The Summer Children

35423609Last year, I picked up The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison after seeing a number of people reading it at the same time on my Goodreads. The premise of the book sounded extremely interesting and I’m always up for a horror/thriller/crime drama as long as it is pretty hardcore and gruesome. Since then, I have flew through the three books in The Collector series. I bloody love these books.

I haven’t written a review for The Roses of May (the second book in the series) as I read that in March/April and after a quick dive into some Greek mythology books, I got my hands on The Summer Children! Since this one is fresh in my mind, I will write the review for this but just so you know, The Roses of May is excellent and is at such a high standard. just like the former novel and the latter.

I am desperate for another book in this series. I don’t want to wait for the next one, they are just so good!

So let’s get into it all, shall we?

The Plot

Working with the Crimes against Children unit cannot be easy. Agent Mercedes Ramirez has seen some of the most horrific cases of abuse against children, alongside having experienced abuse as a child herself. Alongside several of the agents that worked the ‘Butterfly’ case, Ramirez has a specific method for dealing with the cases she comes across; being honest with the children and handing each child that is involved a teddy bear that they can use for comfort. But when children, soaked in blood, terrified, with marks of abuse, start showing up on her doorstep, clinging to teddy bears with halos and wings, what could this symbolise?

Ramirez’s career and mental health is put to the test and she must find out what is happening to the children and their parents before more children turn up at her door.

The Review

Damn, this book is good.

This book is not for the fainthearted or anybody who is incredibly sensitive. You need to have a strong stomach and be able to read about horrific crimes against children in this novel. There are a lot of triggers such as pedophilia, rape, incest, drug abuse, kidnapping, murder. There is a long list but if you are interested in thrillers and horrors then I can tell you, you will love this book. I will tell you that none of the crimes (apart from the murders) are described in extreme detail. Hutchison gives you just enough to know what has happened. Sometimes she hints at what abuse the child went through rather then fully detail it. These are actually the most horrific as your mind is whirring all over the place, trying to work it out and conjuring so many horrible possibilities. When I picked up this book, I KNEW there would be difficult moments but for people picking this book up out of curiosity, it may be good to be warned.

That’s my warning anyway. Now onto the good stuff.

The characters in this book are exceptional. I find it very hard to relate or ‘get to know’ characters in thrillers, especially if they are in crime units. I have no clue why, I’m clearly just not reading the right books. I can tell you, I loved ALL of the characters in this. I knew some of their backstories from the previous books so it probably is best to read The Butterfly Garden first. You’ll get a feel of their personalities and understand some of their ticks too. There are other characters you may not entirely understand unless you read the other books but I LOVED these cameos. These were those of previous victims to crimes the team have dealt with. They are always very funny, endearing, and entertaining! You’ll see what I mean.

The story itself is brilliant and unique. There is so much trauma and heartbreak but you cannot help but continue to read because you need to know that everything is going to be okay. I could not put it down. I needed to know who the ‘angel’ was and what was their plan. I must admit, I thought the ending of the pursuit was a little abrupt but it was perfectly rounded off in the next chapter. I thought I was going to be disappointed when the pursuit ended but I can tell you, I was not.

I only have two TINY negative points and they are HONESTLY just personal preference.

  1. A lot of different agents were mentioned aside from the three main agents we know from all of the books. Some of their names completely lost me and I found myself backtracking a little to work out who the character was and when had they been previously mentioned. It slowed my reading down a little and that’s just why I wasn’t a fan of this BUT I understand wholeheartedly that it was necessary for the reality of the story!
  2. Agent Mercedes Ramirez speaks Spanish sometimes. This is perfectly fine with me – everyone should be allowed to speak their own language! But, some lines were randomly thrown in and as my Spanish is mediocre at best, I found myself using Google Translate, whilst reading to make sure I didn’t miss a funny or crucial point. Fortunately this doesn’t happen too often in the second half of the novel but it also slowed down my reading and I just wanted to get through it SO quickly as I needed to know what was going to happen!

Aside from these, this book is exquisite. I seriously, seriously do not want to wait for the next one. I do not want this series to end because Dot Hutchison is a master at Thriller and Horror writing. I haven’t read books like hers in a long, long time.

5 stars. I highly recommend this novel and the whole series!

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The Brighton Mermaid

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Thank you Netgalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone Century for an early copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

Watch out for spoilers!

The Plot

In 1993, whilst sneaking out late, Nell and her best friend, Jude, find a body of a young woman on the beach. The woman, who cannot be identified, becomes known as the ‘Brighton Mermaid’, due to the tattoo she has on her arm. When women keep washing up on the beach, it is suspected that a serial killer is on the loose. Nell finds it difficult to cope, especially when her father is one of the prime suspects, but when Jude disappears, she knows she will never get over what has happened.

Twenty five years later Nell quits her job to find out the truth but when she starts getting closer to finding out the truth, her life and the lives of others around her are in danger.

The Review

This book is a good thriller. It is. I wanted to keep picking it up again and again and even fell asleep a few times reading it in bed, which I haven’t done in a long time. It keeps you gripped and is mysterious enough for you to be guessing what is going on, who the mermaid is, and who the killer is.

There are a number of good things about this novel and a number of bad things so let me start with the good.

The cast of characters are diverse. This isn’t some white-washed, straight-washed book that we are so used to, especially when it comes to thrillers. Most (nearly all) of the main players in the book are black, including our protagonists and the Brighton Mermaid. This is not explicitly used as some major revelation or some social justice trick, it’s just there and you realise very quickly and it is no big deal. I like that. I’ve read a few books in the past years that use this as some big ‘hoo-ha’ to say ‘oh look how diverse I am as a writer’ and they make a BIG effing deal about the race they are portraying. Isn’t it better to not completely go on and on about it so that it is natural and people don’t see this as some unusual thing. Yeah I don’t know…pet peeve of mine. But yeah, the characters are not all white and it isn’t a big deal and this makes it great!

