Category Archives: netgalley

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Scattering – Book 2 of The Outliers trilogy by Kimberley McCreight

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I enjoyed the first book, The Outliers – see my review here – and was pleased to see this offering on Netgalley so that I could find out what happens next…

Wylie may have escaped the camp in Maine, but she is far from safe. The best way for her to protect herself is to understand her ability, fast. But after spending a lifetime trying to ignore her own feelings, giving in to her ability to read other peoples’ emotions is as difficult as it is dangerous. And Wylie isn’t the only one at risk. Ever since they returned home, Jasper has been spiraling, wracked with guilt over what happened to Cassie. After all they’ve been through together, Wylie and Jasper would do anything for each other, but she doesn’t know if their bond is strong enough to overcome demons from the past. It is amid this uncertainty and fear that Wylie finds herself confronted with a choice. She was willing to do whatever it took to help Cassie, but is she prepared to go to the same extremes to help complete strangers . . . even if they are just like her?

This second slice of the adventure has the same tension surrounding the first book, but I did prefer the fact that this time around, McCreight put in the groundwork to establish what outliers are. There are flashbacks to key moments that have influenced Wylie’s life to date, which I really appreciated as the major quibble I had with the first book was the speed we were plunged into the adventure, leaving me at times a little unconvinced about the issue of Wylie being so special. While reading The Scattering, however, I didn’t have any doubt that she was both unusual and still surrounded by unanswered secrets. Indeed, McCreight has so effectively covered the backstory that if you wish to start with this book, you wouldn’t be floundering all that much. That said, if you enjoy a roller-coaster, adrenaline-filled adventure, then you may well wish to read The Outliers anyway.

I also appreciated the fact that Wylie didn’t make such a habit of immediately reacting in any tricky situation by doing the one thing that would put her in more danger – there were a couple of occasions where she pulled such a stunt, but I could see why. Once more, though, she is plunged right into the middle of a horrible situation and the stakes just continue getting higher as it all goes on getting worse. No wonder she’s becoming very fond of Jasper – almost everyone else in her life has some kind of hidden agenda.

As for the ending – McCreight leaves this one on a major cliffhanger. So I shall be looking forward to getting hold of the next book in due course. And if you’re looking for an enjoyable YA adventure with plenty of tension and double-dealing, then this one comes highly recommended.
9/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Ninth Rain – Book 1 of The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams

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Williams is already a go-to author whom I love – her Copper Cat trilogy saw to that – see my review of The Copper Promise. But this time around, I think she’s excelled herself…

The great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine. When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind. But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war.

For starters, this isn’t a straight swords and sorcery. The city of Ebora might be a faded version of its former self, driving Tormalin to seek his fortune elsewhere, but it isn’t the only place enduring sustained and catastrophic deterioration. Sarn and the other surrounding countries are still suffering the ravages of the last invasion by the lethal aliens, the Jure’lia. Wildlife and vegetation have been mutated wherever the huge spaceships have crashed, which also attracts the very dangerous parasite spirits that turns their unfortunate victims inside out if they so much brush against them. Where the huge maggots crashed through, they excrete a thick transparent sludge that hardens to an impervious block of varnish, trapping people inside like flies in an amber. In short, the world is still reeling from an apocalyptic attack several generations earlier.

As you must have gathered, William’s depiction of her ruined world made a deep impression – I’ve even dreamed about it. This could have been a completely bleak tale, but it’s not because the main protagonists, particularly the wonderful Lady de Grazon, ping off the page with a fine disregard for local customs as she insists on investigating every aspect of the alien wreckage, instead of trying to ignore it like most of the population. There is a fair amount of humour scattered through this story, which makes it far easier to read, though that doesn’t mean it’s innately funny – it isn’t.

Tension winds through the story as we are pitchforked right in the middle of this fascinating wrecked world and then try to figure out exactly what is going on as slices of information is steadily fed our way. I also loved the young fell-witch, Noon, kept in a horrible prison called the Winnowry, where others like her who involuntarily summon fell-flame, are incarcerated – apparently so they can atone for their innate wickedness and to protect the rest of society from their fell-fire. Though the fact that their flaming energy is harvested and used to craft a number of exclusive, highly expensive artefacts is also a major factor.

Each one of the three protagonists have their own journey through the book which involves different aspects of this shattered place and unlike a number of epic fantasy tales, I didn’t find myself wanting to know more about one of them such that I skimmed through the others to get back to it. For this rich world sank its hooks into me and since I have finished reading it, I still find myself thinking of it. And I’ll be on the lookout for the sequel as I’m looking forward to revisiting this unusual world.

