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Two O’Clock Boy (DI Ray Drake #1) – Mark Hill

Published September 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘A fantastic debut: dark, addictive and original. I couldn’t put it down
Robert Bryndza, author of The Girl in the Ice

Discover the gripping, twist-filled start to a fantastic new London-set crime thriller series starring morally corrupt DI Ray Drake – the perfect new addiction for fans of LUTHER. 

TWO CHILDHOOD FRIENDS… ONE BECAME A DETECTIVE… ONE BECAME A KILLER…

Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children’s Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home’s manager.

Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis’ favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O’Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it take to stop the murders – but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

What did I think?:

Two O’Clock Boy (also published as His First Lie) was a very welcome discovery for me on Netgalley after I had heard a little bit of buzz about the author so thank you so much to Little, Brown publishers for approving my request and apologies it has taken so long for me to get round to reviewing it! The author, Mark Hill has previously worked as a journalist and an award-winning music radio producer and now he can add another string to his bow because he is without a doubt, an accomplished crime fiction author. The first book in the DI Ray Drake series is filled with drama, betrayal, dark secrets and lies and it’s one of those delicious narratives that keeps you on tenterhooks throughout, always teasing just a little bit but never giving too much away until the final, cataclysmic showdown where all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle finally fall into place.

Mark Hill, author of Two O’Clock Boy/His First Lie.

This startlingly good debut novel incorporates two separate time periods. The first, is set at Longacre Children’s Home in the 1980’s where a group of children were terrorised, used and brutally victimised by the manager, Gordon Tallis. In the present time, our male lead, DI Ray Drake, a widower with a rather interesting past of his own has just promoted one of his members of staff, Flick Crowley. He insists she should take the lead in the next murder case they happen upon, where almost an entire family is butchered to death in the most horrific way. However, he is not prepared for what Flick will discover as she starts to investigate the suspicious deaths. It all harks back to Longacre and the abuse that happened in the home in the 80’s, with one maverick murderer appearing to be targeting every single one of the individuals that were present at that moment in history. As Flick gets closer to the truth, DI Ray Drake must do everything possible to try and steer her away from it – for very intriguing reasons of his own.

London provides the setting for Two O’Clock Boy/His First Lie.

Two O’Clock Boy was such a pleasant surprise that has made me so keen to read further books in the series. I think you might instantly expect with all crime fiction/thriller novels to have a fast-paced plot and unexpected twists and turns but for some reason, this novel felt really different and unique. If I could compare it to anything, I might compare it to Tana French who I feel writes crime novels with a bit of a literary edge and her stories are quite slow-burning, which you take a while to become invested in but once you do, it’s thoroughly worth the effort. The similarity with Mark Hill is the slow-burning element to the narrative and how it seems to be much more focused on getting to know the characters intimately, flaws and all (which I always appreciate in a novel!).

However he does differ in that there are darker moments of the narrative, particularly those scenes set in the children’s home, which although they are never gratuitous, still leave you feeling slightly uncomfortable and a bit uneasy. Stories about child abuse are NEVER going to be nice to read about but the author deals with the topic intelligently and sensitively and I was compelled throughout, transfixed by both the characters and the plot and never sure what exactly was going to happen next. As I’ve alluded to, our characters are far from perfect, including our male lead Drake who has secrets from his past and in the present, a very difficult relationship with his teenage daughter. I didn’t always agree with his actions in both time periods and at times, did want to shake him for the way he acted and treated people close to him, particularly his new Detective Sergeant, Flick Crowley. Nevertheless, I found his flaws, misdemeanours and difficulties were what made him so hugely interesting, relatable and readable in addition to the multitude of other characters we also meet from all different walks of life that all have their own individual personalities and quirks.

This is an exciting and brilliant debut novel from Mark Hill and sets him up as a force to be reckoned with in the British crime fiction genre. I for one can’t wait to read the second in the series, It Was Her that sits on my Kindle already, just begging to be started!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill was the forty-fourth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

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The Good Son – You-jeong Jeong

Published May 30, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Talented Mr. Ripley meets The Bad Seed in this breathless, chilling psychological thriller by the bestselling novelist known as “Korea’s Stephen King” 

Who can you trust if you can’t trust yourself?