There are only a few female characters though, which can suck but I only liked one of the female characters in this book anyway! (Onto that soon).

There was romance in the story but it wasn’t some big, gooey deal. It was awkward and real. There was no magically falling in love or anything and no perfect happy ending. That, to me, was good.

I found all of the characters pretty intriguing and I wanted to know more about them but there are some things the author just never reveals to us, which is okay. It’s a mystery/thriller, we’re not always meant to get the whole picture – as long as the murders are solved in the end. That being said, I wanted to know more about Zach and Shane, but also, why on earth do nearly all of these characters have some form of childhood tragedy? Not all people or characters have some tragic backstory to them. Some just grow up and nothing ever happens but it seemed like everyone involved here had some childhood trauma. It seemed a bit like sloppy backstory writing to me.

One thing good I will say about the reveal at the end is that it was not predictable. I normally can guess the endings of these kind of novels but I could not guess who the villains were going to be. The only thing is that their motives were ridiculous. They were just really boring and didn’t seem to fit with the story. I felt that the author didn’t even know why these people were murderers. I thought it was disappointed and ruined what had been a good thriller. It had been a great read until then.

I recommend if you like a good thriller to get your teeth into! 3 stars from me – who isn’t really a thriller lover!

 

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling

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Thank you Netgalley and Penguin UK Michael Joseph for the copy of this in return for an honest review.

I have A LOT to say so this will be a long one!

As the Irish would say, this book is gas. I did not think I would enjoy this book as much as I did but it had me laughing out loud, proclaiming ‘Oh my god’, and gasping in shock at some moments. Some of the book had me tittering and giggling and other times, I was stuck in horror at what Aisling and her friends had got themselves into.

The book is great. I will get into my review in more details but I must say; I lived in Ireland for 9 years and completely understand the slang and colloquial terms of the Irish. As the book is written in first person, the book is in complete slang with Irish sayings and words I would have never known had I not lived on the Emerald Isle for my teenage and young adult years. If you have no clue on Irish slang (knowing craic isn’t gonna help you out here), you may be completely clueless whilst reading this. Some terms are even in the Irish language and then you’re just lost all together. Below, I will outline some of the sayings that may be lost upon non-Irish people or people who just have no clue how the Irish talk (there is no ‘top o’ the morning to ya’ – sayings like ‘lob the gob’ and ‘fluthered’ are more like it).

(Bit of a spoiler here, scroll a few paragraphs down) 

I want to get the serious bit over with first;

I won’t be the first making this visit to her and I won’t be the last.”

This poignant line is a moment relating to an abortion storyline that features in the book; an incredibly relevant issue in Ireland at the moment. On the 25th of May 2018, Ireland will vote whether to remove the 8th Amendment – a law that disallows abortion in the country. Women travel daily to the UK for abortions – whether due to not wanting a child or due to the danger to the mother or baby’s life. No matter what side you stand on, both sides mean abortion will still be there. A vote for yes means safer, legal abortions whilst a vote for no means illegal pill-taking or travelling – abortions will not stop because of a vote for no. The quote above states this clearly. The reader feels the depth of emotion, the prejudice, and how the characters deal with the emotional time. This book is so much MORE than chick-lit or a light holiday read. This book carries a message and a story that so many Irish girls go through and has been published at such a poignant time in Irish history.

The Plot

It started with a Facebook page and evolved into the story of  28 year-old Aisling, a rural Irish girl, dating a local GAA player for years, surrounded by engagements and weddings but for her, there is no ring in sight.

On a holiday in Tenerife, everything goes tits up and Aisling finds herself single and making the rash decision to move to the big smoke, Dublin.

In Dublin, she finds new friends, travels, drinks a lot, dates, and has a run in with a potential ecstasy pill (hilarity ensues, I promise). Tragedies strike the family and her friends, and of course, there is the horrific moment of bumping into your ex whilst he is shopping with his new girlfriend but Aisling pulls through. She is a witty, strong, cautious, and hilarious protagonist to follow along.

The Review

I have seen people claim that the Irish authors (there are two of them) have tried to be too stereotypical and pack too many Irish references, colloquialisms, and stereotypes into this small book (272 pages). However, I felt these all fit. Maybe we could have done without the reference to Conor McGregor or some obscure Irish celeb blogger or magazine but I personally felt that Aisling’s mannerisms, the way she thought, the things she did all matched what my friends and I faced as young adults in Ireland. The language was how we used to chat, the sayings were stuff I’d hear on a daily basis, and the GAA scene was as prominent as it is in the novel. The novel may be short but I feel the book benefited from the quirkiness of Aisling’s first-person Irish perspective.

I got sent this book to review for non-Irish audiences. I was never going to pick this up on my own. It’s dubbed the Irish answer to Bridget Jones’ diary, and that did not really interest me. I’ve seen the plot be described as predictable, not challenging, and dull but if you’re picking up some chick-lit, isn’t that what it can quite often be? It’s not meant to be challenging, it’s just a commentary on an Irish woman’s life in the big smoke.

Actually in all honestly, the plot surprised me. I enjoyed it and didn’t expect some of it. The abortion storyline completely threw me for a loop and I was so pleased they put it in there. They knew when this book would be published and they knew that it would coincide with the referendum.

Whilst the book is fun, witty, and a light read, I will say that this may not cater to international audiences. I’ve stated above about the language used and I can really see a lot of it flying over heads. It’s easy to Google but who wants to Google when they read?! I’m going to list a few things that I think most people, who haven’t lived in Ireland, will not completely understand.

“I wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating Taytos”

“A curling poster of Paul Galvin overlaps one of Mickey Joe Harte on the wall – both fine things. John used to say hanging up the Galvin one was sacrilegious to the parish and the county – but if he was allowed fancy any number of RTE weather ladies, I was having my poster.”

