ARC Review: Highfire by Eoin Colfer

Highfire by Eoin Colfer
Highfire
by Eoin Colfer was definitely an original read but despite a very promising premise and some wonderful writing I’m afraid this just wasn’t for me.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

From the internationally bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series: Eoin Colfer’s first adult fantasy novel is a hilarious, high-octane adventure about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who’s been hiding out from the world – and potential torch-carrying mobs – in a Louisiana bayou . . . until his peaceful world’s turned upside down by a well-intentioned but wild Cajun tearaway and the crooked (and heavily armed) law officer who wants him dead.

Squib Moreau may be swamp-wild, but his intentions are (generally) good: he really wants to be a supportive son to his hard-working momma Elodie. But sometimes life gets in the way – like when Fake Daddy walked out on them leaving a ton of debt, or when crooked Constable Regence Hooke got to thinking pretty Elodie Moreau was just the gal for him…

An apprenticeship with the local moonshine runner, servicing the bayou, looks like the only way to pay off the family debts and maybe get Squib and his momma a place in town, far from Constable Hooke’s unwanted courtship and Fake Daddy’s reputation.

Unfortunately for Squib, Hooke has his own eye on that very same stretch of bayou – and neither of them have taken into account the fire-breathing dragon hiding out in the Louisiana swamp…

For Squib Moreau, Regence Hooke and Vern, aka Lord Highfire of Highfire Eyrie, life is never going to be the same again.

Highfire is a genre-bending tour-de-force of comedy and action by the million-copy-selling master storyteller.


MY REVIEW

I have to confess I’m at a little bit of a loss on what to say about this so am really struggling to review. I didn’t dislike anything about it but there was nothing I especially liked either. I seem to have found myself in the position of having literally no feelings about it which is probably not a good sign for me but doesn’t mean others won’t love it.

I did love the sound of it, I mean it’s dragons who doesn’t love the sound of any book with a dragon, it just seemed so weird and quirky and while I hadn’t read a book by Colfer before he does seem to be highly regarded. Hopes were therefore high.

And… the story is unique, the writing can’t be faulted and the characters are interesting but I’m afraid I just never connected with any of it. I kept reading out of curiosity about where it would go but never really became emotionally involved.

I do have the feeling it’s maybe supposed to be funny? But honestly I’m not sure and if it is it wasn’t my sense of humour.

It was an easy and quick read and the story flows along quite nicely. There’s plenty of action (and I should probably say violence and swearing) and it’s certainly not predictable.

I think a lot of people will like it but I’m afraid I don’t think it was for me.

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. All views are my own.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

ARC Review: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Foul is Fair
Foul Is Fair
by Hannah Capin is an absolutely stunning read and nothing like I thought it would be. Powerful and fierce, I found myself unable to put it down and even when I wasn’t reading it I couldn’t stop thinking about it (or wanting to talk to people about it). I loved it.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Jade Khanjara and her three best friends rule their glittering LA circle. They decide how the party ends – every night but one. The night four boys spike Jade’s drink, lock her in a room and brutally attack her. The night they try to ruin her.

But they chose the wrong girl. Certain that the boys will face no consequences, Jade and her friends take vengeance into their own hands. There’s no mercy left: and now Jade won’t rest until she gets bloody satisfaction . . .


MY REVIEW

Wow… Just wow!!!

I was not expecting that and in fact for the first few chapters I wasn’t sure I was going to get on with this book at all. The writing style is unique, it’s heavy on imagery (lots of references to birds and talons and wings), and I’m still not sure I liked it (not a fan of imagery) but this wouldn’t be anywhere near as powerful and original without it.

Despite the pretty big clue in the title I honestly didn’t realise this was a YA retelling of Macbeth till I was around quarter of the way through. The story follows Elle/Jade, the Lady Macbeth, who with the help of her three best friends, vows to get revenge on the group of boys who drugged and sexually assaulted her at a party. She changes her appearance and sets about infiltrating their group with a view to destroying them from the inside.

Jade is an incredibly powerful, complex and unique character and one I don’t think I’ll forget any time soon. She’s a popular, mean girl from a wealthy family who is determined to not let what happened to her change her. While she’s downright nasty to those who are trying to help her and isn’t necessarily that likeable you can’t help but admire her determination to not let what happens change her. She refuses to be a victim or even a survivor and I found myself somewhat rooting for her to succeed even though her plan seems crazy and over the top.

