Kirsty's Reviews

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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

Book Review: A Dog Called Hope, by Jason Morgan and Damien Lewis

29473517-2I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I personally purchased the audiobook (as I forgot I had this on NetGalley), and so this review stems from my experience of reading the audiobook. I will definitely reread this in the future with the physical form, as I fell in love with this book.

This book totally ruined me, and the only thing I can keep thinking now I’ve finished is how much I want a loyal dog best friend. This is a non-fiction book, that follows two lives that eventually join up and become a fantastic and inspirational team. The first life is Jason Morgan, who was a special forces soldier. The second, a dog named Napal, who I fell in love with from the get go. Napal is going through training at the beginning of the book to become a service dog. Knowing that this book was about Jason, who has a life changing accident and ends up paralysed from the waist down, it seemed highly likely that Jason was destined to end up with Napal. Of course this assumption was correct, but it was still great fun learning about their journeys getting there. Napal’s training journey was fascinating, and we also learn about his puppy raiser Jim, who was equally inspiring as Napal and Jason end up being. Jim, despite being in a wheelchair himself, raises many CCI dogs, and does such an excellent job of it. I loved hearing about how he trained and loved puppy Napal, and how difficult it must be to give these dogs up at the end of the training months. Meanwhile, I was also equally engrossed in Jason’s story, both before and after his accident. How he survived that was a miracle, but how he then goes on to overcome other challenges in his life, is just inspiring. Learning about how people get matched with the correct service dog was also incredibly interesting.

The audiobook narrator is fantastic at helping you get attached to everyone in this book. I knew from listening to just one chapter of this book, that I was going to enjoy it and love it, I just had no clue to what extent I would become invested. I have no negatives for this book, I enjoyed every second of this emotional rollercoaster. It is inspiring, educational, emotional, and a must read for absolute everyone, though obviously especially dog lovers. This book needs to be a movie, and the proceeds need to go to this amazing charity to help them continue to provide this service to all the people who need it, of which many still don’t realise they qualify for it. Thank you so much to all those involved in this book, you are a true inspiration.

5 stars out of 5

Advanced Review: The Castoffs, V.2, by Brian Smith & M.K. Reed.

36199857I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

This title is due to be published October 24, 2017.

This series lacks a little in this second volume, and I found I enjoyed the first one a lot more. The story focuses on our three Mages again, who are strong female characters. I found this part of the story a little too information dumpy, and a bit too much setting the scene. Things only really picked up in the final few pages, which is great in the sense of I will definitely pick up volume three, though it did leave me feeling a little let down by this one.

Overall this is a fantastic series, which has a wonderfully diverse cast of characters, and an interesting fantasy world is being built up. I highly recommend this series, and I only hope that volume three is more action packed and gripping than this one was.

3 stars out of 5

Book Review: Fierce Kingdom, by Gin Phillips

cover102572-medium.pngI received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

This is one of the most terrifying thrillers I have read in a long time, possibly ever, though more on that topic later. This book focuses on a mother and son who are out on an afternoon trip to the zoo. As they go to leave at the end of the day, they notice someone shooting people near the entrance. From here the mother, picks up her son and runs off into the zoo to try and keep herself and her son safe.

In theory, I feel like this doesn’t seem like it would be that terrifying, but the author does such a fantastic job with the descriptions and building the tension, that you just can’t help but feel a nervous wreck while reading this book. I honestly feel like this could have easily been a one sitting read for me, because there doesn’t ever feel a safe time to stop reading, and you just need to know that they are going to be okay. Due to the subject matter and the tension, you also find yourself reading at an incredible pace as you just need to know more, so that makes this a relatively quick read too. I found it surprising in some ways that a book like this could scare me more than more traditionally scary books, though I feel like this is something that is going to keep popping up more and more in todays society and also in our literature. This book essentially gives you a fly on the wall experience of being in a shooting/terrorist sort of situation, and that is something that is becoming everyones worst nightmare. Throw into that fact that you have a four year old boy involved in this story, and that this was meant to be a nice pleasant afternoon visit to their local zoo, I’m sure this would be terrifying reading for any parent.

So if I loved this book so much, why did I only give it four stars? Quite simply, I didn’t enjoy the beginning. I’d say the first seven percent of this book honestly bored me because to me, it was just standing in the way of the terror to come, which is what I’d picked this book up for. I know you need to set the scene, maybe even help the reader develop a relationship with the characters before all the drama happens, but honestly, I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t care about the child’s toys, or imagination, or any silly foreshadowing about good and evil. It all felt forced, fake, and bored me.

Other than that though, I highly recommend this book. If you are someone who is worried about whether it is gruesome, then worry not as it’s not too graphic at all. There are small mentions of blood, bodies and animal cruelty too, though none of it is overly graphic. If you are looking for something to terrify you, or a quick read that will have you gripped, then definitely check this book out.

4 stars out of 5

Book Review: Mask Of Shadows, by Linsey Miller

29960675I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

This is a YA Fantasy novel that follows our main character named Sal (Sallot), and it is worth noting that Sal is gender fluid. While this isn’t something that is forefront of the story, it is something that is touched on occasionally as and when it fits appropriately into the story. The plot follows Sal learning of an audition/competition to join The Left Hand, which is a prestigious position working along side the queen as an assassin. The competition turns out to be a dangerous fight to the death that has several stages which is suspenseful and tense reading at times.

I picked this book up because the idea of the competition had me excited, and this was lucky for me as I’d say that the competition was the main focus of a lot of the plot, and that it was exactly what I was looking for. I was hooked, the action was gripping and had me page turning until the early hours of the morning. This is the sort of book where, if time had allowed, I would have flown through in one sitting, as putting this down was really hard.

I did have a few struggles initially getting into the book, as I’d say the first quarter was quite slow, dull and info dumpy. Once I got past that though and to the competition I was totally hooked. The writing flowed fantastically, and I found myself routing for Sal from very early on.

The other competitors in the competition all become known to us by numbers. I read that some people struggled with this in other reviews, and I also expected this to cause me some problems too. I was pleasantly surprised to realise that it didn’t, and I quite enjoyed referring to characters as numbers. I found that key numbers would stand out, and I’d remember them, and the nothing numbers who don’t really contribute to the story easily fall to the side without me really noticing.

I found the concept behind the competition exciting and imaginative, and I’m really glad I decided to give this fantasy book a go. I do struggle with fantasy sometimes, but this was an easy and gripping read. I’d describe this book as being a cross between The Selection and something like The Hunger Games, all with an assassin feel. I can’t wait to see what happens in the second book, and I highly recommend giving this book a read.

4 stars out of 5

Book Review: The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

31450633I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Oh wow, what a book! I went into this book with very high hopes, and these hopes were exceeded, this will be one of my favourite reads of this year. This is a psychological thriller that kept me guessing the entire way. The story follows a woman named Cass, who lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband. She is driving home late one night during a thunderstorm, and her partner gives her strict instructions to not take a short cut down a windy country lane, and to instead stick to the main roads. She promises to not take the shortcut, but then drives that way anyway, despite her best instincts telling her that it’s a bad idea. Upon driving that way, she stumbles across a car with a woman in and Cass briefly stops with intent on seeing if the woman needs help. It is raining very hard, and Cass worries for her own safety and so doesn’t get out of her own car, the woman makes no signals for help, and so Cass drives off home and goes to bed without a second thought. When Cass wakes up the next morning, her husband tells her that a woman has been murdered close by. This is really all I think you should know when going into this book, as with any psychological thriller, less is more.

I found this book truly addictive, I couldn’t think about anything else while reading it, and truth be told, I would have read it in one sitting if time had allowed. It’s one of those books that you can’t get out of your head, from the moment you pick it up, until weeks after even finishing it. I was totally engrossed, I was obsessed with trying to work out who was guilty of what, and had many theories from very early on, although they all proved to be wrong. This book is far too clever for me, there are twists and turns I could never have dreamed of.

The characters all feel real, and I found myself feeling genuinely sorry for Cass. When she was scared, I too was scared, in fact I can’t remember the last time a book chilled me to the extent this one did. I was a little shook up reading this one home alone at night, which is something I treasure because so few authors can achieve that sort of response from me.

I can’t recommend this book enough, and I hope that if you pick this up, which indeed you should, that you enjoy it as much as I did. I live in the UK, and so this book has already been out for a while here, and I’ve been instructing all my friends to give it a read, this is the sort of book you scream from the rooftops to get as many people to read as possible, the writing flows and makes for a quick read. Can you really afford to miss out on reading one of the best psychological thrillers I have ever read?

5 stars out of 5

Book Review: We Own the Sky, by Sara Crawford

35507387I received a free digital copy of this book from the author.

This is a YA novel that has a unique crossover with Ancient Greek mythology to give it a fantasy feel in places. Most of the story is told from the main characters point of view, whose name is Sylvia, though we do get a few other perspectives for occasional chapters. Sylvia is a teenage girl whose mother died several years ago, and so she now lives with just her father Dylan, who is an ambitious musician. The beginning of the book introduces us to Sylvia’s life both at school and at home, and how music plays such a large part in it. From there we get our first exposure to “flickering people” which she later learns are Muses, which start to play a bigger part in her life and also to the plot.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book, which I had expected to enjoy, but had not expected to totally fall in love with. The plot was gripping and totally captured my imagination. I loved the idea of artists having creative muses who help them excel at their chosen area of art. The fact that Sylvia could see these people made the story even more interesting. Having occasional chapters with a perspective of one of the muses made for a fantastic reading experience and really helps flesh out the plot and world building.

I also fell in love with many of the characters, who are diverse and feel real. The contrast between the traditional greek mythological characters, the new “human muses” and the human adults and high school children makes for fantastic reading. I just loved how everything and everyone in this book just flowed. It felt totally realistic how the teenagers would interact with each other, even with the sometimes deceptive and devious ways they could be with each other. The interactions between Sylvia and her father were a particularly interesting aspect for me. I loved seeing how their dynamic would change depending on alcohol, music and just typical family life.

I really enjoyed how different this book was to anything I’ve ever read before, and provided so much more than what I was expecting. This is the sort of book that you could read to music, as bands and specific songs and albums are frequently mentioned. I am personally a massive fan of the band Muse, so to see their work pop up in this book was an added bonus for me.

I’d say my only negative I have for this book is that I occasionally got quite creepy vibes off Vincent. On the one hand, I really liked his character and found him quite swoon worthy at times, on the other I got creepy Edward from Twilight vibes from him. I mean I like Edward overall too, but there are many similarities between them. First of all, you have the age difference caused by being immortal, which you can somewhat look over if you aren’t being picky. Like Edward though, Vincent is often seen to be in Sylvia’s bedroom, stroking her hair etc as she goes to sleep, which just makes for such a creepy vibe for me. I understand I am perhaps reading too much into all this, and it definitely didn’t detract from my main enjoyment of this book.

I can’t wait for the second book in this series to come out, as this book ended on quite the cliffhanger. I highly recommend giving this book a read if you are looking for a book that combines realistic teenage interactions without too much angst, music and greek mythology.

4 stars out of 5

Advanced Review: The Death of Her, by Debbie Howells

35296379This book is due to be published on August 24 2017.

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

This is a psychological thriller set in the beautiful county of Cornwall in England. The reader follows multiple perspectives of various different characters in this story, not just those of the police of the victim. At the beginning of the novel the reader learns that a young woman has been found beaten to within an inch of her life in a field and is being reported on the news as being named Evie. Another character named Charlotte sees this and recognises the injured woman, but she knows her as a woman named Jen. From here the reader follows so many twists and turns as the police try to find out what happened to Evie/Jen and where her missing daughter could be, assuming she even exists.

Debbie Howells is fantastic at confusing the reader, as you go on so many twists and turns as you read this book. I honestly didn’t have a clue who to trust, and felt scared for the wellbeing of multiple characters many times. Since you get perspectives from potentially multiple unreliable narrators, this all adds to the confusion and both the reader and the characters don’t know who to trust.

I loved the setting for this book, Cornwall is such a stunning setting, and I could imagine myself there with the wonderful descriptions of the locations. The atmosphere was always set so well too, I often felt tense during key scenes, and terrified on more than one occasion.

I’d say the only negatives I have for this book are that, first of all, I managed to correctly guess a major part of the plot, in terms of who the main perpetrator was. The other down side for me was that the police seemed unbelievably incompetent at times, to the extent where I genuinely wonder how they get through life, the stupidness is just too far for me to suspend my belief to.

Overall this is another tense and atmospheric read from the wonderful Debbie Howells, and I highly recommend both this and also The Bones of You. I can’t wait to read even more books by this author.

 4 stars out of 5

Book Review: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index, by Julie Israel

33871765-2I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

This book follows the story of Juniper, her family and friends and how they are coping with the loss of Juniper’s sister, who died before the start of the novel. We get flashbacks of what happened, along with learning about the present and the guilt that Juniper faces.

I really enjoyed getting to know the characters in this book, and I’d say the characters were the saving grace. Some of the relationships and the characters are really cute and I loved getting to know them all.I’ve read books similar to this before, which I have found more interesting and generally cover the topic a lot better.

There are plot holes left and right, especially relating to Juniper’s index cards, and the choices she makes can be questionable at times. This led to me feeling quite underwhelmed at times and I found that I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t love it. I don’t think it will have left a lasting impression on me, and a year down the line I’ll probably struggle to remember anything about it.

Overall, this is worth picking up if you are looking for a novel that deals with the death of a family member and you have already read lots of other options. If you haven’t read other books, then there are plenty out there that do this better.

3 stars out of 5