“And then there was the time Majella did finally shift Conor McCormack in the back-bar in Maguire’s and I was still smarting that he had never actually lobed the gob on me, despite what I believed to be out-and-out flirting on the Foroige bus several years previous…”

“Who wouldn’t enjoy being eyed up by a big ride with lovely teeth?”

These are some of the mild ones so maybe people would get them but as I’ve said, who wants to Google as they read? I just think some of the writing and moments are a bit too niche and not exactly catering to other nationalities. I know that if I had never lived in Ireland, I would not have understood these.

Some of the storylines ended quite abruptly but it all wound together in a little package. I’d say there will be a sequel of some form. Carry tissues for the last half of the book (just saying). In all, I actually give this book 5 stars. I thoroughly enjoy it and I know I’ll re-read this again!

Still Me

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You know, I didn’t want to read this book. Not because it sounded naff or wasn’t the type of book for me but because I didn’t want it to be over. I knew that as soon as I immersed myself back into the world of Louisa Clarke that I would be hooked and I would feel that familiar pain of the book being over; that dull ache, desperate for more.

Many have complained that JoJo Moyes wrote a third book in the series. There was not really a necessity for the second, let alone a third. But how could you not be delighted to have another dose of Lou? She is a spectacular protagonist, who will make you laugh, cry, and have your heart aching for her. She is brilliantly clumsy, hilariously awkward, and her finding-her-feet story is just great. She is a delight to read and I was devastated to find out that this is probably the last in the series. I NEED more! This is a series I would be happy to read 8 books of and I don’t even like this kind of novel!

I best stop rambling and let you know the plot and then get to my review.

The Plot

Louisa Clarke has been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move to New York and work as the assistant of a lonely lady of the upper class. Accommodation is paid for and she lives in the most bustling, trendy cities in the world. It is a far cry from her small village life in England.

Mixing into the New York high society, Lou realises she is at a crossroads. She is lost in who she is. She is trying to maintain a relationship with Ambulance Sam, who she misses dearly and worries that she is putting more effort in than he, and when he gets a new female predatory paramedic partner, things start to turn upside down.

As she navigates life, Lou realises she must stay true to herself, her loves, and her life. She strives to live boldly; advice from a certain Will Traynor, and tries to grasp life by the horns. The story is romantic at times, heartbreaking, witty, hilarious, and often poignant. Haven’t we all been at the stage that Lou reaches? Where we are unsure where we are going in life, desperate to find ourselves in the vast world we live in? This book was exactly what I needed as I go through the exact same troubles as Lou.

The Review

As I wrote that heading, I let out a happy sigh. This book is just sweet. That’s how I can say it. There are moments that you just want to hug Louisa and other characters in the book. There are moments where you are so angry at injustice and there are others where you could tear your hair out in frustration. It’s just one of those books that will have all of your emotions out in full force.

Jojo Moyes writes New York wonderfully. I have never been (I will be going this Summer) but she manages to capture the smells of coffee and diners, the petrol and exhaust fumes, the sound of horns and binmen. The high society events are described immensely without the descriptions growing too lengthy and tedious. She just knows how to write her characters and her setting. I have always found Louisa’s story so vivid and so easy to imagine. I felt as though I was walking alongside her through every step of the way.

I have seen a few complaints about the plot being tedious or predictable. To be honest, I didn’t predict a lot of what happened. I guessed the ending slightly but (slight time spoilers) I didn’t predict any of the Christmas events, the old lady and her dog, or the scandal of her employer. I was shocked, appalled, upset, elated, etc by each event. At some points I was so angry I had to put the book down for a while and closer to the end of the novel, I had to leave my partner sleeping in the other room as I blubbed away, not wanting to wake him. It was quite the rollercoaster.

The message of this book is great. Lou is trying to find herself at a time in her life that is difficult. She navigates love, loss, friendships, loneliness, and identity crises all at once and she does it spectacularly. Her passion never fades and it is really inspiring. Her optimism and the way she just keeps going would inspire anyone to keep doing the same. Personal anecdote; I had been going through a bit of an identity crises for a while but I’ve somehow found myself now and Louisa was exactly a character I needed to see the positive affects of just being who you are and who you want to be.

As I have already said, I am devastated this series is over. I need more. The cover to this book is stunning too and I need more like it on my bookshelf to look pretty (hehe). I don’t want to leave Louisa behind, I want to keep her with me as a friend that I just know I would have been glued to the hip with (we’re very similar people actually – it’s quite funny).

If only it could go on forever but sometimes, you have to say goodbye.

So goodbye Louisa Clarke. Thank you for the life-affirming messages, the giggles, and the tears. You truly are one of a kind. (I write as I wonder will Moyes give in and write another book!)

I gave this book five stars. Yes, it’s a holiday book and the writing isn’t Nobel prize standard but by god, this book is good. FIVE STARS!

10s, 10s, 10s across the board.

Podcast Review: Swish and Flick Podcast

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As a book reviewer, I don’t usually do this but I decided that I wanted to spread the word about a podcast that I have been really enjoying over the past 6 months. This will probably be a once-off and I will never do it again but I feel the hosts at Swish and Flick Podcast deserve a shout out!

Six months ago, I moved to Sweden and found myself very much in my head a lot. I couldn’t seem to escape my thoughts or find any solace in anything I did unless I was with people or my partner. It was all due to culture shock and feeling very homesick so I decided to have a look for some podcasts so that it felt like some people were talking to me as I walked around town or did stuff around the house, alone. That’s when I stumbled across Swish and Flick. I’m a huge Potter fan so I thought, why not?

It has quickly fueled an addiction.

