Tag Archives: mystery

Book Review: The Unforgotten by Laura Powell

Published 3rd July by Hesperus Nova.

25246282Goodreads Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Betty Broadbent helps her erratic and beautiful mother run the Hotel Eden, a boarding house now besieged by reporters, keen for juicy gossip and eye-catching headlines. They are there because the Cornish seaside town has recently witnessed a string of murders, young girls stabbed to death. Among the newspaper jackals, Mr. Gallagher stands out. Quiet, serious Mr. Gallagher—Betty is fascinated by his mysterious nature and desperate to be noticed by him and not be treated as a child. As he and Betty get to know each other, through snatched conversation and illicit meetings, their feelings for each other grow. But she soon starts to realize how little she knows about the older, enigmatic journalist. With a dangerous cloud looming over the town, Betty starts to take risks to see him and hide secrets from her mother, her friends, and even herself—secrets that will echo through the years and affect the lives of many. Beautifully written with skilllfully drawn characters, evocative language, and set partially in 1956 with perfect period depiction, this is an astonishing tour de force from debut author Laura Powell.

My Review: I actually received this proof from the publisher via my dad and I hadn’t previously heard of them – or the book itself – but after finishing it, rather in awe, I’d love to see what this imprint also publishes… and what Powell will write in the future!

The Unforgotten is set in two times; 1965, and the present day. In 1965, Betty lives in the hotel with her mother, whilst it’s overrun with journalists clamouring to get scoops on the murder spree happening in the village. As tensions are rising, so is Betty’s fixation with Mr Ghallager, one of the local reporters.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect of the story and it was a lot darker than its pretty book jacket lets on. It didn’t feel like a clichéd ‘whodunnit?’ novel. It was simply stunning. I couldn’t predict who the killer was at all. I was swept up in the story – reading it in a day. The pages were practically turning themselves, as horrifying murders took place while a perilous connection between Betty and Mr Ghallager developed.

I was surprised at how invested I became in the lives of the central characters as they all unravelled mysteries. Betty was a little quirky and a really likeable character to read about – in the past and present.

Reading about the characters in 1959 then as elderly people, in the present day, made the story even more brilliant. I don’t think I’ve read many ‘split’ stories like it but it gave the mystery a new depth, as I tried to piece together evidence from the present day and the sixties. It was also a really interesting way to see how the characters changed and grew.

Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend The Unforgotten. I think it will appeal to teens and adults alike – especially to fans of Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. The characters are really well formed and I haven’t been able to get them out of my head – especially after the bewildering ending!

My Rating:

five

I received a copy of The Unforgotten from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: BOO by Neil Smith

Published 21st May 2015 by Windmill Books.

24702495Goodreads Synopsis: When Oliver ‘Boo’ Dalrymple wakes up in heaven, the eighth-grade science geek thinks he died of a heart defect at his school. But soon after arriving in this hereafter reserved for dead thirteen-year-olds, Boo discovers he’s a ‘gommer’, a kid who was murdered. What’s more, his killer may also be in heaven. With help from the volatile Johnny, a classmate killed at the same school, Boo sets out to track down the mysterious Gunboy who cut short both their lives.
In a heartrending story written to his beloved parents, the odd but endearing Boo relates his astonishing heavenly adventures as he tests the limits of friendship, learns about forgiveness and, finally, makes peace with the boy he once was and the boy he can now be.

My Review: As soon as I’d read the synopsis for Boo I knew it would be my kind of book – it reminded me of an old favourite anime series, Angel Beatswhich is about a high school that deceased teenagers find themselves at. The ‘heaven’ in this book is quite different, though shares similar themes, so I was really interested in reading Boo.

Boo is the nickname of the protagonist, Oliver – who wakes up in an afterlife consisting only of American 13 year-olds like himself. He thinks he’s died of a heart problem in school – but when he finds his sort-of friend there with him, Boo has to track down who killed them.

The story is very dark and unnerving at points – but is also unexpectedly a heart-warming story about the bonds people make. I couldn’t predict a single thing about the plot – it turns in ways impossible to imagine. The ‘reveal’ was abrupt and shocking. There’s no way I could’ve guessed it, but as soon as I finished the book I was wondering how I’d missed it! It definitely sent a chills through me, though.

Neil Smith’s imaginative ability is admirable. His version of heaven in Boo felt completely individual and was the perfect backdrop for the mystery plot. As fantastical as it was, it seemed so real: Each uniquely crafted character of the strangely bound community seemed to jump from the page, brimming with personality.

