The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan

The-Good-Turn-High-Res-151119A new book by Dervla McTiernan is to be celebrated. Our hero Cormac Riley has been ostracised and criticised by his fellow police officers. He is always on the outer and things seem to have just gotten worse for him over time. He is lonely and isolated and at the same time his girlfriend seems to have become more distant, spending time away from him for work.

Cormac’s only friend in the force Peter Fisher goes to investigate a crime scene and is set upon and indeed set up. Someone dies and Peter and Cormac are in the spotlight for being the cause of the death, both of them are suspended from work, Cormac heads to Europe to be with his girlfriend and Peter is banished to the village he grew up in and forced to work with his belligerent father as a punishment for messing up. He begins tidying up the final threads of a death in the village which becomes so much more than it is at first thought and he risks alienating the entire village. Meanwhile Cormac is struggling from afar to prove corruption in the force and enlists the help of an old friend.

What I like about these Cormac Riley books is the way they deal with moral dilemma, always giving you much to think about as well as a good juicy crime, in this case several of them. The threads seem so unconnected in this story that I couldn’t see links right up until the end. This author is my new crush, she hooks me in and pulls me along for the ride with skill. I’m now looking forward to the next one with anticipation.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for access to this awesome book.

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow by Natasha Pulley

lost futureThe Watchmaker of Filigree Street #3

I read and loved The Watchmaker of Filigree Street last year, loved it. Thought about it a lot after I was finished and recommended it to lots of readers at school both staff and students. I was so excited to get hold of a galley of this one which is the third book in the series. I haven’t read the second one but it didn’t matter as I was immediately back in the world Thaniel and Mori and it felt like pulling on a lovely comfortable cardigan on a wintery day. This is exactly the kind of book that you want to curl up with in the sun and while away a few hours with.

Thaniel and Mori have ended up in Japan, Mori’s ancestral fort to be exact. Thaniel has been sent to the British Legation office and he is to try to gain information on the build up of Russian warships off the coast. He also needs out of London where his lungs are being punished by the fog and his health is becoming worse and worse. He has his and Mori’s beloved adopted daughter Six with him, she is one of my favourite characters and I love how she is written. There is an unusual feeling in the building, there are secret meetings and suspicious characters hanging around. Thaniel starts to have a very odd feeling. Mori disappears, Thaniel goes to the British Legation where he is trying to find out why there are suddenly ghosts in the kitchen, the staff are leaving in droves and the Counsel is behaving like an incompetent. Thaniel comes to believe that Mori is in terrible danger and is deeply suspicious of the woman who proclaims herself to be Mori’s wife. Mori has a wife! Shock horror!

There is a lot going on in this book. The action is full on and lovely Thaniel is in terrible danger throughout. I had a terrible feeling of impending doom for both of our heroes and found it uncomfortable reading as I am so attached to them.

The magic, the time travel and the weirdness are all so beautifully handled by this author, I think this is one of the most glorious series and I’m looking forward to the next one. It was the perfect escape from reality in this time of lockdown when I’ve had such trouble reading.

Thanks so Netgalley and Bloomsbury for providing me with a copy.

Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

deeplightWant a beautifully complex and interesting fantasy adventure, then just get hold of this and get stuck in.

Hark is a plucky young man who eeks out a living, not always honestly, as part of a group of young street rogues on his island Lady’s Crave which is part of the Myriad group of islands. It is a rugged and dangerous place, apart from the dangers of cliffs and dangerous foes there is also the danger that lurks in the sea. A sea which has levels, once you dive down under the water you eventually reach a level where you can breathe freely. However, monsters dwell here, monsters that the locals call gods, they have become pieces of gods now, these pieces are valuable, people want them, they give power and are downright scary. If you melded bits of gods together you might create a huge monster which would make you so powerful that you could wield that power in a very unpleasant and dangerous way, even become monstrous in your power.

Hark has been caught trying to rob the wrong person, he ends up in court and is sold to the highest bidder into slavery. His purchaser is a very unusual woman, he is put to work in a sanctuary but he knows that she is doing weird things elsewhere.

This is a wonderful story of courage, determination, loyalty and adventure. Layer upon layer of story all linking and tying together in a fantastic way. There is a lot going on, Hark is pulled betwixt and between, divided in his loyalties and desperate for approval. There is a most wonderful young woman character who is deaf, Hark’s bond with her was one of the joys in this book.

This is one of those books which will work for lots of readers. I think that is what Frances Hardinge does, she writes a book for kids, but the story is so complex and layered that it will keep even the most cynical adult hooked. I would be recommending it to readers who loved Percy Jackson’s world, but this is more complex and nuanced. Readers from intermediate and senior primary school all the way up will be caught up in this world.

A Trio of Sophies by Eileen Merriman

SophieI think Eileen Merriman is one of the cream of the crop of writers for young people right now. She writes stories that are immediately engaging, that are the perfect pitch for the audience of young adult readers. Her books have depth and breadth and tackle issues which are current and curly. I think this book is one of her best.