As you can probably imagine this is not an easy read. The assault is off the page but it’s referred to throughout. It’s a violent and twisted story that even I found a little shocking at times. It is however incredibly well done and once I got past my initial uncertainty about the writing style I couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those stories that invades your thoughts, that even when you’re not reading keeps buzzing around your head.

As someone who studied Macbeth at school (many, many years ago). I loved all of the little references to the original. The naming of the characters does make it a little obvious who is in which part (Mack, Banks, Duffy, Duncan) but it’s still fantastic to watch the drama unfold and there are so many other small references and quotes snuck in that it’s a joy for any fans of the original.

That being said, it probably doesn’t matter if you don’t know the play, it’s just as powerful and engaging on it’s own merit, but I think you will get so much more out of it if you do.

Overall this is a stunning read and one that I think I’ll remember for a long time to come.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 4.75 of 5 stars

Review: Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine

Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4)Despite high hopes and a very promising start I’m afraid Bitter Falls by Rachel Caine failed to wow me. It’s still a very enjoyable read and Caine’s writing is as wonderful as always but I kind of wish the story had gone in a slightly different direction.

Spoiler Alert: as this is the fourth book in the Stillhouse Lake series there may be some very mild spoilers for the previous books from here on in. If you’re considering reading the series (and you should) you may be better checking out my review for the first book here


THE BLURB

She’s investigating a cold case no one else could—by going places no else would dare.

In spite of a harrowing past still haunting her, Gwen Proctor is trying to move forward. Until a new assignment gives her purpose: the cold-case disappearance of a young man in Tennessee. Three years missing, no clues. Just Ruth Landry, a tortured mother in limbo. Gwen understands what it’s like to worry about your children.

Gwen’s investigation unearths new suspects…and victims. As she follows each sinister lead, the implications of the mystery grow more disturbing. Because the closer Gwen gets, the closer she is to a threat that looms back home.

In a town that’s closed its ranks against Gwen; her partner, Sam; and her kids, there’s no bolder enemy than the Belldene family—paramilitary, criminal, powerful, and vengeful. As personal vendettas collide with Gwen’s investigation, she’s prepared to fight both battles. But is she prepared for the toll it could take on everyone she loves?


MY REVIEW

I love Rachel Caine’s writing and I love this series but while Bitter Falls, the fourth book in the series had a very promising start I have to confess I found my attention begin to wander partway through and I was left feeling somewhat unsatisfied by the ending.

There is a lot to like about it and overall this is definitely an enjoyable read. The prologue at the start for example makes for some truly chilling reading and I loved the way it introduced the reader to the cult at the centre of the story. I was intrigued by the case Gwen is investigating of a missing young man and I was impressed by the way Gwen goes about getting the information she needs.

Gwen herself remains one of my favourite characters, she’s so resilient and so fiercely protective of her family. I love her determination and her fight but also how she keeps trying to do the best for her children. Her development over the series has been wonderful to watch. I also liked the new characters the author introduced in this story, the Belldene family, Gwen’s new boss and co workers and even relatively minor characters such as the parents of the missing boy. Each and every one felt believable and well rounded and there are a few I hope will pop up again in future books.

I do feel however like the story took a bit of a wrong turn and an opportunity was missed to take things into new territory and really develop the characters. Instead of allowing the characters to do their own thing, the whole family is pulled into the case Gwen’s investigating and it becomes a repeat of the previous books.

What makes it so frustrating is that there are some intriguing routes the story could have gone down. Yes, the cult side is fascinating but I wanted to see the family dealing with every day life now that they have decided to stop running and hiding. I mean they have some serious issues, Sam is carrying a lot of guilt and being targeted by the group he started up to get revenge on Gwen, Connor is understandably suffering from PTSD and Lanny is struggling to figure out where she fits. Add to that the local Hillbilly mafia (paramilitary, criminals & drug dealers) who are trying to run the family out of town and I feel like there was plenty of other material for the story to work with.

I did love the links with the previous books and how certain storylines carry across books, it would be unrealistic if they didn’t, but sometimes there do seem to be too many coincidences and there are only so many times the same things can keep happening to this family. I also felt like there wasn’t really much character development in this story. Sam in particular feels like he’s pushed to the background, he does have an important role in the story and there are a few chapters from his pov but I didn’t feel like there was any real development or that we got to know and understand him any better which is a pity as I find him the most intriguing.

