Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads to the colours of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

I picked up Celeste Ng's debut novel, 'Everything I Never Told You',  and absolutely adored it so when I started seeing all the buzz for Little Fires Everywhere I knew I had to read it. It's contemporary fiction which is not normally my everyday read but there's something so delightful about Ng's writing that I seem to be consumed by her work.

Little Fires Everywhere is a masterpiece about families, ones with fathers, ones without, adoption, and the relationships between the members of these families. The Richardson family are long established in Shaker Heights so when Mia Warren, an artist, and her daughter Pearl roll into town, Elena Richardson is only too pleased to be seen to be doing something for a poor, starving artist and rents them her upstairs apartment. Elena has four children, Trip, Lexie, Moody, and Izzy, and has an easygoing relationship with all of them except Izzy. Izzy is her problem child, the one she spends her time being completely exasperated with. But is this because Izzy is the problem child? Or is it because Mrs. Richardson fears she will lose Izzy and finds it easier to push her away?

When Moody strikes up a friendship with Pearl, Elena is secretly pleased that Izzy then seems to take a shine to Mia and in that way that happens with intense friendships, Pearl starts spending most of her time with the Richardsons, and Izzy starts spending time with Mia, wishing that Mia were her mother.

It's these intense relationships that make Celeste Ng's novels. The pace is slow and delicious, an impressive example of a character-driven novel. Nothing much may happen in Little Fires Everywhere but it doesn't need to, you lose yourself entirely in all the character's stories. Both principal and secondary characters have their stories told, all perfectly interwoven, telling the tale of what happened to each and every one of them to get them where they are today. The driving point of the start of the breakdown of these relationships is a court case over custody of a baby, adopted by friends of the Richardson but whose birth mother is a friend of Mia's.

These characters are not perfect, they all have their flaws but they are perfection to read about. By the end of the story they have all been through something and some, if not all, take a long look at both their lives and their behaviour. Apparently, Reece Witherspoon has bought the rights to Little Fires Everywhere and I can see why. I'm not normally a fan of books-to-tv/movie adaptations but I'm looking forward to seeing these characters on the small screen. This is one book that will stay with me for a long time as I loved it even more than Everything I Never Told You, and I am now eagerly waiting to see what comes next for Celeste Ng.

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng
ISBN - 9781408709719
Publisher - Little Brown
Release Date - November 9th, 2017

About The Author

Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You, which was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a 'best book of the year' by over a dozen publications. Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA’s Alex Award, and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Ohioana Award, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.

Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.

Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Huge thanks to both Grace Vincent and Little, Brown for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and a copy of one of the best books I've read this year. Please do check out all the other bloggers taking part on the tour which runs until November 14th. Links can be found on the LB Twitter account, @LittleBrownUK.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

November New Release Giveaway!

Welcome to the November 2017 New Release Giveaway Hop, hosted by It Starts At Midnight! The hop now runs all month long so you can enter from now until midnight on November 30th. Up for grabs is any new release this month up to the value of $20 from the Book Depository as long as they deliver to your country - find the list of countries here

All you have to do is choose any new release published in November and fill out the rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the linky for more chances to win, thanks for entering and good luck!

Monday, 30 October 2017

Curse Of The Werewolf Boy - Chris Priestley

Mildew and Sponge don’t think much of Maudlin Towers, the blackened, gloom­laden, gargoyle-infested monstrosity that is their school. But when somebody steals the School Spoon and the teachers threaten to cancel the Christmas holidays until the culprit is found, our heroes must spring into action and solve the crime!

But what starts out as a classic bit of detectivating quickly becomes weirder than they could have imagined. Who is the ghost in the attic? What's their history teacher doing with a time machine? And why do a crazy bunch of Vikings seem to think Mildew is a werewolf?

Welcome to Maudlin Towers, boarding school for boys in an undetermined time period but definitely before cars were invented. Arthur Mildew and Algernon Spongely-Partwork, henceforth known as Mildew and Sponge, are taking part in the school jog (up a mountain) and supervised by the sports master, Mr. Stupendo, when they spot a Viking in the ha-ha* What follows is a hilarious tale in detectivating, with possible Roman ghosts, a Temporo-Trans-Navigational-Vehicular Engine, Vikings, and the mystery of the School Spoon.