The main protagonists were incredibly memorable. Oliver is a slightly awkward thirteen year-old, who is more engrossed in his science fascination than anything else. I saw a little of my thirteen year-old (and current…) self in him and his voice grabbed me from page one. I’m sure I say that the voice stood out about a lot of books I read, but Boo was just different. The narrative was flawless to me and I felt Boo’s vulnerability and curiosity shine through.

Overall, I’d without a doubt recommend Boo. It’s certainly not for everyone, given its disturbing subject – but it’s hard to fault Neil Smith’s writing. His characterisation and narrative were brilliant – as was the plot, which unravelled cleverly. Boo didn’t turn out the simple ghost murder mystery I thought it would be: It was addictive, ingenious and the kind of book that breaks your heart then sticks it back together again. Multiple times. I can see Boo getting a lot of attention!

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of Boo from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Review-Graphic: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

I borrowed Belzhar based on Lucy @ Queen of Contemporary‘s review from a little while ago. I devoured the book in one evening and was blown away. It was just stunning! Revision has been a little time consuming lately so I’ve done a little graphic instead of a full review…

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I borrowed a copy of Belzhar from my local library.

Book Review: If You Were Me by Sam Hepburn

Published 2nd April 2015 by Chicken House.

22892748Goodreads Synopsis: From the author of CHASING THE DARK comes a thrilling young teen crime mystery, guaranteed to keep you guessing until the very end.

Not long after Aliya’s family escapes Afghanistan for Britain, her brother is accused of a bomb attack. Aliya is sure of his innocence, but when plumber’s son Dan finds a gun in their bathroom, what’s she to think?
Dan has his own reasons for staying silent: he’s worried the gun might have something to do with his dad. Thrown together by chance, they set out to uncover a tangled and twisted truth.

My Review: Recently, I’ve read quite a few books based around religion, intolerance and terrorism – so I was very excited about getting to Sam Hepburn’s latest title, which is along the same lines. I really enjoyed it!

Aliya is an instantly loveable character; from the moments we see her forced to leave her home, to the closing pages. Her chemistry with Dan was great. I was a bit nervous watching them develop as I was certain it would end up in a love story, but I’m really glad it didn’t. The story is focused on finding the truth about Aliya’s brother – and told through Aliya and Dan’s switching perspectives, which were really insightful.

I am so glad that so many books are being written on similar themes lately (see also: You’re Not Proper and One Of Us) as terrorism and victimisation are things happening every single day. If You Were Me tackles stereotypes and the way the media portrays events expertly and brutally honestly – within a tense and gripping plot.

The plot was incredibly well paced and engrossing. Solving the mystery was such a thrill ride – I guessed some elements, but there were a lot of surprises. I think the only problem I had was that I lost track of characters at points: There’s an intricate web of antagonists and allies in If You Were Me and I got a little mixed up sometimes (partially blaming that on reading distractions though…:P).

Overall, If You Were Me was a lot more than I’d expected. It’s a totally gripping read with some unbelievable twists and turns that kept me hooked. With prominent themes of media portrayal, and terrorist attacks, I hope this gets a lot of attention as it’s a very relevant book. Definitely recommended if you’re looking for a nail-biting thriller, or something that’s very relatable.

My Rating:

four

 

I received a copy of If You Were Me from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Book Review: Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

Published January 1st 2015 by Chicken House Books.

22317508Goodreads Synopsis: When it comes to revenge, love is a dangerous complication.With a fierce rivalry raging between two warring families, falling in love is the deadliest thing Sophie could do. An epic debut set outside modern-day Chicago.

When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion in her neighbourhood, Sophie Gracewell’s life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nicoli, Sophie finds herself falling into a criminal underworld governed by powerful families. As the boys’ dark secrets begin to come to light, Sophie is confronted with stinging truths about her own family, too. She must choose between two warring dynasties – the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. When she does, blood will spill and hearts will break.

My Review: I was so excited to read Doyle’s début, Vendetta, when it came through the letterbox! All of the online buzz described it as a tense and gripping retelling of Romeo and Juliet, in suburban Chicago, with a Mafia twist. And if that doesn’t sound like the most insanely awesome idea for a book, then you’re wrong. 😀

I loved the beginning chapters of the story. From the first sentence, there’s a strangely chilling mystery. I found myself completely sucked into the story; I started Vendetta on a train, and somehow got through sixty pages, then (reluctantly) put it away. It was difficult to stop reading!

During the first chapters I had grown to really like the main character, and really feel for her; the mysterious, vague foreshadowing about her father’s story kept me reading, as I was sure it was somehow linked to the new family that moves into the town.

