A really interesting and fresh concept from Young Adult author, Lauren Oliver

Replica (Replica #1) by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book drew my attention when I saw it in my local Waterstones branch, I picked it up and was immediately perplexed by the way the print copy of this book had matching covers front and back yet one had the name Lyra on the front and the other the name Gemma. If you turned the book over and upside down you seemed to get a different book and the text when you reached half way would flip over and you’d need to flip the book the other way to read the other half.

Written by Lauren Oliver this book is a different concept, it is two stories in one. Each a story of a young girl that when read separately make sense but when read together give you the full picture and detail of their stories when they merge as one. You have the choice, you can either read Lyra’s story first then Gemma’s or vice versa or you can do what I chose to do and read a chapter of each girls stories and keep jumping between them both throughout.

In Lyra’s story we meet a young girl, living in a facility on an island off the coast of Florida she has been bred, she is a clone or as they are called in the facility a replica. The facility is full of replicas, bred from human DNA they are classed as less than human, born and herded into batches and branded by colours they live in dormitories and get little human contact and no love or stimulation. Replica’s are segregated by sex and often whole batches of them will become sick and die. Lyra is known as number 24. One day she meets number 74, a male replica who has tried to escape the island and suddenly a cataclysmic event will force them off the island together and into the real world. How will they cope in a world they don’t understand and with people chasing them down before the world learns about what they are.

In Gemma’s story, we meet a teen living with her strict parents, her father is head of a pharmaceutical company and her mom suffers from issues with her nerves. Gemma has been sick for parts of her life and has vague memories of a hospital facility somewhere but she doesn’t think about it too much as she struggles with the normal high school issues of low self-confidence and popularity issues. A few days before she’s due to go to Florida on Spring Break a man approaches her in a gas station car park and demands to learn what she knows about ‘Haven’, driven by memories from her past she begins to investigate this strange place and eventually to try and visit the facility itself. It will take her on a road trip to Florida where she will learn about the conspiracy theories that exist about an island off the coast.

This book started really well, it was immediately engaging and I liked both main characters equally. Lyra had the innocence of someone who has never experienced human love and interaction and the wonder of a child who knows there is much about her world she doesn’t understand. Gemma is the quintessential child who wants to please, she tows the family line and never questions until she is forced out of her comfort zone and forced to face the truth about her father’s job.

This book is going to be part of an ongoing series, with book 2 Ringer due for release in October 2017, so this book does answer some questions that we seek from the start of the story but it does clearly leave us lots of blanks that will form the basis of subsequent stories of the two girls. This isn’t a nice fluffy read, it’s got some dark moments and the story is full of action in the second half. It is a really quick read too, I think because I read chapter around and was flipping back and forth through the pages I didn’t really realise just how far I’d gotten until it was done, it’s deceptive that way. We really only get around 18 chapters from each girls perspective and they fly by very quickly so that added to the aspect of not feeling the story had completed.

It was a combination of the movie The Island and Humans the TV show but perhaps not quite so sophisticated in its storytelling. It was a good read but it wasn’t one that I’d say blew me away, it was engaging and interesting but I’m not sure it would be one I’d immediately recommend to friends.  I will definitely be delving into book 2 later this year after it’s release.

A wonderful tale of life on a prison island, filled with mystery and romance

Ember Island by Kimberley Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kimberley Freeman is an author I discovered a year or so ago after reading her novel Wildflower Hill and I immediately fell in love with her mix of contemporary and historical fiction stories, often set in remote and picturesque Australian settings. Finding any new novel by this author is exciting and I have been looking forward to delving into Ember Island for some time now.

This book begins at the wedding of Tilly in 1890 where we find the bride very much in love with her husband and looking forward to her future with husband Jasper, but things take an alternative turn when Tilly’s beloved grandfather collapses at the wedding and she finds herself remaining behind to care for him rather than joining her new husband at their home on Guernsey.

The story of Tilly is mixed with that of author Nina, who struggling to finish her latest novel seeks solace on Ember Island in the old family house that she purchased. There she finds letters and diaries of her great-great grandmother who has hidden the pages in the walls of the home Nina is now seeking to renovate, piece by piece she begins to pull together an understanding of life on Ember Island at the turn of the century.