There have always been three Sophies, each different but all good friends. They are in the same class, they have known each other since they were little and their lives are intricately linked. Now in their final year at school, one of the Sophies has gone missing. Despite the efforts of the police, she cannot be found anywhere. This leaves two Sophies and the novel is told by one of them. The swot, the quiet one, the one determined to rise out of her humble life. The story is told in journal form beginning on the 64th day that Sophie has been missing and counting backwards to the day of her disappearance. It is an interesting structure and it works really well. You feel the tension rise, leading up to the day it all went horribly wrong.

Tied up to the disappearance of Sophie A is the story of Sophie M and the English Teacher. A guy who should have known better, a man who shouldn’t be in a room alone with teenage girls. I really liked the way that this aspect of the story was written, the way James Bacon, the English Teacher, draws Sophie in and entangles her in a web of deceit.

This is great writing for teenagers, gritty and real, using language which feels right. A brilliant book for all schools to have in their library collection.

Thanks so much to Penguin NZ for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Please can we have heaps more NZ books like this.

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

Doesn’t this blurb just sound awesome, a little bit of geeky sciency stuff, a dollop of social mgravityedia savvy, a great big romantic sky, two young men, completely different, NASA, astronauts and themes of loneliness and isolation, first love and space. Come on, this book appears that it has it all. But, and it’s a big one, it is really hard to connect with these characters. I really wanted to but it just didn’t happen. Now that I’ve been finished it for a week or so I find it hard to remember the characters names or to rekindle feelings for them. I wanted more. I wanted it to be a little bit more gritty, for people to get a bit more messed up by the bad things that happened in the story. People die in here, I’m not telling you who, but that is big, but the reactions of those affected just didn’t seem to hit the mark.
I loved all the social media stuff, loved the villian of the piece, it is all totally unrealistic but I was in there hoping that this would carry me off and give me a great big case of the feels.

It is ok, I know of students who will love it, I’ll buy it and promote it and encourage people to read it, but it could have had a heap more depth.
Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me access.

The Blossom and the Firefly by Sherri L. Smith

If I was to sum this up in one word, that word would have to be the word stunning. A gloriously atmospheric, melancholic dive into a world we never see portrayed, the world of the women who cared for and loved the Japanese pilots as they set off to sacrifice themselves in war. This is the story of a pilot and a young high school student, their lives disrupted by a war not of their making, and their gradual realisation that small kindnesses have a lasting effect. That their short lives are to be sacrificed for a cause is one thing, but the depravations of war are another, food is short, suspicions run rife in the towns and even though there are small pleasures to be found in simple things, it is difficult.

Hana our heroine is a lovely sensitive young woman, dutiful and dedicated. Juro our hero is a gifted musician and his violin plays a pivotal role in this story. These two characters come from very different lives but they meet due to the war and through tragedy blooms something beautiful.

I’ve always loved books set in Japan. This is due to the fact that I’ve lived there twice in my life when I was young and loved it. I was totally engrossed in this novel and shed a tear in the end. I love the fact that it is different to anything else out there for young adults at the moment. I’ve ordered copies for our library because I’m sure there is an audience for those who want to read something different, something based on real historical events.

Thanks so much to Netgalley and the publishers for giving me access to this glorious book.

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry

I was so thrilled to be approved for this book by Netgalley, I completely loved Days Without End and was very excited to read the follow up, especially as it was Winona’s story. Winona was saved from certain death by the wonderful Thomas McNulty and John Cole. They have raised her as their own at a time when two men raising a child, especially a native American child, is totally extraordinary. John and Thomas love each other but their love for Winona and their dedication to her is beautiful. Together with several other wonderful characters, they live on Lige Magan’s very poor farm, scratching out a living and working so hard to make ends meet and feed themselves. Eventually Winona acquires a job, working for the lawyer in town, her preference is to wear men’s clothing and not everyone realises she is a young woman. There are dangers everywhere including rampaging drunks, night riders who terrorise people and men who cannot be trusted anywhere near a young girl. She is courted by a local young man who swears his love for her and who wants to marry her. Her innocence and lack of world experience give her mean that she is naive but suspicious and frightened.

Winona is attacked, brutally. Raped and beaten, but has no idea who did it. Her confidence is shattered, her protectors are trapped by doing something about this terrible thing, they can’t put themselves in danger, her in more danger and put the livelihood of Lige Mangan and the others in jeopardy. Circumstances continue to be dire, with lightness being the love that ties this unusual family together with their workmates and the unlikely support of the lawyer. The unrelenting sadness and misery of their situation is dire.

The hard thing in this book is they way that Winona thinks and speaks, I didn’t love the unusual way she speaks and couldn’t really see the point of that.

While I didn’t love this book as much as I loved Years Without End, it moved me deeply, it made me cry and reminded me again why I love Sebastian Barry’s work so much.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access.