The Podcast

The podcast has four hosts; Tiffany, Megan, Sarah, and Katie. They are all from the US and have a deep love for anything Potter. All four of them represent different Hogwarts houses – this was not planned, it was actually by chance! All four are linked in some way – Katie and Megan are married (cuties!), and Sarah and Tiffany are related by marriage (I think!) – they then all became friends and made this beloved podcast. You can find out more of their story by listening to the podcast! Anyway… On their podcast, they are re-reading all of the Harry Potter books. Each episode focuses on a chapter and they go deeper into the lore behind it, the characters, and possible links that we have seen in previous or future books. This is pretty cool, considering we have learnt a lot more about Potter since the years have past. It’s a nice, refreshing podcast and is definitely an easy listen!

The Review

The podcast is incredibly light-hearted and will make you smile as you walk down the road, listening to it. It is always very sad when you realise you have caught up with all of the episodes and have to wait a full week for the next one! Fortunately, I try to stock mine up so that I never run out. I am currently on episode 30 and they are on episode 33. Noooo.

Episodes are usually an hour to two hours long but they bloody fly by. One minute you’re listening to the backstory of Gilderoy Lockhart and the next, Megan is rounding us up with the social media links! So do not be put off by the length of the episodes, they never feel as long as they truly are.

The podcast usually has me chuckling to myself as I run to the tube and I have received a few funny looks from passersby as I cannot contain my laughs. The girls are very funny and their dynamic is infectious – you just want to be a part of it, and in a way, we are, just in a very silent type of way. Each of the hosts have a different outlook on characters, the plot, J.K. Rowling, the Potter universe in general, and other things relating to it, and this just makes for great listening. The hosts occasionally argue or disagree but this just makes for great listening. We’re not always going to have the same views so why not listen to a fan’s structured argument and see what you think yourself?

One huge positive that has come out of this podcast has been the Facebook group that was made so that all of us ‘Swishers’ (the fans) can join together and discuss the recent episodes or anything Potter-related. The hosts even pop in and we can chat to them whenever we want. Over the past few months, the group has turned into a support group as well. Some of the members are going through tough times and have felt comfortable enough to turn to each other for support. I have also used this facility. Everyone in the group is a ray of sunshine and the podcast has brought all of these Potter fans together. It is incredible. This fandom truly have the most caring and supportive people of any fandom.

On the podcast, the hosts can get a little off topic and rambly. This happens quite often on some episodes and not at all on others. These off topic conversations can go on for just a few minutes to a small chunk of the podcast. I know some people can get quite irritated by this and I have seen one or two comments on Twitter about it. To be honest, it doesn’t bother me. I actually find these are the funniest moments. They truly show the hosts’ dynamics anyway.

One thing I do get a little annoyed at but this is me being very nitpicky because I despise incorrect pronunciation is if one of the hosts incorrectly pronounce something that is stereotypically English or Irish. I’m English and lived in Ireland for 9 years so it’s just me being annoying (I also have two degrees in English lit haha) but sometimes I’m screaming at the podcast. Sometimes if they talk about England too and something is wrong, I’m also screaming but I am incredibly proud and defensive over my homeland so this is just a personal problem of mine. Oops. (EDIT: After a comment from a lovely Swisher, the cast do not claim to know the correct pronunciation and do try to correct themselves. I am quite sensitive to this – it makes me laugh a lot but also has me screaming but just so you know, the cast are aware)

Finally, the podcast do have a Patreon set up, which helps them make the podcast bigger and better, which is great but I know a few others and I feel left out as we do not have the money to join the Patreon and so do not get to have Google hangouts with the hosts, we do not receive the special content called the Felix Files, and other such things. It’s quite disappointing as I feel that it is quite a privilege. If it makes the podcast bigger and better then great, I support it. It’s just a bit of a shame really that that’s the way. (EDIT: I have always been a little butthurt by this but so be, I just want to let newcomers know that this is available – I feel that the hosts deserve everything they get – they work extremely hard for their fans and for each other and deserve the money that comes in – I just personally feel a little left out sometimes which has always been a hard thing for me (personal issues). I just want to let my readers know that this is something there so they are not surprised. If I had the money, I would join the Patreon group).

Last of all – turn your headphones down, I’ve been deafened a few times by Tiffany’s laugh, hahaha. It’s great and infectious but if you’re on the tube, you do not want a fright and burst ear drums :p

All in all, the podcast is great. It’s a wonderful community and is great for a laugh and some home comforts. I always find Harry Potter is my safe place and after finding the podcast, I did my own re-read and since then, I have been a lot better than I was previously. Swish and Flick is fun, factual, and fascinating. I highly recommend you tune in for all of the laughs and love. Have your wands at the ready!

The Last Wild

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Now, this is my type of book! If any of you follow me on Twitter or read some of my ramblings, you will know that I am deeply concerned with the environment and animal welfare. I recently started reducing my plastic usage, and I went vegetarian! After these changes, I needed a book that showed me that other people were also concerned with the issues I am concerned with. I feel that far too many people are concerned with themselves, money, and consumerism. That’s when I stumbled across The Last Wild by Piers Torday.

I was immediately drawn to the description of the book on Goodreads and knew that this had to be my next read! In fact, I am actually using this book in several conference applications I am writing as it is just a perfect modern day example of good environmental and animal literature.

Let’s get into it then, shall we?

The Story

Animals no longer exist. They have been wiped out by a virus that turns their eyes a violent red colour and causes untold suffering to the sick. The world has changed. There are no crops, no farms, and quarantine zones are commonplace. Kester Jaynes knows little of the world outside. The twelve-year old has been locked within the confines of a home for troubled children. Others think he is crazy because he does not talk and when Kester starts hearing cockroaches and pigeons talking to him, he thinks he has gone crazy too. The animals need him. To Kester’s surprise, some of the animals have survived. They live in a small group in what is left of the forest – they are the last wild. Together with a noble stag, a dancing mouse, a wolf cub that has trouble trusting humans, and another human child named Polly, Kester must help find a way to save the animals before it is too late. Kester and Polly fight against all odds, including their own species, to help the animals that cannot help themselves.

