Review: FEAR

January 24, 2018 in Book Reviews, Psychological Thriller, Translated Literature

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: FEARFEAR by Dirk Kurbjuweit
Published by Orion on 25th January 2018
Genres: Psychological, thriller
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher




Family is everything.

So what if yours was being terrorised by a neighbour – a man who doesn’t listen to reason, whose actions become more erratic and sinister with each passing day? And those you thought would help – the police, your lawyer – can’t help you.

You become afraid to leave your family at home alone. But there’s nothing more you can do to protect them.

Is there?

FEAR is the story of Randolph Tiefenhaler, a married father of two who works as an architect in Berlin. He and his family live in an upper ground floor flat in the city. It’s upon purchasing this flat that the family find themselves under the scrutiny of their downstairs neighbour, Dieter Tiberius, a man who lives alone and rarely leaves his home. Dieter Tiberius’ notes to the family start off fairly innocuous, but it isn’t long before he is accusing Randolph and his wife of abusing their children. When Randolph seeks help from the police on this slanderous matter he is turned away – they can do nothing to help him. With everything in his life hanging on the words of his downstairs neighbour, Randolph is desperate to find a solution to his Dieter Tiberius problem.

The story is told by Randolph as he looks back on the events of his aforesaid problem. But as readers we spend a lot of time looking at Randolph’s own personal life, his upbringing and marriage in order to understand the man whose family are being stalked.

Originally written in German, the FEAR is the first of Dirk Kurbjuweit’s work to be translated into English. It’s a very interesting concept for a novel, not least because the author is drawing upon his own personal experiences. I think knowing this adds additional weight to the story and, as readers, we begin to wonder what we would do in Randolph’s position?

This was somewhat of a strange book for me in that I found it easy to read and thought-provoking but I really didn’t like Randolph! I grew weary of his selfishness, talk of his father’s guns and his constant reference to class. I don’t know if this is perhaps something in the translation that just didn’t sit with me, but I really disliked the man. Yet I was intrigued, I wanted to know how this Dieter Tiberius had forced a family to such lengths. I would actually have loved to have read some chapters from Tiberius’ perspective!

While I can’t say I was blown away by this book, I certainly found the concept interesting. I suspect that in not caring about the protagonist I probably missed out on much this book has to offer.


Mini Review: Crooked Kingdom

October 17, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

Mini Review: Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows #2
Published by Orion on 27th September 2016
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off the most daring heist imaginable.
But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're fighting for their lives.
Double-crossed and badly weakened, they're low on resources, allies and hope.
While a war rages on the city's streets, the team's fragile loyalties are stretched to breaking point.
Kaz and his crew will have to make sure they're on the winning side... no matter what the cost.

Crooked Kingdom was one of my most-anticipated releases of the year. I adored Six of Crows and couldn’t wait for the second book in this duology. I’ve long been a fan of Bardugo; her Grisha trilogy was outstanding and I find myself frequently recommending it to readers young and old alike. So would Crooked Kingdom live up to my high expectations?

The simple answer is YES. A slightly longer answer is that it’s absolute perfection! No, seriously, it’s bloody brilliant.

If you haven’t read Six of Crows then you should really stop reading here and go pick up a copy (or check out my review from last year). Although I won’t be posting any Crooked Kingdom spoilers, there will be Six of Crows spoilers, so, fair warning!

At the end of Six of Crows, we left our favourite gang missing one key, kidnapped member of the troop. Having been played by Van Eck, they were a team member down and 30 million kruge light. In Crooked Kingdom, we see the crew fighting for their lives, seeking revenge and scheming like there’s no tomorrow!

So what can I say about this book?

The writing? Beautiful.

The characters? Better than ever.

The plot? Fast paced, twisty and action packed.

The conclusion to this duology? EPIC!

Need I say more?

I’ve genuinely no idea what I’m going to read next. How on earth am I going to find a book to follow this? If you have Crooked Kingdom sitting in your TBR pile, drop whatever you’re reading and pick it up. You won’t be disappointed!

What’s next Leigh Bardugo? I can’t wait to find out!


Review: SHTUM

April 7, 2016 in Book Reviews, General fiction

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: SHTUMSHTUM by Jem Lester
Published by Orion on 7th April 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships.

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.

When Ben and Emma fake a separation - a strategic decision to further Jonah's case in an upcoming tribunal - Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben's elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men - one who can't talk; two who won't - are thrown together.

Ben is father to Jonah, a profoundly autistic ten year old who doesn’t speak, has no sense of danger, is doubly incontinent and requires full-time care.

