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.