Kirsty's Reviews

Forever reading books

Book Review: Skin Deep, by Liz Nugent

34198503I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley.

Wow, just wow! This is the first book I’ve ever read by Liz Nugent, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a psychological thriller with a difference. The novel opens with one of the most insane openings I have ever seen. The protagonist Delia, is in her apartment with a corpse, and before we can even find anything out, she just leaves and goes out to party. You are left with so many questions, but you don’t get your answers until the end of the book because from here you jump to Delia’s childhood. You then read her whole life story in this novel, before getting back to present day. The suspense building is just absolutely phenomenal.

You don’t find yourself reading this with terror, not until much later on anyway. Instead you find yourself being sucked into Delia’s back story. For the first few pages I found this frustrating, as I just wanted answers about the body, and why she was leaving it there to go out and party. I soon got engrossed in her life story though, and just couldn’t stop reading. It is clear that the reader is meant to decide for themselves whether Delia is just an awful human being, or whether she is the biggest victim of all in this story. I personally feel it’s a combination of both. Some of her choices in life had me scratching my head with frustration, because I just couldn’t fathom how she could make the choices she made. This book also made me reflect on my own life choices, along with what I want from life, which helped me connect even more to the story, even if I did disagree with most things that Delia did. I found myself wishing things would get better for her at first, though with time I just developed a love hate relationship with her. I truly felt very sorry for anyone that she came into contact with, even though many of those people were equally foul!

I’ve never read anything quite like this before, and I’m now left feeling hungry for more. This was one of those books that I couldn’t stop thinking about, even when I wasn’t reading it. I highly recommend this book, though it does contain disturbing scenes, so beware.

5 stars out of 5

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Book review: Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi

39774994-2I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

This is the first novel in an incredibly hyped YA dystopian series where we follow Juliette, a teenage girl who can kill people just by touching them. At the beginning of the story, she is locked up in a cell and wants to avoid even being near other people through fear of accidentally killing people.

I went into this book with low expectations as I assumed that it would be over-hyped. Indeed, I spent the first half of the book disliking it and finding it dull, and I honestly wondered how on earth anyone could think this book to be fantastic. I thought it was incredibly slow, and I didn’t care about Juliette and her powers, Adam or indeed any of the other characters that popped up. Then, a little after the half way mark everything changed, and this book got exciting. The problem is, I nearly gave up on this book so many times, which would have been a massive shame as I really enjoyed the latter half of the book. Making the first half of a book this dull is a major risk, which luckily paid off in this case.

Towards the end of the book I found it fast paced, thrilling, gripping and just genuinely interesting. I suddenly cared about what was going on, and cared about the characters and how things would pan out. I found myself constantly doubting who to trust, which was a winning factor for me. Juliette also came into her own as time went on, and started to feel more like a real character, rather than just some wishy washy person on a page.

I’m truly excited to see where this series goes from here, and I will definitely be continuing on with the series.

4 stars out of 5

Book Review: Clean, by Juno Dawson

34850295I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley.

Just as a warning, this book has many difficult scenes, which may be triggering to many people, so make sure you do your research before reading.

This is a YA novel about a teenage girl named Lexi, who comes from an incredibly rich and privileged background. It’s safe to say that she falls into the wrong crowd, and gets involved in drugs, eventually becoming a heroin addict. The story opens with her brother checking her into rehab, or rather a treatment institution that deals with a variety of addictions.

Lexi changes a lot during the course of this novel. The Lexi we meet in the first few chapters is an annoying self-absorbed little brat, and I loved seeing her develop as the story progressed. She wasn’t the only character I loved either. So many of the other patients who were getting help are equally loveable, and feel real and fleshed out.

I have never taken drugs, and certainly wouldn’t know what going through heroine withdrawal is like, but the scenes and descriptions felt realistic. They also matched with previous non-fiction books I have read on the subject. Juno Dawson also did a lot of research for this book, and so I feel it is an accurate representation.