Early one morning, twenty-six-year-old Yu-jin wakes up to a strange metallic smell, and a phone call from his brother asking if everything’s all right at home – he missed a call from their mother in the middle of the night. Yu-jin soon discovers her murdered body, lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs of their stylish Seoul duplex. He can’t remember much about the night before; having suffered from seizures for most of his life, Yu-jin often has trouble with his memory. All he has is a faint impression of his mother calling his name. But was she calling for help? Or begging for her life?

Thus begins Yu-jin’s frantic three-day search to uncover what happened that night, and to finally learn the truth about himself and his family. A shocking and addictive psychological thriller, The Good Son explores the mysteries of mind and memory, and the twisted relationship between a mother and son, with incredible urgency.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Grace Vincent and Little, Brown publishers for providing me with a digital copy of this astounding novel from “the Korean Stephen King,” in exchange for an honest review. When Grace first emailed me and I read the comparison to King above, well of course I had to have it! As a die-hard Constant Reader (King fan) anything that is compared to my all-time favourite author, I have to check out. Now, I normally hate comparisons to other books or authors but this one I didn’t mind so much. I think because it was compared to King and my expectations are astronomically high when it comes to him, I was too curious to see how You-jeong Jeong would measure up. And did she? Well, I would say absolutely yes. However, I feel like her novel stood completely on its own as a twisted, dark tale that wasn’t reminiscent of King’s work in my opinion, but a great example of a unique author with an individual, quirky style.

You-jeong Jeong, author of The Good Son

I don’t want to go too deep into the synopsis as I believe the one above taken from Goodreads describes this novel more than adequately without me giving any more detail. In fact, this is one of those books where you’ve got to be incredibly careful exactly what you say, because you could be giving away major spoilers. However, never fear, I’m not one to be doing that and I will be as deliberately vague as possible. Set in South Korea, we have our unreliable narrator, Yu-jin who finds his mother’s lifeless body at the bottom of the stairs in his house and has no memory of the previous nights events, apart from going running late at night. Our male lead has suffered with seizures and memory loss for as long as he can remember and although he is on tablets that are meant to control/stop his episodes, he goes for periods where he doesn’t take them at all as taking the medication gives him debilitating headaches. As the narrative continues, we get glimpses into Yu-jin’s childhood and the present day as he attempts to remember what happened to his mother as ever so slowly, the memories start trickling back.

South Korea, where our story is set.

I was very worried about writing this review but I’m relieved to realise that as soon as I sat down, everything I wanted to say (without giving away major spoilers) just managed to flow (PHEW!). I was hugely impressed by this novel and it’s one that has continued to stay with me, despite having read it a few weeks ago now. I think this is for a number of reasons – first, the unreliable narrator, secondly, the brutality of the story and thirdly, the multiple surprises that are round every corner. The way in which the information is fed to you by the author is nothing short of spectacular and you become desperate to discover exactly what’s going on in Yu-Jin’s head and what has occurred in his past to get him to the situation in which he finds himself at the beginning of the story. It’s not a story for the faint-hearted, I have to say. There is violence, graphic and shocking details of this violence and characters that crawl under your skin, give you goosebumps and make you shiver.

This novel starts as a slow burner but please don’t let that put you off. You-jeong Jeong expertly builds and weaves all the necessary parts of this jigsaw puzzle of a story piece by piece. This is absolutely necessary in my opinion to construct a tense and creepy atmosphere where you’ll be glad certain characters in this story exist only in this book, it’s that terrifying.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

 

Blog Tour – The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Published April 27, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

What did I think?:

The debut novel from author Lisa Ko has already got a lot of attention and immediately pricked up my interest. As mentioned above it has already had the honour of becoming the winner for the 2016 PEN/Bellweather Prize for fiction and it was also a finalist in the prestigious National Book Award. Then when Oprah’s Book Club called it “imperative reading,” I knew I had to seek this book out as soon as it was published over here in the UK. You can imagine how delighted I was when this book ended up finding me! The lovely Grace Vincent from Little, Brown publishers invited me to take part in this blog tour celebrating the book’s release and kindly coordinated sending over a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Being completely honest, this book took me a little while to get into. However, I’m not sure if that was a personal thing (as I was on holiday at the time and had multiple distractions to tear me away). Nevertheless, as soon as I forced myself to read fifty pages without stopping or looking up, by the end of this time, I was irrevocably caught up in the fascinating story of both Peilan Guo, a Chinese-born young woman who is compelled to escape overseas to America as a young woman whilst pregnant with her first child, fearing both the strict Chinese regulations about pregnancy, desperate not to get married to the father of the baby and her constant feelings that things are missing from her life.

This story is also about Peilan’s son, Deming Guo, the relationship between the mother and son and how this changes mainly due to two major events. This includes Peilan having to send Deming back to her father so that she can make enough money to pay off a huge amount borrowed from a loan shark just to get over to America. He comes back to her when he is old enough to go and school and little by little he slowly manages to trust and respect her as his mother. Then something horrendous happens when Deming is a little older. Peilan goes to work one day and never returns. There are rumours that she has left Deming and all her friends, including her partner, Leon and has no plans to return. Deming ends up fostered to a white American couple, Peter and Kay who try to be loving parents towards him but cannot fit the huge hole Deming has in his heart where he, like his mother, also feels like he cannot fit in or succeed in life anywhere he might go.

I’m going to stop there as I don’t want to give too much away but I have to stress how much I enjoyed this novel once I really got into the meat of the narrative. Of course, Deming and Peilan were the real stars of the show but I also enjoyed the background appearances of Leon, his sister Vivian and her son Michael whom Deming lives with when his mother is still there and for a short while before she disappears. I don’t think I’ve read too many books about the immigration experience (although I am aware of some I should definitely get to), but this novel really opened my eyes about the struggles these poor people have, the choices they are forced to make, the conditions they might live under and the little prospects they face for the future if they make a bad decision.

I was furious at Peilan at the start for abandoning her son, especially when you see how much pain Deming goes through as a teenager and then a young adult. He thinks if he does certain things in his present, his mother might return to him. Then, on the other hand, he thinks he has obviously done bad things in his past to push her away to never return. However, things are not always as they seem and it was fantastic to read a novel with not only a dual narrative but that skips around time periods, just to give a sweet little taster of what might be happening until the final difficult details all come out. This was an illuminating with at some points, heart-breaking passages that has made me appreciate the suffering of immigrants a whole lot more. It made me wish we could have a whole re-think of the system, here and abroad – this is especially topical as to what is going on in the news at the moment and I have a new found respect for anyone just trying to make a better life for themselves and their family.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5)

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

I’m the author of THE LEAVERS, a novel that won the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction and was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award in Fiction. Set in New York and China, THE LEAVERS follows one young man’s search for his mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant who disappears when he’s 11 years old, after which he is adopted by a white family. It’s the story of one mother and her son: what brings them together and takes them apart.

I’m a believer in the long game: I started writing stories when I was 5 years old and published my first book at 41.

Find Lisa on her Goodreads page at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15053129.Lisa_Ko

on her website at: http://lisa-ko.com

and on Twitter @iamlisako

Thank you once again to Grace Vincent and Little, Brown publishers for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Leavers was published on the 26h April 2018 by Dialogue Books and will be available as both a paperback and an e-book. If you fancy some more information don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!

Link to The Leavers on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30753987-the-leavers?ac=1&from_search=true

Link to The Leavers on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Leavers-Winner-Bellweather-Prize-Fiction/dp/0349700524/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524767801&sr=8-1&keywords=the+leavers

Tangerine – Christine Mangan

Published March 20, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Little, Brown publishers for getting in touch with me via email and secondly, for allowing me to read an advance reading copy from this exciting new voice in crime fiction via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. As this book is released today (happy publication day!) I have seen relatively few reviews of it knocking around but comparison to Patricia Highsmith and Donna Tartt is never a bad thing and made me very keen to check it out and see if it stood up to the hype. It does, without a question. Tangerine is one of the most evocative and compelling debut thrillers I’ve had the pleasure to come across and it managed to lift me right out of a massive reading slump so of course, I thank the author for that! I also thank Christine Mangan for providing such a fascinating plot, interesting characters and although the reader is aware fairly soon what is happening in the novel, nothing can be taken for granted purely because of the unreliability of our narrators.