What I loved about this book is that unlike similar historical/contemporary novels, who follow a dual storyline format, we don’t find ourselves jumping endlessly backward and forward in time. Instead, much of the book is told from the perspective of Tilly. We follow her journey as a newlywed to join her husband Jasper and begin their new life on Guernsey, we share her despair as she realises she’s been tied into a loveless marriage with a man who is in love with another and follow her as she escapes Guernsey after a terrible tragedy occurs for which she blames herself.

Tilly is a wonderful main character and Freeman writes her story beautifully, we long for Tilly to find happiness and share with her the guilt she carries with her for the events she is fleeing from. Ember Island proves a wonderful setting for the novel, an island with a prison on it where she finds herself fulfilling the role of governess to Nell, the only daughter of the widowed prison governor Sterling. She finds herself glimpsing happiness on the island but struggles when she forms a friendship with a prisoner on the island, Hettie, and draws comparisons between her own circumstances and those of the inmate.

Although it is a good blend in this book of the modern and the historic, almost the book could have stood alone as a purely historical novel. Whilst Nina’s story is interesting and gives us a chance to refocus during the novel by stepping back from Tilly’s world, I question whether in fact it added anything to the narrative or if like me readers have found themselves just skimming them so they could return to the heart of the action. I wanted this book to be a 5-star review, and at points I thought it had that potential but I also felt that the ending in some ways was not as satisfying as the beginning of the book. I wanted a more rounded conclusion. Instead, it seemed to be a little pulled together in a very small epilogue that left me wanting more for Tilly.

I would say that this book is my second favourite novel by this author after Wildflower Hill and if you are a lover of authors like Kate Morton and Rachel Hore then this is an author I am absolutely sure you will enjoy reading.

 

I eventually read the first book in one of the most beloved Childrens series ever


The Lightning Thief
 (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #1) by Rick Riordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yes, it’s true, please don’t throw anything at me….I know. I cannot believe I have gotten this far in my book reading life without having read a Rick Riordan novel, not even one of his most famous hero one’s Percy Jackson. It is such a confession and having heard so many people raving about his writing and how all of her series are so eminently enjoyable and such fun I decided that at the grand old age of 40 I really did need to try reading one.

So, in true Sound of Music style, I decided I’d start at the very beginning with the first in The Percy Jackson series, The Lightning Thief. And yes, I am well aware that this book is absolutely not aimed at people of my mature years however if everyone had said that about the Harry Potter novels then I am sure there would be a number of very disappointed adults out there who would feel they’d missed a wonderful experience and why can that not be true of other authors novels too. Yes this is a children’s book but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be read and loved and enjoyed by anyone.

From the very outset, this book is pretty action packed. We meet Percy Jackson, who is on a school field trip with the other kids from his school, they are a school of delinquents and they are visiting the museum of natural history when Percy has a strange run in with his maths teacher Mrs Dodds. He could swear she turned into a monster and tried to kill him but he somehow ended up killing her but when he comes round no one knows who Mrs Dodds is, their maths teacher is someone totally different and she’s been teaching them for months. From there stranger and stranger things begin happening to Percy.

This book is a really fun adventure from start to finish, we quickly learn that Percy is a son of one of the Gods, yes that’s right in Riordan’s world the Greek Gods are very much real and living right here in the Western World. Percy has a target on his back on account of the fact he may be the son of one of the big 3, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon but which one? He finds himself at Camp Half-Blood, a special summer camp for children of the gods where he learns more about his special powers and just what it means to be a demi-god.

He, just like Harry Potter, has his trusty sidekicks, Annabeth and Grover and in the vein of Ron and Hermione, they are there to help our hero on his adventures. This book has a fair bit of back story building in it but not so much that Riordan hasn’t managed to pack in lots of enemies for our trusty trio to face and lots of colourful places for them to visit. I mean who would have imagined that Mount Olympus could be accessed from floor 600th floor of The Empire State Building? Who even knew it had a 600th floor?

