Monday, 8 October 2018

Review: The Lost Sisters (Novella) (Folk of the Air #1.5) by Holly Black

I became addicted to YA fantasy over the summer holidays and discovered Holly Black after reading The Cruel Prince, which I loved. The Lost Sisters is a companion novella to The Cruel Prince, so you really need to have read that one first to appreciate it.

Jude and Taryn are twin sisters, of human parents, who have ended up living in the world of the fae after being kidnapped by their step-father. Both have very different tactics to survive this strange new world, tactics that are often in conflict with their sister's. Both crave respect from the fae; is power a way to achieve this?

As this is a novella, it's hard to say more about the story without giving away the plot. So I'll just say that whereas The Cruel Prince was from Jude's point of view, this story gives Taryn's version of events. 

I did enjoy it but this is really one for existing fans of the series - something to keep us going until the next book in the series, The Wicked King, comes out in January 2019. If you can't wait that long, Holly Black's other books - Tithe and Ironside - are set in the same world and some of the characters reappear in The Cruel Prince.

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Sunday, 7 October 2018

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

After discovering YA fantasy over the summer, I have had a lovely time catching up on authors' backlists. I've particularly enjoyed reading Holly Black's urban fairy stories. Each one is set in the same world yet mentions characters from her other books, so  it's like catching up with old friends. The Darkest Part of the Forest is a standalone, so you don't need to have read her other books to enjoy it - which is lucky, because I seem to be reading them backwards!

In the forest outside the town of Fairfold is a glass casket containing a sleeping faerie prince. He's been there for as long as anyone can remember and has become quite a tourist attraction. Ben and his sister Hazel find him fascinating and long for him to wake up ... but the sleeping prince isn't the only faerie creature in the forest.

I loved this story because it took several well-known fairy tales and turned them on their head (Snow White, Kate Crackernuts, etc). I thought it great that it was a prince in the glass casket who needed rescuing and, although there is a bit of a romance, the characters don't necessarily end up with who you think. I loved the way the inhabitants of Fairfold had long since become used to supernatural creatures straying over their boundaries, and the hapless tourists who took selfies of themselves with the prince, but usually ended up becoming faerie fodder!

Recommended for anyone who loves YA fantasy and fairy tales with a dark, urban twist.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Review: Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I loved Big Little Lies so I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of Nine Perfect Strangers - and it didn't disappoint! I love Liane's writing, brimming with characters I recognise from real life (ouch!) and chock full of funny lines - the kind of thing we all think, but aren't brave enough to say out loud!

The story is about nine, not remotely 'perfect' strangers who meet up at a radical new health resort hoping to completely overhaul their lives. All have suffered some kind of loss in their life, from loss of a loved one to loss of self, and they mostly blame themselves. Each chapter is told from a different viewpoint but it is so skilfully done you don't become confused as to who is who. Yet despite the humour, some serious issues were touched upon in a sensitive way: dealing with grief, divorce, self-image, substance addiction, etc. 

My favourite character was Frances, a middle-aged romantic novelist, whose confidence has been undermined after receiving a particularly vicious review. This is probably because I felt Frances was basically me! She thinks the same way, reacts the same way, even loves the same brand of chocolate! Although I suspect many women reading this book will feel the same way! This is a particular skill of this author, to create well-rounded, thoroughly believable characters we all recognise, can connect with and want to root for.

I absolutely adored Nine Perfect Strangers. I've recommended it to all my friends, and even read bits aloud to my long-suffering husband. One of my favourite books this year!

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

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Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Review: A Keeper by Graham Norton

I absolutely loved Graham Norton's last book, Holding, and couldn't wait to get my hands on this one. I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, perhaps another cosy-ish crime story, but A Keeper is much darker and quite sad in places.

Elizabeth Keane has returned to her childhood home in Ireland after her mother's death, intending to close up and sell the house. Instead, she finds a cache of letters hidden in her mother's wardrobe, making mention of the father Elizabeth never knew. That, combined with another unexpected inheritance, makes Elizabeth determined to investigate her mother's past.

"She imagined her family tree as a couple of bare branches with an ancient vulture perched on one of them."

As always, the character studies and dialogue are brilliant. Despite the sadness of the tale (towards the end), there are some funny one-liners too. Instead of multiple viewpoints, like Holding, A Keeper is mostly told from just two - Elizabeth in the present day and Patricia (her mother) in the 1970s. Because I was thoroughly enjoying the story, it didn't dawn on me until about two-thirds of the way through that this is a story about mothers and their relationship with their children. Clever title too!

The dual timeline, the strong female characters and the challenges they face would appeal to fans of authors such as Eve Chase and Lulu Taylor. I read a lot of books, so I kind of knew where the story was heading, but there were some good twists that took me completely by surprise. (So that will teach me to be smug!) 1970s rural Ireland is very well realised and, as I've said, the characters are brilliant and I loved them, flaws and all.

A five-star read, thoroughly recommended! 

Thank you to Graham Norton and Coronet (Hodder and Stoughton) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Holding by Graham Norton