Review: City of Saints & Thieves

July 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: City of Saints & ThievesCity of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
Published by Rock The Boat on 6th July 2017 (UK)
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Street-thief Tina breaks into the luxurious house where her mother was killed to steal from Mr. Greyhill and nail him for her mother’s murder. She is caught red-handed.

Saved by Mr. Greyhill’s gorgeous son, Michael, the pair set in motion a cascade of dangerous events that lead them deeper into the mystery, and reveal dark and shocking secrets from Tina’s past.

Tina and her mother fled the Congo years ago as refugees, trading the uncertain danger of their besieged village for a new, safer life in the bustling Kenyan metropolis. The corruption and politics of the Congo, and the gangster world of Sangui City, are behind Tina’s mother’s downfall. Is Tina tough enough to find the truth and bring the killer to justice?

You know that feeling when you’re lying in bed at night fighting to keep your eyes open so that you can read just one more chapter? Well, that was me with City of Saints & Thieves – I just didn’t want to put it down.

Our protagonist Tina lives on the streets, works with the Goonda gang, steals to survive, checks in on her sister every Friday (her sister is in a school) and plots revenge on her mother’s killer. Ever since her mother was shot dead in Mr Greyhill’s luxurious mansion, Tina has been seeking revenge. So after five years she’s ready to work with the Goondas to execute her plan and bring down Mr Greyhill. Except, when she enters the house to steal from him she is caught by his son (and her former friend) Michael. Michael is determined to prove that his father is innocent of her mother’s killing and so the two find themselves working on a murder investigation that uncovers dark secrets and takes them on a journey from a Kenyan city to a village in the Congo.

This is such a stunning debut novel. Anderson herself has worked with refugees of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, many of whom shared their own harrowing stories with her. While this is a work of fiction, she has drawn from these experiences in order to create a fascinating, page-turning, heartbreaking story that is formed from real life. She educates the reader, brings attention to the lives of these refugees and to those still living in the villages of the Congo. Personally, I learned a lot from this novel.

I very much enjoyed Anderson’s writing and her use of Swahili and Shen to further the reader’s experience and once again bring the reader closer to the real life of the Kenyan streets.

As for the story itself, I was thoroughly caught up in Tina’s life. I found myself thinking of her even while doing other things – always a sign of a well-written character. Plus I couldn’t shake the thought that although fictional, this could be a real life young girl.

I have a lot of admiration for Anderson for the way she writes. She has created a fictional story around real life events, tackled difficult and upsetting issues while maintaining a flowing and fascinating narrative throughout.

In short… read it.

four-half-stars

Blog Tour: If We Were Villains

June 15, 2017 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Thriller

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.

Blog Tour: If We Were VillainsIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Published by Titan on 13th June 2017
Genres: thriller, Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he's released, he's greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.

As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else's story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.

When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

I’m delighted to be today’s stop on the If We Were Villains blog tour. If you’ve missed the other stops on the tour so far you can find them all at the bottom of this post.

Dellecher Classical Conservatory is an elite art school that is home to Oliver and his six friends; all of whom are in their fourth and final year as theatre students and scholars of Shakespeare. They live, study, act and socialise with one another – their own Shakespeare-loving family.

When we meet Oliver it’s ten years later and he’s just getting out of prison where he has served time for the murder of one of these close friends. He has finally agreed to tell the lead detective the whole, true story.

The novel is structured through Acts and Scenes which tell the story of life at the school, with Preludes that focus on the now and Oliver’s release from prison. I loved this structure, in a book filled with drama, theatrics and plays it fits the theme perfectly.

Now, I studied Shakespeare in school but that was quite some time ago – and even then I’m familiar with only a few of his plays. I was slightly concerned that my ignorance might mean that I wouldn’t enjoy this novel; however I actually enjoyed it very much. I would say though that those more acquainted with Shakespeare or even with theatre as a whole would no doubt enjoy it more.

Our seven characters (I was rather confused at first with all of the names, but I soon caught on) are actors; throughout the year they adopt Shakespearean roles for a variety of plays. Indeed they even converse among one another in quotes at times. However, as the school year progresses it seems that many of the seven are struggling to leave their Shakespearean roles behind, and the line between fiction and reality becomes increasingly blurred.

This is not your typical thriller. Yes, it’s thrilling and gripping but it’s far more than that. Rio weaves her story in conjunction with Shakespearean verse. Indeed she often echoes her characters’ mindsets and actions though their study of The Bard. At first, I’ll admit I struggled a little with this style, but it’s executed so well that I soon became accustomed to the interspersions of verse.

Rio not only expertly combines Shakespeare into her narrative, but also displays her own beautiful writing.

This is quite a rollercoaster read – love, betrayal, envy, passion, friendships, this book has it all – just like the Shakespearean works it echoes.

If We Were Villains Blog Tour

three-half-stars

Mini Review: Avenged

June 7, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA 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: AvengedAvenged by Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined #2
Published by HarperTeen on 2nd May 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy, Fantasy
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A war that will fuel her. A bond that will destroy her.

Emelina Flores has come home to Ruina. After rescuing her sister, Olivia, from imprisonment in rival kingdom Lera, Em and Olivia together vow to rebuild Ruina to its former glory.

But just because Em and Olivia are out of Lera doesn’t mean they are safe. Their actions over the past year have had consequences, and they are now targets of retaliation. Olivia will destroy everyone who acts against Ruina. Em isn’t as sure.

Ever since Em posed as Prince Casimir’s betrothed in Lera, she’s started to see another side to this war. Lera may have destroyed the Ruined for decades, but Em knows that Cas is different. And now that he’s taken the throne, Em believes a truce is within reach. But Olivia suspects that Em’s romantic feelings for Cas are just coloring her judgement.

