Tag Archives: NetGalley

Review of ‘Hold Back the Stars’ by Katie Khan

Thanks to NetGalley, Gallery and Doubleday for the ARCs of this book.

I really enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting in one day. It’s an incredibly easy read. The concept is basically ‘Gravity’ but with a beautiful love story at its heart. Carys and Max are two astronauts stranded in space with 90 minutes to live and very little chance of survival. Their love story is told in flashback over the course of the remaining minutes while they try to find a way to save themselves.

It’s heartwarming and romantic and exciting. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the last third of the book which imagines what life would be like for Max and Carys if one were to survive without the other. This felt a little bit like it was filling out what is quite a simple story. However, I really enjoyed the concept of the book, liked the characters and found the slightly futuristic setting of Europia very interesting.

Review of ‘How to Stop Time’ by Matt Haig

imageThanks to NetGalley and Canongate for the ARC of this book.

I think Matt Haig is a very talented writer. His books are immediately absorbing and they manage to combine fast-paced story-telling with thoughtful reflections on life and human nature.

‘How to Stop Time’ is a novel about how fear of the future stops us from living in the moment and how despite the fact that fear is sometimes justified we shouldn’t let it prevent us from living life to the fullest. It’s beautifully told and does not hammer home this message in a heavy-handed way, rather it is the pay-off to an engrossing story.

The novel follows Tom Hazard, a man who ages 15 times slower than normal humans and so is over 400 years old. His story is told in the present with flashbacks to his life over the past 400 years covering the loves he has lost and the pain living with the condition has caused.

I’ve come to realise that I love novels that play with the concept of time. It’s utterly fascinating and offers such interesting plot options. This book is another enjoyable addition to this tradition.

My one quibble with this book is that Tom encounters several famous people over his life including Shakespeare, Captain Cook and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is my one hang up with books about time; the protagonists always seem to be present at important moments of history and meet historical figures. This might be feasible for someone with the power to travel through time, but Tom does not have this power, he just loves longer, there’s no reason why that should give him the insight to be present at these events. It’s perfectly possible to live one’s whole life without meeting anyone famous. I rolled my eyes when Shakespeare turned up, it’s such a hackneyed trope to feature him in Elizabethan themed books. However, this is a very small point and did not spoil my enjoyment of the book.

I’d thoroughly recommend this and Haig’s other writing for people who enjoy good story-telling, thoughtful characters and reflections on life.

Review of ‘Plum’ by Hollie McNish

imageThanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for the ARC of this book.

I love love love Hollie McNish’s poetry. I thought that ‘Nobody Told Me‘ was an absolute masterpiece and I have really enjoyed reading ‘Plum’.

I love McNish’s point of view and wish my brain worked like hers. All her references resound with me and she perfectly puts into words thoughts and feeling I have had and makes me think more deeply about important issues. I love the train of feminism which runs through many of her poems and her poems on parenthood often bring me to tears. She is brilliant!

‘Plum’ is a collection of McNish’s poems cleverly interspersing current work with poems she wrote as a child and teenager. It’s a really thoughtful and entertaining read. I am so jealous that someone could be such a great poet aged 8!

I’d highly recommend this book to everyone.

Review of ‘What the Ladybird Heard on Holiday’ by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks

imageThanks to NetGalley and Pan MacMillan for the ARC of this book.

My 2 year old daughter loves Julia Donaldson books, the What the Ladybird Heard series is not her favourite but she does like reading them especially making the animal noises which feature. I read her the new book today, she was quite excited to see Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len again and asked to read it again straight after we’d finished but got bored a few pages into the second read.

I don’t think this is the best in the series. The action is transplanted from farm to zoo and the animal noises aren’t quite as appealing, although my daughter enjoyed the hyena laughing then crying. The initial set-up to the story is similar to the previous two books; the ladybird overhears Len and Hugh plotting to steal an animal and deploys the other animals to help her foil the criminals. I thought the plot in the second half of the book was a bit weaker, less clever, interesting and funny than the other two books and it probably won’t engage children as much as they do, but I imagine kids who like those books will like this. It’s definitely not as successful as Donaldson’s most popular other books like The Gruffalo and Stick Man.