Sophie felt realistic for a lot of the story… though, I did get really annoyed at a lot of parts, where the she is too busy swooning over the dudes even after she’s seen REALLY SCARY STUFF relating to them. Like… I would have run far away at some of the things that happen based around the new boys in town: Not gone running to them. Maybe that’s just me…? I just found her reactions so weird and at a couple of points I just wanted to yell, because seriously, stop swooning for a sec and look PROPERLY at these dudes.

Anyhow, minus some of Sophie’s actions which confused me: I did really enjoy the story. It had the perfect setting, and everything was revealed in really clever ways. There were lots of unpredictable moments and I was up all night finishing Vendetta. The story has that chilling, foreshadow-y feeling throughout and the story spiralled very quickly into a dark and violent crime story. The new family that move in, including the five mysterious new brothers, were so interesting to read about. The story made time to build a great back-story for each one of them, which was brilliant; while maintaining a good enough pace to keep me engrossed.

Overall, I am very mixed about some bits of the book, but in general it was an enjoyable book and an exceptional début. I finished it thinking, whoa. I adored Catherine Doyle’s writing, and I would love to read more by her in the future. Some things were left unsolved in Vendetta, which I know will be explored more in the next two books (Vendetta is the first in a trilogy). I think I will carry on with the trilogy, as I’m just very interested to see what direction Doyle will take her daring, action-packed story in.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Vendetta from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Review-Graphic: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

A little while ago, I was sent A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU for review from Harper360. I was really excited about reading it, after hearing lots about it on American book blogs! I have to admit, I did pick up the book largely because of the very beautiful cover (don’t judge a book by its cover, ehh, I know…) But luckily, I was not disappointed. Claudia Gray’s new title is absolutely stunning and captivating – with a truly brilliant and misleading plot that I can’t wait to see continued.

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I received a copy of A Thousand Pieces of You from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts. 

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Love Letters to the Dead might actually be the best book I’ve read this year: and I don’t think I can even do the book justice. About a week ago, I picked the book up again, and I reread it. I’m in the middle of my second or third reread now… It’s just amazing, and you can tell it’s a pretty special book, because I don’t think I’ve gone back to reread a book so quickly.

Published 1st May 2014 by Hot Key Books.

20703051Goodreads Synopsis: It begins as an assignment for English class: write a letter to a dead person – any dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain – he died young, and so did Laurel’s sister May – so maybe he’ll understand a bit of what Laurel is going through. Soon Laurel is writing letters to lots of dead people – Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart… it’s like she can’t stop. And she’d certainly never dream of handing them in to her teacher. She writes about what it’s like going to a new high school, meeting new friends, falling in love for the first time – and how her family has shattered since May died.

But much as Laurel might find writing the letters cathartic, she can’t keep real life out forever. The ghosts of her past won’t be contained between the lines of a page, and she will have to come to terms with growing up, the agony of losing a beloved sister, and the realisation that only you can shape your destiny.

My Review: Love Letters to the Dead completely blew me away. It’s nothing less than an absolutely stunning début novel- there aren’t actually many words that can do this story justice, I think. It was emotional, captivating, and beautifully written.

Love Letters to the Dead is written entirely in what the title suggests. Protagonist Laurel is starting a new chapter of her life, and at the same time, is still grieving for her sister, May. She pours her riveting, moving life story, and everything that she can’t say to anyone else, into letters to Kurt Cobain, River Phoenix, and Judy Garland, to name a few people. Each and every letter is heart-wrenchingly powerful, and I found tears welling up reading most of them. Ava Dellaira has a fresh, gripping writing voice. It’s going to captivate anyone who reads this, I’m sure!

The romance in this book was heartbreaking, and heart-warming at points. It was beautifully told. Laurel’s relationships with characters in this book was mesmerising. I can’t say who she falls for, but I will say that the love story was a roller coaster and I couldn’t close the book. What touched me the most, though, was the story between two supporting characters. It deserved its own book; it was really unforgettable and emotional.

We get to know Laurel’s sister, May, really well over the course of the story. It’s quite hard to describe how I felt about May, but she is an unforgettable character. Her bond with Laurel is so memorable and unlike anything I’ve ever read about. Laurel is such a strong protagonist, because as the story progresses, we find out that she’s been through a lot more than we thought she had, and each new event shocked me so much. I felt really close to Laurel, and I loved her personality that really shone through in all of her letters. She’s a new favourite contemporary protagonist, and I really miss reading about her now that I’ve finished the book.