I loved this book, it was fun and full of wonderful escapism and great characters. I cannot believe I waited this long to read it. It definitely won’t be so long till I pick up the second in the series and spend more time finding out what adventures await Percy and his friends next summer at Camp Half-Blood as this book is left with somewhat of a cliff hanger with gives us plenty anticipation for the story ahead.

 

Will Paula Hawkins second novel be as successful as her first

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book has been one of the most highly anticipated spring/summer releases this year, written by Paula Hawkins of The Girl On The Train fame it is her second novel and it’s almost as though the literary world is waiting to see can she deliver another smash hit or will it be a case of ‘one trick pony’. I read Girl On The Train fairly quickly after it’s release and whilst I enjoyed it I must confess to being surprised that it attracted as much attention as I did and that it made it all the way to movie status. I was therefore intrigued to read Into The Water to give me a second opportunity to assess the writing abilities of this new but very successful author.

This story is set in a small town next to a river and opens when the body of single mother Nel is pulled from the river, with everyone making the assumption it was most likely a suicide. A few months earlier a teenage girl from the town met a similar fate in the same river and questions remain unanswered about her death also. In fact, the river holds many secrets about the different women who have died in it over the years and this book is about their stories and the secrets the town holds about how they met their fate.

We are generally fairly used to thrillers with multiple perspectives, it is a popular format in literary fiction today but Hawkins takes this one stage further. In the first 50 pages of this book, there are literally so many characters introduced that it makes your head spin. None of the stories they are telling link together smoothly it is absolutely a snapshot of their own points of view on Nel’s death and whether it was a suicide and about what a controversial character she was in her life and the very differing opinions of her. This multiple to an excess perspective meant that it took me some time to really relax into this book, the first quarter leaves you a little confused, having to check you are beginning to place just who each character is and their links to the others. I imagine that like other lower rated reviews of this book it could be that this writing approach has meant that, like me, you are left actually not really caring what happened to Nel.

As the book progresses past the first quarter you suddenly begin to realise you are becoming more familiar with everyone, you don’t need to keep thinking so hard about it and you begin to relax more into the story. You are able to focus more on the history of the town, the dark secrets that it holds and begin to understand that there is much more that needs to be answered about Nel’s death. However, one thing that is clear is that this town is particularly disturbed. The secrets that run through it touch everyone in it and there are a lot of stories we touch upon along the way, some which evoke more sympathy than others.

I liked this book, a bit like Girl On The Train I found that the author did pull me through with her short snappy chapters. You’d sit down and say you’d read one more and suddenly you were 5 chapters later and thinking how you got there. Naturally, as this is a mystery novel I don’t want to delve too much into the plot for fear of ruining the experience for other readers but I will say that I felt the ending didn’t leave me totally fulfilled. Whilst some of the characters stories concluded nicely and we were able to see them beginning to move on, other parts left us with frustrating unresolved issues that niggled.

I have to be honest and say that I think this book is going to be one you will either really love or be like myself a little ambivalent about it. I am not sure that in a few months time it will have stuck with me. I am fairly sure that it will sell many many copies but I would put it on my ‘good but not outstanding shelf’

A marvellous summer read from my favourite author

The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I always get really excited when there is a new Jane Green book released, I have become used to having a shiny new story from one of my favourite authors on my book stand ready just in time for summer reading and this year didn’t disappoint with the release of The Sunshine Sisters in June.

This book is, like all Green’s books, a tale of family. It begins with an actress Ronni Sunshine preparing to end her own life due to illness. She is frail and in pain and has been storing painkillers and despite the reservations of her three daughters she has made her decision and she wants to choose how she leaves her life.

From this point the book goes back in time and follows the lives of Ronni’s 3 daughters Nell, Meredith and Lizzy. We follow the girls from their childhood with their famous B-list actress mother and learn quickly that their relationship with her is strained. Their mother is narcissistic and focused so much on her own career she fails often to pay attention to her children. She criticises them and her personality overshadows them and over the years she drives them away and sows seeds of disharmony between them. Nell, a single mother, chooses to run a farm near to her mother but is lonely and finds it difficult to form relationships. Meredith has moved to London and struggles with her self-image and is planning to marry a man she doesn’t love. Meanwhile, Lizzy, the youngest, is a celebrity chef who is cheating on her husband and is a risk taker who spends little time considering other people.

This book is about the journey the girls go through as they are called home by their mother for her to share news of her illness and about how they each have to face the demons of their relationship with Ronni. Ronni wants nothing more than to reunite her girls before she passes away and that is the fundamental story of this book, the desire of a mother to bring her girls together to support each other in a way she never did.

I read this book so quickly, I literally did it in under 2 days and I loved every single second of it. I though each of the characters brought something different to the story and the way their points of view were told was really engaging. Nell was strong and capable on the outside but scared of carrying the huge burden of her farm alone and lacking anyone to share her troubles with who would be there for just her. Meredith was the gentlest of the 3, second guessing herself all the time, scarred by a mother who always told her she wasn’t good enough and settling for a man who showed her the slightest bit of attention she was my favourite of the sisters and I longed for her to be happy and find acceptance.

Lizzy was the most complex of the 3, she was ballsy and most like her mother with a confidence in herself the other two sisters lacked. She had a different relationship with her mother and has forged a similar career where she is in the public eye and as a result she is repeating many of her mother’s mistakes. She was the one it was hardest to like but the one who Ronni had to all appearances the most loving relationship with but she was inherently a good person.

The emotion in this book was outstanding, Ronni is a character we want to hate. She’s portrayed as a pretty awful mother and yet in this book we learn that there are things about our parents we will never know until it’s too late. I also loved the quote from this book that I think bears relevance to all of our lives…..

“It doesn’t matter how many years go by, how grown up we think we are, how much we presume we have changed or evolved, when we are back in our childhood homes, we become exactly who we have always been”

That is the crux of this story that although we may move away and grow we will at some point come home and when we do family will be the only people who shared that experience with you of growing up in your home and only there and with those people can you make your peace with yourself and with those you love.

Another incredible and touching novel this is Jane Green at her absolute best, it’s just an incredible book and absolutely one of my favourite reads this year, it deserves every one of it’s five stars.

A wonderful time spent with one of my longest term favourite authors

I Found You by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Jewell is one of the 5 authors whom I’ve read for the most number of years now, along with Jane Green and Mike Gayle and a few select others. I’ve been reading her novels from those very early ones like Ralph’s Party and I love it when a new one is released and yet somehow I Found You, which was released in 2016, slipped through my To Be Read pile last year.

Jolted into realisation by the recent release of her 2017 novel ‘Then She Was Gone’ I immediately decided to rectify the situation and delved into I Found You immediately. Since the 2015 release of The Girls, Jewell’s books have taken a slightly different turn. They have become more steeped in mystery and the stories unravel themselves still with the same emotion and wonderful characters as she has always written but they are darker and more mysterious than her earlier novels which were more frothy and lighthearted. Perhaps this change in tone had made me miss this one on my kindle but either way, I knew that the quality of the author should be recommendation enough.

This is a story that begins with 40-something single mum, Alice, finding a man sitting on the beach across from her home, he is lost and has no memory of who he is or where he has come from, he cannot remember anything. Alice takes him into her home and takes care of him and helps him to feel safe whilst he waits for his memories to return. She is kind and warm and her children name the stranger Frank and slowly over the days he stays he becomes part of their home.

Elsewhere a young Ukranian woman waits for her husband to come home from work. Married just a few weeks they are still madly in love and deliriously happy. She is new to the country having moved after their honeymoon and she relies upon her husband Carl to do everything. When he fails to come home she finds it difficult to get the police to take his disappearance seriously and when eventually they do she is shocked to find that her husband’s passport is fake and her husband doesn’t exist.

All these people are tied up in a mystery that took place in Alice’s home town in 1993 and the story keeps flitting back to the story of the holiday town in the summer of that year, a mystery that was never solved and the people who left that town scarred for life. It’s how this story links to the mysterious man with no memory and the missing husband that forms the basis for this story.

This book grips you from the outset, it’s short snappy chapters mean you fly through it so quickly as it’s ever so easy when you think of stopping to say, “Just one more chapter, I can manage just one more”. Suddenly you’ve read another 5 and those dishes you swore you’d wash are still sitting by the sink. The characters are really well written and actually the mystery of who Frank is and where he has come from and is he the mysterious Carl who never came home keeps you hanging on through most of the book.

Your mind will spin through all the possibilities of how Frank has come to be in Alice’s home, some you will want to believe to be true, others you will pray are not. You will flit between feeling compassion for him and understanding Alice’s need to care for him and wanting to slap her for being so stupid and bringing someone she doesn’t know into a home with 3 children when really he could be anyone and has said himself he feels he has done bad things. The chapters move between different perspectives and from present day to the fateful year of 1993 and just when you think you’ve go it all figured out you realise you have it all wrong and need to keep going because this book has more secrets yet to reveal. There is that conflict as a reader because you like ‘Frank’ and he is clearly in distress and being wonderful to Alice but there is always that doubt that he could be something sinister and it’s a really difficult thing to not let yourself go and be on his side from the outset.

The setting for the book as also wonderfully atmospheric, the little seaside town which draws tourists in the summer and has beachside cafe’s and little pubs it seems the perfect place but as we learn it was home to a terrible tragedy and this book takes us slowly up to the point where we have it all unfold and it’s touching and devastating and is tackled beautifully by Lisa Jewell.

This was a book I completed in just a little over a day, I couldn’t put it down, I loved it. I really felt like I rediscovered an old friend in Lisa Jewell, one who you haven’t seen for years but whom the minute you see you feel like you’ve never been apart. A solid 4 star read.

A satisfying and tear jerking end to the wonderful Infernal Devices

Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3) by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This month I feel like I’ve gone on such a wonderful journey through the world of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters and her Infernal Devices Trilogy, I’ve been what I would term a transient reader for the past year and have struggled to read sometimes one book a month but somehow in May I have managed to read this entire trilogy and a few other books besides. The other books were there as fillers to stop me from reading The Infernal Devices books back to back but my desperation to return to Clare’s world meant I found myself devouring those books quickly too lest it takes me too long away from the world of Jem, Tessa and Will.

I had tried to begin The Mortal Instruments, the companion series to these books, and each time I had stalled. I just couldn’t build that picture in my mind of the world Clare was building but now I can see it as clearly as day. I feel it’s been fundamental for me to read this series, essentially the prequel to The Mortal Instruments books in order to be able to fully prepare myself to go back and delve into the modern world setting of the other books. I think I needed to have that gothic, historical setting and wonderful love stories to make me fall in love with the Shadowhunter world and to build the family background of all the characters that I will meet as I move into The Mortal Instruments.

And what a story this was, from the opening chapters it is full of a wonderful mix of adventure and suspense and emotion and love. It picks up immediately after the end of Clockwork Prince where we find that Will Herrondale’s sister Cecily has arrived at The Institute and is training now to be a Shadowhunter. We are still trying to track down the mysterious Magister and his army of clockwork automatons and to piece together how Tessa forms such an integral part of his plans. We also are still questioning how Tessa has the ability to shapeshift when both of her parents were apparently mundane’s. All of the characters we’ve come to love are there and it’s like coming home to family, you feel like part of the Institute and care about each and every single one of them. From Bridget the cook and her somewhat annoying if not insightful singing to Charlotte, head of the institute who is now pregnant with her first child.

Alongside all of the adventure of this book, the story is fundamentally about the one story we are all desperate to know the end of, the love between Jem, Will and Tessa. When we left them Tessa was engaged to marry Jem but his health is failing and unbeknown to him his best friend and parabatai Will is also in love with his fiancee. For the first time in any love triangle, I was so desperately rooting for them all. Jem and Will are so intricately a part of each other and such wonderfully written characters that you want to be able for Tessa to love them both. This book had me wrung out emotionally throughout, there were so many moments of wonderful writing where Clare would move their story forward but also take great care not to rush past the difficult emotions that were going on within. At times there is humour and light moments to lift us from the darkness and this balance is a very special thing.

We do reach a wonderful and very satisfying conclusion at the end of the book, one I certainly didn’t see coming. In fact, throughout this book, there were so many moments where Clare would so utterly surprise you with how the story changed and moved that I found myself catching my breath and in sheer joy or amazement. Those surprises you don’t see coming make this an amazing end to her wonderful Infernal Devices series. Coming away from them I feel like I’ve made a whole group of new friends, not real friends but as a book lover, I’m sure you know that feeling that the people you read about when written well leap so off the page that they feel as real to you as can be. I am still utterly enraptured by Magnus Bane, I don’t know what it is about him that makes Clare write him so vividly that each time he is on the page he totally consumes it, he is so utterly three dimensional you feel you could reach out and touch him. I want to learn so much more about how each of the families of Shadowhunters will move forward in The Mortal Instruments. I want to see how their children’s children and great grandchildren will reflect the characters of their ancestors.

These books have been such a wonderful experience to read this past month. Someone said to me recently that if you are in a reading slump maybe it’s not the reading that’s the problem but what you are reading. Never has a truer word been spoken. To break away from my usual genre’s and to enter a world unfamiliar has paid me such dividends and rejuvenated me so much that I feel more enthusiastic about reading than I have in such a long time. For that, Cassandra Clare, I thank you.

Absolutely joy and escapism in the historic Shadowhunter world

Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #2) by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading is such a precious thing and it’s the ability it has to transport you to another time and place and to fully immerse you in a world that is not your own that makes it such a magical thing. For some time now I’ve struggled to find books that have absolutely engaged me fully but I’ve been very lucky recently to find books that have helped me to really rediscover the joy of reading which had been not fully there for a time. I find myself somewhat breathless with joy as I write this review for Clockwork Prince, the second book in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices Trilogy because I’ve only just finished it and so enraptured was I with it that I want to tell the world to read it, immediately if they haven’t already.

Often I will read the first book in a series and then leave it a long time before I progress to the second, and subsequent books in the set but having loved Clockwork Angel I took a break of only one book between reading that and returning to the Infernal Devices to read Clockwork Prince. Therefore the story was absolutely fresh in my mind and the characters were crystal clear. Clockwork Prince picks up immediately after the events of the first book and is a direct continuation of the story laid out in book one. We are still following the search for the mysterious Magister and trying to understand why he hates Shadowhunters so much and why he is so intent on marrying Tessa Grey.

The action moves very quickly in this book, unlike book one, Clare doesn’t waste time recapping any of the Shadowhunter history or building the characters but immediately moves the action on from the end of book one with a meeting of the Counsel of Shadowhunters and the challenge from Benedict Lightwood to Charlotte Branwell’s guardianship of the London Institute of Shadowhunters. Charlotte is given two weeks to prove her suitability for the role by finding out where Axel Mortmain, the Magister is and what his intentions are otherwise the guardianship of the Institute will be handed over to Benedict Lightwood and his sons Gideon and Gabriel. It is also agreed that his sons should provide training in combat to both Tessa and Sophie, the Institute’s servant to help them protect themselves in the future.

From this point, we follow the group of Shadowhunters we grew to know so well in Book one as they try to find out all they can about Axel Mortmain’s whereabouts before the two-week deadline expires. All of the familiar characters from Book One return along with some new faces. We learn more about why Will Herrondale pushes people away as he works with warlock Magnus Bane to try and free himself of a curse. We learn more about the complex Lightwood family and the two sons of Benedict and just why they have been sent to the institute to instruct Tessa and Sophie and why their father seems hell bent on gaining the institute.

This book is so rich with atmosphere, again we are drawn into a dark and gothic London of the late 1800’s where we are aware of dark going’s on that are hidden from the view of mundane’s as downworlders mix with the dark side of London’s alleyways. Clare paints such vivid pictures of the world she is building that we lose ourselves entirely in it. In this book, she also paints wonderful pictures of the bleakness of Yorkshire and the landscape there.

It is her character writing that truly stands out. The way she writes the wonderful triangle between Jem, Will and Tessa would take your breath away. We know that both Jem and Will love Tessa deeply and in most occasions when this happens in books we pick a team, people will post and say #Will or #Jem but honestly, she has so brilliantly written all of the characters and has given them such deep emotional range that we cannot pick. We don’t want either to win the heart of Tessa, we root for them both and feel distraught that Tessa cannot have them both. We don’t want her to break either’s hearts. Instead, we want them all to be happy.

And as for Magnus Bane, well, I am falling in love with that character, you can tell there is so much more we have yet to discover about this Warlock and his past that every time he is on the page it lights up. I want to spend chapters with him, his enigmatic personality and his history and his depth of emotion. I could literally read about him all day long.

There are so many unresolved issues at the end of this book that I am itching to read book 3, Clockwork Princess, I want to know the answers to all the loose ends now. I am going to take a break between this and book 3 but I know I’m going to be so desperate to get back to this story it will be an immediate TBR (to be read) after I have finished the book I choose to read next. I can say, even without reading book 3, that this is a world I have fallen in love with completely. I now cannot wait to read The Mortal Instruments, I am literally itching to get started in the modern Shadowhunter world. I love that Cassandra Clare has built a whole world for us to escape to and at the end of the day, whether we are an adult reader or a Young Adult reader, isn’t that really what we all want from the books we read? To escape completely for a while to a place we can leave ourselves behind and feel part of the world we go to so completely that when we return to real life we feel a little bereft?

The first of the Infernal Devices Trilogy is a wonderful, atmospheric read

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has been on my TBR (to be read) shelf for a while now along with the other two books in The Infernal Devices series, Clockwork Princess and Clockwork Prince. Written by Cassandra Clare and based in her world of Shadowhunters it is a companion to her Mortal Instruments series. The only reason I hadn’t already picked this book up is I wasn’t sure if it was ‘okay’ to read The Infernal Devices books before I’d finished The Mortal Instruments and so I’d been trying and trying to get into the second book of The Mortal Instruments when I saw a great YouTube video that reassured me it’s okay to read The Infernal Devices first and that was all the information I needed to have me delve into Clockwork Angel immediately.

I had already read City of Bones, the first in The Mortal Instruments series, and so I had a little background knowledge on Clare’s Shadowhunter world but I read it a few years ago now and my knowledge was hazy and so I went into Clockwork Angel hoping that I would be able to glean as much information as I needed to understand the narrative. Also, for me a book with a historical, in the case of this book Victorian, setting really helped me engage with the world more than the modern setting of The Mortal Instruments series. I kept thinking Penny Dreadful, the TV show, when I was reading this and imagining a similar vibe of gothic London in the 1890’s and it helped me build the atmosphere in my mind and I found that really helped.

The story begins when Tessa, a young American, travels to London after the death of her aunt to be reunited with her brother. When she gets to London she is taken prisoner by two sisters, known as the Dark Sisters who are trying to train her to use the powers that she has that allow her to physically change into another person. She is told that if she learns to use her powers she is to be married to a powerful man known as ‘The Magister’ who is currently holding her brother prisoner and that only her co-operation will guarantee her siblings freedom.

Rescued by a mysterious young boy, Will Herrondale, Tessa is introduced to the world of ‘The Shadowhunters’ a group of angelic fighters whose role it is to protect the human world from the dangers of ‘downworlders’ which consist of Vampires, Werewolves, Faires and Warlocks. While helping Tessa to try and understand the strange powers she has they begin a quest to find and rescue her brother Nate from the mysterious ‘Magister’ and deal with a new threat to The Shadowhunters that may be able to wipe them out forever.

I loved this book. It was dark and gothic and the action within the chapters was non-stop. It has a totally new collection of characters from The Mortal Instruments series except for the Warlock, Magnus Bane, whose name I recognised from reading City of Bones. Tessa is a great lead character, she begins the book with little confidence and much confusion in her abilities but by the end, she’s clearly learning to use her strange powers and has grown in maturity. There is also somewhat of a love triangle in this book between Tessa and two young Shadowhunters, Will and Jem. Will is a dark, cocky and enigmatic young man who is confident in his abilities but whose attitude splits the opinions of those around him. On the other hand, we have Jem, Will’s best friend and fellow Shadowhunter. Jem is more guarded, more thoughtful and also frailer. He is suffering from a mysterious illness that weakens him but he battles through it to ensure he is there for his friend when he needs him.

I liked the different relationships Tessa has with Jem and Will. With Will it’s almost a gentle sparring between them, a teasing relationship but he is her protector and the one she looks to when she feels unsafe. With Jem, Tessa shares more about her inner feelings, how she feels confused by the new world she’s learning about and what it means about who her parents were and her new life in London. At the end of this book things are left wide open and clearly are going to be explored in more depth as the series progresses.

I really needed to read this book in order to open a door for me into Cassandra Clare’s world. I felt much more connection to the characters in this book than I did to those in City of Bones. I came away from this book desperate to delve into Book 2 in the series, Clockwork Prince. I genuinely have not felt that same calling back to The Mortal Instruments. This doesn’t mean however that I do not intend to go back to them. I am using this series as a way to lose myself in the Shadowhunter world so much that I will then go back and reread City of Bones with a fresh perspective and then with my wider knowledge and background to the world move forward from there and after having read Clockwork Angel I’m sure I will do so with more insight and awareness than I did first time around. I am also studiously avoiding the TV series, Shadowhunters, so I do not spoil anything for the books but am saving it till I’ve finished both series.

I know I am coming to this series very late as much of the book community has already digested them and are already awaiting the second book in Clare’s new series The Dark Artifices but I am so glad that now I am finding my way into the series and cannot thank Emmabooks and her channel on YouTube enough for giving me that reassurance that it was okay to pick this up before I read The Mortal Instruments. I had recently been in a bit of a reading slump, not finding anything to really engage me but I’ve changed up my usual genre’s in the past few weeks and it’s really re-energised me and given me a boost. Rather than sticking to my normal contemporary or historical adult fiction novels I’ve found an escape in Young Adult fantasy novels into worlds that really take you away from the normal and it’s been really refreshing. Clockwork Angel has been such a joy and a book I would highly recommend if gothic adventures are your thing.

One of the world’s best selling thrillers ever – does it live up to the hype?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book exploded into the bestsellers chart a few years ago and not long after it’s release I delved in and read this having heard that the movie rights had immediately been snapped up and that everyone was raving about what a sensational thriller this was.  When a book receives such endorsements it’s almost unbearable not to check out whether the hype is deserved.

This is the story of Nick & Amy, a young married city couple who have moved back to Nick’s small hometown in order to help care for his ill mother. One day, however, Amy disappears and suddenly every aspect of their marriage is under the microscope. The problem is though that Nick’s view of his marriage seems to be out of synch with what the police are finding out about Amy. Suddenly Nick is suspect number 1.

I loved the first half of this book, the way the chapters flit between Amy & Nick, exploring their marriage from two view points and this was intriguing. It built the suspense and a picture which promised a strong book. About half way through though it flipped on its head and went a little crazy. I won’t go into any specifics because it would ruin for those who haven’t read it yet but suffice to say it made the ending less than I was expecting.

Personally, I didn’t find the ending credible, it left me frustrated and the character unresolved. I found myself struggling to like Amy, she came across as spoiled and immature and not fully invested in her own marriage.  She isn’t the kind of person I would see myself getting along with and so I couldn’t find sympathy for her and that is not to say I sided with Nick but I just could not fathom that intelligent detectives and family around her couldn’t see below the surface to the story lurking beneath.

The movie has been a smash hit and a few years down the line we are now seeing a swathe of thrillers each one longing to live up to the success that this book achieved.  It seems so many thrillers today are benchmarked against this one and whilst I understand it was a sensation at the time I find it hasn’t ever been my favourite book within this genre.