Lydia Monks’s illustrations are colourful and appealing and my daughter enjoyed spotting the little ladybird on each page. The use of mixed media is interesting and a bit different.

Review of ‘Before the Fall’ by Noah Hawley

imageThanks to Hodder and Stoughton, Bookbridgr and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.

I was really excited to get the opportunity to read this book as I’ve enjoyed Noah Hawley’s TV work on Fargo and Legion. I think he’s a really talented storyteller and how on Earth does he find the time to work on so many quality projects?

This book did not disappoint. It’s a really well-written suspenseful story with strong treatises on wealth and how the media covers certain news stories. It’s rare for a page turner to take such strong standpoints on social issues and this brings depth to what could be a quite a lightweight story.

The novel starts with a private plane crashing into the sea with two survivors, a painter who hitched a lift at the last minute and the 4 year old son of the plane’s millionaire owner. The book follows these two characters, both of whom I really liked,  in the aftermath of the crash and highlights how they are treated by the investigating authorities and the media. It also relates the lead up to the crash from the perspective of each of passengers and crew members who died in the crash.

It’s very cleverly written let down only slightly by the final reveal of the reason why the plane crashed being a bit trivial and underwhelming. However, I may also have found it marred if it had revealed some big dramatic conspiratorial reason why the plane crashed. There was probably no completely satisfying ending to this kind of book. It’s often the case with whodunnit style books, the pleasure is in the reading rather than the ending which can never live up to all the possible conclusions you’ve imagined along the way.

I’d totally recommend reading this book and I’m looking forward to reading more of Hawley’s books in the future. I think I have The Good Father in my Audible library.

Review of ‘All Our Wrong Todays’ by Elan Mastai

cover97841-mediumThanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for the ARC of this book.

I absolutely love this book! It is without doubt the best book I have read in ages. I loved it from the first page and the rest of the book did not let me down.

The book follows Tom, a time traveller from an alternate reality who ends up in our timeline and needs to find a way to fix the world despite the fact that his life is much better in our world. It’s sounds silly and hokey when I describe it but it’s really not. It’s thrilling and exciting, complex, layered and just so much fun.

The writing is wonderful, it’s so easy to read. Mastai manages to take complicated time-travel related concepts and makes them make clear sense.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough; I’m certain it’s destined to be a modern classic.

Review of ‘Eligible’ by Curtis Sittenfeld

imageThanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins UK for the ARC of this book.

‘Eligible’ is a retelling of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in which the setting is transplanted to modern day Cincinnati. I’d forgotten this was the premise and so got quite a surprise when I started reading the book and was launched into a familiar description of the Bennet family. It was like putting on a snuggly warm jumper and settling down on a comfy sofa in front of a roaring fire to watch a favourite film you have seen a hundred times; utterly familiar and delightfully comforting.

I’m not entirely sure why it is necessary to rewrite classics in modern settings when people could just read the original novel. However, I did enjoy this book. Even though you pretty much know exactly how the story will play out it is still a fun read and is interesting to see how Sittenfeld masters some of the challenges of setting the story in the modern era. For example instead off eloping with a cad, Lydia elopes with a transgender man and the reason Jane and Bingley must get married so quickly after meeting is that it is part of a reality TV show.

The experience feels like reading a book when you’ve already seen the movie adaptation but the book’s slightly different from the film. Nothing is a surprise, but you can still derive enjoyment from it.

Probably the biggest challenge for Sittenfeld is making Elizabeth and Darcy’s relationship believable and desirable, because in this modern feminist era it should no longer be appealing to have a hero who is consistently rude and patronising to the heroine. I don’t think she quite pulls it off because she overcompensates by making Lizzy even ruder to Darcy; however it does help that in a modern setting the two characters are able to act on their sexual tension and start having sex long before they fall in love with each other. This is definitely a dynamic to their relationship which makes it seem more realistic and which Austen could never have used in her original.

All in all, you should probably read the original, and I assume this retelling aims to get more people to do that, but this book is a fun read which I think does the original work justice and which I expect Austen fans would enjoy.

‘All Our Wrong Todays’ by Elan Mastai

cover97841-medium.pngI’ve just finished reading ‘All Our Wrong Todays’ by Elan Mastai. I received the ARC through NetGalley so I have to post my full review nearer the publication date (2 March 2017) but I just had to say that I love love love this book! It’s the best book I’ve read in ages; funny and exciting, complex but incredibly readible. If you get the chance to read it, do it. It’s great!

Review of ‘Magpie Murders’ by Anthony Horowitz

imageThanks to NetGalley and Orion for the ARC of this book.

I reckon Anthony Horowitz had so much fun writing this book. It was a lot of fun reading it as well; despite being slightly frustrating in the manner it holds back answers you are desperate to know.

This book has so many layers. It’s basically two murder mystery books in one. There’s a 1950’s Agatha Christie style British whodunnit as well as a modern crime thriller. In addition this book is really knowing, it’s all about the construction of a crime novel, the standard tropes and the joy of reading a cosy crime thriller.

This is such a clever book, the way the two murder mysteries link together is intriguing and the device of interjecting each story into the other at crucial points order to delay revealing the ending is infuriating but ingenious.

I won’t go into details on the plot as I don’t want to spoil this for anyone; it’s probably best read without any prior knowledge of the plot or characters.

I’ve been yearning for a really good crime/thriller read recently and this fits the bill perfectly. Plus there is no sexual violence towards women which is a blessed relief as this seems to be the theme of the vast majority of crime books and TV programmes at the moment.

I’d highly recommend this book to people who love old-fashioned crime stories but are looking for something which takes this genre and elevates it to something special. I’ll definitely read more books by Horowitz in the future.

Review of ‘Razor Girl’ by Carl Hiaasen

cover95582-mediumThanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown for the ARC of this book.

I’ve enjoyed reading Carl Hiaasen’s books in the past, they are usually light, easy, fast-paced reads. However, this book was not my cup of tea. The plot was wafer-thin and I really didn’t care for any of the characters.

The book is about Andrew Yancy, a former policeman trying to find a missing reality TV show star in the Florida Keys. The ‘Razor Girl’ of the title is a petty criminal who Yancy hooks up with. A woman called Merry who crashes in the peoples’ cars while pretending to shave her bikini line (seriously!) in order to kidnap people to order.

There’s a fatal flaw with this book; the plot could have been resolved very quickly if Yancy would simply call the police when he encounters the main suspect in the crime. He comes across him several times and never calls the police because he is trying to solve the crime himself in order to try to get reinstated as a policeman rather than a health inspector. How he plans to do this without getting the police involved is beyond me and he just keeps putting himself and others in danger. It is stupid and illogical and just serves to draw out a non-existent storyline. It also means there’s no tantalising whodunnit as we pretty much know all along who the perpetrator of the crime is.

Other issues include pointless sub-plots. There is one about a man who makes money reinstating beaches and gets entangled with the mafia. All the plots tie together, but this storyline felt like unnecessary padding for me.

Another problem I had was the surplus of unrealistic one-dimensional, over-sexed female characters. All the women in the book are willing to sleep with any man for the slightest favour, and either criminals or money-grabbing sluts without decent occupation. There’s not one intelligent, moral, upstanding, realistic female character. It infuriated me. You can entirely tell the book is written by a man, as the women are only valued as objects of sexual desire and they all act like they’ve sprung from a 15-year-old boy’s sexual fantasy.

I know this is supposed to be a light-hearted piece of fluff but it was just too stupid for me with too many ridiculous coincidences and a really uninspired plot.