Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee #BookReview #JulyReleases

icon-bookreview

 

brokenbranches

Title: Broken Branches
Author: M. Jonathan Lee
Series: n/a
Format: Paperback ARC, 294 pages
Publication Details: July 27th 2017 by Hideaway Fall
Genre(s): Thriller/Mystery; Horror
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

Review

The cover of this book is so perfect it’s hard to put into words. It’s dark, beautiful and mysterious, which is exactly how I’d describe the story within.

Broken Branches is about the Perkins family, in particular Ian and his wife Rachel, who move into the cottage where Ian grew up. The cottage with the huge, ominous looking tree outside; the cottage where bad things happen.

I found the book a little slow to start with but before I knew it couldn’t put it down. It’s one of those stories that never quite gives you the answers you want. You know the type; the type of story that drives you mad in the best possible way.

There had been talk of ‘the curse’ since Ian’s childhood when his uncle died, but he never truly believed it until he inherited the cottage himself. This threw up many questions in itself – why would he move into a house with such a bad history? Other curiosities in the story (and believe me when I say it’s full of them), surrounded Rachel who is extremely distant and aloof from the start – was she depressed? Mentally ill? We’re not quite sure.

Ian delves deeper into his family history, and that of the cottage, in order to learn more about the curse, thinking that proving the existence of it will solve everything including whatever it is that’s wrong with Rachel and his marriage. But of course it only drives them further apart as Ian get more and more obsessed. He loses his job and sinks into a frenzied, isolated existence where the tree is always lurking in the background, and someone keeps moving his research around.

I think Broken Branches’ success comes from the masterfully layered atmosphere that just gets creepier and creepier as the story goes on. M. Jonathan Lee has done a wonderful job in creating suspense and intrigue, and there are some great horror elements in it too. I’m not sure I’d even want to read this on a stormy night…

unicorn rating 4

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus #BookReview #YA #Mystery

icon-bookreview

 

oneofusislyingTitle: One of Us is Lying
Author: Karen M. McManus
Series: n/a
Format: Digital ARC, 370 pages
Publication Details: June 1st 2017 by Penguin
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary, Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Five students go to detention. Only four leave alive.

On Thursday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the bad boy, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the jock, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investi­gators, his death wasn’t an accident.

On Thursday, he died. But on Friday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Review

One of Us is Lying is a super-fun, light read, perfect for the summer holidays.

Full of everyone’s favourite high school stereotypes, the story centres around five students who end up in detention for something they apparently didn’t do. Were they set up? During the detention, the “geek”, Simon, drinks a cup of water and dies. He’s severely allergic to nuts and it appears that someone spiked his water with nut oil.

And so, the four remaining students are suddenly murder suspects. There’s the pretty, goody-two-shoes, Bronwyn, the jock, Cooper, the bad boy, Nate, and Addy the insecure beauty. They all have reasons to hate Simon, as he had dirt on all of them and wasn’t afraid to post it online for all to see.

One of Us is Lying is written from the perspectives of all four suspects. Multiple narrative stories usually annoy me, but I think it was necessary in this novel, and it worked really well. Each character had their own, very different reasons to want Simon dead, and their own problems aside from that too, which brought a nice element of realism to the story.

I thought it was a really fun, quick read that kept me intrigued most of the way through. The only let down was that I guessed the outcome from about half-way through, but it was still enjoyable.

It has a bit of everything; mystery, romance and action all rolled into one. 

unicorn rating 4

 

This Month in Books: March 2017 #TMIB #MarchReleases

ICON5

March has been a weird month. I spent most of it in a reading slump and watched a lot of TV instead. Bad Book Blogger! IRL I went home for a weekend to surprise my mum for Mother’s Day which made her happy, won tickets to a 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer party sponsored by the Syfy channel and Fandom which made me very happy (I was in heaven), and took a few days off work which was nice.

March 2017 Stats

Total Posts: 14 (+ 3 from previous month)

Books Read: 4 (-1)
All the Good Things ~ Clare Fisher
Girl in Disguise ~ Greer Macallister
The Invisible Hand ~ James Hartley
King’s Cage ~ Victoria Aveyard

 
The Breakdown:
Genres: YA (2/4); Crime/Thriller (2/4); Fantasy (2/4)

Formats/Sources: Advance Copy (2/4); Digital (1/4); Hardback (0/4); Paperback (3/4) / Owned (1/4); Borrowed (0/4); For Review/proofs (3/4)

Most Surprising: All the Good Things
Most Disappointing: King’s Cage
Most Exciting: Girl in Disguise
Most Swoon-worthy:  Hmm…King’s Cage I guess…
Most Beautifully Written: All the Good Things

Reviews

Most Viewed Posts

  1. This Week in Books 22.03.17
  2. This Week in Books 15.03.17
  3. Lazy Saturday Review: The Rest of us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Promos, Guest Posts and other Highlights

Awards

 

 

 

TBR Shelf Update

IMG_6725.JPG

Earlier this year I decided I HAD to do something about my physical TBR shelves. Each month I’ll be doing a quick update to see how I’ve done. See my original post here, and my updated TBR list here. 

