Wednesday, 9 April 2014

What I've read recently: A review summary

Book covers

The Three (22 May 2014) by Sarah Lotz
What it's about: One day in 2012, four aeroplanes crash simultaneously around the world, and the only survivors are three children - 'The Three' of the title. Presented as a dossier of information and eyewitness accounts, the story attempts to unravel the truth behind the crashes and the strange rumours surrounding the children.
You should read it if: You loved Lost - the publisher's blurb compares it to the show, and the book lives up to the comparison. If you're a fan of horror/fantasy/sci-fi, this is a must-read; if you're not, it's a great introduction to stories of this type. (It's been praised by Stephen King, who described Lotz's writing as a combination of Michael Crichton and Shirley Jackson.) Basically, you should read it if you like exciting books.
My review: The structure of The Three makes it incredibly easy to read and equally difficult to put down. I frequently find books compelling, but it's more unusual for me to be glued to a story and unable to stop thinking about it, which is what happened with this - it really got under my skin and I was desperate to get to an answer about whether there was any paranormal explanation for the crashes and the survivors' odd behaviour. I didn't realise until I was writing this review how successfully the author gives each of her characters a unique voice; I didn't notice because she makes it feel completely effortless. It's also really bloody scary... Read the full review
Rating: 9/10 | Pre-order on Amazon: Kindle & Hardback (There's also a free ebook sampler which is out TOMORROW!)

The Ties That Bind (8 May 2014) by Erin Kelly
What it's about: True crime writer Luke Considine moves to Brighton, on the run from a suffocating relationship. He identifies the perfect subject for his new book in local gangster-turned-philanthropist Joss Grand, but soon finds himself in danger from both Grand's associates and his obsessed ex.
You should read it if: You've enjoyed anything Erin Kelly's written before: she's consistently good, and this new book is another success. You like traditional, adventurous mysteries with lots of clues, twists and colourful characters.
My review: Erin Kelly is so great at what she does: her books never let me down. Whenever I pick up a new novel from this author - and I always get my hands on them as soon as possible - I know I'm going to get an absorbing and exciting story that I can really lose myself in. Those cliched adverts (usually for Galaxy or something) where someone curls up in the corner of an improbably cosy cafe with a huge mug of hot chocolate and a good book with a smug smile on their face? They're reading an Erin Kelly book. Read the full review
Rating: 8/10 | Pre-order on Amazon: Kindle & Hardback

The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales (15 March 2014) by Kirsty Logan
What it's about: A debut collection of short stories combining magic, fantasy and sexuality, all related in lush, descriptive prose.
You should read it if: You liked Lucy Wood's Diving Belles (this is similar, but with more sex); you're a fan of Angela Carter's updated fairytales or the early short stories of Daphne du Maurier.
My review: Across twenty stories, the author uses a wide range of narrative techniques, settings and time periods; some of the tales are a few paragraphs long, others far meatier. There is always an element of the fantastic, but Logan always links this to more recognisable depictions of love and lust... Some of the stories are too short to be wholly effective, but at their best, they create whole worlds within just a few pages. Original and inspirational, this book made me itch to write my own fairytales. Read the full review
Rating: 7/10 | Buy on Amazon: Kindle (NB: it's 99p in the sale at the moment!) & Paperback

Book covers

The Quick (3 April 2014) by Lauren Owen
What it's about: Brother and sister James and Charlotte grow up on a country estate in Yorkshire, but as adults they are separated when James moves to London to pursue a literary career. There, he acquires a charismatic roommate and becomes entangled with a sinister and secretive 'club': the ramifications will affect both James and his sister for years to come.
You should read it if: You like Victorian gothic fiction with an authentic feel, but also a dash of the fantastic. On the other hand, perhaps you shouldn't read it if you like those things... I've read much better treatments of the same elements, and was disappointed in this after the good things I've heard about it.
My review: For me, The Quick was a book which suffered under the weight of expectation and hype. Every single review I've read of it - on Goodreads, on blogs, and in the press - has highlighted the fact that it has this amazing unexpected twist. And I suppose the fact that I knew it had this amazing unexpected twist led me to speculate on what it might be a lot more than I would have done otherwise, because although I had no clue about the nature of the twist, I guessed it really early, so it didn't surprise me at all. Read the full review
Rating: 4/10 | Buy on Amazon: Kindle & Hardback

The Face at the Window: Three Stories (13 February 2014) by Louise Welsh
What it's about: A short Kindle-only volume featuring three ghost stories by Louise Welsh.
You should read it if: You're a fan of the author and the idea of her turning her hand to this sort of tale excites you; or you tend to enjoy modern ghost stories.
My review: Considering what I've loved about the two books I've previously read by this author, it's no surprise that I felt the major strengths of the stories were their atmospheric settings and instantly likeable characters. The plots were rather less successful: the brevity of the stories doesn't give them chance to develop very far, and as a result it feels like these narratives lack the finesse of Welsh's novels. Read the full review
Rating: 7/10 | Buy on Amazon: Kindle

Before You Die (24 April 2014) by Samantha Hayes
What it's about: When a young man dies in a usually quiet countryside town, it sparks fear that a spate of teen suicides previously suffered in the area is about to be repeated. A detective visiting her sister finds herself drawn into the mystery when it seems that her nephew may be in danger of succumbing to the 'trend'.
You should read it if: You loved Hayes' Until You're Mine - this features one of the same protagonists, DI Lorraine Fisher.
My review: This book was... less than I expected. And that doesn't say as much about Before You Die as it does about its predecessor, the unexpectedly great Until You're Mine. That was a book I expected to be a run-of-the-mill, forgettable crime novel, and it was actually something much more interesting than that. So my expectations were relatively high for this follow-up, and it was - well, a run-of-the-mill, forgettable crime novel. Read the full review
Rating: 5/10 | Pre-order on Amazon: Kindle & Hardback

I received advance review copies of The Three, The Ties That Bind, The Quick and Before You Die from the publishers through NetGalley.

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