‘Long Bright River’ – Liz Moore

‘The dropper is lowered. The child turns his head toward it, toward the medicine, seeking it. He remembers it.
He opens his mouth. He drinks.’

The closing image of Long Bright River is just one of the images that will haunt me some time in the future. The ‘medicine’ being administered to this newborn is an opiate substitute. From the outset this child, like so many others, will show signs of addiction and need care to withdraw successfully. He may or may not make it. So many do not.

From the synopsis I knew this was not going to be a comfortable read. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how powerful I found the story.

The story focuses predominantly on two sisters, Mickey and Kacey. Brought up by their grandmother after their mother overdoses, they live in a fairly deprived area of Philadelphia. The sisters have the same opportunities but take very different paths. Mickey becomes a police officer, patrolling her home streets, looking out for those who live to feed their addiction. Kacey is one of the many in the grips of addiction, working the streets to earn what she needs for her next fix. This part of the story, and the slow reveal of the nature of their relationship over time, would have kept me engaged on its own.

However, in the course of her work Mickey starts to realise that many of the girls working the streets are being killed. The initial response is that they’ve overdosed, but the signs point to a killer on the loose. When Mickey learns that Kacey has been missing for a month, she fears what may happen next. And so begins the other compelling part of the story: the police procedural showing the investigation and the thriller as we start to realise that the person responsible may be a lot closer to Mickey and her role than you’d dare imagine.

Long Bright River focuses on so many unpalatable truths. There’s no happy-ever-after ending, but the story and its characters certainly grip you from the outset and will not relinquish that grip easily. A powerful read.


‘Things in Jars’ – Jess Kidd

In the dark underbelly of Victorian London, a formidable female sleuth is pulled into the macabre world of fanatical anatomists and crooked surgeons while investigating the kidnapping of an extraordinary child in this gothic mystery—perfect for fans of The Essex Serpent and The Book of Speculation.

Bridie Devine is a character you can’t help but warm to. From her humble beginnings to her current situation, our detective is shrewd and motivated by a keen sense of justice.

The first thing that struck me with this story was the need to suspend disbelief with regard to some of the plot-line. The depiction of Victorian England was clear and spirited, though we are privy to some dark and dangerous events.

Bridie is asked to investigate the disappearance of a child. We soon learn that the child is unusual, and her appearance/behaviour is a difficult idea to comprehend. Before we know it we’re plunged into a murky underbelly of schemers and ne’er-do-wells.

Though we have an assembled cast of characters, there were some that stood out. A villain he may have been, but Gideon Eames was certainly interesting. From the details given of his childhood to the present he is certainly a dangerous adversary.


‘A Heart So Fierce and Broken’ – Brigid Kemmerer

With rumours circulating about the rightful heir to Emberfall and his magic, there’s a palpable tension to the opening. Grey has gone, and nobody knows where he is, and Rhen is left with growing dissent among his people. Action is needed, but it’s hard to know what course of action is for the best.
Having spent so much time with Rhen and Harper it felt odd to have so little focus on them at first. We jump from their concern to our new character, Lia Mara (the daughter of Karis Luran who is not destined to be queen) and follow Grey in his attempts to hide. Intriguing stuff, but not really what we were expecting.
Before too long we start to see more of what’s going on. We are privy to some key information before other characters, but the real focus is the development of new alliances and certain characters coming to accept who they are and the role they will play in the future.
There’s no denying that some of the actions of key characters felt rather dictated by the plot. It was hard to reconcile certain actions with what we had already been told of them. That gripe aside, we learn a little more about some characters and the potential for where this might go has definitely got me curious. While we were left with a lot of positives I was rather taken aback by the reveal at the end regarding someone we thought would have little future influence. It doesn’t bode well for the future, but I am keen to see where this goes.


‘The Hand on the Wall’ – Maureen Johnson

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

What can I say? At the same time as Stevie believes she’s solved the crime of the century, there are three mysterious deaths at Ellingham…are they linked? We get answers, finally, and not all of them are what we might have desired but they most certainly tie things up well.

After her somewhat unexpected return to Ellingham, Stevie is doggedly determined to find out the truth. She, along with the other students, is clearly upset by the deaths of the students, but if Stevie can finally piece together the clues that are in front of her she will get her peace of mind.

Unfortunately, there’s still unexplained issues and the net seems to be drawing in around Stevie. When a storm is forecast Stevie and her small group of friends come up with a daring plan to remain in Ellingham. Their main aim is to support David in his attempts to bring down his father, but Stevie recognises her opportunity to finally resolve the case of Alice Ellingham.

The story involving Stevie and her friends sweeps along. Occasionally they do things that are, to say the least, dangerous but when even your friends call you Nancy Drew it isn’t completely unbelievable. The nods to Agatha Christie were fun to spot, but there was always a modern element that kept this feeling relevant.

What I really enjoyed about this was the snippets of the story from 1937. Learning the truth about what happened and how it links to the modern day was fascinating. It offered some interesting ideas about certain characters, and definitely made it fun to watch others trying to make the links we’d been alerted to.


‘The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep’ – H.G. Parry

Thanks to NetGalley for bringing to my attention a book that is an unashamed testimony to loving Literature.

For anyone who loves books, this is a delight. Reading about the summoners who form such a bond with the books they read that they can create these characters in real life was always going to be fun.

Our main characters are brothers, Rob and Charley. Since they were little the brothers have kept Charley’s secret safe. They fondly recall childhood teas with Sherlock Holmes and so on, but as they’re older things have become a little more serious.

