The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne #BookReview #Thriller #AlltheUnicorns

marshkingTitle: The Marsh King’s Daughter
Author: Karen Dionne
Series: n/a
Format: Digital ARC, 320 pages
Publication Details: 
June 13th 2017 by Sphere
Genre(s): Thriller
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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The suspense thriller of the year – The Marsh King’s Daughter will captivate you from the start and chill you to the bone.

‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’

When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.

Review

Yes. Just all the yes! It’s been a really long time since I stayed up wayyyy too late because I couldn’t put a book down, but this one forced me too.

The Marsh King’s Daughter is a fast-paced, thrilling, creepy, empowering, brilliant story about a girl who was brought up in the wilderness, taught to hunt and track by her unpredictable father (at a very young age), and who never met another single person other than her father and her parents until she was 12 years old.

She didn’t know it, but Helena was her father’s prisoner, just like her mother was.

Helena, now happily married with two little girls, has made a nice life for herself, but it came at a price. She became a new person and never told anyone who her father is. She wasn’t able to visit him in prison even though sometimes she wanted to.

When she hears on the news that he has escaped from the maximum security prison he was being held, killing two men, Helena is in no doubt that he’ll come for her and her girls, but luckily for her The Marsh King taught her everything he knew.

I loved so much about this story. Helena took to the wild life from an early age. She loved hunting, tracking, shooting, killing. She was a prisoner but she didn’t know it, and ironically the marsh offered her a freedom normal children will never experience. She had many happy times and she often idolised her Native American father. But she also feared him, and knew that his relationship with her mother was strange.

I found it really interesting how Helena viewed her mother. They hadn’t bonded and she wondered if she loved her. She didn’t understand why her mum was so weak and not present. The thought of staying in the cabin and making jam with her mum made her skin crawl. Her mum’s story is the truly harrowing element of this novel.

The whole way through I wondered if Helena’s mum had made the decision to not tell her about the situation out of fear, or because she wanted her to have some normality in her childhood. I wanted to know if she’d ever tried to escape, and if not, why not, but I think it was a much better story not knowing that as we only see through the eyes of Helena – which I thought was really powerful.

The Marsh King’s Daughter was great from the beginning but the second half of the book was outstanding, I really could not put it down. I needed to know if Helena and her lovely family would be OK; what she would say to her father when she saw him; If she could survive once more? I think she has to be one of my favourite protagonists of recent years, and I know her story will stay with me for a long, long time.

unicorn rating

 

Release by Patrick Ness #BookReview #LGBT #YA

releaseTitle: Release
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: n/a
Format: Hardback, 287 pages
Publication Details: 
May 4th 2017 by Walker Books
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; LGBT
Disclosure? Nope, my copy came with a ticket to the book launch – I was under no obligation to post a review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.


Review

You should all know by now that I love Patrick Ness, so I was of course very excited about his new release, Release, especially considering my friend Dora and I got tickets to the premiere of the book tour.

I posted about the whole shebang here. It was such a great night with insightful and inspiring discussions that my already high expectation bar was pushed through the roof…and I can’t help feeling a little deflated by the whole thing now that I’ve finished the book. SAD PANDA.

Adam Thorn is a gay 17 year old with a bad-boy magnet best friend called Angela, a strict preacher father, and a couple of ex-boyfriends who have treated him pretty terribly. What could go wrong, I hear you say!?

I loved everything Patrick Ness said when discussing this book – the need for diversity in books to reflect the world we live in, the need for YA books with gay protagonists to not shy away from sex scenes, all of it, but it just felt a bit forced here and I think the story suffered because of that.

Release is actually quite a subtle book, and whereas I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I just wasn’t expecting that from all the passionate discussion points in the book launch. I’m not sure this is quite the book Patrick Ness thought he had written. It does spotlight some important issues, but I felt like it needed more drama to really pack a punch. In trying to make it tender, I think a lot of its potential was quashed.

Running alongside Adam’s story is a strange, morbid fairy-tale allegory about a faun and a queen who is actually the ghost of a recently deceased fellow student of Adam’s, and this just did not work for me at all. It came across as a bit pretentious to be honest and I ended up skipping nearly all of these sequences after about a third of the way through. VERY SAD PANDA.

It’s actually quite painful to slag off one of your favourite authors, but I’d be a pretty rubbish book blogger if I couldn’t be honest with myself about how I feel about a book. It has some lovely moments, and is of course written beautifully. And I love everything Patrick was wanting to say with Release, but I think maybe he tried a bit too hard and didn’t quite manage to pull it off.

unicorn rating 3

 

Reading Round-up: April 2017 #BookReviews

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Welcome to my new post where I discuss any books that I read in the month which for one reason or another didn’t warrant a full review. This is a way for me to keep track of what I’ve read but without the pressure of having to write comprehensive reviews for them all. 

There were three books I read this month that I didn’t end up reviewing in full…

The Last Act of Love ~ Cathy Rentzenbrink

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I’m not one for memoirs really, but I’ve heard Cathy talk before and thought she was amazing. She’s also coming into my library to do a talk in celebration of World Book Night so I thought I had better read her book first. I’m so glad I did, it was soooo good. Completely heart-breaking, but also bursting with energy and joy in places. It’s a must-read for anyone.

One False Move ~ Dreda Say Mitchell

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I read this one lunch-time as it’s a Quick Read aimed at less confident readers. It was a fast-paced story about a young woman trying to keep out of jail but facing many difficulties along the way. I enjoyed it, and now I have something I can recommend to some of my customers at work who are put off by larger books.

Six of Crows ~ Leigh Bardugo

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So many people have raved about this book, and a few have personally told me to read it because I will love it even more than The Grisha Trilogy so I feel quite bad in saying this – I just could not take this book in. I read it pretty quickly, but a couple of weeks on and I don’t think I could even tell you what happened. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood – IDK. But I think I’m done with the Grisha world for now.

AOB

{that’s any other business for those of you that’ve never had the misfortune to have a job where people say that all the time}

 

Sucktown, Alaska by Craig Dirkes (Out Today) #BookReview #YA

Title: Sucktown, Alaskasucktown
Author: Craig Dirkes
Series: n/a
Format: Digital ARC, 350 pages
Publication Details: 
May 1st 2017 by Switch Press
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Looking for a great adventure, eighteen-year-old Eddie Ashford stumbles into a job as a reporter in tiny Kusko, Alaska, a place so remote that bush planes are the only way in or out.

When the job and the place, which sits on the flat and desolate tundra and not in the stunning mountains he’d imagined, turn out to be disappointments, Eddie thinks maybe it’s time to bail.

But three things tie him there: 1) Taylor, a girl who might be a little too pretty and a little too smart for him; 2) Finn, a new friend who is an all-around good dude but also happens to be a small-time pot dealer; and 3) Eddie’s empty wallet, which means he can’t afford to transport himself and his possessions back to civilization.

Despite every good-guy instinct inside him, Eddie flirts with trouble as he tries to find a way home.


Review

As most of you already know contemporary YA is usually a little bit marmite for me. I either really dislike it, or I love it. Sucktown, Alaska has ruined that theory because I thought it was good, but not great.

The story is about Eddie. A seventeen year old who has flunked out of college for partying too hard. To make amends he has bagged himself a job as a journalist in the remote village of Kusko, Alaska, to prove that he can apply himself. If he can stick it out for a year, he will be allowed to continue his studies.

I was drawn to this book because it’s not often I read YA books from the male perspective, well, not straight males anyway. And I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska, there’s something just so raw about it that appeals to me.

I think Sucktown, Alaska has a lot going for it. The thing I enjoyed the most was the realness of it. Eddie is a real guy. He’s a man’s man, if not an immature one. At times he can be vulgar and obnoxious like any teenage boy. He has moments of sweetness and loyalty but he’s also monumentally stupid, and objectifies women.

Nothing is sugarcoated in Eddie’s story. Alaska is portrayed as a harsh place to live, especially in winter. I wasn’t aware of the state’s tribulations with alcohol and drug abuse, and in turn the prolific amount of bootleggers, and the story inspired me to learn more about the place instead of just thinking it looks pretty. Good stories do that, inspire.

However, on the whole I was a little bit disappointed with the story. It had a gentle pace and I felt like more needed to happen. Eddie starts selling drugs about half way through the story and considering that seemed the main plot point I wondered why it took so long to get to it.

I feel like there were things missing. Relationships, mainly. Eddie’s infatuation with Taylor was pretty superficial, and I thought more should have come out of his relationship with his boss/landlord. The only really meaningful relationship was between Eddie and the husky dogs, and maybe his drug-dealer friend.

I do think Sucktown, Alaska is a good coming-of-age tale for young male readers. I don’t think there’s enough of that. We see Eddie grow up a lot during his time in Kusko. He’s pretty hard on himself about his past discretions and needs to let that go. He’s a good guy deep down, he just needs to learn how to care about himself and other people, and by the end he’s done just that.

Overall, there was a lot I enjoyed about this book, but it needed an extra injection of action or romance to make it a must-read. I’m surprised by how many bad reviews there are on Goodreads, and I urge you to not be put off by them. I guess some people can’t handle the sometimes vulgar mind of a seventeen year old boy, but I for one think that was what made it a realistic story.

unicorn rating 3

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Horwitz #BookReview #ChildrensFiction

Title: The Wingsnatcherswingsnatchers1
Author: Sarah Jean Horwitz
Series: Carmer and Grit #1
Format: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details:  April 25th 2017 by Algonquin Young Readers

Genre(s): Children’s (middle grade); Fantasy; Steampunk
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

A stunning debut about a magician’s apprentice and a one-winged princess who must vanquish the mechanical monsters that stalk the streets and threaten the faerie kingdom.

Aspiring inventor and magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III would rather be tinkering with his latest experiments than sawing girls in half on stage, but with Antoine the Amazifier’s show a tomato’s throw away from going under, Carmer is determined to win the cash prize in the biggest magic competition in Skemantis. When fate throws Carmer across the path of fiery, flightless faerie princess Grit (do not call her Grettifrida), they strike a deal. If Carmer will help Grit investigate a string of faerie disappearances, she’ll use her very real magic to give his mechanical illusions a much-needed boost against the competition. But Carmer and Grit soon discover they’re not the only duo trying to pair magic with machine – and the combination can be deadly.


Review

The Wingsnatcher’s is the first book in a series featuring Grit the one-winged faery princess and Carmer, a (failing) magician’s apprentice who live in two very different worlds but have one thing in common – they are both in need of help. And so they make a pact to help each other and become firm friends along the way.

I loved the premise of this book and the story itself did not disappoint. Horwitz has created a fantasy world that is both adorable and edgy. Some will fall in love with Grit and her plight of being a one-winged faery, a disability she has accepted and overcome, and others will love Carmer and his ambition of being this great inventor but who feels a loyalty to the hopeless magician who took him under his wing.

Together, the unlikely duo try to discover who is attacking faeries, and win the invention competition as Carmer’s livelihood and future is at stake.

I really enjoyed the dynamic of these two characters, and their dialogue was great. I also really enjoyed Steampunk elements of the story; there are these demonic mechanical cats who were genuinely scary so I’d bear that in mind when giving to a younger child – I loved them though.

Great action, great descriptions and interesting characters; I just thought the pace was a tad slow, and that the book didn’t need to be over 300 pages, especially considering the target market.

unicorn rating 3

 

 

Reading Round-up: March 2017 #BookReviews #MarchReleases

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Welcome to my new post where I discuss any books that I read in the month which for one reason or another didn’t warrant a full review. This is a way for me to keep track of what I’ve read but without the pressure of having to write comprehensive reviews for them all. 

The only book I read this month and didn’t feel like reviewing in full was….

kingscage

King’s Cage (Red Queen #3) ~ Victoria Aveyard

I think I’m pretty much done with this series. I really loved the first book, and the second one was OK, and then this one was even less OK. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it but I don’t really feel the need to continue reading if that’s what’s happening. The ending made me think that it’s just going to go on and on.

I liked seeing Mare and Cal back together again in King’s Cage (not much of a spoiler I don’t think!), but the whole red/silver war thing just felt so samey. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.

unicorn rating 3

Other Reviews

The Invisible Hand by James Hartley #BookReview #YA

 

Title: The Invisible Hand theinvis
Author:
 James Hartley
Series: Shakespeare’s Moon #1
Format: Paperback, 168 pages
Publication Details: February 22nd 2017 by Lodestone Books

Genre(s): YA; Fantasy
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

The Invisible Hand is about a boy, Sam, who has just started life at a boarding school and finds himself able to travel back in time to medieval Scotland. There he meets a girl, Leana, who can travel to the future, and the two of them become wrapped up in events in /Macbeth/, the Shakespeare play, and in the daily life of the school. The book is the first part of a series called Shakespeares Moon. Each book is set in the same boarding school but focuses on a different Shakespeare play.

Review

I’ve always really liked Shakespeare – even at school – which is strange because I remember hating most things I was forced to read for school. Shakespeare always seemed more interesting though. I enjoyed having to decipher the language to discover the meaning, but I also totally understand why people dislike it, and why children and young adults find it difficult.

I’m therefore always pleased to see more accessible books based on Shakespeare, and its modern-day retellings. The Invisible Hand is the first in a new series to be set in the same boarding school, with each book based upon a different Shakespeare play. In this case it’s Macbeth.

In this short novel, Sam is quite perturbed about his strange, vivid dreams where he finds himself in Scotland in what seems like medieval times. Whilst trying to make sense of the dreams, he’s also trying to keep his head down at the boarding school but is finding it increasingly harder to concentrate in the present day. Especially when the girl he has a crush on in his dreams starts to turning up at school.

Things get even weirder when Sam starts studying Macbeth in English and the events of the play bear more than a passing resemblance to Sam’s dreams that may not be dreams after all.

The Invisible Hand was a great introduction to Macbeth. It was a simple but action-packed story which uses some of the events in Macbeth and gives them a modern relevance. I enjoyed it a lot. It was fun and speedy. If I had one thing to criticise though, it would be that I wished Hartley had taken it further. I wanted more Shakespeare, more detail. It was too short!

The Invisible Hand has certainly piqued my interest however, and I would love to see what they do with other Shakespeare plays. I definitely think there is room for more Shakespeare inspired YA novels like this to show that it’s not all about archaic language and ruffled collars.

unicorn rating 4

 

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister #BookReview #MarchReleases

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girlindisguiseTitle: Girl in Disguise
Author: Greer Macallister
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 308 pages
Publication Details: March 21st 2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Genre(s): Historical Fiction; Adventure; Mystery 
Disclosure? Yep, I received an advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review!

Goodreads 

bookdepo

For the first female Pinkerton detective, respect is hard to come by. Danger, however, is not.

In the tumultuous years of the Civil War, the streets of Chicago offer a woman mostly danger and ruin-unless that woman is Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton detective and a desperate widow with a knack for manipulation.

Descending into undercover operations, Kate is able to infiltrate the seedy side of the city in ways her fellow detectives can’t. She’s a seductress, an exotic foreign medium, or a rich train passenger, all depending on the day and the robber, thief, or murderer she’s been assigned to nab.

Inspired by the real story of Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective’s rise during one of the nation’s greatest times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country.

Review

I didn’t know what to expect from Girl in Disguise having not read Macallister’s debut novel The Magician’s Lie or knowing much about the Pinkertons/ that era of American history to be perfectly honest. However, I do enjoy a good historical yarn now and then as long it’s not too bogged down in facts and figures, so I was eager to give it a try.

We first meet Kate Warne – famous for being the first ever female detective – when she is setting out to be just that. She answers an ad in a paper knowing full well that it will be difficult to persuade them that she’s the right man for the job, as it were. But of course she does, and so we follow Kate as she begins her training with Allan Pinkerton to learn everything she can about being an undercover operative.

Kate has a bit of a shaky start, including a run-in with colleague Bellamy but after that we watch her go from strength to strength and become more confident and cunning in her abilities.

I really enjoyed Macallister’s take on Kate Warne. She could probably come across quite cold and stern to some but because we hear the story from her point of view we know differently, we know it’s merely a self-defence tactic which is necessary for her to adopt considering all the things that are stacked against her. The main one of course being that she is a woman in a time where ‘respectable’ women aren’t even supposed to have jobs, never mind this kind of job.

I liked that Girl in Disguise is an action-packed adventure but also uses Kate Warne’s story to explore a lot of interesting issues surrounding equality. In a time of female oppression, Kate not only makes ground-breaking steps forward, she is also fiercely aware that other women are so accustomed to inequality that they’re often their own worst enemies…

They don’t hesitate to hang women down here”

“Could they be so awful?”

“What’s awful about it?” she shrugged. “Our crimes are as serious as theirs. Our punishments should be too.”

“A miserable sort of equality to hope for.”

Even in these terrible circumstances, she looked proud. “If we take the good, we also have to take the bad.We don’t get to fetch it up piecemeal.”

I think that sort of double-standards still rings true today. There is also the character of Deforest who Kate – whilst working on her tracking skills – discovers he is harbouring a secret that would see him hanged – he’s gay. Kate and Deforest’s friendship was my favourite in the novel, and I liked how the author captured her initial reaction and how her attitude towards him changed throughout the book. It rang true to the era and didn’t take the easy route of making Kate completely ambivalent towards it.

“In some way, I couldn’t possibly fathom him, his unnatural interests, his decision to be like he was. But the undertow of his terror, I understood.”

Macallister has done a great job in researching the real Kate Warne and building on that with her own version of the detective. Like I said earlier, I’m not a fan of historical fiction when it’s all facts and no storytelling but there was definitely a lot of storytelling here, with the facts seamlessly embedded. I thought some of Macallister’s descriptions were lovely too, making it a compelling read.

“The woman lay on the carpet as if resting, which I suppose she was, only forever.”

My one critique is that first half of the book felt a bit like a montage of events which made the pace nice and fast but I longed for more detail; it sometimes felt like Macallister was trying to fit too much in at once. She could have concentrated on just one or two of Warne’s interesting cases rather than an overview of many. This was most definitely improved on in the second half of the book though.

In this novel we see Kate Warne’s rise and fall, and the changing attitudes towards her from those around her. It’s a fun, rollercoaster of a read, and one which reads as a love letter to plucky women whose actions make the world a better place. Therefore it’s bound to be called a great feminist story, but I’d prefer to just call it a great story, Full Stop.

unicorn rating 4

 

Lazy Saturday Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness #MiniReview #YA

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

therestofusTitle: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 434 pages
Publication Details: 
August 27th 2015 by Walker Books
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy; LGBT
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from Dora, thanks Dora! 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Review

I wasn’t sure about this at first but ended up absolutely loving it. Patrick Ness has this amazing ability to nail that insecure, confusing time of adolescence when you don’t really understand who you are yet, and he does so in increasingly imaginative ways.

TROUJLH is set in a world where zombies and vampires are real, but the main characters aren’t part of that world, they’re always on peripheries  – just watching, they’re just the normal kids in world full of superheroes and martyrs.

I loved everything about this book – the way it was structured, the uniqueness of the premise, and as always, the execution by Ness was perfect. But it’s the characters that really stand out. All completely different and unique but startlingly real. Whether they’re gay, unsure, struggling with OCD, depressed, or desperate to go to a concert, they’re all just doing what everyone is trying to do – get through the day, the week, high school, life.

Have all the unicorns, Patrick Ness!

unicorn rating

Reading Round-up: February 2017 #BookReviews #NewReleases #MiniReviews

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Welcome to my new post where I discuss any books that I read in the month which for one reason or another didn’t warrant a full review. This is a way for me to keep track of what I’ve read but without the pressure of having to write comprehensive reviews for them all. 

I was much better this month and the only book I read and didn’t feel like reviewing in full was this:

 

thechalkpit

The Chalk Pit (Ruth Galloway #9) ~ Elly Griffiths

This was the first Ruth Galloway book I’d read and at first it didn’t seem to make a difference that I hadn’t read the previous ones, but I think as the story went on it became evident that I would have enjoyed it more if I had. It’s for that reason that when I say I was little disappointed with this novel I don’t particularly think I can blame the book itself. It was a perfectly good crime thriller but I personally felt like the plot unfolded a little too slowly. Griffiths’ writing style was nice and effortless though, and I’d like to give the first book a go in the future.

unicorn rating 3

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