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Review: The Roanoke Girls

March 8, 2017 in Book Reviews, Mystery

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 Roanoke GirlsThe Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on 9th March 2017
Genres: Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Everyone wants to be a Roanoke girl. But you won't when you know the truth. Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin at the Roanoke family's rural estate following the suicide of her mother. Over one long, hot summer, Lane experiences the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But what she doesn't know is being a Roanoke girl carries a terrible legacy: either the girls run, or they die. For there is darkness at the heart of Roanoke, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull, she must make her choice...

When teenage Lane Roanoke’s mother commits suicide in their New York home, she has no idea what will happen to her. But it turns out that her mother’s parents, Lane’s grandparents, want her to live with them in Kansas.

She’s never met them, but they are rich, with a big house and her cousin Allegra lives with them too. So she moves to her mother’s childhood home, to embark on the next chapter of her life.

The story is told in alternating chapters of past and present. The past being Lane’s move to Kansas, and the present being her returns there after ten years because Allegra has gone missing.

The Roanoke family are no stranger to missing girls, up till now they’ve all either died or fled. So who really are the Roanoke girls and what, exactly, is happening to them?

I really enjoyed the storytelling style of this novel. I always like a book that runs a past and present narrative successfully as I feel it helps us to learn more about our characters.

I suspect that this is a book that will divide opinion. While I won’t be divulging spoilers, I will say that the content won’t be for everyone. It’s uncomfortable reading at times, and yet so well written that it’s a very hard book to put down.

Engel’s writing is very impressive. I was completely engrossed in this book, despite being appalled by much of the detail. Her characters are flawed, yet often strangely likeable – which only made me feel all the more disturbed at times!

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like this and I can’t imagine it’s one that I will be forgetting any time soon.

four-stars

Review: Quieter Than Killing

March 7, 2017 in 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: Quieter Than KillingQuieter Than Killing by Sarah Hilary
Series: DI Marnie Rome #4
Published by Headline on 9th March 2017
Genres: Crime
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

It's winter, the nights are dark and freezing, and a series of seemingly random assaults is pulling DI Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake out onto streets of London. When Marnie's family home is ransacked, there are signs that the burglary can have only been committed by someone who knows her. Then a child goes missing, yet no-one has reported it. Suddenly, events seem connected, and it's personal.

Someone out there is playing games. It is time for both Marnie and Noah to face the truth about the creeping, chilling reaches of a troubled upbringing. Keeping quiet can be a means of survival, but the effects can be as terrible as killing.

For the past few years, my most-anticipated release list has included Sarah Hilary’s latest works. We’re now onto the fourth book of the DI Marnie Rome series and Hilary never fails to impress me. Her storytelling sweeps me up, diving into her books is like meeting up with old friends – and I love it!

The case in this book is compelling. There has been a series of attacks and Marnie and Noah are tasked with finding the culprits. Are the attacks connected? One again Hilary has woven her narrative, teasing and tripping me up along the way.

For me though, what I really enjoyed most about this book was spending more time with Marnie and Noah. I feel that by now, book four, we have a good handle on their characters, we know their histories and Hilary ensures we become even more invested in our protagonists.

I feel that I say this after every Hilary book, but Sarah handles the issues involved in Quieter Than Killing with great respect. It’s one of the things I love about her writing; she takes care and consideration with any issues she addresses, yet doesn’t detract from the story or lose any of the impact. If anything, it adds more impact!

I could sit here and gush about Sarah Hilary’s novels all day long. Her stories are realistic and believable, her characters relatable. Hilary references real-life news events to anchor her stories into our lives. I love her ongoing development of Marnie and Noah’s lives, and feel we are being drawn in closer with each passing page.

All in all, Quieter Than Killing is a fantastic addition to the series. It will raise many questions, but not all of them having answers!

five-stars

Review: Done Dirt Cheap

March 6, 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: Done Dirt CheapDone Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon
Published by Amulet on 7th March 2017
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens.

Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of a local lawyer: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline.

I went into Done Dirt Cheap not really knowing what to expect. Two teenagers, motorbikes and a biker club – really that’s all I knew, but I ended up getting very caught up in the story.

Tourmaline is the 18-year-old daughter of the President of the biker club, the Wardens. Her Mum is in prison, and she has grown up in the Wardens’ world, without every truly knowing its detail.

Virginia was in Tourmaline’s year in school but they didn’t ever really know each other. Virginia competed in pageants and, from the age of 15, she’s been working for a corrupt attorney, Hazard, in order to pay off her alcoholic mother’s debts.

Hazard sets Virginia the assignment of uncovering the Warden’s secret and so she negotiates her way into Tourmaline’s life. However, it turns out that getting information on the Wardens isn’t easy, and by the time she has the chance, she and Tourmaline have formed quite a friendship.

This novel started slowly for me. I wasn’t really feeling it, yet at some point I was suddenly hooked – I just had to keep reading!

There’s danger, motorbikes, forbidden love, fear, plotting, attraction, secrets and loyalty in this novel. There are many intriguing relationships in this story and the evolution of them all is fascinating.

The writing itself surpassed my expectations. There’s some fantastic prose, imagery and turn of phrase in this book.

