‘Knightley & Son: K-9’ – Ronan Gavin

Knightley & Son K-9

 

As with the first book in the series, this is the kind of book that I think you’ll appreciate if you’re at least familiar with the original Holmes stories.

I enjoyed this, but not as much as the first book. For me, it was difficult to ignore the fact that Darkus and his father are not really working together in this novel. It felt like there were a number of characters running around doing their own thing who would, occasionally, meet up and share what they’d been doing.

I didn’t particularly like the subject, which I think was my key issue with the novel, and there were one or two coincidences too many for my taste.

On the positive side, you got to see a little more of Tilley and there is definitely a sense of Darkus’s growing confidence.

 

‘The Sign of One’ – Eugene Lambert

The Sign of One

 

With a tagline that makes it clear this is no easy world to live in, I was not sure what to expect of ‘The Sign of One’ when I received a pre-publication copy from NetGalley.

Due for release in April 2016, this novel tells the story of Kyle and the desperate world he lives in. The opening chapter was a little confusing, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but I quickly changed my mind. By the end, I didn’t want to stop reading and I think that’s a good sign in a book.

In the Barrenlands it is common practice to separate identical twins and, through a very public ‘Unwrapping’ procedure, identify which twin needs to be killed. That’s right, killed. Publicly. With people going to watch, for entertainment!

Once I’d got to grips with the brutality of this world – and do not under-estimate the brutality – I was intrigued by this story. The writer’s interest in engineering and science are evident throughout, but there’s a very human touch to the story that I found really exciting.

There is definitely something for everyone in this novel. A thoroughly recommended read.

‘Desolation: Demon Road 2’ – Derek Landy

Desolation

 

Out early April 2016, the second instalment in Landy’s Demon Road trilogy.

This sees Amber and Milo desperately fleeing the five Hounds of Hell that have been sent to capture them. They make their way to the one place on the Demon Highway that they think they will be safe – Desolation Hill.

Unfortunately, this town has its own secrets.

We learn that one night a year the residents of Desolation Hill rejoice in the custom known as Hell Night. Nobody will tell Amber and Milo exactly what this entails for those residents over eighteen, but – inevitably – the night is due not long after our intrepid duo appear. As we might expect, the events of this night are closely linked to their story and the things that they’re running from.

There are some great new characters – and one or two less pleasant ones – and the humour of the first book is still very much in evidence. All in all, I think if you enjoyed the first one you’ll love this.

Thank you NetGalley for the advance copy.

‘Flawed’ – Cecilia Ahern

Flawed

 

First things first, I love Cecilia Ahern’s adult novels. This isn’t anything like, and it was interesting to see a writer focus on very different things. Some worked more successfully than others.

The novel opens with Celestine and her family at a dinner party. We see she is part of the ‘perfect’ society that is about to be brought down. Through Celestine we are encouraged to see the perceived benefits of the society in which she lives-at least while everyone follows the expected behaviours.

In the initial setting-up of this world I felt Ahern gave us just enough information to explain what was going on, though I was keen to know more about those characters who challenge it.

Very early on Celestine carries out an action that has far-reaching consequences. She helps someone. Not a big deal, other than the man is Flawed and her actions are punishable by the Guild (which just happens to be run by her boyfriend’s father).

At this point it would have been easy in reality for nothing to happen. However, Celestine shows her true character and refuses to toe the line. For showing compassion she is branded-a constant reminder to everyone of her ‘crime’.
What follows is disgusting. Here I think anyone in their right mind would have been outraged, but Celestine is so indoctrinated that she questions herself and what she has done to cause this action.

On occasion I felt the plot could have moved a little faster or focused on some of the more intriguing characters (I wonder if some of these ‘cameo’ appearances are setting the characters up for bigger roles in the next book). Carrick Vane is obviously going to be important, and it was more than a little frustrating to not really learn more about him until later on.

As I was reading, I thoroughly enjoyed this. I didn’t want to put it down. It’s the kind of book that I will recommend to people and I will definitely be interested in finding out just where this goes in the next part. I need to see Craven brought down!

Thank you NetGalley for the advance copy – though I am really frustrated that I need to wait for the next part to find out the answers to what Celestine does next.

‘The Art of Not Breathing’ – Sarah Alexander

The Art of Not Breathing

 

The cover for this makes perfect sense after reading the book, and I feel it evokes the sense of hope that I was left with as things are resolved.

At first, I was not sure what to expect from this story about a family left grieving after the death of one of the children.

When we first meet sixteen-year old Elsie we can sense the raw pain that her family still carry round with them. When Elsie’s twin brother, Eddie, disappeared five years previously it soon becomes clear that there is more to it than Elsie remembers.

