisible friend. Who may or may not have been real.


Interesting concept but the execution didn’t really work for me at all. I didn’t connect to the characters, I didn’t feel any emotion whilst reading other than just wanting to get this book over and done with. Disappointing as I usually like this kind of story. Not for me.


Thank you to Netalley and Inkshares for approving my request to view the title.

Review: Music and Malice in Hurricane Town

Music and Malice in Hurricane Town - Alex Bell

I received a copy from Netgalley. 


This book was a lot of fun. I’ve read a few books by this author before and I’ve enjoyed them - this was something a little different. In a fantasy inspired New Orleans with a host of supernatural creatures, voodoo and magic being the norm, centred around a the mystery of a murdered voodoo queen. 


Main character Jude is a musician with a brass band who finds herself possessed by the dead queen who needs her help solving the mystery. Coming in to contact with a whole host of different characters from intriguing to creepy. Jude was a very likeable main character who discovered lots of things about herself as the plot progressed. Family and friendship played an important part. 


There were some rather disturbing bits towards the end. That being said it worked well with the plot and to be fair I didn’t guess or see it coming. Posed the questions for some interesting morality grey ares. 


There was some fantastic world building in mixing the familiarity of New Orleans with the Baton Noir fantasy version. The different types of magic and voodoo were explained very well - you don’t have to know hardly anything about the subject to work out what was going on. Quite a few interesting twists as well.


The plot was fast paced with plenty of action and little to no romance. A possibility hinted at with one sub plot which I personally would have loved to see explored. Left at an interesting ending - concluded the story but open for the possibility of more. I would definitely love to see more from this world. 


All in all enjoyable and fun. 


Thank you to Netgalley and Little Tiger Group for approving my request to view the title. 

Review: The House in the Hills

The House in the Hills - Rowan Hanlon

I received a copy from Netgalley.


I love haunted house books and movies, and the premise of this book definitely sounded like something I would watch if it was a movie. Bright young couple Marc and Harmony moving into their first house – a gorgeous house in the Hollywood Hills, a prime piece of real estate…for an astoundingly cheap price.


However, this book sat on my Kindle for months on end until one Saturday morning at the hairdressers when I selected it at random.


Given the premise – anyone with half a brain would (or should) be saying what’s the catch? To be fair at first the wife, Harmony at least ponders that very question – why is it so cheap? However, her husband persuades her this is her dream house and a great opportunity for them. At first I quite liked Harmony as a character.


I can’t remember what the husband did for a living - she ran a popular food blog and was passionate about it. She seemed rather sensible and together. If a bit high strung and quick to judge. One of the first things we learn is there’s a guest house on the property. And comes with a tenant – a bubbly bright hot young actress. Who immediately rubs Harmony the wrong way by making a joke about promising not to sleep with her husband.


As the couple settle into the house and new routines before long Harmony is experiencing creepy feelings and strange things happening, all of which Marc tells her is her imagination. Arguments become more frequent. And Harmony finally learns the truth about what really happened in the house and why the price was so cheap. By this point my liking of the characters had dwindled to wanting to smack them. Harmony was bossy, snobby and wooden. The arguments were repetitive and the “spooky experiences” were just stupid.


The book was poorly written, and the characters became increasingly annoying. There were some parts that were just jaw droppingly ridiculous. The idea had potential, but the execution was just bad. Unimpressed with this one. Just didn’t like it at all.


Thank you to Netgalley and Reverberator Books/Weapenry Co-Op for approving my request to the view the title.

DNF: We Are Blood and Thunder

We Are Blood And Thunder - Kesia Lupo

I received a copy from Netgalley.


Unfortunately another one for the DNF pile. This one just did not work for me. It's long winded and boring and just another bland YA fantasy revolving around forbidden magic and disputing nobles and religious groups who all have their own agenda. I got half way through but can't find the willpower to pick it up again. I tried the other day and barely got through ten pages. Boring and just not up to par with the YA fantasy available, at least not for me. Time to call it quits. 


Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for approving my request to view the title. 

Review: Viper (Isle of Storm and Sorrow #1)

Viper (Isles of Storm and Sorrow #1) - Bex Hogan

I received a copy from Netgalley.


This was also an additional book in one of my Fairyloot subscription boxes so I got a signed paperback as well.


