Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere was chosen by my bookgroup after it got so much love on Goodreads last year.

I’m going to be totally honest, I probably never would have read it as a personal pick. Having said that I did enjoy it.

The writing was excellent and the characterisation strong. I particually loved Izzie and the relationship she developed with Mia and Pearl.

This was a heartbreaking book at times, certainly not an easy read and it dealt with some really heavy issues. Adoption, abortion, and bullying to name a few. It wasn’t all dark though, there were some lighter moments as well.

Overall the book left me feeling kind of sad, which while it demonstrates the authors skill in storytelling isn’t something I generally enjoy in a book. It wasn’t a crying sad, just an unsettled one, a sense of something unfinished.

It likely says more about me than the book but I do prefer stories to have a ‘proper’ end and mostly a happy one too, or at least a sense of satisfaction.

A solid, well written story that I can absolutely see why others love, I found this a middle of the road read.

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Review: Southern Spirits by Angie Fox

You know those series that you somehow end up jumping into in the middle of them, but they makes sense anyway so you just carry on? Angie Fox’s Southern Ghost Hunter is one of those for me. I love this series so much, its light, fun, has a good mystery and is just an all round cracking good read.

But up until a couple of days I ago I had never actually read the first book in the series. It didn’t matter, the latter books filled in any relevant point as needed. Finding myself in a gap between books with no idea what I wanted to read next, I thought I’d correct this.

I’m glad I did, it was nice to pick up the full story of how Verity (our ghost hunter) and Frankie (her resident gangster ghost) ended up tied to each other, and watch as Verity gets used to her new connection to the ghostly world.

A perfect cozy mystery to snuggle up with, I thoroughly recommend this series no matter where you jump in.

Book Mail

I love getting books in the post, I’m getting a surprise title once a month at the moment thanks to my New Books Magazine subscription and I was lucky enough recently to receive an advance reader copy of Ann Cleeves new book as well.

This months New Books choice was a YA novel. I wasn’t aware of this one before receiving it but it sounds good. The cover is beautiful as well all gold and sparkly.

I can feel it swimming through my veins like glitter … it’s liquid gold.

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom. She’s wrong. Rock bottom is when she’s forced into an exclusive rehab facility.

From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady. As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all … 

It’s a dirty business getting clean …

With my library hat on I also received a copy of The Long Call by Ann Cleeves. This is the start of a brand new series and I’m excited to give it a read.

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his father’s funeral takes place. Once loved and cherished, the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back into the community he thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed, and his past and present collide.

Books on my Netgalley shelf

I love Netgalley, it’s such a brilliant way to discover up coming books and get to read them early. I do try and limit the number of books I have on my shelf as I want to enjoy reading the books rather than feeling pressured to do so.

I’ve actually had my Netgalley account for a few years now although I’ve only been blogging since the start of the year, I initially signed up with my professional (library) hat on, but it’s great for book blogging too.

I’ve got 4 titles on there at the moment, with Kindgom of Souls lined up to start reading today. I’m looking forward to reading all of them, sometimes its hard to decide which to read first!

Lacey Chu has big dreams of becoming a companioneer for MONCHA, the largest tech firm in North America and the company behind the  “baku” – a customisable smart pet that functions as a phone but makes the perfect companion too. When Lacey finds out she hasn’t been accepted into Profectus – the elite academy for cutting edge tech – it seems her dreams are over. Worst of all, rather than getting to choose one of the advanced bakus, she’s stuck with a rubbish insect one. 

Then, one night, Lacey comes across the remains of an advanced baku. Once it might’ve been in the shape of a cat but it’s now mangled and broken, no sign of electronic life behind its eyes. Days of work later and the baku opens its eyes. Lacey calls him Jinx – and Jinx opens up a world for her that she never even knew existed, including entry to the hallowed halls of Profecus. Slowly but surely, Jinx becomes more than just a baku to Lacey – he becomes her perfect companion. But what is Jinx, really? His abilities far surpass anything written into his code or built into his motherboard. He seems to be more than just a robotic pet. He seems … real. 

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.

When Pentagon bio-terror operative Roberto Diaz was sent to investigate a suspected biochemical attack, he found something far worse: a highly mutative organism capable of extinction-level destruction. He contained it and buried it in cold storage deep beneath a little-used military repository.

Now, after decades of festering in a forgotten sub-basement, the specimen has found its way out and is on a lethal feeding frenzy.  Only Diaz knows how to stop it.

He races across the country to help two unwitting security guards—one an ex-con, the other a single mother.  Over one harrowing night, the unlikely trio must figure out how to quarantine this horror again.  All they have is luck, fearlessness, and a mordant sense of humour.  Will that be enough to save all of humanity?

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artefacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Review: Murder by the Minster – by Helen Cox

It’s a perfectly normal day for Kitt Hartley at her job at the University of the Vale of York library, until Detective Inspector Halloran arrives at her desk to tell her that her best friend, Evie Bowes, is under suspicion of murder. Evie’s ex-boyfriend Owen has been found dead – with a fountain pen stabbed through his heart – and all the evidence points to her.

Kitt knows there is no way Evie could murder anyone – let alone Owen, who she adored. Horrified that the police could have got it so wrong, Kitt decides there’s only one thing to do: she’s going to investigate Owen’s murder herself. She’s read hundreds of mystery novels – how hard can it be?

Having worked in public libraries for nearly 20 years I was intreagued to read this book that has a librarian as its main character. Kitt works in a university rather than public library but I think Helen Cox captured the feel of a library and its eclectic mix of customers well.

Kitt was maybe a little over the top with her literary call backs but it did fit with her character. I loved Grace, Kitt’s assistant who would happily spend hours digging round on the internet following clues, without falling into the trap of being written as a computer genius.

The book did require some suspension of disbelief at how ingrained in the investigation Detective Halloran allowed a previous suspect to become, not to mention the burgeoning romance between Halloran and Kitt. However I was happy to do so as I enjoyed the story.

The crime element of the book was well done. The case was interesting and the culprit not immediately obvious (although I did work out some of it before the reveal). With some light description of the crime scenes, but nothing truly graphic I’d say this novel falls more towards the M.C. Beaton (Agatha Raisin) end of the crime genre than the Val McDermid one.

All in all an entertaining read, and I’ll certainly check in with Kitt if she makes another outing.

With thanks to Quercus books for a copy in exchange for honest review. Murder by the Minster is available now.

August TBR

Somehow we’re in August already! After a couple of months of making TBR lists I find myself enjoying having one more than I expected to, I don’t force myself to stick to it and something extra seems to sneak in a lot but i’m going to keep making one for now.

During school holidays I generally find I have less time to read so I’m not expecting to manage all of these this month. Maybe that means its more of a TBR wish list but I might be pleasantly surprised!

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

My bookgroup’s pick for this month, I’ve seen this one about lot with its distinctive battenburg cover, looking forward to reading it at last.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.

I’ve been lucky enough to get an early e-copy of Kingdom of Souls. It sounds amazing, I’ll definitely be trying to find time for it.

A series of apparently random murders draws amiable, old-school Detective Mick Matlock into a world of sex, politics, reality TV and a bewildering kaleidoscope of opposing identity groups. Lost in a blizzard of hashtags, his already complex investigation is further impeded by the fact that he simply doesn’t ‘get’ a single thing about anything anymore.

Meanwhile, each day another public figure confesses to having ‘misspoken’ and prostrates themselves before the judgement of Twitter. Begging for forgiveness, assuring the public “that is not who I am”.

But if nobody is who they are anymore – then who are we?

I’ve loved many of Ben Elton’s previous books and this one sounds like it’s very on topic at the moment. Hoping it lives up to his back catalogue.

My Goodreads Reading Challenge…is complete!

I’m honestly amazed. When I set 25 books I thought it would be a struggle, I hadn’t quite made that number in 2018 and wanted to give myself a realistic but challenging target.

Instead it’s halfway through the year and I’ve beaten my target already! Blogging has definitely helped me reconnect with my love of books again and I’ve found so great books to read through other bloggers as well.

Having thought about it, I’ve decided not to set myself a larger target for this year but to just keep going as I have been and see where I get to by the end of the year. Next years target might be bigger than I expected!