As with most thriller novels, I don’t want to give too much away but I’ll try to give you the bare bones of the synopsis if I can. This is the story of Alice Shipley who is living in Tangier, Morocco with her husband in unfortunately quite an unhappy marriage where she is forced to turn a blind eye to his numerous faults. The match was loosely arranged as very much one of convenience by her Aunt, who also happens to be her only guardian after Alice’s parents were killed in an accident. One day, an old college friend, Lucy Mason turns up unexpectedly on the doorstep of Alice’s apartment in Tangier and although in some ways, Alice is happy to see her friend, it takes her right back to an incident many years ago that the friends have never really discussed or come to terms with. Alice is thrown right back into that close, intimate relationship with Lucy until her husband abruptly disappears which causes both women to start re-examining everything, including each other.

One of the best bits about this novel, as I alluded to in the first paragraph is the unreliability of our two female protagonists. Both Alice and Lucy have their own issues in the past and these issues have continued into their present and still haunt them on a daily basis. It reminded me a little bit of those heady days of adolescence female friendships when things could get a little intense – obviously rarely to the extreme, but does anyone else remember the ferociousness of those feelings? This is what Tangerine felt like to me. At certain points of the narrative, I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was going on, basically with the fragility of both girls let me just say, things could have gone either way. As things started to unravel, piece by piece, we began to get a very unnerving picture of what is happening and how it may turn out for each character and it’s absolutely gripping. I read this book in under forty-eight hours, I found myself hooked and appalled in equal measure and it became completely necessary to keep reading until I knew how it was all going to end. Christine Mangan is a fresh and exhilarating new talent in the world of crime fiction, I adored every minute of this and can’t wait to see what she writes next, I’ll definitely be watching out for it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Blog Tour – Force Of Nature (Aaron Falk #2) – Jane Harper

Published February 9, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?

What did I think?:

Well, this was a very pleasant surprise! Force Of Nature is the second book in Jane Harper’s Aaron Falk series, the first one being The Dry which I also had the privilege of being involved in the blog tour for so thank you once again to Kimberley Nyamhondera and Little Brown publishers for inviting me once more for the second book in the series. I have to admit, I approached this book with the same trepidation I always do for any follow up novel. I had enjoyed The Dry but had seen a few early reviewers saying that they had preferred it to this second offering. However, this just proves that everyone is their own person with their own individual tastes because I can say, hand on heart that I personally loved Force Of Nature even more! It’s a thrilling, white-knuckle ride of a book and one of those crime novels that you can really savour every moment whilst feeling quite bereft when it all ends.

Our main protagonist, Aaron Falk is back with a partner, Carmen and is investigating a financial crime of money laundering in a company managed solely by members of the same family. However, he becomes embroiled in quite a different sort of case when the woman assisting him (who works for the company), Alice mysteriously goes missing on a team building exercise with other work colleagues while hiking some notorious trails that have a rather murky history themselves. It is crucial for Aaron’s enquiries that Alice is found as she has some key information that will bring down the money launderers but of course, above all, Aaron is concerned for the woman’s safety. When the rescue teams struggle to find Alice, foul plays starts to be suspected. Especially when Aaron and Carmen dig a little deeper into the relationships between the work colleagues and find many dark secrets just waiting to be unearthed.

First of all, I adored the structure of this novel. In the present time, we see Aaron and Carmen struggling to discover what might have happened to their perfect informer Alice, and then in alternate chapters we go right back to the beginning of the expedition where there are five women about to set of on their adventure: Jill, Lauren, twins Beth and Breanna and of course, Alice. All women work together and from the very beginning, you can cut the tension in the air with a knife as there is already evidence of personal problems between many of the women. The reader knows at the very beginning that only four out of the five women return and two of them are injured so this is a tantalising little mystery that had me reading faster and faster to discover what exactly happened out there in the wilderness.