I didn’t dislike it, I wasn’t particularly blown over with it either. It’s just another generic YA fantasy set on the high seas. In this one the heroine Marianne lives on her father’s ship. Her mother died when she was a young child. Her father is the Viper, the protector of the 12 Isles. But they’re more like pirates and assassins – ruthless, cruel and brutal. Marianne is supposed to take over one day.


However, she doesn’t seem to have the violent streak a Viper needs. She’s not dim by any means. She has a conscience and thinks things could be done better. Because she’s a girl she’s treated like crap by the crew. She has one companion – an older lady who has helped train her who treats her like a person. She was once close to one of the boys her age, but circumstances made him turn his back on her.


She’s betrothed to the Prince of the royal family the Viper serves. The prince appears to be condescending and arrogant. On the night of her official initiation as a Viper everything goes wrong and things happen and Marianne is forced to flee. Pursued by her father’s crew over the 12 isles she discovers nefarious plots and a secret about her own past that could have a massive impact on the 12 Isles and the Eastern Lands they’re on the brink of war with.


The prince isn’t the asswipe he seems to be – and there’s much more too him. Alliances are drawn, plots are uncovered, other Royalty is determined to be selfish and useless and things need to massively change. It’s up to Marianne and her companions to make this happen.


It wasn’t by any means a bad book, - it was just kind of okay. I liked Marianne as a character, she had a code of honour and a brain and thought logically. She was emotional but wasn’t ruled by her emotions. The prince turned out to be a really interesting character as well. The writing was okay, the story was okay. There just wasn’t anything about this book that really stood out to bring it apart from other sea based YA fantasies.


Thank you to Netgalley and Hatchette Children’s Books for the review copy.

Review: A Danger to Herself and Others

A Danger to Herself and Others - Alyssa B. Sheinmel

I received a copy from Netgalley.


Unreliable narrators aren’t usually my thing. They make me uncomfortable. The whole premise of this book made me uncomfortable.


A perfect daughter of psychologists institutionalised for a crime. She’s convinced she did no wrong (even though it’s obvious from the start she did.) Her logic is flawed and frightening but also…in a weird way vey plausible. Which makes it all the more frightening.


Hannah is a very intelligent girl who has a habit of latching onto people and calling herself the perfect best friend. She’s not cruel or violent or anything. She’s manipulative without even realising what she’s doing.  She’s doing a summer programme at a college and something terrible happens to her roommate.


Police are called and they all think Hannah is responsible. She’s labelled “a danger to herself and other” and put in a hospital for evaluation until the trial. Despite how uncomfortable this book made me as a reader, it’s extraordinarily well written. It’s compelling and page turning and you just have to know what’s going on. What happened with the roommate, what makes Hannah the way she is? Is she faking it and a very good actress – or is she really just nuts and doing a good job of covering it up and trying to convince everyone she’s normal and no threat to anyone?


It’s a harrowing experience following Hannah as she wakes up in the hospital and goes through talking to the doctors and learning how things work and what she has to do to convince everyone what happened was an accident.


Slowly, we learn what really happened. The truth about Hannah’s involvement and what might happen next.  What makes it all the more believable is there’s no black and white right and wrong way to handle the outcome. It’s not a fair outcome, really but it’s a realistic one and something that highlights the tough decisions that justice systems sometimes have to make.


It’s a difficult book to get through but a really good one.


Thank you to Netgalley and SOURCEBOOKS Fire for approving my request to view the title.

Review: This Lie Will Kill You

This Lie Will Kill You - Chelsea Pitcher

I received a copy from Netgalley.


This title appealed to me immediately as it came recommended for fans of “One of Us Is Lying” which I absolutely loved. However, this book failed to meet the high standard of that book. I thought this book was awful.


The premises was interesting enough. There was a party and someone died. The actions of a small group of people lead to the tragedy and someone saw what happened. Now, a year later those people are sent mysterious invitations to a murder mystery party with a big prize. No name of the person inviting them.


The party is a costume party and each character is given certain props. Challenges to solve that get more personal and more deadly as the night progresses. Secrets are at stake, lives are at stake and the risks become more and more over the top. Some of the group were friends, some aren’t and they all must come together to figure out what’s happening and survive the night. Should be interesting. Its high stakes and tense.


