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Review: The Killer You Know by A.M. Taylor

Review: The Killer You Know by A.M. Taylor

The Killer You Know centres on Olivia Hall’s attempts to exonerate her brother Ethan. He’s spent the last ten years in jail for the murder of their classmate Tyler Washington. Tyler was the mayor’s son, about to go to college on a sport’s scholarship and naturally one of the most popular kids in their school. Olivia’s friend Daniel suggests that Olivia have Ethan’s story investigated by one of the hottest crime podcasts. If anyone can find out the truth, they can.

The story progresses through two narratives. In the present day we move forward towards the conclusion of the podcast season, while in the past we hurtle backwards from Ethan’s trial to the night of the murder. Olivia’s experiences are brought to life, especially as the ‘past’ is in present tense. We’re there with her as she watches her brother go to jail for something he didn’t do. Her pain feels very real.

As well as the interesting narrative structure, Taylor has created a sense of duality through the three pairs of siblings caught up in the case. There’s Ethan and Olivia, Morgan and Tyler and orbiting further away are sisters Reid and Spencer. The contrast between the experiences of siblings is a key theme in the novel. Morgan is pregnant with her first child, Tyler died in the woods as little more than a child.

Most importantly though, Olivia and Ethan are both likeable protagonists. Olivia’s attempts to save her brother are admirable and watching her interact with podcasters Kat and Ray her care for Ethan is evident. Seeing the inner workings of how a true crime podcast might come together was fascinating for me, as someone who has yet to watch podcasts at all. After this novel I might have to give one a go!

The story itself is also very topical, reflecting on issues that are at the forefront of public consciousness in 2019. This did, however, make the ending very predictable from the opening chapters. I would have liked the novel to continue for a few more pages to give a slightly more satisfying conclusion though.

The Killer You Know is not so much a who-dunnit but a refreshing twist on the usual story progression of crime novels. Innocence and guilt aren’t the key themes here.

What matters to Olivia and the reader is freeing Ethan and discovering the truth behind that night – what kind of person was Tyler Washington? How about his friends?

I’d recommend this novel to anyone looking for something a little different from your usual crime novel. The Killer You Know’s youthful protagonists and podcast creation focus made it a novel I loved.

Coming 12th July from Harper Impulse and Killer Reads!

I was provided with a free e-copy of this novel by NetGalley in exchange for my honest review, thank you to them and the publishers for the opportunity to read this thrilling tale.

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Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

When I received a copy of My Lovely Wife I had no idea what to expect. The blurb was deliciously vague, only letting readers know that the couple had secrets.

I initially set out to read just a chapter or two before bed but instead found myself tearing through the pages. Over a hundred pages passed before I could bear to put the book down. This morning I finished it.

With a hint of Netflix sensation You, the opening chapters drew me straight in. A man who purposefully meets women at bars? Maybe a little seedy but nothing awful, right. But what if one of those women turns up dead? He’s a little more suspicious now….

I’m going to avoid telling you any more about the plot, as I think that might spoil the adventure.

The characters weren’t likeable. This isn’t a book about good people doing bad things. It is a book about bad people doing bad things, at least in my opinion. There was something endearing about that though. There was no trying to hide from reality.

The husband, our narrator, is a tennis coach. His wife an estate agent. The story of their first meeting is adorable and their life seems pretty perfect at first glance. Two children, a gorgeous house in a gated community.

But what could possibly go wrong?

You’ll have to read this for yourself to find out!

My Lovely Wife will be published in May 2019.

Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin UK (Michael Joseph) and Samantha Downing for the opportunity to read My Lovely Wife in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: Opposite of Always by justin a. reynolds

Review: Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

Opposite of Always made me nostalgic for my teen years. 

I’m the kind of person who re-reads books over and over again. Opposite of Always reminds me of a book that I read until the pages nearly fell out, Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall. Both books deal with a character reliving a death… although in this case it is the death of Jack’s love Kate that is trying to be avoided.

Jack meets Kate on a college visit and falls head over heels in love. And then she dies.

When he wakes up before they ever met he has the chance to put things right. Save her. This novel shows his attempts to be the hero and find a way back to the young woman he met on the stairs at a party.