Overall, Love Letters to the Dead was an absolutely amazing début. I was a little apprehensive about starting it because I wasn’t sure how I’d find it… but there was no need to be. Love Letters to the Dead captivated me; Ava Delliara’s story captured me from the beginning and didn’t let me go until the very last page. All of the characters are so well fleshed out and memorable. I completely agree with what Steven Chbosky’s said on the front cover of the book: Ava Dellaira is a bold new literary voice. I’m really hoping to read more from her soon and I can tell Love Letters to the Dead is going to be a book I reread over and over again. It was mesmerising.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Love Letters to the Dead form the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts. 

Mini Reviews: CRUSHER and INCINERATOR by Niall Leonard

I read Crusher a while ago, in January, though I didn’t get to write a review of it! I was sent a copy of the sequel which was released really recently (Thank you, Random House!) and I thought it would be nice to do a joint-mini-review post, reviewing the series so far- Book three, Shredder, will be out soon. Enjoy!

17307328Crusher: By Niall Leonard, published by Corgi in September 2012.

Goodreads Synopsis: The day Finn Maguire discovers his father bludgeoned to death in a pool of blood, his dreary life is turned upside down. Prime suspect in the murder, Finn must race against time to clear his name and find out who hated his dad enough to kill him.
Trawling the sordid, brutal London underworld for answers, Finn exposes dark family secrets and faces danger at every turn. But he’s about to learn that it’s the people you trust who can hit you the hardest…

My Review: Crusher was a really, really exhilarating read! I really enjoyed it, for the most part. It’s really shocking, and packed with some brilliant plot twists that keeps the reader completely engrossed. The plot’s very unique, but at the same time, a very gritty urban murder mystery- who killed Finn’s dad with his own award? Though I did enjoy most of the plot, there were a few parts I couldn’t really agree with… I couldn’t really understand Finn’s choices a lot of the time, and I felt some points were a bit rushed. It is a fast paced novel, but I did feel like a lot happened at once, and some bits were… too freaky!

At first, I really liked the main protagonist. Finn was so determined and prepared to tackle his father’s killer. He’s a very realistic teenager- one I think a lot of YA readers will definitely be able to relate to. Then, when he meets the first love interest of sorts in Crusher, I really started to dislike his new attitude- he was so obsessed with her and I hated him for seeming to completely forget about the whole mystery behind his dad…

17612844 Incinerator: (Newest release- just published!) By Niall Leonard, published by Corgi in January 2014.

Goodreads Synopsis: London gang-lord The Guvnor is in hiding, and Finn Maguire has begun a new life running a boxing gym with his old friend and coach Delroy. But when Finn’s lawyer Nicky Hale vanishes overnight with all his money, Finn finds himself in hock to a loan shark with a vicious gang of enforcers. Desperate to track down Nicky and repay his debts, Finn investigates her other clients and soon finds himself engulfed in a web of lies, betrayal, malice and madness, with only his wits and his fists to keep him alive.

My Review: Incinerator was probably my favourite of the two books in the Crusher trilogy so far! I felt that it was very fast paced too, but definitely enjoyed the themes a lot more. It shows that Finn’s developed so much- now trying to get out of the violence, and into business- though that doesn’t work for very long. I really enjoyed the plot of Incinerator- it had me even more hooked than Crusher. Niall Leonard’s writing is really great, and captures the urban setting so well.

I really liked Leonard’s writing, as it’s edgy and gritty, going with the setting and the themes really well. I definitely grew to like Finn Maguire a lot more in this installment as well. Beforehand, in book one, I couldn’t get on with him for a portion of the book. Though, I really liked seeing his character develop a lot in Incinerator. He was even more determined than ever and I’m looking forward to hearing what awaits him in Shredder! 

My Ratings:

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I received Crusher from my dad.

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I received Incinerator from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: Finding Jennifer Jones by Anne Cassidy

Published 6th February 2014 by Hot Key Books.

18482238Goodreads Synopsis: Kate Rickman seems just like any other nineteen-year-old girl. She goes to university, she dates nice, normal boys and she works in her local tourist office at the weekend. But Kate’s not really normal at all. ‘Kate’ is in fact a carefully constructed facade for a girl called Jennifer Jones – and it’s a facade that’s crumbling fast. Jennifer has spent the last nine years frantically trying to escape from her horrifying past. Increasingly desperate, Jennifer decides to do something drastic. She contacts the only other girl who might understand what she’s dealing with, breaking every rule of her parole along the way. Lucy Bussell is the last person Jennifer expects any sympathy from, but she’s also the last person she has left. Finding Jennifer Jones is the powerful sequel to the highly acclaimed, Carnegie Medal nominated Looking for JJ. It is a tense, emotional thriller about guilt, running away and wondering if you can ever truly know yourself.