Problem for me was I absolutely hated all the characters. They were all horrible horrible people or bland people with about as much personality as cardboard. Also, very predictable. I knew almost immediately who the responsible person was. As the plot went on it became just ridiculous and unbelievable.  


It was one of those – this is so stupid why am I finishing it books? – but I did read the whole thing.  I just really did not like this book at all.


Thank you to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster UK Children’s for approving my request to view the title.

DNF: Dark of the West

Dark of the West (Untitled, #1) - Joanna Hathaway

The concept of this one started off interesting - two nations poised on the brink of war, the son of the one general goes to spy on the other side and winds up falling for the princess he's supposed to be gathering information on. I managed nearly 300 pages of this but frankly I'm just bored. 

I don't care about any of the characters and there's too much emphasis on military tactics for my liking and it's very boring. Calling it quits. 

Review: The Queens of Innis Lear

The Queens of Innis Lear - Tessa Gratton

I received a copy from Netgalley.

I somehow wound up with three Netgalley e-arcs – one was a sample I got by mistake. One approval from the US site which I never expected to be approved for and one from the UK site (I have both UK and US residences so I use both sites).

Reading this book reminded me of the Charlie Brown episode “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown”. In the episode Charlie Brown’s class are assigned to read “War and Peace” over the Christmas holidays. A daunting task as it’s such a big book and throughout the episode poor Charlie Brown is trying his best but only ever seems to be on page 5 of the book. At the end of the episode his best friend Linus asks did he like the book? Charlie Brown replies he finished the book at 3a.m. and doesn’t remember a thing about it. 

Which pretty much summons up my experience reading the Queens of Innis Lear. No matter how much I read, I barely seemed to make a dent in (it felt like I hadn’t got past page 5!) which I actually did. That being said – I absolutely completely fell in love with this book. I loved it so much I bought a finished US hardcover, a finished UK paperback and an audio version. It did take me well over a year to actually finish it. 

The book is a fantasy themed retelling of King Lear – the mad king and the ungrateful daughters and a kingdom poised on the brink of war. King Lear is not a play I’m that familiar with and did have to read the Spark Notes a few times to familiarize myself with the original story. The novel is full to bursting, it’s richly written with the most excellent word building. It’s so lush in its details. It has the most wonderful history and magic woven into the story. There are a hell of a lot of characters to get to grips with, lots of different points of view. Emotional and romantic and violent and a myriad of other emotions. 

I remember very little of the plot the characters, just that I loved it to pieces. 

Review: Wakenhyrst

Wakenhyrst - Michelle Paver

I received a copy from Netgalley.


I love gothic horror mysteries and that premise was what attracted me to this book immediately. However, this book didn’t really fulfil my personal idea of a gothic horror mystery. That being said, the mystery aspect was really good and I really enjoyed the story.


It starts in 1966 and tells through news articles of a report granted a visit to a once grand house and the lady, Maud, who owns the property. The lady is a recluse and as a child witnessed the descent into madness of her father. No one really knew what happened (this was back in 1913) and the house seems to have remained in a similar state since. The reporter has been digging into the history of the father and the mystery surrounding the demise of a once prominent and respected man from a highly well to do family. There’s rumours of witchcraft and devil worship and all sorts of superstitious things.


The lady retells the story as she remembers it and her father growing up from when she was a small child to when she was a teenager and when the incident happens.  The story tells of Maud’s troubled adolescence - she’s an intelligent child who wants more out of life than what her station will allow. Her father is a tough man to please – a historian. As she grows up Maud eventually manages to convince her father to allow her to use his library also helping with his translation of an old text with a religious theme.


We see passages as well from the father’s notebook, detailing his inner thoughts as the situations occur, with Maud, with his research and a secret from his childhood which haunts him and is driving him to the brink of madness. There’s a definite religious overtone to the father’s inner journals, demons and sins and secrets and penance and so forth. Though it’s well handled without being overly dramatic and overly preachy.


Maud discovers her father’s journals and begins her own investigations. It’s really quite fascinating and once you get used to the style of writing hard to put down. I’m not recapping a lot of the plot as it would be very spoilery. Maud was a really likeable heroine, strong willed and sensible, her voice was very easy to follow and as the novel evolves as a reader you really want her to succeed in her tasks.


