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Review: Ragdoll

February 22, 2017 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Crime

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: RagdollRagdoll by Daniel Cole
Published by Trapeze on 23rd February 2017
Genres: Crime
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the 'ragdoll'.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William 'Wolf' Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The 'Ragdoll Killer' taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

I’m so pleased to be one of the stops on the Ragdoll blog tour today! Make sure you check out all of the other victims too!

Ragdoll blog tour

If you frequent Twitter, you are probably aware of the hype surrounding this book. For this reason, I couldn’t wait to read it but, as ever, was worried it might not live up to the hype. I’m so glad to say that it absolutely did – I really enjoyed this debut novel. I couldn’t put it down!

DS William Fawkes, known as Wolf, is an interesting character with a somewhat chequered past. When a corpse is found that is actually body parts from six corpses sewn together, Ragdoll, Fawkes and his colleagues undertake the murder investigations. However, the killer has released a list of his next victims along with the dates he intends to murder them. Wolf’s name is on that list. As the team try to uncover the identities of “Ragdoll”, prevent the deaths of the listed and trace the killer, they face a battle against the media who ensure that the world is watching.

This book kept me glued from the outset. The case, the twists and turns all had me craving more information.

Despite his flaws, I really liked Wolf. I also really enjoyed the interaction between him and his colleagues. I find that I often struggle to connect with the ‘colleagues’ in this type of novel, however that absolutely wasn’t the case. I felt we got to know Baxter, Edmunds and Finlay, and appreciate their characters too.

Despite the nature of this book, I found myself chuckling at times. There’s some great banter and one-liners that help to distract from the darkness of the story.

It’s always a good sign when you reach the final chapter of a book and realise that you aren’t quite ready to leave its characters behind. This is undoubtedly the case with Ragdoll and so I’m delighted to see that it’s the first book in a series.

This book is thrilling, fast-paced (to the point I had to go back and reread some pages to make sure I had absorbed all of the information) and most definitely memorable. I can’t wait to read Coles’ next instalment!

four-half-stars

Mini Review: A Conjuring Of Light

February 20, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Mini Review: A Conjuring Of LightA Conjuring of Light by V.E.Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #3
Published by Titan on 21st February 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

London's fall and kingdoms rise while darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire—and the fraught balance of magic blossoms into dangerous territory while heroes and foes struggle alike. The direct sequel to A Gathering of Shadows, and the final book in the Shades of Magic epic fantasy series, A Conjuring of Light sees Schwab reach a thrilling culmination concerning the fate of beloved protagonists—and old enemies.

One of my most-anticipated reads of the year, I started A Conjuring of Light knowing that Schwab would deliver – and wow, did she ever!

This post is going to be short. There will be no spoilers. Just know that ACOL was everything I had hoped it would be – and more!

There’s snarkiness, action, banter, affection, fear, fearlessness and, well, knives, obviously.

It made me snort with laughter, threaten to put the book in the freezer, read furiously, grip the pages, and generally unable to put it down!

Schwab’s writing and storytelling is, once more, outstanding. I want to go back and read it again, just to savour the beauty.

If you haven’t read this series yet, stop whatever you are doing and start it – it’s SPECTACULAR!

five-stars

Discussion: Carve The Mark

February 17, 2017 in Bookish Posts

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Discussion: Carve The MarkCarve The Mark by Veronica Roth
Series: Carve The Mark #1
Published by HarperCollins on 18th January 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads

On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favoured by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.

I’m not quite sure how this is going to go. I mean, I know how I feel, I just don’t know if I’m going to be able to articulate it.

OK

A bit about me first. I suffer from a chronic illness. For the past 11 years my illness has ruled my life. Among many symptoms, I suffer from chronic pain.

END

I had some issues with this book. I sat quietly in my own wee world reading and formulating my thoughts. I started to wonder if it was just me? Was I being oversensitive? I took to Twitter and soon realised that, no, I was not alone with my concerns.

Set in a distant galaxy, we follow two characters, Akos who is Thuvhesit and Cyra who is Shotet. Their people live on the same planet separated by the Divide and a mutual hatred of one another.