While I obtained the arc of The Ninth Rain from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Running on the Cracks by Julia Donaldson

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When I saw this re-release on Netgalley, I was immediately drawn by the premise and the author.

Leo’s world has been turned upside down. Her parents are gone and her bird-loving uncle is getting too close for comfort. She is only sure of one thing: she must get out. In a desperate bid to find the grandparents she never knew, Leo jumps on a train to Glasgow, penniless and stealing food to survive.

Poor Leo is in a hard place – half Chinese, she has no idea about her father’s family apart from a handful of stories he used to tell her, but when she decides that living with her aunt and uncle becomes impossible, she decides to run away. This could have been a dire tale of exploitation and abandonment, but from its rather grim beginnings, Donaldson manages to weave a warm, yet realistic tale featuring those people who have fallen through society’s cracks.

Leo isn’t the only young protagonist – Finlay, who is permanently at loggerheads with his parents as he goes through his Goth period, also features in this tale and provides a fair amount of the light relief. Although it deals with some fairly gnarly subjects like what happens to youngsters when their family circumstances become unbearable, mental illness and family feuds, there is also a lot of humour in this warm-hearted, thoughtful story.

For a start, there are some episodes that descend into almost farce – I kept thinking that it would make a marvellous TV programme as I read about the chase through the market, or Marina’s manic attempts to make tea. But there is also an undercurrent of danger as Leo is also being tracked by someone who doesn’t want to let her go…

Leo is a sympathetic protagonist who is struggling to cope with a terrible loss and not having very much support. I did wonder if she wouldn’t be going to a bereavement counsellor and she most definitely would have a social worker assigned to her case, but I can believe that she may well not see her often enough if it was decided that she was settling in just fine. I also loved Marina, whose kindness means that Leo isn’t left to fend for herself on the streets – but I’m aware that I am seeing her through adult eyes and I’d be curious to know what a child would make of her.

I found this adventure an engrossing read and while I felt that the pacing at the end became a little rushed and that the final resolution was just a bit too tidy, overall I think this is a highly readable book that raises some important questions about those who often become invisible in our society.

While I obtained the arc of Running on the Cracks from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The One by John Marrs

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I read the premise and immediately requested this one on Netgalley as it sounds so cool and topical.

How far would you go to find THE ONE? One simple mouth swab is all it takes. A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for. A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

We follow these five people as they take the test and have to cope with the consequences as they find themselves dealing with the fallout. I am not going to be able to go into details because I’m allergic to spoilers and Marrs’ clever plotting is one of the best things about this smart near-future science fiction adventure. I have to say I nearly skipped this one in the early stages with the intention of returning when I wasn’t feeling so thick-headed and ill as reading a short passage in one viewpoint before being yanked away into yet another pov isn’t my favourite narrative mode. Fortunately, trying to work out what to read next proved just as taxing so I decided to go with my default which was to give it until 20% to get going. And by the time we got to that stage, I was hooked.

The cast of characters were all engrossing and well depicted. As for likeable – well, they mostly were with one outstanding exception and if I’d realised he was part of the story there is a strong likelihood I would have given this one a miss. However, I am glad I didn’t as I would have missed the sheer bravura of Marrs twisty plotting where little is as it seems.

In amongst this unfolding story, Marrs raises some interesting and disturbing questions… While couples in established and loving relationships are encouraged to take the test as they find it deepens their love for each other when they discover they are Matched – what happens if they aren’t? And while the genetic test can find a Match for the majority of the population, there are instances where they can’t. Either their genetic match has died, or isn’t on a database – what happens then? And has this engrossing tale demonstrates – being Matched doesn’t guarantee living happily ever after as there all sorts of intriguing scenarios where it is little short of a disaster.

In fact, I came away from this interesting, thought provoking book with deep thankfulness that I have a kind, loving companion who deeply cares for me – and a fervent promise to myself that whatever happens I’d never dabble in getting Matched, should the opportunity come up. This one is highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of The One from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Dancing With Death Book 1 of the Nell Drury series by Amy Myers

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This classic country house murder mystery from Severn House popped up at Netgalley and caught my eye…

1925. The fashionable Bright Young Things from London have descended on Wychbourne Court, the Kentish stately home of Lord and Lady Ansley, for an extravagant fancy dress ball followed by a midnight Ghost Hunt – and Chef Nell Drury knows she’s in for a busy weekend. What she doesn’t expect to encounter is sudden, violent death.

