Saturday, 16 February 2019

Review: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I downloaded this book because it has a pretty cover and it's about the music industry - and I love music! However, I didn't realise it was written in the style of magazine interviews, with rapid changes in points of view. Normally I hate that kind of thing but fortunately I stuck with it, and was immediately drawn into the story, falling completely in love with the characters. It is utterly, utterly brilliant!

The Six are a rock band founded by Billy Dunne and his brother in the mid-1960s. By the 1970s they have a certain level of success but their manager suggests they should join forces with Daisy Jones for their second album. Daisy is an original wild child. Her wealthy parents don't care what she does and she spends most of her time hanging around bands, getting stoned, and trying to write edgy songs when she has no real experience of life. Billy, now a reformed addict/alcoholic, only wants to write happy love songs about his wife. How are they going to make this album work without killing each other - or falling for each other?

Daisy Jones and The Six is an incredibly detailed, behind-the-scenes style story about a rock band, and the writing and recording of an album, with all the drama and clashing of egos you might expect. (I suspect the author was inspired by Fleetwood Mac!) The characters are not immediately likeable: Billy leaves his wife at home to go on tour, spiralling into various addictions and womanising, and Daisy is completely self-absorbed, needy, and entitled. But it's a lot of fun watching them learn to work together, and help heal each other.

The best bit about this book is that it is so well-written and the author's research is so detailed (she's even written songs for the band), you'll start believing The Six are real. My favourite character was Warren, because he's so matter-of-fact about the benefits of being in a rock band, but I also loved Billy because he tries so hard to do the right thing. Daisy is fascinating, but I really wouldn't want to be her friend! 

In conclusion, Daisy Jones and The Six is absolutely brilliant, and particularly recommended if you're a fan of music, or films such as A Star is Born.

Thank you to Taylor Jenkins Reid and Cornerstone (Random House) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

I was thrilled to receive an early copy of this book because The Chalk Man was one of my favourite reads of 2018. C.J. Tudor is a brilliant writer with a strong, distinctive voice and I love the way she references 80s/90s films and books.

When Joe Thorne was a teenager his little sister went missing, vanishing from her own bed. After forty-eight hours she came back - but she wasn't the same. Twenty-five years later and two children have died suspiciously. Suicide? Murder? Or is history repeating itself?

C.J. Tudor has the ability to get right inside the heads of her characters, meaning they are so believable and relatable they fairly jump off the page. Joe isn't the most pleasant individual but you can't help rooting for him all the same, and the story had me completely gripped. The way the author mixes in humour reminds me of Harlan Coben's thrillers, another favourite author of mine, but although I do love the references to Stephen King's novels, I did feel the plot was too similar to a couple of his most famous books (which I won't mention, because of spoilers). So if you've read those books, you might be able to work out where this one is going. However, there are a couple of good twists at the end, which I didn't see coming!

C.J. Tudor is a very talented author and I love her books. I would recommend this one to fans of early Stephen King and to readers who like a few supernatural chills in with their crime fiction.

Thank you to C.J. Tudor and Michael Joseph (Penguin UK) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Saturday, 9 February 2019

Review: Enchantée by Gita Trelease

I was attracted to this book by the beautiful cover, the fact that it's set in Paris just before the Revolution, and because it features Marie Antoinette as one of the characters!

Camille's mother grew up at the Palace of Versailles but her father was a printer who went bankrupt after being discovered publishing revolutionary pamphlets. Now both her parents are dead. Camille and her younger sister Sophie are in danger of starving and their elder brother is in debt to a powerful aristocrat, gambling away the few possessions they have. In desperation, Camille uses magic to turn bent nails and old shoe buckles into gold coins. But this petty magic only lasts a few hours. Is she desperate enough to use dark magic - the kind that demands payment in blood and sorrow?

I really enjoyed this story. It reminded me a lot of Cinderella! Camille has inherited a magical court dress that she transforms into the latest fashion every time she visits Versailles to gamble back her family's fortunes, and sometimes the dress starts to transform back into rags before morning! Being a YA book, there is a lot about Camille's friendships with the popular rich kids (this might put off older readers who would prefer more historical detail and drama to the story) and there's also a sweet romance with a young balloonist. The details about Versailles and the first balloon flights seemed well-researched and were fascinating. I think the only negative for me was the main characters' naivety about the Revolution being a good thing - considering the Terror that was to come a few years later, where thousands of innocent people lost their lives.

But Enchantée is a lovely bit of escapism and I'm happy to give it five stars.

Thank you to Gita Trelease and Macmillan Children's Books for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Review: In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey

It was the cover that attracted me to this book, as I do love a good gothic mystery. The story turned out to be a mix of psychological suspense, mystery, folk horror and fantasy, but I did enjoy it!

