Review: Song of the Current

Song of the Current
Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Caro Oresteia was born into a family of Rivermen who sail Wherries carrying cargo around the Riverlands. Unfortunately, not all of the cargo is safe and when Caro’s father is arrested, she must take a mysterious box to Valonikos to buy his freedom.

This was, in theory, a perfectly reasonable read about a young woman’s coming of age during her adventures on the river. To be honest though, there was far too much description of boats and how to sail them (which I freely admit to have glossed over a lot of the time) and not enough about the relationships between any characters but that of Caro and Markos who were, again, perfectly reasonable characters but spent a lot of time misunderstanding each other and/or pining for each other before meeting up and falling out again.

This is the first in a series apparently; to be honest it could have had another book’s worth of action and lost a lot of the unnecessary parts. I suggest a good editor could make it something a lot better than it turned out to be!

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Review: The Dry

The Dry
The Dry by Jane Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of Aaron Falk’s childhood friends has been dramatically killed and he must go home for the funeral. Luke’s parents had been like family to him when he was younger and they now refuse to believe that Luke killed himself and his family. Can Aaron find out the truth whilst keeping himself safe from his past?

My favourite part of this story was definitely the atmospheric setting of the dry Australian outback and how that affects everyone in the rural community. The author’s descriptions really bring that awful, parched feeling to life and added that extra dimension of upset and short tempers to the mix.

Aaron Falk himself is a very well written character and I felt that I knew him and Luke very well. I’m not so sure about any of the rest of the others really, as they sometimes seemed to be there to flesh out Falk’s back story as much as to add to the new case. This is interesting as this appears to be book 1 in a series of novels about Falk but I am not sure how that will transfer to a different setting; I shall look forward to reading the next one in order to find out!

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Review: Caraval

Caraval by Stephanie Garber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Scarlett and Donatella Dragna’s father is a tyrant who treats them very badly. Scarlett loves Tella very much and, before she gets married, she wants to arrange a special treat for her sister; a trip to the magical game of Caraval. When invitations to the game finally arrive just before her wedding, Scarlett just wants to play and get home. She needed to be very careful what she wished for…

I very much liked the idea behind this novel and I enjoyed the setting of Caraval. Scarlett was a very strong character who was interesting to get to know and the story of her playing the game is a great one. Unfortunately, I just don’t like novels where the strong female character swoons into the arms of a passing young man and becomes unable to function sensibly. Although Julian is undoubtedly a fine fellow, I would infinitely have preferred to see Scarlett’s character being given the chance to manage on her own as she seemed perfectly capable of doing.

In summary, this was an enjoyable story to read but could have had so much more to it – I will be interested to see how the story continues in part 2 but it won’t be top of my reading list.

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Review: Born Bad

Born Bad
Born Bad by Marnie Riches
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What do you do when you don’t want to run a gang any more? Sell up and escape to Thailand? Only if you can get the money your patch is really worth and only if you can get away alive!

This is a quite graphic description of gang warfare in the North West of England but funnily enough it’s a really engaging read. Although the behaviour of the people as a whole is really awful, there are some really touching moments and some really interesting characters; Leviticus Bell being my absolute favourite.

In this way, Marnie Riches has written a really clever novel and one which does make you think about the lengths to which some people really have to go. Don’t get too attached to anyone though, there’s plenty of people who don’t make it to the end…

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Review: Spellslinger

Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kellen’s father and mother are JanTep, great mages of their tribe who have been trained to do amazing things with magic. As Kellen approaches his sixteenth birthday however, it’s pretty clear that he won’t be following in their footsteps. Then Ferius Parfax arrives in town and everything Kellen thought he knew is suddenly turned upside down. Suddenly, not being a mage of the JanTep is the least of his concerns…

This was a very easy book to read and enjoy without being either too thought provoking or too lightweight. The “battle lines” of good and evil are very clearly drawn and the characters conform to their stereotypes brilliantly without being boring. Of course, Keeln and Ferius Parfax are the ones we hear most about and there is a great deal of detail about them. The many and varied supporting cast though are also a lot of fun; Reichis and his mother being hilarious and brilliantly sad all in the space of a few pages.

This is definitely not a book which will change the world or even really make you think. It’s just one that you’ll come away from with a bit more of a spring in your step.

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Review: Persons Unknown

Persons Unknown
Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Manon Bradshaw has moved her adopted son, Fly, her sister Ellie and nephew Solomon back to Cambridgeshire to try and keep Fly away from bad influences in London. Then Solomon’s dad is found murdered and Fly is implicated – has Manon made the right decision or has she brought Fly into the heart of danger?

I did enjoy the first Manon Bradshaw novel so I was interested to see how the story followed on. This second novel jumps straight in without really going back over old ground which, even as a previous reader, I found rather disorientating and a little bit confusing.

