Tag Archives: contemporary life in UK

Review of Vowed – Book 2 of The Blackhart Legacy series by Liz de Jager

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I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this urban fantasy series about a family with particular skills who have appointed themselves as guardians to protect humanity from the beings of the Otherworld who make their way into our dimension and cause havoc – see my review of Banished here. Would the second book manage to match the entertaining start to this series?

Kit Blackhart must investigate why children are disappearing from a London estate. However, their parents, police and fae allies claim to know nothing. And as yet more children disappear, the pressure mounts. Luckily, or unluckily, government trainee Dante Alexander is helping Kit with the case. Yet just as her feelings towards him begin to thaw, his life falls apart. As Kit struggles to unravel his problems and dangerous secrets, she meets fae Prince Thorn in her dreams – but their relationship is utterly forbidden.

vowedI immediately caught up with what was going on in Kit’s world, with the strong first person narrative that bounces off the page. Kit’s character is well portrayed and is completely convincing as a strong, opinionated teenager who has had a tough time. It’s a balancing act – too much misery and angst and the pacing would be compromised, while too much action without any consideration of what’s been going on would give Kit all the depth of a pavement puddle. It’s a trickier task to accomplish than de Jager makes it look, as I liked Kit’s moments of introspection.

There are a few scenes where the first person narration is interrupted by third-person viewpoint episodes featuring Thorn, the fae prince who featured in the first book. As Kit’s personality is so strongly established throughout the book, I didn’t find these sections jarring, and was interested to see what is going on with him. As in the first book, I had made some assumptions as to where the storyline would go – only to suddenly find it had peeled off into quite another direction. This certainly was the case with Kit’s investigative partner, Dante, who suddenly finds himself facing a sudden challenge while trying to track down the missing children, that is going to have some long-term ramifications. I am hoping that his relationship with Kit isn’t going to develop into the dreaded triangle, as so far I’ve enjoyed their partnership and would prefer it to stay platonic.

I also very much like the dynamic of Kit’s role within a large, extended family which she doesn’t know very well. While there are times when she enjoys being part of the Blackhart clan, it isn’t all hearts and flowers finding yourself in the middle of a large family. I also very much liked the fact that Kit at times really misses her nan. Far too often within this sub-genre, people die in one book where there is a short grieving section – and then for the rest of the series, the dead character is barely mentioned again.

As for the ending – well… I didn’t see that one coming! However, I thought the case was going to be resolved, the conclusion was quite unexpected and thought-provoking. This gives the series real impetus – and I’m now keen to get hold of the third book, Judged, and find out what happens next.
9/10

Review of The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

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One of my students recommended this author, knowing that I am allergic to plain romance – and I absolutely loved The Girl You Left Behind – see my review here. So when I saw this offering on the library shelves, it was a no-brainer that I’d add it to the teetering piles of books by the bed.

one plus oneOne single mum with two jobs and two children, Jess Thomas does her best day after day. But it’s hard on your own. And sometimes you take risks you shouldn’t. Because you have to… One chaotic family – Jess’s gifted, quirky daughter Tanzie is brilliant with numbers, but without a helping hand she’ll never get the chance to shine. And Nicky, Jess’s teenage stepson, can’t fight the bullies alone. Sometimes Jess feels like they’re sinking… Into their lives comes Ed Nicholls, a man whose life is in chaos, and who is running from a deeply uncertain future. But he has time on his hands. He knows what it’s like to be lonely. And he wants to help…

That’s the blurb, more or less – and yes – I know it reads like a bit of romantic fluff. But it really isn’t. Jess cleans other people’s houses and lives on a rough estate, so her children go to the local sink school. And the first chunk of this book is a grim insight into modern Britain where, no matter how determined and hard-working you are – if you happen to live in the wrong place, your children are doomed to a sub-standard education. Heartbreaking enough, anyway. But if they are particularly gifted, or stand out in any way, it’s worse – given that our State education system isn’t geared up to assist clever children fulfil their potential. I particularly felt that that Moyes captured the feelings of sheer bewilderment when a parent is confronted with a brilliant child – especially when said brilliant child has a very bad wobble.

Ed has his own problems and initially it is a testament to Moyes’ writing talent that I didn’t dismiss him as a maladjusted geek who deserved everything he got. Offering to pay off a gold-digging girlfriend isn’t particularly admirable – neither is making constant excuses not to see his terminally ill father. However Moyes managed to make me care about him and his problems sufficiently that I really didn’t want to see him receive a hefty prison sentence.

Never work with children or animals is the advice given to actors – but I also happen to think both of these additions to a book should come with a health warning, as it is easy to write both badly. Does Moyes manage to avoid being sentimental over the soppy, over-sized dog and the children? Yep. You wouldn’t wish that dog on anyone with a working sense of smell – and travelling for several days in car with him is a feat of endurance. No wonder Tanzie suffers so badly from travel sickness…

I’m conscious my description of the book manages to give the impression that it is some worthy, if miserable exposé of being poor in modern Britain. But despite there being times when I had a lump in my throat, there is also a lot of humour – I was grinning through much of the journey to Scotland and more than once laughed out loud. Any book that manages to make me both laugh and come near to weeping clearly has fully engaged my feelings.

Does it all come right in the end? After all, that is the classical definition of a comedy – not a story that is humorous, but one that ends happily. Well, I think it probably does. But this isn’t some unqualified fairy tale ending – I personally would welcome revisiting this particular family some ten years down the line because I have my doubts as to just how well it all works out. But whether you believe they ultimately manage to prevail or not – I recommend you give the book a go.
10/10