This novel had a lot of positives. Jack is a funny and likeable character, with a supporting cast of great friends. His friend Franny’s dad, The Coupon, is in prison. I really appreciated reading a novel where the characters surrounding the main character are more than just Back-Up 1 and Back-Up 2.

 

The way Jack interacts with the central premise is also really fun. He doesn’t just presume that the only path available to him is to stay in a relationship with Kate. It might be possible to save her in another way…

The diversity rep in Opposite of Always was also really impressive, both in terms of the representation of people of colour and the discussion of health conditions. I learnt about sickle cell anaemia in this novel, a condition which I didn’t really understand about before.

There were a few aspects that I found frustrating though. The relationship between Jake and Kate is explained much better in some of the later iterations. I have a better sense for why they care so much for each other, whereas in the first go around I do question a little what made Kate seem a better choice than Jillian – the girl Jake has known for years. I also felt that some parts of the book dragged a little and wonder if it would have been a little snappier if it had been shorter.

How did I feel about the ending? That’s a trickier question! I am curious to see how other readers find the conclusion to Jack and Kate’s story.

My overall rating, 4.5/5, reflects the fact that I know that teenage me would have jumped up and down in joy for this book. Figuratively, at least! It gives me the same feeling that the books I used to love back then did, allowing me to escape my worries and fears for a little bit.

Jack and Kate: a teen romance for the post-millennial generation.

Thank you to NetGalley, Pan Macmillan and Justin A. Reynolds for the opportunity to read in exchange for my honest review.

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Review: Voices by David Elliott

Review: Voices by David Elliott

This is one of the most unusual books I’ve had the pleasure to read in a very long time. The tale of Joan Arc, hero and martyr, is one I’ve heard only in children’s history books a very long time ago. I’ve studied History at university for four years, including a smattering of French history, but never encountered The Maid. I have a sense that this verse novel might set young people on a course of discovery, learning more about the past and the women who inhabited that faraway place. 

In Voices, we follow Joan in her final hours before her execution, as she narrates her journey from countryside maid to heroine (and back down towards her doom). There are interjections from the king and also poems from the perspective of her sword and other vital objects. Some of these additional poems felt a little gratuitous, but overall they added rather than detracted from her story.

The writing was beautiful and I found myself bookmarking many passages within the short book to re-read later. If this had been a paper copy I would have found myself highlighting and folding over pages too.

From an academic perspective, one of the most impressive aspects of this book was something I only encountered upon reading David Elliott’s author’s note at the close of the book. I had no idea that the poetic forms mirrored those that were actually in use in medieval France and can imagine that was quite tricky to execute.

This short, but perfectly formed, poetic exploration of the Joan of Arc will be published in March 2019. Check it out!

Thanks to NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group and David Elliott for the opportunity to read this book.

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Review: Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

Review: Not Her Daughter

If you saw a woman verbally and physically abusing her child while no-one stopped it, what would you do?

This terrible dilemma is the basic premise of Rea Frey’s showstopping Not Her Daughter. Most people would perhaps let someone official know, or just stand by and avert their eyes, but Sarah refuses to do that. Frey’s stunning characterisations mean that the businesswoman’s choice doesn’t appear crazy or criminal, just horrifically misguided. When Sarah ‘rescues’ five year old Emma, it seems like it could almost be the right choice.
Throughout this novel, as we flip back and forth between the lives of Emma Townsend’s mother and the lady who kidnapped her, the complexity of motherhood is laid bare. I loved the use of third person for Amy, her real mother, and first person for Sarah. It meant that we subconsciously root for the kidnapper, an interesting twist.
Amy also has a story of her own to tell though. She’s had a hard life, feels trapped in her marriage, and has made plenty of mistakes of her own. Amy oozes regret and guilt. Her desperate attempt to find excitement through discovering her past lives demonstrated so clearly just how broken she is.
The use of ‘before’ and ‘after’ gave us insight into the lives of these women before everything went wrong. Sarah was highly successful, Amy unfulfilled. Sarah had recently left a long term relationship with a man who she had believed to be The One while Amy has a husband she hates. The contrast between them makes the conflict even more striking.

Sarah would be the perfect mother for an excitable young girl. But she isn’t — Emma is not her daughter. 

There were some plot threads I would have liked a little more detail on, such as why Ethan never proposed to Sarah, or what happens to Amy’s husband after the novel ends. By cutting those threads loose, though, Frey has constructed a world which feels just as real as our own.
A brilliant read that I devoured in two sittings.
Thank you to NetGalley, St Martin’s Press and Rea Frey for the opportunity to read this wonderful novel!
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To Kill a Kingdom Review

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Review

First things first, wow.

This book is my favourite of the year so far and I have a sneaky feeling that it might retain that position until December 31st!

It’s incredible. Definitely not what I was expecting when I started reading either.

The novel follows a prince and a siren as they try and achieve their competing goals: the death of the prince and the death of the siren. Of course, as they get to know each other, things start to change. One of the best aspects of this book was its dual narrative, although some of the changes in narrator were slightly confusing. Usually books with two narrators put me off but this time, though Lira was my favourite, I enjoyed both sides to the story.

Every other mermaid/siren book I’ve read has turned the stuff of legend into weak-willed characters. Not To Kill A Kingdom. Even when she is forced onto land, Lira can certainly not be called weak. The depth of the characterisation in this book was wonderful. I would have happily read hundreds of pages more about their journey together.

For me, the one weakness of this book lay also in its strengths. The author knew when the story was told and the book ends accordingly. It was almost a little too abrupt, the ending, as I wanted to know more about what comes next. How all of the characters react to new situations and changes to their lives.

Although, of course, leaving you wanting more is a sign of a very good book indeed!

Having flown through this book in an evening, I’m excited to read this author’s next books. Thank you to NetGalley and Bonnier Zaffre for the opportunity to read To Kill A Kingdom.

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To Kill a Kingdom Review

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
Review

First things first, wow.

This book is my favourite of the year so far and I have a sneaky feeling that it might retain that position until December 31st!

It’s incredible. Definitely not what I was expecting when I started reading either.

The novel follows a prince and a siren as they try and achieve their competing goals: the death of the prince and the death of the siren. Of course, as they get to know each other, things start to change. One of the best aspects of this book was its dual narrative, although some of the changes in narrator were slightly confusing. Usually books with two narrators put me off but this time, though Lira was my favourite, I enjoyed both sides to the story.

Every other mermaid/siren book I’ve read has turned the stuff of legend into weak-willed characters. Not To Kill A Kingdom. Even when she is forced onto land, Lira can certainly not be called weak. The depth of the characterisation in this book was wonderful. I would have happily read hundreds of pages more about their journey together.

For me, the one weakness of this book lay also in its strengths. The author knew when the story was told and the book ends accordingly. It was almost a little too abrupt, the ending, as I wanted to know more about what comes next. How all of the characters react to new situations and changes to their lives.

Although, of course, leaving you wanting more is a sign of a very good book indeed!

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Reading Regularly – Books 8 to 11

8) The Taming of the Queen by Philipa Gregory
An exciting look at one of Henry VIII’s most neglected queens, that had some scenes that really made me question the characterisation of Henry VIII that we see in most fictional portrayals today.

9) The Fall by Claire McGowan
Beautifully written, starts off so strong but in the end brought only disappointment after hours spent frantically tearing through the pages to reach the end as quickly as possible.

10) Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal
A really intriguing idea that felt like it could have been so much more, but made for an enjoyable, if bittersweet, read anyway.

11) The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett
Featuring thinly veiled North East landmarks like Barter Books, this is a book that I really enjoyed and look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

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Reading Regularly 2017: Book 7 [Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan]

Wow. This one was a real shocker for me. I bought it on a whim, after realising that out of the mountain of books I’ve bought this year there wasn’t really anything I was desperate to read. It was chosen because it seemed like the least ‘middle class family in crisis’ crime novel, as I’m really sick of those, and because it was just £3.85 and had a Sunday Times bestseller announcement on the front.

This book really impressed me because every twist and turn was perfectly orchestrated and while it was possible to guess what was coming around half way through, the way it was put together kept you turning the pages. I started reading it in the middle of the afternoon yesterday and by the time I went to bed — much later than I would have liked to — it was done.

Definitely recommend this one.

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