Monday 31 August 2015

Review: First Class Murder - Robin Stevens

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens, published by Corgi on 31st July

Goodreads synopsis:
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are taking a holiday through Europe on the world-famous Orient Express. From the moment the girls step aboard, it's clear that each of their fellow first-class passengers has something to hide. Even more intriguing: rumour has it that there is a spy in their midst.

Then, during dinner, there is a bloodcurdling scream from inside one of the cabins. When the door is broken down, a passenger is found murdered, her stunning ruby necklace gone. But the killer is nowhere to be seen - almost as if they had vanished into thin air.

Daisy and Hazel are faced with their first ever locked-room mystery - and with competition from several other sleuths, who are just as determined to crack the case as they are.

Wells and Wong are back in their third detective adventure.  They are an unstoppable double act and one of my favourite sleuthing duos.  What could be better then than setting their latest mystery on-board the famous Orient Express.  When a murder is committed on the train, you know that Daisy and Hazel will be hot on the case, uncovering clues and hunting a killer, as they determine to crack the locked room mystery.

I love, love, love this series so much!  I am a massive fan of the detective genre (particularly when like here, it is brilliantly done) and really like the fact that these books are set in the 1930s. They have a classic period feel, but also a freshness and immediacy about them.  Hazel and Daisy are quite an intrepid pair and leave no stones unturned when they start to investigate.

I like the fact that it pays homage to Agatha Christie's original Murder on the Orient Express, and the setting is just fantastic.  I would love to go on this train and it reminded me a little bit of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes.  The guilty party is on the train but the girls do not yet know which one of the passengers can not be trusted.  The fact that no one can get off without raising suspicion, lends an air of claustrophobia and danger to proceedings.

I had no idea who the murderer was but I enjoyed seeing Daisy and Hazel untangle all the clues, along with some red herrings.  I read this book in a flash and it was my favourite of the series so far.  Bring on more of the detective society immediately!  Five stars.        

Thursday 27 August 2015

Review: Second Chance Summer - Jill Shalvis

Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 30th July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
What do you do when you run into the man who broke your heart? Lily's been back in Cedar Ridge for less than ten minutes when she bumps into Aidan, the former love of her life. So much for sneaking back into town unnoticed. And thanks to frizzy hair and armfuls of junk food, she's turning his head for all the wrong reasons. No one knows why Lily is home after ten years, and she's determined to stay no longer than the summer. But Cedar Ridge and Aidan have other ideas. As they set about persuading Lily to give them a second chance, she finds herself falling under the spell of the Colorado mountains ... and the one man she could never forget.

Jill Shalvis's Lucky Harbor books are my go-to series when I'm in the mood for a generous helping of romance.  'Second Chance Summer' is the first title in her new Cedar Ridge series which didn't let me down.  It gave me lashings of romance, as well as hot sparks flying around left, right and centre.  Well it does feature firemen.  Yes, that's right firemen!

What I love about Jill's books, is the way that she creates a whole community of wonderful characters who you instantly care about and want to see more of.  This time, it's the Kincaid family who live and work on Cedar Ridge and are determined to make a success of their family business at all costs.  Although Aidan is one of the main characters, I also really loved his older brother Gray and his domineering and feisty wife Penny, as well as his younger siblings Hudson and Kenna.  My favourite thing about them all is that you know they are always watching each other's backs.  Although they joke and fight with one another, there is no doubt in your mind that they will stand together through thick and thin. 

When Aidan hears that local girl Lily Danville is back in town after a ten year absence, his heart can't help skipping a beat.  Lily was the girl that got away and now that she is back, he won't let her escape so easily next time.  However, Aidan and Lily are both carrying their own burdens of guilt and until they can leave the past behind, they won't be able to move on with their futures together. 

I absolutely adored the setting for the story too.  Cedar Ridge sounds picturesque with it's beautiful mountains and hiking trails.  First, I wanted to live at the beach and now I'm thinking that the mountains sound right up my alley!

This was a super read which swept me away on a tide of romance.  I'm most definitely eager to read the second book in the series now which will be centred around Hudson.   

Monday 24 August 2015

Review: Reawakened - Colleen Houck

Reawakened by Colleen Houck, published by Hodder on 13th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification.

And she really can't imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe to find his brothers and complete a grand ceremony that will save mankind.

But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.

I have not read Colleen Houck's Tiger series, so she is a brand new author to me.  I really liked the sound of 'Reawakened' because I can't think of another YA series that I have read which is set in Egypt and leans heavily on Egyptian mythology.  It is always nice to discover something fresh and original and the plot sounded fantastic. 

There was a lot to like about 'Reawakened'.  The story was quite unique and I enjoyed the way in which Colleen Houck interwove the elements of Egypt and the Gods but with a modern setting.  At times, I thought that there was a lot of dense information given to the reader all in one go, which did help to build the mythology but was a lot to get your head around all at once.  I did love the myths and legends part of the book though.

The idea of a mummy coming to life and just happening to be a handsome guy who sweeps the main character off her feet, sounds pretty fantastical, but that is pretty much what happens.  I really liked the Egyptian Prince Amon and his quest to find his two brothers, although I was not as keen on his female counter-part Lily.  She comes across as spoilt and selfish at the start of the book but she grew on me a lot throughout the story and had matured a lot by the end.  I would have liked to have seen more romance between the two leads but this often takes a backseat to everything else that is going on.

The second half of the book was absolutely packed full of adventure and excitement, with one obstacle after another lying in the path of Amon and Lily's quest.  There was hardly time to catch my breath as they are thrown into one dangerous situation after another.     

I originally thought that this title was going to be a stand-alone, but judging by the ending I think that this could be the first in a series.  There is a lot still to sort out and it would be good to see more of Amon's two brothers in the future.  This is definitely a series that I will be following. 

Thursday 20 August 2015

Review: One - Sarah Crossan

One by Sarah Crossan, published by Bloomsbury on 26th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:

Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.  And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

I have read several of Sarah Crossan’s books now and it is clear to me that she has a very powerful way with words. Every sentence that she writes and every word that she uses is carefully crafted and thought out. This lends a lyrical quality to her stories which are often written in free verse. Her new book, ‘One’ is no exception, with a poetic form which captivates the reader.

The story itself centres around sixteen year old conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi, who are about to go to a real school for the first time. Now I will admit that I was slightly apprehensive when I first heard about the subject matter of Sarah’s new book. It’s not normally the sort of thing that I would pick up and read but I had confidence in her writing and I had heard nothing but good things about it from fellow readers. I’m glad that I didn’t let it put me off because I would have missed out on a great read.

Grace narrates the story and provides insight into the challenges that conjoined twins face. I like the way that the two come across as separate people with different personalities, but always with a special bond between them. They have each other to lean on through thick and thin. As money is tight at home, they decide to allow a film-maker to shoot them for a documentary which provides outsiders with the opportunity to learn more about them. I’m glad that we also got to see the impact that living with conjoined twins has on the rest of their family and how their mother, father and younger sister cope with this.   

The ending was not necessarily unexpected because I predicted quite early on what was going to happen but that didn’t mean that it was any less moving or emotional. I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to find out more about this subject, as it presents several difficult ethical questions to the reader.

Another winner from the pen of Sarah Crossan.  

Monday 17 August 2015

Review: Gray Mountain - John Grisham

Gray Mountain by John Grisham, published by Hodder on 2nd July 2015 

Goodreads synopsis:
One week ago, Samantha Kofer was a third-year associate at New York City's largest law firm. Now she is an unpaid intern in a legal aid clinic deep in small-town Appalachia. When Lehman Brothers collapsed, she lost her job, her security, her future. As she confronts real clients with real problems, she finds herself a world away from her past life of corporate fat cats and fatter bonuses. This is coal country. Meth country. The law is different here. And standing up for the truth means putting your life on the line.

I’m a huge John Grisham fan and I always look forward to his new releases. Luckily, he writes quickly so there’s always a new book on the horizon!

‘Gray Mountain’ was not my favourite of his novels and I think it was lacking a little in drama but overall it was still a very good book and an enjoyable read. It focuses on the issue of coal mining and the devastation that strip mining causes to families and communities. It also looks at the destruction to the land that this causes. It is a depressing and quite bleak topic because what came across is that there is often little hope in trying to fight these huge companies.  At the same time, I think it is an important issue to explore and one which I enjoyed finding out more about. 

The main character is New York City lawyer Samantha Kofer, who at the start of the book loses her job and ends up taking an unpaid position at a legal aid firm in the middle of small town Appalachia. The cases she starts to take on teach her about the struggles of real people and show her what being a lawyer is all about – helping those in desperate need of someone to stand up for them and fight their corner or their cause. Along the way, she meets Donovan Gray who is fighting the coal companies in court. 

About half-way through the book, there was a massive plot twist which I never saw coming. It did surprise me because in some ways it totally changed the direction of the story and was quite a bold choice to make. I’m still not sure I agree with the route that Grisham took but I can see the benefits of this. 

My main issue with ‘Gray Mountain’ was the pace of the story which seemed to meander along at times. It felt to me like it needed more drive. I did like however, the way the reader sees things through Samantha’s eyes as she matures into a damn good lawyer and becomes part of a new community which is always ready to rally round those in need. 
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