Woops, it turns out the last book review post I wrote was 3 months ago! Despite the length of time, I haven’t actually read a huge amount and am quite far behind on my Goodreads challenge. I’m going to blame it on the house move, the fact that I had flu, and a combination of many other things! The problem with leaving my book reviews so long is that the details, what I loved or didn’t particularly enjoy, start to slip my mind a bit, so apologies if some of the earlier ones I read aren’t up to scratch! Hopefully I’m back on track with the reading again now, and with the sunny weather recently (ahem, like 2 days), I’m hoping to get the chance to sit out and read in it a bit, but we’ll see!
Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner – 7.5/10 (Kindle version)
Crash & Burn was one of my NetGalley reads (in fact, many of them recently have been). The book opens with the scene of a car crashing down to earth, with the thoughts racing through the driver’s head being only: “Vero wants to fly…”. The police arrive, take in the scene and are surprised at how little injured Nicky Frank, the driver is, but the concern immediately turns towards the little girl Nicky seems to remember being in the car with her who is now nowhere to be seen. As the story moves on, we become aware the Nicky has recently suffered various head traumas resulting in concussion, and the confused state she is in following her accident is not hugely different to how she had been living previously. The reader’s confusion also enters the same heightened state as the police can uncover no trace of the little girl at the scene of the accident, nor at Nicky’s home. Her husband, Thomas, falls prey to both their and the readers’ suspicions, although Nicky no longer knows who to trust, as more and more people claim that the little girls she remembers cannot exist.
As always with an excellent psychological thriller, there isn’t much more I can say without giving away the plot, but believe me when I say that this was a brilliant story, filled with all the twists and turns you would expect. The ending was satisfying for me, wrapping up everything nicely, even if unexpectedly.
The Devil Will Come by Glenn Cooper – 6.5/10 (Kindle version)
This is another NetGalley read. I read my first book by Glenn Cooper last year and really enjoyed it, and I have several more of these loaded up on my Kindle to read at some point. They’re a fairly easy read for me – being on topics that I’m interested in, along the Dan Brown sort of style, with ancient and old stories mixed into modern day ones, helping to solve a mystery.
The Devil Will Come follows a Elisabetta Celestino, promising young archaeologist turned nun after a dramatic event in her life causes her to stop work on her final uni project, excavating the catacombs beneath Rome and a previously undiscovered part. The project is shut down, only to be reopened years later when a cave in causes that part to be uncovered, and Elisabetta is persuaded to return. The findings are interesting: a wall covered in astronomical symbols and a collection of bodies dating back to Roman times with strange tail like appendages, all killed in a fire. The modern day story runs parallel with two others: Ancient Rome during Nero’s time, and following Christopher Marlowe writing his infamous Dr Faustus. The three stories tie together in ways that are at first unexpected and unimaginable, only to bring the plot slowly back together for an interesting finish.
I did enjoy this book, particularly following the mystery and the excavations. Strangely enough, I was particularly taken in by the delves back in time to Rome and olde England with Marlowe; I found myself rushing those bits to hurry the story along. It was a good read, and I will definitely read another Glenn Cooper, but not my favourite.
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett – 5.5/10
Now this is where I got stuck, unfortunately! I happened to be reading two books at once, and it was during our house move, so I ended up not quite having enough time for everything. I really loved the idea behind the story of The Versions of Us, but didn’t as a whole gel with the book – maybe it would have worked better for me if I’d read it more quickly.
We have two characters: Eva and Jim. And we have three versions of their lives. Each story starts in the same place; both as university students, Eva on a bicycle, Jim walking by. In one version they meet and separate, in another they just pass each other by, in another they meet and continue on together. Each story is set out chapter by chapter, so we see every version of them at the same age at the same time, rather than one full story, then another, then the last. I did like the idea of this, however as others have said, it’s sometimes difficult to keep track, especially if you’re reading it slowly like I had to! Occasionally I would pick up the book and forget which version I’d last read, or mix up the characters between versions. Unfortunately for me, this meant that Eva and Jim as characters were hard to solidify, if that makes sense. I felt that one version would do something completely out of character from the others and would confuse everything for me. For example, if Jim did something that made you dislike him in one version, I would dislike him across all the versions unnecessarily. The storylines did also drag a bit for me, particularly as it was more following their lives than waiting for the big twist or climax – I apparently don’t get on well with books like that. It was a brilliant idea, but just not one that worked for me.