This cosy mystery is a thoroughly enjoyable, engrossing read. Myers evokes the period well as steady, sensible and very ambitious Nell Drury, working at Wychbourne Hall as Chef, suddenly finds herself confronted with a violent murder of one of the guests. While it might have seemed unlikely that a young woman would land a prize post like this, due to the shortage of young men after the ravages of WWI, this was a time when a generation of women had an opportunity for a career – so long as they didn’t want to get married. Nell is one of those women. Fans of Downton Abbey will recognise the strict hierarchy of below stairs as she regularly locks horns with housekeeper, Mrs Fielding, who is thoroughly disapproving of a female chef.

But Nell has other things to worry about other than whether her soufflés will rise, when Lady Ansley appeals to her to ensure none of the servants are caught up in the bloody murder. I like Nell’s character. Her cool-headed steadiness and self-confidence comes from having to fight for her place and growing up in the war years, which still casts a long shadow over most of the characters – and quite right, too. Myers has very much caught the flavour of the age, it seems to me, having grown up with stories of the time from my grandmother, who was a flapper.

In order to make this sort of book really work, we need a good spread of likely suspects amongst the supporting cast and Myers certainly provides plenty of memorable, strong contenders. We have the eccentric aunt who is convinced the house is crowded with a posse of ghosts, all keen to make contact with their living counterparts; the gang of bright young things, including the three Ansley youngsters who are caught up in the frantic round of parties and nightclubbing; two school friends who seem far too attracted to each other rather than their supposed partners; the vamp; the terrifying elderly female relative (think Maggie Smith); and her arch-enemy a sprightly avuncular gentleman. In the middle of this, you have poor, bewildered Lord and Lady Ansley… There is also a strong cast of below stairs characters and a rather forbidding detective from Scotland Yard who travels down to investigate the murders as the local bobbies are completely out of their depth.

This is all as cosily familiar as a late-night cup of cocoa – but there is a good reason why Agatha Christie-type murder mysteries work, demonstrated here by Myers’ well-written homage. The pages simply turned themselves as I dived into this one while struggling with a heavy cold. The denouement was also well handled – I hadn’t guessed whodunit or why and was also pleased that some of the red herrings cast around during the investigation weren’t necessarily as herring-like as I’d thought. It always slightly annoys me when an author provides a parade of suspects and a trail of clues – only to suddenly provide a completely different set of motives with a flourish at the end. Myers isn’t guilty of such a sleight of hand. My only niggle is the very, very abrupt ending – unless for some reason my arc is missing a final paragraph. But this one is recommended for fans of a classic cosy mystery set in a country house.

While I obtained the arc of Dancing with Death from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.

8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook The Broken Bridge by Philip Pullman

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I read and thoroughly enjoyed His Dark Materials, particularly the first book which blew me away, so when I spotted this offering on Netgalley it was a no-brainer that I’d request it. I’m so glad I did…

The Broken Bridge is the tale of Ginny, a sixteen-year-old half-Haitian girl living with her father in a small seaside village in Wales. She’s becoming a brilliant artist, just like her mother, who died when Ginny was a baby. Despite the isolation she sometimes feels, her life is turning out OK. Then her social worker cracks open her files and her world falls apart. Ginny’s father has kept a devastating secret from her all her life. In fact, everything she thought she knew about her family and her identity is a lie. And now, to find out who she really is, Ginny must relive the dark tragedies in her past.

This story is told through Ginny’s viewpoint as the summer holidays stretch ahead of her after her exams. It is a beautifully told tale with passages of lyric beauty as Ginny explores this seaside setting with an artist’s eye – and no, that isn’t reviewer-speak to warn you of a literary offering where the pace crawls along at the speed of a dozing snail. This tale cracks along at a fair clip as Ginny’s world is upended after a social worker suddenly appears up asking a lot of questions that has Ginny questioning former so-called facts, as well as shaking loose some uncomfortable memories…

This coming-of-age book has plenty of tension and effectively raises questions that all teenagers are confronted with – questions that we as adults shouldn’t let slip through the cracks of our oh-so-busy lives, because they go on mattering throughout our existence. This book deserves to be far better known than it is for it’s a gem. The story raises all sorts of gnarly questions about our society without any tub-thumping or syrupy sentiment – what happens to children when families can no longer cope? What is normal and who gets to decide? How do you decide what really matters to you – and what do you do when following that dream hurts the people around you? Pullman doesn’t necessarily offer the answers, but he certainly explores the issues around these questions in a wonderfully non-judgemental manner.

Though I found myself weeping when Ginny’s father was describing his childhood, I wouldn’t want you to go away with the idea that this is some worthily dreary read – there is also plenty of humour, with a couple of laugh aloud moments around the antics of Ginny’s friend Andy. In short, this one blew me away and is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

While I obtained the arc of The Broken Bridge from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook A Tyranny of Queens Book 2 of the Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows

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I loved An Accident of Stars – read my review here – to the extent that it was one of my favourite reads of last year, so was thrilled when I spotted this offering on Netgalley.

