Review | The Heights by Juliet Bell

A five-star adaptation of a four-star classic. 4/5 stars.

(*Ducks for avoid rocks thrown by Emily Brontë fans*)

The Heights by Julia Bell

Thank you to HQ Digital and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: A grim discovery brings DCI Lockwood to Gimmerton’s Heights Estate – a bleak patch of Yorkshire he thought he’d left behind for good. There, he must do the unthinkable, and ask questions about the notorious Earnshaw family.

Decades may have passed since Maggie closed the pits and the Earnshaws ran riot – but old wounds remain raw. And, against his better judgement, DCI Lockwood is soon drawn into a story.

A story of an untameable boy, terrible rage, and two families ripped apart. A story of passion, obsession, and dark acts of revenge. And of beautiful Cathy Earnshaw – who now lies buried under cold white marble in the shadow of the moors.

Two hundred years since Emily Brontë’s birth comes The Heights: a modern re-telling of Wuthering Heights set in 1980s Yorkshire.

My take:

The Heights is an excellent modern retelling of Emily Brontë’s classic tale. The transposition of the events of Wuthering Heights to the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries works incredibly well, the time shifts are handled skillfully, and the reassignments of the roles of the secondary characters are ingenious. For example, making Lockwood a detective on the verge of retirement gives him a good reason to be unendingly curious about the Earnshaws while also imbuing the whole story with an air of trendy Scandinavian noir.

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ARC Review | The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

A mind-bending wonder somewhere between an episode of Black Mirror and a classic Poirot mystery. 4/5.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35967101-the-seven-deaths-of-evelyn-hardcastle

Thank you to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle will be published on 8th February.

The blurb: How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem…

My take:

This book has a great premise and puts an original spin on the classic country house murder mystery. The layers in the story make it incredibly complex and I take my hat off to the author. I can’t imagine the diagrams necessary to keep track of where all the characters are supposed to be at various times as the narrator body-hops between different “hosts”, bumping into friends and enemies along the way. In addition to the murder mystery we have the mystery of Aiden himself: who is he and why is he being forced to relive the same day, searching desperately for Evelyn Hardcastle’s killer?

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Review | The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

 A promising situation undermined by an unlikeable protagonist. 3/5 stars.

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

Thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Ella Black seems to live the life most other seventeen-year-olds would kill for…

Until one day, telling her nothing, her parents whisk her off to Rio de Janeiro. Determined to find out why, Ella takes her chance and searches through their things.

And realises her life has been a lie.

Her mother and father aren’t hers at all. Unable to comprehend the truth, Ella runs away, to the one place they’ll never think to look – the favelas.

But there she learns a terrible secret – the truth about her real parents and their past. And the truth about a mother, desperate for a daughter taken from her seventeen years ago…

My take:

Last year, Emily Barr’s previous book – The One Memory of Flora Banks – was the only book I gave 5 stars to. I loved Flora, I loved her story, and so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of The Truth and Lies of Ella Black. I had high hopes.

I’m sad to say I didn’t love this book. And this even though there are many similarities between Ella Black and Flora Banks: both give us a female teenage protagonist with mental health issues, struggling with seemingly rubbish parents who are keeping secrets from them. However, while I found Flora instantly likeable, Ella came across as whiny and, until quite late in the book, tremendously ungrateful, immature and annoying.

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ARC Review | Happiness for Humans by P. Z. Reizin

A must-read for romance fans looking for something different. 4/5.

Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin

Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

Happiness for Humans will be published on 4th January 2018.

The blurb: 

(Machines aren’t supposed to have favourites. Don’t ask me how this has happened.)

Jen is sad. Aiden wants her to be happy. Simple? Except that Jen is a thirty-something woman whose boyfriend has just left her and Aiden is a very complicated, very expensive piece of software.

Aiden has calculated that Jen needs a man in her life for optimum wellbeing. And with the whole of the internet at his disposal, he doesn’t have to look far to find a perfect specimen and engineer a meeting. But what, exactly, makes human beings happy? And can a very-artificially-intelligent machine discover emotional intelligence in time to fix Jen’s life?

My take

This is an entertaining romantic comedy, the novel element being that a number of the characters are artificially intelligent software who have developed their own personalities and gone rogue to interfere in the love lives of “real people”.

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Review | The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

This is how creepy gothic suspense is done! A spooky 4/5 stars.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: 

Inspired by the work of Shirley Jackson and Susan Hill and set in a crumbling country mansion, The Silent Companions is an unsettling gothic ghost story to send a shiver down the spine…

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. But inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…

My take:

A warning: if you’re of a nervous disposition, I wouldn’t advise reading this alone at night or you’ll be jumping at shadows! I admit I’m a scaredy-cat, but The Silent Companions is just the right amount of creepy/suspenseful without being downright terrifying. A good approximation for anyone who wants to know if they’ll be frightened witless would be to say it’s about as scary as an episode of Dr Who featuring the Weeping Angels. In fact, that’s a pretty good indicator of what you’re in for with this book.

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ARC Review | Wardens of Archos (The Relics of Ar’Zac, #2) by Sarina Langer

The rarest of things: a strong middle volume in a trilogy!

Wardens of Archos by Sarina Langer

Wardens of Archos (The Relics of Ar’Zac 2) will be published on 16th October 2017.


SPOILER ALERT

This is the second book in the series and so the blurb below contains spoilers for book 1 – Rise of the Sparrows. However, my review is spoiler free!


The blurb: Once a despised street rat, now the reigning queen of Rifarne, Rachael is at the centre of everyone’s attention. All she wants is a few peaceful moments to herself — but her kingdom has other plans.

A Mist Woman brings her a gift, and a warning: Aeron’s death has released the Dark One’s shades into the world. And Rachael, as the only living seer in existence, is the only one who can stop him before he destroys everything she’s beginning to cherish. But can Rachael trust the Mist Woman, or is Kaida just another sorceress playing with her life?

Rachael is running out of time. The shadows are coming, and their claws are reaching for her.


My take:

Sarina very kindly gave me an advanced reader copy of Wardens of Archos to read.

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ARC Review | The Surrogate by Louise Jensen

A brilliant epilogue is the perfect ending to another enjoyable read from Louise Jensen. 4/5 stars.

The Surrogate by Louise Jensen

The Surrogate is out tomorrow, Wednesday 27th September 2017

Thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book to read and review.

 

The blurb: Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, and are on the point of giving up. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives Kat and Nick one last chance to achieve their dream.

But Kat and Lisa’s history hides dark secrets.

And there is more to Lisa than meets the eye.

As dangerous cracks start to appear in Kat’s perfect picture of happily-ever-after, she realises that she must face her fear of the past to save her family…

My take:

This will be a short review to avoid spoilers!

Regular readers of my reviews will know I have an up-and-down relationships with book branded “psychological thrillers” or “dark thrillers”. However, having enjoyed Louise Jensen’s previous two books – The Sister and The Gift (click the titles for my reviews) – I went into The Surrogate with high hopes, which thankfully weren’t disappointed.

From the blurb and the first couple of chapters, I came to expect something along the lines of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, but I was pleased to discover that the author gives us something else entirely!

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Review | Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

Don’t be fooled by that shiny cover. Darkness lies within! 3/5.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the ‘BookFrogs’—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions: trinkets and books, the detritus of a lonely, uncared-for man. But when Lydia pages through his books, she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago—and never completely left, as she discovers.

My take:

My experience of this book suffered because I went into it expecting one thing, but got something else entirely. I think the cover and the blurb somehow made me think this was going to be more magical and mysterious than it was. And that there’d be more about books and the bookshop. Books about books are always a lure.

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Review | The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

 True Grit meets The Road, directed by Quentin Tarantino. That may or may not help you get an idea of what this is like! 4/5 stars.

The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

The blurb: Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.

But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.

Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

My take:

I put this on my TBR after reading several positive review on other blogs (sorry I can’t remember which ones now… but thank you!). And there is a lot to like about The Wolf Road. From the first sentence Elka’s narrative voice is vibrant and compelling. Indeed, at the heart of the story are three excellent female characters: women who are pragmatic, resourceful and able to put aside their differences to reach common goals. The post-apocalytic setting is almost beside the point: Elka’s story takes place a good while after the nuclear war which set civilization back and it’s our heroine’s specific experiences which are centre-stage; the wider context is only of interest to the extent that it affects her and her choices. The narrative moves at a good pace, as Elka’s physical journey driving the story forward.

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Review | Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

A bold reimagining of Shakespeare’s stormy tale of vengeance, forgiveness and the power of theatre. 4/5 stars.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

The blurb: Hag-Seed is a re-visiting of Shakespeare’s play of magic and illusion, The Tempest, and is the fourth novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

The Tempest is set on a remote island full of strange noises and creatures. Here, Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, plots to restore the fortunes of his daughter Miranda by using magic and illusion — starting with a storm that will bring Antonio, his treacherous brother, to him. All Prospero, the great sorcerer, needs to do is watch as the action he has set in train unfolds.

In Margaret Atwood’s ‘novel take’ on Shakespeare’s original, theatre director Felix has been unceremoniously ousted from his role as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival. When he lands a job teaching theatre in a prison, the possibility of revenge presents itself – and his cast find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever…

My take:

As part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project, Atwood is one of several authors invited to reimagine one of Shakespeare’s stories. Hag-Seed is Atwood’s take on one of the Bard’s last plays, The Tempest. If you’d like to know more about the other authors involved in the project and the stories they were asked to tackle (for example, Tracy Chevalier’s take on Othello), you can find out more here.

I studied The Tempest for 2 years at school and so it’s probably the Shakespeare play I know the best. This definitely influenced my enjoyment of Hag-Seed, which I’m not convinced you’d get a lot out of if you know nothing about the original play.

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