One of my favourite things about this book is how effortlessly diverse it is. Some authors feel like they are throwing in diverse characters just for the sake of doing so. Juno Dawson however, creates real, fleshed out diverse characters that feel like they are someone you could know. I won’t go into the specific characters and what makes them diverse, as I don’t want to accidentally slip into any spoilers.

This was a fantastic page turning read. I wanted to know how everyones stories would end, even though the only perspective is from Lexi. I loved how clever this book was, and it is one of my favourites of the year. As I said at the beginning of this review, this book isn’t for everyone. If you do think you would enjoy it though, I highly recommend it.

5 stars out of 5

Book Review: Two Steps Forward, by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

37831962I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

This is a story of character growth, learning who you are as a person and growing while taking part in a gruelling endurance test. The novel follows two main characters, Zoe, a woman from America whose husband has recently passed away, and Martin, a man from the UK who has gone through a messy divorce. At the beginning of the book they don’t know each other at all, and just happen to be in a similar place at the same time. They are both planning to take on the Camino, which is a walk from France to Spain. To do the walk properly takes several weeks of walking all day everyday. They both start their walk for very different reasons, both within a few days of each other. This book is evidence of not judging a book by its cover, as they both make inaccurate first impressions of each other while on the journey. What develops from here is a story which sees their paths cross and intersect at times, all while taking on this gruelling walk, and discovering new things about themselves.

I’d somehow never heard of this very famous walking path. It’s something that the husband and wife co-authors have walked twice, and so they were able to keep this book very accurate, while also taking creative liberties. The paths, and hardcore setting are all very real, though they did choose to make restaurants and hostels/hotels created more from their imaginations than real ones that they actually went in. While the story is a work of fiction, and may glamourise the walk slightly, the overall essence of the personal pride and joy at walking it properly still remains. Some characters in this book do cheat and get taxis occasionally, and their reasons for doing so does get explained. To each their own, and everyone gets something different from the experience, which is very much a soul searching journey.

This book is written from dual perspectives and generally alternates every other chapter between Zoe and Martin. It made for a fascinating read to see each point of view of a particular moment and see how differently each of them would think about that specific incident. It was also great to see how other characters personalities would become more fleshed out, as you would see the lies if they try to play Zoe and Martin off each other. This helps set the scene for further character development in the story. I really enjoyed meeting all the different characters in this story, and getting to know each of them in turn. Even more though, I loved seeing everyones development, as this book reads as a real journey of development for everyone. This book is fantastic at showing off how to learn to spend time with your own thoughts. Also, how to not judge others, as they may have reasons for doing what they do.

Despite this book having alternating perspectives and also being written by two authors, the flow of the story was fantastic. I didn’t feel like it dragged, I couldn’t stop reading to see whether everyone would make their own goals, and also solve their reasons for doing the walk to begin with. I fell in love with Zoe, who is such a strong woman. Martin was equally loveable, and I liked seeing how different their journeys were in some ways, yet so similar in others.

I loved this book, and it is definitely one of my favourites of the year so far. I have read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, and I thought this was a lot more enjoyable than that, and I did enjoy that one. I can’t wait to try other books by these two authors.

Also, I could totally read a sequel to this one. I feel like there is space for one with how everything ends. The ending does wrap everything up, but I still want more time with these characters.

5 stars out of 5

Book review: Too Close to Breathe, by Olivia Kiernan

35478056-3I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley.

Too Close to Breathe, is a police based mystery thriller novel which features some truly horrific murders. This novel is set primarily in Dublin, Ireland and did a fantastic job at reminding you of the setting often. The language often used in the book would have Irish slang in it, though it was easy to understand what was meant. The reader follows DCS Frankie Sheehan, as she investigates a series of murders, which don’t always look like a murder from the beginning.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Frankie, I’m not sure whether it was because I was trying to read this book while very busy, or whether there was something more to this. I struggled to form any sort of bond with her, or care about her as a person in this story. I actually considered giving up on this book a handful of times, as I found her police scenes incredibly dull. What kept me reading however, was the amazing murders in this novel. That sounds strange but, they were fascinatingly gruesome and I just had to know who the killer was.