Although it took me a while to get into, I found myself gripped and genuinely disappointed when the end came – not disappointment in the ending itself, I just felt I wanted more: it felt rather rushed. I definitely could’ve handled an extra chapter or two.

For all that there’s action, tension and secrets in this book, I found it to be the relationships, their rules, development and intertwining that I found the most captivating.

I kind of want some biker boots myself now!

four-stars

Review: Birdy Flynn

March 1, 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: Birdy FlynnBirdy Flynn by Helen Donohoe
Published by Rock The Boat on 2nd March 2017
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-stars

It is the summer and a group of children are playing down by a stream when they do a terrible thing. Something that Birdy tries unsuccessfully to avert. While the other children in the gang find it easy to forget what they have done, Birdy is trapped in the moment and feels bound to do something to make amends. But how does a child face up to responsibility and find the courage to do the right thing?

Okay, so let me start by saying that I struggle with anything related to animal suffering. My husband thinks it’s weird (it probably is) that in watching films or tv shows I care more about the animals than the characters! I’ve always been this way though, Mum had to remove all traces of Bambi from the house when I was a kid because I was so upset. It wasn’t that the Mum died, it was that a deer died that left me in tears. So yea, most of my family think I’m weird so feel free to agree with them.

Anyway, how does this relate to Birdy Flynn? Well, the book begins with Birdy’s dead Grandmother’s cat being tortured by the boys she hangs out with. So Birdy has to put an end to the cat’s suffering. This is one of the secrets that she hides throughout the novel – while her family search for the cat, she hides what truly happened.

Now, obviously, I’d read the synopsis so I knew it was going to happen – but oh my wee heart when it did! I had to do the book reading equivalent of watching the tv through your fingers – skim read.

Ok, so this book isn’t about the cat. No, it’s about Birdy – a young girl with an Irish mother and a Liverpudlian father living near London in 1982, the height of the IRA bombings.

Birdy is a fascinating character who has more in common with the boys in her life than the girls. Indeed, Birdy struggles throughout this book with her gender identity. We see not only her own journey, but also how those around her handle the situation.

Birdy keeps secrets – the cat, her confusion over her body, the fact her teacher touched her. Rather than confide in anyone, Birdy writes letters which she hides, keeping in a tin with the intention of perhaps one day sending them to the Daily Telegraph (her only reading source, the paper her mother takes from one of the houses she cleans).

Birdy’s home life isn’t easy. Yes, she has lots of aunties, uncles and cousins, but her Dad drinks a lot, her Mum works all hours, her sister leads her own life and her older brother is gone.

Donohoe tackles many issues in this novel. Among them, she gives us an insight into the treatment of Irish families living in England in the 1980s. The distrust and contempt shown towards them in the aftermath of another IRA bomb.

As a child of the 80s, I really appreciated many of the references in this book – Jim Bowen of Bullseye and boxer Barry McGuigan both featured in my own childhood!

The story is told through Birdy’s eyes, and as such I felt that there were many unanswered questions. However, I guess that’s a reflection of Birdy’s confusion, her own search for answers that allows the reader to connect with her.

All in all, this is a moving read. I enjoyed it well enough but wasn’t blown away by it. I found Birdy to be an interesting character who I really cared about – I just wanted to give her a hug!

three-stars

Review: This Is How It Always Is

February 24, 2017 in Book Reviews, Contemporary

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: This Is How It Always IsThis Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Published by Headline on 9th February 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

Rosie and Penn always wanted a daughter. Four sons later, they decide to try one last time - and their beautiful little boy Claude is born. Life continues happily for this big, loving family until the day when Claude says that, when he grows up, he wants to be a girl.

As far as Rosie and Penn are concerned, bright, funny and wonderful Claude can be whoever he or she wants. But as problems begin at school and in the community, the family faces a seemingly impossible dilemma: should Claude change, or should they and Claude try to change the world?

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and, he loves peanut butter sandwiches.

He also loves wearing a dress, growing his hair long, and dreams of being a princess.

Rosie and Penn have four boys when they decide to try, one last time, for a girl. Claude arrives and they continue their hectic lives with a houseful of boys. However, it seems Claude really just wants to be a girl.

This is a beautiful, witty, hopeful yet sometimes heartbreaking story of a family who want the best for all of their children. A family who shoulder a secret so that their youngest member can be happy. Sadly, many secrets don’t say that way and not everyone is so accepting of the family’s choices.

This is a stunning, special novel full of wisdom, love and kindness. It educates but doesn’t lecture. It grabs a hold of your heart from the first page and doesn’t let go.

Frankel does an excellent job of inserting us into the family of seven. We feel that we know each one of her characters, and that’s no small thing.

One thing I loved about this book is that Penn is a writer who tells his children an ongoing fairytale bedtime story that has been progressed every night for their whole lives. Through this tale he weaves important messages for his children – messages that we as readers also need to hear!

This is a tale of unconditional love, parental decisions, childhood innocence, sibling relationships and handling the world outside of the safety of your own four walls.

It’s beautiful, important, relevant and thoughtful. I highly recommend reading it!

five-stars