Initially, the narrative focuses more on the impact of this event than explaining what happened. We see that Elsie’s parents are not dealing with their grief, and are completely ignoring the signs that their surviving children are also suffering. Each member of the family has secrets that they want to keep, and it was quite painful to see the way the family disintegrated.

In the course of the novel, Elsie learns to free dive and this helps give her the confidence she needs to find out the truth of what happened. A beautiful yet upsetting story, full of hope.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy of this novel, due for publication April 2016.

‘White Lies, Black Dare’ – Joanna Nadin

White Lies, Black Dare

 

Asha Wright has a lot to deal with. Her mum has got cancer and has been forced to give up work and move back in with her step-father. Asha has had to give up her place in private school, and she now has to work out how to fit in at her new much tougher school.

Fairly early on it is made clear that Asha is a bright girl, with a future, and we know we’re meant to be rooting for her. She has a couple of close friends, and does find herself back in touch with people she knew when she was much younger. Unfortunately, Asha is drawn to Angel Jones, the brash and beautiful girl who seems to rule the roost. Asha, even though she knows it will cause trouble, cannot resist the lure of something different.

There are what I would regard as some fairly stock characters, and I felt this was a pretty straightforward look at teen relationships, peer pressure, coming to terms with yourself and doing the right thing.

If I’m being honest I felt the book was, at times, a little too simple. I think people are often more complicated than this suggests, though it was an enjoyable read and would definitely prompt some discussion with younger readers.

‘The Girls’ – Emma Cline

The Girls

 

Due for publication in June 2016, this debut novel is definitely one to watch.

The opening of the novel creates a real sense of desire and perfectly recreates the intensity of being 14.

Evie Boyd is something of a spoiled rich kid, left pretty much alone by her divorced parents and not really fitting in anywhere. When she first sees Suzanne in a park the attraction is evident. Suzanne seems to represent everything that Evie wants but doesn’t have…freedom, confidence, a group etc. Slowly, Evie ingratiated herself into Suzanne’s group and we watch as she gets drawn under the spell of the charismatic cult-leader Russell.

After establishing this almost dream-like setting, Cline shifts her focus into the present. We now see Evie as an adult, alone. Here we learn a little more about what happened to Evie in the summer of 1969, and how her life was intertwined with some truly dark events.

Alternating the focus of the novel between past and present allows the adult Evie the opportunity to reflect on her experiences, but I wonder whether it keeps us just that little too distanced from it all. At times I felt we lost some of the innocence of young Evie as the adult narrator looks back on these times.

The novel is loosely based on the Manson murders, but I think the focus on Evie means this remains at the fore throughout. This was a complex and quite beautifully-written novel, and it seems an assured debut. My only reason for not rating it 5 stars was that I felt the ending was just a little too convenient for Evie.

Thank-you to NetGalley and Random House for the advance copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

‘Ink and Bone’ – Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone

 

In the world of this novel, the Great Library of Alexandria still exists and those within its walls are in total control of what knowledge is passed on. Owning your own copy of a book is a crime, and those who challenge the way society is constructed can expect to be dealt with very harshly.

I loved the idea of this world, and was immediately drawn to the main character of Jess Brightwell. Jess is a curious hero. He is the son of a book smuggler and is well-used to risking his life. When he is sent to the Great Library to compete for a position as a scholar it soon becomes clear that he is now more at risk than ever.

Throughout the novel we see Jess develop as a character and come to trust his own judgement. Without ruining the plot, I could not believe what Jess uncovers and his disbelief is shared by us as we journey through the novel with him.

I also loved the character of Wolfe, their tutor. Initially brusque and unpleasant, we soon come to realise there is a lot more to this man than meets the eye. By the end of the novel I was firmly rooting for him and am certainly keen to get my hands on the sequel, Paper and Fire, due to be published in July 2016.

‘Read Me Like A Book’ – Liz Kessler

Read Me Like A Book

 

First and foremost, the cover of this novel is beautiful. The clever use of colour symbolised for me the discrepancy between how Ashleigh feels, and how she believes she is meant to feel.

I can’t say whether this is a realistic exploration of coming to terms with your sexuality, but it was certainly a sensitive exploration of a character experiencing an awful lot of turmoil.

Ashleigh was not, initially, a character I felt much empathy with, She was, as her friend points out, incredibly self-centred and I could not believe just how casually she got into the relationship with Dylan. Her refusal to engage with her parents was, however, pretty realistically portrayed.

As the novel progressed I was interested to see how the writer used the characters around Ashleigh to help chart her development. I personally felt a little uncomfortable initially with the focus on the relationship between the teacher and Ashleigh, but there is no hint of anything other than compassion and understanding on Miss Murray’s part.

Thanks to NetGalley for the digital copy of the novel.