Mildew and Sponge don't like Maudlin Towers, it is pretty rubbish, so when the School Spoon goes missing and the Headmaster threatens to cancel Christmas the boys know they're the best candidates to detectivate the incident. However, it's not going to be that simple...

Chris Priestley has long been a favourite author and his Tales of Terror are fantastic. In Curse Of The Werewolf Boy, he brings his trademark illustrations and Gothic storytelling to a younger audience, along with a good dash of humor. Mildew and Sponge are an excellent comedy duo, mostly without meaning to be funny, and the supporting characters are wonderful. How can they not be, with names like Miss Bronteen, Hipflask, and Footstool?

If you're looking for a spooky Halloween read for a middle-grade reader then do try the first instalment of Maudlin Towers, spooky without being frightening, extremely funny, and with some absolutely superb illustrations. I can't wait to get my hands on the next book to what Mildew and Sponge get up to next!

*ha-ha - a ditch running alongside the school playing field...

Curse Of The Werewolf Boy - Chris Priestley
ISBN - 9781408873083
Publisher - Bloomsbury
Release Date - October 5th, 2017
Find - Goodreads | Book Depository


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

This Week In Books #2

I have decided to join with the lovely Lipsy from Lipsy’s Lost and Found's feature, 'This Week In Books', which highlights our week in books. Here are the books that I've just read, am currently reading, and just about to start. Clicking on the book pics will take you to their Goodreads page. This week's post is a day late, but better late than never...


I was going to skip reading this before starting The Princess & The Suffragette by Holly Webb but decided I may as well re-read it.


 I've essentially spent the last nine days re-reading and then finishing the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine. I read the first four books in the series and then somehow never got round to reading the rest of them. I heard a rumor that there's a new book coming, which is what prompted me to start them again.


It's either going to be


Both are on my Halloween/R.I.P. reading list but I can't decide on which to start first...

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

#ShelfLove - October Check-In

Didn't I just write one of these updates? If anybody knows what happened to September please do let me know... October, R.I.P., spooky reads, horror movies - my favorite things in one month! I've hit my R.I.P. reading target already so anything I read in October is going to be both a bonus and from the TBR pile. Still no surgery news but I do have an appointment with my orthopaedic surgeon on October 19th so keep your fingers crossed for me.

I read 32 books in September. And how many were from my TBR pile?  Not as many as I hoped. My #ShelfLove total increased by 17 this month, taking me up to 118 books from the TBR pile so far this year. Over the next 3 months I have to read 62 books from my TBR pile which is probably not a realistic target.

I'm almost done with my Goodreads challenge though. I'm currently at 92% with only 20 more books to read to hit my target. I'm deliberating over whether to leave it as is or to change it slightly by increasing the total up to 275. What to do...

Here are the facts and figures for September's reading and Shelf Love.

  • Read at least 15 of my own books a month - they have to have been on my shelves up to and including December 2016
  • For every 15 books read I'm allowed to buy 3 brand new books
  • For every 20 books donated to either charity or the library, I can buy 2 new books

Ill Wind - Rachel Caine (reread)
Heat Stroke - Rachel Caine (reread)
Knife - R J Anderson (reread)
The Boy With The Cuckoo-Clock Heart - Mathias Malzieu (reread)
Masque Of The Red Death - Bethany Griffiths (reread)
Velveteen - Daniel Marks
Prom Nights From Hell - Meg Cabot
Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge (reread)
Karen Memory - Elizabeth Bear
Golden Girl - Sarah Zettel
Inside The Worm - Robert Swindells (reread)
Don't Look Now & Other Stories - Daphne du Maurier
The Fall Of The House Of Usher & Other Stories - Edgar Allan Poe
Fox - Jim Crumley
The Word For World Is Forest - Ursula K. Le Guin (reread)
The City Of Dreams & Nightmare - Ian Whates
The Dresskeeper - Mary Naylus


September Reading By Numbers

Read - 32

Own - 19
Kindle - 6
Library - 7
TBR Challenge - 17
Review  - 4
Re-read - 6
 #ShelfLove Target - 118/180

Wishlist - 2652
TBR (Vaguely more accurate) - 1546 (It went up again...)
Goodreads Challenge Update

Monday, 2 October 2017

Death In The Stars - Frances Brody

Yorkshire, 1927. Eclipse fever grips the nation, and when beloved theatre star Selina Fellini approaches trusted sleuth Kate Shackleton to accompany her to a viewing party at Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate suspects an ulterior motive.