I’d be interested to see if I’d liked this novel more if I had the spare time to just sit and read it in one sitting. The book is written like a page turner, and difficult to put down and so is more than likely intended to be read in as few amount of sittings as possible. I only had time to read a few pages here, or a few pages there, and I’m sure this will have impacted on my overall enjoyment. That said, I still feel like this was lacking at times, and definitely dipped in the middle. This is worth picking up if you enjoy police dramas with horrific murders and suspense while trying to find the killer. Not the best book I’ve ever read like this, though certainly not terrible. This is a debut novel, and I can’t wait to see this author grow, as this shows real potential.

3 stars out of 5

Book Review: The Ashes of London, by Andrew Taylor

29495234I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley.

This is a historical thriller set in London, just after the great fire in 1666, and follows two main perspectives. The first is James Marwood, a reluctant government informer, and the second is a young woman named Cat, who is from a rich family and has been paired with an awful man who she doesn’t want to be with. The perspectives swap almost every chapter, and their stories intertwine, with their paths almost crossing several times before the climatic ending.

I had mixed experiences with this book, and took notes of my journey along the way. Early on, I think I’d have been tempted to DNF this book, had it not got such wonderful descriptions. I could picture every single inch of London in the aftermath of this fire. I felt like I was actually there, which was helped by me having a sound knowledge of the layout of London, though I do think even those that have never been, would have been able to still get a very accurate image in their heads.

Wonderful descriptions can only get you so far though, and from early on I decided I didn’t enjoy the chapters that were from James’ perspective, mainly because they were incredibly dull, and this stayed the same until the last quarter of the book. I truly didn’t care about what he was doing, or about what was happening with his side of the plot. On the other hand, I really enjoyed Cat’s perspective, which is what helped pull me through.

There is such a thing as too many descriptions in a book like this. By half way through the book, I could see everything clearly, and yet the descriptions kept on rolling in. By this point I was getting frustrated, as this was meant to be a historical thriller, and I was finding it less than thrilling. Again, I was tempted to DNF, and I’m so glad I didn’t as a few chapters later, things really started getting exciting.

In case you haven’t noticed yet, this book goes from exciting, to dull, and just repeats this process over and over again. Just as I thought things were looking up, it went dull again, but at this point I had invested too much time to allow myself to give up on it, and so again I pushed on through.

The ending is totally worth it, and is a fantastic thrill, if you can get yourself there that is. With the combination of too many descriptions, narrative that keeps swapping from exciting to dull, and meanwhile loads of characters to try and keep track of, this is no easy read. I did enjoy it overall though, so much so that I decided to dive straight into the sequel while I’m still used to the over descriptive writing style. This book is also a little gruesome and times, and covers topics from rape, to murder, just so that you’re aware.

3 stars out of 5

Advanced Review: School for Psychics, by K.C. Archer

cover127531-mediumI received a free digital copy of this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley.

This book is due to be published 3rd April 2018.

This is an adult novel (supposedly, but back to that later), in which a woman in her early 20s named Teddy has been banned from all the casino’s in Las Vegas as they think she cheats. Teddy doesn’t consider herself a cheater, though she does know that she isn’t winning in a traditionally legitimate way because she can read players and work out when to play and when to fold. As the story develops, it becomes clear that Teddy is psychic, and she is invited to a school specialising in training to use her psychic powers to potentially make a difference in the world.

So, as I mentioned earlier, this is stated to be an adult novel, and the main character is a twenty four year old woman. I have two problems with this though. Firstly, Teddy feels like a teenager throughout most of the novel, both with her actions and also with just how the book is written, as it feels very YA. I don’t have a problem with YA, and enjoy it a lot, but I don’t enjoy things being marketed incorrectly. The only time Teddy felt like the age she was meant to be, was at the beginning of the book when she was in the casino’s gambling. My other problem is that the storyline feels like a combination of Harry Potter and The Magesterium series, which again would be fine as I enjoy both of those. In theory this could have been marketed as an adult equivalent, with dark themes and all the excitement that those series have while in the school setting. This didn’t work for me though, as the writing, pacing and plot, along with all the student characters, just felt like they could have slot into the previously mentioned series easily, as they felt the same age. It’s a real shame that this is something that everyone seems to be picking up on, as these were the only things that made me dislike the novel and it feels like it could have been so easy to avoid.

