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Claire McGowan – The Lost

clairemcgowan-thelostNot everyone who’s missing is lost…

When two teenage girls go missing along the Irish border, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire has to return to the hometown she left years before. Swirling with rumour and secrets, the town is gripped by fear of a serial killer. But the truth could be even darker.

Not everyone who’s lost wants to be found…

Surrounded by people and places she tried to forget, Paula digs into the cases as the truth twists further away. What’s the link with two other disappearances from 1985? And why does everything lead back to the town’s dark past- including the reasons her own mother went missing years before?

Nothing is what it seems…

As the shocking truth is revealed, Paula learns that sometimes, it’s better not to find what you’ve lost.

The Lost is the first Paula Maguire book and author Claire McGowan’s second published novel after The Fall. Set on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland on the Northern side, the narrative reverberates with the memories of The Troubles and with the lingering, but very real, echoes of the sectarian divide. It’s an honest look at life on a troubled border and doesn’t flinch back at the harsh truth that while there may be peace, things are far from peaceful. And that is just the setting. A good crime novel, I’ve learned, depends far more on the strength of its characters than on the originality of the puzzle to be solved. And while the crime at the heart of this novel was quite original and its unravelling fascinating, what made The Lost an utterly compelling read was its cast of characters.  Continue reading »

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Sarah Harian – The Wicked We Have Done

sarahharian-thewickedwehavedoneEvalyn Ibarra never expected to be an accused killer and experimental prison test subject. A year ago, she was a normal college student. Now she’s been sentenced to a month in the compass room -an advanced prison obstacle course designed by the government to execute justice.

If she survives, the world will know she’s innocent.

Locked up with nine notorious and potentially psychotic criminals, Evalyn must fight the prison and dismantle her past to stay alive. But the system prized for accuracy appears to be killing at random.

She doesn’t plan on making friends.

She doesn’t plan on falling in love, either.

Sarah Harian’s The Wicked We Have Done is the first novel I’ve read that was labelled New Adult and I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it. I’ve always found the New Adult moniker a little vague and wasn’t sure how to interpret it. Was it YA but with slightly older protagonists and a little more risqué content in both action and language? Was it a novel for adults with YA themes, such as self-discovery and finding your feet when going out into ‘the real world’? The nature and necessity of a New Adult category in publishing has been debated and expounded on in great detail, so I won’t go deeper into that here. Still, Harian’s debut hasn’t really answered my questions in that regard and more importantly, it shouldn’t have to. What it did have to do was entertain me and tell a good story, which it certainly did.  Continue reading »

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Richard Ford – The Shattered Crown

richardford-theshatteredcrownHeroes must rise…

The King is dead. His daughter, untested and alone, now wears the Steel Crown. And a vast horde is steadily carving a bloody road south, hell-bent on razing Steelhaven to the ground.

or the city will fall.

Before the city faces the terror that approaches, it must crush the danger already lurking within its walls. But will the cost of victory be as devastating as that of defeat?

Last year I was quite taken with Herald of the Storm, the first book in the Steelhaven trilogy, so I was very much looking forward to this second instalment called The Shattered Crown. I liked the setting, the tone of the first novel, and the fact that there were many different flavours of type of story in the book. On the other hand I had some difficulties with the pacing and some of the characters. I was hoping that Ford would improve on the points I found lacking and keep everything I liked. And he did, mostly.  Continue reading »

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Matthew Quick – Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

matthewquick-forgivemeleonardpeacockHow would you spend your birthday if you knew it would be your last?

Eighteen-year-old Leonard Peacock knows exactly what he’ll do. He’ll say goodbye.

Not to his mum – who he calls Linda because it annoys her – who’s moved out and left him to fend for himself. Nor to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing the unthinkable. But to his four friends: a Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour, a teenage violin virtuoso, a pastor’s daughter and a teacher.

Most of the time, Leonard believes he’s weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he’s not. He wants to thank them, and say goodbye.

When I saw Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock up on Netgalley as a Read Now title, I didn’t hesitate for a moment and downloaded it immediately, as I’d heard nothing but good about the title when it was first published in the US. But while I knew it was a well-received novel, I’d forgotten what it was about exactly, so when I started the book I didn’t really know what to expect. What I got was a darkly funny, painfully honest, and heart-wrenching story about a troubled teen who is more lonely than people realise and less alone than he knows.  Continue reading »

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Sarah Hilary – Someone Else’s Skin

sarahhilary-someoneelsesskinDetective Inspector Marnie Rome. Dependable; fierce; brilliant at her job; a rising star in the ranks. Everyone knows how Marnie fought to come back from the murder of her parents, but very few know what is going on below the surface. Because Marnie has secrets she won’t share with anyone.