During the eclipse, Selina's friend and co-star Billy Moffatt disappears and is later found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate can't help but dig deeper and soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe died in similarly mysterious circumstances in the past year. With the help of Jim Sykes and Mrs. Sugden, Kate sets about investigating the deaths - and whether there is a murderer in the company.

When Selina's elusive husband Jarrod, injured in the war and subject to violent mood swings, comes back on the scene, Kate begins to imagine something far deadlier at play and wonders just who will be next to pay the ultimate price for fame...

I'm absolutely thrilled to be on the blog tour for the ninth installment of the Kate Shackleton mysteries, Death In The Stars. I've now read five of these wonderful mysteries and I'm completely hooked! Last October I read (and loved) Death At The Seaside but Death In The stars couldn't be in a more different setting.

Selina Fenelli, known to legions of fans as the Silver Songbird asks Kate to accompany her and a friend from the theatre to an eclipse viewing at a local boy's school. At first, Kate thinks nothing of it, that Selina only asked her because she knows she has contacts at the local airfield and can arrange to have the three of them flown to the school. However, Selina has a different reason for asking. Over the last eighteen months two of her fellow stars on the music hall tour have died, seemingly in tragic accidents, but Selina isn't so sure and is terrified that something is going to happen to her or Billy, the chap accompanying them to Giggleswick for the eclipse.

When Billy dies at the school Kate realises that Selina might not be paranoid about the previous accidents after all but as Billy was a known drug user thanks to injuries from the war it's thought his death was either a tragic overdose or simply natural causes. Kate being Kate decides to investigate anyway, albeit reluctantly, and after finding a cigar on the school grounds that might not be an ordinary cigar the investigation picks up steam.

Mrs. Shackleton is once again aided and abetted by her housekeeper, Mrs. Sugden, and ex-policeman Jim Sykes, along with the addition of Alex, the head boy from Giggleswick, who wants to be a doctor but given his help in this case might also have a career as a detective, and her niece, Harriet. Appearances from Selina's fellow performers lend some light relief but it's impossible to get away from the darkness that has settled around the theatre. As in previous books everybody is a suspect, including Jarrod Compton, Selina's elusive husband who, along with Billy, was severely injured in the war. Compton is probably the main suspect from the start as he doesn't seem to like anybody being too involved in Selina's life and because of his facial disfigurement is always covered from head to toe, adding an aura of deceit to his person.

Yet again the 1920's setting is perfect, from the theatre and the music hall stars coming towards the end of their popularity to the simplicity of life back then. The mystery is completely gripping with twists and turns on every page. As usual, I got sucked into the red herrings that Frances Brody so wonderfully included and it wasn't until just before the big reveal of the villain that I realised who that really was. If you like your crime in a more gentle fashion without the blood and guts, then the Kate Shackleton mysteries are definitely worth a read. I mentioned Miss Marple, Daisy Dalrymple, and Phryne Fisher in my review of Death At The Seaside but this time I need to add that Kate Shackleton is definitely up there with the best of them and is becoming a firm favorite.

Death In The Stars - Frances Brody
ISBN - 9780349414317
Publisher - Piatkus
Release date - October 5th, 2017

About The Author

Frances Brody is the author of the Kate Shackleton mysteries, as well as many stories and plays for BBC Radio, scripts for television and four sagas, one of which won the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin Award. Her stage plays have been toured by several theatre companies and produced at Manchester Library Theatre, the Gate and Nottingham Playhouse, and Jehad was nominated for a Time Out Award.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

October New Release Giveaway!!!