The time has come to arrange Jonah’s progression to secondary school. Ben and his wife Emma deem the council’s selected school wholly inappropriate for Jonah’s needs and so face an appeal and tribunal to get the best placement for their son.

Emma informs Ben that their appeal would be more likely to succeed should Jonah live with a single parent, more specifically a single father. So it is that Ben and Jonah move in with Ben’s 78 year old father Georg and Emma leaves for Hong Kong on business, putting the responsibility for the appeal firmly at Ben’s door.

Ben and his father have never been particularly close, but the three generations of Jewells begin life under one roof. This is an aspect of the book I particularly enjoyed – 3 generations of Jewell men living together. Ben and Georg who won’t speak and Jonah who doesn’t speak. We witness the bonds between them and the rebuilding of a somewhat dysfunctional relationship between father and son. We also see the beautiful relationship between a grandfather and his mute, autistic grandson.

The fact that Ben and Georg both confide in Jonah was rather interesting. Their secrets are after all safe with him; he doesn’t talk. Ben overhears Georg share their family history with Jonah, things he had never been told or thought to ask. While at first Ben is jealous, eventually he sees it for what it is, a grandfather sharing stories with his grandson.

I really loved how we gradually uncovered the family history along with Ben. Georg was born in Hungary to a Jewish family before fleeing the Nazis. This whole aspect of the story was fascinating and heartbreaking. Oh and just when you think this story couldn’t possibly get more emotional Georg (a brilliant character) faces his own health problems.

The main focus of this story though is Jonah, his autism and Ben’s fight to get the best for his son. Honestly, this book is an eye-opener. While I perhaps thought myself somewhat familiar with autism, I realise now that I absolutely was not.

The author Jem Lester is himself father to a profoundly autistic child and this knowledge further increases the impact of this incredible book: from the details of day-to-day life, to the corresponding emotions; the inability to be selfish, giving all his attention to Jonah (when sober); from the frustration and anger to the incomparable happiness in the rare moment when Jonah allows physical contact. Not only did it open my eyes but the honesty of it tugged at my heart.

The book itself is written beautifully and in such a way that the love for Jonah shines through. It’s an emotional read but it’s an absolute must-read.

It educated me, not just with regards to autism itself but also the impact upon the families, their relationships and the isolation they endure. It also demonstrated the difficult, lengthy and emotional journey that is involved in getting help or care. Furthermore, I was astounded to discover the costs involved in an appeal or tribunal, together with the actual cost of residential placement itself. Truly, these are incredible figures and highlight the difficulties faced by many. Moreover, it is saddening to see the direct impact that cost cutting by the authorities can have on those that truly need the help. This may be a work of fiction but the issues addressed in this novel are far from fictional!

I enjoyed the way this story was told. Intertwined with the story itself are letters regarding Jonah’s care, family letters as well as dialogue from the tribunal. This variety of story-telling kept me thoroughly engaged and desperate to read on.

This is a multi-stranded novel. From the relationships between fathers and sons to the impact of autism, from alcohol addiction to escaping Nazi Hungary. This novel is packed with issues and emotion.

I could go on for hours about Shtum – I’ve actually read it twice – but what I really want to say is just read it! It’s a special novel that will educate while simultaneously breaking your heart.


Review: Glass Sword

February 9, 2016 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, YA Fantasy

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

Review: Glass SwordGlass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #2
Published by Orion on 11th February 2016 (UK)
Genres: Fantasy, YA Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Mare's blood is red - the colour of common folk - but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from the prince and friend who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by the Silver king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red and Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat. Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

This week sees the publication of the second book in the Red Queen series Glass Sword. If you are in the US the book is out today, but here in the UK Thursday is the publication day. I was kindly provided with an eARC of this book via the publishers on NetGalley, so I thought now would be the perfect time to share my thoughts.

If, like me, you feel you need a Red Queen refresher before you jump into Glass Sword then I recommend this post. I only just happened across the site this week but with lots of sequels coming up this year I think it could prove very useful if your memory is as bad as mine!

So, Glass Sword picks up where we left Red Queen – Mare and Cal on the Undertrain with the Scarlet Guard, fleeing from Maven and his scheming mother, the Queen. As you know I hate spoilers so I’m not going to discuss the plot of this book and I’m going to be very cagey with whom and what I mention. So rather than launching into a summary, let me tell you why I only gave this book three stars.

I liked but didn’t love Red Queen, however I was really looking forward to book two and seeing where the series would go. However, I didn’t love this book either. I’d say I enjoyed the last quarter the most. In all honesty at 51% I wrote myself a note “I kind of don’t care. Hard work to read this right now.” That’s truly how I felt, let me try to explain why.