There was nothing remotely scary or chilling about it so it didn’t hit the horror mark for me, but it was quite atmospheric.  The mystery was really good and it had a satisfying ending. I really enjoyed the book and would definitely read something by this author again.



Thanks to Netgalley and Head of Zeus for approving my request to view the title.

Review: The Coroner

The Coroner - Jennifer Graeser Dornbush

I received a copy from Netgalley.


Medical mysteries are not my favourite thing. But I do find the job that coroners do quite fascinating. This one sounded good so that was why I requested it. The premise was interesting and sounded like a TV show, and if it were a TV show I would watch it, so figured I would read it as well.


It wasn’t a bad book per say, the basic idea was the main character Emily had been training to be a doctor, she grew up with a father who was a coroner and learnt from him from a fairly young age. She’s right on the cusp of graduating as a doctor and starting a life in Chicago with her dreamy also doctor fiancé.


Then she gets the shock news that her father has had a heart attack and she needs to go home. Meanwhile there’s been a murder of the daughter of a high profile Senator, a horse riding “accident” that may not be an accident. Emily’s high school sweetheart Nick is now the town sheriff.


While it wasn’t bad…it wasn’t…that good either. It was just very bland. And very very predictable. The type of predictable you know exactly what was going to happen, when Emily went home and wound up having to help out with the coroner aspect of things all the while thinking I have a life and a fiancé to go back to. The problem with the fiancé was he comes from a very well to do family and he and his mother (more likely his mother) are doing wedding planning and basically telling Emily what’s going to happen. Also another story line where you know exactly how it’s going to end.


The two main characters, Emily and Nick were likeable enough, there were plenty of twists and red herrings. It was all just….okay. Overall the whole thing was kind of bland and dull. It was left at a sort of open ending with potential for a series, but not a series I would be interested in continuing.


Thank you to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for approving my request to view the title.

DNF: Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach: A Novel - Jennifer Egan

I received a copy from Netgalley.

This is one of those books that's out of my usual comfort reading zone but sounded really good so I thought I would give it a try. It's not that I hate it or anything, I did actually like most of what I read, the setting was interesting and so were the characters but it's been well over month since I last picked this book up and don't see myself doing so any time some. Something I may pick up again at a different time - I didn't dislike it or anything I just seem to have lost interest for the time being.

Thank you to Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for approving my request to view the title.

Review: The Broken Girls

The Broken Girls - Simone St. James

I received a copy from Netgalley.


I love boarding school mysteries. Especially ones where there is a mix of past and present. The mystery of this one was what caught my interest in the synopsis. A journalist who can’t get over the murder of her older sister at an exclusive boarding school is still haunted by the brutal crime. Still stalking the grounds of the now closed school.


And discovers a body in a well. On the same grounds. To make things worse…the school is reopening.


The present chapters are the main character Fiona investigating, still troubled by her sister’s death, despite the fact that the culprit was caught and imprisoned and remains in prison. She seems to think there was something more to it. Despite being told to let it go. Of course, she won’t. Her police officer boyfriend seems to be slowly losing patience with her obsessiveness into this murder.


The past chapters tell the stories of a group of girls who all attended the boarding school in the 1950s. The school was a stowaway place for unwanted girls – from a mix of poor families and wealthy ones with secret daughters they wanted to keep hidden. The teachers were all cruel, the rules were strict, and there were frightening stories of a ghost haunting the grounds and the buildings. There was at atmosphere of mystery, gloom and unpleasantness. The girls in one dorm all around the same age, were all very different yet managed to bond and eventually share secrets.


One of them disappears.


Fast forward to modern times and Fiona’s investigation. She’s a journalist and convinces her boss to let her write a story on the upcoming revival and reopening of the school, allowing her more freedom to dig into the events surrounding her sister’s death and subsequently the discovery of the dead girl in the well.


To be perfectly honest I really didn’t care much about Fiona or her side of the story. She was likeable enough, but everything felt just a bit bland and cardboard cut-out. She reminded me of the same sort of journalist I’ve seen in TV movies – strong willed and independent, smart in some circumstances but irritating in others. Obsessive where she doesn’t need to be which of course leads to discovering secrets that dangerous people want to keep hidden and will go to any lengths to make sure things stay that way.