Em is determined to bring peace to her home. But when winning the war could mean betraying her family, she faces an impossible choice between loyalty and love. Em must stay one step ahead of her enemies—and her blood—before she’s the next victim in this battle for sovereignty.

It was great to be able to pick up Avenged so soon after reading the first book in this series, Ruined. I wasn’t ready to leave Em, Cas and co. behind just yet! Now though, I face a yearlong wait until I can rejoin them and experience the conclusion of this trilogy.

What can I say about Avenged? There’s war, hatred, betrayal, friendship, loyalty and trust. I love that we see more of Aren in this book; he’s a character I wanted more of in Ruined.

Avenged is full of action as Tintera once more immerses us in her world. Yes, it might be a little predictable in places, but I didn’t care. It’s an easy-to-read YA fantasy with some fantastic characters and engrossing writing.

four-half-stars

Review: Defy The Stars

June 2, 2017 in Book Reviews, Sci-Fi, YA 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.

Review: Defy The StarsDefy The Stars by Claudia Gray
Series: Constellation #1
Published by Hot Key Books on 6th April 2017
Genres: YA Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Noemi is a young and fearless soldier of Genesis, a colony planet of a dying Earth. But the citizens of Genesis are rising up - they know that Earth's settlers will only destroy this planet the way they destroyed their own. And so a terrible war has begun.

When Noemi meets Abel, one of Earth's robotic mech warriors, she realizes that Abel himself may provide the key to Genesis' salvation. Abel is bound by his programming to obey her - even though her plan could result in his destruction. But Abel is no ordinary mech. He's a unique prototype, one with greater intelligence, skill and strength than any other. More than that, he has begun to develop emotions, a personality and even dreams. Noemi begins to realise that if Abel is less than human, he is more than a machine. If she destroys him, is it murder? And can a cold-blooded murder be redeemed by the protection of a world?

Stranded together in space, they go on a whirlwind adventure through Earth's various colony worlds, alongside the countless Vagabonds who have given up planetary life altogether and sail forever between the stars. Each step brings them closer - both to each other and to the terrible decision Noemi will have to make about her world's fate, and Abel's.

Noemi is risking her life to save her planet, Genesis, from their ancestors-turned-enemies, Earth. In three weeks she’ll participate in a suicide mission to damage the Gate that links the worlds and find Genesis some much-needed time. At least that’s the plan until she discovers another way to potentially save her planet, a theory that will result in a race across the galaxies adventure.

Abel is the most advanced mech ever created. Mansfield has created mechs for Earth for every scenario – healthcare, labour, war, but Abel is Mansfield’s one-of-a-kind creation.

When Abel and Noemi’s paths cross they are of course enemies, Earth vs Genesis. However, Abel’s unique programming offers Noemi the chance to utilise him – that is until she realises that he is no mere robot.

There is much to like in this novel. At times I can struggle with world-building set in space, but actually I got on pretty well with Defy The Stars.  Admittedly there’s stuff I didn’t completely follow; the politics and the exact reason for the war still eludes me but that’s probably just my foggy brain. However, as a result, I didn’t feel like I cared as much as I should have.

My favourite element of the story was Abel which to be honest took me by surprise. I loved the concept of him, his interactions and the way his character developed. I enjoyed the storytelling style too – the mix of perspectives of both Noemie and Abel. I thought it worked well.

Yet, while I enjoyed this book I didn’t LOVE it. A cursory glance on Goodreads tells me I appear to be in the minority with this one though.

Will I read on in the series? Probably, depending upon the focus of book two.

 

three-half-stars

Review: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

April 4, 2017 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Thriller

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 Twelve Lives of Samuel HawleyThe Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
Published by Tinder Press on 6th April 2017
Genres: Contemporary, thriller
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter Loo to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife's hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother's mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past - a past that eventually spills over into his daughter's present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. Both a coming of age novel and a literary thriller, THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY explores what it means to be a hero, and the price we pay to protect the people we love most.

Told through alternating chapters, past and present, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley slowly uncovers the tale of Samuel Hawley’s life.

Hawley has a daughter, Loo, whom he is raising alone following the death of his wife. Hawley and Loo have constantly been on the move, never living in one place for very long. When they decide to buy a house in Olympus, Loo has to adjust to this new way of life – a new school, a new home and more possessions than she could bundle up into her suitcase.

We follow Loo through present time as she lives this new life with her father. Loo’s is a coming of age tale, getting older and wondering what a mother’s kiss feels like, starting to question who her father is and noticing the way people question the many scars on his body.

Each of Hawley’s gunshot scars tells a tale. In between our present-day chapters with Loo, we learn how Hawley acquired each scar, thus slowly revealing to us Hawley’s history, and piece-by-piece building his story.

I really enjoyed this novel. I loved the way the story unfolded through this unique storytelling style – the history of Hawley’s scar forming the perfect flashback chapters.

Mixed with the innocence of Loo’s childhood we have violence. I mean, if you don’t like to read about violence, then be warned. Yet it’s not all blood and guns, there’s the story of love, loss, grief. There’s the relationship between a father and his daughter, the tale of a father’s protection and a teenage girl trying to find her way in the world.

I have to say that I really loved Hawley. It’s a weird situation – am I meant to like this guy? But I challenge you not to!

This story is brutal in places, heart-wrenching in others. It’s incredibly well written and the characters of Hawley and Loo make for the perfect balance. It’s one of those books where I’m sad to have to leave these characters behind.

four-half-stars