One of Us is Lying by Karen .M. McManus. Review 

One of Us is lying is the hotly anticipated new YA novel from Karen M McManus. The concept instantly intrigued me. Five students are all in detention when one of them dies. The other four are instantly under suspicion. One of the people in that room knows what happened but nobodies owning up. 


The novel is a very very easy read, not because of the subject matter or the writing style but because it’s so interesting. A murder mystery for teen readers. 


All of the students have a Secret which they wanted to keep quiet. There’s Nate who despite being on probation is still drug dealing. Bronwyn is super smart and heading for valedictorian or is she..? Cooper is the all star baseball player who goes out with the prettiest girl in school, but is she who he really wants to be with? And then there’s Addy, super pretty, popular and devoted to her boyfriend Jake but maybe being on the inside means she can’t see what’s going on. 


Simon ran a gossip app, like Gossip Girl but doubly as cruel and he had secrets about all of the others that they wouldn’t want to come out.  


The novel has plenty of twists and turns and suspicions jump from person to person so that even the reader doesn’t know who to trust. There’s the usual teen spats and bitchiness but with a darker undertone that I really loved. 


I really enjoyed this book, it was perfect in a very different way to the usual YA storylines. It was well written and all the characters were likeable and engaging. I really loved one of the relationships which developed along the way although I won’t say who it is though as I like to avoid spoilers. What I will say though is that I loved, loved, loved, this book and everyone should read it! 

Darien: Empire of Salt by CF Iggulden. Review 

CF Iggulden is better known for his historical writing under his real name Conn Iggulden. But this is a historical novel like no other. It blends history with fantasy, the real with the imagined and just a pinch of magic. 


The premise of the story is a city ruled by 12 powerful families with a weak king at their head. Many people out in the surrounding towns and villages, and even inside the city itself want a change. But only a few will act. 

Daw Threefold sees riches and destiny when he meets Nancy, more than just a fumble and a tumble, she has something about her which causes magic objects to fail. Daw has big plans for what they can do with this power but Nancy has plans of her own… revenge. 


Elias Post is an incredible hunter. Because he has a gift of his own. A gift he calls ‘reaching’ but it’s about to get him into trouble when General Justan of the immortal army gets wind of it and decides how he can use it. 


Then there’s Tellius who comes across a small boy who can mimick anything he sees perfectly. Tellius thinks to use him to his own advantage until they get into a scrape and the boy is revealed as not a boy at all but a Golem. 


Overall the novel was fairly fast paced. It changed direction quickly which was sometimes confusing as it switched to the different narratives of all the characters involved. I would have also liked to have seen more world building, other than the name of the city, the fact it has 12 families and that the people worship a goddess not much else was given on the world itself and where it is supposed to be set or even when. We also only meet characters from 3 of the 12 families and I’d have liked to have seen more about them. How did they get into power for example and why are they so important? Just their names would have been nice…

I think this book got off to a great start and I really enjoyed the first 50-65% of it. But as aforementioned it lacked too much in world building and also became very fighting strong. That’s not necessarily a criticism but I’m not that fussed on books with a lot of fighting for like 35% of the story. 

Overall, it was well written and plotted and I think fans of books about action and war with a little magic thrown in would really enjoy it. 

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Review 

I decided to purchase and read this book because I’d seen everyone talking about the Netflix series and I wanted to read it first. 

Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of a teenage girl called Hannah Barker who kills herself. A week later Clay Jensen a teen boy who loved Hannah receives a package on his doorstep containing a bunch of cassette tapes which Hannah recorded before her death, to provide Thirteen Reasons Why Hannah was driven to do what she did. 


For obvious reasons it’s a very emotive novel. Suicide, teen or otherwise is a trigger subject and very upsetting. I suppose I half expected it to be very dramatic, which it wasn’t. 

But wait… that’s not a criticism, far from it. As someone who was bullied all the way through high school I understand what this book is trying to say, and what I hope is that other people do too. I hope this book and for those who don’t read, this series, achieve what it has set out to do. That is, the way that things which some people perceive to be ‘small’ or insignificant things, can really affect other people’s lives. 


It highlights how bullying is more than just attacking people physically or verbally. How it can be small things like spreading a ‘little’ rumour, or stealing something which would have made that persons day. 


But what this book is also about, is the people left behind. There is a lot of focus on blame but also on the things that the person themselves could have done differently, the way that Hannah towards the end almost sets herself up to make her life as terrible as possible in order to finalise her decision. It explores the complexity of the depressed mind and how reason can go out of the window when life becomes so terrible and you feel so alone. How one chain of events can cause you to make a decision about ending your life. 


What I hope this book, and this series does is reminds people to be nice to other people because you don’t know how much that person needs just one smiling face in their day. 

Monster in the Closet by Karen Rose. Review 

I was really excited to receive an ARC of this novel as I love the Romantic Suspense series. 

Monster in the Closet is the 19th book in the Romantic Suspense series and the 5th in the Baltimore series. The Romantic Suspense series follows a makeshift family made up of a group of friends. There may be some spoilers here for the other books in the series but not this one, only because I can’t talk about any of the other characters without spoilers for previous books! 

We see old favourites in this novel such as Detective JD Fitzpatrick and his partner Lucy a medical examiner, who we were first introduced to in You Belong to Me. 

Paige Holden & Grayson Smith the private investigators from No One Left to Tell although they don’t feature heavily in this one. 

State attorney Daphne Montgomery & Special Agent Joseph Carter from Did you Miss Me? As well as Daphne’s son Ford. 

Clay Maynard & Detective Stevie Mazetti from Watch Your Back. 

Faith Corcoran & Special agent Deacon Novak from Cincinnati 1 Closer Than You Think. 

I love the way that Karen Rose expertly blends all of the characters into a relationship with each other. If you haven’t read the Romantic Suspense series before, each book focuses on one couple, how they get together and their romance, but alongside that runs a thriller element with a murder and the couple’s attempts to solve the murder and catch the killer. 


Monster in the Closet sees 2 children Jazzie & Janie in therapy at Daphne’s equine therapy centre. Their mother has been violently murdered and Jazzie hasn’t spoken since. But she’s finally opening up to the new intern therapist Taylor Dawson, but she’s got secrets of her own that she’s hiding and this is where the romance and suspense comes in. 


The difference with this one is that we know who the killer is right from the beginning and this creates an immediate frustration as we watch the characters attempt to discover who the killer is and gather evidence. 


Overall this was a great novel, picking up with the younger generation of the friend/family group. Once again it was fast paced and unputdownable and most importantly thoroughly enjoyable! 

The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen. Review. 

The Unseen is on the Man Booker Prize shortlist and attracted my attention because I like to read books about other countries & cultures. 

Set on a fictional island called Barrøy just off the coast of the mainland of Norway, it focuses on the family who lives there, also called Barrøy. There is Martin the grandfather still grieving the loss of his wife and struggling to come to terms with the shift of power as he becomes weaker and his son stronger. Hans, son of Martin is a sailor-cum-farmer who wants to make the island and their life better. Maria, his wife is distant and silent, with dreams of her own. Ingrid the daughter is confused, growing up unsure if her life should be as a girl helping her mother in the kitchen and knitting, or out helping her father & grandfather with the nets and fishing. Finally, there’s Barbro, sister of Hans who can’t move from the island over due to some kind of disability which prevents her from reading or learning as fast as the others. 


The novel is beautifully written and interesting. While nothing exactly dramatic happened in the book, well, depending on how you look at it. There is a calm serenity to the everyday life of the islanders. From the way they never exactly fit in with the mainlanders, to the way they struggle on lending, struggling through brutal winters and terribly dry summers. Sometimes the biggest drama is things like Hans not wanting a lighthouse to be built on the island. 


The intricacies of daily life are what make this novel truly fascinating. It’s no surprise it has been shortlisted for the prize. 

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill. Review 

As always Fiona Neill’s books have a way of gripping you from the get go. She writes about the simplest things, but also the most complicated. She writes about life, family life with all its everyday complications and The Betrayals is no different. 

Two families, brought together by friendship. Lisa and Rosie have been friends for years and when Lisa’s boyfriend Barney auditions for the same play as Nick, he gets introduced to Rosie and everything falls into place. Lisa and Rosie even give birth to their baby girls Ava and Daisy around the same time. It’s perfect. 

But things get complicated, after a disastrous holiday in Norfolk the two families are torn apart forever. 


Daisy is battling OCD, all of them have stressful jobs and are struggling to cope but there’s more going on in the background than meets the eye. 


Some may view this book as anti climatic but I think what it is, is realistic. Passion, fear, hate, fear of disaproval can all seem like huge things in our own minds. It’s easy to blame ourselves and fear it’s something we did that made everything go wrong, especially when you’re a child. That’s why this book has such an impact because it’s life inside our minds which is the truest and most scary place of all. 

Monthly Round Up

Introduction

Welcome to the first of my monthly round ups with the lovely Josh over at http://www.joshbates.co.uk. Each month we’ll be bringing you a collaboration like no other as we chat about the books we’ve read this month and what we’re looking forward to in the upcoming ones.

I became friends with Josh after we exchanged several emails when he interviewed me for his website. After a few conversations about what we both wanted from our sites it became apparent that it would make sense to run a project together, so here we are!

 

Leonie’s Wrap Up: 

This month I’ve read 20 books. Some good, some not so good, so without further ado, lets get into it!

Keys to the Kingdom seriesThe Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix 

The first books I read this month were the final 5 in The Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. Namely; Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday & Lord Sunday. They follow the story of a young boy called Arthur Penhaligon who unwittingly becomes the heir to The House at the centre of the universe. They’re really fun books to read and have a lot of magic & adventure in them. 


A Secret Garden by Katie Fforde was next on my list. I love Katie’s writing but didn’t really enjoy this one as much as usual. It follows two characters Lorna & Philly who discover a Secret Garden, and with it, true love. The romance was unfortunately a little dead in this one but I’m full of faith that Katie will pick up again in her next novel. 


The Bear & the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is a dark YA novel based on Russian fairytales. You can read my full review here: http://ow.ly/tzaU30bkrNC


Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott is an exciting new fantasty/sci-fi debut and you can get my full review here: http://ow.ly/O6Be30bks0v


Descent by Katie O’Sullivan is a fantasy tale about the son of a mermaid. You can get my full review here: http://ow.ly/ouVT30bkscQ


The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards is a crime thriller. Full review here: http://ow.ly/4egH30bksAM
The House by Simon Lelia is another crime thriller to tingle the spine. Full review here:  http://ow.ly/X1Q430bksOl 


Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty. Full review here: http://ow.ly/hi9H30bkt0m

Moroda by LL McNeil is a debut fantasy with fantastic world building. Full review here: http://ow.ly/C5V530bkt9z


A Mask of Shadows by Oscar De Muriel is the third in the Frey & McGrey series and you can check out my full review here: http://ow.ly/svoY30bkHTe


Caraval by Stephanie Garber could have been a lot better, I was expecting more from this but it lacked world and character building. Read my full review: http://ow.ly/x1NA30bkLpy


Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor is one of the best books I’ve read in a longtime. Not that I expected any less from the woman who brought us Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Read my review here: http://ow.ly/fOUC30bkLyJ
 


 Witch Child and Sorceress were my nostalgic reads for the month and so different when reading them back as an adult and understanding the themes and concepts more. You can read my review which talks a lot about the theme of race here:  http://ow.ly/EWqi30bl9aV


Locked In by Kerry Wilkinson is a book I started a couple of years ago and didn’t finish but my grandma loves the series and promises me it will get better so I’m persevering! I still wasn’t hugely impressed by Book 1 but we’ll see how I go… 


Blackbird & Still Waters by Jennifer Lauck were my recommended reads of the month and were recommended by my friend Sasha at work. They’re non-fiction true life stories and they were surprisingly enjoyable. Good quality writing and an interesting if heart wrenching storyline! 

This month I’m most looking forward to reading Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth & Wintersong by S Jae Jones. 

Don’t forget that if you’d rather watch my wrap up than read it, you can check out my April Wrap Up on my Booktube channel here: http://ow.ly/act530bl9Mu

  Intro:
Each month me and the lovely Leonie plan to write about our monthly book reads.

I became friends with Leonie after an exchange of e-mails during the process of writing an article about her for my blog. Please subscribe (if you haven’t already) to her wonderful channel here:

https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCs0_TWR_r0SPVlVdT7UV9hg

Josh’s Diary:

I’m quite a slow reader. It takes me a long time to read . But I didn’t do too badly this month. So let’s have a look at the books I read:


I started the month reading “Goldfish Boy” by Lisa Thompson. I’ve never cried so much reading a book before. It really touched me on so many levels. I liked every character in the book. The book covers the topic of family, friendship and hope. The messages in the book are very positive. A book about OCD sounds dark and heavy but Lisa Thompson writes on this subject with great insight, skill and sensitivity. Very highly recommended.


I then read “Call Me Sunflower” by Miriam Spitzer Franklin. It was an enjoyable read. I read the book in under a day. Children’s books are easy and simple to read. This book also touched on issues around identity, family and friendship.

The final two books – “Rez Runaway” by Melanie Florence and “School Monitor” by Alex Dunn didn’t impress me.


“Rez Runaway” tells the story of Seventeen year old Joe Littlechief who is raised on an Indian reserve. He lives with his Mother who is a devout christian. Joe makes a drunken pass at his best friend and he is driven out of the Rez. The frantic pace led me to feeling breathless and disoriented. Very Short chapters crammed in too much detail.


I found “School Monitor” by Alex Dunn very disturbing and unpleasant. The violent scenes ranging from punching, kicking, spitting and attempted drowning – made me feel sick. The messages and morals in the book seemed totally inappropriate. The ending was deeply unsatisfying.

Leonie introduced me to Netgalley this month. I also discovered some lovely bookish goodies which I might treat myself too soon.

Thanks for checking out our first Monthly Round Up, we hope you’ve been able to take something from our mini reviews either good or bad, and we look forward to sharing with you in the future! 

Lots of love 

Leonie & Josh 

Everyday issues, political and social issues, everyday feminism.