But then so does everyone. Certainly those in the women’s shelter Marnie and Detective Sergeant Noah Jake visit on that fateful day. The day when they arrive to interview a resident, only to find one of the women’s husbands, who shouldn’t have been there, lying stabbed on the floor.

As Marnie and Noah investigate the crime further, events begin to spiral and the violence escalates. Everyone is keeping secrets, some for survival and some, they suspect, to disguise who they really are under their skin.

Now, if Marnie is going to find the truth she will have to face her own demons head on. Because the time has come for secrets to be revealed…

I love a good police procedural, especially if its main character is female. That’s why, when Someone Else’s Skin arrived at my house, I was immediately intrigued by the blurb. And the book was every bit as interesting and riveting as promised, but where it surprised me was the fact that this is as much a psychological thriller as it is an exciting police procedural. Sarah Hilary’s début was chilling in some instances, but it was also quite engrossing and I found myself drawn into our characters live and the case at the heart of the book more and more as the pages flew by.  Continue reading »

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Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees

suemonkkidd-thesecretlifeofbeesLily has grown up believing she accidentally killed her mother when she was just four years old. Now at fourteen, she yearns for forgiveness and a mother’s love. Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her harsh and unyielding father, she has only one friend: Rosaleen, a black servant.

When racial tension explodes one summer afternoon, and Rosaleen is arrested and beaten, Lily is compelled to act. Fugitives from justice, the pair follow a trail left by the woman who died ten years before. Finding sanctuary in the home of three beekeeping sisters, Lily starts a journey as much about her understanding of the world, as about the mystery surrounding her mother.

When The Secret Life of Bees was first published in 2002, the book grabbed my attention but I was still a penurious student, so I didn’t buy the book and I rather lost sight of it. So when I received a package with both The Secret Life of Bees and Sue Monk Kidd’s newest novel The Invention of Wings I was really stoked to get the chance to finally read it. This week I finally sat down with The Secret Life of Bees and it was an interesting read.  Continue reading »

By Published Posted in mainstream, review | 2 Comments

Julianna Baggott – Burn

juliannabaggott-burnIs the world doomed to an eternity of war and hardship?

Inside the Dome, Partridge has taken his father’s place as leader of the Pures who dwell there. His struggle has led him here, intent upon bringing down the Dome from the inside, with the help of a secret resistance force. But things are not simple from his new position of power and he finds himself tempted by his father’s words: perhaps if the world is to survive it needs the Dome – and Partridge – to rule it…

As Partridge’s resolve weakens, Pressia and Bradwell remain outside the Dome, continuing to piece together the clues left to them from the time before the Detonations. It is their hope that they will be able to heal the Wretches, and free them from their monstrous fusings and the Dome’s oppression once and for all. But everything depends, too, on Partridge. Separated by distance and history, can they still trust their friend and ally? Or is the world doomed to an eternity of war and hardship?

I loved Pure and Fuse, and I was beyond excited to get an ARC for the trilogy’s concluding volume Burn. It is a fitting conclusion to this bleak view of the future and human nature. If Pure and Fuse were bleak and bleaker, then Burn was bleakest and I found myself wondering how on earth Baggott was going to pull off a satisfactory ending, if not a happy one. But Burn provides a fitting conclusion to the tale started in Pure and while it may not be a Disney-style happy ending, it is an ending that leaves us with hope, hope for the characters we’ve become attached to and hope for a better world. Obviously as this is the last book in the series there will be spoilers for the previous books. If you haven’t read those and want to remain unspoilt: Beware, here be spoilers!  Continue reading »

By Published Posted in review, science fiction, YA | 1 Comment

Jen Williams – The Copper Promise

jenwilliams-thecopperpromiseThere are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel…

Some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths.

For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him … and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Carverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.

But sometimes there is truth in rumour.
Sometimes it pays to listen. Soon this reckless trio will be the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart.

And they’re not even getting paid.

The Copper Promise was one of this spring’s books I was looking forward to reading a lot, as I’d heard very good things about the novella when it was previously published – most notably Graeme Flory’s review at his old blog – and it sounded like a really fun romp. So when the book was selected as the February title for the Hodderscape Review Project, I was stoked and got to reading with gusto. And I have to say, Graeme was completely right; this reworked and expanded version of that original novella was highly entertaining and reminiscent of classic sword and sorcery, but updated and lacking some of the more problematic elements of the classic sword and sorcery novels.  Continue reading »

By Published Posted in fantasy, review | 6 Comments

Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2014: YA April-June

2014We’re almost there! Welcome to the penultimate post in my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2014. Today I’m sharing the second half of my picks for books published for the YA crowd. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!   Continue reading »

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Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2014: YA January-March

2014Welcome to the next post in my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2014. YA books have become a big part of my reading diet. Some of my favourite authors are writing for this age group and there are just so many great titles out there. Consequently, YA too has been spread over two posts. This is the first half. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!   Continue reading »

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