It seemed too as if there were certain threads that were left hanging and the ending felt a little bit rushed to me with many things unresolved. I don’t expect all loose ends to be tied up when reading a series but it just kind of stopped.

Overall this is by no means a bad read and there is a lots to like about it. I’m just a little disappointed that the story fell back into the familiar rather than going in the new direction I hoped for. If you’ve read and enjoyed the other books in the series I’m fairly certain you’ll enjoy this one too.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Review: Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

Three Hours

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

Incredibly well written and terrifyingly believable, this is a very timely and relevant book. Unfortunately however while I could appreciate the author’s skill the multiple pov’s left me feeling detached rather than gripped and it lacked the tension I expected.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Told from the point of view of the people at the heart of it, from the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.


MY THOUGHTS

Unpopular opinion time, I didn’t love this book.

I didn’t dislike it either but while I can certainly appreciate the writing, it wasn’t the tense, gripping read I expected. This was my first book from the author so I had no idea what to expect from it other than what the synopsis and the many rave reviews suggested. The premise is certainly an intriguing one and while there seem to be quite a few books around at the moment that center on a school shooting this is probably the first I’ve come across which is set in the UK and I loved the idea of the whole thing taking place over just three hours.

I did wonder how the author would stretch three hours over the 300 plus pages but I still had hope that it would be a powerful and tension filled read. Unfortunately however this proved not to be the case, or at least not for me. I never felt fully engaged with the story or the characters and I didn’t feel any tension or any emotion from it at all.

The story is really a lot of little stories, following as it does a lot of different characters over the three hour period. There’s the head teacher who’s seriously wounded at the start, a few of the students including two Syrian refugees, teachers, a worried parent and a police psychologist tasked with identifying the gunmen. There is definitely a lot to fill the pages but I think it was these many points of view that were the issue for me.

I’m generally not a fan of multiple pov’s in a novel and this book is a perfect example of why that is. With so many characters I found it difficult to keep track of who was who, where they were and what was happening particularly at the start. I also never felt like I really got to know any of them and consequently wasn’t invested in their story. I was left a detached observer, curious about how it would all play out but not really feeling much of anything.

It was also all rather predictable. There are a few surprises and unexpected twists but for the most part the author sends enough signals early on that you know what’s coming. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it makes it all feel real and believable but without the attachment to the characters I needed something to lift it.

This review is starting to make it seem like I didn’t like anything about the book but that’s really not the case. I loved the author’s writing and the way she set the scene of this remote school in the middle of a blizzard. There’s a real sense of isolation from it that works perfectly. I loved the connections made between what’s going on and the play the students are rehearsing, Macbeth. I loved the small acts of heroism and love. I was also impressed and slightly terrified by how real and how relevant a lot of it feels. The role of the media, the increase in hate and extremism and the vulnerability of young people in this age of social media.

Overall therefore, while I didn’t love this book I would still recommend it. I certainly seem to be in the minority as far as reviews go making me think a lot of the issues I had with it are more personal taste than any fault of the author’s. It’s definitely a unique read and incredibly relevant given how divided society feels right now.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC via NetGalley. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review: If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

If I Never Met You
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane takes one of my absolutely favourite romance tropes and brings something fresh to it. It’s sweet and funny but there’s also a surprising depth to it and I loved how relevant and real it felt. I loved the romance but I also loved the diversity, the friendships and the many other little threads woven through the story.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

When Laurie’s partner of eighteen years, Dan, dumps her to ‘find himself’ (and leave her on the shelf at 36), she is blindsided. But not as blindsided as when he announces that his new girlfriend is now pregnant.

Working in the same office with Dan is soon unbearable – until the day she gets stuck in the lift with her handsome colleague Jamie. Jamie is looking for a way to improve his reputation in the company and what better way for Jamie to advance and Laurie to give the rumour mill something else to talk about than a fake relationship?

As Laurie and Jamie progress from Instagram snaps to dates, dancing and more, Laurie feels herself falling further for her unlikely hero. But you can’t break your heart in a fake relationship. Can you?


MY THOUGHTS

The fake relationship trope is one of absolute faves, so when I heard one of my favourite writers next book was gonna have just that I knew I had to read it. Yes it’s been done many, many times before but McFarlane brings something fresh and new to it. With a feminist slant to it and some clever messaging around social media and dating apps this feels very now and extremely relevant.

Main character Laurie is very relatable and incredibly likeable. She’s clever, determined, good at her job and fiercely loyal to her friends. Her devastation at long term partner Dan leaving her and moving straight on with another woman is very real and I was angry and upset right along with her.

