Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention by Mindy Hardwick #BookReview #NonFiction

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kidsinorange

Title: Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention
Author: Mindy Hardwick
Series: n/a
Format: Kindle Edition, 220 pages
Publication Details: February 23rd 2017 by Eagle Bay Press
Genre(s): Non-Fiction; Crime; Writing
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

Purchase

The gang leader doesn’t like poetry, but will a detention center workshop show her how to express love for her newborn daughter? A teen boy dies of a drug overdose. Will his final poem speak what he cannot say? 

In the middle of a career change from teacher to writer, Mindy Hardwick volunteered to facilitate a weekly poetry workshop at a juvenile detention center. By helping the teens write poetry about their lives, Mindy discovered strength and courage to grieve the loss of her father, find forgiveness and release the past. 

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will be used as a grant for writers to work with teens at Denney Juvenile Justice Center. The youth’s poetry anthologies can be downloaded at: http://www.denneypoetry.org 


Review

 

I’m sure this book won’t appeal to everybody, but I enjoyed it. It’s part memoir, part poetry, and part inspiration.

Teacher Mindy Hardwick runs poetry workshops in an American juvenile detention centre. She is met by an interesting group of teenagers with various pasts, crimes, and issues. Most of the group appear uninterested in the workshop, greet it with trepidation, or sometimes even with defiance.

As Mindy tries to get a handle on the group, and encourage them to participate she reflects on her own past and struggles.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but I just knew that it would be an interesting comparison to what I do at work. I work in two prisons as a library assistant and run creative writing groups in both of them. A lot of what Mindy described rang so true. The bizarre nature of the workplace, but how it quickly becomes the norm. Having people in your group that don’t want to be there despite having signed up, and how nothing ever goes to plan!

I enjoyed reading about the dynamic of Mindy’s group, and how it changed over time. It was also nice to see the work that they produced. The part of the book I wasn’t expecting, and also wasn’t overly keen on was Mindy’s segues into her past. Some of it was enjoyable as it gave an insight into what has shaped her as a person, but I felt like it was too much at times.

Overall, I’m pleased I discovered this book, and it certainly gave me lots to think about.

unicorn rating 3

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Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit #BookReview #Thriller

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fear

Title: Fear
Author: Dirk Kurbjuweit
Series: n/a
Format: Digital ARC, 303 pages
Publication Details: Jan 25th 2018 by Orion Publishing Group
Genre(s): Thriller/Mystery;
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

 

‘YOU’D DIE FOR YOUR FAMILY. BUT WOULD YOU KILL FOR THEM?

***

Family is everything.

So what if yours was being terrorised by a neighbour – a man who doesn’t listen to reason, whose actions become more erratic and sinister with each passing day? And those you thought would help – the police, your lawyer – can’t help you.

You become afraid to leave your family at home alone. But there’s nothing more you can do to protect them.

Is there?


Review

Fear is psychological thriller with a difference.

At the beginning of the novel we learn that the protagonist’s elderly dad is in prison for shooting a neighbour who was terrorising his family. What follows is the build-up to how and why he took those measures.

Translated from German, the writing style of this book has a distinct Germanic feel to it which I enjoyed. It’s written from the protagonist Randolph’s sole perspective with a stream of consciousness narration. I’ve enjoyed this style in the past, but I did find Randolph a slightly strange,  monosyllabic narrator which made it hard for me to truly get on his side. I don’t know if this was the intention to create further intrigue (didn’t work for me) or if it was something lost in translation.

It did create suspense though, and I felt for Randolph every time the police and lawyers failed to help him. His complaint was that his neighbour was sending abusive notes to him and his wife, claiming that he knew they were sexually abusing their two children. This is obviously a terrible thing to be accused of if innocent, as we believe them to be.

However, I didn’t understand some of Randolph’s reaction. He basically went into a meltdown and started wondering if it was true. Had he ever touched them inappropriately when bathing them etc. Has his wife? Now, I don’t have children but I’m pretty sure if I did I would know if I’d touched them inappropriately. I mean, WTF.

Also the fact that him and his wife were slightly estranged and didn’t trust each other either made me question them more, added to the weirdness of his childhood stories about his gun-mad dad and always thinking he might shoot someone – I found it hard to relate to any of them. That being said, this all created a lot of intrigue, and along with some very dark, compelling moments, kept me reading.

it wasn’t a quick read, however. I found it a little slow with all the backstory and a bit too long. However, if you enjoyed We Need to Talk About Kevin, and/or want something a little different than your average psychological thriller then definitely give Fear a go! Bit of wait until it’s released though, soz!

unicorn rating 3

Fear is out 25th January 2018, but you can pre-order it now!

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

 

Calling Major Tom by David M. Barnett #BookReview

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callingmtTitle: Calling Major Tom
Author: David M. Barnett
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 304 pages
Publication Details: June 18th 2017 by Trapeze
Genre(s): General Fiction; Science Fiction
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

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CALLING MAJOR TOM is a heart-warming and ultimately life-affirming story of a man who has given up on the world… but discovers in the most unlikely way that it might not have given up on him.

We all know someone like Thomas.

The grumpy next-door-neighbour who complains to the Residents’ Committee about the state of your front lawn. The man who tuts when you don’t have the correct change at the checkout. The colleague who sends an all-company email when you accidentally use the last drop of milk.

Thomas is very happy to be on his own, far away from other people and their problems.

But beneath his cranky exterior lies a story and a sadness that is familiar to us all. And he’s about to encounter a family who will change his view of the world.

Review

Calling Major Tom is a story about family and friendship, and more importantly about losing your way.

Thomas Major is an extremely grumpy scientist who partly by chance and partly by his own stupidity becomes the first man to be sent to Mars. It’s basically a suicide mission but that doesn’t bother Thomas. He’s just happy that he’ll be alone. For a really, really long time, if not forever.

Thinking he’s calling his ex-wife from space, Thomas actually gets through to Gladys, a grandmother suffering from dementia and he’s unwittingly thrown into the lives of a family with some very real problems.

Despite his best efforts to be alone, Thomas Major finds himself trying to help the family from space, and in helping them he learns that maybe he’s not quite the lost cause he thought he was.

Calling Major Tom is wonderfully odd. It’s one of those genuine heart-warming stories that just makes you smile. It’s far-fetched; not at all realistic in plot, but each and every character stands out providing a good injection of realness to bring us back down to earth.

That’s not to say that I didn’t find some faults in it. There seemed a  tendency to jump from one scene or thought to the next without any transition, but that may have just been the pre-proof format to be fair. However, it did put me off at first until I got into the erratic rhythm of it.

I am always impressed by anyone who can create a wonderful story like this, but what impressed me the most was how current it was. There are references to David Bowie’s death and Brexit which makes me wonder when Barnett started writing it and how long it took him. I loved all the Bowie references, naturally, and its crazy quirkiness and undeniable charm made it a perfect tribute to the great man.

 

unicorn rating 4

 

Fellside by M.R Carey #BookReview #Horror

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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!

 

fellsideTitle: Fellside
Author: M.R Carey
Series: N/A
Format: Hardback, 496 pages
Publication Details: April 5th 2016 by Orbit
Genre(s): Horror (Supernatural); Mystery
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!

Goodreads 

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Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. It’s not the kind of place you’d want to end up. But it’s where Jess Moulson could be spending the rest of her life.

It’s a place where even the walls whisper.

And one voice belongs to a little boy with a message for Jess.

Will she listen?

Review

Not only did I really enjoy The Girl With All the Gifts, but Mike Carey visited the prison I work in to help us celebrate World Book Night so I was hoping I would LOVE this book. Unfortunately, I can’t quite say that, but I definitely didn’t hate it!

Fellside started off great. Jess is a heroin addict who burnt down her flat, killing a little boy in the process and in turn is sent to Fellside prison. The prison – a scary enough prospect as it is – also appears to be haunted, and the little boy Alex is never far from Jess’ side. 

This was one of those books that I had no idea where it was going – which I love. It never felt like it was just about Jess’ time in prison, or about it being haunted, it was something different altogether. But as exciting as that was, I felt I was being constantly let down by the direction it took.

I loved the eerie parts of the story, such as Alex taking Jess through the other prisoner’s dreams; the dreamscape thing on the whole was a really interesting concept and described perfectly by Carey.

But then there was this whole prison drug dealing storyline with corrupt officers and scared doctors working with the prisoners for profit or sex and it just bored me. I don’t know if it’s because I work in a prison (and I’m sure to some extent these things do go on), but I didn’t find it interesting at all and didn’t think the story needed it. 

Also, Carey refers to prison officers as guards throughout which put me off slightly. I don’t know anywhere in the UK that uses that term. 

Overall, I think my main problem with this is that I didn’t like any of the characters. I did grow to like Jess more as it went on but it was too little too late.

I did enjoy the mystery though, and that’s what kept me reading. I needed to know who Alex was and whether Jess would get her appeal. 

I feel like Carey is turning into a new Stephen King for me. I enjoy his books a lot but something always lets them down, usually the ending. The same can be said here. I felt like the book should have ended much earlier than it did. No stone was left unturned, it just went on and on until everything was wrapped up a little too perfectly. I’m pretty sure I felt the same about TGWATG too. 

That said, I’m still really interested to see what he comes up with next, and it was lovely to meet him. I even got him to sign my copy. 🙂

unicorn rating 3

Fellside is available now in hardback, or paperback from the 25th August 2016