The Review

This book has such an amazing premise. In many books featuring animals and children, the animal often is trapped or hurt and the child saves it and rehabilitates it but this book is so much more. Our main protagonist, Kester, can only talk through his mind and only to the animals. Not only do we have vulnerable animals who are voiceless but we have a protagonist who is equally as vulnerable and voiceless. Somehow they combine to give voices to one another.

One thing I was extremely impressed by was Torday’s choice of animal characters. You know how in most animal literature the animals are cute and fuzzy and are desirable as pets? Well in this novel, you get that too but you also are taught to support and fight for those we would consider ‘vermin’ or ‘varmints’ as Torday calls them. Stand up for the cockroach with his military precision and stand up for the pigeons, who sometimes get a little turned around in their own minds. Your favourite character may be the little dancing mouse with a dance for everything or the over-enthusiastic wolf cub who has something to prove, but what Torday does is give his readers a choice; a choice to love and fight for those who are often overlooked. This, to me, was utterly brilliant.

The book, although set in a dystopian landscape, must not be simply overlooked as a dystopian, out to shock and upset (such as The Hunger Games, etc). It is highly unlikely that one day our civilisations will turn into districts who pit their children against each other in a fight to the death. However, it is highly likely that our animals will one day become extinct, our lands turned to waste, and that our food will be nothing but re-hydrated flavours. With all our medical testing and experimentation on animals, who is to say that a virus could not suddenly spread and wipe them all out? Did you watch Blue Planet II lately? Well then, you are well aware of humankind’s impact upon our oceans. The book has an extremely poignant message that is not to be missed. Do not disregard this as a YA, shock-value book. Look past all of that to see the truth, stuff that truly exists; corrupt corporations, injustice to animals, and the everlasting effects of our footprint upon the grounds of our environment. I have not seen a book like this. Ever. It had an impact on me and simply made me want to fight harder for a career, researching this type of literature and its impact upon environmental awareness and animal welfare. Applause for this novel.

Other mentions: 1. The setting is fantastic. The way Torday paints a picture of the quarantine zones, his characters, the wild, etc, you can really picture it all in your head and feel as though you are running along with Kester and his band of animals.

2. There is no lack of dialogue. Although you may feel having a mute character would eliminate all chances of dialogue, this is not true. You’ll see why and you’ll enjoy it.

3. This book is not a once off! It is a trilogy and I would urge you to buy them all together because they are very difficult to put down! I know the other two books discuss more about ocean pollution, and other such issues, which I cannot wait to read about and see what Torday has to see!

In all, this is an incredibly educational and thrilling book. Not only does it have the power to have an impact upon our’s and our children’s minds but it also is an enthralling read. It should be a staple in the classroom and on your bookshelves!

I gave this book 5 stars and I know I will be buying the book for my special bookshelf. I cannot wait to get stuck into the other two now!

 

Black Rabbit Hall

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This book is AMAZING. It is beautiful, enchanting, haunting, and it will stay with you days after you have finished it. I wanted to write a blog immediately but I needed to settle my thoughts and emotions. There was no way I could write rationally about a book that stirred me up so much. I still do not know where to start so excuse this review if it is just a jumbled amount of beloved ramblings.

If you liked The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde, Chase’s newest novel, go back and read this because it is just as good! If you enjoy the gothic genre, stories about book houses with large families living in them, wicked stepmothers, forbidden romance, family tragedy and sordid secrets, this book is for you. It has it ALL.

This review will be FULL OF SPOILERS. I cannot write my true feelings without exposing the secrets and twists that appear in this novel so if you want a surprise, I would say READ the book and then come back. If you want to know my rating without getting spoiled. I gave this book 5 stars! You’ve been warned.

Let the review begin!

The Story:

Amber Alton and her siblings spend their summers in the timeless, hazy estate of Black Rabbit Hall in Cornwall. The siblings know that the hours pass differently at Black Rabbit Hall. It is so different from their home back in London. It is a deliciously slow haven for their childhood but what happens when their childhood is abruptly ended by tragedy? Summers will never be the same, wrapped up in forbidden affairs, heated tensions, and of course, more tragedy yet to come.

Close to three decades later, Lorna remembers Pencraw Hall (also known as Black Rabbit Hall) from pictures with her dear, departed mother. However, her fiance doesn’t like it. It makes him feel uneasy but Lorna is captivated and is determined to have their wedding there. Lorna soon finds herself captivated by the history and a need to know what happened to the children whose names are carved into a tree by the forest.

There stories entwine to create a suspensful, atmospheric tale of death, deception, love, betrayal, and growing pains. Two women’s lives separated by time become linked through the ivy-covered walls of Black Rabbit Hall.

It is a journey you will never forget.

The Review:

I am sure this will tell you everything I felt about this book: I already want to re-read.

Now, I do not re-read often. The only books I tend to re-read are the Harry Potter novels or children’s classics (usually for research purposes) but my god, I feel a desperate need to re-read both Black Rabbit Hall and The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde (The Wildling Sister’s for US readers). I still feel that I would be shocked by their twists and turns, they are just so unexpected! You feel that you know everything and then Chase just throws in a complete curve ball and you are shocked. There were a number of times I had to put down the book for a few moments to get my head around what had just happened. I still feel quite shook by the revelations!

I desperately need another book by Eve Chase or someone who is at least similar to her because the children and characters she writes are captivating. Amber Alton has to be the most complex and beautifully written teenager I have ever read about. Usually teenagers in these kind of books are whiny, arrogant, and you just want them to listen to their mothers or fathers.

