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Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

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RATING: 3.5/5

BLURB: “Celia is a harbourer of memories – she can see into the past. Knowing what has already been has always seemed so insignificant to Celia – until she meets Lo. Lo’s memory is drowning in the vastness of the ocean. She is transforming into a nymph, an ocean girl, a mermaid – terms too pretty for the soul-less monster she knows she’s becoming. When handsome Jude falls into the ocean Celia and Lo rescue him. But soon they find themselves competing. Celia for Jude’s love, Lo for so much more. There’s only one way for Lo to earn back her humanity. Persuade a mortal to love her…and steal his soul.”

REVIEW: After hearing this novel described as a retelling of ‘The Little Mermaid’, one of my favourite fairytales (and Disney movies) of all time, I knew I had to check it out. Pearce’s novel operates as a split narrative, told by Celia and Lo independently. Celia is a young girl with special powers that allows her to see into people’s past upon physical contact with them; and despite her sisters, Anne and Jane, having similar powers relating to the present and the future, she feels isolated from them. Upon meeting Lo, a peculiar girl who emerges from the ocean and walks on bloody feet, Celia finds a purpose. After the two girls have rescued a boy named Jude from drowning, Lo and Celia form a strange bond as Celia tries to help Lo remember her past life, before she was an ocean girl destined to one day become an ‘angel’. As Lo remembers more and more of her former self, her narrative also develops to include Naida, the girl she used to be and whose desperation could destroy both Lo’s life and Celia’s. The two girls battle over Jude despite his budding relationship with Celia – Lo needs the soul of a male to ensure that she can revert back to her human self, Naida, and this is what she so desperately craves. However, the two of them work together to uncover more about Lo’s past and more about the mysterious angels that Lo’s sisters of the sea seem so sure will save them. It is hard to say much about the strange but captivating tale without giving too much away, but it is a very enjoyable story that gives a dark dimension to the traditional mermaid tale and sends through messages of love, friendship and sacrifice. I would definitely recommend it to fans of fantasy and fairytale, although I did sometimes feel that parts of the story were a little rushed or lacked full explanation, which could make parts of the often complex plot difficult to understand.

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Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “Twenty Years Ago. Twenty-one-year-old Sophie Collier vanishes one night. She leaves nothing behind but a trainer on the old pier – and a hole in the heart of her best friend Francesca.

Now. A body’s been found. And Francesca is drawn back to the seaside town she’s tried to forget. Perhaps the truth of what happeed to Sophie will finally come out. Yet Francesca is beginning to wish she hadn’t returned. The people she remembers have become strangers. And everybody seems to have something to hide. What are they not telling her – and why? Someone knows the truth about that night twenty years ago. But finding out could cost Francesca everything she holds dear: her family, her sanity and even her life…”

REVIEW: One of my best friends lent me this book after I said how much I had enjoyed reading ‘The Girl on the Train’ (which she had also lent me), and said she wanted to see what I thought, as she had found this book somewhat disappointing. Upon reading ‘Local Girl Missing’, I can’t help but agree that something is lacking in this novel, which has the potential to be brilliant but instead just seems frequently unbelievable and even laughable.

‘Local Girl Missing’ has a split narrative telling the story of Francesca (Frankie, as she is better known) in the present day and her best friend, Sophie, whose diary entries are used to make up her chapters in the weeks leading up to her disappearance. Frankie has returned to her childhood hometown of Oldcliffe at the request of Sophie’s brother, Daniel, who believes that he is close to finding the identity of Sophie’s killer after the police unearth new evidence in the case. Sophie’s disappearance had not been regarded as a murder, but Daniel’s pleas convince Frankie to rent out an apartment in Oldcliffe in order to help Daniel with his investigations. As soon as Frankie arrives in the apartment, strange things seem to occur; despite Daniel’s assurances that the other apartments in the building are unoccupied, Frankie is disturbed in the night by the sound of a baby crying, receives menacing and accusing notes, and is convinced that Sophie’s ghost is following her around. Meanwhile, in Sophie’s diary entries, we learn of her often complex relationship with the clingy, possessive and spoilt young Frankie, who has serious jealousy issues and resents Sophie’s intense, romantic relationship with Leon, a local heartthrob. We also learn of the biggest problem facing Sophie in the weeks leading up to her disappearance – Frankie’s Dad, Alistair. After a mistaken kiss, Alistair pursues Sophie relentlessly despite her relationship with Leon, stalking her, threatening her and making declarations of love. The situation quickly escalates and when Sophie is left pregnant after Alistair rapes her, her situation becomes increasingly desperate. These parallel stories combine to lead us up to the climax of the novel, in which the identity of Sophie’s killer is revealed both in the present and in the past. I will not reveal this twist, because it is one of the parts in the book that I did think was done well and which remained a real surprise to the reader, with very few hints throughout the novel that could have led the reader to such a conclusion.

My issue with the book, however, was that it was both clumsy and rushed at times. The plotline itself was fantastic and I was gripped, wanting all along to know what happened – yet, many parts of the plotline could have been taken much further and this would have added greatly to the suspense of the novel. I did feel that the storyline of Sophie and Alistair needed more context and could have been developed much further, for example, and some parts of Frankie’s story seemed rushed, though I don’t know if this was due to the atmosphere of panic that the author was trying to create around Frankie as she grows increasingly terrified and paranoid. The ending of the novel (after the brilliant revelation of Sophie’s killer) was, I felt, ridiculous, and did actually make me laugh aloud, which I do not think was the author’s intention. I had enjoyed the revelation hugely and felt disappointed with the way in which things turned out.

I would still recommend this novel due to the brilliant plot twist, and would be interested to hear if other people found the ending as unrealistic as I did – unfortunately, it ruined the novel for me, but up until that point I had been enjoying it immensely.

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Suicide Squad: The Official Movie Novelization by Marv Wolfman

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RATING: 2.5/5

BLURB: “Assemble a team of the world’s most dangerous imprisoned super criminals, provide them with the most powerful arsenal at the government’s disposal, and send them to defeat an enigmatic, unstoppable enemy. U.S. Intelligence offier Amanda Waller has gathered a group of disparate, despicable individuals with next to nothing to lose. Once they figure out they were chosen to fail, will the Suicide Squad resolve to die beating the odds, or decide its every man for himself?”

REVIEW: I am sure many of you will be fully aware of the plot of the DC Comics film ‘Suicide Squad’, which was released earlier this year, and which was not only hugely popular worldwide but undoubtedly my favourite film of the year (and that’s a big deal, because ‘Finding Dory’ also came out this year and I am the biggest Disney nerd on the planet). Because of this, I am not going to spend time in this review outlining the intricate details of the plot of this novel, which is an adaptation of the film itself and, as such, was both written after the film and was read  by me after I had already seen the film (I went on opening night, oops). I have always been a bit uncertain about movie novelizations; I am generally always of the opinion that books are better than their film counterparts, although sometimes I will concede that a film adaptation could be just as good as its book predecessor, just in the form of a different medium with different considerations and audiences. This is something that I rarely find with movie novelizations, which tend to be written blandly, simply and in a somewhat clunky fashion. This was precisely my problem with Marv Wolfman’s adaptation of the ‘Suicide Squad’ film into a chunky but dull paperback. Wolfman’s writing simply failed to capture the fast pace, violence, black humour and peculiar charm of the film. My main problem, however, was with his characterisation. The characters in this film, like their comic book predeccessors, are vibrant and leap from the screen, filling each moment with insanity, violence and humour. This simply is not the case within the movie novelization. My favourite character, Harley Quinn, delivered her lines in the movie with brilliant comic timing and, often, a deep emotional sincerity that hinted at the depths of her – on the surface – bubbly airhead of a character. In the novel, however, the humour of Harley’s words is not carried off in a way that makes the reader laugh aloud; her words merely seemed rush, crammed in between lengthy and frequently boring descriptions of fighting and tactics. Whilst in the film we come to feel a level of sympathy for all of the Squad, in their turn, I don’t feel that this really came across in the novel for any character other than Deadshot; even Diablo’s story was told with such little feeling that it became just another paragraph in the book. I found this novel a real let down after the vivid and exciting impression that the film had made on me; perhaps if I had read the movie novelization first it would have been better, as it would have provided a foundation to the story which the film might then have expanded and brought to life rather than overshadowed. For any fans of ‘Suicide Squad’, I would recommend turning instead to the comics, which offer a portrayal of the characters much like that that was depicted in the film.

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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RATING: 5/5

BLURB: “Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking, and in one moment everything changes. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see: she’s much more than just the girl on the train…”
REVIEW: It has taken me far too long to get around to reading this book, and at the point when my best friend finally offered to lend it to me I had actually just ordered it for my Mum as a Christmas present in a desperate attempt to slyly buy myself a new book without the guilt trip of buying myself a new book whilst I’m poor. I eagerly took up the offer, despite the fact that I could only read the book when my Mum was either asleep or out of the house, so that she wouldn’t ask to borrow it too and ruin her Christmas present. Reading a book like this at such a slow, fragmented pace is, let me tell you, absolute torture: because this book is fantastic.

‘The Girl on the Train’ introduces us to three female narrators; Rachel, Anna and Megan. Rachel is by far the protagonist of these three women, and also a hugely unreliable narrator; turning to alcohol after her failure to have children and the breakdown of her marriage to Tom, Rachel experiences frequent blackouts that often warp and twist her mind, causing her to either forget or misremember events that are crucial to the plotline. This is extremely frustrating for the reader, and worsens as Rachel becomes involved in the investigation into the disappearance of Megan Hipwell. Rachel has watched Megan for months, living in a house that can be clearly seen from Rachel’s train commute. Rachel had named Megan and her husband, Scott, Jason and Jess, and envied their lives from  afar, building up a romantic image of the two from her perspective as the girl on the train. However, things begin to change when Rachel one day sees ‘Jess’ kissing another man inside her home while ‘Jason’ is away. Horrified by what she has seen, Rachel’s morbid fascination with the couple only deepens when ‘Jess’ – her real name now revealed to be Megan – disappears without a trace, putting her husband ‘Jason’ (now revealed to be called Scott) fully under suspicion. Determined to help, Rachel finds herself heavily involved in the investigation, scorned by the police but heavily relied upon by Scott, who believes her to be a friend of Megan’s with information crucial to the case. However, Rachel’s closeness to the case causes a stir; her ex-husband, Tom, whom she constantly seeks contact with, lives just a few doors away from Megan and Scott in their old marital home, with his new wife Anna and their baby daughter. Convinced that Rachel is stalking them and determined to harm their baby, the reader is unsure whom to trust or where the real story lies as this fast-paced thriller takes so many twists and turns. It is difficult to say any more about the novel without giving away the ending, which I certainly do not want to do; the final twist is brilliant and makes the reader question both themselves and the theories that they have inevitably developed during the course of reading the book. Strangely, my favourite thing about the book was the fact that none of the three narrators are particularly reliable – or, indeed, particularly likeable. Rachel, at least initially, comes across as a pathetic, weak voyeur and potential stalker whose lack of memory and dependence on alcohol becomes frustrating and often seems to slow the story down. Anna and Megan are both cheats, though in different ways; Anna had an affair with a married man, and Megan is a married woman having an affair. Both of these women also appear to be spoilt and self-centered, and almost as unreliable as Rachel.

This is a fantastic book that kept me hooked from beginning to end. But a word of warning; as you are reading, don’t trust any of the narrators. And if you are a commuter like me then trust me, reading it before bed is not a particularly good idea; it certainly gave me the chills!

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Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “Eliza Camperdowne is young and headstrong, but she knows her duty well. As the only daughter of a noble family, she must one day marry a man who is very grand and very rich. But Fate has other plans. When Eliza becomes a maid of honour, she’s drawn into the thrilling, treacherous court of Henry the Eighth…Is her glamorous cousin Katherine Howard a friend or a rival? And can a girl choose her own destiny in a world ruled by men?”

REVIEW: I am a huge fan of Lucy Worsley’s work, so despite the fact that this, her first historical fiction novel, is clearly intended for the child/young adult market, I was eager to read it anyway. This novel tells the story of Eliza Camperdowne, a young girl from a ruined gentry family who is her family’s only hope of achieving greatness under the reign of Henry VIII. After a failed betrothal to the son of the Earl of Westmoreland, Eliza is sent away to be educated in the art of courtly manners at Trumpton Hall, the home of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Trumpton Hall, however, is also home to Eliza’s confident, beautiful, reckless and often rather spiteful cousin, Katherine Howard. Katherine and Eliza instantly clash, and matters become worse when Katherine and the music master, Francis Manham, make Eliza the victim of a cruel joke. When the time comes for the girls of Trumpton Hall to be sent to court, however, it is only Katherine and Eliza who make the cut, and the two of them are forced to at least try and get along as they share accomodation and serve the same Queen, Henry VIII’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves. Unbeknownst to Eliza, who is struggling with her own feelings and engaging in her own flirtation with the illegitimate but charming servant of the King, Ned Barsby, and earning the admiration of Will Summers, the King’s Fool, Katherine is doing some serious flirting of her own. Eliza is both stunned and horrified when Katherine announces that she is to marry the King; Eliza herself had reluctantly decided to fight for the position of King’s Mistress, in order to help her family’s prospects. As a Maid of Honour, Eliza now has to work even harder to play the court game, and distances herself ever farther from her beloved Ned. When the whole thing comes crashing down around them with the discovery of Katherine’s adultery, it is Eliza who stays by her side, despite all their past bitterness and rivalry, and as Eliza achieves her happy ending she realises how foolish she was to have been jealous of Katherine in the first place.

This is a well-written story, very imaginatively written,  and it does evoke to some extent the dangerous, rumour-filled atmosphere of Henry VIII’s court in its latter years. I do feel, however, that the book was spoiled for me by some of the adjustments that the author chose to make to the historical facts. I do not blame Worsley for doing this, and in light of this novel’s intended audience I understand why the story was made simpler and some of the more lurid details removed. For example, instead of writing separately of Katherine’s affairs with the music master Henry Manox and her later, more serious affair with Francis Dereham, Worsley combines them into one person; a music master named Francis Manham who later attends on Katherine at court and continues a reckless affair with her there. Thomas Culpepper is not included in the tale at all, which I did find somewhat surprising even in consideration of the audience. When I removed myself from my mindset as an historian myself, however, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and felt it was an easy to read and engaging tale, and would be a good introduction to history for younger girls; I feel it would inspire many of them to pursue studies into the Tudor period, and this I think is the books most admirable quality – it serves as a source of inspiration.

 

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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me”

REVIEW: I was lent this book by a friend when I was about fourteen, and couldn’t get past the first ten pages. When I went on a trip to Foyles with my boyfriend for my 21st birthday earlier this year (a wonderful day where he gave me money and basically let me run riot in a five-floor bookstore), I saw this book on the shelf and decided to try it again. Something about the way the blurb was written appealed to me, and having now read many more fantasy novels than I had when I first tried this one at fourteen, I thought it might now be more up my street. I’m pleased to say that I was right, and am very glad that I tried reading this novel again. Rothfuss’ writing style is brilliant; witty, gripping, descriptive and transformative. I felt completely immersed in the fictional land that Kvothe is part of, and fully believed in all of its legends and history. This is the first novel in a trilogy telling the story of Kvothe. When we meet Kvothe at the beginning of the story he is a humble innkeeper, hiding from his own notoriety and accompanied only by his closest friend, student and servant, Bast. Most of the novel, however, is taken up by Kvothe sharing the story of his past; when a Chronicler arrives at the Inn desperate to hear his tale, Kvothe is reluctantly persuaded to let the Chronicler record his words on paper. Kvothe has led a fascinating life, and the reader eagerly awaits to find out what lies behind Kvothe’s fame and the air of mystery surrounding him. We learn of Kvothe’s past as part of a touring troupe, and his early training by the arcanist Abernathy. His parents and the rest of his troupe are killed in a horrifying murder that Kvothe believes was caused by the legendary Chandrian, and he decides that he will not rest until he finds out the truth about this unspeakable legend. After extensive months of living on the streets, Kvothe finally earns himself a place at the renowned University, through pure talent; but University without money is not easy, and Kvothe’s financial struggles, his enmity with some of the masters, his quick advancement through the ranks and his rivalry with rich student Ambrose combine to make his University years both a fascinating story and a constant struggle. The arrival of the beautiful Denna in Kvothe’s life, however, only complicates things further, and I must confess that Denna was my favourite character in this tale.Beautiful, talented and as mysterious as Kvothe, she is a true match for him, but love does not come easy. At the point of the novel’s ending, dark forces are at work in the present day that are forcing people to confront the possibly reality of the Chandrian, and we are yet to get past Kvothe’s University days in his relaying of the past. I am eager to read the next installments in the series and found this book to be gripping and beautifully written.

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Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

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RATING: 3.5/5

BLURB: “As the crown princess, Rose is never without a dance partner. She and her eleven sisters are treated to beautiful gowns, slippers and dances at party after party in their father’s palace. But their evenings do not end when the guests return home. Instead, Rose and her sisters must travel deep into the earth to the wicked King Under Stone’s palace. There the girls are cursed to dance each night, even when they grow exhausted or ill. Many princes have tried – and failed – to break the spell. But then Rose meets Galen, a young soldier-turned-gardener with an eye for adventure. Together they begin to unravel the mystery. To banish the curse they’ll need an invisibility cloak, enchanted silver knitting needles, and, of course, true love.”

REVIEW:  I always enjoy a fairytale retelling and this novel, based on the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, is an imaginative and engaging story based on this classic tale. The story focuses mainly on the characters of Galen and Rose. Galen is a young, orphaned soldier recently returned from war who seeks out his Aunt and Uncle to give him a new home in the Kingdom of Westfalin. Galen is welcomed with joy by his Aunt but with much more reservation by his Uncle, still wounded over the loss of his own son in the recent wars. He is reluctantly offered a job with his Uncle as an under-gardener at the palace, tending the beautiful and infamous gardens of the deceased Queen Maude. These gardens are now roamed by her twelve beautiful daughters, and Galen develops a particularly strong attachment to Rose, the eldest daughter. But the twelve sisters are hiding a dark secret which they cannot speak of, and which is constantly perplexing their father and the members of their household. Every night the girls appear not to move from their beds; but every morning, their dancing slippers are worn threw and their gowns strewn across the room. Increasingly growing in despair, particularly after their nightttime exertions begin to make the girls unwell, their father the King announces that any prince who can solve the mystery may choose one of his daughters to marry, and will rule Westfalin alongside her upon his death. Many Princes try and fail, but as they all soon after find themselves killed in supposed accidents, the girls find themselves under an increasing suspicion of witchcraft that places the whole kingdom of Westfalin under an interdict that forbids any religious ceremonies. Galen is the only person left willing to try and find a way to stop the curse, due to his growing love for Rose, and this leads him along on a terrifying adventure with the twelve princesses from which there seems to be very little likelihood of escape.

This is a well-told, entertaining and beautifully written story which truly captures the atmosphere of a fairytale. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and am very much looking forward to reading more of Jessica Day-George’s fairytale retellings.