Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

I loved Frances Hardinge's historical fantasy, The Lie Tree, and couldn't wait to read her new book, Deeplight. It combines fantasy with a terrific adventure story, reminiscent of Greek and Roman myths. Only in this story, the gods are monstrous beasts.

For centuries these gods terrorised the Myriad until one day, without warning, they turned on each other. Within a week all the gods were dead and an industry had sprung up salvaging scraps of the corpses. Hark and Jelt make a dishonest living scavenging this 'god ware'. Jelt is the unprincipled leader but Hark is the one who ends up in trouble. Hark's skill is that he usually talks his way out of it - until the day he's caught and finds himself indentured to a scientist obsessed with harvesting the magical powers of this god ware.

Frances Hardinge has the most amazing imagination - I am in awe! - and the incredibly detailed world she has created is a masterclass in world-building. The characters are flawed but thoroughly engaging. It was wonderful seeing them grow and change, especially Hark's heart-breaking realisation that Jelt only cares about himself. Or, as Selphin says, "You're not allowed to choose your friends any more." My favourite character was the pragmatic Selphin and her love/hate relationship with the sea. I became so immersed in the Deeplight world, that even several days after I'd finished the book, the story still stayed in my head.

Deeplight is a clever cross between Mary Shelley and Jules Verne. I have no hesitation in recommending Deeplight to fans of YA fantasy and anyone who loves a thrilling adventure story. One of my favourite reads this year.

Thank you to Frances Hardinge and Macmillan Children's Books for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Monday, 7 October 2019

A Wedding In December by Sarah Morgan

I've not read anything by Sarah Morgan before but I adore Christmas romances and could not resist downloading this one. The cover is gorgeous too!

This story is about the women of the White family and all the secrets they are keeping from each other - secrets that are sure to come out when they meet up for a glamorous wedding in Aspen. Maggie is married to Nick, an Egyptologist. They've been living apart for six months but Maggie hasn't been able to bring herself to tell their two grown-up daughters, Katie and Rosie. Katie is working all hours as a doctor, and is on the brink of a breakdown after a traumatic event. When her younger sister Rosie announces that she's getting married to someone she's only just met, Katie's sole intention is to stop it taking place. Rosie, meanwhile, has spent her life trying to prove to her family that she's a grown woman, capable of making her own decisions - but is the decision to marry so quickly the right one?

I loved A Wedding in December. It's chock-full of brilliant characters that I couldn't help rooting for. I loved 'Cactus Katie', her determination to protect her sister at all costs, even if that means stopping the wedding, and her prickliness towards poor Jordan. The part when she's trying to cross an icy bridge, determined not to ask for help, is priceless. Maggie is funny, Rosie is sweet - and so is poor Nick, who is not quite sure how he ended up on the wrong side of a divorce. 

A Wedding in December is perfect for anyone wanting an escapist, heart-warming, romantic festive read in the run-up to Christmas. One of my favourites this year.

Thank you to Sarah Morgan and HQ for my copy of this book, which I requested via NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Review: Now You See Them (The Brighton Mysteries #5) by Elly Griffiths

I've just read the first four books in this series, back-to-back, so to get my hands on this one was an absolute treat! I love Elly's books but I can't decide whether I love her Dr Ruth Galloway series best or this one. Do I have to choose?!!

The first four books in the Brighton Mysteries were set in the 1950s and many of the ongoing plot strands were resolved in the fourth book. Now You See Them is almost a reboot, in that we rejoin the characters nine years later. Some of them are no longer with us (I won't say who, but noooo!) but there are several new characters introduced. If you haven't read the others in the series, you could start with this one.

Now You See Them is set in Brighton in 1963. Edgar Stephens has been promoted to Superintendent and is married to Detective Sergeant Emma Holmes. They have three children and Emma has given up her career. Ed's wartime 'Magic Men' colleague Max Mephisto, a music hall magician, is a Hollywood film star but returns to Britain for the funeral of one of their old friends. Edgar, Emma and Max swiftly become involved in the case of a missing schoolgirl, which ends up being a little too close to home.

At first I was grumpy that the series had skipped nine years (and that my favourite character had been killed off!) but I was immediately caught up in the story about three young women who go missing, one after the other, with apparently nothing to connect them. I loved the new characters, WPC Meg Connolly, who is frustrated that she gets all the boring jobs because she's a woman, and female reporter Sam (who we originally met in The Vanishing Box; she has a bigger part to play here) who is similarly frustrated. Female empowerment is an ongoing theme, because Emma has realised that living happily ever after with the man she loves is starting to feel a bit...dull...and longs for the excitement that she once had working for the police.

As well as writing a entertaining mystery (I am never able to work out the villain!) Elly's particular skill is to create brilliant, totally believable characters. She writes with humour and her stories are well-researched with lots of amazing detail. The way Now You See Them ended makes me hope there might be another one coming along soon?

One of my favourite reads this year, Now You See Them is recommended for anyone who loves historical mysteries and the kind of murder mystery that has a puzzle to solve but isn't too violent.

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

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