My Review: Looking for JJ was brilliant… Finding Jennifer Jones completely blew me away. A lot of the time, the sequel to a book is never as strong as the first book, but I actually think this was even more thrilling and clever than the first title! I’ve left it a bit late before reviewing, so I don’t think I can do it enough justice.

Finding Jennifer Jones visits JJ, under yet another name, Kate, as she’s studying in Exeter University. After knowing the events of her horrifying past, the police immediately suspect Kate of a recent murder in the area. Kate, or JJ, realises that she’ll never be able to fully escape her past, no matter how many new identities she’s given- so she decides to revisit her past, by contacting Lucy Bussell: The girl who witnessed what JJ did nine years ago… I was so nervous to see how everything would unfold; I only recently read Looking for JJ and I wasn’t sure the sequel would be as thrilling. But, it definitely was, and I fell in love with it. It felt really nostalgic, going back to meet Lucy again- even though I only read about her in book one a few weeks ago!

I wasn’t expecting to read more detail on what happened to JJ, Lucy and Michelle, though there are more flashback scenes in Finding Jennifer Jones that reveal more about everything. I really loved the fact that at the end of these two books, now, I have a completely clear picture of the whole crime plot. It all fits together so, so well- and the ending to Finding Jennifer Jones- wow. I wasn’t expecting it, but I loved JJ even more for it.

JJ- or, Kate- is so well developed. I grew quite attached to her in book one, and I loved her character even more this time! She was even more confident and brave here. I hadn’t actually read the blurb to Finding Jennifer Jones fully when I started- I wanted it all to be a surprise- so I wasn’t expecting to hear from Lucy Bussell. I really felt sympathetic for her in Looking for JJ. It was really great to see her character developing a lot, years later.#

Overall, Finding Jennifer Jones was a breath-taking follow up to a great crime book. It’s well paced, original and addictive; I couldn’t come out of the story while I was reading it! I was really shocked at the ending, because that was the last thing I’d predicted Kate/JJ to do. But, it was a perfect ending. I really enjoyed the plot, and revisiting characters from JJ’s past, too. If you’ve read the first book, I really highly recommend buying this! If you haven’t- I really can’t recommend the books much higher. They’re captivating and thrilling.

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Finding Jennifer Jones form the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: Running Girl by Simon Mason

Published January 2nd 2014 by David Fickling Books.

17999143Goodreads Synopsis: Meet Garvie Smith. Highest IQ ever recorded at Marsh Academy. Lowest ever grades. What’s the point, anyway? Life sucks. Nothing ever happens.

Until Chloe Dow’s body is pulled from a pond.

DI Singh is already on the case. Ambitious, uptight, methodical – he’s determined to solve the mystery and get promoted. He doesn’t need any ‘assistance’ from notorious slacker, Smith.

Or does he?

My Review: Running Girl was a book I’d been really looking forward to- and luckily I did really enjoy it! Not entirely as much as I thought I would, but still, it was a really fun mystery to follow.

I started the book with a pretty clear idea of it, as I’d talked to the author at the RHCP crime event about it! I was really absorbed in the story for most of the time: I enjoyed the beginning, especially, which really hooks the reader in. I really did like the pot; it’s a classic crime fiction scenario, though it felt fresh and new, and completely original.

I enjoyed guessing throughout, though Running Girl is so misleading! It’s clever, really clever, though I found a lot of parts quite confusing. It’s a really great crime book in the way that it leads you to think the killer’s one person, when really it’s the person I least expected… though I think so much was going on, I lost track! I ended up re-reading a lot of passages and chapters, because I did get confused.

Garvie’s a really uncommon main character. A lot of books I read centered around mysteries have character that are the complete opposite. Instead, Garvie Smith is lazy, incredibly intelligent but unwilling to do anything, and prefers to hang out with crime-committing kids instead of going to school. Despite his personality, I loved him. He was very much like Sherlock Holmes, only willing to do something if it interests him hugely- and that, now, is working out the mystery behind Chloe Dow’s murder.

I admit it was hard to like him at first, but I did really grow to like him! He was brilliant, a really alternative protagonist, that I think a lot of teens and adults will become attached to. I don’t think he developed very much through the events, but I’m hoping to get to know him even better in book two.

Overall, Running Girl is a book that I’m really mixed on, though I’m mainly loving it. Despite the fact I struggled to follow at a few points, the murder plot was really clever. It’s unpredictable and unexpected, and Garvie’s journey is wild and takes him everywhere on a search, from a Casino to a school… I really enjoyed reading about Garvie’s search, because he’s not your average fictional character. Recommended to crime fiction fans. (:

My Rating:

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I received a copy of Running Girl from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.