Welcome to the October 2017 New Release Giveaway Hop, hosted by It Starts At Midnight! The hop now runs all month long so you can enter from now until midnight on October 31st. Up for grabs is any new release this month up to the value of $22 from the Book Depository as long as they deliver to your country - find the list of countries here

All you have to do is choose any new release published in October and fill out the rafflecopter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the linky for lots of other chances to win, thanks for entering and good luck!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Such Small Hands - Andrés Barba

Her father died instantly, her mother in the hospital. She has learned to say this flatly and without emotion, the way she says her name (Marina), her doll's name (also Marina) and her age (seven). Her parents were killed in a car crash and now she lives in the orphanage with the other little girls. But Marina is not like the other little girls.

In the curious, hyperreal, feverishly serious world of childhood, Marina and the girls play games of desire and warfare. The daily rituals of playtime, lunchtime, and bedtime are charged with a horror; horror is licked by the dark flames of love. When Marina introduces the girls to Marina the Doll, she sets in motion a chain of events from which there can be no release.

With shades of Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro and Mariana Enríquez, Such Small Hands is a beautifully controlled tour-de-force, a bedtime story to keep readers awake.

I first heard about Such Small Hands when a Spanish friend sent me a copy of 'Las manos pequeñas' a few years ago thinking my university Spanish would still be fluent enough to read this little gem. Unfortunately it wasn't, and I've been waiting for an English translation ever since. I think it's probably just as well I read it in English as I think I would have missed a lot of the subtleness of this novel, the quietness which adds to its general air of menace.

Apparently inspired by a real-life incident in a Brazilian orphanage where the other children killed a girl and then proceeded to play with her body for a week, Such Small Hands is not at all gruesome and starts with an actual doll. Marina, the child from the car crash, names this doll Marina too, and starts her descent into something that's not quite madness but is fascinating to the other girls to see and to try to understand.

Barba's writing is simple but this is what makes the book so disturbing and I can see why the comparisons to both Daphne du Maurier & Shirley Jackson are made. The girls in the orphanage are never portrayed as anything other than little girls but in the dead of night, anything and anyone can be terrifying. Such Small Hands wasn't quite what I was expecting but nevertheless wriggled its way into my brain where it's filed away in the 'creepy doll' section.

Such Small Hands -

Thursday, 28 September 2017

The Body In The Marsh - Nick Louth

When a woman goes missing, it gets personal for DCI Craig Gillard. But he could never imagine what happens next.

Criminologist Martin Knight lives a gilded life and is a thorn in the side of the police. But then his wife Liz goes missing. There is no good explanation and no sign of Martin…

To make things worse, Liz is the ex-girlfriend of DCI Craig Gillard who is drawn into the investigation. Is it just a missing person or something worse? And what relevance do the events around the shocking Girl F case, so taken up by Knight, have to do with the present?

The truth is darker than you could ever have imagined.

The truth is definitely darker than you could imagine, especially in The Body In The Marsh by Nick Louth. The story starts with DCI Craig Gillard rescuing somebody after a fall up in the Lake District. As coincidences go it's a big one. Her name is Sam Phillips, she's about to start working as a PCSO in Gillard's area, and they're both about to get caught up on two of the local force's biggest cases.

Sam takes a missing person report about someone called Elizabeth Knight, who turns out to be Gillard's first love from 30 years ago. Nobody has seen her and everybody is worried, apart from her husband, the esteemed criminologist Professor Martin Knight who is involved in the case of Girl F, also involving Gillard's station. The case takes an even stranger turn when Professor Knight also goes missing and suddenly everybody is involved and Gillard is heartbroken. He is convinced this is an admission of guilt on Martin Knight's part and sure enough, irrefutable evidence turns up all leading to one conclusion. Elizabeth Knight is dead, murdered most likely by her husband.

The Body In The Marsh is a rollercoaster ride from here on out and nobody is quite sure just how this has happened. Professor Knight has had a string of affairs and emails are found leading police to believe that he was planning to run off with one particular woman, having inherited a significant amount of money. Friends of Liz are convinced that she was being abused by her husband and that's what lead to her brief stay in a mental health unit. The Knight's children are none the wiser, one a solicitor and the other a student both appear to be clueless on the surface but a birthday card from France might indicate otherwise. 