Previous TBR Count: 85

Books Added: 0!

Books Read: 1

Remaining: 84

That was my month, how was yours?

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister #BookReview #MarchReleases

icon-bookreview

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

 

The Daemoniac by Kat Ross #HorrorOctober #BookReview

horroroctofficial2016

 

a4Title: The Daemoniac
Author: Kat Ross
Series: A Dominion Mystery #1
Format: Digital ARC, 334 pages
Publication Details:  October 12th 2016 by Acorn
Genre(s): YA; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

It’s August of 1888, just three weeks before Jack the Ripper will begin his grisly spree in the London slum of Whitechapel, and another serial murderer is stalking the gas-lit streets of New York. With taunting messages in backwards Latin left at the crime scenes and even more inexplicable clues like the fingerprints that appear to have been burned into one victim’s throat, his handiwork bears all the hallmarks of a demonic possession.

But consulting detective Harrison Fearing Pell is convinced her quarry is a man of flesh and blood. Encouraged by her uncle, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry hopes to make her reputation by solving the bizarre case before the man the press has dubbed Mr. Hyde strikes again.

From the squalor of the Five Points to the high-class gambling dens of the Tenderloin and the glittering mansions of Fifth Avenue, Harry and her best friend, John Weston, follow the trail of a remorseless killer, uncovering a few embarrassing secrets of New York’s richest High Society families along the way. Are the murders a case of black magic—or simple blackmail? And will the trail lead them closer to home than they ever imagined?

Review

 

Let’s face it. I was interested in this book from the title and cover. Perfect for Horror October, I thought. And then I read the synopsis and I was completely intrigued! What an amazing idea!? I’m still  a bit jealous that  I didn’t think of it. 

Our protagonist is Harry, who is niece to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and younger sister to Myrtle, a highly regarded private detective. Harry, feeling constantly overshadowed by her ‘brilliant’ sister decides to impersonate her when a client comes asking for help and so Harry, with the help of her best friend John jump into her sister’s shoes.

The case of course, turns out to be a little more than they bargained for and leads Harry and John to all manner of dark, dingy, and down-right bizarre places. 

I don’t really want to give away much more of the plot – and the synopsis says it better than I could anyway – because it’s one of those if I tell you one thing then I’ll have to explain another and so it goes on until I’ve given it all away!

I felt like The Daemoniac was a love letter to the classic detective/mystery genre. The way the protagonists are led through this story bit by bit, clue by clue, was certainly reminiscent of them, but I loved that it was unique too. 

I mean, there’s quite a few teen girl detective books out there (Flavia de Luce, Ruby Redfort, Nancy Drew to name but a few), but this felt different, darker, I guess. 

It wasn’t a perfect book for me though, that’s for sure. Whereas I found it entirely entertaining, I also found myself getting lost quite a bit; often being confused as to why/how they ended up somewhere, and how Harry gets away with imitating her sister for so long. I also felt like I needed to know the characters a bit better in order for me to get more invested in the story. 

The Daemoniac was however, a truly great read despite all of these things. It flowed nicely, and the pace was quick, and there was always something surprising lurking around the corner. 

I thought the way the author used the brilliance of Sherlock Holmes, and the horror of Jack the Ripper together was a great combination, and certainly like nothing I’ve read before. 

 

horroctrating-3

 

 

 

 

The Hummingbird’s Cage by Tamara Dietrich #BookReview

hummingbirdTitle: The Hummingbird’s Cage
Author: Tamara Dietrich
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 342 pages
Publication Details: August 25th 2016 by Orion Publishing Group
Genre(s): General Fiction; Thriller/Mystery; Fantasy
Disclosure? Yep, I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

A dazzling debut novel about taking chances, finding hope, and learning to stand up for your dreams…

Everyone in Wheeler, New Mexico, thinks Joanna leads the perfect life: the quiet, contented housewife of a dashing deputy sheriff, raising a beautiful young daughter, Laurel. But Joanna’s reality is nothing like her facade. Behind closed doors, she lives in constant fear of her husband. She’s been trapped for so long, escape seems impossible—until a stranger offers her the help she needs to flee….

On the run, Joanna and Laurel stumble upon the small town of Morro, a charming and magical village that seems to exist out of time and place. There a farmer and his wife offer her sanctuary, and soon, between the comfort of her new home and blossoming friendships, Joanna’s soul begins to heal, easing the wounds of a decade of abuse.

But her past—and her husband—aren’t so easy to escape. Unwilling to live in fear any longer, Joanna must summon a strength she never knew she had to fight back and forge a new life for her daughter and herself….

Review

I wasn’t sure how to categorise this novel as it was a little bit of everything. Part thriller, part mystery with a little bit of the fantastical mixed in. This doesn’t always work for me, but I think it worked perfectly in The Hummingbird’s Cage.

It is the troubled story of Joanna and her daughter Laurel who live in constant fear of Police Officer husband and dad, Jim. Jim is your classic abusive husband, and in a very short amount of page-time the reader is emerged in the hell he has  created for Jo; breaking her down until she is a shell of a woman and too terrified to try and get free of him. It’s a story that has been told in many a psychological thriller, but that’s where The Hummingbird’s Cage steers itself in another direction.

Jo does manage to break free of Jim with a little help from one of his ex-girlfriends who knows all too well what Jim is capable of but survived to tell the tale, and Jo finds herself in an unknown town, in an unknown bed with a caring elderly couple looking after her.

However, it’s not long before Jo realises that Morro isn’t your average town. Things just don’t seem to add up. It’s too perfect, too accommodating. But for the first time in as long as she can remember, Jo feels safe and her daughter is happy. Is it too good to be true?

I was hooked into this story straight away. I was expecting the psychological thriller part of the story to continue for a lot longer than it did, but when Jo wakes up in Morro, it was so intriguing I still couldn’t put it down. It was all a bit Twin Peaks, albeit not quite as insane. 

I really enjoyed the themes of this novel, some of which would be spoilers so I’ll refrain from listing all of them, but I’ll just say that it’s a book that throws up many questions. Jo was happy there, but didn’t belong…I was as torn as she was as to what to do! Would you go back  and face your demons if you were happy with your new start? Would you need closure?

A fantastic debut!

unicorn rating 4

Top Ten Tuesday: Who’s winning at the half-way mark?

icon4-ttt

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the link t.o visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is…A freebie! Meaning we can choose any topic we like, or missed…

This couldn’t have come at a better time because I really wanted to do last week’s topic but missed it. I will therefore be doing my Top Ten Reads of 2016 So Far. Hurrah!

Links go to my review. 

All the Unicorns! (5/5)

Best of the Rest! (4/5)

  • Glass Sword (Wow, I’ve only just realised that I didn’t review this!)
  • Into the Dim
  •  The Crow Girl
  •  The Foreshadowing (Review coming soon!)
  • The Merciless
  • You Know me Well
  • Half a King (I read this around Christmas time and never got round to reviewing it. I really enjoyed it though.)

 

Feel free to leave your link and I’ll come see what topic you chose this week 🙂

Lazy Saturday Review: Save Me, Kurt Cobain #BookReview #YA

icon7

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!

2016debuts6Title: Save Me, Kurt Cobain
Author: Jenny Manzer
Series: N/A
Format: Hardback, 272 pages
Publication Details: March 8th 2016 by Delacorte Press
Genre(s): Contemporary YA
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from my friend Dora. Thanks Dora!

Goodreads 

bookdepo

What if you discovered that Kurt Cobain is not only alive, but might be your real father?

Nico Cavan has been adrift since her mother vanished when she was four—maternal abandonment isn’t exactly something you can just get over. Staying invisible at school is how she copes—that and listening to alt music and summoning spirits on the Ouija board with her best friend and co-conspirator in sarcasm, Obe. But when a chance discovery opens a window onto her mom’s wild past, it sparks an idea in her brain that takes hold and won’t let go.

On a ferry departing Seattle, Nico encounters a slight blond guy with piercing blue eyes wearing a hooded jacket. Something in her heart tells her that this feeling she has might actually be the truth, so she follows him to a remote cabin in the Pacific Northwest. When she is stranded there by a winter storm, fear and darkness collide, and the only one who can save Nico might just be herself.

Review

Save Me, Kurt Cobain was a super quick, entertaining read. I loved that Manzer used her love of Nirvana to shape this quirky story about an angsty teen who runs away from home to find out what happened to her mother who had disappeared years earlier.

did find parts of the story slightly unbelievable, and it drove me mad that Nico never told ‘Cobain’ who she thought he was which made me think that even she didn’t believe it, but the rest of the story was full of intrigue and successfully evoked that sense of confusion or feeling lost that so many teens go through… even when they don’t have an actual mystery to solve. 

I really enjoyed the relationship between Nico and her best friend, and that he was always in her mind – he was her rock without even knowing it. And the dynamic between Nico and Cobain was entertaining too. 

Overall, this was a solid contemporary read with some really great moments, but essentially, I didn’t quite fall in love with it. It is an absolute must read for Nirvana fans though, the author clearly knows her stuff/did her research. 

unicorn rating 3

Save Me, Kurt Cobain is out now!

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet #BookReview #JuneReleases

magruderTitle: Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet
Author: H.P Wood
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details: June 7th 2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre(s): Historical Fiction; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

 

bookdepo

May 1904. Coney Island’s newest amusement park, Dreamland, has just opened. Its many spectacles are expected to attract crowds by the thousands, paying back investors many times over.

Kitty Hayward and her mother arrive by steamer from South Africa. When Kitty’s mother takes ill, the hotel doctor sends Kitty to Manhattan to fetch some special medicine. But when she returns, Kitty’s mother has vanished. The desk clerk tells Kitty she is at the wrong hotel. The doctor says he’s never seen her although, she notices, he is unable to look her in the eye.

Alone in a strange country, Kitty meets the denizens of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet. A relic of a darker, dirtier era, Magruder’s is home to a forlorn flea circus, a handful of disgruntled Unusuals, and a mad Uzbek scientist. Magruder’s Unusuals take Kitty under their wing and resolve to find out what happened to her mother.

But as a plague spreads, Coney Island is placed under quarantine. The gang at Magruder’s finds that a missing mother is the least of their problems, as the once-glamorous resort town is abandoned to the freaks, anarchists, and madmen.

Review

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet is a nicely written, interesting romp through the early 20th century Coney Island – a place where anything can happen!

Young Brit Kitty Hayward has lost her mother. Sent from their hotel to pick up some medicine when her mum is taken ill, Kitty returns to find that her mother has vanished, and the hotel are pretending they’ve never seen her before. How curious. 

Kitty ends up on Coney Island, with no money or belongings, but is fed and taken in by a family of ‘unusuals’ – the members of a freakshow who all live at Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet. 

I loved the setting of this book. I found the descriptions of the fun, freaky, and often fake entertainers who inhabit the resort and how Kitty quickly became a valued addition to their gang really interesting. I thought it was going to be a simple mystery, but as the story develops we realise that it’s more about a plague that is sweeping through the island than it is about a girl trying to find her mother. 

I wasn’t expecting it to be such a dark, and often depressing story, and while I initially enjoyed that surprise I felt like the middle of the book could have been more exciting – something was lacking for me. 

The star of the show was definitely the characterisation. Each character was unique (as you’d expect from Freakshow performers), and they interacted beautifully with each other. I especially fell in love with Rosalind -who today you would describe as Gender-Fluid, but back then he was seen as an abomination –  and his relationship with lovely Enzo, the ‘half-burned man’. 

It’s quite clear that the author had done her research, and I found the portrayal of side-shows, circuses and freak-shows of the time realistic and intriguing. I also enjoyed that the book makes you look at prejudice and discrimination and made me eternally thankful for how much society has changed since the 1900s.

Overall, I feel like Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet was definitely worth a read, even if it left me a little deflated. 

unicorn rating 3

The Ceruleans Print Party #Giveaway

Today I’m celebrating with Megan Tayte, whose fantasy/paranormal romance series The Ceruleans is available for the first time in print this June. 

Ceruleans poster

__________________________________________________________

IN SEARCH OF THE MEANING OF DEATH, SHE’LL FIND THE MEANING OF LIFE

The Ceruleans: mere mortals infused with power over life and death. Five books, one question: If the might of the heavens were in your hands, would you be sinner or saint? 

___________________________________________________________

To celebrate Megan has arranged a giveaway in which you can win a copy of all five books in the series. 

Enter Rafflecopter Giveaway

Megan Tayte

Find out more about Megan and her books using the links below:

Amazon UK // Amazon USA 

Website // Goodreads // Facebook // Twitter // Instagram