When we meet them, Charlie is a professor at the university of Wellington. He calls to ask Robert to help him as he has brought Uriah Heep to life, and things aren’t going smoothly. What comes next is a frightening scenario for anyone, but because it features so many familiar faces it really is concerning.

As we progress through the story we learn that Charley has a nemesis. It takes the time to work it out, and there’s a very real chance that people will not survive. This story could have gone in numerous directions, but throughout it had me gripped.


‘Starsight’ – Brandon Sanderson

Having been so invested in Spensa’s life after book one it felt a little strange to plunge into a much broader scale for this instalment.

After a relatively swift update on what our team have been doing, we are disrupted by the events taking place on a much larger scale. We learn of the dangers facing Detritus and the determination Spensa has to learn more about why the Krell keep attacking them.

Events conspire to send Spensa and M-Bot on a risky mission…to infiltrate Starsight and learn about their technology, with the aim of eventually stealing the secret of hyper travel.

This was a more ambitious scale of world-building. We’re introduced to different groups and learn a little more of their past and their interactions. It’s necessary, and was well done, but it meant we lacked the pace of book one.

Without giving away details, we quickly learn that Spensa is a pawn in someone else’s game. She has to challenge her own prejudices and decide to what extent she will use the teachings of her grandmother.

There’s more flying. There’s a lot of information about the characters and the way their historical beliefs have shaped their current behaviour. There’s some intriguing developments regarding Doomslug and M-Bot, and a rather momentous end-scene that has me curious to see what comes next.


‘The Unadjusteds’ – Marisa Noelle

Now that’s what I call an exciting YA fantasy…full of action from start to finish, and with a great cast of characters.

In this world people are used to adjusting their appearance through the taking of nanites, an advanced technology that alters a person’s physical appearance and capabilities. Silver Melody’s parents invented the technology, but she has always been vehemently anti-nanite. Having watched close friends die, she is understandably nervous about the implications.

From the opening drama, which succinctly outlines Melody’s perspective, we’re plunged into a nightmare scenario. There are plans to force anyone ‘unadjusted’ to take nanites, so Melody and her father are forced to flee.

Unfortunately, there are people in power who are very keen to get their hands on Melody and her father.

What follows is a fraught battle. Melody is forced to develop skills she never knew she had, and rely on a very mixed group to help her.

While I enjoyed the ending, it left me with an awful lot of questions. I can’t help but wonder whether we haven’t heard the last of Melody Silver…


‘The Memory Wood’ – Sam Lloyd

Confusing beyond belief, horror piled on horror and – throughout- there’s a blurring of the line between dream/nightmare and reality. While the content is deeply unpleasant, the end result is a story that is very hard to put down.

A huge thank you to NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this prior to publication in exchange for my thoughts.

This won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a book that I’m sure will be talked about.
The majority of the story takes place in somewhere called The Memory Wood.

Elijah, one of our main characters, has been there a long time and Elissa, a somber yet highly resourceful thirteen year old chess fan, has just arrived. The pair seek solace in each other’s company, though we’re never entirely sure who to trust.

Alongside the experience of Elissa realising she has been abducted and incarcerated, we follow the detective put in charge of the investigation. We learn – eventually – exactly who Elijah is and how he fits into the story.

What is uncovered is beyond your worst imaginings. We’re shown the very worst of people, but we also uncover some good. Unsettling, but strangely compelling.


‘Three Hours’ – Rosamund Lupton

I have only just closed the last page on this extraordinary book, and I think this is one I’ll return to time and time again.

The subject is horrifying, but it is a story that ought to be shared.

A school in the Somerset woodlands, full of children of all ages going about their daily lives. A noise is heard in the woods. Most think it’s a harmless prank, fireworks, but refugee Rafi recognises that it’s a bomb. The Headmaster is shot and he, along with older students, takes refuge in the library and surrounding classrooms. A group of students is in relative safety in the school theatre, rehearsing Macbeth, while a group of primary children are with their teacher in the pottery room.

Spread out as they are, this is an incredibly tense situation.

As we switch views and timings, we learn more about what is happening. We follow these incredibly brave children trying not to give in to their fear. We see teachers stepping into roles nobody should have to take on. We see the police procedure as they desperately try to resolve what quickly becomes a terrifying scenario. We watch in horror as we see the role media and the wider public world have in events. And we also get fleeting glimpses of desperate parents trying to find their children.

The events of this book take place over three short hours. Every moment of that time was depicted so clearly, and as events build to their chilling climax I was physically affected by my reading.

While I might, over time, feel more manipulated by certain revelations/events, I have to rate this based on my reaction as I was reading. Nobody should have to face anything like this. It’s a horrific time when such hatred is shared widely, and nobody challenges it. This book is testimony to what I’d like to feel is a common decency and determination not to give in to this hatred.


‘Chosen’ – Kiersten White


Back to the world of the Slayer, and since Nina got her powers returned nothing has felt quite right. She’s reluctant to tell anyone about it and also has to keep quiet about her sister Artemis’s actions.

For reasons that we do, eventually, learn we are kept rather in the dark here. There are all manner of odd events taking place, and Nina is feeling the strain. She fears the final prophecy, knows she has to keep people safe but doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes made by others.

There’s some tongue-in-cheek humorous moments, enough fear of the hell-mouth to satisfy the toughest reader and demons aplenty. We learn a little more about certain characters, and just when we think it’s going one way we have the proverbial rug pulled from under our feet.

It’s good to be back…