Lazy Saturday Review: The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes #BookReview

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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 and writing and more on my general feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

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Title: The Amber Fury
Author: Natalie Haynes
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Publication Details:  November 6th 2014 by Corvus
Genre(s): General Fiction; Mystery
Disclosure? Nope, borrowed from Dora!

Goodreads // Waterstones

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When you open up, who will you let in?

Alex Morris has lost everything: her relationship, her career and her faith in the future. Moving to Edinburgh to escape her demons, Alex takes a job teaching at a Pupil Referral Unit. It’s a place for kids whose behaviour is so extreme that they cannot be taught in a normal classroom. Alex is fragile with grief and way out of her depth.

Her fourth-year students are troubled and violent. In desperation to reach them, Alex turns to the stories she knows best. Greek tragedy isn’t the most obvious way to win over such damaged children, yet these tales of fate, family and vengeance speak directly to them.

Enthralled by the bloodthirsty justice of the ancient world, the teenagers begin to weave the threads of their own tragedy – one that Alex watches, helpless to prevent.

Review

I really enjoyed this story of a theatre director who ends up teaching troubled teens in Edinburgh following a personal tragedy.

It’s one of those books that spoon feeds you most of the story but omits the most important piece of the puzzle to keep you guessing.

We know that Alex’s vulnerable state has weakened her judgement and as a result the children in her care have suffered. We discover that one of the teens in particular has done something terrible, and that Alex perhaps had the opportunity to stop that from happening but failed.

I enjoyed the writing and the setting; I could tell that the author had spent time in Edinburgh where it was set. The characters were well developed and interesting, and Alex was a great protagonist. Her vulnerability had the potential to get a bit woe-is-me, but her passion for the Greek Tragedies she taught and for helping the children stopped that from happening. 

Overall, I thought The Amber Fury was a good, solid read, if not a teeny bit anti-climatic! 

unicorn rating 3

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell #OutThisWeek

madwomanTitle: The Madwoman Upstairs
Author: Catherine Lowell
Series: Into the Dim #1
Format: Digital ARC, 353 pages
Publication Details: March 1st 2016 by Touchstone
Genre(s): Literary Fiction; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advanced copy in exchange for an HONEST review

Goodreads // Purchase

In this smart and enthralling debut in the spirit of The Weird Sisters and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using clues her eccentric father left behind.

Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. As the last remaining descendant of the Brontë family, she’s rumored to have inherited a vital, mysterious portion of the Brontë’s literary estate; diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts; a hidden fortune that’s never been shown outside of the family.

But Samantha has never seen this rumored estate, and as far as she knows, it doesn’t exist. She has no interest in acknowledging what the rest of the world has come to find so irresistible; namely, the sudden and untimely death of her eccentric father, or the cryptic estate he has bequeathed to her.

But everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and bits and pieces of her past start mysteriously arriving at her doorstep, beginning with an old novel annotated in her father’s handwriting. As more and more bizarre clues arrive, Samantha soon realizes that her father has left her an elaborate scavenger hunt using the world’s greatest literature. With the aid of a handsome and elusive Oxford professor, Samantha must plunge into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontë’s own writing.

A fast-paced adventure from start to finish, this vibrant and original novel is a moving exploration of what it means when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.

Review

I’m not really sure why I requested this novel from Netgalley because I never got on with the classics at all and I couldn’t even differentiate between the Brontés (I can now though, whoop), but I can’t even express how happy I am that I gave it a go – I think it’s been my favourite of the year so far!

Samantha Whipple is the last living descendent of the Bronté family. She has been home-schooled by her father – with a heavy emphasis on literary criticism – and has a sharp mind as a result. She is also however, a bit strange and socially awkward, but adorably so.

Samantha has always lived with the Brontés legacy hanging over her like a cloud. It seems the more she tries to distance herself from them, the more they follow her around. Everyone assumes that she’s inherited a secret part of Bronté estate following from her father’s death but she has no idea what it could be or where.

When random Bronté books that belonged to her father start turning up she is both annoyed and intrigued about the whole thing. Luckily for Samantha she has a dashing tutor who may be willing to help her…

I loved everything about this book. The interactions between Samantha and Professor Orville were hilarious, and Samantha’s character in general (especially her hatred of all pretty much all fiction) just made me do actual LOLs. 

I loved the academic setting and the literary debates. It even made me want to revisit that world. Not that my time at uni was anything like this…but maybe it could have been! I loved that it was like a literary treasure hunt. I loved the debate about ‘is all good fiction actually the truth’. It was nice to read a book that actually made me think a bit.

It even made me want to try the classics again. Maybe. One day 😉

The Madwoman Upstairs is definitely a book for Lit nerds. Like me, you don’t have to enjoy the classics to enjoy this, but it would probably help if you’re interested in the study of literature in general. Oh, and did I mention how swoon-worthy the professor is? OK so yeah…unethical…but y’know…HOT. 

The Madwoman Upstairs gets ALL the unicorns from me!

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