So onto more positive things. Teddy as a main character (outside of the age issues), is a little annoying at times, but in a believable and real way. It made her feel relatable, as she makes stupid decisions that some people would make in her situation. She is also an interesting character, that at times shows great strengths when trying to get through some of the school challenges. While on the topic of the school, it is hardcore. The reader gets a lot of details about the lessons the students have, about the tests they have to complete, and this was probably one of my favourite aspects of this book.

Twists are present a lot, and both Teddy and the reader struggle to know who to trust, and who to be wary of. Teddy goes on her own journey with this, and meanwhile I was sat playing the guessing game too. I did guess correctly, though I did change my mind may times, as the book gives you lots of red herrings. I don’t feel like my correct guess detracted from my enjoyment of this though.

Overall I would highly recommend this book, I’m just a little disappointed in the age issue. This is a fast paced and easy read, which I couldn’t put down.

4 stars out of 5

Book Review: The Woman at 72 Derry Lane, by Carmel Harrington

33229417I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley.

This book is so much more than just your average women’s fiction. Set mainly in Dublin, the reader follows multiple perspectives. To begin with, the reader meets two ladies who live next door to each other, and yet have never spoken to each other before this novel takes place. We have Stella, who lives with her abusive, yet charming husband. Everyone thinks he is handsome, and envy Stella and her life, as of course they can’t possibly know what goes on behind closed doors. Her next door neighbour Rea, is considered a crazy old woman. Rea is battling problems of her own though, and suffers from Agoraphobia, and has no one to turn to. Their paths finally cross, and this leads to them both developing a much needed friendship. More than this though, the reader is left constantly wondering how a third narrative voice fits into this story.

I loved this book, and found it impossible to put down. This is the second novel I’ve ever read to cover Agoraphobia, and so I’m no expert at how well the topic was covered, though as a reader who hasn’t suffered with this awful illness, I thought it was dealt with well. I do have more experience with the domestic abuse though, and I personally thought this was incredibly accurate and well portrayed. The fact that the husband could control Stella in every aspect and abuse her, while still appearing as a charming man to many, was frightening and yet accurate for many people who suffer at the hands of abusive partners.

Due to the subject matter of this novel, it doesn’t always make for easy reading. Yet, it wasn’t heavy with it and made me want to keep turning the pages to see how things would develop. This especially became true once the third narrative was thrown in. I couldn’t work out how things were connected for quite some time. Even when I did think I’d guessed correctly, I was never sure. It turns out what one of my guesses was correct, but I wasn’t ever sure of this guess right up until the moment it was confirmed in the story.

This book covers so many heartbreaking subjects, so expect to need a box of tissues at some point. I personally only cried once, but when I did, it was quite the ugly cry. I love when a writer is able to get you to connect to characters on such a level. That is one of the strengths of this book for sure. I connected to each of the main characters, and laughed when they laughed, and so indeed cried when they did too. This isn’t a miserable read, and far from it. It’s possible to laugh along with the characters on multiple occasions.

I loved how this book showed that women can be strong alone, but also how friendship can make us even stronger. Friendship is a big theme through this novel, and an important one, along with family. Secondary characters that represent family and friends are just as fleshed out as the main characters.

I honestly have nothing bad to say about this book at all, and I adored it with all my heart. I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially people who are, or have been in an abusive relationship. Maybe this book will be the help you need.

5 stars out of 5

Book Review: This Mortal Coil, by Emily Suvada

35072280I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Wow, I honestly can’t remember the last time a book kept me awake until the early hours, in a desperate attempt to devour the whole thing, twice! This is a YA science-fi/dystopian/zombie book in a very non-traditional sense. The main character is a teenage girl named Catarina, and at first everything seems a little cliche. Typical young girl must save the world kind of vibes, but this book is so much more than that.

Catarina lives in a world where people have a panel in their arm, which you can load apps on to use for everything from communication, to extra senses and can even be used for healing the body, along with many other uses. Pretty much everyone has a panel, and if they don’t they can grow a new one. These are placed into everyone from birth, and so they don’t even really know what it’s like to live without this in their lives. Beyond this though, the world is also being plagued by a terrible virus, this is where you get the zombie vibes. Catarina’s father is abducted by a company very early on in the novel, as it is believed he and his assistant are able to create a cure for this virus. We follow Catarina as her whole world tumbles upside down, she has to learn to survive alone, and make new alliances to survive. We also learn more about how to keep the virus at bay, which is quite a gruesome option. Alternatively, others live in bunkers and are kept safe with air vents, though Catarina is unable to go to one of them as her father told her to stay away to keep safe. Things really start picking up in the plot, when two years later a guy named Cole, who works for the company, seeks her out.

I was a little wary of this book going in, just because I can be very picky with my science-fi books, though I was very excited about the overall plot idea. I needn’t have worried though, because this book exceeded my expectations in so many ways. First of all, I’d like to point out that the science behind everything is very well explained, and yet also totally believable. It isn’t hard to follow, and yet feels like it could be plausible for this to all exist and work the way it does.

I also loved the characters, and how the lines of good and evil often get blurred. Both Catarina and the reader go on a journey of discovery over what it means for someone to be good or bad, and the decisions that someone can make, can shape who they really are. The ongoing feeling of nature verses nurture, and DNA being what makes you who you really are, could make for a really long discussion point alone. I loved Catarina, she was strong and inspiring, yet also showed the reader her weaker side of self doubt, which is something we all feel at one time or another. Again, her and indeed all the other characters felt so real to me, I felt like I was reading about a real person and something that was genuinely happening. The author has an incredible talent for crafting real people within the characters, in a world that felt equally possible.

There is a love interest or two thrown into this, and at first I was worried it was going down a love triangle route, though I needn’t have worried at all, as this turned out not to be the case. The romance isn’t overbearing, and doesn’t detract from the action and plot of the book, and instead just throws another realistic aspect in, because it feels a believable situation and something that would naturally happen in that environment.

Perhaps my favourite part of this book overall though, was the twists and turns it took. It’s like the author gives you clues throughout, things that should make you spot things as they happen, but of course they don’t. The ending especially, gave me one of those moments. Both Catarina and the reader is given all the clues and education needed to spot things before they happen, yet we both walk into traps and only realise after, just how obvious these traps were.

This has become one of my favourite books of all time. It is so fast paced and cost me a lot of sleep, because I just could not put this down. If you start reading this at a sensible time, which is what I recommend, you will find yourself reading it in one sitting for sure. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

5 stars out of 5

Advanced Graphic Novel Review: Theatrics, by Neil Gibson

34408263I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

This book is due to be released December 12, 2017.

This is the first volume in a new graphic novel series by Neil Gibson, and follows a character named Rudy Burns, who has it all. He is a famous Broadway actor, yet he is unhappy and drinks a lot. One evening he drinks one too many and stumbles home, only to be attacked by a gang of thieves. Rudy does a fantastic job at defending himself, but the gang fight dirty and beat him to a pulp using a lead pipe. Rudy wakes up in hospital with his face disfigured and faces the prospect of losing everything he had. We follow Rudy as he tries to get his life back on track.

I loved how easy this story was to get into, I found Rudy interesting and engaging as a character from the very beginning. You can tell from the get go that there is more to him than meets the eye, and I can’t wait to get to know him more in future volumes. Other characters didn’t stand out quite as much, and I ended up disliking a lot of them, which in many cases was surely intentional.

The graphics are amazing, I always love when the colours are matched to the subject matter on the page. So when things are tense, and anger filled, the colours are red and black. When Rudy is indoors and mulling over his situation, or struggling mentally, the colours are dull and dreary, which matches his mood perfectly.

This is a really strong first volume from Neil, and I have read many of his graphic novels now and enjoyed them all. I can’t wait to see where this series goes and I will definitely be continuing on with this one. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a dark, quick but graphic read.

4 stars out of 5