Manon herself is an interesting character but the author does seem to spend a lot of time making her, at 5 months pregnant, not able to do very much. I actually found this quite irritating and not at all true to life and it did really spoil the book for me as I cannot see why a woman who is 5 months pregnant with her first child can’t walk properly!

I have always very much liked the characters of Fly and Davey and they don’t disappoint again. The introduction of Mark is also positive as he is an interesting character who I would like to know more about.

The crime itself is not really a big part of the book to be honest and, even if it was, I didn’t really like the people involved. I really dislike corporate “fat cats” “getting away with murder” and I think this was done quite poorly in this story.

All in all, this follow up didn’t grab me as much as the first novel and I had started to get quite irritated with the character of Manon. I am not sure how the author can take it from here, but I won’t be rushing to read the next one if there is one. Rather a disappointing read.

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Review: One of Us Is Lying

One of Us Is Lying
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nate (the Bad Boy), Cooper (The Baseball Hero), Addy (The Popular Girl) and Bronwyn (The Clever One) find themselves in a detention they don’t deserve with Simon, the author of a school app which discloses people’s darkest secrets. Then Simon has an allergic reaction and dies. Who did it?

I thought this was a great book; a real cut above the usual writing about teenage angst. All four of the central characters are so well written and the nature of the story means that their characters are revealed slowly and with so much care that you really feel you have got into their minds.

Other than the four main characters, there is a really excellent supporting cast; I particulalry liked Bronwyn’s sister and Cooper’s “Nonny”, but even the minor characters do have a part to play in bringing the story together and are equally as well written as any of the main four.

Of course, it wasn’t really hard to guess who did it and how but by that stage it wasn’t really the point. This is a book about having to come of age quickly and finding out who your real friends are when you need them and it does that brilliantly. Definitely a recommended read.

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Review: Exquisite

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bo and Alice are writers who meet at a writer’s retreat Bo is running and become fast friends. Bo invites Alice to stay with her and then, on Bo’s suggestion, Alice decides to move closer to continue the relationship. All of a sudden things take a much more serious turn. As both writers tell us the story of what happened, who is closer to the truth?

I like the premise of the book and the blurb describes it as “sinister” and “terrifying”. Unfortunately, it never reaches those dizzying heights for me and, in fact, I am not sure that either of those things are really true.

Alice and Bo are interesting characters and the way that the book is written (alternating their POV) works well and is clever. The trouble is (and without trying to give too much away) as the writers have so much to hide, it means we aren’t really getting to know them as well as we might and even the “reveal” at the end is confusing because it just means, for me, that the rest of the book makes even less sense than it did before.

I think this is an extremely cleverly plotted story and it is very well written. I just wonder if it’s a bit too clever for its own good!

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Review: Hunted

Hunted by Meagan Spooner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yeva’s father has taught her to be a hunter so, when the family are forced to relocate to a remote cabin in the woods, Yeva follows her father when he goes out to provide for his family. When he doesn’t come back one day, Yeva goes to look for him but in doing so encounters an adversary who is more than a match for her.

I absolutely love Slavic tales and Russian folklore so as soon as I opened this novel I knew it woule be for me. Although it is supposedly from the YA genre, I found it had a depth that those stories often don’t have and again, this added to my overall enjoyment very much.

Yeva and the Beast, of course, are very well rounded characters who we get to know well as one would expect. The real strength of this retelling for me though, were the other characters (both animal and human) who were also expertly brought to life and most definitely not just there on the sidelines.

The central relationship between Yeva and the Beast is sensitively done but not over the top, and we begin to get to know him as she does; as a complex character with many sides to him, all fighting for dominance. The cleverness with which the Beauty and the Beast tale is interwoven with Russian fairy tales adds yet another dimension to the story and again, just makes it an absolute joy to immerse oneself in.

This is a beautifully written story and a lovely book and I would definitely recommend reading it for yourself.

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Review: How to Stop Time

How to Stop Time
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tom Hazard is a History teacher in London. He’s a pretty good teacher because to him it isn’t History – Tom has been alive for centuries. Marion is Tom’s daughter. She’s also still alive. Tom had to leave her and her mother to keep them safe but it’s the greatest regret of his life and Tom will do anything to find Marion alive. After all, there’s no point to life if he can’t find her. Is there?

This is yet another lovely, thought provoking story by the brilliant Matt Haig who, once again, goes right down to the essence of humanity and pulls out what living is “all about”. Tom has had a long and fascinating life but it isn’t enough; he lost the woman he loved and was then scared to put himself in that position again. The lovely scenes with Camille are what remind us all that the important thing to do is not to spend those times worrying about what will happen in the future and instead to concentrate on what we have right now. Living in the present is the only way.

Once again, Matt Haig reminds us what is is to be human. Once again, he’s right!

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