Nothing is as it seems in this case and when evidence points to a link with the infamous Girl F case, which Professor Knight viciously condemned, things appear to be pointing in another direction, or are they? Nobody is quite sure what to do next but trips to France, Spain, the Kent coast, and the fact that the allow the Knight family to hold a funeral for Liz would suggest that the case has gone cold and might never be solved. 

The Body In The Marsh is a fantastic police thriller, well-written, fast-paced, and featuring some wonderful characters. I particularly loved DS Claire Mulholland, Gillard's deputy, who was portrayed as perhaps the most realistic policewoman I've come across, with a family, grandchildren, and definitely not romantically interested in her boss. Gillard was a little peculiar to me though, still pining after a woman 30 years later struck me as a little obsessive and allowing it to impact on all his romantic relationships was nothing short of foolishness. I can pretty much guarantee he is seeing his brief involvement with Liz through very rose-tinted glasses and allowing it to cloud his judgment of the Liz of today. I also loved the touches of humor which broke up the seriousness of both cases under the spotlight, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, in my opinion, should have featured more...

If you're looking for a thriller with a difference you can't go wrong with The Body In The Marsh. Its twists and turns will keep you up well beyond your bedtime. When you think you've got the culprit worked out the book will turn that upside down and thrown in a curveball for good measure. It was definitely worth losing a few hours sleep to find out who did it and what exactly happened. I've got 2 more of Nick Louth's books here to read so I'm hoping they're half as good as The Body In The Marsh.

The Body In The Marsh - Nick Louth
Publisher - Canelo
Release date - September 25th, 2017

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

This Week In Books #1

I have decided to join with the lovely Lipsy from Lipsy’s Lost and Found's feature, 'This Week In Books', which highlights our week in books. Here are the books that I've just read, am currently reading, and just about to start.

Now | Then | Next

Now: Death In The Stars

1920's crime writing from Frances Brody and my fourth Kate Shackleton mystery. I'm on the blog tour for this one so look out for my review next week.

Then: Such Small Hands 

My fourth R.I.P. read, a quirky translated (originally written in Spanish) horror novel. Look out for my review of this on Friday.

Next: Karen Memory

One for the TBR Challenge, this has been sitting on my shelves for about 18 months...

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The Secrets You Keep - Kate White

What would you do if you realized that your new husband, a man you adore, is keeping secrets from you - secrets with terrifying consequences?

Bryn Harper, an accomplished self-help author, already has plenty to deal with. She's still recovering from a devastating car accident that has left her haunted by recurring, smoke-filled nightmares. Worse still, she can't shake the ominous feeling her dreams contain a warning.

In the beginning, Bryn's husband, Guy, couldn't have been more supportive. But soon after moving in together, Guy grows evasive, secretive. What the hell is going on? she wonders. Then, a woman hired to cater their dinner party is brutally murdered.

As Bryn's world unravels - and yet another woman in town is slain - she must summon her old strength to find answers and protect her own life. Her nightmares may, in fact, hold the key to unlocking the truth and unmasking the murderer.

Oooh, where to start?! Bryn is an author whose best-selling self-help books have allowed her a comfortable life. Despite being married to Guy, the man of her dreams, they continue to live apart and only seeing each other on weekends but after being involved in a fatal car accident that caused the death of a man from her publisher's they've made the decision to spend the summer together. Or at least Bryn has, with Guy going along with her choice trying to be supportive after the accident. 

After a dinner party thrown for donors of Guy's company the caterer is brutally murdered and it would appear just about everyone is a suspect, including Bryn. Questioned by the police, Bryn starts to doubt and suspect everybody and, at the same time, starts to realize that she might not know her husband as well as she thinks. Plagued by nightmares since the accident, they feature a man who is trying to tell her something. The only thing she knows for sure is that the man is not Guy.