SPOILERS: Amber Alton, her siblings and Mr. Alton are torn apart and left in disarray when ‘Momma’ races into the forest on her horse, Knight, to find 5/6 year-old Barney. The horse is spooked by both Barney and the storm overhead, Knight bucks and Momma’s head is dashed against the rocks. She is taken from them too soon. Mr. Alton is inconsolable and the children become wild. Only Amber can hold them together. She attempts to stop Toby, her twin, from becoming a violent, feral boy, and from the two youngest children getting hurt. Amber is strong-willed and sensible, she does everything she can for her siblings but when her father remarries, an evil stepmother and a mysterious, handsome step-son is brought into the mix. Amber and Lucian are tense with each other but eventually, the undeniable chemistry between them comes out and they steal secret, forbidden moments in a wardrobe. You do not find out till later but Caroline (the stepmother) finds them and tries to trick them into believing they are actually siblings – a product of Caroline’s relationship with Mr. Alton before he met their mother. This leads to them separating, Amber being locked away, a death, and a secret pregnancy.

It is a roller coaster. I cannot even go into detail about why Amber is locked away, who is pregnant, what happens to the child, and who is killed. My words just do not do it justice, you need to read this if you want to know more.

The plot lines in this are great.  You have Amber and her romance, her siblings and their struggles, Amber’s own struggles with Toby, the siblings trouble with their stepmother, and then you have the other era that Chase writes about, focusing on Lorna and her desire to have Black Rabbit Hall as a wedding venue. Now at first, I was not a fan of Lorna’s chapters, I honestly just wanted to know what was going on with the children and how they were going to get out of the troubles they faced but about half way through, we start to learn things about Lorna and her link to the Alton children. At first, the revelation does not seem as crazy but then that revelation turns out to be a fake out and your mind is blown. I still cannot quite get over it. So good. I still do not like Lorna’s chapters as much as the Cornish summers of the Alton children but if you read, you’ll understand why. I felt Chase put more effort into the children than Lorna and that is perfectly fine with me.

I must warn you this book really does stick with you and it is actually quite heart-aching. It hurts to think of the anguish the children went through, especially with two deaths in the family and once you find out Amber’s fate, you’ll be stunned into silence. Fortunately, there is a bittersweet ending and you will smile at the end but this book will haunt you for days. I know it will haunt me for a long time, like The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde did.

I highly, highly recommend Eve Chase’s work, she is an incredibly talented author and since finding her back in summer, she is now one of my favourite authors (alongside J.K. Rowling, James Herriot, and Michelle Paver). I do not add people into that category often. I NEED another book from her so hopefully in the next year or two she will work on another one!

This book is set in Cornwall which is awesome, my parents live in Devon so it was a nice piece of home and really felt connected to the landscape she discussed.

This book is worth 5 stars or more. If you do not know what to read right now, pick this one up and let me know what you think! I may have to re-read in a week or two..

 

IT

IT.jpg

Oh my god, I finished it! One of my smaller goals last year was to finish this god damn, length book! There were a few times when I thought I’d fail and never have this book finished but look at me now, Stephen King! I did it. I read my first King novel and it was 1116 pages long!!! Here I am reviewing it so my readers can make a decision if they want to put the effort into reading this book! Here we go!

Spoilers Ahead (you’ve been warned)

The Story: 

To be honest, I’d be surprised if you do not all know what this book is about now but for the sake of continuity, I’ll explain.

Derry, Maine; a sleepy, small town, oblivious to the monster that sleeps in the sewers. Haunted for decades, Derry has seen some horrific tragedies. Children disappear, others found murdered – cut up, limbs missing, and other gruesome things done to them, buildings are burnt down with people in them, and mass shootings are never discussed.

Seven teenagers stumble upon the true horror and are terrorised by the being they only know as IT or Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Now they are adults, they’ve been brought back together by a force so strong they cannot pull away.

The story is told in the present day and the past when they were teenagers. It leads to the final showdown, will they all make it out alive?

The Review: 

When it was first published, this book was original and unique. There were few books that held a similar idea – a being that plays on the fears of children. Since its publication, authors have been stealing little tidbits from the plot and story line but is that not just an amazing compliment? The idea of this novel is great, I loved it. Who isn’t scared of clowns? I know after reading this and seeing both of the films, I definitely am. I love that the story was split into the childhood of our seven protagonists and then their adulthood. Unfortunately, the children’s story was much better than the adults. It was well-written and more believable. I just didn’t like the seven as adults, I do think that is kind of the idea though – the children are so innocent yet courageous whilst the adults are no longer innocent and truly know what they are facing. I do enjoy reading about children in horrors, they just have such unique eyes and beliefs and as a fan of children’s literature and horror, this was the perfect combination for me. I tuned out quite often during the adults’ chapters.

King writes the perfect, creepy atmosphere though. Some of the scenes are actually terrifying and you do not want to close the book in case Pennywise is behind it. What a brilliant monster/villain, he is horrifying and that makes this book.

The book is divided into parts, chapters, small little inserts from before the seven children were even thought of, research, etc. It leaves the book wholly disjointed which I found so confusing. For the first 200 pages, it took me ages to get into it and work out who was who, especially when you thought someone was a protagonist and then they just get killed off. I was left pretty jumbled. I then think I got into it and it was perfect until 200 pages before the ending. I felt the ending was rushed and I HATE the revelation of what IT actually is – a f***ing giant spider from space… also, IT is a she and keeps having babies. REALLY?! Man, I feel that is such a COP out!!!! UGH, this is the biggest frustration and I feel that I got no pay off from reading a 1116 page book!

Now my final and major gripe with this novel is that awful sex scene… If you’ve read it, you know the one. Where Bev decides that the only way they can grow up and get away from IT is if each and every one of the guys has sex with her. What the ACTUAL f***?! I’ve read up on this and I know the reason why King wrote this scene – sex is the end of innocence, etc but seriously, could you not have found a different way to do this? I actually felt sick and disgusted with myself reading it that I skipped most of it. I did not need 10 pages, describing each experience with each boy. These are kids. I am sure if this book was published today, that would not get past editors or publishers. Maybe it’s just me being overly sensitive but I cannot deal with the sexualisation of children or teenagers. Uh, I hate even writing about this but to be honest, this actually really ruined the book for me. I feel the end was just so rushed and then this is thrown in as well, it’s like King wanted the outrage.