Saffron Coulter has returned from the fantasy kingdom of Kena. Threatened with a stay in psychiatric care, Saffron has to make a choice: to forget about Kena and fit back into the life she’s outgrown, or pit herself against everything she’s ever known and everyone she loves. Meanwhile in Kena, Gwen is increasingly troubled by the absence of Leoden, cruel ruler of the kingdom, and his plans for the captive worldwalkers, while Yena, still in Veksh, must confront the deposed Kadeja. What is their endgame? Who can they trust? And what will happen when Leoden returns?

It was a joy to catch up on Saffron and what happens to her after her unexpected return home. For me, she was always the standout character in this enthralling portal fantasy and I really appreciate the opportunity to rebond with her. But my firm advice is to read the first book before picking up this one. Politics in Kena is a complicated, nuanced business and as I plunged once more into this intricate world, it took me a while to pick up the threads and I’m not sure the pacing is quite as sharp as it might be. Granted everyone is thrown into turmoil after the shocking events at the end of An Accident of Stars but it seemed to take a while for the momentum of the story to get going.

However, that isn’t a dealbreaker – the world and the interplay of characters in this sophisticated, clever story makes is a standout read, anyhow. There are some pleasing plot twists I didn’t see coming which worked really well. It is also a joy to read a book where women are fully represented throughout the society – with not a cliché among them. Having grown up in the ‘golden age’ of fantasy and science fiction when women were either in the story to be seduced, saved or as a wrinkled fount of wisdom it still gives me a buzz to see a female cast of characters with agency representing a range of ideas and views from the nicest to the nastiest.

The climax and finale worked brilliantly with all the main characters taken care of – a feat in an epic fantasy where there are a fair spread of folks whose story arcs have cris-crossed through this duology. If you enjoy well written, engrossing epic fantasy, but feel that Life is too short to take on a doorstopper-sized epistle, then do consider this classy, engrossing duology – Meadows is a class act.

While I obtained the arc of A Tyranny of Queens from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Fool’s Gold – Book 8 of the Liberty Lane series by Caro Peacock

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I regularly look at the murder mystery offerings on Netgalley and this one caught my eye as something different and intriguing…

September, 1841. A new arrival has taken London society by storm. Lord Byron’s handsome illegitimate son, George, recently arrived from the exotic island of Cephalonia in the company of his guardian, the mysterious Mr Vickery, has been setting female hearts aflutter. But not all the attention George attracts is welcome. Mr Vickery has been receiving disturbing letters from a woman who calls herself Helena, and he hires Liberty Lane to find out who Helena is and what she wants.

Of course, the catch is that it is the eighth book in the series, so would I find myself floundering at all? Nope, not for a second. Peacock is far too adroit and experienced a writer to fall into that pitfall and from the first page, I was pulled into this twisting story where the plot snaked in all sorts of unexpected avenues. So I had to read it in one greedy gulp to find out exactly where it was going.

Liberty Lane is clearly a remarkable young woman as a female investigator at a time when her male counterparts were looked down upon with contempt and suspicion – obviously there is a hefty backstory here. But I certainly found myself believing in the 19th century London streets depicted by Peacock and as a historian, there were no glaring anomalies that yanked me out of the story. Without holding up the action or pace, all sorts of little details contributed to make the world vividly convincing – and I very much liked the fact that she does not expect her horses to go galloping or cantering everywhere, which they generally didn’t.

I also enjoyed her characterisation. Alongside Liberty, there is a supporting cast who leap off the page – the beautiful, blind George is suitably enigmatic and Mr Vickery is by turns exasperating and open-hearted. But Liberty’s small team help to bring this story alive – it seemed entirely plausible that she would be on good terms with an experienced horseman, Amos, running a livery stable, for she often needs sudden access to transport and the main mode of transport back then is horsepower. Young Tabby, a streetgirl part of a gang of children surviving on their wits, is also a regular gatherer of information for Liberty.