It makes it very believable that she agrees to a fake relationship with co worker Jamie, despite warnings from her best friend Emily that she’s not cut out for lying and there will be consequences.

Jamie for his part is new book boyfriend material. He’s just lovely. He has an admittedly well deserved reputation with women but he’s completely upfront and honest in his views and is actually very sweet, attentive and considerate to Laurie.

They may be very different but it’s clear from the start that they’re perfect for each other. They just seem comfortable together, they understand each other and yes there is most definitely a spark. It isn’t insta love however so it’s a joy to watch them discover their feelings gradually.

I also have to say how much I loved the secondary characters. They may not all have big roles in the story but each and every one was memorable. Nadia in particular was an absolute stand out for me, in a batshit crazy, unintentionally hilarious kind of way. I want her as my bestie.

Another highlight for me was the depth to the story, the other threads woven through which highlighted a lot of very current issues, the everyday sexism Laurie faces in a workplace dominated by men, the racist comments, dating apps, the dangers of social media and also families. It’s incredibly well done by the author. I’m positive every book McFarlane writes is better than the last and I just love her style.

Overall this is a great read with real depth, diversity and wonderful writing. I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a contemporary romance.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review. If I Never Met You will be published on the 1st January 2020 (so not too long to wait)

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Review: The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

The Christmas Party
The Christmas Party
by Karen Swan wasn’t quite the story I was hoping it would be but it’s an enjoyable read with a lot to like about it. I did struggle to connect to the characters but Swan’s writing is as wonderful as always and it’s something a little different from the usual festive reads.


THE BLURB

The Christmas Party is a delicious, page-turning story of romance, family and secrets, by the Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Swan.

When Declan Lorne, the last remaining knight in Ireland, dies suddenly, an ancient title passes with him. But his estate on Ireland’s rugged south-west coast is left to his three daughters. The two eldest, Ottie and Pip, inherit in line with expectations, but to everyone’s surprise – and dismay – it is the errant baby of the family, Willow, who gets the castle.

Why her? Something unknown – something terrible – made her turn her back on her family three years earlier, escaping to Dublin and vowing never to return. So when Willow quickly announces she is selling up, her revenge seems sweet and the once-close sisters are pushed to breaking point: in desperation, Pip risks everything to secure her own future, and Ottie makes a decision that will ruin lives. It’s each woman for herself.

Before moving in, Connor Shaye, the prospective new owner, negotiates throwing a lavish party at the castle just days before Christmas – his hello, their goodbye. But as their secrets begin to catch up with them, Ottie, Willow and Pip are forced to ask themselves which is harder: stepping into the future, or letting go of the past?


MY REVIEW

As a long time fan of Karen Swan I was very much looking forward to her latest book The Christmas Party but I’m sorry to say this didn’t wholly work for me. It’s not bad and I suspect there may be an element of it being me rather than the story but I struggled to get into it and just never seemed to connect.

Swan’s writing is as wonderful as always and it’s an intriguing premise, a family at war over an inheritance, the uncovering of secrets and long term resentments. Unfortunately however I couldn’t quite find a character I was invested in. The story is told from the point of view of three sisters, Ottie, Pip and Willow, the daughters of the last knight in Ireland. When their father dies, his title dies with him but in a shocking twist he leaves the castle and most of the estate to youngest daughter Willow, something none of them are happy about. Willow has been estranged from the family for a couple of years and doesn’t want to be pulled back. The others are unhappy that they were passed over. Matters are made worse when they find the estate is in financial difficulty and Willow has to make some tough choices.

If I did have some sympathy for a character in this story it would be Willow. She doesn’t ask to be landed with the responsibility of a failing estate, or to have to put her life in Dublin on hold but she steps up and does what she thinks is best with no support from the rest of her family. It does feel at times like she’s rushing things and that she’s being a little vindictive towards her parents but as the truth is revealed about events from the past it all becomes a little more understandable.

Ottie and Pip I found more difficult to like. Ottie as the oldest sister seems to feel the biggest slight about not inheriting more and is probably the coldest towards Willow, barely speaking to her let alone helping her. Ottie is also having an affair with a married man, a storyline I’m never overly keen on. I found it incredibly frustrating to read her obsessing over someone who was very clearly not as invested in the relationship as she is. She also comes across as quite spiteful and nasty at times.