Things deteriorate from there. Bryn doesn't know who to trust, and that includes herself. Everywhere she looks she sees a suspect and is terrified that she might be married to a murderer and if he's not a murderer then he's cheating on her.

A great psychological thriller with so many twists and turns it's almost impossible to keep up and with an ending that I did not see coming. Every single character is unreliable and hiding something, from the guests at the dinner party to a woman from the Arts Council who visits Bryn to see if Bryn will attend an event during the summer. Not only are they unreliable but most are also downright unlikable, I found it hard to warm to any of them really except for feeling sympathy for what Bryn was going through. 

Kate White does a great job at making the reader suspect everybody of the murders, reeling you in with a plethora of red herrings - most of which fooled me as by the time the final curtain dropped I was surprised by the identity of the killer. For a book full of characters that I took a dislike to I still managed to sit up until the early hours of the morning to finish the book in one go. I had to know who the killer was before I could sleep! I hadn't read any of The author's books before The Secrets You Keep but I will definitely try another one soon. Many thanks to Canelo for a copy of the book!

The Secrets You Keep - Kate White
Publisher - Canelo
Release date - September 11th, 2017

Monday, 11 September 2017

Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge

The first things to shift were the doll's eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swiveled until their gaze was resting on Triss's face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak.

'What are you doing here?' It was uttered in tones of outrage and surprise, and in a voice as cold and musical as the clinking of cups. 'Who do you think you are? This is my family.'

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family - before it's too late...

Unless you've been living under a rock or this is your first visit to my blog you will all know about my love of Frances Hardinge's books. I recommend them to anyone who stands still long enough! What is really noticeable though is that there aren't any reviews of her books, at all, anywhere on this blog. My problem seems to be that the more I love a book or indeed its author the more I have trouble trying to put together a coherent review, or even sentence... I am determined though, to start writing them so am slowly re-reading all of her books. 

I'm not sure why my re-read started with Cuckoo Song. It's not the first Frances Hardinge book I ever read, or my favorite (that's A Face Like Glass) but it's my second favorite, and it's the book that is most like a book that I would write. Seriously. I want to live in Frances Hardinge's imagination because it must be a wonderful place to reside.

Triss and Pen are sisters that have never really got on. After Sebastian, their older brother, went off to fight in WWI Triss was pampered and cosseted to the point where she thinks of herself as an invalid. This is the impression of Triss that everybody has come to accept, but not Pen. She is treated horribly by Triss and rebels by running away on a regular basis. Whilst on holiday Triss falls into the Grimmer, a lake or river near their holiday home, and it's from this point that things take an unsettling turn. Triss knows something isn't quite right but because she's been ill for half of her life she thinks it's yet another illness taking hold of her. Except. This illness has made Pen terrified to be near her, has left dead leaves and other bits and bobs in a trail behind her, and given her a hunger that nothing seems to satisfy. Nothing that is, until she eats a doll and the hole in her stomach seems to be temporarily filled.

On their return home, things continue to be strange and weird. Triss is starting to realise that she's not quite the old Triss, her parents are talking about a strange man that they seem to be scared of, letters from someone are arriving - inside a locked drawer, but strangest of all is that Pen is nearly kidnapped by a movie screen in an old theater and we're introduced to The Architect. From now on it's a race against time for Triss, or Not-Triss as she's calling herself now, to save herself, mend her relationship with Pen, and find out just what is going on in the darker corners of Ellchester. This is where the fantastical comes in, fairies but not as we know them. They're the Besiders, living alongside humans in places where once that wasn't possible. Church bells once drove the Besiders away but thanks to the aftermath of the Great War they're no longer as effective, people simply don't believe as much after their huge losses, and they're coming back in droves. In part, this is thanks to Mr. Crescent, the girls' father, who has made a deal with the Architect. In return for something to do with Sebastian and keeping his memory alive, Mr. Crescent has to design his new buildings a certain way including a pyramid currently being constructed at the new railway station.