The characters are beyond perfect, all fleshed out completely with their own distinct personalities, agendas and perhaps strong reasons for feeling a little aggrieved? I loved all the unpicking of the many intricate relationships between the women which unfolded quite slowly as the narrative continues but with just enough bite to keep you guessing and keep you intrigued as you can almost taste the building of tensions within the group. With Force Of Nature, I am now an eager supporter of Jane Harper’s work and this is definitely a series I can see myself being invested in and reading instantly as each new novel is released.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the
2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the
2017 Indie Award Book of the Year and the 2017 Australian Book Industry
Awards Book of the Year Award. Rights have been sold in 27 territories
worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna
Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in
Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne. Force of Nature is Jane’s
second novel.

Find Jane on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/556546.Jane_Harper

on her website at: Janeharper.com.au

on Twitter at: @janeharperautho

Thank you once again to Kimberley Nyamhondera and Little Brown publishers  for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Force Of Nature by Jane Harper was published on the 8th February 2018 and is available from all good bookshops now. If you want some more fantastic reviews don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34275222-force-of-nature?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Force-Nature-author-Sunday-bestseller/dp/1408708205/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517762972&sr=1-1&keywords=force+of+nature+jane+harper

Force Of Nature by Jane Harper was the twelfth book in my quest to conquer Mount Everest in the Mount TBR Challenge 2018!

Girls On Fire – Robin Wasserman

Published January 15, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

This is not a story of bad things happening to bad girls. I say this because I know you, Dex, and I know how you think. I’m going to tell you a story, and this time, it will be the truth.

Hannah Dexter is a nobody, ridiculed at school by golden girl Nikki Drummond and bored at home. But in their junior year of high school, Nikki’s boyfriend walks into the woods and shoots himself. In the wake of the suicide, Hannah finds herself befriending new girl Lacey and soon the pair are inseparable, bonded by their shared hatred of Nikki. Lacey transforms good girl Hannah into Dex, a Doc Marten and Kurt Cobain fan, who is up for any challenge Lacey throws at her. The two girls bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live; unconcerned by the mounting discomfort that their lust for chaos and rebellion causes the inhabitants of their parochial small town, they think they are invulnerable.

But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it’s a secret that will change everything . . .

Starting – and ending – with tragedy, Girls on Fire stands alongside The Virgin Suicides in its brilliant portrayal of female adolescence, but with a power and assurance all its own.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Little, Brown publishers for sending me a copy of this extraordinary novel, Robin Wasserman’s first adult read, in exchange for an honest review. I had already read some reviews of this book prior to going in, obviously nothing with spoilers of course but I do like do get a certain flavour of what I’m about to read before I begin. So, I was prepared for it to be quite disturbing and fairly powerful but what I wasn’t prepared for is the emotions that it elicited from me. Oh my goodness, Robin Wasserman describes the frenzy of female adolescence in such an unsettling way – especially the intense nature of female friendships that are formed at that time. I remember myself being engaged in a few friendships like this (which ended up being disastrous) and recall all those occasionally bitter feelings when things don’t turn out quite the way you want it to and you feel you’ve lost a piece of your soul along the way.

Girls On Fire follows an impassioned female friendship in the 90’s between two teenage girls, Hannah Dexter (who becomes Dex) when she bonds with new girl Lacey over their hatred of Queen Bee and notorious mean girl of the school, Nikki. Lacey changes quiet, good girl Hannah into a bit of a rebel in the way she dresses, her general attitude to herself and others and the way she behaves both in private and in public. They listen to Kurt Cobain together, tell each other (some of) their deepest secrets and get into a bit of trouble, all the while swearing to have each others backs forever. Alongside all this is the tragedy of Nikki’s boyfriend, Craig who was found dead in the nearby forest as a suspected suicide from a shotgun. Once all the dots are connected and certain secrets are unearthed, the fire and fury that are unleashed are incredibly dangerous for all parties concerned and reveals why adolescence can be one of the most vicious and frightening things you can go through, if you choose to go down the wrong path.