Firstly, there is a lot of information about a lot of different places. Now I love world building and it’s something I generally really appreciate but I just lost interest with this. The book visits lots of different places, mentions lots of places, describes these places, their history, their physical appearance, which way roads bend, but it was just all too much information for me. I felt swamped by it and couldn’t enjoy the actual plot. I found it particularly difficult as there are places that are just visited briefly, and yet when we are told about them there is great detail so you kind of think “oooh this place must be important, I’d better pay attention” and next thing we had left. Does this make sense?

I also struggled to keep up with all the names. There are plenty of new characters in this new book and I found it hard to keep track of them all. This was compounded by the references to various Houses etc from the first book, I felt lost in a sea of names at times. I kind of felt like I could’ve done with a wee cheat sheet!

I should say that I do live with a foggy brain so it’s highly likely that these two issues are entirely unique to me. I’d love to know if anyone had a similar experience though.

As for the characters, well I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a huge fan of Mare. Somewhat problematic I’m sure you’ll agree when she is the central character, the heroine. I just found her to be pretty moany, selfish and generally hard to like. However I do still love Cal! I was very intrigued to see where his character would go in this book and honestly it’s his character that makes me want to read on in the series. He’s definitely my favourite!

Despite not seeing a huge amount of Maven in the book, Aveyard still managed to convey his evil. Just his name sent a shiver down my spine; in a way I’d liken it to reading the name ‘Joffrey’ in A Song of Ice and Fire series.

I really like a lot of the concepts in this book and as far as the actual plot of the story is concerned, I enjoyed it. I found the different powers of the Newbloods to be fascinating, and the exploration of the relationships between the reds, silvers and red-silvers was really interesting.

Clearly though I had some issues with this book. I must say that once the foundation blocks of the story were laid and things started to really kick off, I did enjoy it. All in all, by the time I finished the book I was glad I’d stuck with it. I enjoyed the plot and the progression of the story, however I just had a few issues with its execution.

Will I read on in the series? Erm… probably, if only for more Cal and some closure.


Review: Pretty Is

January 15, 2016 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: Pretty IsPretty Is by Maggie Mitchell
Published by Orion Genres: Crime
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Everyone thought we were dead.

We were missing for nearly two months; we were twelve. What else could they think?

They were glad to have us back, of course. But nothing was the same. It was as if we had returned from the dead, as if we were tainted somehow. We were not the same.

And it was true, though not in the way they thought.

Lois and Carly-May are just twelve years old when they’re abducted and imprisoned for two months.

That summer, under the watchful gaze of their kidnapper, they form a bond which will never be broken…

Decades later, both Lois and Carly-May have built new lives and identities for themselves.

Lois and Carly-May are drawn together again to face the truth of their beautiful, terrible story.

As 12 year olds (back in the 90s) Carly May, a beauty pageant frequenter, and Lois, a Spelling Bee champ, were abducted. They were held captive in a cabin in Adirondack woods for six weeks that summer by a man they called Zed.

Fast forward to the present day and we find that, through the insistence of their families, the girls have lost touch with one another. Carly May is now Chloe, an actress, while Lois is a college professor specialising in 18th century literature. Lois is also the author of best selling novel Deep In The Woods, a fictionalised account of her childhood ordeal. She hides her past though by writing under pseudonym, Lucy Ledger.

This novel narrates from the perspectives of both Lois and Chloe. We see their present lives as well as their memories and reflections on their kidnapping. There’s actually a whole part of this book that is written as an excerpt of Lois/Lucy’s novel. This part gives us an insight into the relationships formed by Carly May, Lois and Zed from Lois’ perspective.

When Lois’ book is optioned for a movie, Chloe (as an actress) reads the script and knows immediately that she is reading her own story. As Chloe tries to secure a part in this film of her life, Lois is being troubled by a student called Sean who is taking an excessive interest in her past.

I wanted to enjoy this novel but I just didn’t. In all honesty I was counting the pages to the end, which is never a good sign!

I was drawn to the concept of looking at an abduction, from the perspective of the victims, almost 20 years down the line. I was eager to find out how those 6 weeks spent in a remote cabin as 12 year olds would have impacted the girls later in life.

The thing is that it just wasn’t what I’d hope it would be. Now obviously I’m not saying anything about Mitchell here, I just had my own preconceived idea of what this book would be and it turned out to be quite different from the actual novel itself. I’m afraid I can’t even claim to have become caught up in the writing itself, it just didn’t do it for me.

I’m not sure there’s much more I can say about this. I do hate to be negative. I guess I just liked the concept of the book but wasn’t so keen on the execution.