A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms – George R R Martin

Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Hello lovely readers, I know it’s been a while since you heard from me – that’s because I’ve been reading through A Song of Ice and Fire since April.  I loved it, but it’s way too detailed and complex for me to try and review (there’s a HUGE wiki of it that would take about a decade to read) so I’m going to review the first set of prequel novellas instead.  It’s a testament to George Martin’s writing that the first thing I chose to pick up while waiting grumpily for the next installment was another of his books.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms is set almost a century before a Game of Thrones, during a more peaceful time in Westeros.  The book brings together the first three prequels: The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword and The Mystery Knight, otherwise known as the Dunk and Egg novellas.  The novella opens with newly knighted Dunk starting to journey alone through Westeros, seeking work as a hedge knight under his self-given name Ser Duncan the Tall (since he has no last name or house.)  On his way to a tournament, he meets a small bald boy named Egg at an inn but refuses to take him as a squire – yet Egg follows him to the tournament and enters his service anyway.  Little does Dunk realise that his new squire is none other than Aegon Targaryen, a prince of the realm and the future King Aegon the Unlikely.  As they start to trust each other, they find that not everyone is as chivalrous as they are and throughout the three novellas they must count on each other and themselves to make the right choices.

I don’t want to give too much away about these novellas as part of the beauty is the way that the story unfolds.  I really enjoyed these, they are a much easier read than the GoT main series.  I found them to be a lot less dark as well, despite the plots and violence which still abounds.  If you enjoy fantasy but are looking for a quick read, I would highly recommend this book.

Available from Amazon UK

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American Gods – Neil Gaiman

American Gods Neil Gaiman

I had a crisis last weekend.  I finished my book and I couldn’t find anything else I wanted to read.  I have hundreds of books.  I have maybe 50 on my physical TBR pile and another 20 or 30 on my Kindle app.  But I didn’t want to read any of them!  So I did what any rational person would do and took to Facebook to find out what other people had been reading.  There were a lot of replies and it’s extended my TBR pile even further, but I didn’t fancy any of those either.  Just as I was starting to worry about myself, I remembered my book lists.  And so I found this book.

I’ve read a short story, a novella and a graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, but this was the first novel.  It’s pretty hefty, it took me almost a week to read and I spend virtually all my (admittedly limited) spare time reading!

As the story opens, Shadow is coming to the end of his three years in jail.  He has just a couple of days left, when he receives the devastating news that his wife and best friend have both been killed in a road accident.  On his way home he meets the mysterious Mr Wednesday who offers him a job and isn’t prepared to take no for an answer.  Eventually he agrees and so sets out on a weird and wonderful adventure, meeting old gods and new and visiting some strange landmarks along the way.  As Shadow and Mr Wednesday wreak havoc in each other’s lives, we discover the real source of the gods’ power and some amazing sleight of hand coin tricks.

The thing I loved about this book was that it was totally surreal, but it doesn’t seem at all strange while you’re reading it.  It has some history and some mythology mixed in, which I really enjoyed and the characters are really interesting.  I can’t actually find anything that would have improved this for me, it was completely absorbing.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m on my way to add Neil Gaiman’s other novels to my wishlist!

Find this book on Amazon UK

The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey

Girl With All The Gifts MR Carey

This book was a gift for my birthday last summer but I’ve only just got round to reading it.  You may have noticed my absence, it’s not that I haven’t been reading, but reading too much to find time to review!

Melanie is the title character.  She lives in a bunker, locked in her room.  She leaves her room only to shower, eat (both weekly) and to go to the schoolroom.  On these occasions she is secured to her chair and transported under armed guard.  She has no idea why.
Outside the bunker, the world has changed.  There are hungries, who used to be people until they were infected, and junkers who still are people but will do anything to survive.  Inside the bunker is safer, but Melanie has noticed that sometimes children are wheeled out and never come back.

As the story continues, we meet Dr Caldwell who runs the base and hopes to find a cure for the fungus that causes the hunger, no matter the cost, Miss Justineau who teaches the children about mythology, Sergeant Parks and Private Gallagher who are both just trying to survive in the new world and protect the humans.  When the base is attacked by junkers and hungries, these five grudgingly band together to try and reach safety.