Apart from Triss, Pen and their parents, and the Architect, there are two more characters of note in Cuckoo Song. One is Mr. Grace the tailor, whom we meet after a pair of metal scissors displayed above his shop door fall and nearly hit Triss. The tailor befriends Triss and says nothing of her huge appetite after she consumes plate after plate of cake whilst being fitted for a new dress. Mr. Grace is not as innocent as he appears to be and in fact leads to some of the pivotal points in Cuckoo Song, no pun intended after the above scissor incident. 

The other is Violet Parish, Sebastian's former fiancée, who is no longer part of the Crescent family's life. Dismissed from their thoughts as someone who wasn't worthy of Sebastian, Violet has her own 'otherness' to deal with but of course, Triss and Pen don't know this until Violet becomes the one person they can rely on to keep them both alive and discover that she's not the heartless, cold creature their mother likes to say she is. I think Violet was quite possibly my favorite character, fiercely independent, not just out of necessity but because she wants more from her life as a woman in the 1920's, she has a motorcycle and sidecar, spends her nights dancing to jazz and is constantly on the move. Violet doesn't know it but she might be the one person who can help Not-Triss to save the Crescent family and save herself from her grief.

Cuckoo Song is a fantastical/supernatural/historical/mystery novel about the aftermath of war, grief and the hold it can have over you with changelings, a wonderful new take on fairies in the Besiders, weirdness, the bond between sisters and a young girl's struggle to fight against monsters, even though that's the way some people view her. I have nothing else to say except read it as Frances Hardinge might be your new favorite author...

Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge
ISBN - 9780330519731
Publisher - Pan Macmillan
Release date - May 8th, 2014

Friday, 8 September 2017

Arrowood - Mick Finlay

London Society takes their problems to Sherlock Holmes. Everyone else goes to Arrowood.

The Afghan War is over and a deal with the Irish appears to have brought an end to sectarian violence, but Britain's position in the world is uncertain and the gap between rich and poor is widening. London is a place where the wealthy party while the underclass are tempted into lives of crime, drugs, and prostitution. A serial killer stalks the streets. Politicians are embroiled in financial and sexual scandals. The year is 1895.

The police don't have the resources to deal with everything that goes on in the capital. The rich turn to a celebrated private detective when they need help: Sherlock Holmes. But in densely populated south London, where the crimes are sleazier and Holmes rarely visits, people turn to Arrowood, a private investigator who despises Holmes, his wealthy clientele and his showy forensic approach to crime. Arrowood understands people, not clues.

As the cover blurb says, if Society has a problem they go to Sherlock Holmes but where does everybody else go? To Arrowood, William Arrowood to be exact, and his trusty sidekick Barnett. I'm not sure where I first heard about Arrowood but I'm sure it was along the lines of the television rights having being sold, or something like that. I picked it up from the library thinking an anti-Sherlock story would be the sort of read I'd love.

Arrowood and Barnett solve cases, the sort of cases that Holmes would turn his nose up at. This latest case though is one they're wishing they'd never taken, A French woman is claiming her brother has disappeared but the only lead she has involves a place and a man the duo wish to encounter again. They apply themselves to the case though and are soon up to their necks in trouble. Death seems to be following them and a young lady who might have helped is brutally murdered, the young boy they use as a runner is kidnapped and Barnett is hiding a huge secret from everyone.

The case is resolved, thanks mainly to Barnett who appears to be the mainstay of the two, out and about on the street whilst Arrowood stays very much behind the scenes, distracted by the arrival of his interfering sister and the location of his errant wife. There's nothing pretty about Arrowood, it's bloody and brutal, and there are no punches spared. No-one is safe, man, woman, or child, and the dead bodies pile up rapidly. Anyone lucky enough to be alive doesn't necessarily mean unharmed and the police involved aren't all on the right side.

I actually struggled with Arrowood. I picked it up on several occasions, getting a bit further each time and at one point was considering it as a DNF but then something clicked and I realized I wanted to know what happened to them all so I stuck with it. I'm actually intrigued to see if the television rights thing was real, or just something I made up! It would make a fantastic series, and the characters would be more suited to the screen than the page, in my opinion. Having said that I would probably pick up another book featuring Barnett & Arrowood if I happened to see it in the library.

Arrowood - Mick Finlay
ISBN - 9780008203184
Publisher - HQ 
Release date - March 23rd, 2017

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Can't Wait Wednesday #191 - Robots Vs. Fairies

Can't Wait Wednesday is a new weekly meme hosted here to spotlight and talk about the books we're excited about that we have yet to read. Generally, they're books that have yet to be released as well. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine
This week's choice is -

Robots Vs. Fairies - ed. Navah Wolfe & Dominik Parisien
ISBN - 9781481462365
Publisher - Saga Press
Release date - January 9th, 2018

A unique anthology of all-new stories that challenges authors to throw down the gauntlet in an epic genre battle and demands an answer to the age-old question: Who is more awesome - robots or fairies?

Rampaging robots! Tricksy fairies! Facing off for the first time in an epic genre death match!

People love pitting two awesome things against each other. Robots vs. Fairies is an anthology that pitches genre against genre, science fiction against fantasy, through an epic battle of two icons.

On one side, robots continue to be the classic sci-fi phenomenon in literature and media, from Asimov to WALL-E, from Philip K. Dick to Terminator. On the other, fairies are the beloved icons and unquestionable rulers of fantastic fiction, from Tinkerbell to Tam Lin, from True Blood to Once Upon a Time. Both have proven to be infinitely fun, flexible, and challenging. But when you pit them against each other, which side will triumph as the greatest genre symbol of all time?

There can only be one… or can there?

Way back at the beginning of 2016, I did a Wow feature on the previous anthology to this, The Starlit Wood, and could have passed out with sheer joy over most of the authors featured. I still don't have a copy of it because how expensive it is!!! Even on Kindle... And now there's a new anthology to drool over! And the authors this time? Just as good, if not better. Christmas is coming, and my birthday, so both are going on the 'you must buy me these books' list. In the meantime, have a look at the authors writing about rampaging robots and tricksy fairies.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Orphan Choir - Sophie Hannah

Louise's seven year old son has been sent away to boarding school against her wishes, and she misses him desperately.

And her neighbor from hell is keeping her awake at night by playing loud, intrusive music.

So when the chance comes to move to the country, she jumps at it as a way of saving her sanity. Only it doesn't.

Because the music has followed her. Except this time, it's choral music sung by a choir of children only she can see and hear...

I picked up The Orphan Choir for two reasons, the fact that I loved Sophie Hannah's Spilling CID series ( the first few anyway,) and because I was intrigued by the new Hammer imprint. If you like horror it's pretty obvious you're going to check out Hammer books sooner or later! 

I'm not sure what Sophie Hannah intended with The Orphan Choir but I'm quite sure it wasn't complete and utter confusion, along with a healthy dose of disbelief. Louise and Stuart have a talented son who is lucky enough to be a chorister and boarder but Louise is not happy about this. She thinks her son is slowly being taken away from her but can't convince her husband of her worries. Added to this an ongoing feud with the next door neighbor who will insist on playing loud music at all times of the day and night and Louise is falling apart.

When a lifeline appears in the form of a second home in a secluded rural gated community Louise is off, trying to work out how she can stay there full-time and have her son with her. If something seems too good to be true though, it normally is and Swallowfield is where her life will change forever.

You might think, that as this is a Hammer novel, that it's full-on horror, scary and bloody but it's not. The Orphan Choir is a subtle horror, a ghost story, unsettling, more psychological than horrifying but there are parts that will stay with you for some time after reading. This is where the confusion comes in though as the vast majority of the story seemed to consist of the fight with the noisy neighbor, the battle to have Joseph come home on weekends and then all of a sudden it's the last twenty pages of the book and everything is happening. People are dropping huge hints that maybe everything isn't quite right, Louise is starting to figure out the origin of the mysterious choral singing and then, bam! It's all over... 

If you're a fan of Sophie Hannah's books then you'll like The Orphan Choir but if you're reading it for the horror and hopes of a good ghost story I would suggest you look elsewhere unfortunately.

The Orphan Choir - Sophie Hannah
ISBN - 9780099580027
Publisher - Hammer
Release date - October 10th, 2013
Find - Goodreads | Book Depository

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