Both of our main characters are ‘fated’; they are among a small group whose futures are fated and have been seen by the Oracles.

Each child in this world grows into a ‘currentgift’. The ‘current’ is the force that passes through all things. Everyone’s currentgift is different and is apparently formed around the personality / needs of the individual. Akos’ gift is that he stops the current, Cyra’s is chronic pain which she suffers from herself and can impart upon others through contact.

Let me start by saying that I was actually initially very pleased to see such a dominant author as Veronica Roth include chronic pain in her novel. Prior to diving into the book, I hoped that perhaps this would help to bring some understanding into the mainstream. Sadly, I was left disappointed, frustrated and even angry with this book.

I did read this entire book and, trust me, I tried to keep an open mind. There were points when I had hope – Cyra’s pain crippling her to the point she’s just in a heap in her room and the portrayal of the side effects that she suffers as a result of painkillers at the start of the book.

However,  I very much take issue with chronic pain being called a ‘currentGIFT’.

Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘gift’ as “a natural ability or talent.”

So, what? I have a talent for inflicting pain upon myself? I’m not convinced that even Britain’s Got Talent would consider THAT a talent!

Ok, so maybe we can agree that on the surface of it ‘gift’ was an unfortunate word choice.

“Every currentgift is a curse”

“But no gift is ONLY a curse”

In fairness, here she does have a point. My illness has taught me a lot about myself. I’m a different person to the one I was pre-illness. I’ve had to reassess, to identify what’s important in life and change everything to find a way to live. While I’d obviously rather I hadn’t had to go through this, I do now understand myself more. I see the world in a slightly different way.

The part that I very much take issue with in terms of Cyra’s currentgift, is the implication that her ‘gift’ is connected to her mental state or personality. I think this is very dangerous territory. When I first became ill a doctor implied that my pain and other symptoms were “all in my head”. Needless to say, most other health professionals were aghast at this statement and thankfully, on the whole, I’ve received excellent care. But this attitude is not uncommon towards chronic illnesses and it’s very damaging to sufferers and their families. To have this concept reinforced by way of a novel, to almost give the ‘okay’ to this kind of attitude is not acceptable to me.

I wish I could articulate my points more clearly. This post has been hard for me to write – it’s an emotional issue. I don’t like being negative, I strive to see the good. Writing a book with a central character who suffers from chronic pain is good, it’s just that I didn’t appreciate the way it was done.

Akos can use his currentgift to alleviate Cyra’s pain. Reliance on other people is something I’ve struggled to come to terms with over the past decade. I feel that this is an issue that could have been explored further, with more impact.

However, the idea of this relief by Akos is also something that bothered me. Although I know from an interview I saw online with Roth that she was conscious of avoiding a ‘magical cure’, that’s kind of how this felt to me.

Cyra’s later method of dealing with her pain also irritated me.

View Spoiler »

ARGH. I apologise that this is more of a rant than anything, but I couldn’t talk about this book without attempting to convey my feelings and issues with it.

I know that others have different issues with the book, so I recommend that you check out a few more reviews as I’m not the right person to address these issues.

If you made it this far, thank you for sticking with me. I’ve tried, however poorly, to explain my feelings on the handling of chronic pain in this book. It’s important to note though that these are just MY feelings.

Have you read this book?

How do YOU feel about the handling of chronic pain in this novel?

Am I just being oversensitive?

Review: The Memory Book

February 13, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Memory BookThe Memory Book by Lara Avery
on 26th January 2017
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Samantha McCoy has it all mapped out. First she's going to win the national debating championship, then she's going to move to New York and become a human rights lawyer. But when Sammie discovers that a rare disease is going to take away her memory, the future she'd planned so perfectly is derailed before it’s started. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. Realising that her life won't wait to be lived, she sets out on a summer of firsts: The first party; The first rebellion; The first friendship; The last love.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.

Sammie is an intelligent teenage girl who lives with her family in a small town, excels in debating and has secured herself a spot at NYU. Sadly, she has also recently been diagnosed with Niemenn-Pick Type C. It’s like dementia, so she will lose memories and her body will shut down. NPC is always fatal.