Pip, I also struggled with. Stubborn, reckless and speaks her mind she comes across as very self centered and rude a lot of the time. I do like a character who’s determined and goes for what they want but Pip often goes too far, taking silly risks and not taking any one else’s feelings into consideration.

With characters I found it hard to like I was probably always going to have problems really enjoying this story and I certainly found it difficult to get into in the first half. I also found myself becoming frustrated with the whole family secret thing. I’m afraid the constant references to it and hints about what it could be were more annoying rather than intriguing and I just wanted it to be revealed so we could get on with the other elements of the book. I was itching for a big confrontation between the characters but instead there’s lots of silences and avoiding each other.

Once the characters started speaking their minds and the secrets were revealed the story became so much more engaging. I very much enjoyed the way the different threads came together and I came to like many of the characters. I just wish it hadn’t taken quite so long to get to that stage.

One thing I did love about this story was the setting on the rugged South West Coast of Ireland and I thought the author did a wonderful job of making you feel like you were there. I also really loved the idea of this grand old castle that’s fallen into disrepair. There’s also a little bit of romance in there which was definitely a highlight. I probably would have preferred it if the author had put more focus on that side of the story and less on the family secrets.

Overall therefore this was an okay read for me. I may have struggled to get into it but it certainly picked up towards the end and while it did frustrate me in places there were things to love about it, it certainly hasn’t put me off picking up the author’s next book.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with an advance copy. This in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review: A Wedding in December by Sarah Morgan

A Wedding In December
A Wedding in December
is yet another fantastic festive read from Sarah Morgan. It’s sweet, funny and as always made me a little bit emotional (yep I cried). For me it wouldn’t be Christmas without a book by Morgan.


THE BLURB

In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding.

First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret about their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland.

Rosie’s older sister Katie is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself. If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans…

Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiance but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has arrived – how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget.


MY REVIEW

I can honestly say that one of the things I look forward to the most at Christmas is a new book by Sarah Morgan. They never fail to put me in the holiday spirit and this book is no exception. It’s sweet, it’s funny, it’s a little bit emotional and a whole lot addictive. Yet again I read the whole thing in a couple of days and it would’ve been even faster if I didn’t need to work.

The story centers on the White family [insert your own White Christmas joke here] and is told from the point of view of mother Maggie and her two daughters Katie and Rosie. I often struggle with multiple povs and I usually have a preference for one over the others but this time around I really enjoyed it. It’s great to have a book with three women at very different stages of their lives and to see the dynamics of the relationship between them from each pov.

Maggie, the mother of the family who I’m guessing is in her 50’s is at that stage in life where her children are grown and left the nest, leaving her feeling a little bit lost particularly as she has split from husband Nick.

Eldest daughter Katie is a doctor in a busy emergency department who sees people at their worst every day. In her early 30’s she doesn’t have the time for relationships and is struggling at work following a traumatic incident that’s left her doubting her abilities.

Baby of the family Rosie is a 22 year old student living in America who after a whirlwind romance with personal trainer Dan accepts his marriage proposal and the offer from his mother Catherine to hold the wedding at Christmas at their resort in Aspen. She loves her fiancee but after a call to Katie who believes her impulsive sister is making a mistake she starts to have doubts of her own.

As they all gather in Aspen for the big event each of these women is at a turning point in their life and has to decide what they want to do next. I really loved how this story brought together these very different women and it’s great to see an older character given some representation. If I had to choose I probably related most to Katie but I liked all three of the women and felt invested in all of their stories.

Like Morgan’s other recent books this story focuses more on family and friendships than romance, making it a very sweet read that’s perfect for the season. I loved the relationships between mother and daughters and also between the sisters. I also loved how each of the characters develops over the course of the story, how by getting away from everyday life they discover who they are and who they want to be.

That’s not to say there isn’t any romance, it wouldn’t be a Morgan book without a little bit of romance. Rosie is very much coupled up and Maggie is still getting over the end of a very long term relationship but sparks most definitely fly between Katie and best man Jordan and I think that was probably the highlight of the book for me. Aspen is just the perfect setting for romance and the author takes full advantage with a few of my favourite romance tropes thrown in.

As always Morgan’s writing is wonderfully warm and the descriptions made me feel like I was there in that winter wonderland, maybe someday. As always it’s packed full of emotion and as always I shed a couple of tears at certain points (Morgan’s books get me every single time).

This may not be my favourite book from the author but if you’re looking for a festive read to get you in the holiday spirit I highly recommend.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars