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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 readĀ  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 fromĀ  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!