This isn’t your average dystopian book, neither is it a typical zombie novel.  For such a small cast, it is incredibly character-driven.  The thing I loved about all the characters is that all of them are identifiable in some way.  There are a lot of difficult decisions for some of them to make, and some of the characters are extremely ruthless in trying to achieve their aim.  I particularly enjoyed the journeys of self-discovery that some of them went on, especially Melanie.  I found the storyline compelling throughout, and very exciting.  I have read some reviews claiming the reader guessed the ending from the start, but I absolutely didn’t.  I won’t give it away, but the ending was not what I hoped for.  Having said that, I think it was the best ending for the book and made the most sense.

Find this book on Amazon UK

Don’t Look Behind You – Mel Sherratt

dont-look-behind-you-mel-sherratt

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.  (I really must slow down with applying for Netgalley books, my TBR pile is taller than me as it is!)

Eden Berrisford is back, and this time she’s investigating a series of attacks on women in Stockleigh.  They are becoming increasingly vicious, but nothing seems to link the victims.  Eden must track down the attacker and discover who is capable of such violence.  Meanwhile, Carla is rebuilding her life in Stockleigh after her abusive partner was jailed.  He has continued to track her down, so she is trying not to put her roots down too firmly in case she has to run from him again.  Her new life as a counselor in a refuge is a great way for her to help others escape similar situations, even if she cannot fully escape from her own.  During her work, she crosses paths with Tanya, who has left her husband umpteen times, but always returns to him.  Can Carla help her?  And in doing so could she help herself?  Eden and her team, including new addition Phil, will be working in the community to find out what’s been going on.  But it looks as though Phil’s old-school approach might cause a few arguments…
Eden’s personal life is also problematic.  Her relationship with Joe is still not quite right, on paper it seems perfect but Eden simply can’t fall in love with him.  The shadow of her disappeared ex-husband could be to blame as Eden never found out what happened to him.  Perhaps if she gets some answers she might finally be able to move on.

Well what can I say?  I was blown away by this!  Mel Sherratt’s writing just keeps getting better and better.  This was a fabulous mix of police procedural and drama, but the thing I love most about it is the characters.  It was very reminiscent of her Estate series, which was the first thing I read by this author and am hoping to see more of (hint hint Mel if you’re reading this!)  The characters are all very three-dimensional, you can imagine them in the flesh and none of them are truly good or bad.  The topics covered in the book are very real, but they are dealt with cleverly and sensitively.  Unfortunately there are a lot of judgmental people in the world, and this book reflects that without making the reader lose all hope for humanity.

Have you read this, or any other Mel Sherratt books?  Which was your favourite?  Let me know in the comments.

Find This Book On Amazon UK

Unpopular Book Opinions

I was tagged for this by BookBum whose blog is one of my favourites.

Have you ever hated a book that people couldn’t stop talking about?  I have.  I’ve had lots of differing opinions on books, so I was really excited to answer these questions.

1. A popular book or series that you didn’t like:

Lord of the Rings.  It takes three books to tell one book’s story, and I’m not keen on Tolkein’s flowery language.

2. A popular book or series that every one else seems to hate but you love:

I actually had to do a few searches to answer this question; I rarely hear that people hate a book.  But then I found that a lot of people dislike Lord of the Flies, which is one of my absolute favourites.  I read it the first time in my early teens, it was the first “classic” I remember voluntarily reading.  Everytime I read it I find something new, and it always makes me cry.

3. A love triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with (warn ppl for spoilers) OR an OTP that you don’t like:

Lily Bard and Jack Leeds in the Shakespeare series by Charlaine Harris.  Lily is awesome, and Jack’s pretty cool, but I wanted her to end up with Bobo.  But I guess if she had then we wouldn’t have the Midnight, Texas series so.. I’ll make my peace with it.

4. A popular book genre that you hardly ever reach for:

Romance.  I used to read the odd chick-lit but I have never ever read a Mills and Boon-esque book, and I’m pretty sure I never will.

5. A popular or beloved character that you do not like:

Hagrid. Joke!
I guess Edward from Twilight.  Vampires do not sparkle!!

6. A popular author that you can’t seem to get into:

Dan Brown.  Again, I heard so many good things when The Da Vinci Code came out, but I just couldn’t get into it.  The premise is great but when I started reading it I just didn’t enjoy it.

7. A popular book trope that you’re tired of seeing. (examples lost princess, corrupt ruler, love triangles, etc):

Boy meets girl. Girl falls for boy. Boy has a secret. Girl finds out. They break up. Boy either does something amazing for girl or explains reason for secret. Girl forgives him. They live happily ever after. The End.

This is the reason I stopped reading chick-lit.

8. A popular series that you have no interest in reading:

50 Shades.  I heard about it when it first came out and it didn’t really appeal, but so many people were raving about it.  The excerpts I’d read weren’t good at all but I thought I needed to at least try it before I slated it. I got three pages in before I gave up and took it back to the library!  Possibly the best book-related blog post I’ve ever read is this one from Cassandra Parkin.  I loved it so much I got the kindle app purely to read the series of ebooks and I re-read them every time I need a good laugh.

9. The saying goes “the book is always better than the movie”, but what movie or T.V. show adaptation do you prefer to the book?

The Golden Compass, based on Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman.  I loved the film but the book was a bit dry to read.  I don’t think the film was too well received though, the sequel never materialised.

Little Girl Lost – Carol Wyer

little-girl-lost-carol-wyer

First of all, my thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Now I have to make a confession: I’m not the most organised person in the world.  Far from it, in fact.  So, whilst I got this on my Kindle app from Netgalley and have struggled to put it down over the last couple of days, I also have a copy from Amazon which auto-downloaded this morning, because I pre-ordered this waaay back in October.  Oops!

Following the tragic death of her fiance and her subsequent miscarriage, Robyn Carter is taking a break from police work and working as a private investigator.  As her break comes to an end, she is asked to start work on finding Lucas Matthews, a missing teacher.  When she delves into his life, she discovers that his pastimes are sinister at best and that his father Paul has just died in a freak accident whilst out jogging.  Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, Abigail is struggling with a stalker.  Abigail has hidden her past and is enjoying her new life with husband Jackson and baby Izzy.  Now the stalker wants to punish her for keeping secrets – or is it Jackson who is keeping secrets?  As Robyn learns more, she senses that there is a connection between the two cases, but when Izzy is taken, will she put the pieces together in time to save her?

I struggled to put this down.  If silly things like work and sleep hadn’t got in my way I’d have finished this in one sitting.  I loved the dual timeline throughout the book, which told Alice’s sad story from her childhood to the present day, and the events from Paul’s demise.  It is a bit graphic in places, which some readers might find distressing, but it was very realistic.  The author was descriptive enough that I could visualise some of the scenes, which doesn’t always happen, but she wasn’t too wordy about it.  The characters have a lot of secrets between them, and a number of them are living under new identities.  I figured out who was who quite early on, but there was enough misdirection to make me doubt myself a few times.  The twists and turns through the book make for addictive reading, and the characters are really interesting.  It’s not often you find yourself wanting to give a killer a hug!

Highly recommended reading, I’m looking forward to reading more thrillers from Carol Wyer.  Hoping to learn more about Robyn in the next book (fingers crossed for another Robyn Carter one!) and see her start to put her life back together.

Find this on Amazon UK

Missing – Monty Marsden

missing-monty-marsden

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

A young Senegalese girl has gone missing from a village in Italy.  She is so quiet and well-behaved, no one thinks she would run away.  What has happened to her?  Three months after she disappears Sensi, who is working on the case, is at a loss as to how to make progress and brings in an old colleague to help him.  Claps is officially retired after an attack during his last case left him brain damaged.  He struggles to communicate but his mind is still sharp.  Claps vows to discover Ami’s fate.  Is she the first to be taken this way, or has her abductor struck before?  Is there any way to stop other girls being taken?

This was a fascinating read – it’s an excellent mix of thriller and police procedural.  Marsden builds the story cleverly, weaving two seemingly unrelated storylines.  As the books progresses it becomes more and more compelling – by the end I could hardly put it down!  Claps was an interesting character to follow, I felt his frustration with his difficulty communicating and I was rooting for him to find the bad guy without getting hurt in the process.  I also learned a little about Senegal which was a new topic for me!  It was a bit emotional to read in places; I found I had a lot of empathy with the characters, which I attribute to Marsden’s skillful writing.  The only negative with this book is the translation.  Whilst being mostly excellent, there were one or two places where the words chosen didn’t quite fit.  This was minor though, and it didn’t spoil the book for me at all.

Has anyone else read this?  Let me know what you thought of it!

Amazon UK