In a bid to keep a hold of herself for as long as possible, Sammie starts writing a memory book, and this is exactly what we are reading.

Oh, this book! I’m not ashamed to say I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I closed the back cover. While, yes, the subject matter is serious and at times my heart just ached, this is (perhaps somewhat surprisingly) not a depressing read. Avery has struck an excellent balance in this novel. It’s not just about NPC, it’s about teenage life, facing the future and how to cope when that future isn’t what you’d hoped it would be.

I really liked Sammie. Reading her ‘memory book’ means we see inside her mind – on good days and bad. We are taken along with Sammie on her journey. I loved Sammie’s book-loving nature, her references to Middle Earth and generally her love of knowledge.

I truly felt that I learned a lot from this novel, not only in terms of NPC (which I had never heard of before) but also in Sammie’s handling of her disease.

Then, of course, there are boys, parties, national debates, exams, and all of those other things that happen during life at High School. Oh and a love of chocolate milkshakes!

This is a very well-written, thought-provoking read. Its structure makes it hard to put down – just one more chapter!

four-stars

Blog Tour: Wintersong with Author S. Jae-Jones

February 10, 2017 in Blog Tours, Bookish Posts

Earlier this week I shared with you some of my thoughts on Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones. If you missed it, you can find it here.

Wintersong cover

Today, I’m delighted to welcome the author herself to the blog today to share with you some tips on writing your first novel.

top 10 tips

Writing a novel is a daunting task. I’m not going to pretend it’s easy; there’s no “trick” that will suddenly flip a switch and make writing simple and easy. Writing is a craft, and as such, it requires craftsmanship—1 part talent, 1 part hard work, and 2 parts grinding through the boring bits. So here are the things I keep in mind while writing:

  1. Finish what you started.

I can’t underestimate the importance of finishing. You can be the most prolific writer in the world in terms of word count, but if those words don’t come together in an entire novel with a beginning, a middle, and an end, then no matter how many words you write per day, you won’t have a book in your hands.

  1. Develop a writing habit.

Like going to the gym, consistency builds progress. I’m not one of those people who says you should write every day, but never underestimate the power of routine. Writing gets easier the more you do it. Set aside some time—three times a week, perhaps—where you sit and work on your book. Even if you only write 300 words per session, that’s still 900 more words at the end of the week than what you had to start.

  1. Take care of yourself.

I joke that every single book I’ve written has been fueled by iced coffee and Twizzlers. That’s not strictly true, but what is true is that health and hygiene fall by the wayside when I’m on deadline. Remembering to eat, to sleep, to exercise, or even shower does wonders for your state of mind.

  1. Read. And read. And then read some more.

Art is not created in a vacuum. Get inspired by others. Learn.

  1. Refill the creative well.

I think for a lot of writers, it’s hard to take a break. But if you’ve found yourself burned out, if it’s harder wringing words from your brain than water from a stone, then step away. Do something you enjoy. Knit. Take a walk. Watch mindless television.

  1. Perfection is overrated.

My first 5 pieces of advice were for the act of writing, but when it comes to writing itself, advice varies wildly from person to person. However, the thing I have to remind myself is that a first draft is a first draft. Perfection hinders. Get your story on paper first; words can always be fixed.

  1. Story > prose.

Related to the previous tip, but all the beautiful writing in the world can’t save a dull book. Again, get your story down first. Words can always, always be fixed.

  1. Know the point of your book.

I’m not someone who outlines (I am, in writer parlance, a “pantser”), but I always know the why of what I’m writing. Why I’m writing. What I want to take away from the work. It helps keep me going.

  1. Read your work aloud.

It’s amazing how ridiculous that beautiful sentence you just wrote sounds when you hear it spoken.

  1. Be proud of yourself.

A lot of people say they will write a book some day, but not everyone will. The fact that you’re writing at all speaks volumes. Take pride in your work!

Thank you so much, JJ for joining us on the blog today and for sharing your top tips with us!

Don’t miss the rest of JJ’s Wintersong Blog Tour, you can find all of the stops below!

WINTERSONG blog tour