Charles Hayden has been obsessed with a Victorian fairy story called In the Night Wood since he was a child, and in one of those weird coincidences ends up marrying Erin, the author's last descendant. When Erin unexpectedly inherits her ancestor's manor house in Yorkshire, the couple leave America and move in, partly to escape the memories of their six-year-old daughter, who recently died. But Hollow House is surrounded by an ancient forest and haunted by the past. Are there ghosts walking the boundary walls at night, or something worse?

My feelings about this book are mixed. There are parts I absolutely loved: the mystery surrounding the reclusive Victorian author, Caedmon Hollow; the spookiness of the old wood and the creepy atmosphere of the gothic house. I didn't much like Charles who, far from learning from his past mistakes, seemed to fancy anything in a skirt - which lost my sympathy very quickly. I liked Erin, his wife, who I felt was a far more interesting character, but she spent most of her time popping pills in her room. A lot of the story seemed to be psychological suspense (these bits would appeal to anyone who has enjoyed the recent Netflix version of The Haunting of Hill House) but I'd have liked less of that and more of the gothic mystery/fantasy/horror elements. And I was slightly confused by the final revelation!

But I did find it a thoroughly gripping read, so I'm happy to give it a solid four stars.

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book, which will be published on 7th February 2019.

Thank you to Dale Bailey and HarperVoyager for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Review: Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

Ruth Hogan is one of my favourite authors. I adore her offbeat, quirky characters and fabulous writing, so I was thrilled to receive an early copy of this book. 

Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel is told from two points of view. Tilly is a mischievous, cheeky, boundary-pushing six-year-old, who likes playing with matches and talking to the dead. She loves her charming father but feels fairly ambivalent about her mother, who is 'not like the mummy in the soap powder adverts'. After her father dies, her mother takes a job at Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel in Brighton, a refuge for people who feel they don't fit in with the rest of the world. Tilly loves her new home and all her new friends, including Queenie's glamorous mother, who is a different film star each day of the week. Forty years later and Tilly is now Tilda, an obsessive-compulsive with a ghost dog, and hates meeting new people, but she returns to The Paradise Hotel after her mother's death to try to find out where everything went wrong.

Ruth Hogan brilliantly captures what it feels like to be a child and the way adults seem to speak in a strange code. I loved the way Tilly confused Bermondsey with Purgatory, and all her mis-heard words to hymns. I loved the sweet romance, the fabulous Joseph Geronimo, and I wish I could adopt Eli the dog. At the end of the book the jaw-dropping revelations come thick and fast, including one epic twist I felt incredibly stupid for not spotting but I was enjoying the story far too much to play my usual game of 'I bet I know what's going to happen next'. And the ending is so sweet and touching and poignant I actually cried. And I never cry! Ever!

I can see this appealing to anyone who loves cleverly written stories with lovable, quirky characters, and for fans of authors such as Joanna Cannon (Three Things About Elsie) and Gail Honeyman (Eleanor Oliphant). 

Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel is one of my favourite books this year, probably ever. I really wish I could visit. I'm sure I would fit in just fine...

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book, which will be published on 7th February 2019.

Thank you to Ruth Hogan and Two Roads for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Review: How to Get Ahead in Television by Sophie Cousens

This one caught my eye because of the pretty cover. I'm not sure why I missed reading it when it first came out, as I love romantic comedies, but I think it's because the original cover made it look like a different kind of book!

Poppy Penfold will do anything to get a job in television, even starting right at the very bottom as a temporary runner for RealiTV, who specialise in reality television. To win a permanent job she has to somehow beat the highly competitive Rhidian, who gets on with everyone, is totally organised, and far too good-looking for his own good...

How to Get Ahead in Television is a lot of fun. Poppy is a cute character who transforms herself from a hot mess into someone who actually knows her job, mainly by making a lot of funny mistakes along the way. I loved her mum, who is determined to steer her into a safer career, like banking, and the story is crammed full of behind-the-scenes anecdotes, many of which came straight from the author's own experience.

The only thing stopping this book from being a five star read for me is that frankly I'm too old for it! But fans of Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series and Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones will love it and can give it an extra star.  

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Review: The Stone Circle (Ruth Galloway #11) by Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths is my favourite crime writer and I love her Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries. These feature Ruth (a forensic archaeologist) and Nelson (a Detective Chief Inspector) investigating a series of murders, usually with some historical/archaeology connection. There are also other reoccurring characters, such as the druid Cathbad (I adore Cathbad!) and Nelson's police colleagues.

The Stone Circle is the eleventh book in this series and references the first one, The Crossing Places. You don't need to have read all the books in the series to enjoy this book, but you would get more enjoyment out of this story if you have.