Ah well, I got it all read anyway.

I enjoyed the first half and discovering what was actually happening in Derry but aside from that, I was not impressed. I do love IT -the Tim Curry mini-series, and I actually greatly enjoyed the new film too (a bit too CGI but meh) and my dad and I have loads of jokes and inside things about Tim Curry’s Pennywise so it will always remain dear to my heart but I am disappointed.

I gave this 2 stars.

 

Every heart a doorway

every heart a doorway.jpg

Like with many reviews, there will be spoilers in here, actually A LOT OF SPOILERS! You’ve been warned. I do not feel that I can honestly review this book without spoiling some of the major plot points and revelations. Okay, that’s been said so let’s get into the review!

The Story: 

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a school in the countryside that takes in children who have been to other worlds and who have been sent back. These children are struggling to get used to the real world and are desperate to find the ‘doors’ to their magical worlds, where they felt they fit in so well. The parents of these children think they have gone crazy and/or were kidnapped. They think the school is trying to fix them after their ‘ordeals’, the school is trying to do that but not in the way the parents think it is.

Nancy is the newest resident at the Home for Wayward Children but her arrival is soon met with tragedy. There is a killer on the loose in the school and for some reason, they are taking body parts of the students. Who could be doing this? And why?

The novella is then set up as a mystery with the children trying to work out who could have done such heinous crimes.

The Review:

God dammit, I guessed the killer almost immediately. I know this book is only 173 pages long (hence why I read it in a day) but I thought it could have built up a little more suspense around the revelation of the killer, I did not gasp, I was not shocked, I was disappointed. Now I know that this book has quite a large following and it is quite well-loved so I am not here to offend people but I am going to tell you my honest opinions and what thoughts I had whilst reading the book. So here we go, deep breath, my first thoughts;

This novella felt like a fan fic. There, I said it. I honestly felt I was on a fan fic site and had got sucked into one. My main reason behind this thought was the description of the characters – their physical description, and the way they talked. Nancy, our protagonist, has crazy hair that was streaked by the Lord of Death in her world, some of the characters wear bright, mismatched clothes, Jack and Jill the twins are complete opposites – Jack (a girl) wears old waistcoats and bows, scientist gear, etc, whilst Jill wears the most elaborate and flowing of princess/fairy satin/silk/chiffon dresses in beautiful pastel colors as if she is an ethereal nymph, some characters have brightly coloured hair and others (Christopher) carries a bone around with him. Okay, I understand the book is meant to be filled with childhood wonder and nonsense, since these kids do fall into magical worlds and become citizens in these places but I just felt some of the descriptions tried too hard to make everyone different and everyone seem wackier than each other. I prefer subtle descriptions of characters so I can build a picture for myself so this made me wrinkle my nose a bit.

One thing I will say that is great about this novella is the diversity of its cast of characters. The main character is asexual whilst another character is transgender. We also have the character of Jack, who is female, who you constantly think as male because of the name and the clothes she wears – this did confuse me sometimes but it’s great to see non-conformity in this book. Sometimes I felt it was a tiny bit overbearing. Due to the length of the book, some things were thrown on top of each other rather quickly and you miss points or everything just seems to scramble together, which was rather annoying but ah well.

So I am a huge fan (and researcher) of children’s literature and I know this book is not aimed at children (it’s far too f***ed up for that) but the characters in this book ARE children. I do not believe anybody is over the age of 17 in the book (correct me if I am wrong) and yet, there is quite a bit of sexual language and pieces that made me uncomfortable. Okay, I know that teenagers talk about sex and they are going through puberty but the characters in this book are so brash. Sumi asks Nancy “Do you want to fuck him?” pretty nonchalantly and also asks Nancy if it’s okay if she masturbates…whilst she is in the room (sleeping). There is also a comment on vibrators and other sexual things. The reason I was uncomfortable with this is because of the way these teenagers act. They act a lot younger than they are, due to the fact that they grew up and came from magical portals that they had fallen through and had been spat back out of. They are stunted in ways and the way they are written just makes them sound so childish. They are quite petulant and desperate to get back to their old worlds and I just didn’t feel that there was a need for these sexual ideas to be brought into this book. That being said, I also did not like that there was hints at a romance between Nancy (asexual) and Kade (transgender) – not because of their sexual identities – but just because nothing was ever done with it and there was murder to be focusing on!!

I think in some places the author just tried putting too much in. I know she has written two other books but none are sequels. They are all stand alone books so some of the plot points she starts in this book are not fleshed out in further ones.

Onto one thing I was really annoyed at and seems to be hotly debated; This author BASHES C.S. Lewis!!! It’s meant to be ‘meta’ and it doesn’t seem really like a bash until you read into it. I bloody wrote about The Chronicles of Narnia and gender in my Masters dissertation (as a comparative with other books) and I know my C.S. Lewis. This was a bloody bash. I cannot deal with authors bashing authors – I know she didn’t mean it this way but it does read like it. This is the quote:

“That’s because Narnia was a Christian allegory pretending to be a fantasy series, you asshole,” said one of the other boys. “C.S. Lewis never went through any doors. He didn’t know how it worked. He wanted to tell a story, and he’d probably heard about kids like us, and he made shit up. That’s what all those authors did. They made shit up, and people made them famous.”

Maybe this author was trying to bash themselves too because really, aren’t you just ‘making shit up’ and getting famous from it? I don’t know, this just didn’t read well or sit well with me and I was quite irked by it. I know others have felt the same so I am not alone.

Continuing on, murder happens at this school and NOBODY PANICS. Although Hogwarts seemed shitty at times, at least people actually panicked and ran around. These kids just sit pointing fingers at each other and the only advice the teachers have for them is to never wander around alone. Wow…great advice there. The headmistress even asks our band of protagonists to dispose of a body in acid so that the authorities and parents do not find out! WTF?! For a fantasy novel, this sure goes to realms beyond reality. Everyone just wanders around like nothing happened – even the protagonists who dissolve a body are not freaked out.

As mentioned previously, the reveal is such a let down as well. Like really? The twin of the accused? The one in the beautiful ethereal dresses who seems so shy and quiet and who doesn’t like blood? Well, I never. Annoying.

Okay, so apparently I had a lot to get off my mind with this novel BUT funny to say, it wasn’t a bad novel! I actually did enjoy it in places otherwise I would not have ready it in one night! I feel that it was quite cliche in places and the author tried to fit too much in in such a small space but it’s an interesting read, once you get into it and if you can look past the fan fic type descriptions and the annoying calmness of everyone in the time of panic then you will enjoy it and I would recommend it for a light read!

I will give it 2.5 stars but on Goodreads I gave it 3 since there are no half star options! Again, please do not hate me for my opinions!

 

The Silent Companions

the silent companions

First of all, as always, I would like to thank netgalley and Penguin Books for the early copy (although I am only reviewing it nearly three months after its release) of this book in exchange for an honest review. It is always appreciated.  

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you are all well and that you enjoyed the festivities. If you didn’t know, I’ve been away for a while, yes…sad, I know. As you will all know by now (from my constant excuses), I moved to Sweden in August and it took me a while to settle in. Whilst I was settling, I decided to re-read the Harry Potter books as there is no better thing to do than read J.K. Rowling’s works of art and magic when you are not feeling yourself. I’ve now leaped into 2018 with a positive attitude and a readiness for some good books! May 2018 treat us all extremely well!

Okay, you guys, normally I tell you there will be spoilers but seriously, SPOILER ALERT, I will be spoiling quite a few things here!! You’ve been warned.

The Story: 

Only a few weeks after they are wed, Elsie Bainbridge’s husband dies unexpectedly. Pregnant and in mourning, Elsie is sent away from London to her late husband’s country estate, The Bridge; a life far away from the luxury she had been expecting. The estate has a weird feeling about it. The servants barely speak and seem to resent her presence, whilst the villagers are seemingly hostile after hearing mysterious rumours about the place. Elsie only has Sarah, her husband’s cousin, for company. Soon things start to go bump in the night and Elsie is confused by the presence of sawdust and the sound of a saw through the night. Intrigued, Sarah and Elsie venture through a locked door only to find some mysterious diaries by a woman named Anne Bainbridge, and a striking wooden figure named – yep, you guessed it – silent companions. Elsie brings the silent companion down but soon finds that they are starting to appear everywhere. More and more appear and some bear striking resemblance to people of the past. The companions seem to move and something isn’t quite right about them.

Chapters alternate between the 1800’s, when Elsie and co, live in the house, an insane asylum, and the 1600’s, the date from the diaries. These chapters slowly but surely reveal all.

The Review: 

This was a great book to start 2018 with. What is better than a good, old, Gothic ghost story when it is dreary and cold, and the January blues are upon you? It is the classic tale of a woman, shipped off to the countryside only to find that her servants are not who they say they are and her house is not what she expected it to be. I could not put it down. It was dark and twisted at times, making you want to read more. You get to the end of one chapter and you just cannot stop, you need to know what happens in the corresponding chapter. It is a very quick read so if you are looking for one of those, this book is a good choice. I would not say this is a holiday read as it is quite eerie and gloomy!

Firstly, the idea of this book is superb – wooden figures that seem to move and watch you, hunting you down as you walk through your own house. Splinters and sawdust appear everywhere, including under the skin, and in the dead bodies. *Shivers* It gives me the creeps and so it should, that’s the whole idea. The story isn’t your typical ghost story, witchcraft is involved and you are constantly guessing what is possessing the silent companions. It’s creepy and I love it!

A few irks that got me; The dead bodies. There are A LOT of those. I just finished IT by Stephen King after Christmas and this book has just as many dead bodies as IT does (okay, exaggeration but shh.. it has a lot of dead people, okay?!). I was actually a little annoyed that so many people died, especially any that just happened ‘off-page’ where we hear about it from another character. That was disappointing, I didn’t think it was that type of book really. Some of the deaths seemed quite rushed and they felt as if they were just thrown in for a quick shock – the death of the baby and Mabel, for example. Others were spectacular – Helen. A antler pierced her eye! I was so not expecting that!

I was deeply disturbed by the animal deaths in this book. I don’t know if any of you know this about me (maybe I have mentioned this) but I am an animal fanatic and I really need a trigger warning for animal death or animal cruelty. It affects me more than most other things in novels. I know that is bad to say because of human suffering and stuff but I feel like television has desensitized me to that stuff – it does not mean that I do not care or wish to prevent social injustice and other issues – it just means that I can read it without flying into a frenzy of panic and upset. It’s weird – please don’t hate me. But yeah, cow head was unnecessary. The dead horse I get was a catalyst for events from the diaries but the cow head… really?! I was so worried the cat was going to die too!

Now the witchcraft storyline was interesting and definitely explained a bit about what was happening in the 1600’s storyline but it just was not utilised enough for me. It did not explain why the shop that sold the companions disappeared or why the companions were so weird even before the witch/spirit possessed them. There were a few plot holes appearing from this addition. I do not know how this could have been fixed but it was a thought throughout the book and I said I should be honest about it!

On a positive and final note; This book was beautifully written. Laura Purcell has a way with words; she really does. Some parts felt a little rushed – as if she needed to pack too much in – but some of the descriptions and the atmosphere she creates is great. She can be a little confusing sometimes as you do not realise what is going on. Purcell is one of these authors that has you work out that someone has died before telling you and having you witness the scene. Personally, I love that. I think she is a very good Gothic writer and she stick to that genre. I know she is working on another called The Corset so hopefully we will see that in 2018!

I have given this book 4 stars. It wasn’t entirely perfect and that is why it didn’t get a 5th star, and I can say I wouldn’t read it again but it is definitely going on a highly recommended shelf.