What really interested me was the 1950s story of the girls at the school, their histories and secrets and how they came together, the mystery when one of them disappeared. There were no obvious suspects which didn’t help matters. And the body went undiscovered for so many years.  The more Fiona digs in the more unanswered questions she finds. What leads to the truth is was really surprising.


There was a good sense of atmosphere and mystery, and the plot was fairly fast paced and made for a pretty good page turner. The writing was good, and made the story flow really well and easy to picture and disappear into the narrative. While I’ve already said I didn’t care for the main character, I still really enjoyed the book. I always find it a mark of a really good book when I don’t like half the characters but still really enjoy the story. I would definitely pick up something else by the same author.


Thank you to Netgalley and Headline for approving my request to view the title.

Review: Enchantée

Enchantée - Gita Trelease

I received a copy from Netgalley.


I love a bit of French history, after obsessively watching three seasons of Versailles, and the recent BBC adaption of Les Mis, this book was pretty much a must have for me. It did take a long time for me to get through it, but I did really enjoy it.


The unique mix of French history and magic mixed together in a fascinating way I’ve never seen done before. And it was completely gripping. The heroine Camille lives with her frail sister Sophie, and her asshole of a brother Alain. Their parents have died and the family are struggling to make ends meet in 18th Century Paris. The conditions of the area they live in is harsh, Sophie designs luxurious hats at a specialty shop through struggling with her health, while the brother is a gambler and a drunk, also nasty and violent and a thief. He has a nasty habit of stealing what little funds the sisters can scrape together and using for himself, despite the fact they are on the verge of eviction if they can’t pay their overdue rent ASAP.


The form of magic is described as dark and petty, magicians in this book have a bad rep and their type of magic in the day and age now is frowned up on and kept hidden by those who could do it. Camille’s mother could practise and she taught Camille. Though there are consequences to using magic – blood must be spilled and it has serious long term effects on the wielder’s physical body and health.


When Alain steels the money Sophie and Camille have put together for their rent, out of desperation Camille turns to some dark “La Magie ordinaire” using a blood work spell to enchant an old gown and transform herself into a beautiful baroness. She can turn card tricks and use la magie to turn the cards to her advantage, therefore earning enough money for her and Sophie to live comfortably. So heads off to Versailles to charm the court and get into the gambling halls.


Of course it’s not as easy as it sounds. She finds herself drawn into the glamorous and dangerous world of court gossip, gambling and politics. And it’s not long before someone is on to her secret. It’s tough to know who to trust and Camille must keep her wits about her before her charade comes tumbling down.


In her regular life an accident with a carriage leads Camille to a group of scientist boys her age who are trying to build a hot air balloon. She becomes entranced in the group and the balloon itself, one of the charming boys in particular – who also turns up in her new group of friends at Versailles.


I loved Camille as a heroine. She was strong, quick witted and determined. The book was brilliantly written, plenty of intrigue and increasing angst and worry as the plot took more dramatic turns, the revolution is starting to happen, the poor are uprising and the streets are dangerous. The atmosphere was tense and nail biting in some situations and dramatic without being over the top.


And there was a delightful barely there romance where you just want to shout and Camille and the boy involved “JUST KISS ALREADY!!” An interesting mix of characters as well, some strong friendships developed, and some nasty villains. This book had everything I look for in an epic fantasy and I loved all of it.


This was a brilliant book and I highly recommend it.


Thank you to Netgalley and Pan MacMillan for approving my request to view the title.   

DNF: Revelations 12:12

Revelations 12:12 - David De Freitas

I received a copy from Netgalley.

I snagged this one when it was a Read it Now title as the concept sounded interesting.

And it was an interesting idea. Small town where everyone knows everyone, woman gives birth and a mysterious doctor shows up last moment to help with a difficult home birth. Then things start happening - when the boy grows up and hits his teens the strange doctor starts appearing again, but no one knows who he is. There's no record of a doctor anywhere by that name. There was a gift given at the time of birth of a special bible, with a creepy message, and something apocalyptic hinted at. The mother asks her local priest to look into this.

Problem was it was just so flat and uninteresting. The characters were all cardboard with no depth whatsoever, and the dialogue was so stilted and unrealistic. All tell and no show and very very boring. Calling it quits and DNFing.

Thank you to Netgalley and Troubador Publishing Ltd for the review copy.