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

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: Gemina

October 5, 2016 in Book Reviews, Sci-Fi, 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: GeminaGemina by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #2
Published by Rock The Boat on 20th October 2016 (UK)
Genres: Sci-Fi, YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

Hanna Donnelly is the station captain’s pampered daughter and Nik Malikov is the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. Together they struggle with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, blissfully unaware that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall with news of the Kerenza invasion.

 

 

Ok, first things first, this is the second book in The Illuminae Files series. If you haven’t read book one, Illuminae, then check out my post about it or just go and read the book itself. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED! Either way, if you haven’t read Illuminae then stop reading this right now!

Still here? Ok, let’s talk Gemina!

When we left the Hypatia at the end of Illuminae she was headed for the Heimdall Waypoint, the gateway to The Core. The thing is they didn’t know if the Jump Station still existed or if BeiTech had attacked it and its occupants too.

Well, Gemina is the story of what was happening on Jump Station Heimdall while the Hypatia was headed in their direction.

Pretty cool, huh?

I absolutely loved this, a different aspect on the whole situation complete with new characters, a new environment and new challenges. All the while, the story linking in to our old favourites aboard the Hypatia.

I’m absolutely determined not to spoil anything in this book. So this is going to be short. The format is as Illuminae, collated files that together tell the story of the Heimdall.

It’ll probably come as no surprise to you that the characters in this book are brilliant. Our key characters are sassy, sharp and hugely badass.

Kaufman and Kristoff are brilliant at what they do. They’ll mess with your head, stomp all over your heart, make you laugh out loud and stare in disbelief. My husband actually heard me swear at this book – that’s a new one, I don’t think I’ve done that before!

This book is action-packed, brilliantly written, indescribably tense in places and utterly unique. I love the way we uncover more and more of the story.

I adored Illuminae but I have to say that, somehow, Gemina is EVEN BETTER! I was captivated from the outset and by the end of this novel I was completely blown away.

This is an incredibly special series of books so far and I cannot wait to read the conclusion. Stunning!!

PS I need a new star rating system for this series alone, 5 stars just doesn’t seem to cover it!

five-stars

Review: Illuminae

September 5, 2015 in Book Reviews, Fiction, Sci-Fi, 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: IlluminaeIlluminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Published by Rock The Boat on 1st October 2015
Genres: Sci-Fi, YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

From Goodreads

This novel, the first in a trilogy, is something a bit different, a bit quirky and more than a bit brilliant.

We open to find a covering letter accompanying a dossier of hacked and acquired files. It’s through these documents – emails, instant messages, military files, schematics – that we uncover the story of what truly happened in an interstellar war that claimed the lives of thousands.

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d ever have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

After breaking up, teenagers Kady and Ezra find themselves separated in the aftermath of the invasion of their home planet.

They eventually locate each other using onboard communications between the three ships that contain the planet’s refugees. Through hacked emails and instant messages we see them repair their friendship, and with their associates, they set about finding the truth of what’s really going on on board the ships.

I’ll admit, at first I had no clue what was going on, but just go with it, embrace it and all will slowly be revealed.

As much as I want to gush about this novel, I absolutely do not want to spoil it for you. I went into this book pretty blind and LOVED it, so I want you all to get the same experience.

What I will say is that this is a tense, thrilling and, at times, terrifying read. The slow revelation of the story through the dossier of documents is brilliant. Such a unique and fascinating way of storytelling and one that I absolutely loved.

Admittedly, there was some cheesiness in the form of messages between some of the characters, but with teenagers in love that’s kind of to be expected. That was the only thing I wasn’t so keen on in this novel though.

This is a book that I couldn’t put down. Upon closing the back cover I handed it straight to my husband and said “you have to read this”, so that should give you some idea of how much I enjoyed it.

In short… read it, it’s brilliant!

five-stars