However, while the setting is vividly depicted and the characters believable and entertaining, what sets this murder mystery apart is the sheer skill and dexterity of Peacock’s plotting. Just when I thought the story was off in one direction, it snapped around and the momentum and stakes were cinched ever higher. Of course, this means the ultimate climactic denouement has to not only deliver in terms of plenty of action and high drama, but also resolve all that tension entirely satisfactorily. And yes, this one certainly did. I have not read any of these mysteries before, but I’ll certainly be looking out for more – if your taste runs to historical murder mysteries with plenty of tension and action, then this one comes very highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of Fool’s Gold from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Snared Book 16 of the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep

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Last year, I plunged into the tail-end of this series, Unraveled – see my review here. So when I saw Snared was available, I immediately requested the arc from Netgalley, keen for another slice of the feisty Gin Blanco…

Another week, another few clues trickling in about the Circle, the mysterious group that supposedly runs the city’s underworld. Gathering intel on my hidden enemies is a painstaking process, but a more immediate mystery has popped up on my radar: a missing girl. My search for the girl begins on the mean streets of Ashland, but with all the killers and crooks in this city, I’m not holding out much hope that she’s still alive. A series of clues leads me down an increasingly dark, dangerous path, and I realize that the missing girl is really just the first thread in this web of evil. As an assassin, I’m used to facing down the worst of the worst, but nothing prepares me for this new, terrifying enemy—one who strikes from the shadows and is determined to make me the next victim.

The overall tone and setting for this urban fantasy offering is darker than the breezy gung-go fun to be had at the Bullet Pointe western theme park where all the action took place in Unraveled. In this adventure, we start with the death of a young girl and the disappearance of another. As Gin watches the anguish of her sister, desperate to get her back, it takes her back to her own troubled past – and this is where Estep’s skill and experience kicks in. For those of us with the poor judgement to crash midway into this series, this provides us with valuable nuggets of information about Gin’s backstory – for those who have been following the series, this will doubtless provide further layers of characterisation.

While I’m sure there are nuances and allusions I am missing, at no point was I adrift, or struggling to work out what was happening to whom. I enjoy Gin’s gritty, rather violent take on Life as she is confronted with a range of unpleasant underworld characters. Her ice and stone magic give her some significant advantages in any kind of shootout or battle – but she isn’t invulnerable and when her own cockiness gets her into a very tricky situation, help comes from a completely unexpected quarter.

I really enjoyed the various plot turns snaking through this whodunit plot, where all is not as it seems, as well as savouring the extra information we learn about her traumatic childhood. Once more, an wholly enjoyable urban fantasy adventure full of action and twisty goodness.

While I obtained the arc of Snared from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Review of KINDLE Ebook Saven Deception – Book 1 of the Saven series by Siobhan Davis

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I have constantly seen positive reviews for this series and finally Lola persuaded me to give this one a go.

Sadie Owens has been slowly dying inside. Bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day. Trapped in a life she hates, she relies on only one person—herself. Despised by her family and betrayed by an unscrupulous government, Sadie dreams of a different life. When she is chosen to participate in the government’s new social experiment, she is ecstatic at the prospect of spending six months in Thalassic City, the shiny new city under the sea. Sadie is captivated by Logan, the beautiful boy with the ocean-blue eyes, but he isn’t all he appears to be. When she finally uncovers the government’s real agenda, the truth is more shocking than anything she could ever have imagined.

I very much enjoyed Sadie’s character – she has clearly had a rough time at home with a hostile, unloving mother and siblings who took their cue from her. It doesn’t help that the family are poverty-stricken with no opportunity of escaping dead-end, draining jobs, forcing them to take desperate measures. It is one of the reasons why Sadie applies for Thalassic City. Davis tucks in snippets regarding Sadie’s backstory in the first person (I) pov giving us a ringside seat to her thoughts and emotions – a staple in YA fiction.

There is an interesting cast of supporting characters – I particularly liked Jenna, the girl who rooms with Sadie and gets involved with Dante. I also like Jared. As for Logan, the handsome boy who Sadie falls for in the classic eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room way, he is clearly difficult to trust given his background which is gradually revealed as the story progresses. I liked the way Davis fed us a continuous stream of information as the story progresses, so that our perceptions are continually changing throughout. As for the courtship dance between them, that isn’t an aspect of the book that I found particularly interesting other than the way it contributes to the overall story arc of the Saven and their interest in humanity and what bargain they strike with a government fast running out of sufficient resources. However, I don’t have a particular problem with the insta-love – it’s the way I fell for my ex-husband… hook, line and sinker with the solid belief that we were intended to be together forever.

The scene-setting and worldbuilding also works very well. I found the underwater city believable as they journeyed down to it and again, while the setting seems well developed and convincing, it unfolds alongside the action. So given there is a lot of building tension throughout, when the climactic finale arrives, it needs to provide plenty of thrills and action – and it certainly does. I couldn’t break away during this section of the book, as I was desperate to know what happens next. I’ll warn you – while plenty of the issues that run throughout the book are addressed, it does finish on a cliffhanger, however that isn’t too much of a problem as Saven Disclosure, the next book in the series, is available.

While I obtained the arc of Saven Deception from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10