DCI Harry Nelson has been receiving anonymous letters telling him to 'Go to the Stone Circle and rescue the innocent buried there'. They remind him of an earlier case (The Crossing Places), but the author of those letters is long dead. Or are they? Meanwhile, Ruth is working on an archaeological dig known as 'the stone circle' and discovers a skeleton...

I love these books because of the characters and the humour, especially the way Nelson deals with the modern world - he's a bit of a dinosaur! I also admire the way Ruth is comfortable with her life and happy to go it alone, not needing a man. There are lots of historical details and stuff about archaeology, and although I always feel very smug when I guess the villain's identity, with this book I only worked out one of the plot twists.

The Stone Circle is the perfect read, especially if you love traditional murder mysteries with brilliant characters and a clever puzzle to solve. I do wish someone would hurry up and make a TV series out of it!

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book, which will be published on 7th February 2019.

Thank you to Elly Griffiths and Quercus for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Friday, 18 January 2019

Review: Not the Duke's Darling (Greycourt #1) by Elizabeth Hoyt

I usually pre-order Elizabeth Hoyt's books months in advance but somehow I missed realising this one was out. When I did get to read it there were already mixed reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, so I felt a bit apprehensive as to whether I was going to enjoy it! But this is another of those times where, if you know you enjoy a particular style of book and have a favourite author, you should trust yourself, ignore the reviews and make your own decision!

Freya de Moray is the daughter and sister of a duke but is working incognito as a companion. She's also a spy for an organisation called the Wise Women, who help other women in trouble. During one of her assignments she unexpectedly meets the Duke of Harlowe, the man she blames for destroying her brother's life, and she is determined to have her revenge.

There are a lot of characters in this book and a lot of plot. The heroine has a couple of near-death experiences, which don't have anything to do with the villain, and the Duke is being blackmailed, also a plot strand that could have been done away with. I can understand the amount of characters: this is the first in a new series, so I suspect some of them will have their own books later on. It was fun trying to work out which ones these will be, but it was hard to keep track of them all!

Having said that, there is never a dull moment and I did love the main characters, particularly Freya, who was very independent and strong-minded, yet happy to admit when she'd made a wrong decision. I also enjoyed the snippets of the fairy tale that started each chapter. Conclusion? I loved Not the Duke's Darling and I'm happy to give it five stars!

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Review: Once Upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Review: The Mistletoe Bride (and other haunting tales) by Kate Mosse

I bought this short story collection back in August last year, with the idea I would dip in and out of it, and it spent the next four months on my desk. So much for that idea! But I picked it up again this Christmas and read each story, one after the other, and really enjoyed them!

This is a collection of seventeen ghost stories, set in different places and in different time periods. Some are traditional in style, others are based on folk stories. Some had a positive ending, others were really sad. Most have been previously published in magazines or other anthologies.

My favourites were The Yellow Scarf, about a woman who visits the ruin of an old manor house and is transported back to the time of the Civil War, and The House on the Hill, about a dolls house and a woman coming to terms with an event in her past. I didn't understand La Fille de Melisande, but that's probably because it's based on a an opera I've never heard of, and Syrinx left me cold, purely because I hate reading stories in script format!

But overall I really loved this collection and will probably read it again next Christmas! I particularly liked the way the author took the time to explain the inspiration behind each story at the end. Five stars!

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Monday, 7 January 2019

Review: Red Snow (Tuva Moodyson #2) by Will Dean

I read the first book in this series last summer and absolutely loved it, so I was thrilled to receive an early copy of Red Snow.

Tuva Moodyson is a city girl who hates nature but lives in the tiny, rural Swedish village of Gavrik. She works as a reporter for the local newspaper but is desperate to move back to civilisation. Covering the 'Ferryman' series of murders is her last story before she starts her longed-for new job. The murders centre around the local liquorice factory and the wealthy family that own it. But as Tuva investigates, she soon finds out that everything is not as it seems, and that trusting the wrong people is about to put her in real danger.

This is fast becoming my new favourite series. Slightly darker than the usual murder mystery, I love the eccentric characters and the detailed description of life in rural Sweden, where the temperature can drop to minus 20 degrees in the winter. Tuva is a great character, thoroughly engaging; stoic, with a dry wit. Her fellow inhabitants of Gavrik are completely eccentric - and not in a lovable way! I especially liked the way the characters from the first book appeared again but I also fell in love with the gloriously mad Grimberg family, living a half-life in their apartment above the liquorice factory, ruled by wacky superstition and desperate to keep up appearances. I didn't guess the identity of the murderer either, which is always a plus for me!

Red Snow can be read as a standalone, but you'll enjoy the series more if you start with the first one, Dark Pines. It's well-written, not too violent, and I'd recommend it to anyone who loves cleverly-plotted murder mysteries, particularly the kind where you have to solve a puzzle.

Thank you to Will Dean and Point Blank (Oneworld) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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