What She Left by T. R. Richmond – 4.5/10 (Kindle Version)
Unfortunately, this was my second disappointing book in a row, which was frustrating for me and slowed down my reading even more recently! What She Left seemed to have a very good premise; we enter the story knowing that Alice Salmon has died, and no one seems to know how or why. The story is told very unusually: in a collection of documents, be it letters exchanged between her professor, seemingly obsessed with her, and his penpal; tweets made by the dead girl and her friends; blog posts from her best friends; comments on those blog posts; extracts from Alice’s diary; and so on. This was definitely an interesting way to pull the book together and on the whole actually worked quite well. Despite this though, I didn’t particularly feel immersed in the story. The links between the characters are interesting, such as the crazed professor trying to piece together Alice’s life and last moments knowing her mother before Alice was born. We get to know several characters, many of whom contribute to the narrative of “What She Left” behind, but are also unreliable narrators of the story. I found it a little frustrating at times though as I was expecting one of my usual murder mystery thriller type plots, and while this was new and different, it wasn’t what I hoped it would be.
Time for Coppernob by Denny Mallows
The blank book above is Time for Coppernob – it didn’t have an image in Goodreads, so becomes their generic one. I reviewed this in a post of its own here recently.
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie & Alyssa Sheinmel – 6.5/10 (Kindle version)
So this was a bit of a different one, which I actually kind of enjoyed! I didn’t realise until I started reading this that it’s based on a YouTube channel – see what I mean about it being different, isn’t it usually the other way round?! Anyway, I’d never watched or heard of this channel, but dived into the book anyway.
I’d imagine it’s aimed very much at YAs, with the topic being a slightly awkward teenage girl who doesn’t fit in anywhere moving to somewhere she doesn’t seem to fit in even more then discovering her house is haunted. But then again, sometimes I like reading books aimed at that age range! Obviously it’s not just the simple “haunted house” story, there’s much more to it than that, as Sunshine discovers that the haunting is tied directly to her in a binding way, and again, not in the simple poltergeist way that you’d imagine. With her mother (her only family member) turning stranger and more distant by the day, never believing Sunshine’s stories of what’s going on in their house, she turns to the only friend she has made in her new home town to help her beat what’s happening around her, only for it to get stranger and stranger.
After a couple of disappointing books earlier in the month, this was a nice change. Despite being a bit creepy, it was a lighter subject that was gripping and easy to read. And also, how awesome is the image on the cover?!
The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton – 8.5/10 (Kindle version)
After reading several books recently that were fine but not amazing, this was finally my light at the end of the tunnel, and I loved it. So much so that I spend a good half an hour explaining the full story to my mum (I’m not sure she was paying attention for most of it…!). The book is set in the perpetual darkness of an Alaskan winter; the setting reminded me of a book I read and loved a while ago, The White Darkness (wow, it took me forever to find the name of that! I thought it would be in my Goodreads challenge list from last year, but turns out it was 2012 I read it, so I never reviewed it!). Anything that has ties to that though was a good pick in my book.
Ruby, our ten year old protagonist, is deaf, but doesn’t let this set her back in the slightest, in fact she is one of the strongest characters I’ve read in a long time. She and her mother, Yasmin, have travelled to Alaska to meet her father who is working out there. When he doesn’t arrive at the airport to meet them and a policeman does instead, we know something is wrong. The police reveal that they believe the father to be dead, his wedding ring found in the remains of a village recently discovered to have been destroyed in a fire. Yasmin though doesn’t believe this. She knows in her heart he is still alive, despite any minor setbacks their marriage may have recently experienced. She tells Ruby there has been a problem and they will travel to this far flung village, in the depths of the Alaskan wilderness to pick up her father.
Though they cannot board a plane, they still find a way to reach him, bribing a lift out of an ice road trucker. I’ve seen those programmes, I know how treacherous those roads can be, yet they do this bit fearlessly. The beginning of the journey is slightly scary but not difficult, although they hear news that a storm is blowing in. As they stop at the truck stop where he intends for them to shelter from the storm, the kind driver suffers a stroke and is taken away; Yasmin though is still determined not to give up. It is at this point that the book reaches its prime. The storm hits, with Yasmin alone driving a truck (which she has never done before) on the treacherous ice road, with only Ruby as company, in the dark winter of Alaska; and suddenly they notice the lights of another truck following them, that has been following them before, even though no one else claims to be out on the road in the storm. Things turn more and more treacherous as they are advised over the CB radio not to continue and to turn back, but they still do so, even as an avalanche narrowly misses them and they cross onto the Alaskan plain, large and flat, bigger than the state of Utah while the storm rages. All the while, Ruby has been receiving strange pictures on the laptop they’re connected up to by email – she firmly believes it’s her father, but Yasmin can’t believe he would send such gruesome images, instead fearing it’s from the driver of the sinister lights behind her.
I won’t keep going with the story – otherwise you might as well read this rather than the book! But believe me when I say it was amazing. You could really feel the utter cold they experienced, and I actually gasped aloud in fear at points. Ruby’s bravery and Yasmin’s determination shine through; their characters are so strong. The ending was excellent, with a good twist, although I wasn’t sure how I felt on the particular message it was giving (you’ll have to read to know!). Honestly, if I recommend anything this month, it’s this book.