They had all been girls, once upon a time. If they were afraid now, of their girls, it was only because they remembered what it was like. Girls grew up; girls grew wild. Girls didn’t know themselves and the sharp-toothed needs breeding within, and it was a mother’s job not to let them.

This novel certainly packed a punch and I was overwhelmed by both the way the plot unfolded, piece by piece and how well we got to know our characters in the end. It is a tough read and certainly has very adult themes like suicide, satanism, drugs, sex, bullying so please be aware of that if you plan to read this and are sensitive to these subjects. For me, this was a gritty, no holds barred look at the terrible things that can happen in a person’s life if they are exposed to the wrong people or brought up in a certain way. A lot of our characters make stupid, awful mistakes but it’s quite hard to think of any of them as inherently evil….although, saying that, some things do come incredibly close to that barrier! It was quite a visceral reading experience for me as I was reminded of a couple of toxic friendships I’ve had in the past and it took me right back to certain awful decisions I made in a desperate need to please that girl who had become the most important person in my life at that time. Sad, but true and Robin Wasserman captures that horrible teenage angst, trauma of growing up and the ton of hormones flying left, right and centre to tell a fascinating story that I’m still thinking about quite a while after finishing it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Year One (Chronicles Of The One #1) – Nora Roberts

Published December 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

It began on New Year’s Eve.

The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated.

Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.

As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travelers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three infants in their care alive.

In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a savior, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

The end has come. The beginning comes next.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Clara Diaz and Little Brown publishers who approached me to read a copy of Year One, the first book in The Chronicles of The One series in exchange for an honest review. I’ve now read a couple of things by this author – the first I came to very late and that’s the forty-fourth (!!) book in the In Death series called Echoes In Death which she writes under the pseudonym J.D. Robb. The second was under her own name called Come Sundown and was a romantic yet very surprising read for me. When I read the synopsis of Year One, I accepted a digital copy very willingly, I’ve recently had a bit of a hankering for apocalyptic type fiction and with the added fantastical elements I was intrigued to see what Nora Roberts would do with the narrative. By and large, this is definitely a series I want to continue with. The vast myriad of characters, a fast paced plot and of course, the magical components held my attention throughout and I can’t wait to see how the story develops in future books.

So, as with many other stories in this vein, the substance that wipes out almost an entire population of humans is a virus, at first thought to come from birds after the first victim is traced back to a farm in Scotland. However, doubts are rising about where exactly this virus has come from and why it seems to enhance magical abilities in a chosen few. Trying to survive in the world becomes a dangerous prospect with raiders hell-bent on looting and violence, mindless of the hurt they cause to others in their efforts. There is also one strain of the magical folk (elves, fairies, shapeshifters, telekenetics etc) that have embraced the dark side and cause murder and mayhem when they attack both regular humans and the “good” magical people. Especially when one of the individuals that they are hunting becomes very special to them for something she carries with her.

As I mentioned there are a multitude of characters to get to grips with in this novel and on one hand, I loved this and embraced all the different personalities but there were occasions when I had to think to myself: “Okay, who’s this again?.” My favourites were probably the ones we hear most from – Lana, Max, Eddie and his dog Joe, Arlys, Fred, Rachel and Jonah and I enjoyed how they all had definitive roles in the story, from a paramedic and a doctor to a journalist, witches and a fairy – there was a real mishmash and variety of individuals that kept me intrigued throughout the novel. The world-building is pretty fantastic, I especially loved the scenes when our characters were on the run and when they had to face difficult situations (physical or emotional) as I felt I could really see their personalities come across more vividly during their struggles.

I may have had to suspend my disbelief occasionally as at points, some wonderful things like land, animals, gas, food etc just almost fell into their laps and in a real apocalyptic situation I doubt it would be that easy to be honest. There’s also a situation near the end of the book that I can’t really talk about for fear of spoilers but it took me a little while to come round to the idea, I felt it all happened a little too quickly considering what the character involved had been through. Apart from these very slight things, I hugely enjoyed this novel. I’m still so curious to discover more about the virus, about the magical qualities of the chosen few and what’s going to happen to the characters I’ve become quite attached to in the next book in the series. Looking forward to it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars