Friday, October 30, 2020

Review: Little Bones by NV Peacock


 

Overview

This is the first adult thriller by N.V Peacock, who has previously written young adult horror/supernatural books. This debut into the adult genre packs a hefty punch and I couldn't put it down. 

Plot

Little Bones follows the story of Cherrie, who used to be Leigh-Ann, AKA Little Bones. To keep it simple I'm going to call her Cherrie as that's the name the character chose for herself. Cherrie is the daughter of a serial killer the media dubbed Mr. Bones. Cherrie's father used her as bait to entice young boys into his car and killed them, using them for his macabre artworks and allowing Cherrie to help him in his studio. 

Years after Cherrie's father is convicted and incarcerated, a young boy goes missing and a podcast which draws similarities between this new missing persons case and the crimes of Mr Bones turns Cherrie's life upside down. Cherrie has hidden her identity and with one fell swoop the creator of this podcast has ruined Cherrie's life. 

Writing

Like I said, this isn't the author's first book, just their first step into adult thrillers and the writing is impeccable. The way the author portrays Cherrie's descent into sleep deprivation and a willingness to do whatever it takes to put her life back together is very eerie, fast paced and enthralling. The characters felt very real and at one point I almost picked up my phone to google Mr. Bones to check if he was a real criminal and this was based on a true story. 

The sentence structure is punchy, a lot of sentences are short and deliver information rapid fire and as the main character unravels the writing becomes more intense and perfectly illustrates Cherrie's mindset. The dialogue is similar in that the characters are short tempered and angry with each other and it perfectly shines through. I did find the dialogue a little jarring at first but once I got used to it, I was hooked. 

The Characters

As mentioned, Cherrie is the daughter of a serial killer. Her mother killed herself when she found out what her husband was doing and Cherrie was put in foster care. When she turned 17 she changed her name from Leigh Ann to Cherrie and left her old life behind. 

Her new life includes her boyfriend Leo and their son Robin. Both Leo and Robin have distinct and unique voices as characters and though Leo becomes a bit unlikeable that's in line with the character and story arc that unfolds. The side characters feel a little bit under-developed but that isn't surprising given how fast paced this thriller is. I did find myself having to clarify which side character was which a couple of times. 

The Atmosphere

The atmosphere of this book is claustrophobic and creepy. Part of it takes place in a carnival setting which should be a happy and fun place but the book twists that until the carnival feels dark and foreboding. The atmosphere and settings match perfectly with Cherrie's inner monologue and the pace this thriller moves. I 

The Good

This thriller kept me guessing until the last twist. I found myself suspecting everyone of the crime at the centre of this plot and kept wondering how the detectives in the story could be looking in the wrong direction, when I was too. I was wrong by the way, I never guessed who the criminal was. 

The Bad

The ending. It was abrupt and very unbelievable. That's all I'm going to say about that. 

Final thoughts

Despite the fact the ending is a bit weak the novel is a great first adult thriller and I was enthralled the entire way through. I stayed up way past my usual bedtime to finish it and to me that's the sign of a good book. If your eyes are heavy but you're fighting through it to read the last 2 chapters it's definitely at least a 4 star book in my eyes. 

Not only was this the author's first adult thriller but I think it would be ideal for someone just getting into thrillers. 

Trigger warnings: serial killer (duh), childhood trauma, kidnapping, murder, stalking. 

Little Bones by N.V. Peacock comes out on the 31st of October 2020. 

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC. 


Sunday, October 25, 2020

review: the haunting of Beatrix Greene



Overview 

This is a paranormal historical fiction co-authored by three authors (Rachel Hawkins, Ash Parsons and Vicky Alvear Schecter. It follows Beatrix Greene, a woman who makes her living as a medium but she uses empathy rather than a true connection to spirits to bring comfort to her clients.

When she meets Dr James Walker, a man who professes to be a skeptic and to be able to spot a fake a mile away her life becomes a lot more complex. James offers her the chance to earn £2000 for one night's work to either prove or disprove that James' childhood home is haunted.

Plot

This is a short book and takes place over the course of about 3 days, plus an epilogue. The first day we meet Beatrix, the next day she meets James and on the third day all hell breaks loose at James' childhood home.

It is quickly revealed to Beatrix and her chaperone Harry that James' mother killed his younger brother and then herself and James wants to sell the house but before he can do so he wants to be sure there are no spirits haunting the manor house. A seance is held and terrible things happen... but spoilers, so I'll leave it at that.

Writing

Each author who contributed to this short book has a distinct voice and i found that to be a bit jarring as i don't think it was meant to be so obvious that it's written by 3 authors, however each author is also very talented and the writing is good overall.

Characters

Aside from Beatrix and James, there is Harry: an actor who helps Beatrix with her job as a medium by pretending to be a ghost on occasion; Mrs Amanda Reynolds: an american photographer who has become involved in the spirit photography business; a brief cameo by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, an even briefer cameo by Harry Houdini, going by his birth name of Erik and who you would only notice if you're a history nerd like me who knew Harry's birth name and where he started his life and finally James' school friend Lord Stanhope, an insufferable man who shows up unannounced, with rather suspicious timing.

What I Didn't Like

As i mentioned this book is written by 3 authors and at times it doesfeel a little disjointed, and as though the writers didn't liaise beyond reading the previous parts before continuing on their chapters for me personally, that made it difficult to fully immerse myself in the story as each writer had a distinctive tone and it was difficult reading when Beatrix and James seemed to have different personalities depending on who wrote the chapter.

What I Loved

Beatrix is a woman who takes no shit and does what she needs to do in order to survive as a single woman in her circumstances, she's a fun character to read and her banter with Mrs Amanda Reynolds was verging on the flirtatious and was entertaining to read and added an extra dimension to her character. I also loved Harry, and his easy way of speaking with Beatrix.

Final Thoughts

This book isn't perfect and could have done with some polishing butit was by no means bad, i didn't ever feel compelled to put it down and not finish it. i wanted to know what happened and i thought it had a very satisfying ending. I recommend this to readers who want a bit of a creepy spooky read.

Rating out of 5

3.5 stars out of 5

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Review: The Poppy and The Rose


 

Overview

The Poppy and The Rose by Ashlee Cowles is a Young Adult fiction about a teenage girl, Taylor Romano who goes to Oxford for a summer journalism program, following the death of her father who served in the US Army. Taylor is met by Maebelline Knight, a centenarian with a story to tell, who seeks Taylor out with an offer, but before Taylor can fully hear the offer Maebelline is dead and Taylor finds the memoir of Ava Knight, a relative of Maebeline who was on the Titanic when it sank. 

The book is told in alternating chapters, the story of Taylor as she tries to figure out the mystery her father left behind in the form of a photograph of himself with another woman, and the story of Ava Knight, told through her memoir that Taylor is reading. 

Plot

Taylor Romano leaves her mother in America and travels to Oxford to participate in a journalism program, but really she's there to discover why her father went to England and met another woman without telling Taylor or her mother. 

Ava Knight is a young heiress who is boarding the Titanic with her father. Ava hasn't yet told her father that she plans to start a new life in the U.S. by showing a renowned female photographer her photographs and hoping to learn from the photographer. Ava is escaping a complicated home life, a mother with a laudanum addiction, and a distant father who is studying the budding discipline of Psychology. 

When Taylor arrives in England she is met by Mae and her driver, who convince Taylor to have tea with them the following day, but when they arrive, Mae is dead and Taylor becomes embroiled in a race to figure out what happened to Mae, while reading Ava's memoir, as it seems the two are inextricably linked though they are separated by a century. 

Characters

This book has a relatively small cast of characters for most of the plot, consisting of Taylor, Ava, Giles the butler, and the chauffeur (who actually has a rather large role, but is such a boring character that I can't actually remember his name). 

Other characters included Ava's father, and the enigmatic psychic woman who appears to be seducing Ava's father all while telling Ava that the voyage is doomed, as well as the one eyed Serbian soldier who coerces Ava into following the psychic to find out what she knows about the impending conflicts in the Balkans. Confused yet? So was I, but I promise you it does all end up making sense... Sort of. 

Writing

Taylor's chapters are honestly largely forgettable, I didn't feel emotionally connected to her quest to figure out who her father was with in the photograph and when that particular mystery was solved I was pretty meh about the answer. The writing of Taylor's chapters was full of cliches about the English, and she reads as a very young, immature teenager who threw a tantrum and left her mother while she fled to England to solve a "mystery". 

Ava's memoir was amazing. The difference in the way they were written was like night and day, if I could have read a whole book about Ava, her family and her journey on the Titanic I would. I found the plot of the whole book a bit slow up until the 50% mark when we really got into the details of Ava's voyage and what happened on the night of the sinking. From the 60% mark I didn't stop reading until I finished the book and parts of Ava's memoir made me sob. The inclusion of historical figures and names I recognised made it all the more captivating and it was clear that Cowles had done a lot of research about those individuals and had created a place for them in her novel that was well thought out and planned. 

Ava's recounting of the sinking of the Titanic was moving and at times I felt the panic she wrote about as the ship sank. It was truly phenomenal writing. 

What I Didn't Love

As I said, I didn't love Taylor's chapters, and I especially didn't like the resolution to her mystery. Her character felt immature, underdeveloped and like she was simply a vehicle for the story of Ava, Taylor's chapters are basically the reader reading about a character reading a memoir, which is about as fascinating as it sounds. Watching someone read isn't exactly riveting stuff and Taylor's bratty, unsympathetic attitude toward her mother who became a widow and found evidence of her deceased husband's supposed infidelity was pretty terrible to read. 

What I Loved

Ava. Ava is a kickass character who while she is bratty and spoiled in her own way, really rises to the occasion in a time of crisis and I loved reading about how she handled the sinking of the Titanic and the subsequent reveal of a lot of traumatic events in her life. Her memoir was beautifully written and emotive. I definitely cried towards the end of her memoir section and felt utterly connected to her character in a way that surprised me considering the first half of the book dragged for me. 

Final Thoughts and Rating

Ashlee Cowles has written a solid historical fiction with a mystery twist that I would recommend to fans of historical fiction and particularly the history of the Titanic. I gave The Poppy and the Rose 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

REVIEW: Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley's Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter


Overview

Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley's Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter is a graphic novel written by Brea Grant and illustrated by Yishan Li.

The Plot

Mary is the Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter of Mary Shelley, the author of the Gothic horror novel Frankenstein. Mary's family are all writers, following in the first Mary's footsteps. (This Mary thing does get a bit confusing doesn't it? But I promise the graphic novel does a much better job than I am!).
The youngest Mary is a high school student who is failing biology and has no interest in writing. She butts head with her mother who insists that all Shelley women are authors and that the youngest Mary will find her story when she's ready. 
Things get a bit topsy turvy the day Mary is supposed to be dissecting a frog in biology class and her frog appears to get up and hop away despite being very dead moments before. From there Mary discovers her true gift is helping people and some not so human creatures too. 

The Writing/Art style 

With a graphic novel I often find it hard to review the writing because due to the nature of the novel there's not much writing, but I will say that Grant manages to create impact, emotion, and fascination with the story with very few words. Her characters all have very unique voices and no two characters seem like cardboard cut outs of the other. Grant accomplishes so much in so few words that the emotional impact of the story has carried with me since I finished reading it a month ago. 

The art style is gorgeous, I received this book as an ARC from netgalley, and it was a digital copy, so the art style was probably not as well rendered as it will be in the final book, which just blows my mind, because the art in the ARC was stunning. Yishan Li is a phenomenal artist and I will be looking for more of her work in the future. I really loved the gothic tone and the darkness in the artwork, and the way the artwork paired perfectly with the words written by Grant. Li and Grant make a formidable duo. 

The Characters

So, this is where it does get a bit confusing because of the name Mary. There's young Mary (who is the protagonist and the Great (x5) granddaughter of the Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein. 
Young Mary lives with her mother, two aunts and her grandmother, all of whom are in some way connected with the OG Mary in terms of their career. One aunt is a historian who writes biographies about OG Mary and Young Mary's mother writes murder mysteries and is quite well known in her own right. Each character is well developed and has a unique personality that shines through in very few lines of dialogue and in Young Mary's internal monologue. The whole cast of characters is small but each personality shines through incredibly well and each individual character makes you like them in their own right. 

The Atmosphere/Setting

This comes back to mostly the art style, as it's a very visual experience (duh, it's a graphic novel). The Gothic nature of the art, coupled with the short punchy sentences create an atmosphere of gloom and uncertainty which calls back to Young Mary's uncertainty about her calling in life. The art was gorgeous and made me want to immediately find more of Yishan Li's work and bask in it. An incredibly well done, written and drawn setting in which I became fully immersed in 144 pages, no mean feat considering I usually love longer books that spend a lot of time on setting and backstory. 

The Good

One of my favourite parts of this graphic novel was the call backs to Frankenstein that are sprinkled throughout the story, the not so dead frog, the introduction of a character called Adam (an undead young man who Young Mary finds quite fascinating) and the other mythical creatures that are so easily written in and make you believe in them in some way (shout out to the Loch Ness Monster). Again, the art style is fabulous and immersive and I need more of it in my life. 

The Not so Good

Honestly, there's not a lot to criticise here. I do think that in the first quarter of the story there's a lack of explanation as to what happens to Young Mary and the reader could be a bit confused when she suddenly starts helping people, human and not so human, but it was easy to pick up the thread after a few pages and I was immediately reimmersed in the story and eager to turn the page and find out what happened next.

Final Thoughts

I loved this graphic novel. I was obviously reading an ARC which means that this wonderful piece has not yet been released as of the time I'm writing this (August 2020) but I was already looking online for news of a sequel which tells you something. If you like gothic literature, graphic novels and history, pick this book up ASAP. 

Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley's Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter comes out on October 6th 2020. 

The Searcher by Tana French

This review contains spoilers in the "BAD" section, I'm also adding a trigger warning for misgendering of a person and queer b...